Students attend a vigil for Ryota Uemura, a first-year student at a junior high school in Kawasaki, on March 2. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Boy's life lost after society failed to understand his world
Ryota Uemura, a first-year student at a junior high school in Kawasaki, was known as a cheerful boy who laughed a lot and was liked by everyone. “That’s probably why nobody realized (he was in serious trouble),” said one of his classmates. “I feel so terribly sorry for him.”
Yosuke Isozaki (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: LDP’s constitutional amendment offerings not ripe enough for sampling
A Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker recently described the ruling camp’s approach to constitutional amendments in an odd way.
Tatsuo Murakami, director of Kamo Aquarium, with his recently published memoir (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Grim events of February followed by inspired voices
I was horrified and outraged by gruesome news in February from the Middle East (that Islamic State militants had killed two Japanese hostages, among others).
Activist and campaigner Rachel Kean poses outside the Palace of Westminster after she witnessed the vote on three-parent babies in the House of Commons in London on Feb. 3. (AP Photo)
VOX POPULI: A call for deeper understanding on Rare Disease Day
“Two heads are better than one” is the English equivalent of the Japanese proverb “Sannin yoreba monju no chie,” except the latter calls for three heads rather than two to reach a wise decision. The Japanese belief in the power of three is also evident in an old story about a feudal lord who taught his three sons to be as “three arrows” to form a solid, united front.
Shinkai 6500, a deep-sea manned submersible, will be replaced by Shinkai 12000, which will be capable of withstanding depths of 12,000 meters. (Provided by Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology)
VOX POPULI: Japan to chart way in new age of deep-sea exploration
It appears that humankind has always dreamed of deep-sea diving as much as of flying in the air. Legend has it that Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) once spent weeks or months at the bottom of the sea, cocooned in a transparent “diving ball” suspended from a boat.
Armed Ground Self-Defense Force members escort Japanese nationals in Thailand during an evacuation drill at Utapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in central Thailand on Feb. 15. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: The drumbeat for more aggressive defense posture grows louder
According to "Utau Kokumin" (Singing Japanese), a book by Hiroshi Watanabe, a Meiji Era (1868-1912) report on music education for schoolchildren noted that people who were exposed to music in major keys from their infancy grew up to become fearless, virile men, while those who were taught music in minor keys became spineless, moody adults.
Bando Mitsugoro X performs at the National Theater in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward in February 2014. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Kabuki world laments loss of graceful star Bando Mitsugoro X
Absolute precision is of the essence in Kabuki movements, the late Kabuki actor Bando Mitsugoro X liked to say.
Wearing cat’s ears, participants play with a cat during an event on “Cat Day” in Osaka’s Kita Ward on Feb. 22. (Masato Yanagidani)
VOX POPULI: Cats deserve not only love but responsible treatment
It is unclear which is larger, the number of dog lovers or the number of cat fanciers. There are as many great literary works about cats as there are about dogs, both Japanese and foreign.
This new variant of "natto" developed by Ibaraki Prefecture is said to be less slimy.  (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: A paean to 'natto,' and may it grace breakfast tables worldwide
"Rakugo" (comic storytelling) master Kokontei Shinsho V (1890-1973) peddled "natto" (fermented soybeans) for a living while he was in temporary banishment from the vaudeville community. But he failed miserably as a natto vendor. That is because he could not face the embarrassment of hawking his wares loudly enough to attract customers. As a result, most of his natto remained unsold, which he reluctantly ate every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Chinese tourists make purchases at a drugstore in Osaka’s Chuo Ward on Feb. 19. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: A welcome trend: Chinese tourists shift from stores to cultural sites
Fiery red posters emblazoned with the Chinese character for “good fortune” written upside down are seen nowadays on many storefronts in central Tokyo. The topsy-turvy letter is said to represent a Chinese superstition for good luck.
A house collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in Tsunan in Niigata Prefecture. The Meteorological Agency forecasts that as global warming progresses, the nation will likely have more rainfall instead of snow. (Shintaro Egawa)
VOX POPULI: Tokyo ill-prepared for consequences of global warming
2014 was the hottest year on record, according to a string of reports on global climate trends.
A police car carrying a 19-year-old suspect in a Nagoya murder case leaves a police station in Nagoya’s Naka Ward on Jan. 28. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Grisly slayings by teenage girls should give us pause to look within
As a journalist, I often have to caution myself against misjudging one shocking incident as an indication of the state of our society at large. That said, at times I also feel that if we take a careful look at a particular outrage, it can teach us something about broader society.
People file income tax returns in Nagoya's Nakamura Ward on Feb. 16. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Debate over economic inequality heats up as tax season starts
It's that time of the year again. Tax offices nationwide began accepting income tax returns on Feb. 16. As always, the day was marked with celebrities and showbiz personalities showing up at tax offices for promotional events.
An ume tree blossoms at Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Ume blossoms herald spring at depth of winter
As winter has progressed and gone past “risshun” (first day of spring on the lunar calendar), the cold should now be nothing more than “yokan” (a lingering cold).
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Let new cease-fire accord be a sweet victory for peace in Ukraine
In a corner of one of the shopping complexes in Tokyo's Odaiba district, a signboard that said "Sold by weight" caught my attention. That was where colorfully packaged, bite-size chocolates, made by Roshen Confectionery Corp., were being sold for a limited time for 450 yen ($3.80) per 100 grams. I imagine sales were quite brisk on the day before Valentine's Day.
Koyuki Higashi, a former member of the Takarazuka Revue theater troupe, left, and her female partner, Hiroko Masuhara, at their wedding ceremony held at the Tokyo Disney Resort in March 2013 (Provided by Hiroko Masuhara)
VOX POPULI: Tokyo's Shibuya Ward at forefront of sexual minority rights
People might remember Morizo and Kiccoro, the official mascots of 2005 World Exposition (Aichi Banpaku) that was held 10 years ago in Aichi Prefecture.
A Skymark Airlines passenger jet arrives at Fukuoka airport in June 2014. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: The turbulent ride of an aviation maverick
Many people must remember the popular TV dramas "Atenshon Purizu" (Attention, please) of the 1970s and "Suchuwadesu Monogatari" (Stewardess story) of the 1980s. Flight attendants were considered cool back then, and their job was much envied.
Low-salt miso soup is served at a healthy diet promotion event in Nagano in June. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: How a woman's blog transformed the world of miso
"Misoshiru (miso soup) is a friend of young women," declares a headline in Japan Miso Press, a monthly informational magazine that offers a slew of tips on how to take advantage of the health benefits of fermented soybean paste. Launched in Yokohama in March 2014, it has a print run of 50,000 copies.
An Air Self-Defense Force aircraft flies over a junior high school in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, on Feb. 6. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: A cool experiment in direct democracy
Do elementary and junior high school classrooms need air conditioning? Having attended school when cool, air-conditioned classrooms were unheard of, I was surprised to learn that nearly all schools in Tokyo today have air conditioners.
So Kuramoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Lessons of Fukushima fading fast in national consciousness
Hiroshi Takeyama (1920-2010), a survivor of the 1945 atomic-bombing of Nagasaki, left many poignant poems about the nuclear devastation. His poems have occasionally been quoted in this column.

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