Jill Price, an American woman born in 1965, claims to be able to vividly recall minute details of her daily life since she was around 8 years old.

For instance, her recollection of Dec. 19, 1980, is that, after school, she babysat for two little girls until 7 p.m.

She can also recall what she did on Dec. 19 of the following year. She remembers she wore a gray turtleneck sweater and went out with a friend. She also recalls what she did on Dec. 19, 1982.

Price has a condition known as "hyperthymestic syndrome," which is characterized by a highly detailed autobiographical memory.

This is a curse as well as a blessing as not all her memories are happy ones. She summons up old humiliations and grief too.

In her memoir, "The Woman Who Can't Forget," Price notes how excruciatingly painful it is to have to relive gut-wrenching memories, over and over.

Price's world is one I cannot even begin to imagine. We simply forget many things that have happened and sometimes even "rewrite" our memories without being aware of it.

So much for the inaccuracy of human memory, but Defense Minister Tomomi Inada spoke initially as if this did not apply to her.

Questioned in the Diet about her ties to Moritomo Gakuen, a school operator embroiled in a scandal over the purchase of state-owned land at a deep discount, Inada asserted, "(Moritomo Gakuen) Director Yasunori Kagoike and his wife never sought legal advice from me."

She also emphatically denied her presence at a court hearing in a lawsuit filed by Moritomo Gakuen.

But it quickly came to light that she had been in the court as Moritomo Gakuen's legal counsel.

I was truly taken aback by Inada's "explanation." She said, "Those responses were based on my memory, so I do not believe I made false responses."

Ever since the Lockheed scandal, "I do not remember" has been the stock formula uttered by prevaricating witnesses summoned to the Diet.

I must say Inada has one-upped them all.

Let's say a company employee causes trouble to a client because of his own mistake, but tells his boss, "I only acted on my memory, so what's the problem?" The boss would obviously scold him big time for making such an outrageous excuse.

The Cabinet is a surreal place where a member goes unpunished for speaking and acting out of "forgetfulness."

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 16

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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.