An abandoned house is dismantled in Kyoto's Kamigyo Ward on April 30. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Dreams of home ownership as derelict as an old abandoned house
"Maihomu" (my home) is a Japanese-English expression that denotes a home one owns. And here's an old joke about a Japanese man who asked a foreigner in English, "Do you have my home?" The hapless foreigner just stared back in consternation. Of course, what the Japanese man meant was, "Are you a homeowner?"
Rie Saito, a member of Tokyo's Kita Ward assembly holds an electronic writing board on May 26. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Lawmaker's deafness a 'gift' that can help transform society
Something that is taken for granted by a majority of people can be an insurmountable "wall" for minorities. Rie Saito, 31, who is deaf and speech-impaired, faced such a wall--and smashed a big hole in it.
Firefighters battle a blaze at flophouses in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, that are flanked by towering apartment blocks on May 17. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Flophouse fire tragedy reminds us of plight of the poor
Nine people perished in a predawn fire that destroyed two adjoining wooden flophouses in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on May 17. The establishments, named Yoshidaya and Yoshino, were nestled in a "valley" surrounded by towering multiwing apartment complexes.
Poet Tatsuji Miyoshi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Collapse of global nuclear disarmament talks distressing
Poet Tatsuji Miyoshi (1900-1964) wrote a number of powerfully lyrical poems, including “Hai ga furu” (Ash is falling).
In this establishment in Shizuoka Prefecture a barber, left, and a beautician, right, work in separate cubicles with separate entrances because the law forbids them from working together. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: To each his own on whether to patronize a barber shop or beauty parlor
It has been some years since I started noticing more women in the barber shop ("riyo-shitsu" in Japanese) that I patronize. The ladies get their faces, the napes of their neck and their arms shaved in curtained-off seats. Those who favor low-cut tops are said to have their backs shaved, too. They patronize this establishment because shaving is a service not provided at beauty parlors ("biyo-shitsu").
Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii, left, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a one-on-one debate in the Diet on May 20 (Asahi Shimbun file photos)
VOX POPULI: Abe fails history lesson in debate with Communist Party's Shii
Back when Keio University professor Koji Matsui was a trade ministry bureaucrat on loan to the prime minister's office, he watched Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii take to the floor during a question-and-answer session in the Diet. Matsui was immediately struck by Shii's outstanding performance. A conservative himself, Matsui did not share the JCP chairman's progressive views, but the latter's competence could not be denied.
The crash site of a U.S. military helicopter in June 1988 is only 1.5 kilometers from the Ikata nuclear power plant, seen in the background, in Ehime Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Will another nuclear accident occur? Never say 'never'
In June 1988, a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter crashed into a mountain in Ehime Prefecture, killing all seven marines aboard. The fiery crash left a smoldering gouge in a "mikan" orange grove.
Chokitsu Kurumatani in 2007 (Provided by Himeji City Museum of Literature)
VOX POPULI: An 'eccentric' author who understood the dark side of human nature
Author Chokitsu Kurumatani, who died on May 17 at age 69, was sometimes said to have the look of an ascetic monk. But when Kurumatani made his literary debut, my frank impression of him was that he could be someone with yakuza ties. With his buzz cut, piercing eyes and hollow cheeks, he had the air of an outlaw.
Toru Hashimoto, left, and Ichiro Matsui celebrate their victories in the Osaka mayoral and gubernatorial elections on Nov. 27, 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto nosedives into a chasm of his creation
The people of Osaka rejected Mayor Toru Hashimoto's cherished dream of dissolving the municipal government to create a metropolis similar to Tokyo in a referendum on May 17.
Yoichi Higuchi, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, center, and other members of a group opposing the security bills meet reporters in Tokyo on May 15. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Lessons from history, principles of democracy should be remembered anew
Among the dates that Japanese must never forget is May 15. On this day in 1932, a group of young naval officers assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in an attempted coup known as the “May 15 Incident.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talks about security legislation at a news conference in Tokyo on May 14. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Those who debate security bills never have to take up arms
May 8 marked the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
Olof Palme speaks at a meeting in Hiroshima in 1981. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: World leaders should be encouraged to visit A-bomb cities
Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (1927-1986) was called the “John F. Kennedy of Sweden” for his youth and eloquence.
Christie's auctioneer takes bids on Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers (Version O) in New York on May 11. It sold for about $179 million, making it set a world record for artwork at auction. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: The heart is the best critic of art
This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but my appreciation of art is often influenced by the opinions of experts and what I happen to know about the artist's reputation.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga shake hands at the start of their first talks in Tokyo on April 17. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Okinawa's pleas go unheeded on clueless mainland
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of "Saigo no Ikku" (The Last Phrase) by novelist Ogai Mori (1862-1922).
Hiroshi Osada in 2004 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Poet Osada spoke volumes with quiet economy of words
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), the author of "The Little Prince," is credited with a theory of art that also serves as an excellent philosophy for life:
Osamu Uoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Cartoonist offers pillar of support beneath Japan's 'collapsing dining table'
Once, when he was young, Osamu Uoto, a cartoonist, spent two long hours preparing sweet-and-sour pork, a popular Chinese dish, for his friend.
Charlotte, the baby monkey, with her mother on May 8 (Provided by Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden)
VOX POPULI: In the best of British tradition, a stiff upper lip prevails
The British value humor and apparently think it is especially necessary in hard times.
Novelist Aya Koda at her house in Tokyo in 1962 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Volcanic warning for Hakone no reason for panic to erupt
Novelist Aya Koda (1904-1990) once wrote that Hakone fulfills the desire of every visitor. This resort town is not only rightfully famed for its plentiful hot spring waters, she said, but it also stimulates the visitor’s imagination with its old history and folklore. It lets everyone have a good time and still offers the peace and quiet expected in a mountain resort.
Yokohama municipal officials examine the contents of trash bags in Yokohama’s Kohoku Ward in March. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: 'Garbage policing' roots out recycling scofflaws but threatens right to privacy
May 3 was "Gomi no Hi" (Trash Day), a pun on the numbers five and three that are read as "go" and "mi" in Japanese. I am sure events were held nationwide to discourage littering. Incidentally, May 30 is called "Gomi Zero no Hi," a pun on the numbers five, three and zero. On this day, too, events are held annually to promote trash reduction and recycling.
Hashima Island, popularly known as Battleship Island, in Nagasaki (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Honoring nation's modernization also requires relearning its dark side
A collection of haiku poems I received from Kiyoyuki Kishihara, a Kyushu resident, contained this piece: "Nowakinami Gunkanjima wa yuku gotoshi" (Gunkanjima seems to sail in typhoon waves).

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