August 21, 2014
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.
August 20, 2014
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."
August 19, 2014
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.
August 18, 2014
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.
August 16, 2014
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 ..."
August 15, 2014
“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.
August 14, 2014
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.
August 13, 2014
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.
August 12, 2014
The list of memorable games at the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium is a long one.
August 11, 2014
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.
August 09, 2014
Newspaper articles of the past about the National High School Baseball Championship at Koshien Stadium were often peppered with well-worn cliches.
August 08, 2014
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.
August 07, 2014
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.
August 06, 2014
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.”
August 05, 2014
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.
August 04, 2014
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.
August 02, 2014
Women pulled off what is believed to be the first walkout in Japan 128 years ago.
August 01, 2014
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).
July 31, 2014
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.
July 30, 2014
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 ..."