Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dinner party

I was invited to a dinner party in honor of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, at the British Embassy in Tokyo.

I was introduced to the Archbishop by the British Ambassador to Japan, Mr. David Warren. Mr. Warren is a warm man with a robustness of quick wit and sound judgments. It was a great pleasure to accept Mr. Warren's kind invitation to this special dinner.

Dr. Williams was educated at Cambridge and Oxford, and is known for his liberal views on the role of the Anglican Church. He is an poet in its own right. Before the dinner, some of his poems were set to beautiful music by members of British Embassy choir.

At dinner, I sat next to The Bishop of Leicester, The Rt Revd Timothy Stevens. I had a lively conversation with Tim.

During the conversation, something struck me.

I said to Tim, "you know, something just struck me" "What is it?" "Well, it just occurred to me that in English culture, at a dinner table like this, people carry on talking as if the food on the table does not matter." "Yes, it is probably very much true." "My mentor was Prof. Horace Barlow at Trinity college, Cambridge, and I sometimes had dinner there. I remember well how people appeared not to pay any attention to the dishes on the table, which were actually excellent. Why is it?" "Well, as an English person, I probably don't realize the reasons for the particulars of my own culture. Probably the English people do not think what you eat is very important in your life."

After the dinner, during the port, I was discussing the London Underground, and a question arose. Mr. Jason James, Director of the British Council and the Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy, told me he would send an e-mail later on why the underground card is called "Oyster".

Here's the e-mail from Jason.

Subject: World is your oyster
From: Jason James
To: kenmogi

According to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the expression "the world is his oyster" means 'the world is the place from which he can extract success and profit, as a pearl can be extracted from an oyster.'

A quote from Shakespeare is given:

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why, then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.

(Merry Wives of Windsor, II, ii (1600))

These days, it just means "You have complete freedom to do whatever you want.' It is usually used with reference to people's career prospects - e.g. we might say that if someone gets into Tokyo University "the world is his/her oyster."

Best regards,

Jason James

On the way back on the taxi, I received a phone call from the Kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo, who has just returned from a successful performance in Monaco. Ebizo is going to Hakata this weekend for his performance there in October. I commented how super his Roppo action was during his performance of Ishikawa Goemon with his father Ichikawa Danjuro.


Anonymous said...

A quote first,
"Well, it just occurred to me that in English culture, at a dinner table like this, people carry on talking as if the food on the table does not matter"

You might find it interesting that almost in any other country/culture this is also true, like in Russia we have a proverb which says basically that "you eat in order to live, and not live in order to eat"...

Some food for thought here...


Kaori said...

It reminds me of a travel agent's in a village I used to live. I'd thought 'oyster' was a peculiar name as a travel agent's. Later I found out where the name came from and since then,this proverb became one of my favourite proverb.

It may sound naive, but I'd like to believe that all opportunities are open to each of us,and we just do our best to grab the opportunity.