Saturday, January 27, 2007

Being Hungry

The novelist Hyakken Uchida ("Idiot Train", see the 29th December 2006 entry of this blog) was wont to say "being hungry is one of my favorite states". Hyakken used to be a well-known connoisseur of good food. When he says something like this, therefore, it certainly has a lot to do with sensuality rather than prudence.

Hyakken's custom was to have nothing to eat at all until supper, when he had loads of finest food sprayed out before him. He was fond of beer, sake, and other alcoholic pleasures. Cutting water was his favorite method of drawing the most pleasure out of the very first sip of beer.

The brain thrives on a well balanced contrast of presence and absence. Dopamine is known to be strongly released when something pleasant happens in an unexpected manner. A period of deprivation, followed by satisfaction, is certain to lead to a sensual pleasure. To contrive the highest sensual bliss, it is thus necessary to devise a period of absence.

Exceptions can be pleasurable from time to time, though. When Hyakken went on one of these "Idiot Train" trips, he would make exceptions and drink beer and have a sandwich at lunch time. The bitter-sweet sense of guilt would make the food and drink even more sensual for Hyakken.

What I write above has obvious implications for people trying to be on a diet. Fitting slim can be a consequence of seeking the ultimate sensuality. In theory, it is possible to have the figure of a model and immerse oneself in the culinary pleasure.

In this imperfect world, however, theory and practice often go separate ways. Hyakken was a well-built and rather overweight man.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gregory Colbert

I met with the photographer Gregory Colbert at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss his unique approach to capture the joy arising from a proximity between humans and other animal species. The interview was done for the "Brutus" magazine published by Magazine House (which carried a special issue devoted to this humble writer recently, by the way).

Some of Gregory's photos are truly incredible, e.g. where he swims with sperm whale mother and calves. These are carnivores, Gregory said. Did he not have fear? I asked. "Of course I had fear", Gregory said. When he overcame his fears through a careful planning and meticulous techniques, what emerged were breathtaking images of profound revelations.

I asked Gregory whether he felt privileged to be present in, and personally experience, these projects himself. He said yes. He likened what he has been doing to the adventures of astronauts, in search of the unknown.

In his case, the ritual might be one of the long forgotten, too. Looking at Gregory's photos, we are inspired and awed. We feel as if we have touched been touched by entities in the hidden dimensions previously unknown in our life in the "civilized" world. When Gregory shows these photos to the indigenous people, however, they show no surprise. It appears that enjoying the interaction with other animal species is a natural and unfortunately forsaken habit of our ancestors.

It is an interesting question where the newly surging awareness of interspecies proximity would bring to us. It would take us out of the status quo of what Gregory describes as the "species ghetto", and eventually guide us to a better harmony between man and nature. From a scientific point of view, it is a challenge to work out a model where interspecies empathies
contribute to a better survival of all the species involved.

I asked Gregory whether he regarded his photos as documentaries. He said no, despite the fact that no artificial manipulations or retouching has been applied. His are the faithful depiction of what actually happened. It is then a case, repeatedly demonstrated in history, where revealing the truth results in a awe-inspiring beauty, which has been hidden to be discovered by an artist. Talking to Gregory reminded me of the many secrets hidden and forgotten in the universe where we find our mortal lives.

Man (Gregory Colbert himself) swimming with sperm whale mother and calves.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


In a recent magazine article (in "Kangaeru Hito" ("The Thinker"), a quarterly published from Shinchosha, Tokyo), Yasujiro Ozu is quoted as saying thus.

My theme is "mono no aware" (the pathos of things), which is very Japanese. Since I am depicting the Japanese people in the films, this should be fine.

From the modern point of view, "Mono no aware" is nothing but the contingent occurrences in life. Things are not certain. Very important and life-transforming things can originate from seemingly irrelevant and unexpected incidents.

In the great "Noriko trilogy" (Tokyo Story, Late Spring, and Early Summer), important events in life are influenced by seemingly trivial things.

In Early Summer, Noriko (played by Setsuko Hara) is persuaded to marry a widower doctor by his mother (played by Haruko Sugimura). The couple is secretly attracted to each other, but had it not for the "agony aunt" type intrusion by the eager mother, their love would never have materialized. A beautiful ending has bloomed from a behavior on the verge of a bad taste.
It is this kind of subtle observations of life's moments of truth that make the Ozu films all time masterpieces.

The "persuasion" scene from "Early Summer"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Earlier, I wrote about the recurring dream in which Godzilla would appear as a menacing presence. As a child, I was not aware of the atomic origin or connotations. I just enjoyed the films as entertainments, but deep down, I think I was aware of the invisible origins, which I came to realize only after I became a mature adult.

I think that similar invisible origins were lurking behind the "ultraman" series. The reason why heros in these films were depicted as humanoid figures with silvery skins is probably due to the disillusionment of the people in my country about their own physical appearance. After the defeat in the 2nd world war, and the American occupation, people for sometime could not regard their own visual appearance as something fit for a hero or heroin. The image of heros came from the Hollywood films instead, blue eyes, blond hair. Therefore, from psychological needs, a new image of the heroes had to be coined, resulting in the ultraman, kamen rider, and other tokusatsu television series.

As a child, I was not aware of these deep psychological implications. I simply enjoyed the films. If true creativity comes out of a troubled water, then the tokusatsu films are beautiful archetypes.

Recently I learned that one of the key creators of the first ultraman series, Tetsuo Kinjo, originated from the Islands of Okinawa, a region particularly hard-hit during the war.

Ultraman--invisible origins.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Violence brings only sorrow into this world, but wrath and indignation, when managed and directed properly, can sometimes generate good and beautiful things.

When one is indignant about the status quo, seeing clearly the defects and shortcomings of the present system, wrath can be the source of a hyperactive creation, resulting in pieces never seen or imagined by humanity.

Wrath is the emotional manifesto of the underdog, dedicated to beauty and truth. When the powers that be stink, get rotten, become unimaginative and oppressive, the wrath of the underprivileged explode and spray fragrance and luminance around.
There is such a thing as the wrath of god. Even the god can be an underdog from time to time. Not to mention us mortals.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Miracle Apple

Mr. Kimura was one of the guests of the "The Professionals" program broadcast on NHK, which I host. He harvests apples in Aomori, the northest prefecture in Honshu, one of the four main islands of Japan.

His produces are called "miracle apples", as no pesticides or artificial nutrients are used. Such a feat was deemed impossible before his successful undertaking, as apples are particularly susceptible to insects and germs. After many years of failure, in which he came close to suicide (an episode dramatically described in "The Professionals" program), his apple orchard boasts a rich ecological system of plants and insects, in which his apples trees flourish.

The use of pesticides and fertilizers reduces the complexity of the ecological system and results in a mono-culture. In terms of yields, the modern intensive agriculture is one practical solution. Mr. Kimura has found another solution, by allowing a rich ecology thrive in his orchard and preventing the rampant increase of pests by the "check and balance" between the many biological species that find their respective habitats in Mr. Kimura's orchard.

Controlling the orchard as a complex dynamical system is more difficult than simply killing all the insects by spaying pesticides. The intensive agriculture is based on a "holocaust", as a result of which a barren land is left, onto which the artificial nutrients are bombarded. In contrast, Mr. Kimura's approach is based on very careful observations and manipulations of some of the fine parameters that make up the orchard.

Mr. Kimura's apples taste really good. The apple trees are given the opportunity to fully develop their biologically prepared potentials, a process inhibited in the typical intensive agriculture. It is the complex network of plants and insects that forms a soft and nutritious soil which gives a vital force to Mr. Kimura's apples.

A scene from Mr. Kimura's orchard

Sunday, January 21, 2007


When I was very small, up to the age of three or four, I was very fond of the color red. I would ask my parents to buy red things for me. I would insist that everything I wear, carry, be red. I wore a red hat, carried a red basket, etc.

Then, at a certain time, I realized with a cognitive shock that red was meant to be the color for girls in the cultural context. I was very ashamed and abandoned my color preference.

When I went to the kindergarden, at the age of 5, there was a choice between normal milk and coffee flavored milk at lunch time. Parents would make the kids bring either a white bag or a red bag, with some small coins in it, to indicate the choice. I very much liked the coffee flavored milk. However, my mother, probably caring for my health, did not allow it. I would always bring the white bag, and have normal milk. I envied my friends who brought the red bags and enjoyed the coffee flavored variety.

As I remember these things in the past, the significance changes like a living and trembling water. The past is not fixed. It transfigures in its significance as one looks back, constantly rewritten and relived, metamorphoses leading to fresh insights and reincarnations. One can experience life many times over, discovering meanings and joys, by reflecting on one's own past, smiling and crying.

Through self-referential ponderings, red has entered into the sacred shrine of my soul. When I see a rose, an apple, the setting sun, reverberations enrich and shake the tiny remembrance stone in my core.