March 28, 2015
It is no exaggeration to say that an “era of cataclysms” has begun, according to volcanologist Hiroki Kamata in his recently published “Jishin to Kazan” (earthquakes and volcanoes). Kamata, who is also professor of earth science at Kyoto University, believes the Japanese archipelago has entered a seismically and volcanically active period following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
March 27, 2015
Baseball fans say soccer is less exciting because there is not enough scoring. Soccer fans, on the other hand, say baseball games are too slow and tedious. Such put-downs are nothing vehement, of course, but one does not expect sports fans to be impartial when they compare their favorite sport with others.
March 26, 2015
Yutaka Matsuno was surprised on March 20 when he was thanked in front of other members of the Nagareyama municipal assemly in Chiba Prefecture for all the work he has done as the standard bearer of reform.
VOX POPULI: Court ruling meets plaintiffs halfway, but falls far short for many Minamata disease sufferers
March 25, 2015
Physician Hisashi Saito spent years treating Minamata disease patients in the city of Niigata and later wrote a book about his experiences. In his book, he recounted the following episode: A patient began weeping, saying he refused to be hospitalized because he was treated like a common criminal at a hospital. Saito surmised that he was offended when he told a doctor about a debilitating weakness in his arm and the physician did not believe him.
March 24, 2015
"An interesting company" was how the author of this column summed up Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (present-day Panasonic Corp.) in 1977 for naming its new president out of left field.
March 23, 2015
The late Masaharu Gotoda, who served as Japan’s top police official and who earned the sobriquet “razor” because of his sharp intelligence, was a staunch advocate of pacifism.
March 21, 2015
When a visitor to a home in Kyoto is about to take his leave but the host asks him to stay for a simple meal of "chazuke" (hot tea or broth poured over a bowl of cooked rice), this is usually the host's roundabout way of letting the visitor know he has already overstayed his welcome. And the host has no intention of treating the visitor to a meal.
March 20, 2015
What percentage of Japanese believe in life after death? In a 2013 survey of Japanese character traits by the Institute of Statistical Mathematics, 45 percent of Japanese in their 20s said they believe in an afterlife.
March 19, 2015
The eponymous protagonist in Natsume Soseki's novel "Botchan" grouses about being served potatoes for supper, day after day, at the boarding house where he is staying.
March 18, 2015
Spring was in the air when I went to the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo the other day for an exhibition titled "JFK: His Life and Legacy." This interesting exhibition about U.S. President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) includes a section on the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962--those 13 days when "humanity came to the brink of nuclear conflict."
March 17, 2015
According to a book by Shizuka Shirakawa (1910-2006), a scholar of Chinese literature, the kanji character for "step" or "walk" represents human footprints. In ancient times, the act of walking was considered a means for coming into direct contact with the spirits of the land.
March 16, 2015
In a scene in a short story titled “Kaban” (Bag), written by Hideo Yokoyama, a writer reputed for his intriguing police stories, a local assembly heavyweight asks a police officer to prepare a question that he can ask at a prefectural assembly plenary session.
March 14, 2015
"Zero no Shoten" (Zero focus) by Seicho Matsumoto (1909-1992) was published in the late 1950s and made into a movie.
March 13, 2015
The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan holds regular astronomical star parties for the public at its headquarters in the western Tokyo city of Mitaka.
March 12, 2015
“Inochiyama,” which is written in two kanji that stand for “life” and “mountain,” might make a suitable “shikona” ring name for a sumo wrestler who is strong yet gentle.
March 11, 2015
The name of a place is often used in a phrase as a symbolic reminder of a memorable incident that once took place there. In soccer, "Doha no Higeki" (Agony of Doha) refers to a 1993 Japan-Iraq match in the capital of Qatar that resulted in Japan's failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
March 10, 2015
“Ketteiban Tokyo Kushu Shashinshu” (The Collection of Tokyo Air Raids Photographs) from Bensei Publishing Inc. is a hefty volume that is more than 4 centimeters thick. With scene after scene of the capital city burned down by incendiary bombs on March 10, 1945, it is painful to turn the pages. One particularly heartbreaking photo shows the carbonized remains of a mother and her infant, one on top of the other.
March 09, 2015
While strolling around Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district the other day, I was taken aback when I saw the huge vertical banner that hung over the facade of Mitsukoshi’s main department store, which is located in the neighborhood.
March 07, 2015
When I write about people from the past in this column, I sometimes need to confirm the ages at which they died. The realization that novelist Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) was only 49 years old when he died left me feeling embarrassed about my own age.
March 06, 2015
A story set in the Heian Period (794-1185) tells of an ume (Japanese apricot) tree that an “uguisu” bush warbler made its home.