Kenji Goto speaks at Kobe Gakuin University in Kobe's Chuo Ward in May 2009. (Provided by Kobe Gakuin University professor Akiko Sugiki)
VOX POPULI: Journalist Kenji Goto focused on plight of children in conflict zones
When freelance journalist Kenji Goto visited 10-year-old Mariam at her home in the Afghan capital of Kabul in spring 2002, the young girl was smiling happily because she would start going to school soon.
Adolf Eichmann (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Evils of Auschwitz still resonate 70 years on
I am recalling a documentary titled "The Specialist" that I saw 15 years ago. It was about Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), a German Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) lieutenant colonel who oversaw the deportation of Jews and others to extermination camps during World War II. The film was based on archival images of Eichmann's trial in Israel, in which he was sentenced to death.
A backcountry skier descends a slope in the Hakuba Happo-one district in Nagano Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: High adventure of backcountry skiing presents many dangers
Hirotaka Takeuchi, the only Japanese alpinist to have scaled all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter-class peaks, once got caught in an avalanche and almost died, according to his book "Tozan no Tetsugaku" (Philosophy of mountain climbing).
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: It is the details that matter in Abe statement for end of war anniversary
Controversy has raged for years in Japan over whether to use the expression "haisen" (defeat in World War II) or "shusen" (end of World War II) in reference to Aug. 15, 1945.
Yokozuna Hakuho hoists a sign celebrating his 33rd victory, a record in sumo history, on Jan. 23. (Yasuhiro Sugimoto)
VOX POPULI: Hakuho learned composure from sumo legend Futabayama
Tokuzo Miyamoto (1930-2011), a writer and passionate connoisseur of sumo, explored the question of what is the “ultimate of excellence” in the art of sumo wrestling in his 1985 book “Rikishi Hyohaku” (Wrestlers wandering).
Muslims in Japan offer prayers at a mosque in Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, on Jan. 23. (Satoru Iizuka)
VOX POPULI: As deadline passes in hostage crisis, Muslims in Japan show support for captives
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), who died on this day exactly 50 years ago, is remembered for his wit and memorable quotations.
Pupils eat school lunch at an elementary school in Tokyo's Adachi Ward in October 2014. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: School lunch should not be last resort for poor children
When television screenwriter Kuniko Mukoda (1929-1981) read a newspaper story that said about 90 percent of Japanese considered themselves middle class, she thought this was owed to Japan’s school lunch system.
Novelist Shunshin Chin (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Remembering literary giant Shunshin Chin
Long before he became a successful novelist, Shunshin Chin had what many people would consider a stroke of bad luck. He was walking home one day when the handle of an old satchel, which he always carried to work, broke off.
A video shows two hostages believed to be Japanese. (Captured from YouTube)
VOX POPULI: Japan put to the test in hostage crisis
Journalists encounter all sorts of danger when covering war and strife. Some of the people they run into are hostile. Photojournalist Akihiko Okamura (1929-1985), who earned a reputation in the 1960s for his coverage of the Vietnam War, believed in the power of the smile in such situations. "Wherever you are in the world, your survival depends on whether you can flash a smile no one can resist," he explained.
A man soaks in a hot tub at a public bath in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Planning a hot soak tonight? Take care not to overdo it
The Japanese word "shiawase," which means happiness, can be written with a kanji character or rendered into phonetic katakana. When writing about the simple happiness of sipping hot sake or soaking in a hot tub on a cold winter night, I think many people would agree that writing shiawase in katakana works better in describing that "aah" feeling of pure sensual pleasure.
Currency dealers would be subject to a proposed merit system in which they are not paid overtime. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Proposal to end some overtime pay raises concerns
Muneyoshi Yanagi (1889-1961), a Japanese thinker who preached the beauty of “mingei,” or folk crafts, admired the value of handwork.
A bouquet and a doll placed by well-wishers in a residential area devastated by a landslide in Hiroshima's Asa-Minami Ward last August (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: On earthquake milestone, let us not forget those who perished
"Laid gently on the rubble/ The flower grieves." This is the poem "Kuyashii" (Grieving) in its entirety by Toshikazu Yasumizu, 83, a Kobe native who survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake of Jan. 17, 1995. Over the 20 years since the disaster struck, Yasuzumi has continued to write about Kobe and the feelings of its citizens.
“Ema” votive plaques inscribed with prayers and wishes of exam candidates at Yushima Tenjin shrine in Tokyo (Satoru Semba)
VOX POPULI: School entrance exam season brings out the superstitions
Sumo wrestlers frequently engage in superstition. For instance, I have heard of wrestlers who drink only one brand of beer simply because its logo is a white star. In sumo jargon, a win is “shiroboshi,” which translates literally as “white star.”
Mount Ontakesan, straddling the prefectures of Nagano and Gifu, continues to spew fumes on Oct. 24, 2014, about a month after the deadly eruption in late September. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Students' poems reflect face of modern society
Young people today are growing up amid rapid technological advances in this age of the Internet. Seiya Takahashi, a first-year high school student in Chiba, wrote a 31-syllable tanka poem that translates as follows: "I was scolded before for speaking on the phone (instead of speaking face to face). Now I'm being told to at least speak on the phone (and not just text)."
In this photo taken Dec. 24, 2014. Zahra'u Babangida, a 13 year-old girl arrested with explosives strapped to her body in Kano on Dec. 10, 2014. following a double suicide bombing, seen at the police headquarters in Kano, Nigeria. A 13-year-old says her father gave her to Boko Haram extremists and that she was arrested after refusing to explode a suicide bomb in Kano, Nigeria's second largest city in the north. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: Children used as 'human bombs' are also innocents
There are various traditional Japanese rites of passage for children, including "Shichi-Go-San" (Seven-Five-Three) for girls aged 3 and 7, and boys aged 3 and 5.
A woman holding a Charlie Hebdo cover that reads: “Love is stronger than hate” and other protesters march to demonstrate their unity against terrorism in Paris on Jan. 11. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: France should avoid anti-Muslim furor that swept post-9/11 U.S.
The recent spate of violence, including the Jan. 7 massacre at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, has so shocked the French public that they are now talking about “France’s 9/11.” But I dearly hope France will not become like the post-9/11 United States, where anti-Muslim hysteria reared its ugly head.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, together with his mother, Yoko, left, visits the grave of his grandfather and former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi in Shizuoka Prefecture on Jan. 11. (Shinichi Iizuka)
VOX POPULI: Abe appears to be reformist as DPJ leaders battle for party presidency
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a conservative politician in terms of his mind-set, but his economic policy, known as "Abenomics," cannot be described as conservative.
Members of a local mutual-help group in Akita Prefecture help removing snow from rooftop of a house where an elderly person lives alone. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: As heavy snowfall signals start of coldest period, help for elderly still lacking
"Sanshiro" by Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) was originally published in The Asahi Shimbun in 1908 as a serialized novel. It is being rerun now, and I am happy to report that the paper's readers are liking it.
An injured person is transported to an ambulance after a shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo's office in Paris on Jan. 7. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: Keep alive the spirit of 'over-the-top yet endearing'
“Kageki ni shite aikyo ari” (over-the-top yet endearing) was the editorial policy of the Kokkei Shimbun (comical newspaper), a satirical journal first published in Osaka in 1901. Vowing to “never bow to authority and force, nor sell ourselves to the rich and exalted,” the paper ruthlessly mocked and laughed at the government and the plutocracy of the time, much to the delight of the general public.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s Mirai fuel-cell vehicle, which was put on the market in December (Provided by Toyota Motor Corp.)
VOX POPULI: Toyota building ‘road’ for new auto era
"Kuro no Shisosha" (Black test vehicle), a novel about industrial espionage by Toshiyuki Kajiyama (1930-1975), was published in 1962. It was also made into a film starring Jiro Tamiya (1935-1978).

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