Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.
Yoshitaka Takahashi (1913-1995), a scholar of German literature, wrote that fireworks are best viewed when they are far away.
On the evening of the river festival at Ryogoku in Tokyo, he was invited to the home of Hyakken Uchida (1889-1971), a writer to whom he looked up as his mentor. For some reason, the shoji sliding screens were shut. As if to wait for short intervals in their conversations over sake, he heard fireworks exploding in the night sky.
Although he couldn't see them, Takahashi was struck by an aesthetic sense. He also wrote about fireworks exploding too far away to hear the distant booms.
"Fireworks that flare up and spread in a distant night sky beyond the fields in the suburbs are also tasteful." When we fill in gaps in information in our minds, our imagination often surpasses reality.
But too much imagination is also a problem. At a fireworks display in Nisshin, Aichi Prefecture, I heard that Fukushima-made fireworks alone had been excluded. Complaints that the fireworks would "scatter radioactivity" put a damper on the event, which was held to support reconstruction due to the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Radiation levels at the fireworks factory were low enough. Also, the pyrotechnics had been kept indoors.
Sensitivity and vague anxiety differ from person to person. But there is no other way to describe what happened than to simply blame damages caused by groundless rumors. Many citizens must have been disappointed that the organizers caved in to the objections of a small number of people.
Be that as it may, the organizers probably would have been criticized anyway if they had gone ahead with their original plan and not excluded the Fukushima fireworks.
Either way, it would have created bitter feelings.
Under such circumstances, local governments may become reluctant to organize events to support Fukushima.
Having the determination to support the stricken areas and taking the time to eliminate anxieties will become more important than ever in the days ahead.
An impressive tanka by Yumiko Nakano of Kyoto ran in the Asahi Kadan column of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun. " Wondering whether to buy peaches/ I confirm a handwritten sign that reads 'Fukushima'/ I buy them without hesitation."
Some people buy produce after seeing handwritten signs showing where the items originated. Clearly, these buyers appreciate the enthusiasm of the sellers.
I wish to listen carefully to the sounds of distant fireworks aimed at strengthening ties until the day we can buy produce from stricken areas around Fukushima without hesitation.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 21
* * *
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.