2005年4月30日 (土)

April days foretold the end of World War II


April days foretold the end of World War II


Sixty years ago, World War II was drawing to a close. Major events in April would help set the world on its postwar course. In one such event, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, and was succeeded by Harry Truman.

On the following day, novelist Jiro Osaragi wrote in his diary at his home in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture: ``As if the Americans were waging an avenging battle in Roosevelt's name, they bombarded us heavily around midnight.'' This entry is included in ``Osaragi Jiro Haisen Nikki'' (Jiro Osaragi's diary on defeat in the war) published by Soshisha.



In Germany, advancing U.S. and Soviet troops linked up on April 25 at Torgau on the Elbe River and took the Oath of Elbe.

Osaragi's diary entry for that day says: ``Reports say Berlin has been divided into two ... My interest now is what will become of (Adolf) Hitler.''


Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was executed on April 28. According to Noboru Kojima, author of ``Dainiji Sekai Taisen'' (World War II) published by Shogakukan, Hitler sent a telegram to his fellow Axis leader a few days before the execution. The message basically said: ``This life-or-death war has reached a climax. ... No matter how fierce the battle may rage, our allies, who share the resolve of the German people to never fear death, will continue to press forward and overcome this hardship.''


In Japan, U.S. forces had landed April 1 on the Okinawa mainland, and the bloody ground warfare was in progress.

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Kuniaki Koiso resigned and was succeeded by that of Kantaro Suzuki.


``I hear Mussolini was killed and his corpse was publicly displayed in a square in Milan,'' Osaragi wrote in his diary on May 1, the day after Hitler's suicide. ``The newspapers are too coy to report this, but Mussolini's body was apparently hung upside down for the mob to desecrate. Berlin has fallen almost completely, and it appears Hitler is dead, too.''


A ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the Oath of Elbe was held Monday at Arlington National Cemetery in the United States. Representatives of nine nations are said to have laid wreaths at a memorial honoring the veterans of the Elbe linkup.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 29(IHT/Asahi: April 30,2005)

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2005年4月13日 (水)

Danger always comes with adventure


Danger always comes with adventure


Mourning the death of four junior high school boys in a cave in Kagoshima city, the principal of their school told a student gathering: "Because of a tragic incident, adults have learned of the existence of the cave for the first time. My regret is that if we had noticed it earlier, the incident could have been averted."



If the cave in which the four boys were found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning Saturday was in fact a World War II air raid shelter, then roughly 60 years have passed since then. I really wish the existence of the cave had come to the attention of adults at some point over the course of those years. Steps could have been taken to keep it from becoming the site of a tragic incident.


The four boys were all 13-year-olds, going through a period of rapid physical and spiritual growth. At this age, it is the common wish of youngsters to venture into a world different from their everyday life. Many adults know this from their own childhood experience.

To the boys, the lure of a cave, dangers apparently lurking in the recesses, is irresistible. This is in part because it arouses the primitive memory of ancestral dwellings from time immemorial.


In his address, the junior high school principal also said: "Let me say I am proud of the challenging youthful spirit of the four students. But you have to have the perception that dangers always accompany any adventurous undertaking."


The word "challenge" reminded me of "Stand By Me," an American movie released more than a dozen years ago. It is a story of four 12-year-old boys setting out on an adventurous trip.

The way they grow up while battling the darkness of night and their own sense of fear strongly appealed to viewers together with Ben E. King's title song " Stand by Me."

The lyrics go: "When the night has come/ And the land is dark/ And the moon is the only light we'll see/ No I won't be afraid/ Oh I won't be afraid/ Just as long as you stand, stand by me ... ."

 チャレンジという言葉からは、十数年前のアメリカ映画「スタンド・バイ・ミー」を思い起こした。12歳の少年たち4人が、小さな冒険の旅へ出る。夜の闇や恐怖と戦いながら成長してゆく姿が、映画の題名になったベン・E・キングの歌とともに、見る者に強く訴えかけてきた。「夜の闇が あたりを包み/月明りしか 見えなくても/ぼくは 怖くない……君がそばに いてくれるなら……」(『スタンド・バイ・ミー メモリアル』)。

Imagine how you would react if four boys who were close to you as classmates in high spirits were no longer to be seen. A silent prayer was offered for them at the morning gathering. Some students reportedly were so shocked by the loss they could not stand up.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 12(IHT/Asahi: April 13,2005)

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2005年4月 9日 (土)

Cheery blossoms on way to quake survivors


Cheery blossoms on way to quake survivors


For two days, the weather in Tokyo has felt like summer. In some parts of the city, cherry blossoms that had just opened were already beginning to fall.



In a park in central Tokyo, petals whirled and danced high in the air in occasional gusts, and alighted on the ground among fallen leaves from surrounding trees. It was a pretty sight, but I could not help wishing the winds would just refrain from blowing for another two days or so.


``The Tale of Genji,'' the famous 11th-century novel, features a scene of princesses and court ladies composing poems as they look longingly at petals being scattered by the winds.

``Shin Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei'' (New compendium of classic Japanese literature) paraphrases one poem:

``Because cherries are in bloom/ I feel restless whenever the wind gusts/ even though I know it's not worth feeling this way for these flowers.''


Cherry blossoms remind people of others who have gone before them. According to ``Ryokan no Hito to Uta'' (The personality and poetry of Ryokan) by Shuji Miya, the priest Ryokan (1758-1831) composed the following poem at the grave of Saigyo Hoshi, a 12th-century monk and poet:

``The flower I have picked and brought/ May not be outstanding in its color or fragrance/ But in your mercy please accept my heart.''

Miya notes Ryokan's poem was meant as a response to Saigyo's poem:

``Please make an offering of a flower to the Buddha/ If you will mourn for me after I am gone.''


Poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) wrote: ``Cherry blossoms make me recall many things.''

Cherry blossoms are like time capsules. They prompt people to think back on their lives and they jog memories of the year that has gone, as well as beyond.

They make people ponder about individuals they knew and things they once had that are now gone. They also open one's eyes to people and things they did not know in the past but do now.

 〈さまざまのこと思ひ出す桜かな 芭蕉〉。桜のタイムカプセルのような作用は、人が自らの生を振り返るのを促す。1年前や、そのまた1年前のことを桜が思い起こさせる。以前にはあって、今は無くなったものや人を思う。あるいは、前には無くて今あるものや人を見やる。

The ``cherry blossom front'' is expected to move to the Niigata area next week-a region tha was devastated by a earthquake. The cherry blossoms this year may bring back painful memories. But I pray this is the sort of year when these flowers that bloom so dutifully will comfort and provide cheer to the quake survivors.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 8(IHT/Asahi: April 9,2005)

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