July 01, 2015
In his “The Physiology of Taste,” French politician and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) noted that people attending a dinner party must treat one another as fellow travelers heading for the same destination. For everyone to have a good time, any rudeness or uncivilized behavior must be abstained from because it is totally unacceptable.
June 30, 2015
The year 2015 is already half over, but it sure doesn’t feel that way. The past six months are indelibly marked with all sorts of happenings. The next six months are still a blank canvas. I pray they will be peaceful.
June 29, 2015
The political impact of constitutional scholars’ assertion that government-proposed security legislation is unconstitutional is showing no signs of waning.
June 27, 2015
Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind” was thought to be the most-read novel worldwide at one time. And the legendary Hollywood film adaptation was a huge hit, too.
June 26, 2015
My image of “kanshi” (classical Chinese poetry) is of something stiff and formal. But there is a charmingly mundane poem titled “Dedicated to my Cat” by Chinese poet Lu Yu (1125-1210) of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).
June 25, 2015
I receive all sorts of questions every day from readers of this column. One of the most-asked questions in recent years concerned the meaning of this poem: “623, 8689815/ Leading to 53/ And we live today.”
June 24, 2015
“Mikakunin Hikobuttai” (Unidentified flying object) is the title of a delightfully whimsical poem by Yasuo Irisawa. It starts with the line, “You can’t say a kettle never flies.”
June 23, 2015
The flowering deciduous tree Erythrina variagata is called "deigo" in Japan. Its red flower, which blooms in early summer in Okinawa Prefecture, is the official flower of this southernmost prefecture.
June 22, 2015
In the summer of 1988, South Korea’s capital was brimming with excitement and anticipation.
June 20, 2015
When the "dakuten" symbol (small 'voicing marks' that change a consonant's sound) is added to the hiragana phonetic letter for "ke" in the word "hake" (brush), the word changes in pronunciation as well as in meaning to "hage" (bald head). Hence this inane old joke: "Hake has hair, hage has no hair."
June 19, 2015
In Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” there is a dinner party scene where Mark Antony is asked by Lepidus to describe a crocodile. The lines go as follows:
June 18, 2015
The age of 31 is when one ceases to be trusted by young people, and 59 is the last age at which one is applauded as being a middle-aged person. This is according to “The Book of Ages” by English zoologist Desmond Morris.
June 17, 2015
It is good to be living in this time of plenty. The following poem by Taimu Okamoto (1877-1963) was written during World War II when people had to endure dire shortages of consumer goods. The poem is an acute reminder of how times have changed. It reads: "Even the weak, cold 'sake' I pour myself is more potent than water/ At least it makes me tipsy."
June 16, 2015
"Ganmen sohaku," written in four kanji characters, means "ashen-faced" in Japanese. In 2009, a pun was made on this expression by changing one of the characters to give it the new meaning of "all faces are white."
June 15, 2015
In this world, there are a lot of unpleasant things that can jangle one’s nerves.
June 13, 2015
"It won't get any larger than the size it is now, but it could shrink to the size it was before," may be one way to paraphrase the Shinzo Abe administration's answer to a question, asked in the Diet on June 10, concerning the use of armed force by the Self-Defense Forces.
June 12, 2015
I am sure some people would look quizzically at anyone who says, “Play and study are one and the same.”
June 11, 2015
There are various types of memory. For instance, general memory is the memory of information learned in the past, such as the "Mona Lisa" is a work of art painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
June 10, 2015
English literature scholar Yoshio Nakano (1903-1985), known for his sharp pen, was someone who went his own way. During the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Nakano escaped the manic atmosphere of the capital city and cloistered himself in the quiet resort town of Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, where he watched the Games on television at his leisure. An essay he contributed to The Asahi Shimbun at the time was titled “Orinpikku Tohiko” (Flight from the Olympics).
June 09, 2015
One student of Koji Sato, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and one of the most esteemed constitutional scholars in Japan, said of him, "I have never heard the professor speak so harshly."