A drone flies during a demonstration in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture, on April 24. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: One scary incident should not dictate the future of drones
Ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus is said to have met an unusual end: He was hit on the head and killed by a tortoise that literally fell out of the sky.
A ceremony is held in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, on July 6, 2013, to mark start of the summer climbing season for Mount Tanigawadake. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: No mountain is 'treacherous' for climbers who practice safety first
“Zundoko bushi,” a genre of popular Japanese songs, comes in a broad range of themes. I remember one song titled “Tanigawa Kouta” (Tanigawa ballad), in which a young woman tearfully pleads with her romantic interest not to go rock climbing on Mount Tanigawadake on the border of Gunma and Niigata prefectures. A frequent site of fatal climbing accidents, Tanigawadake was feared as “ma no yama” (treacherous mountain).
A meeting of ruling coalition members on the national security legislation held on April 21 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: A farewell to pacifism as Japan's 'army' shakes off its chains
Working for a newspaper, I sometimes balk at using certain words or expressions when I write. "Former Japanese Army" was one such phrasing a senior colleague of mine, now deceased, recoiled from. He always wrote "the Japanese Army" instead, dropping the qualifier "former," even though it was--and still is--the standard practice among Japanese news organizations to use the qualifier.
Survivors of the smuggler’s boat that overturned off the coast of Libya lie on the deck of the Italian Coast Guard ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour in Malta, on April 20. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: Refugees fleeing war and poverty deserve better from the world
I once came across a maxim to the effect that one should not hope to reach a new continent unless one can overcome the terror of venturing into the infinite expanse of the ocean where no land is visible.
Yokohama FC soccer player Kazuyoshi Miura (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: A shrewd word is mightier than a curse to silence a critic
It's not easy to know exactly when is the best time to say goodbye. That is why quite a few people make the mistake of clinging to their posts and bringing dishonor upon themselves at the tail end of their career.
Kumamon, right, plays badminton on April 15 by pairing with former leading Japanese player Kimiko Jinnai. (Toshiyuki Shimizu)
VOX POPULI: Spring is a good season to launch the battle against obesity
Kumamon, the popular bear-like mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, has been demoted from the manager of the sales department to an acting manager despite his brilliant job performance. The reason is he failed at his diet, according to the prefectural government.
Yet another protest against the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, was held April 17. (Go Katono)
VOX POPULI: It's time for Tokyo to show Okinawa some respect
In May 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived with his "Black Ships" for the first time in Naha, the chief port of the Ryukyu Kingdom. He then headed to Uraga in present-day Kanagawa Prefecture, where his fleet of four black-hulled steamers anchored in July. Perry's mission was to force Japan out of its 200-year-old isolation policy and open some of its ports to trade with the United States.
Executives of St. Marianna University School of Medicine Hospital bow in apology during a news conference in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on April 15. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Doctors should examine their hearts when examining the heads of patients
I used to take someone to a hospital to see a psychiatrist. To my astonishment, the male doctor hardly ever looked at the patient’s face. Every session, his attention was focused almost entirely on his computer screen. This was deeply disconcerting. I just felt this was not the way for a psychiatrist to go about trying to understand the patient’s condition.
A Seven-Eleven store in Tokyo’s Akihabara district (Keiichiro Yoshikawa)
VOX POPULI: Rivalry among convenience stores an effective educational tool
A junior high school civics textbook that will be used from April 2016 contains a section on how to develop "bento" box lunches for convenience stores on the assumption that they are losing customers and need to lure them back.
German writer Guenter Grass outside his house in Behlendorf, northern Germany, in September 1999 (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: Guenter Grass an intellectual heavyweight who will not be forgotten
Osamu Ikeuchi, a scholar of German literature, once noted that Guenter Grass looks more like a farmer than a writer. Rugged and bearded, Grass blends perfectly into any Germanic country scene, said Ikeuchi. Indeed, the impression I get from photos of Grass is that of a rough and unsophisticated man.
Hillary Clinton (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: New ideas needed to help women rise above social prejudice
Will the "glass ceiling" shatter this time? On April 12, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 presidential bid.
An artist’s rendition of Mars rover Opportunity (Provided by NASA)
VOX POPULI: Space exploration continues stimulating the imagination
Poet Takuboku Ishikawa (1886-1912) composed the following fantastic short poem in question-and-answer form: “Looking up at the sky, what are you looking for?/ Since I have forgotten the planet I lived on in my former life, I’m looking for that planet.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe replies to an opposition lawmaker's question on his "our military" remark during an Upper House Budget Committee session on March 27. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Here comes our prime minister, honestly headstrong, again
It was probably a case of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking his mind again.
Children play soccer at an elementary school playground in Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Sporting accidents force courts to tackle tricky issue of liability
During my stint in the United States more than 10 years ago, I went to a Major League Baseball game and was completely taken by the beauty of the ballpark, which was a fine specimen of architecture with a classical red brick exterior. Inside the stadium, the well-maintained field was quite pleasing to the eye.
A cave where imperial Japanese soldiers hid during World War II on the islet of Peleliu, part of the Pacific islands of Palau (Provided by Naoto Shinohara)
VOX POPULI: Imperial couple makes pilgrimage to Palau to show 'war is wrong'
Atsushi Nakajima (1909-1942) arrived in Palau, a Japanese mandated territory, in July 1941 before he became known as the author of "Sangetsuki" (The Moon Over the Mountain), a novella, and other works.
A history textbook that has passed government screening for use in junior high schools from spring 2016 (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Rigid screening of textbooks hardly conducive to learning
Time flows slowly for children, but flies by for adults. Why? At Shinshu University's entrance ceremony on April 4, President Kiyohito Yamasawa recounted an explanation given by a neuroscientist: "When the world around you becomes familiar, the passage of time feels faster."
People offer silent prayers in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 2014, the anniversary of the 1945 atomic bombing. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: The power of prayer knows no bounds
Katsutoshi Nekoda is a name I fondly remember. A volleyball setter who devoted his life to the sport and died relatively young at 39 in 1983, Nekoda led the Japanese men's national volleyball team to three Olympic medals--bronze in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, silver in Mexico City in 1968 and finally gold in Munich in 1972. I am sure many people can vividly recall the masterful precision of his tosses.
An election campaign poster board in Yoshioka, Gunma Prefecture, shows on April 3 that only one candidate is running for the one-seat Kita-Gunma-gun constituency in the April 12 prefectural assembly election. He won the seat without any competition. (Satoshi Ikehata)
VOX POPULI: Japan’s democracy withering like old cherry trees
An old poem reads, “It often becomes windy and rainy after flowers blossom.” As it implies, a huge number of cherry blossom petals have been blown away by the wind and rain in areas west of the Kanto region over the past several days.
A pilot operates a flight simulator for a Boeing 787 passenger jet at an All Nippon Airways training center in Kumamoto Prefecture in May 2012. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Rigorous training only way to keep pilots on their toes
Like first-class chefs and conductors of orchestras, airline pilots work in a highly creative environment that involves skills that resemble those of craftsmen.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announces he will meet with Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga this weekend at a news conference in Tokyo on April 2. (Shinichi Iizuka)
VOX POPULI: Government base stance 'insults' Okinawa, democracy
A former Foreign Ministry official who testified to the existence of a secret agreement between Japan and the United States over the 1972 reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty died on March 29.

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