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.