2005年8月 2日 (火)

Mystery bird's hollow eyes invite stares

 僕は英辞郎を使って英語を読みまくり、インターネットラジオのNHKのラジオジャパン英語ニュース< /a>で時事英語を聞きまくってます。(^^;また、VOAでヴォイスレコーダーにDLしたMP3音声とテキストも楽しんでます。

Mystery bird's hollow eyes invite stares


Looking at a picture of a bird haniwa (ancient clay figurine) excavated from the Iwase-Senzuka Kofun burial mound in the city of Wakayama, I was first drawn to the bird's hollow eyes, which looked like two black holes to me.

A short beak protruded from between the eyes, and a wing stretched from the right shoulder. The image was strangely soothing.



Makoto Sahara, a former director-general of the National Museum of Japanese History, claims in "Nihon no Bijutsu" (Japanese art), a book published by Shibundo, that people are attracted to haniwa faces because of those hollow eyes.

"When looking at a haniwa face, people's eyes soften," he says. "As hollow eyes are without pupils, they cannot stare back at the beholder."


Sahara is referring only to human-shaped haniwa figurines, but I think the same also applies to haniwa that depict animals.

"One can stare at a haniwa without being stared back at," he observes, and concludes this is why people can remain at ease when they face these artifacts.


An exhibition titled "2005 Exhibition of New Archaeological Discoveries" is currently being held at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

Among the exhibits from around the nation are some haniwa figurines, including those of three waterfowl unearthed from Suyama Kofun in Nara Prefecture.

These birds, which resemble swans, do not have hollow eyes. The eyes look as if they are trained on something far away.


Some haniwa experts claim that bird haniwa figurines were believed to transport the souls of the deceased to the world beyond. But the Iwase-Senzuka Kofun is said to be the first and only place that has so far yielded a bird haniwa with its wings spread.

Katsuhisa Takahashi, the chief researcher at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Nara, said, "This haniwa may have been modeled on some migratory bird that could fly with ease."


The mystery bird from ancient times made my imagination take wing and soar.


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 23(IHT/Asahi: July 30,2005)

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2005年7月21日 (木)

Chorus hits high notes with German concerts


Chorus hits high notes with German concerts


At 84, Tsuneko Matsumoto still teaches calligraphy in Toride, Ibaraki Prefecture.

She also stays busy as a member of an amateur chorus. She went for a concert in Germany where she sang Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy," the centerpiece of Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" and other selections from the same symphony in German with about 120 other chorus members.



Thunderous applause erupted from the German audience when the chorus finished.

"Everyone thought, `We did it!'" Matsumoto recalls. "Leaving aside our success, we have sung in Germany twice now-at an interval of 10 years. That's more than what I ever expected."


Matsumoto joined the Toride Ninth Symphony Chorus in 1991.

Established five years earlier, the chorus was scheduled to hold its second concert soon. The only way for Matsumoto to participate in the concert was to learn the lyrics in German by heart. She did it by listening to a tape recording.


After the second concert, some members called for a performance in Beethoven's mother country.

"At first, the idea was thought to be too grand for us," says Kozo Ono, the present leader of the Toride chorus. Still, the chorus decided to go for it.

The Toride chorus has singers from all walks of life, including company employees, civil servants and merchants. Ono and others drew on the personal connections of the members in their search for ways to realize their dream.

Eventually, their search led them to a symphony orchestra in Baden-Baden that was willing to perform with them.

 このあと、「次はベートーベンの母国で」という声が上がった。「最初は、とても無理だと思われていたのですが」と言うのは小野耕三さんだ。合唱団のいまの代表である。合唱団には会社員、公務員、商店主ら様々な人がい る。つてを求めていくうちに、バーデンバーデンの交響楽団が共演を引き受けてくれた。

The chorus made its first trip to Germany in 1995. Five years later, it invited conductor Werner Stiefel from Baden-Baden to conduct a concert in Toride.

"I think the reason (for our success) lies in our sticking to the pace of holding a concert every five years," Ono said. "When it comes to putting on a `homespun' concert like ours, the burden of making preparations and raising necessary funds sets a really arduous task."


As Ono noted, the Toride chorus seems to have helped itself by holding to the principle of moving ahead slowly. Already, some members are calling for another concert in Germany five years from now.

"If we hold a concert in Germany in 2010, I may be able to participate," Matsumoto says. "I would like to sing again in that country, if at all possible."


--The Asahi Shimbun, July 19(IHT/Asahi: July 20,2005)

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2005年5月31日 (火)

5,000 years of human history on display


5,000 years of human history on display


Adolf Hitler's Third Reich surrendered to the Allies 60 years ago this month. As Germany's defeat in World War II loomed, Hitler ordered the destruction of world-famous masterpieces that he had stashed away in a salt mine.



One of the paintings, saved by U.S. forces in the nick of time, is now on show in Tokyo.

It is ``In the Conservatory'' by French impressionist master Edouard Manet. It can be seen at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, together with other treasures from the State Museums of Berlin.

The exhibit is titled ``Masterpieces of the Museum Island, Berlin.'' It continues until June 12 and moves to Kobe in July.

 米軍によって危うく難を免れたという絵が、東京に来ている。ベルリン国立博物館群の収蔵品を集めた「ベルリンの至宝展」(上野・東京国立博物館 6月12日まで、7月に神戸に巡回)の「温室にて」である。

``In the Conservatory'' depicts a married couple whom Manet knew. The general director of the State Museums of Berlin described this particular Manet as ``symbolic of the fate of artwork in Berlin.''

The painting was acquired at the end of the 19th century by the museum's chief curator. But the Impressionist School was still relatively obscure at the time. Furthermore, since conservatories were frequently used as the setting for torrid love scenes in romance novels, the German parliament denounced the acquisition of this piece. The chief curator was forced to resign.


Having survived Hitler's order for destruction, ``In the Conservatory'' was taken to and kept in former West Germany after World War II. It did not return to its home in the former East Germany until 1994, four years after German reunification. The painting survived tremendous upheavals of the 20th century that unfolded in Berlin.

 ヒトラーの破壊命令はくぐり抜けたが、戦後は旧西ドイツ側に置かれ たため、東ドイツ側の元の美術館に戻ったのは統一後の94年だった。ベルリンという土地柄、20世紀の歴史を色濃くまとう来歴だ。

The exhibition in Tokyo is powerful indeed, with veritable masterpieces ranging from those that date back to ancient Egypt of 3000 B.C., to modern European paintings.

Among them are ``Glazed Brick Wall: Striding Lion,'' unearthed from Babylon in Iraq, and Sandro Botticelli's ``Venus.'' The former vividly portrays a roaring lion, while the latter shows a young woman against a dark background, head slightly cocked and her shining long locks cascading over her bare shoulders.


The exhibit's artifacts come in all forms and from varied cultures and eras. There is an ancient urn depicting a scene from Greek mythology, and a Koran stand.

Some people may fail to see cohesion in the rich diversity, but I sort of sensed something like 5,000 years of human continuity.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 21(IHT/Asahi: May 30,2005)

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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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2005年4月 2日 (土)

Step up to the plate and do your best, newbies


Step up to the plate and do your best, newbies


There was a faint spot of white on the tip of a twig. A closer look revealed it was a cherry blossom that had just opened its dark pink bud.



The new fiscal year starts when the ``cherry blossom front'' begins to trace a wider curve on the meteorological chart of Japan. On the first day of the fiscal year, many people start out afresh in new cities or towns, places of work or schools. All sorts of expectations, hopes and fears are felt around the nation.


There is a mention of newcomers in ``Makura no Soshi,'' or ``The Pillow Book'' authored by Sei Shonagon in the 10th century. April 1, the first day of the fiscal year, will be a day to remember for many newcomers as well as those who receive them.


For a certain period in the past, an advertorial written by novelist Hitomi Yamaguchi ran in newspapers around April 1 each year.

There were words of encouragement and wisdom directed at rookie workers. I was already well past my rookie year by then, but I was sometimes soothed by Yamaguchi's words as if I were listening to an older colleague in an intimate bar after work.


Let me reproduce some of Yamaguchi's exhortations: ``Step in, step in! Don't be afraid to make a mistake!'' ``Life is nothing more than repetition.'' ``Listen, folks! Life isn't easy.'' ``Whenever I am asked what matters most to a company worker, I now answer `sincerity' without a moment's hesitation.''

 「踏み込め、踏み込め! 失敗を怖れるな!」「此の世は積み重ねであるに過ぎない」「諸君! この人生、大変なんだ」「会社勤めで何がものを言うのかと問われるとき、僕は、いま、少しも逡巡することなく『それは誠意です』と答えている」

The advertorial was directed at newcomers to the work force, but Yamaguchi's exhortations could have been meant for all workers. I imagine the novelist reflected on his younger days and examined his conscience at the start of each fiscal year to give encouragement to salaried workers of this world. It was this attitude that inspired even seasoned workers. He wrote novels that had businessmen as the hero.

In spring 1995, Yamaguchi wrote, ``Persevere, persevere, persevere.'' He died that summer. How time passes: It's now 10 years since we last heard his encouraging words.


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 1(IHT/Asahi: April 2,2005)

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2005年3月30日 (水)

Who put an expressway over Nihonbashi?


Who put an expressway over Nihonbashi?


With the end of March nearing, it is time to offer a collection of quotable quotes:

``Our island has been ruined. I want to cry,'' said an official of a local fishery cooperative of Genkaijima island where many homes were destroyed by the March 20 earthquake that hit northern Kyushu. He was speaking on behalf of all evacuated islanders who are still unable to return home for fear of aftershocks. They have had to pass up the chance to take advantage of the ongoing fishing season.



Ten years have passed since cultists released deadly sarin gas aboard subway trains in Tokyo. Complaining of the paucity of state relief, a victim said, ``With little done to help us, time has been at a standstill during the past decade.'' She is still suffering from the aftereffects of the gas she inhaled on her way to work.


March 10, 1945, is still remembered as the day of massive U.S. air raids that flattened much of eastern Tokyo. The passage of 60 years has not assuaged the anger of novelist Katsumoto Saotome, who was 12 when the carpet bombing happened, over a statement issued by the Imperial Headquarters. He took particular issue with wording that dwelled on the fate of the Imperial Palace, but described the civilian casualty toll only as ``other damage.''

In one passage, Saotome noted, the Imperial Edict for Servicemen said, ``Think of life as worth no more than a feather.'' The novelist went on to say, ``The authorities (in those years) referred to the people by a name that likened them to `grass.' It was only natural that they thought of our lives as worth no more than bird feathers.''


A panel set up to determine the damage done by the government's quarantine policy regarding Hansen's disease has presented its final report on how that policy was administered.

According to the report, the now-repealed policy involved aborting pregnancies.

There was a specimen room at a sanatorium, but samples were often secretly disposed of. This is what probably happened to the fetus who would have become the daughter of former patient Tetsuo Sakurai, a blind poet.

Sakurai had chosen a female name, Mariko, before the fetus was lost to an abortion. His lamenting poem goes: ``Mariko, I can't see you in the specimen room. Where are you now?''

 ハンセン病問題の検証会議が、隔離の実態を最終報告書にまとめた。「真理子よ そのお前は標本室にはいないのです 真理子よ 今どこにいるのです」。元患者で盲目の詩人、桜井哲夫さんは、堕胎手術で失った娘に詩で呼びかける。標本までもが、ひそかに処分されていた。

Photographer Haruo Tomiyama, 70, said, ``Even now, I am still furious. Who the hell gave the green light for building an expressway that runs over Nihonbashi bridge?''

One of the things that make this bridge special is that in commercial and other senses, it was the center of the capital during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Even now, strictly speaking, all highways that lead from Tokyo start from the bridge.

For his lifework, Tomiyama has been compiling a socially satirical photo-essay titled ``Gendai Gokan'' (Contemporary meanings of words). His rebellious spirit, which one can find in many other people proud to be natives of Tokyo's Kanda area, keeps it readable.


Claude Levi-Strauss, 96, the anthropologist known as the author of ``Tristes Tropiques,'' made a rare appearance in the French media.

When asked what he was going to do in the days ahead, he said, ``Don't ask me such a question. I am no longer a member of contemporary society.''


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

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2005年3月25日 (金)

Tange set himself huge task in difficult times


Tange set himself huge task in difficult times


Foro Romano in central Rome is a cluster of ruins dating back to the old Republic. The nearby City Hall is said to have been built over the Tabularium, the ancient hall of records.



When the current Tokyo metropolitan government buildings were going up, I mentioned to the head of Rome's municipal museum department that the Tokyo government was abandoning its 30-year-old buildings for new premises that would cost more than 100 billion yen.

He remarked, ``It is fun, and a good thing too, to be able to fix and maintain a building built by your grandfather and his grandfather.''

Japan, however, has a tradition of constantly replacing old buildings. In fact, the new Tokyo metropolitan government headquarters came to symbolize that attitude.


Kenzo Tange, who designed both the old and new Tokyo government buildings, died Tuesday. In ``Tange Kenzo'' published by Shinkenchiku-sha, author Terunobu Fujimori, also an architect, described the architect as ``someone who gave form to the Showa Era (1926-1989).'' Indeed, Tange's works symbolized particular times in post-World War II Japan.


Fujimori once asked him: ``You have studied the works of many architects of all periods around the world. Who do you think is the greatest?'' Tange answered, ``Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris) and Michelangelo.''


Tange was a high school student under the old school system in Hiroshima when he came across the work of Le Corbusier, acclaimed as one of the fathers of modern architecture, featured in a magazine in a library. The architect left such a tremendous impact on the young Tange that he decided to go into the profession himself.

He later recalled in ``Ippon-no Enpitsu-kara'' (From one pencil), published by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, ``I was completely taken by his style that was devoid of any decorative element but decidedly beautiful in a severe way.''


Perhaps Tange always sought that kind of beauty even when designing massive contemporary structures. And perhaps he understood better than anyone what a tremendously difficult quest that was in our times.


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24(IHT/Asahi: March 25,2005)

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2005年3月21日 (月)

New grads give top honors to principal's song


 知らなかった。そんなお年をめした方だったのか。小生ももっと張り切らなければ、、。(^^;  それにしても歌も素晴らしいが、このエピソードも心に沁みる実にいい話しだ。英和対訳でゆっくり読み込むことでより深く味わえたような気がする。これからも出来るだけ続けていきます。


New grads give top honors to principal's song


In a recent survey, Ongaku no Tomo Sha Corp. asked 230 music teachers around the nation what song their students were singing for the graduation ceremony.

The result was a bit of a surprise. ``Hotaru-no Hikari'' (Glow of fireflies), the traditional standard number for the occasion, ranked only third. ``Aogeba Totoshi'' (Song of gratitude), another perennial favorite, did not even make the top 10 list.



The song that won the most number of votes was ``Tabidachi-no Hi-ni'' (The day of departure). I wonder if readers have heard it.

The song was born 14 years ago in the music classroom of a municipal junior high school in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. The then-principal, Noboru Kojima, 74, wrote the lyrics overnight and asked the music teacher to put them to music the following morning.


``The song was meant as a present for the graduating students,'' explained Kojima when I saw him to hear his story. ``All the teachers got up on the platform and sang the song. This was supposed to be a one-time performance.''

Kojima reached his mandatory retirement age in March that year, but the song stayed. The following year, a music magazine printed the score just before the graduation season, and many primary, junior high and senior high schools around the nation picked it up. The simple lyrics caught the hearts of youngsters: ``The voice of my dear old friend/ Suddenly comes back/ With the memory of that time/I wept when we fought over something silly.''


The song reminds me of the late singer-songwriter Yutaka Ozaki, who gave expression to the frustrations of young people. It is also similar in feeling to ``Okuru Kotoba'' (A present of words) by singer-actor Tetsuya Takeda.

Kojima, however, said of his work, ``I was trying to emulate the world of Bokusui Wakayama, a poet who wrote about dreams and longing.''


``Hotaru-no Hikari'' and ``Aogeba Totoshi'' were created in the early years of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Strongly reflective of the educational philosophy of that era, the lyrics urge students to work diligently to serve the nation and get ahead in life to repay their teachers.


``The old literary style of those lyrics is a bit too sophisticated for today's kids to really appreciate,'' noted Kojima.

In a departure from the past, many schools now let their students choose the song for the graduation ceremony. Instead of the traditional, government-approved numbers, Kojima's song, which is something of a summation of his 40-year teaching career, is being sung and heard around the nation this month.


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 6(IHT/Asahi: March 21,2005)

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2005年3月13日 (日)

60 years since Tokyo blazed in a fiery hell







60 years since Tokyo blazed in a fiery hell

``I moved my residence to Azabu. It is a painted two-story house. Hence the name Henki-kan (paint house),'' wrote novelist Nagai Kafu (1879-1959) in ``Henki-kan Manroku'' (Henki-kan essay).

Kafu lived there for many years until it was burned down in the U.S. firebombing of Tokyo in the early hours of March 10, 1945.



``My Henki-kan is in ashes. ... All I saw were flames gaining intensity and rising skyward. My tens of thousands of books on the top floor must have caught fire instantaneously,'' he recalled in ``Risai Nichiroku'' (Disaster diary).

Kafu remained on the scene for a while, watching neighborhood homes burn and observing people's reactions. Around that time, people were running about trying to flee from raging flames in Tokyo's working-class districts along the Sumidagawa river.


Among pictures drawn later by survivors of that fiery hell, are images of corpses literally piled high at a train station, and the Sumidagawa overflowing with the dead. About 100,000 people were killed overnight.


On the following day, The Asahi Shimbun's leading front page story was headlined: ``About 130 B29s bomb the capital indiscriminately/ At dawn yesterday.'' The story was a mere rehash of an official report from the Imperial Headquarters, and claimed that ``15 enemy planes were shot down.''

But nowhere was there any detailed account of the immense devastation that took place right before the reporters' eyes-a fact that appalls me anew, even though I am aware of the press censorship that was in effect back then.


After Tokyo, the United States went on to bombard major cities including Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe, eventually targeting smaller cities as well. The hellish scene in Tokyo was thus repeated around the nation in varying scales.


Two days before the firebombing, Nagai received a ration of wine, which actually proved to be nothing more than crude grape juice that was too harsh to be drinkable.

He noted: ``(They are) trying to make wine vainly without any knowledge of winemaking. It's as foolish as declaring war without understanding the situation abroad.''


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 10(IHT/Asahi: March 11,2005)

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