Saturday, February 24, 2007


This week I went to the southern island of Okinawa to give a lecture in front of 100 or so people involved in pharmaceutical business. The subtropical island is about two and half hours flight from Haneda airport which serves metropolitan Tokyo.
My physical condition was not particularly well on that day. I had symptoms of a cold, most probably that of an influenza, and I slept during most of the flight. My sleep was heavy and troubled.

Transportation was pre-arranged. On the way, I talked to the driver of the car designated by the pharmaceutical company. I had lots of stuff to do, and was working on my laptop computer despite the poor physical condition, but somehow I felt that he was in a mood for talking, so I put away my computer and let the conversation flow.

First he talked about how clumsy he felt about girls. With the help of alcohol, maybe he can conjure up some courage, but that is not always so, he went on. He was a bachelor at the age of 35.

Then he started to mention about the war, about Korean and Chinese people who stayed in Okinawa area, how his parents escaped the worst part of the battle of Okinawa which claimed heavy casualties. After the war, Okinawa was occupied by the United States until its reunion on the 15th of May 1972.

These are very sensitive and difficult issues, and the best I could do was to listen very carefully, with my whole existence. Listening to is a very precious act, in this modern age of superficial glamour. By listening, one can regain the implicit and the
forgotten, the spirit of the gone, the forsaken.

When I got out of the car, the driver smiled and just went away. It was nightfall, and I could hear the laughter of people enjoying the peace on the street. The whole apparition would have seemed like a swarm of frivolous luminosity floating on a wide, dark ocean, to those who are in the know.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The news is

Ms. Miki Sumiyoshi, co-presenter of "The Professionals" show on NHK, recently said something which set me pondering. During conversation off the studio, when we were chatting about things with the chief producer Mr. Nobuto Ariyoshi and several directors, she mentioned in passing how she disliked the news programs. Current affairs are surely important, but the daily news shows tend to capture brief moments of trends which need to be treated on a longer time scale. The news programs focus on visually dramatic happenings, sensationally reporting accidents and issues but completely forgetting what happened and moving on to new stimulants the next day. The average "attention span" of news programs is getting shorter and shorter. Ms. Sumiyoshi did not actually say that much, but that was the gist of her remark.

In short, the news is that the news programs are not really worth watching, folks!

I find myself increasingly being attracted by things set in a much longer temporal context than the "now this, next that" approach rampant in much of the modern media.

Einstein once remarked how people who are interested only in today's affairs are as well as short-sighted. I would like very much to see far away, hear distant sounds. Consequently I become less interested in the short-attention-span bonanza.