Setsuko Hara during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in her house in Komae, western Tokyo, in November 1960 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Intriguing, captivating ... Setsuko Hara was not just a pretty face
Actress Setsuko Hara, who died in September at age 95, had some scathing things to say about men.
A long-neglected vacant house in Kanagawa Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Inspired verse emerges from neglected old homes
A former director of the residents' association of a resort condo complex in Niigata Prefecture is suspected of embezzling a whopping 1.1 billion yen ($8.99 million) from a fund set aside for maintenance and other needs, according to recent news reports.
Masahiro Sakata, former director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, testifies in a session of the Lower House special committee deliberating security legislation on June 22. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Bureau’s shady compromise damages its credibility and the Constitution
The expression "nikumare yaku," which may translate as "the hated party" or "the bad guy," refers to someone whose uncompromising obstinacy makes others resentful and uncomfortable. We find such individuals in all walks of life. But some people actually volunteer to play this thankless role, as their presence is crucial to the running of any organization.
"Rakugo" storyteller Tatekawa Danshun (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Kindness can work wonders in the workplace
I am no "rakugo" (comic storytelling) expert, but I was deeply moved a few years ago by Tatekawa Danshun's masterful rendition of "Shibahama," a classic piece.
Flanked by high-ranking wrestlers, Kitanoumi, then chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, center, addresses an audience on the opening day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo on May 10. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Gone too soon, but Kitanoumi’s sumo legend lives on
The date Jan. 15 links two grand champion sumo wrestlers who dominated the dohyo ring during the Showa Era (1926-1989), one before World War II and the other in postwar Japan.
Children, dressed as conductors, check tickets on a Tokaido Shinkansen train. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Era of onboard ticket checks passing into history
Novelist Hiroyuki Agawa, who died in August at age 94, had a passion for trains.
Members of a citizen group opposing the conspiracy legislation stand silently "without blinking" near the Diet building in Tokyo in 2006. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: ‘Conspiracy bill’ could see us all jailed in the blink of an eye
“What is the difference between a wink and a blink?” In May 2006, Nobuto Hosaka, who was a Lower House legislator at the time, asked this question during Diet deliberations.
Children playing with their mother in a park in Yokohama (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: How reaching out in the right way can lead to trust
Feeling at ease with someone is not quite the same as trusting that person. According to social psychologist Toshio Yamagishi, a person is at ease when he or she doesn't have to worry about how the other individual might act.
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga meets reporters in Naha on Nov. 17 after he was sued by the central government. (Masaru Komiyaji)
VOX POPULI: Abe administration's foul play demeans Okinawa as Tokyo's ‘subordinate’
Time provides the perspective with which we come to recognize a past happening as a watershed.
Keiko Yoneyama, head of Food Bank Yamanashi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Food banks a powerful weapon against poverty and waste
A lot of food that's still perfectly safe to eat gets trashed as a matter of routine. This happens, for example, to snacks in damaged or soiled boxes, even if the contents remain unaffected. And there are vegetables and fruits that don't meet their size requirements and, therefore, cannot be sold.
Flowers are placed in a window shattered by bullets at a site of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 15. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: France must resist division and deny the terrorists’ wishes
In her poem about hatred, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012), the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, offers an illuminating insight into the dark abyss of the nature of this uncontrollable and complicated emotion.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Abe's 'emergency provision' for Constitution would set dangerous precedent
The adage of "the hunter becomes the hunted" comes to mind every time I hear any argument in favor of adding a provision for "dealing with emergencies" to the Constitution.
Fire-damaged ancient murals are shown to reporters at Horyuji temple in Nara Prefecture on Nov. 11. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: The paintings that almost 'died' to save Japan's art heritage
On Jan. 27, 1949, the front page banner headline of the Osaka edition of The Asahi Shimbun read: “Fire at Horyuji temple’s Kondo.” It was truly shocking news. The story lamented the damage done by fire to the murals in the temple’s Kondo (golden hall) in Nara Prefecture as a “cultural loss for the world.”
University students in black suits leave after sitting for an employment examination in Fukuoka’s Chuo Ward on Aug. 1. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Flexible job hunting season would benefit graduates and companies alike
In “‘Shukatsu’ no Shakaishi” (Social history of job-hunting by university students), sociologist Koji Nanba discusses a feature published in a women's magazine in 1981. The article contained the results of a survey in which 100 new company recruits were asked what they wore to their job interviews.
Kazunori Yamai of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, left, calls on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to convoke an extraordinary Diet session during a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee on Nov. 10. (Shinichi Iizuka)
VOX POPULI: No letup in Abe's contempt of Diet as we, the people, are watching
Teenagers are making powerful statements. "T-ns SOWL" (Teens Stand Up to Oppose War Law), a group set up by high school students, held a rally in Tokyo's Harajuku district on Nov. 8 to protest new national security legislation. A member declared, "I am speaking out because democracy is not finished yet. I refuse to be a bystander because sovereignty rests with us."
Members of the Japan national rugby sevens team display their medals at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Nov. 9 after winning the 2016 Rio Olympics qualifier in Hong Kong the previous day. (Kazuhiro Nagashima)
VOX POPULI: Japanese sports fans likely to have a ball with rugby sevens
In rugby sevens, teams are made up of seven players instead of the usual 15. But since sevens games are played on standard rugby fields, the players' physical exertion must reach a tremendous level. And because the players are spaced far and wide they frequently make long passes, meaning the movement of the ball is dynamic.
Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: One for all, all for one to oust Abe and scrap security legislation
Kunio Fukumoto, the quintessential “eminence grise” in Japan’s postwar political world who died five years ago, was given many sobriquets, such as backstage manipulator, string-puller, fixer and power broker.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, attends a meeting of the Public-Private Dialogue Towards Investment for the Future held at the prime minister's office on Nov. 5. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Will Abe's 'fourth industrial revolution' be just another overblown phrase?
Representatives of the government and the business community met on Nov. 5 for their second "public-private dialogue" in as many months to discuss what our society could be like a few years from now.
A report of the World Health Organization says that processed meats, such as bacon, can increase cancer risks. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Controversial report for bacon lovers from WHO
"Breakfast," a short story by John Steinbeck (1902-1968), made my mouth water when I read it in my adolescence. It was the author's depiction of fried bacon that did it: I kept imagining how good it must taste.
Hajime Shinohara in 1972 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Politicians watch out! The citizens have woken up ... and they mean business
When the forerunner of the current Democratic Party of Japan was founded almost 20 years ago under the slogan “Shimin ga Shuyaku” (citizens take the center stage of government), former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was ruthless in his putdown of this new party.

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