Jun 27, 2011

The Beginning of the Standard Japanese

Yoshiko Amino, a Japanese historian, wrote about the Standard Japanese. He researched historical documents in Kagoshima prefecture, furthest southern part of Japan. When he was waiting for a bus at a bus stop in some rural village, he heard old women were talking with each other in Kagoshima dialect, but he couldn't understand what they said at all. He wondered why he could read historical documents written in Kagoshima in old days, but he couldn't understand Kagoshima dialect nowadays.

My wife said that she couldn't understand what her ground mother, who had lived in Aomori prefecture, furthest northern part of Japan, said. I also have the same experiences in Aomori prefecture and Kagoshima prefecture.

Of course I can understand what young people say even in their dialect and most of them can speak in standard speaking Japanese now.

In the pre-modern age there wasn't the standard Japanese, at least Japanese government didn't try to make up the standard Japanese. As Yoshihiko Amino said, there was the de facto standard writing Japanese. Since the official documents circulated throughout Japan, every intellectual person had to learn reading and writing in the de facto writing Japanese.

On the other hand speaking Japanese was made up in each community, so they spoke their own dialects in their communities. But in pre-modern Japan there was little chance to talk with people outside of their own communities, so speaking Japanese had wide varieties.

In the Meiji era Japanese government tried to unite Japanese nation and the Japanese language. It's common to unite the national language in the time of formation of the nation state in many countries.

In France many different languages used to be spoken. For example Languedoc, southern part of France, means the land of d'Oc language. In the age of absolutism French government made up and disseminated the standard French language in order to unite the French nation.

On the other hand in the English language there is no standard speaking language. (At least I think so. Is it right?) Queen's English is one of the models of speaking English, but every British people don't speak Queen's English. I can't catch Alex Ferguson's speaking well. Of course American English, Australian English, Canadian English, Indian English and the other "Englishes" (including my Japanese English) are different from each other, and no one can define which the standard English is.

In Okinawa islands, which was a semi-independent kingdom in pre-modern age, people had spoken very different dialect from one in mainland Japan and it was almost impossible to communicate with mainland Japanese people by speaking Okinawa dialect. In the Meiji era the Japanese government amalgamated Okinawa into Japan and tried to assimilate Okinawa people into Japanese nation. So they forced Okinawa people to learn mainland Japanese language in school education, same as in colonial Korea and Taiwan before World War II.

But before the spread of radio, most Japanese people had little chance to hear the standard speaking Japanese in fact, so they mainly spoke their own dialects. Some intellectual people got high education in Tokyo and learned the standard speaking Japanese.

After the spread of radio and TV, most Japanese became to be able to hear the standard speaking Japanese, which announcers spoke, and they could learn the standard speaking Japanese. Now that most Japanese can speak the standard speaking Japanese and their own dialects, in other words they are bilingual.

Formerly people thought of speaking a dialect as shameful, but now dialects have a much better image than they used to be. I feel that a girl that speaks her dialect is cute, now.

Jun 26, 2011

I Love the "Past Perfect Tense"

When I write in English, I feel as if I'm solving a jigsaw puzzle.

At first I think of what I want to express -in other words, the picture of the jigsaw puzzle, which I want to solve- and then I look for the right pieces. I try to put some pieces into the empty spaces between the parts I have already assembled, and I find they don't fit the space. Then, I look in the dictionary and thesaurus to find the right piece. Each time I find the right piece I fit it in where it belongs. I'm really satisfied with it.

Tense is one aspect of a jigsaw pieces. To express what I mean precisely, it's necessary to find the right piece with the right tense. There are more varieties of tense in English than in Japanese, for example: was, have been, had been, will be, would be, will have been, would have been, is ~ing, was ~ing, have been ~ing, had been ~ing, will be ~ing, would be ~ing, will have been ~ing, would have been ~ing. So sometimes it's difficult for me to choose the right tense. But when I can express precisely what I mean precisely by using the right tense, I feel the same kind of satisfaction that comes from solving a jigsaw puzzle.

When I caught a cold, I tweeted as follows.

I had felt much better, so I stopped taking medicine. Since then, my temperature has been getting higher. I'm really getting tired of having a fever and a cold, now.

I used four different forms of tenses in these four sentences. It's fun for me to use different tenses. (I guess that English native speakers would be able to understand this feeling.)

I'll translate it into Japanese.


In Japanese we don't have the past perfect tense, we can't express which is earlier "feel much better" and "stop taking medicine" by using the past perfect tense and we use the past tense for both of the sentences. But of course we understand the causal relationship of "feel much better" and "stop taking medicine" from the context.

Jun 21, 2011

As a Realistic Observer

I translated Haruki Murakami's speech "As an Unrealistic Dreamer" into English.

I think that his speech is sincere and I agree with his conclusion that that nuclear power generation should be stopped in Japan. But I don't agree with all of his speech, especially about ethics and norms of Japanese people. He made his speech "as an unrealistic dreamer", but I'll write this journal "as a realistic observer".

I strongly agree with president Obama's speech about nuclear abolition in Prague, and I never allowed nuclear attacks at Hirosima and Nagasaki, which was cruel and unethical. But I've not been able to sympathize with the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. My uncomfortable feeling about Murakami's speech might be common to the anti-nuclear movement.

In his speech there were two things, which I feel uncomfortable about.

Why did this happen? Where had our feeling of rejection of nuclear, which we had held after World War II, gone? What made our peaceful and wealthy society, which we constantly had been pursuing, spoiled?

The reason is simple. That is "efficiency".

The electrical power companies had been insisting that nuclear plants are efficient power generation system. It's the system that they were able to get profit from. And especially after the oil shock, Japanese government doubted the stability of supply of petroleum and had been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy. The electrical power companies had spent huge money on advertisements to bribe the media to impress Japanese people with the illusion that nuclear power generation was completely safe.

I guess that the electric power companies, themselves, might not think that nuclear power generation was "efficient" system.

They've known very well how much money they have paid compensation to build nuclear power plants, used advertising expenses "to bribe the media" as Haruki Murakami said, and they would have to pay huge money to dispose nuclear wastes and decommission nuclear reactors. And they might also know how much damage the accident of the nuclear power plant would give and they would bear huge burden.

Why did the electric companies build nuclear power plants and have they been operating them?

The reason is simple. That is "supports of Japanese government".

Nuclear power plant system isn't totally "efficient". If electric companies bear all of the cost of nuclear power generation system, it's hard to think that they wouldn't select nuclear power generation as a business judgment. In fact Japanese government will pay the compensation of the accident of the Fukushima Dai-ich nuclear power plants for TEPCO. If they don't pay it, TEPCO will be bankrupt.

Japanese government has been promoting nuclear power generation system as a national policy. They have paid the cost, which the electric companies should primarily pay, and the electric companies are under the control of the government. So the nuclear power generation, which pure private company can't operate, was selected and operated by the electric power companies.

I'm a conservative of a Hayek way. I don't trust a rational decision of a few excellent persons, but I can trust more a collective decision, such as a tradition or market. If the government had not choice the policy of promoting nuclear power generation and they left it on the decision of market without privilege measures, the electrical power companies would never choice it because of high risks of it.

We, Japanese, should have been saying "No" to nuclear. This is my opinion.

We have to develop alternative energy replaced nuclear power at state level by gathering all of technologies, wisdom and social capital. If people all over the world laughed at us and said "Nuclear power is the most effective power generation system, and Japanese people are so silly that they don't use it," we have to keep the allergy to nuclear by the experience of nuclear bombs. We must have made the development of power generation without nuclear power the main policy after World War II.

This should be the way to take our collective responsibility for the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These fundamental ethics and norms were necessary for us. We should send social messages, and this would have been a chance for our, Japanese, to contribute to the world truly. But we missed that important road, because we take an easy road of the standard of "efficiency" on our rapid economic development.

I don't like to link the problem of nuclear power generation with "the allergy to nuclear bombs" and I don't think of the nuclear power generation with the ethics for nuclear bombs and the victims of them.

Of course there are a lot of unethical aspects of nuclear power generation in Japan. Japanese government and urban population have impressed rural population with risks of nuclear power generation in return for huge subsidies. The government and electrical power companies ran a campaign for the safety of nuclear power generation, even though they actually knew its potential danger. There were the dubious flows of money related to building nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants can’t be operated without many radiation-exposed lower labors, and they actually run without any plan of disposal of nuclear wastes. There is collusion between bureaucrats, politicians and big business, so called "an Atomic Village".

But should these ethical problems relate to "the allergy to nuclear bombs"? I don't think so. Can this kind of approaches prevent similar problems? I doubt it. Japan was dropped nuclear bombs and an earthquake country. The fact that Japan is inappropriate for nuclear power plants because of frequent earthquakes is independent of the experience of nuclear attacks in World War II. There may be a lot of places where are inappropriate for nuclear power plants for many reasons, but how do they stop the nuclear power plant there? At least it isn't "a collective responsibility for the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki".

Russians, who caused Chernobyl catastrophe and is promoting export of nuclear power plants now, should be blamed ethically. Do they really access enough the technological safety of their nuclear power plants and operation of their plants by people of the countries where they export plants? It's also true of Japanese nuclear plant manufactures.

But the experiences of nuclear attacks have deep and ethical relationship with nuclear weapons. Japanese people have strong consensus against the possession of nuclear weapons supporting by the experiences of nuclear attacks.

Although Japanese army doesn't have nuclear weapons, we are under the nuclear umbrella of US army and we actually permit US army to bring nuclear weapons into their bases in Japan. This fact is unethical, but it is a quite difficult problem between ethics and national security. Although I feel guilt, I accept the fact that we are under the nuclear umbrella positively. I think that passive acceptance and implicit assumption are unfair.

Jun 18, 2011

How to Meet a Friend in the Stone Age

Do you remember Palm OS PDAs? I had used WorkPad made by IBM not Apple, although its name included "Pad", (now that ThinkPad is made by Lenovo, who?) But I already had forgotten how to write Graphiti of Palm OS. WorkPad, with a small white and black display and stylus (I'm not talking about Nintendo DS), was so cool, wasn't it? But now I've returned to a notebook and a pen and enjoyed the feeling of the pen running on the paper, because I'm a Stone Age man.

My wife took a photograph album of her trip to Nepal in her university days. She and I saw full of photographs of beautiful views of Himalayan Mountains, Buddhist statues, Nepalese people and young my wife, of course. In the photograph album there are not only photographs but also lots of the other things, such as tickets, broachers, post cards, pieces of newspapers and so on. The memories of her trip were packed into this photograph album. But it was too heavy to hold it in my hands for long periods of time. At least it was heavier than the iPad.

Well, anyway, I'd like to talk about how to meet friends in the Stone Age. If you are interested in the Stone Age, take a look at this journal. I promise that you must be fascinated by the ancient wisdom and technology in the Stone Age.

So let's go to the Stone Age!

You know Clint Eastwood, don't you? He's been making the great films vigorously in the 21st century, (it's one of the biggest miracles in the Iron age, isn't it?) but he is basically a Stone Age man.

In his film "Dirty Harry" public phone system, the representative Stone Age technology, was used effectively. A kidnapper called up Harry, who was a detective in the San Francisco Police Department, by a public phone. In the middle of the night a public phone settled in the park was ringing, and Harry ran to get the phone. The kidnapper ordered him to run to the next public phone. And Harry ran to the next public phone and he'd been getting more exhausted.

In the Stone Age public the phone was actually only a way to contact someone far away out of their home or office, but the public phone system had a fatal defect. When I used public phones, I could only contact someone in their home or office, whose telephone number I knew. I had to know where they were in order to contact them. The kidnapper watched Harry, so he knew where he was, but usually when I want to contact someone, I wouldn't know where they were! Otherwise we should use a signal fire or a drum.

When I had an appointment to meet a friend outside, I went to the appointed place and at the appointed time, just waiting for their arrival. That's all. There was nothing else to do. Sometimes I couldn't meet them, and then I left a message on a message board. This message board was not software in the Internet but hardware in the real world, which was made of wood painted with green or black.

In the Stone Age in Japan most railway stations had message boards, on which were usually full of graffiti. I don't know if there is an example of a message board excavated in the ruin of railway stations abroad. (In my childhood I didn't believe that railways would exist in the 21st century.)

I found space to write a message on it with a piece of white chalk, such as "I've been waiting for you for an hour, FXXX XXX! I'll be back home now." Of course I knew that it was no use leaving such a message. That's it. That's the way of living in the Stone Age.

I had made an appointment to meet my friend in front of Cologne Cathedral just by mail (of course it was "real mail" but not "e-mail".) I was really glad to see him! It's the miracle of the Stone Age, isn't it? You, Iron Age people, never know such a delight.

Jun 16, 2011

I'd Like to Take the Day off Today.

I've caught a bad cold.

I've suffered from much fever but felt so cold.

I sent my boss e-mail "I'd Like to Take the Day off Today."

What I can do now is just taking medicine and going to bed.


Jun 14, 2011

Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia International Prize "As an Unrealistic Dreamer"

Haruki Murakami criticized Japanese Government, TEPCO and Japanese people for the accidents of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants in his speech on Catalonia International Prize.

I don't agree with all of his opinions, in fact Haruki Murakami is criticized for this speech in Japan.

But his speech caused discussions about the nuclear power and these discussions are very important, so I think it's worth
translating it into English.

I know that it's too long to upload it as a journal on a weblog, but I want as many people as possible to read it, so I'll translate it as follows.

Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia International Prize "As an Unrealistic Dreamer".

The last time when I visited to Barcelona was the spring for two year ago. When I took part of my autograph event in Barcelona, I was surprised that so many readers came. They lined up to wait for getting my autographs. It took more than one and half hour to sign for all of them, because many women of my readers wanted to kiss me. It took much time.

I've taken part of autograph events in many other cities all over the world, but only in Barcelona women wanted to kiss me. I found that Barcelona was a wonderful city from this fact. I'm very glad to come back to this city, which have a long history and a high culture.

But I’m sorry that I have to talk about a more serious story than kissing, today.

As you may know, at 2:46 pm on March eleventh the great earthquake struck the northeast area of Japan. This earthquake was so great that the earth rotation period got faster and a day got shorter 1.8 seconds.

The damage of the earthquake itself was quite serious, but the tsunami after the earthquake caused more serious damage. In some place the tsunami became 39 meters high wave. Since 39 meters high wave came, people couldn't save their lives even to run up the tenth floor of a common building. People living near coast couldn't run away, and about 24,000 people were afflicted and about 9,000 of them are still missing. The great wave over banks took them away, and we've not been able to find their bodies yet. Many of them went under the cold sea. When I think of it and I imagine that I suffered from such a tragedy, I really feel a constriction in my chest. Most survivors also lost their families, friends, houses, properties, communities and bases for their lives. There were villages that were destroyed completely. Many people were deprived of their hope for living.

Being Japanese might mean that living with natural disasters. Typhoons pass through most Japanese territory from summer to autumn. Every year they cause great damages and many lives are lost. There are many active volcanoes in every region. And of course there are many earthquakes. Japan mounts dangerously on the four huge plats in the east end of the Asian Continent. It's said that we almost live on the nest of earthquakes.

We can expect time and route of typhoon to some extent, but we can't predict when and where an earthquake will occur. What we only know is that this isn't the last great earthquake and another great earthquake will happen in the near future. Many specialists predict that a magnitude 8 earthquake will strike Tokyo area in twenty or thirty years. It will happen 10 years later or tomorrow afternoon. No one knows how large damage we will receive precisely, when an inland earthquake strike such a density city like Tokyo.

But there are 13 millions people living "ordinary" lives only in Tokyo area. They take crowded trains to go to offices, and work in skyscrapers. Even after this earthquake I've never heard that a population of Tokyo declines.

Why? You might ask me. Why can so many people live ordinary lives in such a horrible place? Don't they go out of their mind by fear?

We have the word "mujo (無常)" in Japanese. It means that nothing lasting forever. Everything born in this world always has been changing and will disappear after all. There is nothing eternal or immutable, which we can rely on. This view of the world was derived from Buddhism, but the idea "mujo" was burn into the spirit of Japanese people, and unchangeably took over from ancient as an ethnic mentality in the other way of Buddhism.

The idea "everything just has gone" is the view of resignation. We think that it's no use going against the nature, but Japanese people have positively found the ways of beauty in this resignation.

We love cherry blossoms in spring, fireflies in summer and red leaves in autumn in the nature. We think it's obvious that we watch them eagerly, collectively and customarily. It's quite crowed and it's difficult to make a reservation of hotel in the famous places of cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves in their high season.


Cherry blossoms, fireflies and red leaves loose their beauty in a very short time. We go far away to watch the glorious moment. And we are rather relieved to confirm that they are not just beautiful but scattering fleetingly, losing their small lights and their vivid beauty. We find peace of mind in the fact that the peak of beauty has passed away and disappeared.

I don't know if natural disasters have affected such a mentality, but I'm sure that we've collectively overcome natural disasters striking one after another and accepted as things that we couldn't avoid in some sense through this mentality. These experiences and sense of beauty might affect us.

Most Japanese were deeply shocked by this earthquake, and we can't accept the scales of its damage until now, even if we were used to earthquakes. We feel unhelpful and are anxious about the future of this country.

Finally we'll revitalize our minds and stand up to revive ourselves. I'm not afraid about it very well. That's just the way how we've been surviving in our long history. We can't help but standing still by shock. Broken houses can be rebuilt and broken road can be restored.

In a word we rent a room on the planet earth without any permission. The planet earth never asks us to live on it. If it shakes a little, we can't complain about it, because sometimes shaking is one of the properties of the earth. Whether we like or not, we have to live with the nature.

What I want to talk about here isn't a thing like buildings or roads, which can be restored, but things which can't be restored easily, such as ethics or norms. They aren't the things, which have their shapes. Once they are broken, it's hard to restore them, because we can't restore them with machines, labors and materials.

What I talk about is concretely the Fukushima nuclear power plants.

As you may know, at least three of six nuclear plants, which got damages by the earthquake and the tsunami and have not been restored yet, have been spreading radioactivity around them. Meltdown occurred, and soil around them has been contaminated. Water, which was contaminated by radioactivity, has been drained to the ocean around them. Winds are spreading radioactivity to wider areas.

Hundreds of thousands people had to evacuate, and farms, ranches, factories and ports are abandoned without any people. People, who had lived there and may not be able to return there. I'm really sorry that the damage of this accident will spread around the countries.

The cause why such a tragic accident occurred is almost clear. People who built these nuclear plants had not supposed such a big tsunami would strike them. Some specialists pointed out that the same scale of tsunami used to strike these regions and insisted that the safety standard should be revised, but the electric power companies ignore them, because the electric power companies, as commercial companies, didn't want to invest much money to prepare for the tsunami, which will occur once in hundreds years.

The government, which should manage the safety of nuclear plants strictly, seemed to lower the safety standers in order to promote nuclear power generation.

We should investigate these reasons, and if we find mistakes, they should be corrected. More than hundreds of thousands people were forced to leave their own lands and change their lives. It's right that we must be angry about it.

I don't know why Japanese people rarely get angry. They are good at being patient but aren't very good at getting angry. They might be different from Barcelona citizens. But now that Japanese people will get angry seriously.

At the same time we have to denounce ourselves, who had allowed or tolerate these disordered systems.

This accident related to our ethics and norms.

As you may know, we, Japanese people, only have the experiences of receiving nuclear bomb attacks. In August 1945, US bombers dropped nuclear bombs at two big cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more then two hundreds thousands people died. Most of them were unarmed common people. But I don't ask if it was right or not, now.

What I want to point out here is that not only two hundreds thousands people died just after the nuclear bombing, but also many survivors would die suffering from radiation with long time. We've learned how large damages radioactivity caused to the world and people from the victims of the nuclear bombs.

We had two fundamental policies after World War II. One was the recovery of economy and the other was the renunciation of war. We would never use armed forces, and get more wealthy economically and pursuit the peace. These two things became new policies of Japan.

These words are carved on the memorial for the victims of the nuclear bomb in Hiroshima.

"Please rest in peace. We will never make the same mistake again."

These are lofty words. These words mean that we are victims and assailants at the same time. Before the predominant power of nuclear, we are victims and assailants. Since we are threatened by the power of nuclear, we all are victims. Since we use it and couldn't prevent using it, we all are assailants, too.

66 years after the nuclear bombing, Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants have been spreading radioactivity for three months, and contaminating the soil, the ocean and the air around them. No one knows how and what time we can stop it. This is the second damage by nuclear in Japan, but at this time anybody didn't drop a nuclear bomb. We, Japanese people, caused it and made mistakes, and have been destroying our own lands and lives.

Why did this happen? Where had our feeling of rejection of nuclear, which we had held after World War II, gone? What made our peaceful and wealthy society, which we constantly had been pursuing, spoiled?

The reason is simple. That is "efficiency".

The electrical power companies had been insisting that nuclear plants are efficient power generation system. It's the system that they were able to get profit from. And especially after the oil shock, Japanese government doubted the stability of supply of petroleum and had been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy. The electrical power companies had spent huge money on advertisements to bribe the media to impress Japanese people with the illusion that nuclear power generation was completely safe.

And then we found that 30 percent of electric power generation became to be supplied by nuclear power. Japan, which is a small islands country frequently struck by the earthquake, become the third highest nuclear power generating country, without notice of Japanese people.

We had gone beyond the point of no return. The accomplished fact was created. People, who are afraid of nuclear power generation, are asked the threatening question "Do you allow the lack of electricity?" Japanese people began to think that it couldn't be helped that we relied on nuclear power. It's almost torture to live without air conditioning in hot and humid Japan. People, who doubt nuclear power generation, were labeled as "unrealistic dreamers".

Finally we are here. Nuclear power plants, which should be efficient, become in the awful condition like opening the cover of the hell. This is the reality.

The reality, which people promoting nuclear power generation insisted, isn't the reality at all but just the superficial "convenience". They replaced the problem with something else by referring to "convenience" as "reality".

This is the collapse of the "technology" myth, which Japanese people had been proud of, and the defeat of our Japanese ethics and norms, which had allowed such deception. We blame at the electrical companies and Japanese government. It's right and necessary, but at the same time we should accuse ourselves. We are victims and assailants at the same time. We have to review the fact seriously. If we don't do so, we'll make the same mistake again.

"Please rest in peace. We will never make the same mistake again."

We have to curve these words on our mind.

Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, who was a main person of the development of nuclear bomb, was quite shocked by horrible condition in Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused by nuclear bombs. And he said to president Truman "Our hands are bloody."

Truman took a clean and neat white handkerchief from his pocket and said "Wipe your hands by this handkerchief."

But of course there is no clean handkerchief in the world, which we can wipe so much blood with.

We, Japanese, should have been saying "No" to nuclear. This is my opinion.

We have to develop alternative energy replaced nuclear power at state level by gathering all of technologies, wisdom and social capital. If people all over the world laughed at us and said "Nuclear power is the most effective power generation system, and Japanese people are so silly that they don't use it," we have to keep the allergy to nuclear by the experience of nuclear bombs. We must have made the development of power generation without nuclear power the main policy after World War II.

This should be the way to take our collective responsibility for the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These fundamental ethics and norms were necessary for us. We should send social messages, and this would have been a chance for our, Japanese, to contribute to the world truly. But we missed that important road, because we take an easy road of the standard of "efficiency" on our rapid economic development.

As I mentioned, we can overcome the damage of natural disaster, even how it is horrible and serious. And sometimes it makes our mind stronger and deeper to overcome it. We can manage to accomplish it.

It is the job for the specialists to restore broken roads and buildings, but it is the duty for all of us to regenerate damaged ethics and norms. We start it from mourning the dead people, taking care of victims of this disaster and natural feeling of not wasting their pains and injuries. It will be an ingenuous and silent handwork, which require us patience. We have to join the forces to do it, as if all of a village people go to fields to cultivate them and to plant seeds in a sunny spring morning. Everyone does what they can do holding their heart together.

We, professional authors, who are specialized in languages, can positively contribute to this large scale collective mission. We should connect new ethics and norms to new words, and create and build new lively stories. We'll be able to share these stories. They have rhythm, which encourage people, such as a song, which farmers sing while planting seeds. We had rebuilt Japan, which had been completely destroyed by World War II. We have to return to the starting point.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this speech, we are living in the changing and impermanent world "mujo (無常)". Every life will be just changing and die out. Human beings have no power before the great nature. The recognition of impermanence is one of the basic ideas in Japanese culture. Although we respect things passing away and think to live in fragile world with full of dangers, at the same time we have silent wills to be living and positive minds.

I'm proud that my works are highly regarded by Catalan people and I was given such a great prize. We live apart from each other and speak different languages. We have different cultures. But at the same time we are the world citizens, who share the same problems, joy and sadness. So stories written by Japanese author were translated into Catalan language, and Catalan people have picked them up. I'm glad to share the same stories with you. Dreaming is the job for novelists, but sharing dreams is more important job for us. We can't be novelists without the sense of sharing something.

I know that Catalan people have overcome many hardships, and have been living vigorously and keeping a rich culture in your history. We must share a lot of things.

It's really wonderful that you and we equally can make "the house of unrealistic dreamers" in Japan and Catalonia, and "the moral community", which are open to every country and culture. This is the start point of our reborn, since we experienced many sever disasters and terrorisms recently. We must not be afraid of dreaming. We should never allow the evil dogs named "efficiency" or "convenience" to catch up us. We must be "unrealistic dreamers", who go forward vigorously. Human beings must die and disappear, but humanity will be lasting, and will be inherited forever. At first we must believe in this power.

At the end I'll give this prize money to victims of the earthquake and the accident of the nuclear plants. I'm deeply grateful to Catalan people who give me such a chance and people in Generalitat de Catalunya. And I express my deepest sympathies on victims of the earthquake in Lorca the other day.

I can't translate his literary expressions very well.

While I was translating it into English, I deeply think of the problem of nuclear plants. I'll write about it on this weblog.

Jun 12, 2011

Japanese Smelling like English and English Smelling like Japanese

I wrote that the Japanese language had been deeply influenced by foreign languages in the journal "Multilingualism and Literature". I'd like to look at some particular cases in today's journal.

At the end of the journal "How Many Friends Can You Keep?", I wrote "I'm proud of the quality of my friends, not the quantity of them."

It's quite difficult to translate the expression "be proud of" into Japanese. If you looked it up in an English Japanese dictionary, you would find that the meaning of "be proud of" was "を誇る (wo hokoru)". If I follow the dictionary, I should translate that phrase into Japanese as follows.


This Japanese phrase sounds a little unnatural to me, and I guess its nuance is different from what I mean in the original English phrase.

When I hear "を誇る (wo hokoru)", I imagine that one is proud of something quite precious, such as the Novel Prize. I think that the expression "be proud of" in English is used for more common things. (Is it true?) The phrase "I'm proud of the quality of my friends" doesn't sound unnatural, but "友だちの質(quality of my friends)" is too trivial to "誇る (hokoru)" in Japanese.

There is no Japanese expression which is precisely corresponds to the English expression "be proud of". I guess that the origin of the expression "を誇る (wo hokoru)" is a translation of "be proud of". When I hear the expression "を誇る (wo hokoru)" in Japanese, I am reminded of the English expression "be proud of".

I wrote about the word "和臭 (washu)" in the journal "Smells Like English Sprit". Intellectuals in Japan used to write classic Chinese prose and poems (of course I can't write them), but they were written in Japanese style. They are called "和臭がする (washu ga suru)" (smelling like Japanese). In this sense the Japanese expression "を誇る (wo hokoru)" smells like English.

In this case English influenced Japanese. Sometimes Japanese could influence English. English prose, which is written by Japanese speakers, might smell like Japanese.

In Japanese we tend to avoid assertive sentences. When I write Japanese prose, I often use the expression "と思う (to think that)" or "だろう (maybe or might be)".

On lang8 I translated the phrase "I'm proud of the quality of my friends, not the quantity of them." into Japanese as follows.


If I translate it directly into English, it would be "I don't want to be proud of the quantity of my friends but the quality of them". I used the expression "思いたい (want to be)", because I'd like to avoid an assertive sentence.

When I write in English, I often use the expressions "I think", "I guess", "I would like to", "might be" and so on. I "think" that it "might" not be grammatically incorrect, but I "guess" that it "would" sound unnatural for native English speakers, "wouldn't" it?

Does my English smell like Japanese?

Jun 10, 2011

Ojizosan Is Always Watching for Us.

I found a little good article about this earthquake on Asahi Shinbun (newspaper), July 9th, 2011.

This article was about Ojizosan (お地蔵さん). I'll explain abaout Ojizosan a little before translating this article into English.

Ojizosan is a stone Buddha statue in the shape of a child. You can find them by the side of roads in rural areas. Usually Ojizosan are very close and familiar to common people (, some Buddha statues are so sacred that we respect them but feel remote from them at the same time ). There are many folk stories that Ojizosan helped honest common people, such as "Kasa Jizo (笠地蔵)".

Six statues of Ojizosan (お地蔵さん) have turned to Sakae village, where a large earthquake struck, because they care about the village people.

After the North Nagano earthquake occurred on the day after the great East Japan earthquake, six statues of Ojizosan at Iiyama city, Nagano turned all together to Sakae village, which received the biggest damage from this earthquake. Fortunately there were no fatalities by this earthquake, so the village people said "Ojizosan have saved us, and have watched over our revival."

In the early morning of March 12th the North Nagano earthquake struck Sakae village three times. The earthquake cut roads and railways, and 804 households and 2,042 people, which makes up 90% of the population of the village, got evacuation orders.

Ojizosan is located in Nishiotaki, Iiyama city next to Sakae village. There were seven statues of Ojizosan. One of them was set firmly on the base and six others of them turned 90 degrees and have watched Sakae village, because of the shock of the earthquake.

People in Sakae village have a very hard time now, so it's a tiny but precious miracle for them.

Jun 8, 2011

How Many Friends Can You Keep?

I've been enjoying the Internet for fifteen years.

Everyday I write a Weblog in English and Japanese. I'm really addicted to the Internet.

On the Internet I can express what I think and feel freely, and sometimes I get responses to them. In the real world it's not easy for me to be free from the bonds of society. And my taste is so specific that it's difficult to get to know people who are interested in the same subject. But on the Internet I can find people who I can talk with, that I would have never known without the Internet. I like to see my weblog's access log. When I find that someone has accessed my blog from Rwanda or Saudi Arabia, I get very happy. My friends on the Internet are irreplaceable to me.

But I feel strange, when I find a person that follows thousands or tens of thousands of people on twitter. How does they read so many tweets? Of course they never reads all the tweets, which they follows. I've found the same thing on facebook and Mixi. How many friends can you keep?

In the real world I only have a few friends. It takes much time and energy to get along with friends seriously. I want to cherish my precious friends, so I can't keep many friends. It's the same as on the Internet.

I'd like to read weblogs and posts of my friends carefully, and make good replies to them. I always want to write a journal and a post that makes my friends laugh and feel happy, and are useful for them. It takes a lot of time to do so.

I can't imagine how people, who have full of addresses in their cell phones, associate their friend. People, who have tens of thousands of followers, want to show having so many friends, do they? What does it mean? Exhibitionism?

I also am an exhibitionist, so I wrote journals on a weblog every day. But I'm proud of the quality of my friends, not the quantity of them.

I heard that there was a usage of singular "they" and I used it in this journal. Is it a common usage?

Jun 6, 2011

Multilingualism and Literature

Recently I wrote a journal about "English literature".

I got a message from a graduate student, who is majoring in English literature. In this message she told me that "English literature" basically meant literature written in the English language.

Now the backgrounds of authors of English literature are quite various, and the diversity of them gives English literature fertility. For example, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul and Kazuo Ishiguro. But when you think of James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Conrad, you will find that it is not new that English literature has diversity.

Nowadays in Japanese literature there are authors, who are non-Japanese native speakers, for example Hideo Levy (リービ英雄) and Yang Yi (楊逸). Lu Xun (魯迅) wrote in Japanese, so it is not new in Japanese literature, either.

When modern Japanese literature was established in the Meiji era, most authors were quite good at European languages. Soseki Natsume (夏目漱石) had been a scholar of English literature before he began to write novels. Ogai Mori (森鷗外) was famous for his translation of European poems. Koyo Ozaki (尾崎紅葉), who is thought to have written traditional Japanese novels now, read many western novels and used their plots for his novels. Before the Meiji era, Japanese literature had poems and stories but no modern novels, so they eagerly studied western literature to create modern Japanese literature and modern Japanese prose.

It is said that the first modern Japanese prose was written by Shimei Futabatei (二葉亭四迷). It was a translation of Ivan Turgenev's short story. When he wrote a novel, he wrote it in Russian first and then he translated it into Japanese.

Soseki Natsume was familiar with English literature, classic Chinese literature and classic Japanese literature. He tried to make up a universal theory of "world literature", when he studied in London. Finally he failed to make up it, but I think that he might have tried to create novels of "world literature".

Modern Japanese literature and prose were deeply influenced by western languages, in other words, they can be said to be based on western languages. In the first place Japanese prose is based on classic Chinese. We cannot think about Japanese literature and language without influences of foreign languages.

Japanese literature is relating to foreign literature and languages now. Haruki Murakami is deeply influenced by American literature. His first novel "Hear the Wind Sing" almost seems to be a translation of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Now his novels influence literature all over the world through translations into many languages. They became the "world literature", which Soseki Natsume tried to create.

Yoko Tawada (多和田葉子) wrote novels in Japanese and in German at the same time. She creates new Japanese literature and German literature through doing so.

I guess that the same thing happened in many other languages. Before the Russian Revolution, the Russian nobility spoke the French language and read French literature. I don’t know about the history of Russian literature and language, but I think that French literature and language might have influenced Russian literature and language, just as Russian literature and language influenced Japanese literature and language. And then Russian literature, for example Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov, spread all over the world through translations.

Languages cross over each other, and literature is basically multilingual.

Jun 4, 2011

Japanese Literature as “Colonial Literature”

I use an SNS called "Dokusho Meter (読書メーター)" (, which means "the reading meter") in order to record the books, which I have read.

Through Dokusho Meter I got a message from a graduate student, who found that I have read some of Michel Foucault's books. She wrote that she was studying English literature and trying to read Foucault’s books.

When I made a reply to her, I wondered if "English literature" was the literature that was written by British (or English) authors or the literature that was written in English language.

In university I took a class on James Joyce's novel "Dubliners", where an old teacher from Ireland taught us. I was deeply impressed with that class and I remember it very clearly. I've liked "Dubliners" until now and sometimes I read it again. (Joyce's novels written after "Dubliners" are too difficult for me.)

By the way, was James Joyce one of the "English literature" authors? He wrote novels in English, but he was born and brought up in Ireland, which was a colony of the UK at that time, and he wrote most his novels in the continental Europe. His works might be categorized into in "English literature", because Ireland was a part of the UK at his age, but Joyce might have thought that his works were "Irish literature".

There is literally works written in English language all over the world. Where does English literature begin and end? I think that "Irish literature" and "American literature" are independent of "English literature". And then the works of Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul and Kazuo Ishiguro are "English literature", aren’t they?

Salman Rushdie was born in India and an ex-Muslim. He went to university in UK and he has British nationality. Now he is living in the USA. Most of his novels are about India, where he was born.

V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad and Tobago, which were colonies of UK at that time. He also went to university in UK. He is Indian descent, and he has British nationality. Now he is living in UK. Most of his works, which were written in English language, are about Trinidad and Tobago.

Kazuo Ishiguro was born in Japan and moved to UK in his childhood. He was brought up in UK, and he is a native English speaker. One of his novels is about Japan, but he doesn’t seem to be concern with Japan well.

If there were not three of them in "English literature", it would be much poorer than now.

Since English is a universal language, some of authors and works of English literature might have complicated descents. But when I think about it carefully, I find the same thing in "Japanese literature". There is "Zainichi literature" ("Zainichi" means people that were born and live in Japan, and have Korean nationality.) and Japanese literally works that were written by non Japanese native speakers, for example Hideo Levy and Yang Yi. I am sure that there were literally works, which written in Japanese language in Taiwan and Korea, when they were Japanese colonies, just as Joyce began to write his novels in Ireland, which was British colony at that time.

I watch a TV program that old people have been holding Kukai ("Kukai" is a meeting in which people make Haiku) in Taiwan. I think that it is a case of "Colonial literature" of Japan. Japanese government taught Taiwanese and Korean Japanese language in the colonial age, and many students came to study from Taiwan and Korea, so there must have been Japanese literally works written by Taiwanese and Koreans. Unfortunately I have not found such literally works and studies about them in Korea yet.

The first work of Kazuya Fukuda, one of the most influenced critics in Japan, "Strange Desolation (奇妙な廃墟)" was about French literature written by the authors, who cooperated with Nazi under Vichy Regime. In France they are almost ignored. Japanese literature as a "colonial literature" might be ignored in Korea, but from the stand of the view of studying Japanese literature, it should be studied.
After I retire, I will go to university to study Japanese literature as a "colonial literature".

A postscript:

After I finished writing this journal, I found the works of Rojin (魯迅), one of the greatest author in modern Chinese literature, written in Japanese language.

Jun 2, 2011

Back to the Past

I have written journals about "the Stone Age", which I call the era before the spread of the Internet. ("I could survive in the Stone Age.", "Travel in the Stone Age and Travel in the Iron Age", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "The Reason Why I Won't Buy an iPad", "Sending Letters by Airmail from America") Today I'd like to write a journal about the Bubble Age in Japan.

Do you know the Roaring Twenties in the USA? After the end of World War I, the economic growth of USA was quite rapid and the USA became one of the great powers in the world in 1920s. People in USA enjoyed their wealth and lived luxurious lives, which F. Scott Fitzgerald described in the novel "The Great Gatsby" and other stories.

The Bubble Age was the Roaring Twenties in Japan. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the economic growth of Japan was also quite rapid, and many Japanese Companies became global and bought a mount of assets all over the world, for example Sony used to be like what Apple is now, and Mitsubishi Jisho bought Rockefeller Center in New York. Some people believed Japan would become one of the great powers, just as China is thought to be one now.

Both the Roaring Twenties and the Bubble Age were suddenly ended by a heavy fall in stock and land prices. After the Roaring Twenties, the world got into the Great Depression, and after the Bubble Age, Japan got into the Lost Twenty Years, which Japan hasn't been able to recover from until now.

I lived in the Bubble Age in my youth, so my generation is called the Bubble Generation. We, the Bubble Generation, are quite frivolous and extravagant, and love luxuries. For example European luxury brand products, sports cars, parties at discos (no club), traveling abroad and so on.

In the Bubble Age, most companies hired too many graduates, and now excess personnel has become a burden of companies. I heard a story that on the wall of the ancient Egypt the words that criticized young people at that age. But young people in present-day Japan are much greater than our generation.

They are thoughtful, diligent and modest. We just played for our plessure in our university days, but they do volunteer activities for society. In my company they are realistic and work hard. They seriously care about the environment and never want to drive sports cars, which waste a lot of gas.

They might think our generation is quite silly, but I really respect them. At the same time I take pity on them, because they haven't experienced good economic times. But they'll say to me "We don't care at all."