Sunday, December 12, 2010

Now you need an element of the Leviathan to shine

It has been sometime since I last updated my blog. In the last few weeks, I have been privately occupied, with this and that. Meanwhile, the world seems to be moving into a chaos zone. I think an era of the Leviathan has come.

Used to be that order and justice were simple matters. There were several accepted authorities, and the rogues were easy to point out. Now, with the advent of forces that ignore the long respected institutions, the world has come to a state where the Leviathan roams.

Probably it started with China. Its defiance of the world order, as typified by the Nobel Peace Prize fiasco, is both worrying and inspiring. When I say inspiring, the point is that it reminds us of what kind of animals we remain to be. Then came the wikileaks saga, which is still going on. The reaction from governments of the United States, U.K., and Sweden revealed to us the sometimes murky nature of the nation state. Even the democratically elected governments are now “suspect”.

So it is an era of the Leviathan, in which laws and orders are not automatically guaranteed. The most intriguing fact of the day perhaps is that now you need an element of the Leviathan to shine, whether as a nation or as an individual.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My long-standing relationship with the airborne ghosts is thus revived again.

Memories are sometimes so intriguing. Consider the time when I was in the forest of Kyushu, near my mother’s parents’ house, and suddenly encountered a huge swarm of butterflies. The species was Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon). Common Bluebottle, as the name suggests, is not a rare butterfly. Numerous times, I have seen them in isolation, or in a group of few. However, never before had I seen literally tens of them flying around a tree in full bloom. The flowers were white and small. The Common Bluebottles were scattered over the sky. It was such a breathtaking sight.

I was about 6 or 7, and lots of water has flown under the bridge since then. It is such an enigma why and how such memories stay, and from time to time surge out of my unconscious. It did surge this morning, and that is why I am writing about this particular piece of childhood memory in this journal.

It is also interesting how with the procession of time the memory has kind of “purified” itself, assuming an almost mythical nature within my mind. I know these butterflies to have perished long ago, in that summer of my throbbing encounter. Their phantoms however continue to thrive in my mind, synaptically reinforced every time I remember that chance meeting. My long-standing relationship with the airborne ghosts is thus revived again.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Becoming China 2.0

Several years ago, I was in the Tiananmen Square, mingling among the crowd. There were various kinds of people. Those who apparently came from rural areas had red cheeks, very excited, trying to absorb everything that were around them. I was in the category of first comers, opening my eyes to the sheer vastness of the nation of China.

When I imagined the massive land that surrounded me, I felt I understood why the Chinese culture tends to be self-centered. They can afford to be. When you have a long history, massive land, with over a billion of people, you have the illusion that you are at the center of the world. You can put yourself under the delusion that you don’t have to really care for what’s happening outside. You feel that you are entitled to have your own way, supported by the great mass of momentum that is behind you.

The recent series of squeaking noises that surround the nation, notably this ongoing fiasco about the Nobel Peace Prize, seems to reflect a widening gap between the traditional Chinese mindset and the reality of the globalizing world. Yes, China is massive, yes, China is rapidly growing, and yes, there are more Chinese than any other ethnic group on earth. It may be true that in the past the Chinese could do pretty well by considering themselves as being at the center of the earth, having their way and imposing it on the nations around.

But things have changed. The brutal fact of the day is that China is only a part of the world, albeit a very important part.

The tendency of the Chinese media, fuelled by the self-confidence resulting from the recent economical growth (which is a good thing in itself), to regard its relation with the West in a confrontational context might be self-serving in the short run but is ultimately untenable. China needs to grow into “China 2.0”, where it recognizes the fact that it is an integral part of the grid that is covering the earth, for everybody’s benefit, based on the principle of cooperation and mutual respect. By becoming China 2.0, its excellent tradition of flamboyant and deep culture would shine even more, bringing benefit not only to the Chinese but also to the world at large.

China please wake up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The universal human remains hidden, deep in the layers of collective psyche.

I am attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, and I am thinking about the universal human, on the floor of the gigantic poster sessions.

Nietzsche famously conceived the superhuman. Experience in the last few days made me ponder the universal human, albeit not in the Renaissance sense.

Globalization has brought about crushes between cultures, where people tend to stress the differences. And yet at the same time we start to notice that there are much common hidden agenda among us. And the noticing sometimes takes detective work and intelligence.

The basic biological needs are easy to decipher. We all become hungry, thirsty, and yearn for a mate no matter what part of the world we come from. It is more fun to consider the underlying universality in seemingly contrasting social behaviors.

It is not just about differences in national cultures. No matter what profession you are, whether you’re a scientist, journalist,
broker, grocer, housewife, cartoonist, or a sportsman, you’re likely to be motivated by a set of reinforcers. Since social reinforcers are heterogeneous and not easy to decipher, the universal law of underlying dynamics often go unnoticed. Hence the universal human remains hidden, deep in the layers of collective psyche.

It is almost noon in San Diego, and I am getting hungry. I may go to a Sushi place. Other people would make different choices, seemingly reflecting cultural differences. The underlying pattern of reinforcement is the same for the universal human, however.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Missing the “what” questions.

When I was an undergraduate, I often used to ask the “what” questions. As I was a Physics major, most of the puzzles were Physics-related. What is a mass? What is energy? What is space? What is time? There were other questions, of course, like what is life and what is love. I was wont to argue for many hours about these profound issues with my friends. We strolled along the river banks, we drank beer, we weathered the cold winter wind, we smiled at the cherry blossoms No matter what we did, we never stopped asking the “what” questions.

Almost 30 years later, it seems that my mind is nowadays mostly occupied by the “how” questions. How can I make this happen? How could one construct something? How do you bring about peace among these people? How are sustainable energies generated in principle? How can I make the person in front of me understand what I mean? How do you enrich life?

It is certainly true that the “how” questions are more practical, leading one to endless endeavors in the everyday towards the betterment of the general conditions of life in general. From the point of view of maturing, the progress from the “what” questions to the “how” questions was surely an advancement.

And yet, I sometimes find myself missing the “what” questions. I miss the pale-faced youngster who insisted on asking these simple-minded, but fascinating questions. I long for an encounter with someone who is stupid enough to ask the “what” questions, in this day and age.

Perhaps, if I dig deep into myself, I will still be able to find that youngster. Just a thought. It is such a fine day in Tokyo, a good opportunity for reveries, you know.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Nationalism is a luxury made possible by globalization.

The fact that nationalism is on the rise in some parts of the world seems to be indicating the ubiquity of growing global interdependence. It is only a long overdue recognition of the self, mirrored in the mind of others. When in isolation, people do not have the way of thoughts leading to nationalism. Nationalism is a luxury made possible by globalization.

That is why patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel (Samuel Johnson), as luxury is always the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Stupidity of the second kind.

I think there are two kinds of stupidities. In one, you try to protect yourself. By looking down on others, for example. In the other, you don’t protect yourself. You just do whatever urges you, and get hurt, ridiculed, and quite often misunderstood. It is the second type of stupidity that I very much adore.

I am always after the stupidity of the second kind, and shy away from the first. I would like to remain stupid, for the rest of my life. I would never stoop so low as to regard myself invincible, morally impeccable, or pride on saying the right thing at the appropriate time. I would like to drop a lot of bricks.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

15 years old farewell

Everybody knows that Japan is an island nation. But we sometimes forget that, because the main Honshu island is so large.
Recently I flew to the Kozu island off Tokyo bay from the Chohu airport. A 35 minutes flight took me from the heat of metropolitan Tokyo to the cool breeze of the island. From island to island, literally. But we sometimes forget the former is one.

The Isu islands, the Kozu island being one of them, are united in proud isolation. Every two years they hold Parents and Teachers Association meeting. I was invited to give a talk. I always say that I cannot resist an island invitation, again forgetting that I live on one.

The island children grow up in a cozy atmosphere. There is only one class, and each one of them knows their classmates by heart. When they reach the age of 15, however, they have to say goodbye to the island, as there are no senior high schools. It is called the “15 years old farewell”. They have to live separately from the parents, and study on the mainland (which is again an island, but we forget that.)

These children say goodbye to the familiar and cozy in the spring of the 15th year. When I heard this story from an experienced educator, my heart felt a sweet pain. Maybe that is the destiny of all Japanese people, as we jump into globalization. We should not forget about the 15 years old farewells.

Life on an island. The Kozu kids displaying their festive dance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Born with a mother tongue non-transparent to the “outside” world

Language policy is really serious here in this country, and has grave implications for my own life, too. I love Japanese as my native tongue, and am fairly articulate in it. For the last few years, I have made it my policy to improve my English, to the point that I would be able to express myself in some way or other so that my inner voice would be heard, by my conscious self, too. There are several difficulties, though.

Non-English speakers always accuse that native English speakers have it too easy. I have thought about this long and hard, and now I feel that would like to make a science of it.

Born with a mother tongue non-transparent to the “outside” world, as defined and constrained by the lingua franca status quo, there are certainly issues to be studied scientifically, towards a consolation for the soul as well as satisfying intellectual curiosities. Perhaps there is a new field here. My mother speaks only Japanese, and some rudimentary English. She would be incomprehensible on an American cultural highway, but she is a valuable woman all the same. Japanese is fairly lucky. There are even more minor languages. How could these souls be saved, in the face of the arrogant Hollywood type pitchers of “universal” language?

Language policies and strategies, studied from evolutionary, game theoretic, ethical points of view. I have already started a modeling effort. Maybe I would ask Yoshihide Tamori to participate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The size problem.

I have been to Singapore on a few days trip, attending a conference and giving a talk. The energy in Singapore is incredible. Even politicians are open-minded and quick in making decisions, a rarity in my home country. One of the officials said that Singaporeans had to reinvent themselves constantly. I have never heard a remark of similar nature from someone in power in my native country.

Coming back to Tokyo on the plane, I was thinking about the size effect. The size of Japan is intermediate, not too big, not too small, and therefrom arise lots of problems. Japan is not big enough to assume a superpower role like the U.S. or China. Japan’s domestic market is large enough to sustain its publishing and broadcasting industries, two areas where globalization was supposed to happen but never did, probably due to the language barrier.

Japan’s peculiarities should arise not only from its unique history but also from the sheer size of its economy and culture. There one has a chance of drawing universal conclusions from a seemingly peculiar problem.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ideally, I would like to do everything en plein air.

Even small children are fond of moving their hands and leaving tiny traces of colored lines on the paper. A whole career can be built, starting from the doodling. If you take the business of drawing and painting seriously, there is no end in sight. It is an infinite process.

For sometime, I have been fascinated by the idea of the French impressionist’s “En plein air”. You paint something on the spot, without deliberation, devoid of painstaking days of hard work. Everything is conducted spontaneously, on the spot, with a dazzling result artistically.

When I visited the Musee d’Orsey a few years ago I was taken by the paintings by Monet (refer to the entry into this journal on the 9th October 2004). It was at this time that the concept of “En plein air” became so important within me that I have been thinking about its universal applicability to other fields of activities ever since.

Ideally, I would like to do everything en plein air.

En plein air.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mozart was a forerunner of John Lennon.

People might think that Mozart was a naïve guy who left for others to write the librettos of operas. If you look carefully you notice otherwise. There is something very consistent in what he wrote, not only in terms of music but also in the sense of universal humanitarian values.

At the end of the opera “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail”, the hostages are released and people dance in rejoice. The celebration of humanity, without religion, without border. Unity of men beyond the classes, races, and cultures were the penetrating theme of ALL his works. Mozart was a forerunner of John Lennon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My personal revolution.

In the last few months, I seem to have learned that to bring about revolution to the society is a very difficult task. Yes, I am stupid enough to come to learn this at the mature age of 47.

Perhaps this is something felt only by some residents in Japan. Hopefuls truly sensed that the long overdue revolution (or evolution) of the nation’s political and government system would come about soon. Then the hopes kind of faded, with the defeat of Mr. Ozawa in the election for the leadership of Democratic Party of Japan.

Now I feel that revolution needs to start at a personal revel. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a middle-aged man in much need for revolution. The way I organize my life, breathe the culture, write, say, hear, needs to be modified in order to accommodate my dreams. I must think more of my personal revolution.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You are a fine gentleman (2).

(Continued from the previous entry)

I walked on along the twilight street, but my inner turmoil did not seem to calm down. It was obvious now that the lady in a black formal dress at the restaurant rejected us because of how I looked. I was wearing a jacket, but underneath it I had my T-shirt on, with very vivid illustrations.

Apparently it was a question of dress code. The salaryman and his girl, who came after us, were welcomed into the restaurant without any problem. In my view, they were rather homely people, without any particular distinctions. The fact that the lady at the restaurant welcomed them seemed to tell me something deep and sinister about society in general.

Maybe it was only my youthful imagination. Perhaps I should have worn a jacket and tie like the salaryman. But then I never wore a tie, unless it was absolutely necessary. And you never know beforehand that you would walk into a restaurant with a draconian requirement as to how customers should be dressed. It seemed not at all sensible to live in the shadow of a possible encounter with such an establishment.

The more I thought about it, the heavier my heart became. At least, the lady at the reception should have told me explicitly the dress code of their place. It was not sensible at all just to tell that we were not welcome. One might take it personally. I took it personally. I had to call the place.

I happened to have the card of the restaurant, which I took casually as I left. I phoned the number. After some ring tones, a woman's voice answered. I tried to be as calm and to the point as possible.

"Hello. we are the customers who have just visited your place. You told me that you had no table this evening. After we left, we saw a salary man couple walk into the restaurant. Apparently they had no reservation. If your rejection was based on a dress code, you should have told us so. I think it would have been only fair. I don't think we would visit your restaurant ever again. Good bye!"

When I told the lady about the salary man couple, she seemed to gasp on the other end. When I hung up, I felt I had done all I could do, and the best thing would be to forget about it. But my inner wounds seemed to remain unhealed, tormenting me with every step.

I started to walk on street again, looking for a place to rest my soul.

My girl friend, who was listening to my conversation on the phone and therefore understood the situation for the first time (she was not someone who would naturally notice these things), held my hand and said, "you know, you are a fine gentleman".
Her gentle voice finally provided the consolation for the evening. It came as unexpected as the rejection at the reception.

(End of this essay.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

You are a fine gentleman (1).

When I was young, I wanted to try new things. One day, I found a posh building in central Tokyo. I went in. There was a rather nice French restaurant. I examined the menu. Although in those days my means were limited, I would somehow be able to manage it on that day. Yes, I wanted to venture into this establishment. So I asked my girl friend, who was standing beside me, if she would like the idea of a romantic dinner together. She said she would actually very much love it.

So I went to the entrance, and a lady in black formal dress welcomed us. When I said "we are two", she said she could not accommodate us on that evening, she was sorry, because all the tables were booked. I shrugged my shoulders, and walked off, thinking that nothing could be done, since all the tables were booked. Apparently it was a very popular restaurant.

Then something strange happened. As we strolled in the corridor, I looked back. There was a middle aged man and a younger lady in front of the French restaurant, looking at the menu just as we had been doing a few moments ago. From their behavior, it was apparent that they were just passing by, had not made a reservation, and were now examining the menu to see if they would like it. The man was a typical "salaryman", wearing a bland jacket and tie. The girl's dress was no better in taste.

Then something extraordinary happened. The lady at the reception came out, said hello to the salaryman and his girl, and welcomed them in. I could not hear what they were saying, but she was apparently inviting the salaryman and his girl into the restaurant, without any reservation, making no fuss. In a moment I understood what had happened. I walked away slowly into the street, trying not to disturb my girl friend.

It was a warm summer evening, and I was wearing a T-shirt and a jacket. My face was red with something, which I could not fully grasp. As I walked on, a sense of deep humiliation overtook me.

Whenever I lose the balance of my mind, I tend to remain silent, trying to contain my inner turmoil. My girl friend apparently noticed my transfiguration. Since she was a sensible person, she also walked on slowly, without asking me why or how.

(This essay to be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Abrupt concentration.

For some time, I have been making a point of abrupt concentration. I may be idling on the sofa, and all of a sudden, I would start concentrating on something, whether it is work or play.

When I give a lecture, I would shortcut all the protocols and niceties, going straight to the point, often on the verge of conducting an attack of pleasant surprise on the audience.

I was discussing this particular piece of my philosophy of life with Prof. Tatsuru Uchida, a well-known scholar in French philosophy. Tatsuru remarked that what I had just said was actually the core spirit of martial arts. Tatsuru is a practitioner of Aikido, you know.

In the tradition of Japanese martial arts, the basic assumption is that you never know when the enemy would attack you. It is quite possible that when you are relaxing and idling away, the opponent suddenly attacks you from behind. It is therefore absolutely necessary to be able to "ignite" your system in a moment, reaching the highest level performance within a second. There is no time for "warming up". The enemy does not wait until you are up and ready. Tatsuru's comments made sense to me.

So, without knowing it, I have been practicing the core spirit of Japanese martial arts.

I am quite a peaceful person, though.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear, Mr. Autumn.

Summer in Tokyo this year was unusually long. The record-breaking heat spell went on and on, until we residents started to think that we were now officially in the subtropical zone, the high temperature prevailing and becoming a permanent reality of our lives in the capital.

Then, the persistent heat suddenly disappeared. A few days of rain bought a chill which made us think that the winter has arrived without the mellow and yellow autumn in-between.

Damn that! I do love autumn. I love the deep blue sky over the sober tree. I love to watch a persimmon tree bearing red fruits all over the place. I miss the cool breeze that make the leaves rustle. It is too hard to go straight into the cold winter, without the soothing effect of a gorgeous autumn.

Dear, Mr. Autumn, please don't go away without giving us a chance to come back to our sincere selves after the carefree summer.

Please, please give us a fair share of autumn. Someone responsible up there, please!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Myself and the red-bellied newt (5)

So the newt was alive, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Once in a direct contact with the reality, a sense of practical wisdom took hold of me. I scooped the poor chap out of the tank, and put it on a dish. I changed the water with brisk vividness. I even washed the stones one by one, rubbing off the algae on the surface, something that I had never done before. I fed the newt, once it was back in the refreshed habitat. From its still posture, it was hard to tell whether the small creature was grateful for what I had done finally after all these days, or held a justifiable resentment against my negligence, which almost cost his life.

So the newt crisis was over. After that fateful day, I lived with the newt in peace, taking regular care of the tank, until a few years later, it died of natural causes. Although my conscience was now clear, a strange aftertaste lingered in my mind.

The fact that I was unable to come face to face with an unpleasant truth hurt me in a permanent way. In the sure knowledge of the gradually deteriorating situations, I could go about with my life as if nothing was happening. I could not bring myself to do the simple task of newt tank maintenance. There, you had it.

The whole process revealed something ominous and yet unavoidable about the human nature. The significance of the newt episode in my life remains and grows within me to this day.

(End of this essay.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Myself and the red-bellied newt (4)

The clock in my heart started to tick slowly. The passage of the every day became painful. I felt the urge to take a look at the newt tank, but was too afraid to do so. Sometimes, we avoid the truth at all costs.

During the course of a day, I would suddenly feel a pang in my breast. Then a wave of agitation would run through my system. What has happened to the newt? Was it starving to death in the murky water? Was it crying for help desperately, which I did not hear? "It is too late now". I thought. The remorse of having done something irreparable was growing like a beast lurking in the darkness.

Three days, four days, five days, ....then eventually a week passed without my going to the tank to witness what had happened. I lived a life of an increasingly troubling nature, with the Sword of Damocles hanging above. And there seemed to be no escape from the stalemate.

Then, one afternoon, there was an unexpected turn in the wind. I was coming back home from school on the usual route, when I noticed that something had changed in me. It was as if an entity, which had been dispersed like a cloud, was made into a rigid spinning ball which could now be handled. Now I was ready to go to the newt tank.

Opening the house door, I went straight to the tank, as if in fear that if I stopped even for a moment I would lose the energy to go through. My heart pounded like an wild animal as I approached the tank in the dark corner.

I was finally ready to accept whatever would come. The verdict was imminent. Gingerly, I peeked into the tank. There it was--the newt, although somewhat feeble looking, was alive, hiding itself as if it was shy of its existence. To my surprise, the water was not that dirty either, although visibly at a lower level due to evaporation.

(To be continued tomorrow)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Myself and the red-bellied newt (3)

(Continued from yesterday)

I had completely forgotten about my pet newt. Oblivion be damned! It was a horror realization. Apart from the smelly water concern, the most serious worry was that I had not fed the newt for days. Exactly how many, I could not remember. It all started with the disappointment in the rather dull reaction that I got from the creature. But, at the end of the day, it was the moral responsibility of a pet keeper to take a good care of the animal. I was negligent in that.

Of course I blamed myself. Then something extraordinary happened. I did not immediately rush to the newt tank to perform the overdue caring. I knew that I had better take a look at the newt, but I simply could not bring myself to it.

Maybe it was all a matter and workings of imagination backfired. I imagined that the newt was now dead, its body dried up and shrinking. My unconscious vividly depicted the fatal end of the lovely animal. It was all my fault. Or possibly it was still alive, suffocated in the dirty and smelly water, crying for help. Maybe it was covered all over with sticky and repelling materials now. In all likelihood it was too late.

Nothing could be done now, I kept saying to myself, as I went to school and tried not to think about the newt. My adult logic tells me now that no matter what the situation, there was no sense in postponing the actual getting to know. However, I was a weak child. Maybe every child has this weakness. The more I thought about the newt, and the more I felt responsible for it, my remorse turned into a strange inability to take any action. A agitated period of procrastination had set in. Maybe I was fearful of fear itself.

(To be continued tomorrow)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Myself and the red-bellied newt (2)

(Continued from yesterday)

Days passed, and I kept playing with the arrangements for the newt paradise. Within the small dimensions of the transparent glass case, I put some small stones, plants here and there, and kept changing their placements. The only thing was that I was not too sure whether the newt appreciated my efforts at all.

Then, the change gradually happened. I kept changing the water, feeding the newt, with less and less enthusiasm. There must have been ups and downs within the systems of the little creature even within the artificial bounds, but these were not immediately evident for me. A child's mind is whimsical. It is always seeking something interesting, and when there is nothing more to explore, the enthusiasm fades. Shining existence would so easily transform into dull non-existence.

One day, coming back from school, I realized that I had not looked into the newt's paradise for several days. It was the end of summer. The weather was still warm, with occasional heat spells. I could easily imagine that the water would be smelling now, due to the activities of the microorganisms which I did not care to think about. And the newt--I suddenly came to realize that I had not fed the newt all these days. Then the worry started.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Myself and the red-bellied newt

When I was about 10 years old, I went to a pet shop and encountered my newt. It was the Cynops pyrrhogaster (Japanese fire belly newt) species. Its cute form, and the vivid red color on the belly immediately captured my imagination.

The newt was not very expensive, well within the reach of my humble pocket money. I paid, and asked the owner to put it in a plastic bag. Gingerly, and with a heart full of imagination, I took the newt back home.

At that time, I was fond of devising all kinds of habitats for my pets. I made a grass jungle for my grasshopper. For the rice fish (Oryzias latipes), I put lots of small stones and water plants and imagined that I was one of the small creatures. For my newt, I prepared a whole small world of water, stone, and dirt, arranged in a way that I imagined would provide a high quality entertainment for the chap.

It was not long before I discovered that the newt was a rather dull animal. It does not move most of the time, and when it does, it jerks and then just stops. There was no question of a friendship between us. I did touch the newt and handled it in my hand from time to time, but from the way it wiggled its tails and opened and shut its mouth, I could not say that it was enjoying the experience very much. Soon, I learned that watching without interfering was the best newt policy for our co-existence.

(This essay to be continued tomorrow)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Master Darling and Kiyo

Yesterday, as I was moving through the maze that is Tokyo, I finished reading Botchan, written by Soseki Natsume, and translated by Yasotaro Morri, on my Amazon kindle.

The novel ends thus:

I forgot to tell you about Kiyo. On my arrival at Tokyo, I rushed into her house swinging my valise, before going to a hotel, with "Hello, Kiyo, I'm back!"
"How good of you to return so soon!" she cried and hot tears streamed down her cheeks. I was overjoyed, and declared that I would not go to the country any more but would start housekeeping with Kiyo in Tokyo.
Sometime afterward, some one helped me to a job as assistant engineer at the tram car office. The salary was 25 yen a month, and the house rent six. Although the house had not a magnificence front entrance, Kiyo seemed quite satisfied, but, I am sorry to say, she was a victim of pneumonia and died in February this year. On the day preceding her death, she asked me to bedside, and said, "Please, Master Darling, if Kiyo is dead, bury me in the temple yard of Master Darling. I will be glad to wait in the grave for my Master Darling."
So Kiyo's grave is in the Yogen temple at Kobinata.

As I perceive Japan to be in a great need of and actually in the process of serious transitions, and I myself have loads of things to worry about in my life, the last few weeks have been full of turmoil. After the storm, it was deeply rewarding to read the story of pure love (or "affection", should I say?) between Master Darling and Kiyo, who are not related and separated by age in a large number.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Time for change.

I have not written into this English Journal for a little longer than a week now. The writing streak is now officially broken. I don't really care. Maybe my life is moving into a new stage.

One of the reasons why I did not (or could not) write into this journal was because I was busy tweeting in Japanese with my twitter account @kenichiromogi. (The English account is @kenmogi) It seemed, for a few glaring days, that the time for change has finally come to Japan. Away from the dominance of organizations and job titles, more freedom to individuals, farewell to the old press, and more important than not, a true reform in the political system.

I was being an accidental "activist" on the twitter, with much love and peace, together with some notable individuals in the Japanese cultural and political scene. And yet, (you know these things take time and make some surprising twists when you least expect them), it seems that we need a certain reflection period before it really happens.

It is probably true that the time for change is imminent for this country. For the time being, I am back to normal. There are loads of things to do, pro-change or otherwise, and there probably will be more bends in the road, both private and public.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The summer is gone.

I don't know how, but I do feel that the summer has gone.

Ever since childhood, at some time in August or September, I would suddenly come back to myself, and feel that the summer has now gone. I instantly go into a serious mood, ready to tackle heaps of books and do some thinking.

During the summer, I tend to be carefree, not really knowing where I am going, and would just let myself go, here and there, into the blue sky, over the sunset horizon. Then, when the cool breeze of September touches my cheeks, I would suddenly realize that there are things that only hard work and serious commitment can bring.

So this year, again, a few days ago, I suddenly felt again that the summer was now gone. Life welcomes change. Another wave has come and gone in my life. That makes the rhythm. Now I am ready to take some autumn and seriousness.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Socratic method.

In many cultures a truth is simply bestowed upon the youth as given. You are not supposed to question the authorities, let alone to have new ideas yourself.

The Socratic method is quite the opposite. It emphasizes the process, rather than the end result. In a Socratic dialogue, nobody has the absolute authority. The ultimate truth, or something fuzzily and convergently approaching the truth, is to be co-discovered through the exchange of ideas.

In the internet era, with the advent of communication tools such as twitter, the Socratic method is finding a new significance. Now it is easy to exchange ideas with people over a large physical distance. The sheer density and purity of the dynamics of exchange is contributing to the amassing of the critical mass.

The Socratic method needs to be studied and practiced in earnest, in search of the new principles of distributed enlightment.

The Socratic method.

Michael Sandel.

On Thursday, I had a wonderful time interviewing Michael Sandel in Tokyo for a magazine. Sandel's "Justice" ( is very popular in Japan, as elsewhere in the world. The whole lecture has been broadcast on NHK educational. Lots of people were deeply inspired by Prof. Sandel's passionate teaching.

Prof. Sandel told me how much hard work has been put into the making of the series. Although there are lots of open coursewares on the web, the "Justice" program is unique in the quality of the video work, not to mention the academic excellence.

Although the ambience of the Harvard classroom was one of the key elements in the "Justice" experience, the defining moment came from deep thinking. In the first lecture, after discussing the Trolley car example, Prof. Sandel goes on to deliver a short speech. That's when he says that the purpose of the lecture was to incur a "restlessness of reason" in the students. I almost gasped when it came. The restless of reason has been in me ever since.

With Michael Sandel in Tokyo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Which is a good thing.

For a long time, Japan has prided itself as the first nation to modernize in the region of Asia. Despite the terrible and self-brought defeat in the Second World War, Japan has somehow clung to the title of "the foremost in the region." Until recently, that is.

Now Japan seems to have lost all its confidence. In my own perspective, for someone born and brought up in Japan, this shift in the national psyche is needless to say sad, although admittedly tinged with the excitement of new competitiveness.

Personally, in my own life, I have always enjoyed the game of catching up. My home country losing the position of no.1 is no problem for me, especially as I tend to base the value of my own existence and others' independent from any nationalistic thinking anyway.

Recent travel to Singapore (I just got back to Tokyo this morning) convinced me that now the tropical nation of 5 million people is more advanced than Japan in many respects. Especially as regards the immigration policy. I never understood how it is, but some people in Japan are ultra-conservative about welcoming people from abroad as collaborators in society building. As far as I am concerned, people are people everywhere. There is no reason why people from abroad should not be encouraged to come to Japan and enjoy the opportunity for a slightly different way from the ethnic Japanese, perhaps, therefore adding to the diversity of people's traits in the process.

As I have stated, I think Japan is losing its self-confidence. Which is a good thing. One always has the chance of reviewing oneself from the external point of view, when one has a crisis in one's self confidence. Most probably, the time for self-doubt and soul searching has come to Japan.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Institution is the last resort of a scoundrel.

On the second day at the CUTE center in NUS (National University Singapore), we had another hectic and yet deeply enjoyable time. In the morning, we discussed in the session of Society 2.0, chaired by Penny Low, Member of the Singaporean Parliament. Adrian Cheok and Masa Inakage joined in, adding stimulation to the already heated and heating debate.

In the afternoon, we had a public talk on the NUS campus. The groove was fantastic. Thomas Crampton, social media guru specializing in China and Asia, (Thomas Crampton's webpage) started his talk capturing in video the dialogue with Yair Goldfinger, founder of ICQ. When I asked Thomas what he was doing, he said he was just shooting for youtube. A speaker on stage capturing his own talk for youtube! That was just the right atmosphere for me.

Talks by Yair Goldfinger and Penny Low followed. It was my turn to give a talk. I discussed how the evolving contingency structures on the net was nurturing humanity 2.0. Woo Woontack then gave an excellent talk on augmented reality.

In the Panel discussion that followed, I said something that I would only say when I felt certain that the audience was the right kind and the reception would be electric. I said, just as in the famous quote by Samuel Johnson "Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel", nowadays "Institution is the last resort of a scoundrel." Thomas Crampton jibed in, saying that universities should aim to be open to the public as much as possible, as it was the mission of the universities to spread knowledge to the wider society.
There was a memorable response from a man in the auditorium who said that he was living on an island which was 12 hours ride on boat from Singapore, and how he was accessing all the academic information thanks to the internet.

Before we knew it, it was twilight. We had a wonderful party on the NUS campus. At such times, I have a habit of strolling away from the people. When I was admiring the Singaporean sunset alone, I noticed there was another soul looking in that direction. It was none other than Masa Inakage.

At these moments one feels that two souls are resonating. Masa was admiring the same natural wonder with me, without knowing that I was hiding myself in the darkness of night.

Penny Low, M.P, in the morning session.

Adrian Cheok and Masa Inakage

Thomas Crampton capturing his own talk for youtube. Yair Goldfinger is being interviewed.

The sunset on the NUS campus.

Masa Inakage admiring the same sunset.

I kept walking, singing the unsung song of praise.

Since I came to Singapore a few days ago, one of the things that attracted my attention has been the sheer cultural diversity. Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, and other cultures are mixed in an impressive atmosphere of tolerance and creative fusion.

The other night we were invited by Jimmy, a friend of Atsushi Sasaki, to a sea food restaurant. We found ourselves in the suburb of Singapore, Jurong West, far from any tourist destinations and right in the middle of residential area. It was a rare opportunity to immerse oneself deep in the Singaporean way of life, as it happens unsung, unreported, but full of life under the tropical sun.

When dusk fell, everything seemed to become gentle. There was some magic in the air. As I stood alone in a market place, I felt that one star was too bright to be true. No matter how long you gaze at it, the star did not change its position.

We had a wonderful supper at the sea food restaurant. While eating, I strolled around. There were many manifestations of the different cultures that make up Singapore. Visualization is the spirit of today. Visualization of diversity is something particularly divine and rewarding. I kept walking, singing the unsung song of praise.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Seeking nature in Singapore.

Singapore is such an urban country on the surface. You have the impression that no matter where you go, you find buildings and paved streets. A friend of mine told me that if you go to the Singapore zoo, you will find the land as it was before development, covered all over with jungle vegetations. That gave me an inspiration, without actually visiting the zoo.

During the coffee break of conference at the National University of Singapore, I took a walk. Although I was not aware of my motives, I think I was unconsciously seeking nature.

After a few minutes, I came to the border of development. The flat land that surrounded the buildings ended, and there was a rather steep slope. It was covered thick with trees and plants, something that I had not seen in Singapore before, but something which, when you came to think about it, was only natural in such a tropical climate.

Wandering around, I witnessed several butteflies fly. Welcome to fragments of Singapore before civilization. I cried with joy in my heart. Something came to fruition after all those years.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rebel with reason.

I am in Singapore now, attending a conference at National University Singapore.

I met with Ilya Farber, my neurophilosophical friend now based in Singapore. We were discussing about various matters over Mexican food, when Ilya mentioned about the spirit of rebel in the United States.

Obedience without reason was not appreciated highly in the United States, Ilya said. If you have a reason to do something against the convention at a time, you are encouraged to do so. Rebel with reason is better than obedience without reason. That is the American spirit, Ilya told me while we were enjoying the night breeze of Singapore.

We also engaged ourselves in discussions on the philosophy of pragmatism. What a stimulating night!

Ilya Farber in a Tokyo restaurant earlier this year.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sixth sense

As the sheer volume of information available for an average individual increased, we really need a keen and well-tuned "sixth sense" while surfing on the web.

More often than not, when using the internet, there is no logical necessity to look up a particular website, except for cases where the purpose is specific. Out of the possible sequential combinations of web visits, one can only conduct a single track visit, killing all other possibilities.

When you think about it, it is an awesome sight. While the texts on the web are "read" by search engines and robots, the human mind is ever restricted in its capacity and spans of attention. There is a "jump" from the multitude of possibilities to the finitude of actual choices. Thus, you really need a "sixth sense" to make most of the web and enrich your life. The next website you are going to visit my change your destiny, or forever confine you in the mundane every day.

The question is, what constitute the "sixth sense" in terms of practical actions and reviewing customs?

Sixth sense

As the sheer volume of information available for an average individual increased, we really need a keen and well-tuned "sixth sense" while surfing on the web.

More often than not, when using the internet, there is no logical necessity to look up a particular website, except for cases where the purpose is specific. Out of the possible sequential combinations of web visits, one can only conduct a single track visit, killing all other possibilities.

When you think about it, it is an awesome sight. While the texts on the web are "read" by search engines and robots, the human mind is ever restricted in its capacity and spans of attention. There is a "jump" from the multitude of possibilities to the finitude of actual choices. Thus, you really need a "sixth sense" to make most of the web and enrich your life. The next website you are going to visit my change your destiny, or forever confine you in the mundane every day.

The question is, what constitute the "sixth sense" in terms of practical actions and reviewing customs?

Friday, August 20, 2010

A fool can be cured only when he dies (II).

(continued from yesterday)

The phrase "a fool can be cured only when he dies." is a very famous one in Japan, known even among the children (in its original Japanese expression, of course). I grew up with the phrase, saying occasionally the phrase "a fool can be cured only when he dies" to each other as a kid. The implication was that being a fool was a condition that could not be cured so easily. The message was to accept each other's unique condition, including being a fool. Because "a fool can be cured only when he dies", one had to be tolerant to each other.

It was only after I grew up that I learned that the phrase actually came from the famous Rokyoku piece "The Tale of Jirocho Shimizu" by Torazo Hirosawa. Jirocho, a powerful and thoughtful leader, thought highly of and loved one of his disciples, Ishimatsu of Mori. Ishimatsu was a courageous and strong man. Ishimatsu, however, was a foolish man. Ishimatsu lacked the ability to calculate, take precautions, and make necessary preparations. Precisely because Ishimatsu was foolish, he could be brave and endeavoring at the same time. The phrase "a fool can be cured only when he dies" is thus a praise of Ishimatsu's boldness. Looking back, I think we knew its deep significance intuitively when we were throwing the phrase to each other in our elementary school days.

A record cover featuring Torazo Hirosa and Ishimatsu of Mori.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A fool can be cured only when he dies.

Japanese literature has a rich tradition in the philosophy of life. The genre of Rokyoku, in which important events and life histories of famous persons are recounted in a dramatic and engaging way, provides a particularly resonant medium for the appreciation of life.

Torazo Hirosawa (1899-1964) is a universally recognized genius in the genre of Rokyoku (musical and dramatic recounting of the life of historical figures). Torazo's mastery resides in the organic combination of the tragic and the comic.

Torazo's legendary performance of the Life of Jirocho Shimizu (1820-1893), a gangster and political activist at the same time, is full of heart-wringing drama of life and death. A particularly poignant phrase is "A fool can be cured only when he dies."

(To be continued tomorrow)

Torazo Hirosawa

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cartoons unawares

We have our weekly lab meeting, where we hold the journal club and also discuss things. One of my students (he has a Ph.D now so he is technically no longer a student of mine but I always feel that he is still one), Takayasu Sekine, is very good at making drawings.

I am often caught unawares by a cartoon of my image on the white board. Yes, I am a bit overweight, but I am not THAT
overweight. He draws me as a fur seal, lying lazily on the rock. I might be lazy at times, but not THAT lazy.

Here's a recent drawing of me (apparently) that I discovered on the white board. When I realize that Takayasu has made another cartoon, I look at him glaringly, and he returns a peevish smile. Maybe one of these days I will take revenge. Takayasu looks like a platypus, some people have said.

One of the cartoons apparently depicting me found on the white board at the occasion of a recent journal club.

Takayasu Sekine with one of his drawings.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I want to have everything, RIGHT NOW!

When I was in the teens, I often wanted to have everything RIGHT NOW! As ignorant youths often do, I wanted fame, not in many years later, but right then in my mature youth. I wanted a beautiful and caring lover the same day. I wanted to author a great masterpiece and be forever remembered in history. And I wanted that transition from anonymity to fame happen within a day, or better still, within a moment!

Looking back, I of course understand how ridiculous these wishes have been (otherwise I would not be living a normal social life--yes, it IS debatable whether the particular social life that I am leading in and around Tokyo is something that can be termed "normal"). However, I do feel at the same time that in the Sturm und Drang, in that ignorant storm of youth, there was something to be cherished and treasured.

Maybe I need some element of the "I want to have everything RIGHT NOW!" state of mind right now in my (supposedly) mature life.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The great transition from hate to love.

Nowadays I really enjoy a cold glass of beer in the evening. After a strenuous work day in the heat island of Tokyo, what better ways are there to wind up and get relaxed than cheers and clinks of glass?

Now that beer has become an indispensable part of my life, I sometimes wonder what made me shrink from the very idea when I was a kid. Needless to say I was below the legal drinking age, but my abhorrence of beer seemed to carry something more extreme and deep. I suspect that is the case with many children. And yet, as you grow up, in the magical transformation of age, you learn to love the bitter liquid.

One day you hate it, the other day you just love it. The great transition from hate to love. Yet another enigma of life.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cream puffs

Yesterday, when I returned from the studio of All Japan Senior High School Quiz championship, I found a box. Tomio said that it was for me. Apparently, a kind editor visited me and left it as a souvenir.

After the shooting was over, we went to an Indian restaurant near the Nippon television. Several other editors came, and we had a very joyous evening.

I tend to be careless about these things, so I did not look into the box until I went home. When I opened the paper bag, I discovered that there were two, rather than just one, boxes. Inside the box, I found several cream puffs.

Had I realized that I had almost 10 cream puffs in the bag, I would have surely shared them with my friends. Due to my negligence, I had taken them all home.

Now, I love cream puffs in general, but usually do not consume more than one cream puffs in a row. Now I found myself in a situation where I had to eat several cream puffs, in order to save the value while they are fresh.

This morning, I have eaten two cream puffs already. Probably I have to extend my jogging distance by twofold, making friends with the butterflies in the forest and sweating like summer rain.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hiding (IV).

(continued from yesterday)

I left the mountain brook and started to walk towards the middle-aged man's voice. The road was covered with dirt, and the evening sunshine was casting an orange light on it. "Ooi" the middle-aged man called again. From the loudness of voice, it was clear that he was quite near me now.

I walked on, and from behind the curve in the road, the middle-aged man appeared. I saw him, and he saw me. I swung my butterfly net to and fro, pretending to search for a butterfly. Then I had nothing to do. I now had to look into the middle-aged man's eyes,

"Why didn't you answer back?" The middle-aged man said, with somewhat rough breath. "Why didn't you answer back, when I called you? I called you many times. Why didn't you say something?"

I could not answer. I could not answer, as I did not know the answer myself. I did not know why I had not yelled back to the calls of "Ooi." I did not know why I felt shy and wanted to hide from the middle-aged man. I did not know why I wanted to be alone in the forest.

"I am sorry." was my feeble answer. "I was chasing the butterflies and...." I almost felt like sobbing. The middle-aged man smiled. "It is all right. Now that I have found you safe, everything is all right. But we need to go to the bus station very quickly now. Otherwise we have to spend the night in the mountains".

Having something to do was such a relief. I hurried, almost ran, to the bus station. The emotional crisis was over.
As I galloped though the path, I started to laugh. I could not suppress the impulse. I laughed peevishly first, trying to hide the big smile from the middle-aged man. Finally, I could stand it any more. I burst out, and the middle aged man, who was running beside me, laughed heartily, too.

(End of this essay)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hiding (III).

To this day, I do not understand what was behind my impulse to hide from the middle-aged man. It was not that he looked dangerous or anything. When you think about it really hard, he looked somewhat similar to a young teacher who scolded us in the classroom when we were third graders. But that was just a superficial likeness. For all I could tell, his intentions were good. Kindness radiated from his countenance. And yet, somehow I wanted to hide from the man.

Perhaps I felt that peace and tranquility had been disturbed through the conversations with him. Although the chat was lively and enjoyable, probably I would have preferred being alone in the forest, listening to the sound of silence. Possibly I was secretly indignant that it was too late to regain that desired tranquility. The day was already almost spent. And I had to start heading for the station very soon. Probably I was angry with the man. Or perhaps I was just being a little bit shy.

"Ooi! Where on earth are you?!" "Ooi, are you all right?" The middle-aged man kept shouting, and his voice became louder gradually. He started to sound quite concerned. Probably, he thought that I was lost or something. He might have been thinking that I was hurt and unable to move. It might have well been that he feared I was unconscious.

When I put myself in the position of the middle-aged man now, I can well understand his concerns. Here was a 12 years old boy alone in the mountains, chasing butterfly. The boy had been chatting in a very friendly manner all the while, and all of sudden the boy was no more. No matter how often and loud you called, the boy did not answer. Maybe there had been an accident. Maybe there had been something serious. With the benefit of hindsight, it was no wonder that the middle-aged man was concerned.

I could see such a line of logic on that day, even. I felt that I had a moral obligation to yell back. However, something inhibited me from doing so. There was this strange and uncontrollable agitation in my heart. As time passed, and as the middle-aged man's calls became louder and more desperate, I increasingly felt that it was now probably too late to answer back. In the beginning, it was just a tiny twist in my whimsical mind. I just failed to answer the first few yells. And yet, now that I had remained silent for such a long time, the middle-aged man should be suspecting that there was some intention on my part, something hideous, something even vicious. And I could not bear such thoughts any more.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hiding (II).

The middle-aged man I met along the mountain brook said that we walk together. I said fine. So both of us set out to look for Panchala ganesa loomisi.

Within my bosom, my secret wish was to just glance at this lovely butterfly in flight. The ephemeral bluish color on the wing should present a fascinating flickering light when the butterfly is airborne, I imagined. It was almost like an anguished longing.

However, no matter how hard we looked, Panchala ganesa loomisi did not come into view. There were some other butterfly species which looked similar to Panchala ganesa loomisi. Narathura japonica, for example. Every time a likely candidate came into the view, I jumped and run. Every time it turned out to be yet another false alarm.

Time passed, and the sunlight started to weaken. Evidently, I had to start heading home in a few minutes. At that time, I was wandering in the forest on my own. I had been walking with the middle-aged man, but had parted at some time earlier. This was not an unusual action for a butterfly chaser. After all, nature is vast, and it is always a good idea to cover different habitats, in an effort to conduct a joint "filtering" operation.

Suddenly, I heard the man yell out for me. "Ooi", I could hear his voice. "Ooi, where are you?" I could tell that he was quite near. Maybe he wanted to make sure that I was O.K. Maybe he was thinking that he would kindly take me to the station. After all, I was only 12 years old. However, due to the thick foliage, I could not see him. And vice versa.

Out of the blue, I wanted to hide. I felt that I did not want to join that man anymore. I did not know what happened to me. I just wanted to hide, in the tranquility of the forest.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hiding (I)

When I was 12 years old, I wanted so much to capture a particular butterfly species, Panchala ganesa loomisi,. It was a small and lovely butterfly. The habitat of this rare species was very limited. Around Tokyo, there was one mountain range where the butterfly inhabited. One Sunday I could not stand it anymore. I jumped onto a train and ventured off to that area of promise.

It was not long after arriving that I realized that the search was going to be difficult. The forestation was quite dense, and the biomass was large. That should have been a good sign in the general sense. However, it also meant that the butterflies would be dispersed and hard to find, even if there were any.

I knew from prior knowledge from books and magazines that I would have to go down to the mountain brooks to have a good chance of encountering the butterfly. When I was walking along a flow, I met with a middle aged man. The man held a butterfly net in his hand, just like me. He asked me "did you come for the Panchala ganesa loomisi?" I answered "yes". We started to chat. The man said that it was great of me to come all the way to this mountain alone, considering my age. I felt proud and happy to hear that. Evidently, he was a very nice man.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Panchala ganesa loomisi

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ebizo keeps a dragon.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI is a good friend of mine and a great Kabuki actor. He has a big secret. Ebizo keeps a dragon, and the dragon keeps growing.

The revelation came as I was having a conversation with Ebizo for a magazine article in a Tokyo hotel. Out of the blue, Ebizo mentioned in a casual and as-a-matter-of-fact manner that he was keeping a dragon with him.

The story went like this. Some time ago, Ebizo was attending a party. There was an elder man that Ebizo quite respected. When Ebizo looked at the man, there was a large dragon behind. Naturally, Ebizo was quite astonished. The man, looking at Ebizo's countenance, said dryly "Oh, do you see the dragon? It is standing just behind me, isn't it? Where you are looking at now, is the dragon's face. Do you see that? I'll tell you what. Bring a glass jar to this temple in the mountain. Normally, the master priest does not give away dragons to a first comer. But you may be different. He might give you a dragon."

So Ebizo went to this temple in the mountain. The head priest, after looking at Ebizo carefully, finally said that he might take back a dragon in the jar.

So Ebizo took a dragon in a jar back to Tokyo. As time passed, it grew bigger, and it came out of the jar. By the time I met with Ebizo, the dragon had become larger than himself.

As I listened to this story with amazement, Ebizo said to me, "just about where you are looking at right now, should be the dragon's head. Do you see that?"

I could not actually see anything, but I made a ambiguous response, partly to be diplomatic, but partly out of sincerity, as the dragon story made me think deeply.

From the scientific point of view, the whole story should be judged to be a fruit of illusion. A dragon is an imaginary animal. It does not "exist" as a physical entity.

But then there is a rich cultural history, in the far East, regarding the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of inspiration, aspiration, ambition, strength and energy. But tapping into the energy to be extracted from living with the imaginary animal, Ebizo is clearly becoming a larger figure as a Kabuki actor.

Another important point is that Ebizo is doing his day job well. Quite superbly, as a matter of fact. Once on stage, Ebizo's acting as a Kabuki actor is quite intensive, burning with energy, and has the elegance of a wild beast. Nobody questions that.
Some people, when possessed with a vivid imagination, stops functioning in their day jobs. They talk fanciful things, but does nothing. In such a case, the illusion loses its life, and begin to deteriorate.

Ebizo is different. Ebizo does not rely on his dragon. He uses his own body, practices, rehearses, thinks hard, and brings forth a wonderful Kabuki stage, moving the spectators. The dragon is then probably just a symbol of the excellence of Ebizo.
Ebizo keeps a dragon. And then he is a man with a practical sense. Ebizo is embodied. The combination of embodied practicality and the vivid imagination of a dragon is the chemistry behind the phenomenal great acting.

Ichikawa Ebizo.

Monday, August 09, 2010

I would not have been born.

My mother is originally from the southern island of Kyushu. She was born in 1936.

On August 9th, 1945, at the age of 8, she was in the city of Kokura. On that fateful day, a B-29 carrying the "Fat Man" atomic bomb flew to Kokura. As there were too many clouds over Kokura, they turned the bomber to Nagasaki instead, which was designated as the second target. At 11:02 a.m., the bomb was dropped to the city of Nagasaki, killings tens of thousands of people. Many of the victims were innocent civilians, including many children, just like my mother.

If the clouds were less dense on that day over Kokura, my mother would have been victim to the cruel bomb. She would have not grown up to meet my father and marry. I would not have been born.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

First love

I think my first love "happened" to me when I went to my mother's hometown in Kyushu at the age of 5.

One of my mother's sisters was married to a farmer with a whole mountain behind the house. They held a bon-odori (summer dancing) event in the spacious garden.

There was a girl in yukata dress. She was my first love. There was something definitely elegant and beautiful about her whole demeanor. I did not know what her name was, nor where she came from. Her impression remains vivid to this day.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The darkness itself.

(Continued from yesterday's entry "The firefly night")

My sister and I wandered around in the night, sometimes hand in hand. My mother dragged behind, somewhat breathlessly, as I and my sister were walking fast.

It was quite a while before we could get any signs of fireflies. Suddenly, there was a cry. "Look, there goes the firefly!" We dashed on, but could not really observe the light hindered by the walls of people's backs.

Then a little boy came along, with an insect cage hanging from his hand. Lights could be seen going on and off in it. There were fireflies! "Where did you capture these things?" My mother ventured to ask. "Just there, over in the forest!" The boy's caretaker answered.

"Into the forest!" I cried, and I went off in that direction, with the equally excited sister. We looked around and around, but there were no signs of fireflies. Perhaps the had all gone to bed by now.

But then, as if in a miracle, there, in the grass near a big tree, was a flickering and vibrant light. We found the firefly! We made the encounter at last!

Strangely, by this time, the zeal to capture the insect and take it home was gone. I and sister lingered on to watch the fireflies without bothering to capture them. The night breeze was cool and pleasant. And then, gradually, we made friends with the darkness itself. The fireflies did not matter any more.

In a tranquil mood, we went home and slept.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The firefly night.

When I was about 10 years old, there was an announcement in the local newspaper that a "firefly night" would be held in a nearby park. Thousands of fireflies would be released in the park for the public to enjoy, the article claimed.

The park, spacious but devoid of any clean running water, was not naturally a habitat of the light-emitting insects. The event was clearly meant to be one-off, with the fireflies brought in from somewhere else, either captivated in the wild or artificially nurtured.

In the contemporary atmosphere ever-conscious of animal welfare and environmental concerns, such an event would raise the eyebrows of many. At that time, however, thirty-something years ago, nobody seemed to have any objections. The fireflies might eventually perish in a foreign environment, but the joy that these insects give, no matter how temporary, was thought to justify the whole fuss (and mess for the insects).

I got all excited to read the article, and asked my mother to take me to the park. We had to ride the train to reach there. I took my small sister, equipped with insect net and cage. When we arrived at the station, there were already lots of kids with eager eyes. They had only one thing in mind. To see a firefly, and, if possible, to capture it to take home.

From the newspaper article, I had a vivid imagination of light points moving here and there in the dark, overwhelming the vision. The reality turned out to be more mundane. Perhaps the numbers were correct. However, averaged over the spaciousness of the designated park, the number of fireflies per unit area turned out to be disappointingly low.

"There are no fireflies," exclaimed my sister. "I would like to go home," she begun to wail. Perhaps the darkness frightened her. I did not want to go home in a hurry, so I kept saying "the fireflies would be in that direction", and continued to move around in the dark forest.

(This story is to be continued)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The beauty of butterfly watching

When I go for jogging in the park forest nearby, I am always watching out for butterflies. They are lovely creatures. I used to try to catch them when I was a child, but nowadays I just observe their behavior.

The most interesting feature of behavior to watch is the route that they take. The butterfly flight paths should be in principle chosen carefully for the survival value (i.e., in search of nectar, possible mates, and avoiding predators), and yet are full of rapid turns and apparently whimsical perturbations at the same time.

The beauty of butterfly watching is that you never know when and from where they are coming. Every corner of your vision becomes a potential route of entry for the airborne creature. By waiting for the butterflies, your sensitivities are kept alive and vibrant.

Yesterday, I was lucky to observe a beautiful specimen of Great Mormon (Papilio memnon Linnaeus). This magnificent butterfly used to be more southern bound. Probably due to the effects of global warming, we can now observe Great Mormons in Tokyo, too.

Thus, while jogging among the greens, I can sometimes encounter a messenger from the south.

A Great Mormon.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Every child is born into a system of language.

Every child is born into a system of language. I was born into the universe of Japanese, spoken by 130 million people but virtually confined to the island nation.

English came as a second language. Nowadays I use it constantly in my professional and private lives. As a non-native speaker I still have difficulties handling things.

Fortunately the situations are improving. I feel more and more confident and find tremendous joys in going over national borders and getting connected with people on the globe via the lingua franca. Having said that, the fact that English came to me as a second language has been a source of tremendous hardships in my life.

If only English was my native language. Such wishful thinking sometimes do come to me. On the other hand, there must be some advantages of being born into a minority language. I am yet to find the specific blessing. Maybe the point is too subtle to be made in a short period.

At the least, because of the difficulties experienced, I am set out to do a particular kind of soul searching. Hopefully I stumble upon some valuable truth one day because of this wandering around.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Being in a hot air.

So I am back in Tokyo, back into the heat and humidity. When at home, I do not use the air conditioner, as I don't like the artificial atmosphere. The occasional breeze from the window is just fine for me.

Consequently, when I go out, I enjoy the cool air on the train, in the buildings. A tremendous motivation for me to go out!
The reason why I am resistant to heat can probably be sought back to the days when I was chasing butterflies in the field as a child. Butterflies love fine weather, and they roam around when it is hot. I associate good old memories with the state of being in a hot air.

Having said that, today's heat in Tokyo is probably a little bit too much even for me. Good thing that I will be going out soon.

Monday, August 02, 2010

East of Eden.

On the plane back to Tokyo (JL001), I watched the film "East of Eden". I think I had seen this masterpiece directed by Elia Kazan a few times, in the days of my naive and callow twenties. The memory of the famous theme music, which is very easy to capture and remember, did not need any refreshing. On the other hand, I realized that I had forgotten most of the details of the film synopsis. The lettuce and beans, for example.

As I watched on, I was emotionally gripped. The story of rivalry between the twin brothers Cal (played superbly by James Dean) and Aron invoked a strange wave of resonance in my heart. The undertone of a possible romantic triangular relations between the twin brothers and Abra (played impressively by Julie Harris) added an atmosphere of tension.

The final scene of reconciliation between the father and son was moving because of the subtle chemistry portrayed. The presence of the ever annoying nurse added a strangely effective spice to the whole thing, which might have been otherwise too sweet. The chasm of misunderstandings and miscommunications finally melted like a snowflake touched by the warmth of the human skin.
Before I knew it, tears welled in my eyes. In order to hide my face from the flight attendants, I raised my right arm to the level of my ear, pretending I was stretching my body after a long flight.

East of Eden.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

2nd day at the Science Foo camp.

2nd day at the Science Foo camp on the Googleplex. Discussions begin in earnest. The sessions are self-organized, scribed down on large post-its on a large schedule board. I chose to attend the Evolution of beauty, Lightening talks (II), Minds, brains and children, Embracing uncertainty, Aliens and search for life 2.0., Death of old media & the birth of new democracy, and Future of authors sessions.

I met quite a few interesting people. E.g., Jaron Lanier and John Brockman.

I just love the atmosphere of free concepts exchange and jazzy dance together of minds. During the sessions, I always made a point of speaking out. But since the exchange of vocalized opinions are so continuous and never-breaking, my own music of thought needed to be precisely timed and had to be explosive when successfully inserted.
I thank the organizers and participants for the awesomeness of the whole thing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scince Foo Camp opening.

First day of Science Foo camp 2010 at Google campus.

It was my first visit to the Googleplex. Impressive. The atmosphere of playfulness and serious concentration was resonating and just fine for me.

We registered at building 40. Lots of interesting people around me. We got out badges, souvenior paper weight with 3D laser sculpture. (Mine was the fractal Julia set. Others were DNA structure and geomagnetic field. Cool.)

With a glass of wine in hand, I took a brief stroll in the campus. Four men were playing beach volleyball. There was a whole T. Rex skeleton, with birds sticking out of here and there. There were posters recruiting people for film gatherings and table tennis tournament. The dress code seemed to be "google casual."

In the opening session, we introduced ourselves each briefly with three key words. Daniel Kahneman was there. Larry Page said hello to the participants. The organizers from Google, Nature, and O'Reilly made interesting opening remarks. How stimulating the whole thing is!

This taxi driver has developed a cognitive filtering machine.

So here I am in Sunnyvale, California. It is 2:42 p.m. local time. In the evening, I will be attending the Science Foo Camp sponsored by Google and Nature. After I am done with this blogging, I will most probably take a nap, as I could not get adequate sleep on the plane.

I originally thought of hiring a car, but then judged it was probably too much trouble. Therefore I took a cab instead. I always enjoy conversation with the driver.

We were discussing the high tech devises on the car. The driver pointed to a camera and said it captured 8 hours of video, looping. "Do you get any strange customers?" I asked. "Yes", the driver said. "Especially at night. You know when people are loaded, when they are drunk, they sometimes behave strangely. But you can tell pretty well whether a guy is going to behave strangely when he is standing on the road." "Really?" "Oh, yeah. When a guy is waving his hand like that, or is standing in the middle of road, you can pretty well tell that he is going to make trouble. I just pass by them."

So it appears that this taxi driver has developed a cognitive filtering machine, telling potentially troublesome customers beforehand. A good adaptation. I am curious about the specific details for classification, though.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Being in a minority position is not without its joys.

Throughout my life, I seem to have been enjoying the status of being a minority.

In the junior high, I used to chase butterflies in the field, and read grown-up's books. That was an attitude not ubiquitous among us brats, so I was always looked at as if observing something strange.

As I grew up, my tastes seemed to be shift into increasingly exotic areas in terms of sensitivity and feelings. I had to hide my true nature from time to time, but then I started to encounter people of my own kind.

I remember quite well the rubbishings and abuses we Mac users used to receive from the majority of people who uses the import from Seattle. They said that Macs are for fun and not for serious business. Corporations and schools matter-of-factly announced that their systems and apps were not compatible with the Mac. What do you care? Many computer viruses also turned out to be Mac-incompatible.

When waiting for the train in a Tokyo subway station, I tend to stand in the corners or at the farthest ends of the platform, away from where most people stay for convenience. For me, being alone seems to be more important than seeking convenience.

And the last straw is the problem of qualia. Many "serious" scientists laugh at it as if it is a pseudo-problem. They tend to maintain that functionalist approaches based on connectionist models are sufficient. Again, what do you care. One cannot change what one believes based on empirical observation and application of pure logic.

Being in a minority position is not without its joy. When you are in the majority, it is not that difficult to find people with whom you can resonate. Being in the minority, friend-making becomes an art in miraculous encounters. For example, if and when you find people who are seriously interested in the problem of qualia, that can give you a joy that lasts all your life.

May Ebizo and Mao live happily ever after.

I attended the wedding party of Ebizo Ichikawa, the young and great Kabuki actor. The Kabuki is a miracle, as it is both popular and artistically very refined. Very few genres of art achieve these often incompatible goals.

Ebizo is a great person. He has the savageness of a beast, as well as a fine-tuned intelligence of a noble man. The lady he chose as his partner, Ms. Mao Kobayashi, is a well known newscaster and a very beautiful lady.

Once on stage, Ebizo can become very furious. He can portray characters very remote from human dimensions. His energy then truly approaches that of a dragon. However, this evening, Ebizo was just a very happy man, grinning all the time. May Ebizo and Mao live happily ever after.

Ebizo and Mao cutting the cake. From

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My favorite bar in Tokyo is "EST" in Yushima. The first time I visited this legendary bar, I was with Ken Shiotani, my fat philosopher friend. We had just turned 22. Shiotani was actually not that fat at that time. Then his belly area started to grow rapidly, and outpaced the Japanese economy.

I have a vivid image of the first night at EST. We were wandering in the small streets of Yushima, and Shiotani said out of the blue that he had a place that he wanted to try out. At that time, it was mainly Shiotani that came up with the proposals. I was rather a naive boy in the field of culinary and alcoholic delights. Shiotani was quite eager in this respect, which probably accounts for his big gain in weight.

The walk brought us to a thick wooden door. Inside, we found a polished bar table and a man in white cook coat with a gentle smile. That was Mr. Watanabe, master of EST.

Since then, EST has been my haven, EST has been my heaven, EST has been my home. EST, EST, EST. When do I go to EST next time with my fat philosopher friend?

With Ken Shiotani on the "Hanami" (cherry blossom admiring) night this March.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Passion meter.

As I go about my life, I meet many people. Some are famous. Others are young. Many are experienced. A few are truly awesome. I seem to appreciate the individualities of these persons in many different ways. One of the most important, however, is what I would call a "passion meter".

The question is how passionate a person is about his or her life. Passion can be nurtured in adversities, so the superficial success or failure are not that important. Intelligence also does relatively little to do with the passion level.

When professing a cause, the key concern is how deeply the antagonist actually believes in that cause. In many cases, people are just saying niceties, and do not actually put their energy into the realization of the causes. Some people are too established to really care for other people or themselves.

The greatest tragedy in life is the loss of passion. When a nation or a society suffers from it, inevitable decline follows. In many cases, people do not notice the decline, as their eyes are blind to the fact that they can convert difficulties into passion, if and only if they have the courage to do so.

So I go about the world today again with my passion meter. When I encounter an outlier of magnitude in the passion measure, I consider it as one of the rare blessings to my life.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Responding to the invitation of a senior high school headmaster Mr. Kawasaki, I gave two lectures in Sapporo. After the strenuous but enjoying hours, I strolled in the streets towards a local restaurant. It is always refreshing to venture into the unknown. Your instinct to discern the good from the mediocre, the tasty from the not so tasty, is highly invoked and something in you that remained dormant for so many years become active.

It occurs much slower than in a video game. The number of choices are also limited. You cannot fast-forward or keyword search.
But then everything is embodied, here and now.

Finally, we decided on a fisherman's restaurant. The defining moment is the taste of the evening's first beer. As I talked into the late hours with people from around the northern city, the joy of being on the road slowly unfolds itself.

In traveling, you are lost once and then find a transient home. You rest your weight on the newly found ground and then dissolve it without regret. The rather quick procession of things assures that your life is well revived and taken care of. You find that, once again, traveling has refreshed the life in you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The 10 years wait of James Joyce

The Dubliners by James Joyce is a sublime example of English prose work. Written in 1904, the classic masterpiece, however, did not get published until 1914. Seen from the perspectives of today, there is nothing objectionable in the work. At that time, however, some of the expressions in The Dubliners (such as "have a girl") were considered inappropriate.

The fact that James Joyce could not get his work of genius published for 10 full years is a testimony of the fact that reception is not always automatic or immediate.

Let the 10 years wait of James Joyce be a source of inspiration for every young would-be creators and young-at-hearts.

James Joyce.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To express oneself.

To express oneself, in particular as a matter of being understood by the widest audience possible and giving pleasure to many, is a hard uphill climb.

You need to forsake yourself. Self protection is the worst scenario. As one famous Buddhist monk in medieval Japan remarked, you need to jump into the water flow to emerge in a new land of tranquility.

These were the words that crossed my mind as I had serious discussions with four other judges over the decision of awarding 8th Takeshi Kaiko prize. What a privilege it is to read the candidates' serious attempts at the genre of non-fiction. The torch is carried and relayed, because of the courage of these upcoming writers to forsake one's old self.

Takeshi Kaiko.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The sublime underdogs.

Nowadays Japanese manga and anime enjoy much popularity and a high respectability. Manga and anime are considered the primary cultural exports out of the island nation. They are also epitomes of "cool Japan". Manga and anime are extolled by culture lovers and government officials alike.

The situation was completely different when the pioneers of modern manga and anime cultures, led by the creative genius of Osamu Tezuka, made their headways. The reaction from the "established" circles were sneers, disgust, disregard, or mild tolerance at best. For a long time, manga and anime were considered to be catering to children's pastime, and were not considered to be serious subjects for grown-ups.

Thus, history repeated itself. It once happened there, and here again. The cold reaction from the society towards the underdogs, and then the growth of popularity and eventual coronation is a well-known pattern of acceptance. No praise could do justice to the immense courage and hard work of the pioneering underdogs. They deserve all the appreciation now bestowed upon the genre.

Now the Japanese manga and anime are in the danger of being too established. The sublime underdogs will be probably somewhere else, in another country or cultural domain perhaps, being sneered by the establishment but silently doing their home works.

Pioneer of manga and anime. The great Osamu Tezuka

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The joy of being completely out of your depth.

When I traveled to Korea a few weeks ago, I had the joy of being in a land where I found myself helpless as a three year old child. Hangul, the beautiful system of "alphabets" that the Koreans proudly use, is out of my reach at present. I can read in a very rudimentary way, but then with lots of difficulties and at an incredibly slow pace.

I remember the days when I first started to learn English at the age of 12. Then, even the difference of one letter "s" in the verb between "he plays tennis" and "they play tennis" was a discovery. I then went on to make small discoveries inch by inch, until English became my second language for reading, writing, and casting a web onto the world around me.

It is so blissful to be out of your depth. As I wandered through the streets of Seoul, I found joy in feeling helpless, surrounded by the wonderful and yet unknown universe of the Hangul. I would very much like to be out of my depth from time to time, as it is the only way to rejuvenation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On English.

My native language is not English. I started to learn English only at the age of 12. Then my struggle began, as English and Japanese are two completely different language systems.

When I was 15, I went to a foreign country for the first time. In Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, I had the fortune of being touched by the warm hearts of people and being exposed to the universe of the English language in the day to day life.

Lots of water has flown under the bridge. Partly due to the internet (it probably gave the definitive, finishing touch), English has now established itself as the lingua franca of the new world, especially on the web.

Thus, people in the world are divided into two classes. Those who speak English as their native tongue and those who learn English later. There are many different kinds of people, for sure, along the spectrum, but roughly speaking, there are those two categories of people in the world.

Shortly after I started to write about general subjects in English, I realized that writing in the lingua franca is actually a way to connect not only to the native speakers of English, but also to miscellaneous people living in various parts of the world, who have learned English as a secondary language. Thus, communicating in English has broadened my world in two significantly different ways.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The revelation of constellation

Now I am staying in the Kayoutei onsen ryokan in Yamanaka Onsen, Ishikawa prefecture.

This ryokan is famed for its magnificent breakfast, sometimes praised as "Japan's no. 1 breakfast". I am looking forward to it within a few minutes.

Yesterday, after work, we had a small party in the lounge. When the time was up, I went back to my room. There is a balcony attached to the room. Before going to bed, (or rather, going to the futon spread out on the tatami mat), I went out onto the balcony for a brief time.

What a surrounding! There was a mountain forest just behind the building, and I could see the border of treetops against the sky even in the darkness. There were stars scattered all over. The tranquility was awesome. The milky way was clearly visible, trembling with the random motions of air. Some night birds were audible, with their distinctive tones and melodies.

The day had been hot, with the sun glittering, and I think I was still carrying something of the day inside me. The moment I stepped onto the veranda, the sun and the glittering melted away like snow in the spring. Beautified serenity remained after, in which my soul found a deep solace. I felt that my mind was expanded and connected with the entities surrounding me in the universe.

I could have stayed on the terrace for longer, and ever could have slept on it. The allurement was so sweet and strong. As the more practical side of me won over, I went back to my room and put my head down on the futon. The revelation of constellation was still within me, as I finally lost my consciousness.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The great cosmic overcrowding of changes.

One of the things that we sometimes fail to recognize in life is that in this world, the time passes.

In a seemingly stationary world, as is often the case with our daily life, everything seems to be stable. However, things are actually changing, and the scenery will be transformed beyond recognition after a while. As the gradual shift is so small in the day to day, our cognitive systems often fail to register the changes. The change blindness is one of the tragedies of life.

Yesterday, after finishing a rather strenuous day of work from morning to night, I was reflecting on things on the way back. I thought of my past, what a small child I was, the recent events shaped my life, how people around me are moving around, the hopes, disappointments, impossibilities, sheer overcrowding. Then I realized suddenly that things are changing, always, without end, without exceptions. I felt a great sadness as well as a sweet consolation.

Things will keep changing, and I will keep changing, too. The only thing that I can do is to keep dancing, from morning till night, until I put my head down on the bed, swinging my hands and legs, looking here and there, moving to and fro, dance, dance, and dance in the great cosmic overcrowding of changes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A moth that happened to cross my way

Butterflies and moths can be distinguished by a number of ways. One of them is their flight patterns. Butterflies fly in a straightforward way, while the trajectory of a moth is more perturbed and random.

When I was young, I chased butterflies in the field. One of my more important cognitive task was to distinguish between butterflies and moths. Most of the time the distinction was clear enough. At other times, you had to make some cognitive efforts to finally make a judgment whether the airborne insect in front of you is a butterfly or a moth.

I was quite earnest in my entomological pursuit. I could tell virtually any butterfly species living in Japan. Not so for the moths. Except for a few conspicuous species, moth classification was something beyond my power and interest. I could not care less about the tiny living creature in front of me, if that was a moth.

This unjustified discrimination was a natural thing for a boy, but nowadays I regret it. I should have studied the moths in more earnest, as they are part of the ecological system after all. In ecology, every species counts. There are no important and unimportant entities. Every creature is important. I realize the truth of this equality now.

If I have time, I would like to invest my time in studying moths as well as butterflies.

Here's a picture of a moth that happened to cross my way recently. I admire its beauty. I have no idea what it's called, or what it's life history is like.

My deficiency in moths knowledge is a good example of how much you are going to miss if you have a unfounded prejudice.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The rage of the young Nicol was a reflection of his deep love towards Nature.

I had a wonderful conversation with Mr. C.W. Nicol, the famed writer who resides in the Kurohime district, Nagano prefecture, Japan. Mr. Nicol, (or Nick, as his friends are wont to call him) is a very kind, generous man with a big and deep smile.

What he told me about his youth was quite interesting. "Used to be an angry young man", Nick said. "I used to fight all the time, with these people who had no qualms about cutting down big trees in the mountains for meager "economic" reasons."

Perhaps for being so frequently angry, Nick got the nickname of "Aka Oni" ("Red Devil") from the local residents. An nickname, in the Japanese context, is not without the cute and attractive connotations.

In order to save the forests of Kurohime, he started the The C.W Nicol Afan Woodland Trust, named after the Afan Argoed Forest Park in Wales, his home country.

In my view, the rage of the young Nicol was divine. It was not based on personal interest, such as jealousy, hurt pride, or competition. The rage of the young Nicol was a reflection of his deep love towards Nature, the rich forest in Kurohime in particular.

"I started aiming for a big project", Nick told me. "Then it became smaller and smaller, until it could be contained in a nutshell. Now I would like to do what I can in this forest of Kurohime. I have finally found my home".

Today, Mr. Nicol looks like an old oak tree. The divine rage at young times has taken root deep in the soil, and the foliage of
experience flourishes.

With Mr. Nicol in the Afan Forest in Kurohime, Nagano, Japan.
(photos by Tomio Takizawa)

Friday, July 16, 2010

So here's to the fat ones.

Partly because my best friend Ken Shiotani is one, I seem to be drawn to a fat man. Although when I first met him when I was 18, he was rather like a slim bear. Then the rapid growth started, to my utter amazement.

Once I was traveling in the rural areas. I stayed at an Onsen (hotspring) ryokan (Japanese style Inn). There was a fat man figure in the bath. It was actually a deity, but my memories are rather faint there. In any case, the fat man figure stayed with me to this day. The symbol of reassurance, good things in life, and perhaps a little bit of indulgence. Just the right amount.

When I "interview" Misako, Ken Shiotani's wife, she invariably tells me that Shiotani's protruded belly is an attraction, rather than an obstacle, in her loving of her husband. Misako actually loves to pat on the belly. She cannot get enough of it. It is actually like touching the immortal "Totoro" in Hayao Miyazaki's film. Patting on the belly is an action repeated many times by the onlookers to the Sumo wrestlers. Perhaps here you can find one of the reasons for the popularity of Sumo wrestlers.
A heavenly cushion in the flesh.

So here's to the fat ones. I dedicate some photos I took while on the road. I don't recall where they were taken. I must have drawn to the atmosphere of reassurance and indulgence. We all need a little bit of them in today's health over-conscious world.

The fat man figure.

The fat one, Ken Shiotani, in the front.
The slim one, Takashi Ikegami, in the back.
Both are my soul mates, fat or slim.

Shiotani's belly, taken on 10th June 2009.