Dec 31, 2013

The Ideal That the Country Japan Was Founded on

I don’t know why NHK broadcasted the series of Oliver Stone’s documentary “Untold History of the United State” at the end of the year. Anyway I watched Episode 7, which was about the Vietnam War.

Of course, Oliver Stone severely criticized LBJ and Richard Nixon. From my stand point of view, they should be blamed for mismanagement about Vietnam War, but at the same time they also made some achievements, for example LBJ’s the Great Society’s programs and Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.

It is interesting for me as a Japanese to know that Oliver Stone and Ronald Reagan seemed to believe in the same justice of America. Ronald Reagan insisted that his policy embodied the ideal of the U.S., but Oliver Stone thought that he betrayed it. In the documentary, Oliver Stone quoted the words of John Adams, which represented the ideal that the U.S. was founded on, in order to blame Richard Nixon.

There are many people who criticized the government and politicians in Japan, too. But both of them don’t seem to have the common ideal, just like what Oliver Stone and Ronald Reagan do. Japanese people ever have had the ideal that the country Japan is founded on, haven’t they?

American people think the United States of America as an artificial product, which was made in order to achieve their ideal, but Japanese people think the country Japan as a natural product, which has existed for many years.

Democracy is the ideal for the United States of America, but it is just one of the political systems for Japan. Winston Churchill said,“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Japanese people could understand what he meant.

I wrote, “Is Japan really a democratic country? The answer is that "yes, it is formally." in the entry “Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?”

Although Japan is now a democratic country, Japanese people don’t believe in the ideal of democracy. There is a country that doesn’t have the ideal that it was founded on.

Dec 29, 2013

A Hot Spring in Snow

Every winter vacation, my wife and I went to a hot spring to recovery our exhaustion, which has accumulated for a year. This year, we stayed at a hot spring inn in Kaminoyama, Yamagata prefecture, which was full of snow.

I love a hot spring in snow, because the contrast between the warmness of a hot spring and the chillyness of the snow is really nice.

Yamagata prefecture is on the Sea of Japan, where snow falls heavily every winter season. Tokyo, was clear and sunny, but after crossing Ou Mountains, it turned to be a snowy world.

Just after arriving at a hot spring inn, Meigetu-so, I rushed to a public bath.

It is wonderful to see snow falling while taking an open-air bath. The hot water warms my body and at the same time open air cools my head, so I can stay in the hot water for a long time. Fallen snow absorbed noises, and I listened just to hot water spring.

After taking the bath, we drank a lot of sake with nice fish dishes, while seeing snow falling in a warm room. Fish caught in the Sea of Japan is much more delicate and delicious than in the Pacific Ocean.

I feel like making harder next year, now.

Dec 21, 2013

Superman and the 442nd Regimental Combat team

The movie “Batman vs. Superman,” which is a sequel of “Man of Steel,” will be out in July 2015.

Batman and Superman are complete opposites in every aspect. Batman is the dark knight, but on the other hand the sun makes Superman a super hero. Bruce Wayne is a son of a millionaire in Gotham City, whose model is obviously New York City, but Clark Kent grew up in Smallville, Kansas.

It is most interesting that Superman who was born in the Planet Krypton is very patriotic, but Batman who is a born American doesn’t believe in his government.

In Frank Miller’s comics “Batman: the Dark Knight Returns,” Batman said to Superman, “You always say yes to anyone with a badge or a flag. No good,” while fighting against each other.

Superman’s patriotism reminds me the motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat team, “Go for Broke.”

In the period of World War II, Japanese American citizens in the U.S. were interned in camps, because they were thought to be anti-American, even though they had American citizenship.

Most members of the 442nd Regimental Combat team were young Japanese Americans whose parents were interned. They had to prove that they were the true Americans, and they fought bravely in Europe in World War II.

After Superman fought for life to save America and the Planet Earth, at the end of “Man of Steel,” General Swanwick talked with Superman.

General Swanwick: Then I'll ask the obvious question: How do we know you won't one day act against America's interests.
Superman: I grew up in Kansas, General. It's about as American as it gets. Look, I'm here to help. But it has to be on my own terms. And you have to convince Washington of that.
General Swanwick: Even if I were willing to try, what makes you think they'd listen?
Superman: I don't know, General. I guess I'll just have to trust you.

Superman has to keep trying to trust American people, so he keeps fighting for Americans like the 442nd Regimental Combat team, because he was born in a foreign planet.

Dec 16, 2013

Martina and Chris: A Real Friendship

I watched a documentary on TV called “unmatched” about the relationship between Martina Navrátilová and Chris Evert.

They were top tennis players in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, and they competed for the grand slum title countless times.

They were complete opposites. Martina said on the documentary, “Chris was the girl-next-door, but I was a muscular lesbian from a communist country.” They played tennis very differently. Martina always tried to rush to the net and Chris tried to make a passing shot on the baseline.

It is interesting that both their outsides and insides were in contrast to each other. Although Chris looked the girl-next-door, she was full of fighting spirit and cool on a court. Martina, on the other hand, was physically strong, and mentally vulnerable. Martina was hurt by being treated as if she was an evil when she played against Chris.

In the documentary, they talked to each other quite intimately, and they appeared to trust each other deeply. In her prime, Martina thoroughly beat Chris. Chris said, “Unfortunately she played better than I.” But Martina said, “Chris always covered for me, when the press criticized me.”

The documentary shed new light on their true friendship under the myth. It might be worth watching it, unless you're not a fan of tennis.

Dec 1, 2013

Three Photographs of Yellow Ginko Leaves

I had not been feeling well because of tonsillitis for two months. Now that I have gotten much better, I will try to write my first entry since October.

When I walked to the nearest subway station, I found that the morning sunlight was shining on the yellow leaves of a ginko tree. I tried to take a photograph of them with my iPhone.

I wanted to express the contrast between the yellow of the ginko leaves and the blue of the clear sky of early winter. The ginko tree was so big that it couldn't fit on the screen of my iPhone, and I was disappointed with the resulting photograph.

On another day, I went to Kishimojin shrine, which is a ten minutes walk from my house. There was a huge ginko tree full of bright yellow leaves. Of course, I could not take a photograph of its whole tree with my iPhone, so I wondered how I should crop it.

Just under the tree, yellow leaves were spread out like a yellow carpet. I shot a photograph of just the yellow leaves on the ground. I like the contrast between light and shadow on the yellow leaves and between the yellow of leaves and the red of the Shinto gate.

I looked up and I found the sunlight through yellow leaves, and I took a photograph that was full of the yellow.

In the end, I love this photograph best. I realized that when taking a photograph, how you crop an image is most important.

Sep 16, 2013

It Looked Directed in a Documentary-like Fashion, but It Was Too Dramatized: My Impression of the movie “Zero Dark Thirty”

This review may contain spoilers

I was interested in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” because I liked “Hurt Rocker,” but I have missed it until now. I found that it was shown in a theater for secondhand movies, and I went to see it.

Honestly, I was disappointed with it. I think that “Hurt Rocker” is much better than “Zero Dark Thirty.”

You know that this movie covers the true story about Death of Osama bin Laden, and it looked directed in a documentary-like fashion, for example moving grainy images shoot by a hand held camera. The back story is interesting, but the story is actually so dramatized that I couldn’t trust it.

The main character, Maya, was very capable and strong-willed, and her colleague, Jessica, was a nice person but frivolous. In the middle of the movie, she almost achieved a great deed. Before it became sure, she was already exited over it. When I saw this scene, I felt sure that she would tragically be dead.

In a stereotyped movie, someone that isn’t a main character became happy, and then they were hit by a tragedy. In “Zero Dark Thirty,” Jessica was killed by suicide bombing.

This suicide bombing is a true story. It is a problem that this movie described the real victim as a frivolous person in order to set the mood, isn’t it? I think that it is insufficiently deferential to her.

After losing a colleague, Maya started to think of her job as a personal revenge to Osama bin Laden. She found out where Osama’s compound was, and explained the member of SEALs that the object of their operation.
Maya: [to Navy SEALs] Quite frankly, I didn't even want to use you guys, with your dip and velcro and all your gear bullshit. I wanted to drop a bomb. But people didn't believe in this lead enough to drop a bomb. So they're using you guys as canaries. And, in theory, if bin Laden isn't there, you can sneak away and no one will be the wiser. But bin Laden is there. And you're going to kill him for me. 
It sounded quite unnatural for me. If she personally wanted SEALs to kill Osama, I couldn’t believe that she told, “You’re going to kill him FOR ME,” at all.

“ARGO” is based on a true story and dramatized well, too, but I love this movie. The true story of “ARGO” itself is somehow fantastic, and the movie is comedy, because no one was killed in it.

On the other hand, “Zero Dark Thirty” is based on a very serious true story and directed in documentary-like fashion, but in fact, it is too dramatized. It is deceptive.

Sep 15, 2013

A Quiet, Simple, and Elegant Film: My Impression of the Film “Barbara”

I visited Eastern Europe, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest, in March 1990. At that time, the Berlin Wall had already fallen, but Germany had not yet reunited.

People could freely come and go over the borders between East and West Germany. I went through Checkpoint Charlie to East Berlin, and I visited retro-future TV tower and saw Ladas running on street.

On a night train from Berlin to Prague, I asked a passenger sitting next to me if Germany would reunite within a year, and he answered that he didn’t believe it would happen so soon. But, in fact, the reunification of Germany took place in October later that year.

Although I had actually visited East Berlin, it is now almost impossible for me to believe that one half of Germany was a communist state just twenty-three years ago.


“Barbara” is a German film about people living in East Germany in 1980. Barbara is a doctor who is being watched by the secret police.

It is one of the greatest German films that I have ever seen. There is no exaggeration or omission in this film. Every element in it is essential and I couldn’t find that anything that was superfluous.

This film is very quiet, because there is no background music. That makes audience concentrated in every tiny sound. Barbara was always nervous about the secret police, so she got surprised when the doorbell started to ring, and the audience also got really surprised with the sound of the doorbell, and fully understood her emotion.

Nina Hoss, as Barbara, is also great and attractive. She doesn't overact her role at all, but accurately conveys Barbara thoughts and emotions. After seeing her performance, most actors and actress became to look unnatural.

This film is quiet, simple, and elegant. If you love films, I strongly recommend you to see it.

Sep 11, 2013

Do What You Feels Right, When You Have No Idea What I Should Do: My Impression of the Movie “Star Trek Into Darkness”

After work, I went to see “Star Trek Into Darkness.” It is a very interesting movie, I think.

Compared with “Man of Steel,” the visual effect of this movie looks cheaper, although that of “Man of Steel” is outstanding.

Actually, the biggest appeal of “Star Trek Into Darkness” isn’t visuals but dialogs between characters, especially Kirk and Spock. When I read the quotes of it, I found that the script was really well written.

Since I became a middle manager of my company, I have been thinking about management and leadership for two years. “Star Trek” series are very helpful for it.

Spock is always quite logical and clear, so he is an extremely capable manager. Then, why is Kirk a captain of the USS Enterprise?

The answer is that management and leadership aren’t different. Spock is the best manager, but he isn’t good enough for a leader, and Kirk is inferior to Spock as a manager, but he is the leader of the USS Enterprise.

I think that the most important roles of leaders are motivating people and making a decision.

Motivation of human beings isn’t necessary logical. Sometimes emotional sympathy moves people more than reasonable explanation. It is important for leaders to express what they feel. Spock isn’t good at expressing emotion at all. Although Kirk is too emotional as a manager, it is one of the most important qualities of a leader.

Leaders have to make a decision, even when they don’t have any idea what they should do logically. Such a decision is often critical. Spock can point out only what shouldn’t do, but he can’t decide what really they will do. Kirk is sometimes thoughtless and makes a mistake, but he can make such a difficult and critical decision.

I’d like to show a typical dialog between Spock and Kirk.
Spock: Captain, I cannot allow you to do this!
Bones: Jim, you're not actually going after this guy, are you?
James T. Kirk: I have no idea what I'm supposed to do! I only know what I CAN do!
Spock warned Kirk that his idea was too dangerous, but he couldn’t show what they should do. On the other hand, Kirk decided to do what he could do.

Spock is appropriate for the lieutenant of the USS Enterprise and Kirk is appropriate for the captain.

Do what I feels right, when I have no idea what I should do.

Sep 9, 2013

Put Aside Logic. Do What Feels Right: My Impression of the Movie “Star Trek” directed by J. J. Abrams

First of all, I'm not a Trekky at all, but I'm interested in "Star Trek Into Darkness," because I heard that the director J. J. Abrams said that he wasn't a Trekky either, so he made it not for Trekkies but for people who hadn't seen Star Trek yet.

Prior to seeing “Star Trek into Darkness,” I saw the previous movie “Star Trek,” which was also directed by J. J. Abrams. It was interesting enough for me not to change my mind about seeing “Star Trek Into Darkness,” though I don’t know whether the Trekkies were satisfied with it.

Especially, I empathized with Mr. Spock.

People around me often say that I am very argumentative, and I myself agree with that. When I argue with someone, I try to be logical, and I don’t look emotional at all, like Mr. Spock.

Sometime, I feel that I am really not emotional at all, but I might be wrong. In fact I am so emotional that I suppress my emotion without intension. Of course, that is unhealthy.

In this movie, Mr. Spock encountered a deep tragedy, and he tried to keep being logical. But in the end, he lost control of his emotion, because his sadness was too deep to suppress it. He said, “I am emotionally compromised and no longer fit for command,” and gave up his duty.

I also did the same thing, so I understand Mr. Spock very well. Now I know how dangerous it is to suppress emotions.

In the end of this movie, Mr. Spock said, “Put aside logic. Do what feels right.” I understand that it is important to “put aside logic,” but I don’t fully understand “what feels right,” yet.

If I release my emotion, will I understand “what feels right”?

Sep 5, 2013

The Problem of Mistranslation of “Norwegian Wood”

The title of the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” was translated as “ノルウェイの森 (noruei no mori)” in Japanese. “noruei” means “Norway”, and “no” means “of,” and “mori” means “forest,” so “ノルウェイの森 (noruei no mori)” means “Forest of Norway.”

Some one pointed out that this was mistranslation, because “Norwegian Wood” means Norwegian wood furniture. Basically I agree with it.

I looked up the word “wood” in a dictionary.
1 [uncountable and countable] the material that trees are made of 
Put some more wood on the fire. 
a polished wood floor 
soft/hard woodPine is a soft wood. 
Her house was made of wood. 
a piece of wood 
2 [countable] also the woods a small forest: 
a walk in the woods
The word “Wood” in “Norwegian Wood” isn’t plural, so it doesn’t mean the second definition “a small forest” but the first definition “the material that trees are made of.”

And let’s read the lyrics of "Norwegian Wood."
She showed me her roomIsn't it good Norwegian wood?
No one might think that there was a small forest in her room. It is obvious that this “Norwegian wood” is Norwegian wood furniture.

Haruki Murakami named his novel  “ノルウェイの森 (noruei no mori)” after the Beatles’ song. He wrote about this problem in his essay.
I, as one of a translator, want to say that the right interpretation of the word “Norwegian Wood” is just “Norwegian Wood.” The other interpretations might be more or less mistranslation. If you look at the context of the lyrics, it is clear that the ambiguous tone of these words dominates this song and lyrics. It is difficult to definite these words as one special meaning. It is not different between in Japanese and English. If you wanted to catch it, you would lose it. Of course, one of images that these words contain might be “Norwegian wood furniture” = “Nordic furniture.” But it isn’t the only meaning of them. If you insisted that they meant just “Nordic furniture,” the narrow way of assertion would detract the deepness of this song that the ambiguity (this deepness is the point of this song). It is just to miss the forest for the trees. “Norwegian Wood” might not be “ノルウェイの森 (noruei no mori),” but at the same time it isn’t “Norwegian wood furniture,” I think.
翻訳者のはしくれとして一言いわせてもらえるなら、Norwegian Woodということばの正しい解釈はあくまでもであって、それ以外の解釈はみんな多かれ少なかれ間違っているのではないか。歌詞のコンテクストを検証してみれば、Norwegian Woodということばのアンビギュアスな(規定不能な)響きがこの曲と詞を支配していることは明白だし、それをなにかひとつにはっきりと規定するという行為はいささか無理があるからだ。それは日本語においても英語においても、変わりはない。捕まえようとすれば、逃げてしまう。もちろんそのことば自体として含むイメージのひとつとして、ノルウェイ製の家具=北欧家具、という可能性はある。でもそれがすべてでない。もしそれがすべてだと主張する人がいたら、そういう狭義な決めつけ方は、この曲のアンビギュイティーがリスナーに与えている不思議な奥の深さ(その深さこそがこの曲の生命なのだ)を致命的に損なってしまうのではないだろうか。それこそ「木を見て森を見ず」ではないか。Norwegian Woodは正確には「ノルウェイの森」ではないかもしれない。しかし同様に「ノルウェイ製の家具」でもないというのが僕の個人的見解である。(村上春樹「雑文集」)
Honestly, this passage is inarticulate.

If he was right, no one could translate the words “Norwegian Wood” in Japanese. There is no perfect translation, but translators seek better translation. In this case, it is clear that “ノルウェイの森 (noruei no mori)” isn’t relatively adequate.

I’d like to know how native English speakers think about the words “Norwegian Wood.”

Sep 2, 2013

The Reason That I Really Want to Improve My English

I’m learning English as a secondary language. I wrote about the reason that I learned English in the entry “The Meaning of Learning a Foreign Language.”

A while ago, I was almost satisfied with my English, because I felt that I could largely express what I want to express. But now I’ve got frustrated with my English.

When I read IMDb’s user reviews, I think that they are more advanced than these on similar sites in Japanese but at the same time I can write a review from my unique stand point of view. So I try to write reviews, but I am not satisfied with them at all.

First of all, I can’t write grammatically accurate English.

Before I’ve got frustrated with my English, I thought, “It’s OK. I’m not a native speaker. If I made some mistakes, readers could guess what I meant.” 

In fact, if I mistook “a” for “the,” it might lead a critical mistake. In order to express accurately what I mean, so I have to write accurate sentences. Nevertheless, I haven’t understood even the usage of “a” and “the,” yet.

Secondary, I can read and write in English too slowly. I guess that I can read and write in Japanese four or five times faster than in English.

I have a lot of books and articles to read in English, but actually I can read only a small part of them. I can only read two or three articles of newspaper a day and it takes two or three weeks to read through only a book.

My typical entry in this weblog has about two or three hundred words and it takes about one or two hours to write through one entry. Sometimes, I haven’t written what I’d like to express yet, I don’t have enough time to write through it.

Of course, I couldn’t keep up with chat, if I used dictionary and thesaurus.

Thirdly, I don’t understand the nuances of English expressions well. In Japanese, I can write both of formal document and casual mail. But I don’t know what impression my writings in English give to readers, so I can’t control my style of writings.

When I wrote the title of this entry “The Reason That I Really Want to Improve My English,” I try to find an adequate adverb and search thesaurus, but I am not convinced which adverb is most adequate for what I really want to express.

In the end, I should read more and more English in order to improve my English. The road ahead will be long.

Sep 1, 2013

The Battle of the Gods in Greek Mythology: My Impression of “Man of Steel” 02

In the previous entry ‘Superman, the Loneliest Superhero: My Impression of the Movie “Man of Steel,”’ I didn’t deal with the action of “Man of Steel.” Of course, action is one of the most important elements of this movie, so I’d like to write about it.

The action is majestic like the battle of the gods in Greek Mythology. Superman and General Zod fight each other with full force in Manhattan. They are just concentrated in their fight. They destroy buildings by accident. They don’t even care about them. Their fight is like a natural disaster, which doesn’t have any intention.

On the other hand, the fight between Batman and Joker is earthly. Batman and Joker are ordinary human beings, so their fight can’t be heavenly; it has to be vicious.

Although I love “The Dark Knight”, I don’t like “The Dark Knight Rises,” because the fight between Batman and Bane is so physical.

I’d like to quote from my entry ‘The Dialectic of "Hero's Movies": The Failure of "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises."’

Joker, the enemy of Batman in "The Dark Knight," made a psychological attack. If he appeared on "The Dark Knight Rises", he would make best use of this lie. But Bane, the enemy in "the Dark Knight Rises" was too physically violent to be interested in this lie. He literally knocked Batman out.

Zak Snyder, who directed “300”, is a suitable director of “Man of Steel.” The action of this movie is almost divine.

Aug 31, 2013

Superman, the Loneliest Superhero: My Impression of the Movie “Man of Steel”

I saw the movie “Man of Steel” in an IMAX theater.

I didn’t like Superman, because he was so comical and  he didn’t look cool at all. For example his costume was too gaudy. People who love the original superman would think that “Man of Steel” is too serious, but I was moved deeply by this powerful movie.

Superheroes are lonely, because they are too special for ordinary people to understand them. They show their superpower to try to save people, but their superpower makes people fear them. Superheroes are like Jesus who was betrayed by the people he wanted to help.

I think that Superman is the loneliest superhero. 

Bruce Wayne is basically an ordinary human being. He wanted to be special, and he wears a mask to be Batman. 

On other hand, Kal-El was born in the planet Krypton and he isn’t a human being. He is fundamentally different from people on the planet earth. But he fought against and killed Kryptonians to save human beings. He is far lonelier than Bruce Wayne. 

The plot of this movie expressed the loneliness of Superman very well. He is lonely, so the plot couldn’t be comical but serious.

As an aside, Diane Lane, who played Martha Kent, Clark’s mother on Earth, was great. I was surprised that Laurence Fishburne has became so fat.

Aug 30, 2013

She Looked Very Cute and Fashionable. That’s All, but It’s Enough: My Impression of the Movie “Populaire”

I saw the French comedy movie “Populaire” after work for a change. 

Déborah François as the heroin, Rose Pamphyle, looked very cute and fashionable. That’s all, but it’s enough for me to see this movie for a change. I am guessing that Régis Roinsard, the director of this movie, just wanted to make Déborah look as cute and fashionable as possible in this movie, and he was successful.

Although this movie has many shortcomings that audience can point out, it doesn’t matter at all. For example, the plot of this movie is quite stereotyped, but it is better to make audience concentrated in the heroin Déborah.

I love Kabuki, whose plots are usually dubious. The audience of Kabuki mainly wants to be fascinated with the beauty of Kabuki actors, and a deep plot would disturb the entertainment of Kabuki.

Of course, Déborah François herself is very attractive. She shows a variety of expressions, smile, anger, tears, envy, and love, and all of them are charming.

If you thought that she was cute in the trailer, it would be worth seeing this movie.

Aug 27, 2013

An Autumn Night in Tokyo

I’m writing this entry while listening to the rain late at night.

As I wrote in yesterday’s entry “Don't Forget about Global Warming,” this is the hottest summer of my life. If I left the air conditioner on all night long, I would get out of shape, but it was too hot for me to sleep this summer.

Since yesterday, it has been much cooler. Autumn is coming to Tokyo, now.

This summer, heavy downpour frequently struck Tokyo, but the rain falling now isn’t a tropic downpour but a drizzling autumn rain.

Summer downpours are wild. They start suddenly with lightning and thunders, and then suddenly stop. On the other hand autumn rains are calm. The sounds make me settle down.

These last two months it was hard for me to think about anything, and I hardly wrote this weblog. A long and silent autumn night is perfect for reading and writing something.

I saw a light in the window next door. I’m wondering what they are doing in this deep autumn night.

秋深き隣は何をする人ぞ 松尾芭蕉

Aug 25, 2013

Don't Forget about Global Warming

It is extremely hot this summer in Tokyo.

From early July, the temperature has been over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees ) almost everyday. In Japan we call the night when the lowest temprature is above 25 degrees Celsius “a tropical night (熱帯夜),” and almost every night in July and August has been “a tropical night.”

It isn't only that the temperature is high but also that the weather is tropical. Thunderstorms bring sudden heavy downpours and lightnining almost every two days. The weather this summer in Tokyo is similar to that of Bankok. Honestly, I used to be skeptical about global warming, but after I experiensed this summer in Tokyo, I couldn't deny it. 

Before March 11, 2011 Japanese mass media always discussed global warming, but they've rarely talked about global warming at all this summer. This phenomenon isn't limited to Japan either. President Obama also used to talk about green energy revolution, but he seems to have forgotten about it.

Now, just two nuclear plants in Japan are operating, and no one knows when the other plans will restart, so it's quite difficult to reduce green gas emissions in Japan. I'm guessing that this is the reason why Japanese mass media stopped talking about global warming.

Shale gas in the United States is rapidly increasing as a source of natural gas.  President Obama may think that the shale gas industry is more important that global warming in the United States.

However, it is clear that the overall global temperature is rising. We shouldn't escape from the reality.

Don't forget about global warming.

Aug 22, 2013

There Is No One Who Is Completely Evil or Right

Finally, I read through the article “Jahar's World” on Rolling Stone magazine. It reminded me of the Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the cult "Aum Shinrikyo" in 1995 and  Haruki Murakami’s book “Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche.”

In 1995, I was living in Higashi-Koenji, and commute to my office in Otemachi, Tokyo by Marunouchi subway line, which was one of the subwaylines that Aum Shinrikyo attacked by the Sarin gas. Fortunately, I felt sick and took a day off at my work on the morning of the Sarin gas attack. It was possible for me to be a victim of this attack, so I couldn’t think that this was someone else’s affair.

Just after this attack, there were full of reports about Aum Shinrikyo in every media, but most of them were based on the stereotypical views. The book “Underground” is a series of interviews with the people that affected by this attack and the members of Aum Shinrikyo. Only “Underground” presented these people as individuals. 

Everyone in the world is special, but at the same time it is difficult for us to avoid stereotypical views. In fact there is no one who is completely evil or right, even including Shoko Asahara, the cult founder, or Jahar, the the bomber of Boston Marathon.

After September 11 attack, Bush Jr. started to use the words "war on terrorism." Now, every government that wants to suppress its opponent uses these words. The Egyptian army calls the Muslim Brotherhood "terrorist." 

Of course, I don't have any intention of justify the Sarin gas attack, September 11 attack, and the bombing Boston Marathon, and we should care about every victim of these affairs individually, but I want to know exactly why they caused such affairs.

When you read "Underground" or his essay about the bombing Boston Marathon "Boston, from One Citizen of the World Who Calls Himself a Runner," you would understand how deeply he cares about the victims of these affairs. At the same time, he didn't write a founder of the cult as just an evil person in his novel "1Q84."

I got a little knowledge about him from the article “Jahar's World.” Although I can't say that I completely understand why he did so, it's much better to read it.

Aug 18, 2013

“Boss, I Did My Best and My Best Wasn’t Enough Today”

In a previous entry “Goodbye My Good Old Yankees,” I wrote about my love for the Yankees in 1990s.

Now, the Yankees are not what they were in 1990s at all, but we can still see Derek, Andy, and Mo, who have survived from back then to now, and are still playing on the field. However, Mo will retire at the end of this season.

I read an interview of Mo, which was about his faith. It was really interesting and impressive to me. I’d like to quote a passage which interested me most.

I ask Rivera how it felt to lose the 2001 series, and he answers that God was in charge that day as he is on all others. “I did my best. I did everything within my power. I did everything within my power to win that game for us. Guess what? Didn’t happen. And you think I’m going to start like a child, Oh oh oh, I be crying? No, I did my best. My best wasn’t enough that day. I looked my boss into his eyes, and I said, ‘Boss, I did my best and my best wasn’t enough today.’ I can sleep comfortable and move forward.”

He thinks that his talent isn’t his own property but a gift from the God. He just does his best and he doesn’t care about the consequences, because only God can decide them. He looks down at himself from the God’s view, and he has been performing at his full potential.

I am not a Christian, so I don’t believe that my talent is a gift from God, but it might be very important to think that my talent isn’t inherent.

I can manage somebody else, because I see their ability in an objective way. Likewise, it is really difficult for me to manage myself, because I can’t objectively judge my own ability.

The desire to possess leads a wrong decision. I am trying to throw away my desire and just do what I can.

Aug 17, 2013

The Vulnerability of Democracy

In Egypt, the conflict between the coup regime by the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood is becomming more severe.

I think that the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, has legitimacy, because it was he who elected through the legitimate election, and the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood by the current government is injustice.

In fact, democracy is quite vulnerable in many times and countries.

Before World War II, the democracy in Japan was killed by Japanese Army’s coups like Egypt nowadays.

In a previous entry “Is Japan Really a Democratic Country?” I wrote as below.

Is Japan really a democratic country? The answer is that "yes, it is formally."

If Japan is a democratic country, we should fight against them ("the nuclear village") in order to realize our own will. We, Japanese people, don't believe in the ideal of democracy, do we? I'm now deeply skeptical.”

Democratic constitutions and laws alone cannot guarantee democracy. The Nazi party arose out of the Weimar Republic. People in a country should believe in and save democracy.

But the Egyptian people don’t seem to believe in democracy. If they did so, the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood would support the deposed president Morsi in order to save the Egyptian democracy. But they don’t do so just like the Japanese people before the World War II.

I’m now deeply wondering if democratic regime can be established universally. 

Someday, Egypt will be a democratic country, won’t it? The Egyptian people really do want democracy, don’t they?

Jul 7, 2013

The Doctrine of the Mean Is of the Highest Order 中庸之爲徳也、其至矣乎

This morning, my wife and I had pancakes and coffee for breakfast.

Recently, Hawaiian style pancakes are becoming more popular in Tokyo. One of the famous Hawaiian pancake shops, Egg ‘n Things, opened a new branch in Harajuku, Tokyo, which has customers lined up.

Basically, I love almost everything about Hawaii, but I have some question about Hawaiian style pancakes, which are full of fresh cream and fruits. 

I prefer the burnt pancakes and weak coffee that can be found in any ordinary American diner. Don’t you think that Hawaiian style pancakes are too much for breakfast? American diner pancakes are enough for me.

I love drinking espresso in an Italian bar. It really wakes me up. But I don’t want to have it with pancakes for breakfast in an American diner. Weak “American” coffee doesn’t taste great, but it does the trick.

The Master said, “The virtue embodied in the doctrine of the Mean is of the highest order. But it has long been rare among people.”


Milton and the Chocolate Town: Milton Hershey’s Amazing life

I’ve just finished reading the book “The Emperors of Chocolate.”

As I wrote in my previous entries, “"Gibu Mi Chokoreito": Ration D Bars and Japanese Children” and “The Ethics of Protestantism and The Spirits of Chocolate,” this book is about the U.S. chocolate industry, focusing especially on the competition between Hershey and Mars.

I was interested in Milton Hershey, who was a founder of the Hershey Company. His life was full of amazing stories.

He was born in 1857 in rural Pennsylvania. His parents were Mennonites, who were similar to the Amish. His mother expected that he would be a farmer like the people in his community were, and he went to school just until fourth grade.

But he didn’t become a farmer, instead he established a candy maker. In 1893, he found that chocolate machinery was exhibited at World’s Columbian Exposition and he bought all of the equipment after the exposition. He became the first major chocolate maker in the U.S.

At that time, Milton Hershey didn’t know how to make chocolate, so he learned it through trial and error. In the end, he created a chocolate with unique Hershey’s flavor. Because of its flavor, Hershey’s chocolate became quite popular in the U.S., but they couldn’t sell it well abroad.

Although his chocolate was almost dominat in the U.S. market, Milton Hershey himself was rarely interested in business. Using the huge profit by his chocolate, he began to build the city Hershey, near his birthplace.

In the early twentieth century, Milton Hershey built not only his huge chocolate factory but also infrastructure of the city Hershey, like streets, transportation, water supply, a park, a swimming pool, a theater, a hotel, and a church, and he supported his factory workers to build their own houses.

Since he didn’t have any children, he transferred a great part of his assets to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund to support the Hershey Industrial School, where many orphans, who got a scholarship from the fund, studied.

The fund had a majority stake in the Hershey Company, so the Hershey Company virtually earned profit in order to support the fund. It is the ultimate philanthropy.

After his death in 1945, the Hershey Company changed. In his days, although the Hershey Company  didn’t do marketing, their chocolate sold quite well and earned huge profit.

But the competition in the chocolate market got more severe, and it got more difficult for the Hershey Company to support the city Hershey. And now, the Hershey Company is an ordinary “Fortune Top 500 company.” 

Someday, I want to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World and stay Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Jun 30, 2013

A Great Story, Good Actors and Actresses, but a Cheap Direction: My Impression of the Movie, “The Great Gatsby”

I saw the movie “the Great Gatsby” yesterday.

I love the novel “the Great Gatsby,” so I was looking forward to this movie, and at the same time I felt anxious about it.

Of course, the plot is great, not due to any staff of this movie but to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Gatsby devoted whole his life to Daisy, who wasn’t what she really was but what he believed that she should be. He did anything that he believed that she would love, but actually it wasn’t sure that she would love it. In the end, he was betrayed by the real Daisy, because she wasn’t what he thought that her was.

In this sense, “the Great Gatsby” is tragedy and comedy like “Don Quixote.” Gatsby and Don Quixote lived in their own imagination. All of us also live more or less in our imagination, but we can’t forget the real world at all. Therefore, we look down on them and adore them at the same time like Nick Carter.

Would you like to live your own life at any cost and go to ruin like Jay Gatsby, or to watch someone else’s life from a safety zone like Nick Carter?

Tobey Maguire was adequate as Nick Carter. Although sometimes Leonardo DiCaprio overacted, I can’t imagine that another actor palys Gatsby. Carey Mulligan was cute enough for Daisy who Gatsby loved.

But I was really disappointed that the direction was so cheap.

In my entry “Punk Rock and the Digital Camera: the Impression of the Documentary Movie “Side by Side,” I wrote, “I want to watch a movie made by punk rockers more than by Thomas Edison.” I don’t deny developing of the digital technology, but I just hope that directors would use them effectively.

In this movie, everything in the images was unnatural. If it was a music video, I could say that their images were fashionable, but in this movie they broke my concentration on the story.

Did they use such artificial images in order to express the cheapness of the Roaring Twenties? If they wanted it, it would be successful. In fact, I seemed this movie to be cheap.

I’ll try Robert Redford’s “the Great Gatsby.”

Jun 28, 2013

Being Just Ordinary: My Impression of the Movie “Fight Club”

Ben Folds, one of my favorite rock singers, sang in his song “Rockin’ the Suburbs” as follows:
Let me tell y'all what it's likeBeing male, middle-class and whiteIt's a bitch, if you don't believeListen up to my new CD

I perfectly understand what he meant.

I grew up in an ordinary uptown in Tokyo in an ordinary middle-class family. I was almost happy, because my family wasn’t poor and I wasn’t discriminated. But nothing special ever happened in my childhood. I was a male, middle-class and Japanese child in Tokyo.

And now, I become a male, middle-class and Japanese "salaryman” in Tokyo. I don’t have any special complaints about my life, but sometimes I feel, “it’s a bitch, if you don’t believe.”

Last weekend, I watched the movie “Fight Club.”

The main character, who was played by Edward Norton, is young, single, male, middle-class, and white-color, enjoying his urban life. His life seems to be perfect, but he suffers from insomnia. He begins to dream another life.

This movie reminded me of the movie “American Beauty,” which I really love.

It is about a typical “happy” American family somewhere in an urban area. People in the family begin to do what they want in their heart, and the family is getting broken down.

I think that nobody can be just ordinary. At this time, I don’t get violent like “Fight Club” and quit my job like “American Beauty,” but I can’t be just an ordinary Japanese “salaryman.” When I “look closer” at my heart, I also would find something in it.

I write my weblog in English very eagerly. In order to be an ordinary Japanese “salaryman,” it is completely useless to do it, but I can’t stop it. My colleagues can’t understand why I keep doing such a thing. I don’t want to fight someone with bare knuckles in the Fight Club, but I also want to do something unordinary.

I might be lucky for me that what I want to do incidentally isn’t antisocial. It might be possible for me to fall down (rise up?) from my ordinary “salaryman’s” life to “the Fight Club,” someday.

Jun 15, 2013

The Ethics of Protestantism and The Spirits of Chocolate

I’m reading the book “the Emperors of Chocolate.”

As I mentioned in the previous entry “"Gibu Mi Chokoreito": Ration D Bars and Japanese Children,” this book is about the U.S. chocolate industry, focusing especially on the competition between Hershey and Mars.

The chocolate industry is one of the typical industries in the U.S. When you read the history of the chocolate industry, you can understand the characteristics of the U.S. industries.

For example, Forrest Mars, who made Mars Corporation the biggest chocolate company in the U.S., was the typical capitalist, who Max Weber described in the book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.”

I’d like to summarize what Weber meant in it briefly. Of course this summary is my own interpretation, so if you want to know exactly what he meant, you should read his original book.

He pointed out that the modern capitalists behaved in rational ways with irrational motives.

In every region, in every age, there were people who wanted to be rich. They wanted to be rich, because they wanted to spend money for their own desire. So when they really became rich, they began to live extravagant lives. In short, they were utilitarian.

The first modern capitalists were Protestant. They worked quite hard for success, because they believed that their success proved that they were selected by God. In fact, many of them got successful, because they worked quite hard. After they became rich, they didn’t spend money for their desire but they invested their money to their business. So they got much more successful and earned much more money. They were not utilitarian but ascetic.

Forrest Mars was an ascetic hard worker. His father and Forrest had a conversation as follows:
“My father says, ‘we’re making enough money. We have an airplane, we’ve got the fishing place, we got horses. Why do we need any more?’” recalled Forrest.
It’s a question he himself would never ask.
“Why do I want to go on?” Forrest mused. “I want to go on because it’s fun. I like building businesses… I like the tension. I like the gamble… The word challenge isn’t too good a word for it. I think it’s better to say the truth: I like the tension.”
He was greed for business but not for money. He had “the ethics of Protestantism and the spirit of capitalism.”

Jun 9, 2013

It Is Always Darkest Before the Dawn

Last Friday I got a holiday.

My wife and I went to Omiya Kokusai Country Club to play golf, and then we ate sushi with beer and white wine. In June, it is a rainy season in Japan, but this year, it has rained little until now. It was a really nice day for golf.

My last visit to Omiya Kokusai Country Club was on March eleventh, 2011. At that time I played golf with my parents and wife. Just after we finished the eighteenth hole, while we were walking to the clubhouse, the great earthquake happened.

I couldn’t keep standing and sat on the road. I saw the surface of the ground waving and the cars in the parking lot jumping up for several minutes.

I couldn’t remember well how I played that day, but I found that it was my best score in my lifetime by reading the scorecard.

After that I began completely to change my swing, because I thought that I couldn’t play better with my swing of that day. My score was getting worse and worse. Even I couldn’t hit a ball well.

I believed that someday I would be able to play much better, but at the same time I felt like being in the darkest dungeon. 

Tiger Woods had been in slump for two years after his scandal and injury, but he has changed his swing and been back in great form this year. I didn’t know if I could do as well as Tiger Woods, but at least it might be possible for me to get out of the dungeon.

Last Friday, my score was as good as on March 11. Finally I found the light of the exit of the dungeon. I was convinced that I would improve my score much better.

My golf coach said, "you won't lose easily what you learn with a great effort."

It's always darkest before the dawn.

Jun 6, 2013

"Gibu Mi Chokoreito": Ration D Bars and Japanese Children

There was a cliche, "Gibu mi chokoreito", which was used during the U.S. occupation of Japan just after the Pacific War. Of course, "Gibu mi chokoreito" means, "Give me chocolate."

I just started to read the book "the emperors of Chocolate," which is about the U.S. chocolate industry, focusing especially on the competition between Hershey and Mars.

The first chapter of this book, "Bar Wars," is written about the relationship between the U.S. Army and chocolate companies. The author wrote:

In 1942, when the United States entered the war against Germany and Japan, the military ordered Hershey to commence full-scale production of the new ration bar, and for the next four years the Hershey plant operated around the clock, seven days a week, churning out half a million Ration D bars per shift.

I didn't know about "Ration D Bars" before reading this.

I heard that the  U. S. Army soldiers gave chocolate to Japanese children during American occupation of Japan. At that time, even dairy foods were running short, so obviously sweets were quite valuable goods. Japanese children followed American Army's jeeps and shouted, "Gibu mi chokoreito!"

I'd like to know what kind of chocolate was given by the U.S. soldiers, so I googled it and found an image of the Ration D Bars. It was much rougher and bigger than I imagined. I think that the Japanese children who got Ration D Bars were probably very surprised by the size of the chocolate.

I began to want to eat a simple “Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.”

Jun 2, 2013

I Bought a Sony Product After Such a Long Time

Recently, the performances of Japanese consumer electronics companies, such as Sony, Panasonic, and Sharp, are quite weak. Sony invented “Walkman,” but now Apple dominates the portable audio device market. Samsung is the world’s leading TV manufacturer, though Japanese electronics companies used to dominate its market.

In fact, there is no product that made by Japanese electronics companies, which I want to buy. Most Japanese products are high functional, but I don’t need these functions. Japanese companies don’t understand what consumers want and miss the point.

I’m using iPhone now, and it’s enough for me. I haven’t bought Sony and Panasonic products in these years.

I always listen to music by iPhone on my way to the office. On the weekend, I go swimming. I wanted to listen to my favorite music, but of course I couldn’t use iPhone in water. So I wanted to buy a Waterproof Walkman, when I heard it could be used in water. This product just hit my point.

In the end, I bought a Waterproof Walkman last weekend. I can’t remember when I bought a Sony product last.

I read the comments on the Waterproof Walkman on Some said that it was perfect for swimming, but others said that water got into ears and they couldn’t listen to music well.

Last Friday, I tried it in water, and it was perfect for me to listen to music during swimming. I'm very satisfied.

Before I bought it, I used iPhone and an earphone, but the cable bothered me. Now I use it on my way to office, because it doesn’t have a cable. 

Waterproof Walkman isn’t high functional. Its memory is only 4GB, and it doesn’t have a liquid crystal screen. It is just compact and waterproofed, but it perfectly meets my demand. The point isn’t how the product is high functional but how it meets the consumer’s demand.

The original Walkman is the same as it. It was just compact. It didn’t even have a mike or a speaker, although there was no audio player without a speaker at that time.

I am wondering if Sony is really back.

Jun 1, 2013

The Meaning of Being Outdated: The Impression of Kazuo Ishiguro's Novel “An Artist of the Floating World”

I've just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's novel “An Artist of the Floating World.”

I love his novels, but I'm used to reading them in Japanese translations. I heard that his English was beautiful, so I wanted to read his novel in the original English version. This time, I tried to read “An Artist of the Floating World” in English.

When I read the conversations in it, I felt kind of strange. In this novel, all characters are Japanese, and obviously they speak in Japanese. But Kazuo Ishiguro wrote their conversation in English, because the entire of this novel was written in English.

The first half of the novel is about an arranged marriage of the daughter of the main character, Masuji Ono. I felt like I was reading the English translation of a Japanese novel like Junichiro Tanizaki's "the Makioka Sisters."

His daughter talked to him like this.

"Forgive me, but I wonder if it may not be wise if Father were to visit Mr Kuroda soon."

She denigrated herself to her father very much. I'm guessing that native English speakers don’t talk with their fathers in such a way. This conversation sounds like a direct translation from Japanese to English. I don’t know if Kazuo Ishiguro can speak Japanese, so I wonder whether he wrote this conversation in Japanese first and translated into English, or if he wrote in English as if he were writing a translation.

There appeared many outdated people in this novel.

Masuji Ono was a retired painter. During World War II, he worked for the military, and he drew many paintings endorsing the Japanese invasion of Asian countries. At that time he believed that he was doing the right thing for the Japanese people, but after Japan surrendered, he was blamed for his responsibility in the war, and no one was interested in his paintings.

Ono’s master drew only beautiful women in the red-light district. Although his paintings used to be quite popular, just before World War II people became to think of his paintings as not patriotic.

Ono criticized and broke away from his master, and then he himself also was criticized by younger generation. In the end, everyone became outdated.

Ono’s master told Ono the following:

“When I am an old man, when I look back over my life and see I have devoted it to the task of capturing the unique beauty of that world, I believe I will be well satisfied. And no man will make me believe I’ve wasted my time.”

Kazuo Ishiguro didn’t make clear if Ono and his master was actually satisfied with their lives.

Everyone must be outdated, when they are old. I wonder if I will be well satisfied.