The inside of a house is seen inundated with mud in Asa-Minami Ward, Hiroshima, on Aug. 21 after it was hit by a massive landslide the day before. (Jun Ueda)
VOX POPULI: 15 years later, yet another landslide disaster in Hiroshima
Images of a leafy mountainside, scarred by multiple swaths of debris and rocks, reminded me of Yamata no Orochi, the mythical monster snake with eight heads and as many tails. Its gigantic body spanned many peaks and valleys. The creature terrorized and killed hapless villagers every year.
Members of the Tomakomai branch of the Ainu Association of Hokkaido hold a traditional ceremony to celebrate the new year in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on Jan. 19. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Existence of Ainu is not a matter of opinion
Before the law to promote Ainu culture was enacted in 1997, Shigeru Kayano (1926-2006), the first ethnic Ainu member of the Diet, made this unforgettable comment, "Democracy is alive in Japan."
Gen Kida in 2009 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Remembering Gen Kida, philosopher who warned against uncontrollable technology
Gen Kida, a prominent philosopher and professor emeritus at Chuo University who died Aug. 16 at age 85, wrote prose that was gentle in tone and sometimes humorous.
Makiko Uchidate (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: New word may help the obese lose weight
I didn’t know the word “hami niku” until I recently heard it while watching a TV program. It is one of the dazzling array of newly coined words that have gained currency in this nation for various reasons.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attend a ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II at Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo on Aug. 15. (Takeshi Tokitsu)
VOX POPULI: The importance of handing down memories of war
Chuya Nakahara (1907-1937), who died young, wrote a poem titled "Imoto yo" (Oh my little sister). It goes, "The beautiful soul wept at night/ And said it was all right now to die ..."
Novelist Futaro Yamada in 1948 (Provided by Futaro Yamada Museum)
VOX POPULI: Author Yamada’s reflections on war’s end resonate 69 years later
“Unconventional” could well be the middle name of novelist Futaro Yamada (1922-2001), whose works include “Ningen Rinju Zukan” (Picture scroll of human deathbed scenes). Downing a third of a bottle of whisky every night, Yamada described himself as “Aruchu-heimer,” an expression he coined by combining the Japanese slang for “alcoholic” and Alzheimer’s.
Trekkers pack the summit of Mount Fuji to view the sunrise in July 2013. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Mount Fuji in urgent need of relief from climbing hordes
I once heard that there were "white rivers" running down Mount Fuji. Actually, they were festoons of used toilet paper, mixed with human excrement and discharged from mountain hut toilets, clinging to the sides of the mountain. Utterly gross and unsanitary, they definitely did not belong on Japan's sacred, iconic peak.
Fragments of the vertical tail fin of JAL Flight 123 that crashed in 1985 are on display at the Safety Promotion Center of Japan Airlines Co. at Haneda Airport on Aug. 5. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: JAL crash site uniting bereaved families in all major accidents
For some people, the items on display at the Safety Promotion Center of Japan Airlines Co. may be too painful to look at. They include wreckage of JAL Flight 123 that crashed on Mount Osutakayama in Gunma Prefecture on Aug. 12, 1985, and a stopped wristwatch frozen in time that belonged to one of the 520 victims who died in the crash.
The 96th National High School Baseball Championship opening ceremony at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on Aug. 11 (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: What dramas will unfold at high school baseball's 'Field of Dreams' this year?
The list of memorable games at the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium is a long one.
Osamu Tezuka (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Iron determination needed to eliminate nuclear arms
A young man who would later become a genius surgeon found an old vacant house and decided to live in it. Then, one day, a stranger who claimed to be a carpenter appeared.
Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, stands empty after the National High School Baseball Championship was postponed Aug. 9 due to Typhoon No. 11.  (Sayaka Yamaguchi)
VOX POPULI: Excess rain dampens Japan's summer spirit
Newspaper articles of the past about the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium were often peppered with well-worn cliches.
Daigaku Horiguchi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Reproductive medicine should respect rights of babies
Poet Daigaku Horiguchi (1892-1981), whose mother died young, apparently cherished her memory all his life. Horiguchi was around 80 years old when he penned this poem: "Mother, that precious time really did exist!/ The precious time when two hearts, yours and mine, beat and resonated together." He was thinking fondly of his prenatal days in his mother's womb.
Terumi Yoshida, a nurse who worked in Sierra Leone in West Africa from June to July, talks about the serious situation of Ebola hemorrhagic fever there at a news conference in Tokyo on Aug. 5. She was dispatched to the country by Doctors Without Borders, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva. (Yuichiro Masumitsu)
VOX POPULI: Ebola epidemic should come as no surprise given modern mobility
I have never seen a "korera sen" (cholera ship), nor are the words in the Japanese dictionary I always keep handy, but I understand this is a "kigo" (seasonal phrase, which is peculiar to Japanese poetry) for summer.
A restored B-29 Enola Gay at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: ‘Worm’s eye view’ can pave way to eradication of nuclear weapons
On Aug. 14, 1945, novelist Jun Takami (1907-1965) wrote in his diary: “Everyone has started saying, ‘Watch out for any bomber flying solo.’ Before, everyone was saying that bombers flying solo weren’t a real threat.”
Elderly men prepare dishes together for a monthly gathering of a group of senior men living alone in Sekikawa, Niigata Prefecture, in June. The average life expectancy for Japanese men topped 80 in 2013 for the first time. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Growing old with dignity in Japan's graying society
Sumitomo Life Insurance Co. in 1990 began inviting the public to send in homophonic puns on well-known “yojijukugo” (Japanese idiomatic phrases written using four kanji characters). That year’s winning entry, mentioned in this column at the time, was a pun on the expression “uo sao” (run about in confusion). The submitted version was made up of four characters that mean “right,” “old man,” “left” and “old woman.” It poked fun at the growing senior population in our inexorably graying society.
Tokujiro Kanamori, director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau under the government of Prime Minister Keisuke Okada (Provided by Shimbun Rengo Sha)
VOX POPULI: Tokujiro Kanamori’s message about prewar emperor theory still relevant today
Describing the situation surrounding a prewar controversy over a theory concerning the role of the emperor, Tokujiro Kanamori (1886-1959) later said it was as if heavily armed guards were assigned to protect small fry like “medaka” killifish.
A branch of the Sukiya beef bowl chain in Tokyo where workers called for a strike in May (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Workers are not disposable robots
Women pulled off what is believed to be the first walkout in Japan 128 years ago.
Zhou Yongkang (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Heaven knows the corruption China’s leadership is trying to hide
Beijing’s July 29 decision to investigate a former Politburo Standing Committee member for corruption may have some people thinking about Yang Zhen, a high-ranking functionary of the Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 25-220).
A fan with Akiko Yosano’s handwritten poem (Kentaro Isomura)
VOX POPULI: Memorable quotes from July
Japan has veered sharply from its long-held course of pacifism and is headed in a very wrong direction. Below are some comments quoted in July by people who lived through World War II and are worried about the younger generations who have never experienced war.
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 ..."

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