Friday, November 28, 2014

Washi: Sekishu-banshi

Like washoku, UNESCO added washi (Japanese papers) to their list of intangible cultural heritage.

Here is a problem in reporting. It wasn't all the traditional Japanese papers being selected but only three kinds: Sekishu-banshi, Mino-shi, and Hosokawa-shi. So it should say three washi instead of washi. I smell the problem in the leadership, which tried to make it sound all washi were selected. I think the problem the government had was that Sekishu-banshi was already selected in 2009 by UNESCO. I let you imagine the scene how they handled the problem when other two paper people claimed to be a part of the UNESCO list, too. I guess they didn't think ahead enough and probably didn't have a sound process to apply for the UNESCO's list.  If they did, they didn't need to reapply for it.

"Wa" means Japanese and shi, papers. Many hans(samurai domains) proudly created their own papers but only few survived for financial reason. This article explains the difference among those selected, and it seems Sekishu-banshi comes to top in quality and technique and the natural resources that are available in Iwami(Sekishu's other name). Yay! My ancestors belonged to Hamada han that created and developed the paper. Iwas's pink letter I introduced here and in my blog before was perhaps written on a Sekishu-banshi. Iwa is my great great grandmother.

Congratulation to the people of Hamada! Your washi paper is number one!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


More than ten years ago, I heard about a memoir published with a similar subject, domestic violence, and I wanted to find out how the author and her sisters dealt with it for so long and why their mother didn’t know about it. But I didn’t read it. I think the story took place in Texas.
              Then I read part of this story, DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE nine years ago or so in the memoir-writing workshop I was in with the author, so I knew it was published seven years ago. I wanted to read it but didn’t.
Why do I avoid difficult subjects? Come to think of it, I have a history of avoidance. For example, just before I left Japan in 1970 for the first time, I read a book about Japanese feminists’ struggles and was shocked to find that many Meiji women in kimono fought for women’s rights, and some went to jail. Many female authors died young in the Meiji era (1868-1916). I felt guilty because I knew I was a coward. Those women didn’t escape as I did, but they tackled the fundamental problem of our world. They’ve been on my mind.
Racism is another subject I didn’t know if I could ever challenge head on. At the bottom of my heart, I wanted to be the kind of person who does not walk away from problems that are in front of or around me.
So I read DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE slowly. I enjoyed reading chapter by chapter for the culture was totally different from mine, growing up. For instance, no guns lay around our house or on the floor of any cars I rode on. I probably wouldn’t be able to truly understand the culture and all the issues.
 But I trusted the narrator for her adventurous mind, braveness, and sense of humor. She was the story.
I also read the reviews on Amazon about this book, and I thought some bad reviews meant most of us, including old me, were not ready to read the book. But, I believe, those readers benefited from the reading. If we encountered a strange situation in our lives or heard about one, we could possibly see another dimension to human nature because of the reading, so it might help us act on it.
Suicide is like racism, which adults teach children their prejudice. I was drawn to Wendy’s death. She appeared only briefly in the story but left a strong impression on me. After her death, the narrator tried to eulogize and honor her by setting up something memorable in a display case along the school hallway. Her teacher happens to pass by the hallway. He tells her to remove the display she was working on.
The teacher seems very cold. What will the narrator do or say next? Japanese teachers would say something comforting to her no matter what was the situation of her friend’s death. The narrator is a brave person but she doesn’t protest a word and obediently follows the teacher’s instruction. She wonders what the teacher meant by “epidemic.” We surely need to avoid the epidemic of suicide.
But Suicide is a death of a human. I think we can still honor our friends, without honoring suicide.
This story contains complex issues: domestic violence, female struggles, racism, and suicide. I believe they are all connected. I won’t write about the connection here to make this review short.

As all the good books, this book doesn’t lecture. The issues are global. The author of DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE shows how it was from her viewpoint at the time she wrote. I honor her work because hers is not an easy task.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Opera "Eugene Onegin"

During his interview, the Russian maestro Valery Gergiev said he and others in Russia not only studied Pushkin in poetry and literature but they recited "Eugene Onegin." I guess it's the Russian tradition itself like Genji Monogatari to Japanese. What a difference in traditions. 

But do Russians really teach the scene of a duel and seducing a married woman to young children? And the married woman calls out, "I love you," to a man who is not her husband? I know the Japanese literature committee to select Genji texts had gone through rigorous pick and choose for junior and high school students but Murasaki Shikibu showed passion through depicting changes of seasons and flowers and leaves. No character says I love you in Genji Monogatari so for a thousand years or so ordinary Japanese didn't say so. It sounds weird if we do. 

According to Wikipedia, the maestro is known to conduct with a toothpick. He has very large eyes. I don't think that would ever happen to Japanese conductors, toothpick or large eyes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

East Jasmine Review

My short story "A Cheese Burger and Pickles" was formally accepted by East Jasmine Review for publication. The date will be on September 1st. To support the American Literary tradition, I want millions of people all over the world buy a copy of East Jasmine Review! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Literacy of Japanese Women" Published!

Page 36 of the July issue of Eye-Ai magazine.  Available in Japan and Hawaii and also on Amazon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Suganuma Akira Sensei

Suganuma sensei is my Sanskrit teacher at Asahi Culture Center at Shinjuku, Tokyo. I joined his advanced class since April without knowing devanagari.  I only took one basic Sanskrit course from one of his students long time ago. 

The class has been working on Bhasa's play.  It's been very interesting.

This is my third Sanskrit book written by him.  He told me he didn't like to sign his books.  I said, "Why not?"  He eventually signed it for me.  I would regret it if he didn't so I'm glad about that.

I didn't know he also wrote my name.  Thank you!

The bookstores in Japan offer book-cover services.  They usually ask customers if we want it, but this time the worker didn't ask me.  She handed me the book as you see it as above photo.  

I have a lot to say about this first page already but I need to rest my eyes.  It's very exciting to talk about each word and on my each discovery!

I like this book. It's thick but not heavy and the corners are round.

I was unaware that he was the author of my first two Sanskrit textbooks when I joined his class in April.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The STAP Cell Issue Needs Gloria Allred

Obokata Haruko needs Gloria Allred.  The STAP Cell issue violated her civil right.  Her lawyer hesitates to suit Riken for a libel case. Why is it taking so long?  We all know her reputation has ruined, therefore also her career.  Think who persevered to discover the STAP cell.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government skipped raising the status of Riken and the other organization to the special national level, which enable much more funding, on the ground that Riken hasn't met the government's requirements for managing national organization. This is also very tame approach because it involves unspoken, shameful national illness on women’ rights. It is rooted deeply in our culture for a thousand years. Even today, top ministers cannot tell frankly to the top Riken leaders, "Look, clear your sunglasses and straighten your prejudiced attitude on women.  If you don’t, you're all fired for good for the future of Japan."

Also, Nature, a British magazine for science, said they've been investigating the issue on their own because what they published is their utmost concern. That's great. I'd like to hear their debate on this case. And please include your opinions on Japanese civil rights and women's rights.  I say it's backward and so obvious.  Many Japanese men are still unaware of their prejudiced attitude on Obokata san. This is more than the issue itself. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saikaku and Impure Words

I was reading Five Women Who Pursued Their Love (好色五人女 Kōshoku Gonin Onna, published in 1685) by Ihara Saikaku (1642 – 1693)

The story is from the feudal period. Men and women had no freedom and woman had it worse. If she fell in love and followed her heart, the fate would surely end in tragedy. It's a novel about five women and three of them are known to be based on true events. Their names are Onatsu, Osen, Osan, Oshichi, and Oman. Prefix O is honorific but they weren't respected. Saikaku was extremely talented poet, novelist, and although he is not defined as a playwright, to me he is. His novels are so vivid in descriptions, playwrights had easy time converting into plays, kabuki, and jyoruri. He put all his talents into his art and created a new genre that is still enjoyed even today.

One of the disciplines Ihara Saikaku had was to limit his usage of the words starting with a dakuon (murky or impure sounds) which is such as b, d, g, j, z.  The first chapter of "Five Women Who Pursued Their Love" has five titles and those include only one word starts with voiced.  It's 状箱 jyobako(money box). Money is quite often considered dirty in our literature.  The first word of the fourth title is the only one. This is, I believe, intentional, following the tradition of the Japanese literature, which I think idiosyncratic. Such discrimination was, at first, to be highly sophisticated trend, following, I believe, Mandarin. Mandarin does not contain any dakuon. If we follow idiosyncrasy for hundreds of years, it simply remains forever.

1. koi wa yami yoru o hiru no kuni
                             murotu ni kakurenaki otoko ari
2. kukeobi yori arawaruru fumi
                              himechi ni miyako masari no onna ari
3. taiko ni yoru sisimahi
                haya waza wa kosodemaku no naka ni ari
4. Jyoubako ha yado ni oite kita otoko
                            kokoroate no setahi ookini chikahi ari
5. inochino uchino nanajyaku ryou no kane
                             yoni hayari uta kikeha aware ari

Just for a record I checked the rest of the chapters and found five titles each and found only one other word starting with a voiced consonant. It's the fourth title of the fourth chapter and the word is bakemono which means goblins.  It's coincidence that even in English the word starts with a voiced consonant, g.

This is a photo of one of local bridges near my place in Yokohama. We all call it hanamibashi はなみばし instead of hanamihashi はなみはし. That is called rendaku 連濁 sequential voicing. This new engraved style followed the old traditional writing.  Yes, in Saikaku's writing, I see his effort in less usage of  even rendaku.

We all carry on traditions without much thinking but we need to know the original intention and process. Yes, it's history.  Don't blindly accept anything like a narcissist.

In sutra, the meaning of 差別 (discrimination) is for the purpose of improvement, not for negative purpose, according to a Buddhist.  I think the meaning of some words in sutra are quite different from our daily usage.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

At Last Dr. Obokata Spoke

At last, Dr. Obokata spoke before the media for two and a half hours.  She said she has succeeded with the STAP cell experiment more than 200 times and had no malicious intent in producing data. She has confirmed that one other person succeeded in reproducing STAP cell but she didn’t name the person.  

Why that person does not come forward and tell Riken and the world about the successful result?  Why Dr. Sasai is the only person who’s been defending Dr. Obokata?  What’s happening to the rest of her colleagues and co-authors of the STAP papers? That’s a mystery. I hope to find out later.

This afternoon, I talked with a female medical doctor about this issue.  She told me that Science communities in Japan are men’s world, and Riken is notorious in producing high suicide rates.  Wow.  I didn’t know that.  But generally it’s tough for women to head a team of men.  I say this out of my experience.

This evening, Asahi Shimbun reported that Riken agreed to set up a committee to guide their researchers so that future misconducts would be avoided.  The government has been on Riken’s back on this issue.  Good for them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dr. Obokata and STAP Cell

Because I find no English articles on STAP Cell news from April 2nd, I'll use a few excerpts from the Japan Times' article on 3/15/2014.

"During Friday’s news conference, which lasted around four hours, Riken President Ryoji Noyori, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry, strongly criticized Obokata. “An unskilled scientist dealt with a huge amount of data in an extremely sloppy way without a sense of responsibility,” Noyori said in reference to her."

I've heard of his negative opinion on the media multiple times, but nothing from Dr. Obokata.  She's been forbidden by the Riken to speak up before the media.  She should speak up.  There is something wrong with this society, stopping individual rights just to speak up.

"Obokata has admitted she processed images to make the research papers appear more attractive, according to Riken senior researcher Shunsuke Ishii, who is leading the internal investigation."

I don't know if the Japan Times reporter interpreted Ishii's words or Ishii actually used the comparable word, but I believe above "attractive" is not appropriate in this case.  According to Asahi Shimbun of April 2nd, Dr. Obokata said she wanted to make the photo clearer for viewers. I thought if the photo was dark, lightness helps, and many times, more contrast helps to see the detail. What's wrong with Ishii and Noyori and other faceless unfair minded people to judge that to be falsifying attempts without letting Dr. Obokata respond before the media?

"Obokata has told the Riken inquiry team that she had no idea the act was inappropriate, Ishii said. “I wonder if she has had no chance to learn research ethics,” he said."

To be fair, I suggest this kind of scrutinizing acts on all the science papers, starting with Dr. Noyori's.  Have the twitter user 11jigen gather the like-minded users on the Internet and go ahead and scrutinize Dr. Noyori's past papers including his incomplete, unpublished papers, just like what it was done to Dr. Obokata.  According to the Riken's standards, I think it isn't too late to discredit even Nobel Prize winners if someone wants to judge any intention malicious. 

As far as I’ve read, Ishii had met with her twice.  Being an only 30 years old and scientist, not a lawyer, she was ill prepared.  Apparently Riken was already planning to discredit her before a fair process and also already planned their new project to prove the experiment starting April 1st.  That was four days ago.  Talking of ethics and integrity, they have none.

Both Riken and Obokata san believe STAP cell exists, and any work to prove is very difficult.  But so far, Obokata san and her team have been responsible for this great, unprecedented discovery.  Don't you think Riken owes her open communication free from pressure from the beginning?  

For Noyori to have said that Obokata has no sense of responsibility is extremely judgmental and rude.  The world audience hasn’t heard of her side of the story. It's completely one sided.

Let me know your opinion on this.  I can't wait to see she speaks for her defense.  There must be a good explanation on two experiment notebooks with no dates and other details. 

Friday, March 7, 2014




New York, NY – International Women's Day 2014 on WBAI Radio is hosted this year by Mary Ann Miller, From The Women's Desk.

**Opening Ceremony: Mary Ann Miller, Kathryn Davis, Lorraine Currelley of The Harlem Arts Fund, Writing For Peace and Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers, and Cynthia Parsons McDaniel presenting 'The Least Known Actress In The World.'

**US Representative for New York's 12th congressional district Carolyn Maloney. In a phone conversation with Mary Ann Miller, to speak about her plans to re-introduce Equal Rights Amendment legislation.

**Andrea Katz with WBAI intern Aurelie Diese. Hosting a segment on the state of affairs of feminism, as well as cultural demands on ethnic communities of younger women. Several guests will call in from the Barnard Research Center on women, along with an African American female artist whose work deals with these issues, and representatives from the younger Moslem community.

**Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi. The NYC based Italian, artist, will discuss her current exhibit Material Puns, at the International Fine Arts Consortium in NY.

**Naomi Brussel, co-host of Out-FM. In a conversation about lesbians in the Philippines, and same sex adoption issues.

**Heart Of Mind host Kathryn Davis. A segment about the plight of young black women today.

**Medea Benjamin of CodePink, just returned from Egypt. Where she was imprisoned and brutalized by Cairo police on her way to join a delegation traveling to Gaza in Palestine for a women’s conference. She is expected to phone in.

**West Coast Poets On The Air

*Judy Juanita: Her poetry has appeared in 13th Moon, Painted Bride Quarterly, Lips, Crab Orchard Review, Croton Review and Obsidian II. Her plays have been produced in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, LA, and NYC. Juanita's first novel was Virgin Soul, a coming of age story whose protagonist joins the Black Panther Party in the sixties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her collection of essays, Labyrinthine: Essays On Becoming A Novelist, was published last month by EQD Press in Oakland.

*Lynne Bronstein: She is a writer, journalist, and poet who lives in Santa Monica, and writes about social consciousness, sisterhood and sexuality. Her books include Border Crossings, Thirsty In The Ocean, Roughage, and Astray From Normalcy. Bronstein has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for poetry in 2014.

*Julia Stein: An LA fiction writer and poet, Stein has published seven books of poetry. Her latest collection is What Were They Like, about
bringing peace after ten years of wars. She will be reading poems from Walking Through a River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry, in honor of the 102nd anniversary of the worker tragedy.

*Karen Kevorkian: She is a fiction writer and poet whose work has appeared in numerous magazines. Including Antioch Review, Fiction International, 5 Fingers Review, Hambone, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Mississippi Review, Rio Grande Review, River City Review, Third Coast, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

*Carol Dorf: She is poetry editor of Talking Writing, whose most recent issue honors Muriel Rukeyser. She also teaches mathematics at Berkeley High School. Dorf's poetry has been published in Spillway, Sin Fronteras, The Mom Egg, Composite, Occupy SF, Fringe, About Place, The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Scientific American, Maintenant, OVS, Best of Indie Lit New England, and elsewhere.

Keiko Amano: She states, 'I have been writing since my mother died in 1996. Growing up, she forced me to practice the traditional art, Ocha (tea ceremony), but I rebelled against it and all the outmoded boring Japanese customs. My first memoir revolves around this major conflict between Mother and me starting in 1957 in Yokohoma, Japan.' Amano will read from her work, The Immediate Theater.

**Performing artist Elizabeth Ruf Maldonado. Presenting a feature segment about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and Occupy Wall Street. Including dramatizations of a monologue by Clara Lemlich organizing the young workers, and as a Wall Street Occupier singing the OWS anthem, Guitarmy. Which Maldonado wrote as a tribute to the Triangle martyrs and Pete Seeger. The phoenix rises from the ashes.

****Earth Mum interviews Pearl Means. Widow of the late Native American rights activist, Russell Means.

**Closing Remarks: Janet Coleman of Cat Radio Cafe.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

International Women's Day Celebration

For International Women's Day celebration, I'll be reading some of my stories.
Please tune in to WBAI-FM Online Radio!
Date: Saturday, March 8th
Time: 5:15 p.m. Pacific Time, 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Two Indian Activists named Bose

I knew very little about Bose, an Indian activist who dedicated his life for India's Independence, but I didn't know there were two such activists with the same last name, Bose.  Both men were in Japan, revered by Japanese, and died young.  They were both cremated and buried in a temple in Japan.

It seems above English sites are the translation of the Japanese sites, and the Japanese sites show more references and little more details.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Osho san by Conto 55
if this doesn't work, please go to youtube and copy the below as keywords and search.


The struggling Buddhist priest and a young disciple
In their neighborhood, a Christian church has been built recently, and people started going to the church instead of their temple.

"Because the pastor at the church is hansome," the disciple says.

"Did you say I'm not hansome?" the priest says.

"Even if I didn't say, you're not hansome."

Now people go to the church for weddings and funerals, the priest says they need to change this situation.  He suggests the disciple become a super star to attract more people to come to the temple.  He also suggests the disciple  become more modern and employs the enka rhythm, then the jazz rhythm, and so on, and he decides that their monotone sutra chants is out.

Their impromptu sketch makes me laugh every time.

The great comedian on left is Sakagami Jiro.  He died on March 10, 2011, which was a day before the big tsunami and earthquake in the northeast.  The media couldn't cover his eulogy well until a year later.

To maintain their comedy spontaneous and fresh, they didn't have meals or drinks together because most comedian teams break up easily.  But toward the end of Jiro san's life, they had a meal or two together, and Jiro san told his wife how much he enjoyed it.

They both became the head of their local baseball team, and Jiro san started a school of comedians, and he was the principal of the school.  Just before I came to the U.S. in 1970, they were at the beginning of their career, and they were the funniest.  Just a thought of them makes me smile.