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.
New Justice Minister Midori Matsushima speaks at a news conference on Sept. 3. (Sayaka Yamaguchi)
VOX POPULI: Creating a society where women can shine
The ranks of Japan’s female pro baseball fans are swelling. I’ve known for a while that the women who root for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp are collectively called “Karpu Joshi” (Carp girl), but I only recently became aware of the nicknames “Ori Hime” (Princess Ori) and “Toraco” (Tiger girl) for fans of the Orix Buffaloes and the Hanshin Tigers, respectively. In soccer, Cerezo Osaka’s female supporters are known as “Serejo” (Cere-girl).
Children say “itadakimasu” at the beginning of a school lunch at Shichigahama Elementary School in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: How grateful are we for the food that we eat?
Young Shinobu Sakamoto was ashamed of his father's job, which was to slaughter beef cattle at a food processing center. When Shinobu was asked about his father's line of work in a social studies class at school, he answered, "He's just an ordinary butcher."
Opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Banri Kaieda addresses a meeting of DPJ members at both chambers of the Diet on July 31. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Turning misfortune into a chance to improve
Dongpo pork, a Chinese braised pork dish that has many fans in Japan, was named for Su Dongpo, the pen name of Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) poet and government official Su Shi (1036-1101) who was also a foodie.
Mosquito traps to find out whether the insects carry the dengue virus were installed at 10 locations at Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo on Sept. 2. (Shiro Nishihata)
VOX POPULI: Be on your guard against dengue fever
In a scene of the popular classic Kabuki play "Sukeroku Yukari no Edozakura," Sukeroku, the protagonist, introduces himself as a man everyone should be glad to be acquainted with. Above all, he promises, anyone with "okori" (intermittent fever) will be cured.
Kazuo Watanabe (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Intolerance only makes people protest louder
A dictionary I consulted defines the word "tolerance" as the willingness to accept others and acknowledge that their opinions differ from one's own. Even though most people wish to be tolerant, bigotry and prejudice sometimes rear their ugly heads.
People push a car on Oct. 4, 1959, in the Furukawacho district of Tsushima, Aichi Prefecture, which was flooded by the Isewan Typhoon. (Provided by the Tsushima city library)
VOX POPULI: Sept. 1 serves as day to recall lessons of past disasters
Each year when Sept. 1 rolls around, Japanese are reminded of the Great Kanto Earthquake. On that day in 1923, a powerful tremor devastated wide areas in the Kanto region around Tokyo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves his office in Tokyo after meeting with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba on Aug. 29. (Shogo Koshida)
VOX POPULI: Personnel shake-up requires balancing act of favors
A personnel shake-up can be a double-edged sword. Employees who are elevated to coveted positions may perform their duties faithfully, but discontent could build up among those who were passed over. What was intended as a move to refresh and revitalize the organization may only lower the staff's morale.

More AJW