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 ..."
July 29, 2014
Many writers of "senryu" cynical poetry are master observers of life. Santaro Kawakami (1891-1968), one of Japan's foremost postwar senryu poets, penned this piece: "No miracle occurred in the bottom of the ninth/ The game was lost." This is about a baseball game, but it could just as well be about life in general. But in life as well as in baseball, unthinkable dramas do occur on rare occasions.
July 28, 2014
Natsuki Uchiyama, a member of the all-girl idol group AKB48 and a first-year student at Keio University, has been adept at memorizing sentences since she was a child. She knows the Constitution by heart and can recite in one breath Article 9, which is by no means a short passage.
July 26, 2014
Many Japanese people have probably heard of the book "Nihon Hyaku Meizan" (Japan's 100 famous mountains), even if they are not familiar with the name of its author, Kyuya Fukada (1903-1971). Published in the month of July exactly 50 years ago, the book has remained a perennial favorite of mountain lovers, not a few of whom have made it a lifelong project to climb all the 100 mountains selected by Fukada.
July 25, 2014
In 1970, Japan hosted Expo '70 in Osaka. The year also produced a bumper crop of unforgettable TV commercial catchphrases that fill people of my generation with great nostalgia. Here are some examples: "Otoko wa damatte Sapporo Biiru" (men drink Sapporo beer in silence); "Moretsu kara byutifuru e" (from fierce to beautiful); and "Hayashi mo arude-yo" (hey, you got 'hayashi' hashed beef rice, too).
July 24, 2014
In the early 20th century, a novel titled "The Jungle" created a stir in the United States. It was an expose about the deplorably unsanitary practices that were rampant in the food processing industry of the time, and the author, Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), claimed to have worked undercover in meatpacking to gather information first hand.
July 23, 2014
Let me quote a passage from this column, written in January 2009: "The Palestinian death toll has topped 500 amid the continued Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, and the militant Islamist group Hamas is putting up do-or-die resistance. But the United Nations, which supposedly represents the 'conscience of the world,' remains silent as usual. The people's cries of anguish are rising from the blazing and smoking rubble."
July 22, 2014
A beach ball is filled with air, but what's inside a swim ring? If "air" is your answer, sorry, you've missed this one. The correct answer is "someone who can't swim."
July 21, 2014
Try this question. Team A has assets of 500,000 yen ($4,935), while Team K owns 7 million yen worth of assets and Team B possesses assets to the tune of 2.5 million yen. The three teams have agreed to build a school jointly at a total cost of 3 million yen. What amount should each team contribute so that each pays a fair share of the burden?
July 19, 2014
The Japanese equivalent of the English maxim "misfortunes never come singly" is "naki-tsura ni hachi," which translates literally as "a bee stings on the face already puffy from crying."
July 18, 2014
An ancient Greek proverb goes, “I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.” I interpret this to mean that nondrinkers should cut drinkers some slack for what they say or do under the influence of alcohol. But there were also laws in ancient Greece under which drunks who slugged someone were punished twice as severely as their sober counterparts.
July 17, 2014
Allow me to offer a riddle to make my point. A man and his son were badly hurt in a car accident and rushed to different hospitals. At the hospital where the boy was admitted, a doctor looked at him and said, “This is my son.” How could that be?
July 16, 2014
A newspaper reporter visited the home of novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) one day, asking to see the famous writer. Soseki opened the front door and told the reporter, "If I say I'm not available, I'm not available."
July 15, 2014
The Japanese expression “watakushi ame” denotes strictly localized showers. They typically occur on mountains when it is sunny at the foot of the mountain. According to a book I consulted, the Suzuka-toge pass on the Mie-Shiga prefectural border and Mount Hiei on the Shiga-Kyoto prefectural border are well known for such isolated showers.
July 14, 2014
Last month, at a memorial ceremony to commemorate those who died in the Battle of Okinawa 69 years ago, Takeru Masuda, a third-grader at Ishigaki Elementary School in Okinawa Prefecture, read his poem about war.
July 12, 2014
Until quite recently, I didn't know anything about the "Zen-nihon DM Taisho" (All-Japan DM Grand Prize). Sponsored by Japan Post Co., the prize is awarded to the year's best direct mail marketer. Publishing and education giant Benesse Holdings Inc. has remained a hands-down favorite, winning a prize practically every year. Benesse must be putting special effort into the direct mail marketing of its core business of selling correspondence courses.
July 11, 2014
At a university in Tokyo, a male student was seated at the far end of a dining hall table with a head-level partition running down the center of the table. Another male student sat diagonally across from him on the other side of the partition. At another similarly partitioned table, a female student started eating while texting on her cellphone.
July 10, 2014
A chest X-ray showed a small shadow on the left lung of Shingo Yasutake, a 50-year-old newspaperman in Fukuoka Prefecture. While waiting for the results of a follow-up CT scan, Yasutake silently prayed to his late wife for help. He could not bear the thought of dying and leaving their only daughter an orphan.
July 09, 2014
According to "Hyohaku Sareru Shakai" (Society that is being bleached), a book by sociologist Hiroshi Kainuma, a first-time user of a "dappo" (quasi-legal) drug is overcome by extreme lethargy that leaves the person immobile.
July 08, 2014
Typhoon No. 7 turned into a low-pressure system in Kyushu and raced through the Honshu mainland on July 8-9, 1967. It came to be known as “Showa 42-nen 7-gatsu Gou” (the torrential rains of July in the 42nd year of the Showa Era) for the severe rain damage it brought.