The Super-Kamiokande underground neutrino detector in Hida, a city in Gifu Prefecture (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: It's the twists and turns that give zest, meaning to life
Theoretical physicist Hideki Yukawa (1907-1981), who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949, penned an essay titled "Gokubi no Sekai" (Microscopic world), whose opening line goes, "Nature creates curves and man creates straight lines."
Airstrikes on Oct. 3 claimed at least 22 lives at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, northern Aghanistan. (Provided by Doctors Without Borders )
VOX POPULI: Taking stock on the war on terror: At what price peace?
This first recipients of this year's Nobel Prizes were announced Oct. 5, and the process will continue for the rest of the week.
A researcher demonstrates a humanoid robot, iCub, at a research facility near Genova, Italy, in July. The robot was built by the Italian Institute of Technology for research into human cognition and artificial intelligence. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Will highly advanced artificial intelligence be kind to mankind?
Robots waging war against the human race, which created them, is a common plot in science fiction movies.
The Japan Dental Federation's headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward was searched on the morning of Oct. 1. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: Politicians should come clean when they get their teeth brushed
Democracy is egalitarian, with everyone having one vote each. Capitalism is all about competition, and money talks. As long as these two systems remain intertwined, politics will never be free of corruption.
A senior Himeji government official, right, hands a document to the chairman of the Seiban regional federation of labor unions in the city government building on Sept. 30. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Constitution-bashing city hangs head in shame, and that's good
When a local government admits having done something that violated the Constitution, I suppose I should be surprised.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explains his new goals including "ichioku so katsuyaku" at a news conference Sept. 24 (Makiko Ikenaga)
VOX POPULI: Abe's senseless sloganeering has a wartime vibe
I do not want to use the Japanese expression "iwakan" if I can help it. A Japanese dictionary defines it as "an unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling you can't quite put your finger on" and "the feeling that something doesn't seem right."
Shigeru Yamaguchi (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: War, nuclear power and bad laws: 'Fall' lives up to its name
Legal experts and street demonstrators denounced the highly contentious national security legislation as "unconstitutional" and "incompatible with the principle of constitutionalism." But their voices were ignored, and the legislation was steamrolled through the Diet in September. Below are some comments made during the month.
Karaoke with the two infants at the Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden in Oita Prefecture (Yasuyuki Onaya)
VOX POPULI: Karaoke at a monkey park? It's not what you are thinking
When I hear about a troop of Japanese macaques, I automatically think about the group's "bosu zaru" (boss monkey). When the boss of a company is replaced, Japanese newspapers playfully refer to a "change of government." And if a boss stays at the top for an unusually prolonged period, the individual is said to have established a "long-term administration."
Bereaved families offer flowers in Otaki, Nagano Prefecture, on Sept. 27, the first anniversary of the deadly eruption of Mount Ontakesan. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: More thought needed to live safely with more than 100 active volcanoes
Someone once told me that an ancient Japanese word that is equivalent to our “shizen” (nature) is “ametsuchi” (heaven and earth).
Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, left, talks with Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, center, and Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe before a meeting of the advisory panel on the new National Stadium in Tokyo in July. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: The art of avoiding responsibility a Japanese trait
How did Japan plunge into World War II? Political scientist Masao Maruyama (1914-1996) stated in a monograph he authored immediately after the end of the war: "(Japan) somehow drifted into the war, pushed by someone for some reason or other."
Visitors crowd the exhibition booth of Volkswagen AG at the Frankfurt motor show in Germany on Sept. 15. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: German reputation for engineering taking a battering
In "Mono no Mikata ni Tsuite" (On perceptions), critic and journalist Shintaro Ryu (1900-1967) cited this anecdote: A gate marked "Entrance to Heaven" was next to another gate marked "Entrance to Lecture Meeting on Heaven." All German citizens rushed to the latter.
Copies of Haruki Murakami’s new essay, “Novelist as a vocation,” on sale at a bookstore in Tokyo on Sept. 10 (Takuya Isayama)
VOX POPULI: Throwing the book at online stores
There was a tiny bookstore near my home when I was a child. Usually, I went there only to buy boys' comic books. But when I started going every month to pick up the latest edition of the complete works of Natsume Soseki on order, the owner, who until then was a dour, grouchy old man, became all smiles and full of good humor.
Japanese Abassador Misako Kaji, left, and Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Sept. 21. Kaji reiterated the government stance on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. (Asahi Shimbun photos)
VOX POPULI: Okinawa's Onaga could be the pin to burst puffed-up Tokyo's balloon
In spring 1997, a revision of the land-lease law for U.S. bases in Okinawa Prefecture was a major issue of political contention for Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake.
High school students speak out at a protest rally against the national security legislation on the streets in Tokyo's Shibuya district on Aug. 23. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
VOX POPULI: 'Dangerously cool' youths are not at a loss for words
Two Japanese phrases have been lingering in my ears for a while. One is "torima haian" and the other is "sorena, sorena." Both were being chanted by high school students demonstrating on the streets against national security legislation. And since both are teenage slang, they are probably all Greek to older people.
Students protest the security legislation in Kochi on Sept. 20. (Kaname Horiuchi)
VOX POPULI: Rise of citizens' anger toward Diet a new beginning
After the Upper House passed security legislation into law amid utter chaos, I wondered whether children had also seen the news on TV showing the unseemly mess.
Protesters swarm in front of the Diet building on Sept. 18 to denounce the security legislation. (Takeshi Tokitsu)
VOX POPULI: Are the days of Abe & Co. now numbered?
I attended a plenary session of the Upper House on Sept. 18 as an observer. On the agenda was a censure motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe submitted by five opposition parties.
Protesters opposing the security legislation brave the rain to rally in front of the Diet building late on Sept. 17. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Protests against security legislation a catalyst for democracy to evolve
Joichi Ito sat down for an interview in 2011 soon after he became director of the MIT Media Lab, a front-runner in the digital revolution, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A huge crowd protests the security legislation during a rally near the Diet on Sept. 16. (Takeshi Tokitsu)
VOX POPULI: Abe's flawed logic is bound to backfire at some point
Referring to his recent exchange with Defense Minister Gen Nakatani on contentious national security legislation, Hiroyuki Konishi, an Upper House lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, likened the experience to ordering "gyudon" (beef rice bowl) and being served "tendon" (tempura rice bowl) instead.
Kunio Hamada, second from foreground, speaks during a public hearing on security legislation in the Upper House on Sept. 15 as Aki Okuda, background right, looks on. (The Asahi Shimbun)
VOX POPULI: Quip aside, what Hamada says on security legislation makes perfect sense
Kunio Hamada, a former Supreme Court justice, clearly has a humorous bent. Calling on all politicians--irrespective of their party affiliation--to "respect intelligence, decorum and reason," he added, "Or at least pretend you do."
Women, many with children and grandchildren, protest the proposed national security legislation in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Sept. 13, holding a banner, "Don't send children to war." (Ryo Sasaki)
VOX POPULI: Anti-war picture book for children offers a sobering perspective
In July, the Kyoto University Campaign for Freedom and Peace issued a manifesto to protest contentious security legislation being pushed by the Abe administration. Written poetically, the manifesto resonated with broad segments of society.

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