Friday, September 30, 2011

30/09 VOX POPULI: September offers words of loss and hope

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


"Smokestacks were the only things that defined Tokyo's cityscape in the immediate aftermath of World War II," noted Donald Keene, 89, who has "come home" to Japan for good. "A miracle will happen in the Tohoku region, too."

Six months after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, Japan has a new prime minister and a new ozeki sumo wrestler. Also in September, two typhoons made landfall and three former aides of a politician were convicted. Below are some words that left an impression on me during the month.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku, 27, the first Japanese to be promoted to sumo's second-highest rank in four years, vowed to seek excellence by remaining completely focused in his endeavors. His ozeki debut will be in the Kyushu tournament, and he hails from there. "The only kind of sumo I do is to plunge ahead," he said. "I hope my style will enliven the tournament and bring excitement to my local fans."

Upper House legislator Tetsuro Fukuyama, who held a key post in the administration of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, recalled the March disaster: "I remember a feeling as if an ice pillar stood in the muscles of my back. I realized how totally inadequate our response (to the disaster) would be if the megaquake triggered a spate of temblors and caused further damage."

Nozomi Ono, an elementary school third-grader in Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, read a letter from her mother, Yumiko, who died in the tsunami. Yumiko had written the letter as part of a campaign by a school backpack maker that asked people to recall their thoughts and feelings when their children started school. The letter said: "Your mum is looking forward to all of us reading this letter together some day. This happy thought makes your mum keep doing her best."

Autumn is the harvest season, but Hidekazu Konno, a 43-year-old pear grower in the city of Fukushima, is worried about radiation contamination of the soil. "Our soil has been worked with great care since my grandpa's generation," he noted sadly.

Masayuki Shirado, a 53-year-old fisherman in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, bemoans the suspension of operations. "We read the color of the sea and the weather to determine where to fish. Young people won't learn anything unless they go out to sea."

Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan environmental activist who received a Nobel Peace Prize for her tree-planting activities, died aged 71. The editor in chief of a major Kenyan newspaper said that she was a bigger presence than the president of Kenya and people wanted her to keep up her good work in many fields but time ran out. What a waste!

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 30

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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.

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