Friday, May 20, 2005

For Whom was It Written

This is a very difficult issue. But without art of writing, we could have neither the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, nor any sutras today.

A Japanese lady writer was invited to New York. Actually about 50 foreign writers were invited to a literature festival held in New York. Among them there were three Japanese writers. All of them happened to be ladies. Many American literature students, professors, writers, and business people concerned were involved on the host side.

I don’t know any other opinions on operation of the festival except the one of this particular lady writer who commented in a newspaper on her experience of joining the festival, but her cool judgment on the event reveals something enough.

Except an economy-class air ticket, she admitted that she was provided with very luxurious things and services. Even a party hall was gorgeous. But she found that Americans seldom read foreign works of literature, even if they were translated into American English. She met people who do not know anything about or are not interested in her Japanese expressions inside her novels.

A cynical opinion might be like this: “Money seems to be only scales for measuring value in this field, too. Every serious writer writes their novels for money. In addition, American readers are not interested in foreign stories that in most cases lack an abundant sense of American entertainment. They are regarded as something poor guys abroad are writing and telling that has done little to, or has no use for, being rich in or enjoying rich of America. So, American readers don’t buy foreign novels; and thus American publishers don’t issue foreign novels whether translated or not.”

She didn’t write this way. She simply wrote that Americans don’t read translated foreign literature, though many American novels were translated and sold in other countries. She felt emptiness when she talked to Americans about her work, while her listeners didn’t seem to read her novels in Japanese or any other languages.

If publishers think that writers who must love money above anything would be satisfied with and thankful for being provided with very luxurious things and services, it is tantamount to insult. Insult to whom? Of course, insult to the God who gives art of literature to human beings. When an artist offers something that transcends their ability by virtue of divine will, his/her work has real value.

Moreover, the world first female writers for real are Japanese. Murasaki-Shikibu and Sei-Syonagon created ever-popular works of literature around 1000 A.D. (It is almost when Cnut related to Denmark and Norway became King of England, but neither the Windsor nor the Hanover.) They both were celebrated court ladies and very talented poetesses of old imperial Japan. Even today, their works are being taught and studied in schools and institutions in Japan.

On the other hand, though the lady writer having flown from Japan to New York City for the Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature felt so much emptiness in the middle of the event and also in a limo, she still might have to master English and make an effort to sell her works to American readers, if she believes her works have universal value.

She doesn’t have to win a Nobel Prize to be respected somewhere, and she should know that where her treasure exists her mind and soul longs to stay. And especially where honorable tradition lives.

(Source of Information: The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Rising Star of India

I am interested in the article. However it may need an intuitive or religious mind to appreciate its value, for it is related to a country full of spirits.

Some cynical persons might simply say that this boy wants to be a politician or something someday. But, judgment of the God might be very different.

A young Indian software engineer working in Infosys with 3000 employees in Bangalore, India, proudly said, “I will soon make a business trip to the US. Here you can enjoy success if you have ability and skills. I don’t even know what caste I belong to.”

Most of Indians are not a Muslim. But Hindus. Buddhism was born from Hinduism, separated, but eventually absorbed again in India. However, China, Korea, and Japan were once all eager to learn Buddhism, and developed their intellect by mastering the religion. Indians might be well aware of that, and thus very proud.

Even the concept of the number zero was developed in India. Not in ancient Greek or Rome. Even Mesopotamians who developed various skills of calculation, including Pythagoras's theorem, 1000 years before Pythagoras was born could not reach the level to manipulate zero.

The article is accompanied by a few pictures, one of which shows two boys and a girl, of lower classes if they go to school at all, who live with their one-dollar-a-day-earning father in a blue-sheet tent shown behind them. Beyond many similar, half-broken, blue tents, a large modern building is under construction for an IT company.

Bangalore is a rising star of India that is the second largest software exporter in the world. Besides, the province where the city belongs has two official languages one of which is English. Perhaps during the 21st century, the same thing, that is, employing English as one of official languages, would not happen in China and Japan that have never been or not wholly been colonized by any English speaking country.

It is well known that there are many street children in India. Major difference between G7 and other countries might be this existence of street children. But India is one of the worst in this respect.

The young Indian software engineer spotlighted in the article is also a helper to these poor children. He reportedly successfully persuaded his company to support children in a state of destitution. He is also teaching how to read and write to them in person. Maybe such an employee that is so enthusiastic about saving street children is very rare or just one of its worldwide 36,000 employees of Infosys Technologies.

He may become a politician or something some day. Or he might simply continue to irritate unlucky Americans who think their jobs have been taken away by this kind of young IT workers overseas.

Indians seem not to respect Japan though they might be influenced profoundly. On the other hand, it seems that some Japanese cannot help but believe there must be something very valuable in India, such as zero, Buddhism, or maybe the Indian Ocean. Anyway, I have never heard them shouting “Death to Japan!”

(Source of Information: The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Farewell to Afghanistan

I suppose this is necessary at least for two reasons.

Medical doctor Tetsu Nakmuara once made unsworn testimony in the Japanese national assembly called Diet. He was also sometimes a focus of TV programs. However it was September 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda on the east coast of America that drew people’s attention onto him in Japan. He has been working to help Afghan people and Pakistani since 1984. Today, his organization called Peshawar-kai has a Web site to introduce his work.

The membership requires 3,000 yen (roughly $30) per year. The number of members of the group is almost 12,000. So, its budget might be around $360,000US. But there might be some large givers who, each alone, would donate hundreds of thousand dollars. Appearance on TV and in the Diet might also appeal to some rich people concerned.

In February 2002, another middle-aged doctor began to work in Peshawar. How and why he came to Pakistan and Afghanistan was, in a sense, easy to comprehend and believe. In 1999 he happened to see a TV program featuring Doctor Nakamura, and later he spotted often this suddenly-focused-on medical doctor on TV since start of air-raid by the U.S. on Talibans and Al-Qaeda in 2001. It was incidentally when he was searching for opportunity to work in some Asian country. At last, he made contact with the Peshawar-kai. Then he found the way to realize his dream he had long cherished since his first overseas trip made in his late 30’s to Asia.

Since then three years have passed. And at the end of his mission in the region, he wrote some on a brochure of the Peshawar-kai.

The medical doctor wrote Afghan medical doctors were very proud. They seemed to be respected far more than their professional brethren in Japan. Their knowledge level, as an expert, is very high. So, the Japanese medical doctor must try hard to let them understand merit of Japanese way and adopt it. For example, he observed 3000 cases of medical test of upper alimentary tract.

He wrote that he met many Japanese workers in Peshawar, most of whom were working in Afghanistan. And he was very thankful to the Peshawar-kai for providing him with a chance to work there.

Medical doctor Nakamura was well known for his anti-America views. Perhaps, the views are linked to his motivation to work in those regions, which started two decades ago when Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles, Ronald Reagan was re-elected, and FAO reported that 150 million people were starving in Africa.

The reasons I picked up this issue are not to turn a spotlight on that famous medical doctor Nakamura for any reasons. But, to show my satisfaction with good medical work done by a nameless medical doctor and to take heed on the very pride of Afghan medical doctors which surprised the humble, nameless Japanese doctor.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Tragedy just short of the moment

I've got some pieces of information, this morning.

Mrs. Thatcher of England would not make private the British railway. She wouldn’t and she didn’t. Several years after she left her office in Downing Street No.10, it was however eventually privatized. Japan was faster than England in this movement.

The issue is around deficit-ridden local lines and safety. Both meaningful mostly for quality of service and satisfaction of voters, tax payers, consumers, and ordinary people.

There were many shocking scenes televised while the world was alerted to the Tsunami disaster triggered by the earthquake under the sea off the Sumatra Island. Among them, trains overturned by the violent sea water in Sri Lanka were especially impressive to our eyes.

A few months prior to the Tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean, which claimed some hundred of thousand lives and eventually a memorial visit by two former US Presidents to the site, a fairly large earthquake had hit an area north of Tokyo and near the Sea of Japan.

A super-express line called Shin-Kan-Sen links Tokyo to a major city in the area. This high-speed train line was also hit by the earthquake, and a Shin-Kan-Sen train happened to be running just on the very moment when the seismic tremor occurred.

The Shin-Kan-Sen train has been one of the pride of Japan, for its level of technology and record of safety. But, the day of the Chu-Etsu earthquake it seemed to be destined to face a tragedy with many passengers in it.

As a matter of fact, it derailed but neither fell from the overhead line nor collided with another train. Even no major damages to passengers. But, long rails on the concrete surface of the overhead line were curved upside in a half loop and got winding dynamically near the train automatically stopped. Large concrete substructure holding the overhead line were broken and severely damaged in some locations.

It was not by chance that no tragedy happened. There was good work behind the scene. When a great earthquake hit an area near the Japan’s second largest metropolitan area in 1995, the Shin-Kan-Sen trains were also spared disaster. The 1995 Han-Shin Earthquake occurred fairly early in the morning, though taking away some 6000 lives and toppling elevated highway roads. But, it was apparent that Shin-Kan-Sen lines should be reinforced and further shored up in some critical areas across Japan.

Then, strengthening work was planned and carried out. But, in the original plan, the work was intended to apply only to lines near metropolitan areas such as Tokyo.

Here a spotlight is on an old engineer of a privatized railroad company, who had long experiences in working from days of national management, and strongly recommended to reinforce some portions of lines from Tokyo to the Chu-Etsu area. His opinion was respected and the work was done. Maybe, it is because they found there was a fault running underground along or across the line, though it had been dormant for a few thousand years.

That reinforcement work actually stopped the tragedy just in front of the moment that might have immediately led to the full-scale tragedy.

So, it is really nice and necessary to respect an old and experienced engineer. But, I still believe there is something more to ponder in this whole information.

(Source of Information: The Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper, May 15, 2005 )