Unpleasant drama that leaves a bad aftertaste

後味悪い「けんか両成敗」 田中外相更迭劇

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's midnight news conference was strewn with cliches. What stuck in my mind afterward were hackneyed expressions such as “remedy the situation,” “normalize (the situation)” and “the responsibility for causing the confusion.” These are typical examples of Nagatacho jargon.

Experience tells me that politicians usually resort to this sort of talk when they want to obfuscate the situation and evade responsibility.

What was the real cause of the mess that forced the foreign minister and her vice minister to be fired? And precisely who is responsible for the mess? The public still remains in the dark, but the government says the case is closed now that both parties have been punished. This is hardly a satisfactory settlement.

I recall an episode from my childhood. I was having a tiff with a friend, and our teacher punished us both without hearing either of us out. I was outraged because I thought the teacher was being terribly unfair.

It appears, however, that settling a dispute by punishing both parties is an old, documented tradition. A 15th-century government proclamation warned sternly that anyone who got into a fight was “punishable by decapitation, irrespective of which side was right or wrong.”

I should imagine the purpose of prescribing such an extreme punishment was to intimidate the public, and perhaps it did deter people from engaging in disputes. Still, I cannot laud the custom of punishing both parties without any effort to determine which side was really culpable.

Regarding the dramatic dismissal of the foreign minister and her deputy, some people suggest the two actually “stabbed each other” as if acting out an old-period drama. Hearing such an expression causes me to feel that Japanese politics has reverted to its old style of a decade ago. For all its much-touted “crisp and clear “ posture, the Koizumi administration appears to have caused politics to regress in a single sweep.

TI believe the Koizumi administration will be forced eventually to pay for punishing both parties since it did not even bother to determine the culpable party. What the public witnessed was an unpleasant drama that has left a bad aftertaste.

(Jan. 31)









Humans living at the expense of other creatures


Following are selections for the monthly quotable quotes column:

It is well known that Kyoto has many Buddhist temples, but outsiders can only imagine what the ancient capital is really like on New Year's Eve when their bells toll to ring out the old year. Fukumi Shimura, a celebrated textile-dyeing artist, wrote: “I am always deeply affected by the sounds of bells, but it was more so this time. The impact was stronger than ever before. Perhaps, I have grown old. My heart goes out to the little children who know nothing but war and starvation.

On New Year's Day, the euro went into circulation in Europe, replacing old currencies. To mark the occasion, Miho Cibot composed a poem: “French bank notes go out of my wallet/ Adieu to my Debussies and Cezannes.”

The nation's last coal mine shut down on Wednesday. “Quality coal is still down there, but we are closing down our operations without trying to dig it all out,” said Hiroaki Otsubo, a staff member of the production division of the company that operated the Taiheiyo Coal Mine. “This is quite regrettable. I haven't worked at a better mine.”

“When I joined this company,” Otsubo continued, “I was told by the president, `Work hard. We guarantee you employment until you reach your retirement age.”

The sale of old-style gassho zukuri thatched houses with steep roof rafters from the village of Shirakawa, Gifu Prefecture, to urban people went on during the years of fast economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s. Now they are disappearing one after another from the sites to which they were relocated.

“All I can do about it is to pray that the remaining houses in the cities will be given proper protection,” said Mayor Hisashi Taniguchi of Shirakawa, which has been put on the UNESCO's World Heritage list in an effort to preserve the structures.

A collection of poems composed by children living abroad, “Kodomo Hyakunin Isshu” (100 Best Poems by 100 Children), also offers some quotable quotes: “I was awakened early in the morning/ By voices from the mosque/ Let me sleep a little more.” (Yusuke Hatanaka, Jakarta); “In South Korea (Republic of Korea)/ The kimchi you have is just supreme/ The taste is almost too good for me/ But it is too cold in winter.” (Ryosuke Nagase, Seoul)

Saxophonist Akira Sakata said he was moved to find that “the transparency of the water flea makes it easy to observe the inner workings of its body.”

He went on to say, “Human beings are living at the expense of countless other living things. We are feeding on the lives of those creatures. But the relationship is not transparent these days. That is why we don't suffer any heartache over the sacrifices made by the creatures that die for us.

(Jan. 30)





 海外在住の「こども百人一首」から。〈起こされた モスクの声で朝早くねぼうさせてよ もう少しだけ〉(ジャカルタ・畑中佑介)。〈かんこくは キムチがうまい うますぎる ふゆはさむい さむすぎる〉(ソウル・長瀬亮祐)。




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