When his children were small, Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901), an early liberal ideologist and the founder of Keio University, summoned them into his study every morning after breakfast and left them a handwritten "lesson note" to mull over.

One day, the subject concerned "Momotaro" (Peach Boy), a traditional folk tale about the eponymous young hero who led an expedition to Onigashima (Demon Island) to defeat "oni" demons.

"Momotaro was said to have gone to Onigashima to relieve the demons of their treasures," Fukuzawa wrote. "Don't you think what he did was outrageous?"

Fukuzawa's point was that because the treasures rightfully belonged to the demons, seizing them for no valid reason actually made Momotaro a wicked thief.

I wonder how his children reacted to his opinion of the story, in which the undisputed hero was presented as a beastly man who embraced theft and homicide.

As if to further proceed with Fukuzawa's view in this day and age, the Dec. 25 evening edition of The Asahi Shimbun ran a story about a junior high school in Okayama Prefecture where pupils are taught to rethink the "Momotaro" tale from the standpoint of the demons.

What if one of the demons happened to have a kid of his own? The school created a kid character named "Onitaro" to encourage lively debate.

Would Momotaro still have gone ahead and brutalized the demon, knowing him to have a family with a small child?

One pupil reportedly pointed out that Momotaro initially resolved to punish the demons because he thought them evil.

A change of perspective is all it takes to reveal a story in an entirely different light, awakening one to the complexities of life.

Perhaps Hifumi Kato, who was the oldest professional "shogi" (Japanese chess) player before retiring this year, always bore this in mind. During matches, he often scooted over to the other side of the board to study it from his opponent's perspective.

What one person perceives as "just" may be utterly unreasonable to another person. This is something we must never forget. And this certainly holds true in close personal relationships and when we deal with history and international relations.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 28

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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.