Police watch over students on July 29 at the funeral of their 15-year-old female high school classmate who was slain by a 16-year-old fellow student in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Callow vagaries of youth lead to teenager's violent and tragic end
The English idiom "salad days" means a time of youthful inexperience. The phrase has a contemporary vibe to it--or so it feels to me, at least. But it was first used in the 17th century in Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra": "My salad days/ When I was green in judgment, cold in blood ..."
Seiryo High School baseball team members react as they score the ninth run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a dramatic 9-8 come-from-behind win over Komatsu Otani High School in the Ishikawa prefectural final on July 27. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Both victory and defeat offer important lessons
Many writers of "senryu" cynical poetry are master observers of life. Santaro Kawakami (1891-1968), one of Japan's foremost postwar senryu poets, penned this piece: "No miracle occurred in the bottom of the ninth/ The game was lost." This is about a baseball game, but it could just as well be about life in general. But in life as well as in baseball, unthinkable dramas do occur on rare occasions.
Natsuki Uchiyama (Photo by Michiko Yamamoto)
VOX POPULI: AKB48 member pitches better understanding of the Constitution
Natsuki Uchiyama, a member of the all-girl idol group AKB48 and a first-year student at Keio University, has been adept at memorizing sentences since she was a child. She knows the Constitution by heart and can recite in one breath Article 9, which is by no means a short passage.
Kyuya Fukada, author of "Nihon Hyaku Meizan" (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Each mountain should be a delight in its own way
Many Japanese people have probably heard of the book "Nihon Hyaku Meizan" (Japan's 100 famous mountains), even if they are not familiar with the name of its author, Kyuya Fukada (1903-1971). Published in the month of July exactly 50 years ago, the book has remained a perennial favorite of mountain lovers, not a few of whom have made it a lifelong project to climb all the 100 mountains selected by Fukada.
Nestle's "regular soluble coffee" products (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Debate brews over product name in coffee industry
In 1970, Japan hosted Expo '70 in Osaka. The year also produced a bumper crop of unforgettable TV commercial catchphrases that fill people of my generation with great nostalgia. Here are some examples: "Otoko wa damatte Sapporo Biiru" (men drink Sapporo beer in silence); "Moretsu kara byutifuru e" (from fierce to beautiful); and "Hayashi mo arude-yo" (hey, you got 'hayashi' hashed beef rice, too).
McDonald's Co. (Japan) resumes sales of chicken nuggets on July 23 after switching suppliers following reports on the scandal surrounding a food supplier in Shanghai. (Mikiharu Sugiura)
VOX POPULI: Safety of Chinese food products raises concerns
In the early 20th century, a novel titled "The Jungle" created a stir in the United States. It was an expose about the deplorably unsanitary practices that were rampant in the food processing industry of the time, and the author, Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), claimed to have worked undercover in meatpacking to gather information first hand.
A boy is carried for treatment after being injured in shelling by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip on July 16. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Bloody history repeats itself in Palestine
Let me quote a passage from this column, written in January 2009: "The Palestinian death toll has topped 500 amid the continued Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, and the militant Islamist group Hamas is putting up do-or-die resistance. But the United Nations, which supposedly represents the 'conscience of the world,' remains silent as usual. The people's cries of anguish are rising from the blazing and smoking rubble."
People enjoy sea bathing in Fukuoka on July 21 after the rainy season ends in northern Kyushu area. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Caution needed for summer to go swimmingly
A beach ball is filled with air, but what's inside a swim ring? If "air" is your answer, sorry, you've missed this one. The correct answer is "someone who can't swim."
A certified tax accountant gives a tax education lecture at an elementary school in Tokyo's Itabashi Ward in January 2013. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Teaching the young that taxes and democracy are inseparable
Try this question. Team A has assets of 500,000 yen ($4,935), while Team K owns 7 million yen worth of assets and Team B possesses assets to the tune of 2.5 million yen. The three teams have agreed to build a school jointly at a total cost of 3 million yen. What amount should each team contribute so that each pays a fair share of the burden?
People arrange candles to offer prayers for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 18. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: Is there no end to human folly?
The Japanese equivalent of the English maxim "misfortunes never come singly" is "naki-tsura ni hachi," which translates literally as "a bee stings on the face already puffy from crying."
Local residents offer flowers July 14 at the scene of a hit-and-run accident caused by a suspected drunken driver that killed three people the previous day in Otaru, Hokkaido. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: No end to tragedies caused by drunken drivers
An ancient Greek proverb goes, “I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.” I interpret this to mean that nondrinkers should cut drinkers some slack for what they say or do under the influence of alcohol. But there were also laws in ancient Greece under which drunks who slugged someone were punished twice as severely as their sober counterparts.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses for a "selfie" with attendees of the International Conference for Women in Business in Tokyo on July 13. The government seeks to advance the status of women. (Hikaru Uchida)
VOX POPULI: Japan has a lot of catching up to do for gender equality
Allow me to offer a riddle to make my point. A man and his son were badly hurt in a car accident and rushed to different hospitals. At the hospital where the boy was admitted, a doctor looked at him and said, “This is my son.” How could that be?
Takichi Nishiyama, left, a former Mainichi Shimbun reporter, and other plaintiffs at a news conference on July 14 after the Supreme Court ruling concerning secret documents related to the return of Okinawa to Japan (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Top court's ruling a denial of people's right to know
A newspaper reporter visited the home of novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) one day, asking to see the famous writer. Soseki opened the front door and told the reporter, "If I say I'm not available, I'm not available."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presides at the Cabinet meeting on July 1 in which his Cabinet approved Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense after decades of the governments’ refusal under the pacifist Constitution. (Shogo Koshida)
VOX POPULI: When it rains, it pours; Abe should take note of Shiga vote
The Japanese expression “watakushi ame” denotes strictly localized showers. They typically occur on mountains when it is sunny at the foot of the mountain. According to a book I consulted, the Suzuka-toge pass on the Mie-Shiga prefectural border and Mount Hiei on the Shiga-Kyoto prefectural border are well known for such isolated showers.
Takeru Masuda, a third-grader at Ishigaki Elementary School in Okinawa Prefecture, recited on June 23 his poem at the ceremony commemorating those who died in the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: World Press Photo exhibition reflects grim reality of today's world
Last month, at a memorial ceremony to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Okinawa 69 years ago, Takeru Masuda, a third-grader at Ishigaki Elementary School in Okinawa Prefecture, read his poem about war.
An elementary school student uses a tablet as part of the "Shinken Zemi" course provided by Benesse Holdings Inc. in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on July 10. (Jun Nojima)
VOX POPULI: In a digital world, protecting personal information is paramount
Until quite recently, I didn't know anything about the "Zen-nihon DM Taisho" (All-Japan DM Grand Prize). Sponsored by Japan Post Co., the prize is awarded to the year's best direct mail marketer. Publishing and education giant Benesse Holdings Inc. has remained a hands-down favorite, winning a prize practically every year. Benesse must be putting special effort into the direct mail marketing of its core business of selling correspondence courses.
Kyoto University students eat lunch at partitioned tables in a university dining hall in June 2013. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: ‘Bocchi’ students should feel no shame in dining alone
At a university in Tokyo, a male student was seated at the far end of a dining hall table with a head-level partition running down the center of the table. Another male student sat diagonally across from him on the other side of the partition. At another similarly partitioned table, a female student started eating while texting on her cellphone.
Shingo Yasutake, left, a journalist in Fukuoka, shows his book “Hana-chan no Misoshiru” while his daughter, Hana, holds his manuscript for the book in 2012. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Hana grows into confident 11-year-old after mother’s death
A chest X-ray showed a small shadow on the left lung of Shingo Yasutake, a 50-year-old newspaperman in Fukuoka Prefecture. While waiting for the results of a follow-up CT scan, Yasutake silently prayed to his late wife for help. He could not bear the thought of dying and leaving their only daughter an orphan.
"Dappo" (quasi-legal) drugs (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Quasi-legal ‘dappo’ drugs pose great danger
According to "Hyohaku Sareru Shakai" (Society that is being bleached), a book by sociologist Hiroshi Kainuma, a first-time user of a "dappo" (quasi-legal) drug is overcome by extreme lethargy that leaves the person immobile.
A satellite image shows Typhoon No. 8 closing in on Okinawa at 9 a.m. on July 8. (Japan Meteorological Agency website)
VOX POPULI: No such thing as excessive preparation for typhoons
Typhoon No. 7 turned into a low-pressure system in Kyushu and raced through the Honshu mainland on July 8-9, 1967. It came to be known as “Showa 42-nen 7-gatsu Gou” (the torrential rains of July in the 42nd year of the Showa Era) for the severe rain damage it brought.

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