In Japanese culture, "ao," which can mean blue or green depending on the context, symbolizes youth and immaturity. The phrase "aoi kajitsu" (literally "green fruit") makes us think of adolescent boys and girls. The following haiku ran in The Asahi Shimbun's haiku column the other day: "The second-year junior high school student who was like a green persimmon/ Left no suicide note." The writer, Susumu Kamata, composed it in memory of a boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, who took his own life because of bullying.
"A green persimmon/ Has many days to grow" is another haiku, written by poet Kiyoko Uda. Although it was composed several years before, my heart aches when I read it and think about how a young life with many days left to grow had to end.
In Otsu, Kazuyo Aoki organized an exhibition of photos of 15 boys and girls who died because of bullying and violence. Aoki lost her own son to violence and wanted to tell suffering children to keep on living. The exhibition, which was recently held, included messages left behind by the victims.
"The most important thing is to have a kind heart. That's why those kids who lack such a heart are the ones who must be pitied," wrote one of the children, a 15-year-old girl.
"On some days I will be the sun and on others I will be the rain and live in your hearts," a 14-year-old boy wrote, addressing his family. Each and every one of the words continues to denounce the evil of bullying.
When it comes to ourselves, we make a big fuss about how painful it is when we are pricked by something as tiny as a needle. And yet, we can stab others with a spear and not be bothered. To a greater or lesser extent, such is human nature. What can we do to realize, and make others realize, other people's pain? It is a question shared by many kindhearted people.
The second term of the school year has begun. I want both teachers and students to more actively discuss bullying. Some cases of bullying disappear by talking about them in the open, the way germs are destroyed by sterilization. I want to bring the number of children suffering from bullying to zero.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 4
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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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