March 11, 2013
In February last year, this column considered the sad fate of bottom-dwelling fish. Unlike fish that live in the waters above, dwellers in the benthic zone are at the mercy of the ocean-floor environment.
March 09, 2013
Seen from the flat roof of the newspaper building where I work, the Sumida River was a glistening swath through a dense forest of buildings. Spring was near, and the lyrics of a well-known song about this river on a peaceful spring day popped into my head.
March 08, 2013
In Aesop's fable "The Donkey and the Frogs," a donkey loses his footing and falls down while crossing a pond. Unable to get up, the donkey brays in misery.
March 07, 2013
Although the season is different, the following old-style senryu poem suddenly came to mind: "The sound of 100 people slurping soba noodles/ On New Year's Eve."
March 06, 2013
Several days ago, this column quoted poet Daigaku Horiguchi (1892-1981), a noted translator of French literature. It might be timely to refer to him again.
March 05, 2013
Physicist Ukichiro Nakaya (1900-1962), a prominent authority on glaciology, devoted much of his career to research and teaching at Hokkaido University. He gave us the poetic phrase, "Snowflakes are letters sent from heaven." But those letters are delivered in many different ways. He also wrote that nothing is more desolate than the sight of a raging blizzard in the wilderness of Hokkaido.
March 04, 2013
An old Chinese aphorism goes, "An ant hole may collapse an entire embankment." A similar English maxim says, "A little leak will sink a great ship."
March 02, 2013
"Gorimuchu" is a Japanese idiom of Chinese origin. It translates literally as "five ri in a fog," and means "being totally at a loss." Ri was a traditional Chinese unit of distance equivalent to 500 meters.
March 01, 2013
I don't mean to offend people born in February, but it appears that many people living in the colder parts of Japan are glad that the month is a few days shorter than other months.
February 28, 2013
Many commuters on trains are wearing face masks these days. I began wondering whether they are suffering from colds or hay fever. Although we see signs of the coming spring, we continue to face one problem after another.
February 27, 2013
With its joyful melody, Symphony No. 4 in A major by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) has many fans. The opening of the symphony, named the "Italian," makes us think of the deep blue sea and bright blue sky of Italy. Some readers may find themselves humming the tune just by hearing the music's title.
February 26, 2013
The way one nation regards a flower in bloom differs according to the country in which it grows.
February 25, 2013
On the day Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi (1896-1987) arrived in Washington in June 1957 for his summit with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), the two leaders played golf and then headed for the showers.
February 23, 2013
Japanese poetry has several examples of elaborate word play. Take this haiku poem, for example: "From noon/ A little shadow appears/ In the peak of the cloud." The original Japanese version is written in a combination of kanji characters and phonetic kana "letters." But when this haiku is rendered entirely into kana, it becomes a clever play on words, seven of which represent small creatures—"hiru" (leech), "ka" (mosquito), "hachi" (bee), "tokage" (lizard), "ari" (ant), "kumo" (spider) and "nomi" (flea), in that order.
February 22, 2013
We often learn something about Japan from "discoveries" made by foreign residents living here. One such person was Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850-1935), a foremost British Japanologist.
February 21, 2013
Every time an incident like this occurs, I am reminded of the famous line, "Say it ain't so, Joe."
February 20, 2013
When I was covering environmental issues in China some 20 years ago, I wrote an article carried under the headline “Ailing Sky and Land.” China’s economic development was starting to gain strong momentum.
February 19, 2013
The meteor that flew over Russia's Ural region and exploded on Feb. 15 surprised the world. An English-language newspaper playfully reported the event with a headline echoing the famous phrase from Superman: “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a meteor!”
February 18, 2013
A father with two small daughters longed for a son. His wife bore a third child; again, a girl. Determined to rejoice in the birth of another daughter—and to overcome his disappointment—he named her using a kanji character meaning "pleasure."
February 16, 2013
Monarchs and certain other figures are expected to fill the positions they hold until they die. But Pope Benedict XVI, the holder of one such office, shocked the world on Feb. 11 when he announced his resignation.