Chinese military helicopters form the shape of the number 70 during a military parade, part of an event marking the 70th anniversary of end of World War II, in Beijing on Sept. 3. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: The smog of an old war still darkens the skies between Japan and China
“Beijing’s autumn sky was beautiful,” noted a writer of this column in September 1972. Seen live on television, the crystal clear air seemed to give the city’s main thoroughfare a bluish tint, the columnist observed. He went on to say that living in smog-filled Japan, he felt envious of the people of Beijing.
This combination of two satellite images provided by UNITAR-UNOSAT shows damage to the main building of the ancient Temple of Bel in Palmyra, Syria, on Aug. 31, 2015, top, and before the damage on Aug. 27, 2015. The main building has been destroyed, a United Nations agency said on Aug. 31. (UNITAR-UNOSAT via AP)
VOX POPULI: Islamic State nothing but a vile stain on mankind
The ruins of Palmyra in present-day Syria were testimony to the beauty and splendor of this ages-old city when Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama (1930-2009) described the site as "a magnificent flower blooming in the Syrian Desert," and used the ruins as the backdrop of two fantastic paintings.
Kenjiro Sano explains the design of the emblem he submitted for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at a news conference held on Aug. 5. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Tokyo Olympics needs to reboot, shoot for the future, and not at its own foot
"Hototogisu" (lesser cuckoo), a harbinger of summer, is a favorite subject of tanka and haiku poets. I once wrote in this column about a senryu cynical haiku from the Edo Period (1603-1867) that went: "Hototogisu nijyuroku ji wa anji sase." (The lesser cuckoo leaves the remaining 26 syllables to the imagination.)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, far right in the front row, and other ministers bow as the national budget for fiscal 2015 passes the Lower House in March. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Debt-ridden Japan no longer a nation of hardworking ants
The ant could be a synonym for diligence. The tiny insect reminds us of trusty, hardworking people.
Reiichi Miyazaki, former director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, left front, and other legal experts gather in Tokyo on Aug. 26 to oppose the security bills. They are holding up signs reading “unconstitutional” and “Kill the bills.” (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Let the people unite to defend Japan's democracy
“Furu supekku" (full specifications) is probably not a term that is used frequently by many Japanese.
The Meganebashi stone arch in Nagasaki on Aug. 25 (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Summer staggers in the heat to a big fall
I always associate flowering crape myrtle trees with the blazing summer sun. But they have been dripping with raindrops these past few days.
A cyclist checks her cellphone while pedaling. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Far better to be a klutz than a rude multitasker
The Japanese expression “bukiyo” (clumsy) has a negative connotation, but it can also be used to imply something positive. The latter usage came into prominence after the release of a TV commercial decades ago featuring celebrated film actor Ken Takakura (1931-2014), who spoke the memorable line, “Bukiyo desukara” (I am clumsy), with his classic understatement.
Members of the Chukyo High School baseball team celebrate their winning the game in the 50th inning in the semifinals of the 59th National High School Rubber Baseball Tournament in the Akashi Tocalo Baseball Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture on Aug. 31, 2014. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Pitching for the future of school ball players
I recently wrote in this column about Uncle Torys, an iconic cartoon character created in 1958 for Suntory Torys whisky ads. One ad had Uncle Torys saying, "Listen, don't get mad if the televised baseball game goes off the air before the game is over, no thanks to the sponsor."
An electronic indicator at a currency trading company in Tokyo shows the Nikkei 225 stock index falling below the 18,000-mark on Aug. 25. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Global economic crash a frightening prospect
On Oct. 24, 1929, which came to be known as Black Thursday, stock prices crashed in New York and triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s that buffeted the industrialized world.
Flowers are offered at a parking lot in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, where the body of junior high school student Natsumi Hirata was found. (Ryo Kato)
VOX POPULI: Society's collective responsibility to protect youngsters from harm
A junior high school in Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, marked the start of the second term with a ceremony on Aug. 24. But two of its first-year students were not there. Had Natsumi Hirata and Ryoto Hoshino not been brutally slain earlier this month, they surely would have been happy to see their friends and teachers on the first day of the new term.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, heckles a questioner as Defense Minister Gen Nakatani raises his hand to answer a question during an Upper House special committee session on security legislation on Aug. 21. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Abe’s heckling won't drown out the voices of the people
You often find out that how things actually are is quite different from how they are seen through the eyes of others.
In a traditional event to beat the summer heat and stay healthy, visitors to a temple in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, in July place biscuit-fired saucers on their heads and burn moxa. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Leaves may fall, but beware of fatigue from staying too cool
As I mentioned in this column a few days ago, poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) and novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) were contemporaries and close friends.
Ryohei Yanagihara in Yokohama in August 2012 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Raising a glass to the late, brilliant oceanic artist Yanagihara
Novelists Takeshi Kaiko (1930-1989) and Hitomi Yamaguchi (1923-1995) worked for present-day Suntory Holdings Ltd. in their younger years and were known for ads they wrote for a brand of Suntory whisky. Both are also remembered for their many memorable quips about liquor.
Wartime power blackouts in Tokyo were lifted on Aug. 20, 1945, three years and eight months after they took effect. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Peace burns bright (and expect sunshine tomorrow)
The brightness of a lamp is truly appreciated by anyone who has endured long, dark nights.
Designer Kenjiro Sano at a news conference in Tokyo on Aug. 5 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Refrying the art of others with extra spice can taste good
Avant-garde poet and dramatist Shuji Terayama (1935-1983) was in his teens when he received the unflattering nickname of "Moho Kozo" (Copycat boy). His many short "tanka" poems, penned with extraordinary artistic sensitivity, had catapulted him to fame. But as his works became more widely known, he was accused of plagiarism, which developed into a major scandal in the literary community at the time.
Children and their parents brave heavy rain during a summer holiday event held at the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Aug. 4. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Watch out for kids with end of summer blues
The Bon summer holiday season is over, and most people returned to work yesterday. Nobody is a fan of the Monday morning commute, especially if it rains, which unfortunately was the case yesterday in many parts of Japan.
Emperor Akihito delivers his address to the memorial ceremony for the war dead held Aug. 15 at Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo while Empress Michiko looks on. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Praying that Japan's youths pay heed to the emperor’s prayer for peace
I recently went to see the newly released Japanese movie “Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi" (Japan’s longest day) and found a mother with a boy who looked to be around 10 years old in the audience.
Memorial to commemorate the victims of Battle of Manila (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Put Abe's war statement to one side, and let us all give pause
In March 1945, a second lieutenant of the Imperial Japanese Army stationed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines wrote a letter to his parents in Japan. He entrusted the letter to a colleague who was flying back to Japan on a liaison mission.
The opening ceremony for the 97th National High School Baseball Championship is held on Aug. 6 at Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: High school players battling for victory but today in peacetime
Starting something new does not come easy. On the opening day of the first annual event of today's National High School Baseball Championship in August 100 years ago, The Osaka Asahi Shimbun came out with a special promotional section titled "Hajimete Yakyu wo Miru Hito no Tameni/ Besuboru Hayawakari" (A guide to baseball for people seeing baseball for the first time).
Protesters gather outside the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Aug. 11 to express their opposition to the restart of the No. 1 reactor at the Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. (Wataru Sekita)
VOX POPULI: Trickery ensures nobody gets blamed if nuclear restart goes wrong
The Bay of Pigs Invasion of April 1961, undertaken by the United States to overthrow the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba, ended in dismal failure. It left a stain on the administration of President John F. Kennedy, which was still only in its third month.

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