Painter Kazuko Irie at the Irie Kazuko Silk Road Museum in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 8 (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Drawing inspiration from those in the autumn of their lives
Fine arts, reading, hearty appetite, harvest, sports--these are just a few things one associates with autumn in Japan. September this year brought a series of problems, caused both by man and Mother Nature. Below are some inspirational comments made during the eventful month that did my heart good.
Volcanic ash billows from Mount Ontakesan on Sept. 28 while rescue activities continue near its summit. (Yuta Takahashi)
VOX POPULI: The frightening unpredictability of nature
Kyuya Fukada (1903-1971) once described Mount Ontakesan as “a mountain that is a class by itself.” In his classic “Nihon Hyakumeizan” (100 Famous Japanese Mountains), the writer and mountaineer wrote that Ontakesan “stands majestically in lofty isolation as if saying ‘I don’t want to join the Japanese Alps, which are crowded with mountains of the Northern, Central and Southern (Alps).’”
Hirofumi Uzawa speaks at a news conference in February 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Economist Uzawa urged prosperous living over reckless efficiency
His trademark was an amazingly luxuriant, white beard reminiscent of such ancient Chinese sages as Lao-tzu and Confucius.
Natsume Soseki (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Simple titles of novels may belie more profound themes
Exactly 50 years ago, “Hyoten” (Freezing Point), the debut novel of Ayako Miura (1922-1999), won The Asahi Shimbun’s prize competition for best novel and began appearing serially in the newspaper.
This photo taken on Sept. 24 shows the bushes in Kobe’s Nagata Ward where the body parts of a missing 6-year-old girl were found the previous day. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)
VOX POPULI: Slaying of Kobe schoolgirl another sign of a disturbing trend
The teacher who appeared in “Kaze no Matasaburo” (Matasaburo of the wind), a short story by novelist Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), greets students on the first school day after summer vacation by saying, “Everybody, the long summer vacation was exciting, wasn’t it?”
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speech at the U.N. General Assembly session in September 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: World leaders at U.N. must seek solution to problem of Islamic State
Gracing school textbooks and other materials, the United Nations Headquarters in New York overlooking the East River is a familiar sight. The U.N. General Assembly meets in regular annual sessions from September. The gathering of world leaders for the General Debate heralds the arrival of autumn in the city. This year's debate kicks off on Sept. 24.
Flowers of "hagi" (Japanese bush clover) bloom in Tochigi. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Autumn has long appealed to Japan's authors, poets
On my way to the train station yesterday morning, I noticed some color on the persimmons growing on my neighbor’s tree. Some years, the summer heat persists up to or around the autumnal equinox. But this year, autumn appears to have arrived punctually. The sun is still strong during the day, but the clouds at sunset are no longer in their summer hues.
Okinoshima island, Fukuoka Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Shinto shrine offerings sparkle with beauty, veneration for nature
The oval shell, several centimeters long, had a shiny, sparkling surface and small holes at both ends.
Actor Sean Connery makes a point by wearing Highland dress after he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: The kingdom stays united, despite big divide
Scotland has been all over Japanese newspapers and television for the past few days, and I've become an "instant Scotland expert." I learned for the first time that the Scottish flag has a white X-shaped cross against a blue background, and that Scotland has about the same area and population as Hokkaido.
A cook prepares "unagi no kabayaki" (broiled eel with sweet soy-based sauce) at a restaurant in Osaka's Kita Ward on Sept. 17. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Protect cherished eel culture before it slips away
French lawyer, politician and noted gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) made this tongue-in-cheek observation in his “The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy”: “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of the human race than the discovery of a star.”
This year’s rice harvest is priced lower than last year’s rice in Aichi Prefecture due in part to a bumper crop. (Ryoko Takahashi)
VOX POPULI: Autumn harvest clouded by plight of rice farmers
I'm not sure how effective scarecrows are in discouraging birds from feasting on growing crops, but they sure add charm to rice paddies. On my recent visit to a mountain valley in Gunma Prefecture, I spotted a few scarecrows here and there, standing in a sea of undulating rice plants that were starting to ripen.
Yoshiko Yamaguchi in 1940 when she used the Chinese stage name of Li Xianglan (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Actress Yamaguchi knew peace can never be taken for granted
Japanese-born Yoshiko Yamaguchi made her screen debut as Chinese actress Li Xianglan in 1938, the year after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident triggered the Second Sino-Japanese War.
Retirees chat during a weekly event held in Nagoya’s Minami Ward on Sept. 11 to promote exchanges among elderly men in the local community. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Blessed 'inactivity' a prerogative of the elderly
The Japanese expression "shidokenai," which is rarely heard nowadays, means "sloppy" in dress or posture. But it can also be used to describe the grace and charm of unaffected nonchalance.
Newly promoted ozeki Goeido in Fuso, Aichi Prefecture, on July 30 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Ozeki's 'Yamato damashii' bulging with meaning
Sept. 14 was the first day of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament. One big draw of this tournament is newly promoted ozeki Goeido. Sumo fans are eager to watch his bouts to see how he performs as ozeki, a title he acquired after years of strenuous efforts.
VOX POPULI: Asahi must start from scratch to restore destroyed credibility
Newspaper company workers feel joy and a sense of pride when blank news pages become filled with stories for the public to read.
Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga, left, and Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Time to stop treating Okinawa as ‘a means to an end’
Okinawa Prefecture has had six governors since its reversion to Japanese rule in 1972. The first governor, Chobyo Yara (1902-1997), had served as chief executive of the government of the Ryukyu Islands during the years of U.S. military occupation.
Demonstrators rally in Los Angeles in June against the additional dispatch of U.S. troops to Iraq. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: The quagmire of terrorism that plagues the world
"The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era," a book published in 1965 by esteemed U.S. journalist David Halberstam (1934-2007), is credited with establishing the image of the Vietnam War as a "quagmire." A Japanese translation was titled "Betonamu no Doronuma kara" (From the quagmire of Vietnam). Americans have since retained sharp memories of that deep quagmire.
Kei Nishikori practices on Sept. 1 in New York. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Baseball's loss proves a gain for Japanese tennis in Nishikori
Giant bulletin boards were set up in Kyoto and other places in the late Taisho Era (1912-1926) to enable passers-by to follow the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium.
Emperor Hirohito, posthumously called Emperor Showa, in 1967 (Provided by the Imperial Household Agency)
VOX POPULI: 'Annals of Emperor Showa' a link to fast-fading era
Essays by TV screenwriter Kuniko Mukoda (1929-1981) take me down memory lane to the Showa Era (1926-1989). A passage from one goes: “The telephone in my home gives a small gasp before it rings.”
A Scottish bagpipe band marches in Stirling, Scotland, on June 27. (Masao Hoshino)
VOX POPULI: Scottish independence no walk in the park
“Annie Laurie,” “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” and “Auld Lang Syne” are all old Scottish folk songs, though they are sometimes categorized as British songs in Japan.

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