The novel “Kagayakeru Yami” (Into a Black Sun) by Takeshi Kaiko (1930-1989) is based on his experiences as a correspondent covering the Vietnam War.
The Japanese title, which literally translates as “shining darkness,” is in itself unconventional. According to Kaiko, it is a quote from a comment by German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).
The title alone creates a feeling of tension even though it amounts to an oxymoron. Such use of language is best kept to a minimum, although it is a convenient form of oratory.
“Like a sun of minus 100 degrees/ My body gets damp with love…” are lyrics from “Manatsu no Kajitsu” (Midsummer Fruit), a song written and performed by Keisuke Kuwata. I believe the words are all the more impressive because of the apt way he described the sun, which we expect to be hot and dry, as being damp and cold.
When I read the story “Is the sun entering a period of hibernation?” that ran in The Asahi Shimbun, I felt chilly anxiety.
According to the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, with a change in solar activity, the Earth may be entering a period of lower temperatures. Since the sun is the source of energy for all life on our planet, the report makes me feel uneasy.
The sun has magnetic fields in the north and south poles and the magnetic signs of the two poles flip simultaneously every 11 years or so. However, signs of a flip in the north pole started a year earlier than in the south pole and there are signs of reduced solar activity, according to researchers. They also say the emergence of sunspots linked to magnetic fields is similar to the period of low temperatures that started in the second half of the 17th century.
Records of abnormal changes that took place at the time were documented. For example, in London, the River Thames froze and in Kyoto, cherry blossoms bloomed later than usual. Frequent poor harvests and famines shook politics and the economy. The low-temperature period is said to have lasted about 70 years.
Compared with the ice age that I wrote about in this column the other day, periods of increased and reduced solar activity repeat themselves at much shorter cycles. If the former is likened to the ebb and flow of the tide, the latter is like waves that come and go. At a time when global warming is advancing, “a cold sun” may be “good weakening.” But that does not mean we can give in to “bad reassurance” and back off from energy conservation.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 10
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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