Saturday, December 29, 2001

Reflecting on the Year 2001 (2)

The incident that moved and had the most profound effect on the entire world this year is definitely the September 11th terrorist attacks that happened in the United States. It's been said that, "The world changed drastically after that day" which means that the way we, the general public, look at things has changed. The reasons--religious, idealogical and political ways of thinking--for this act of terrorism came as a result of years of the history of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Middle East. Not only the United States, but all Western countries, including Japan, are in part to blame. Introspective discussions on how to proceed are being held all over the world. The important thing from a religious standpoint, however, is the question of "fundamentalism" and "religion and politics."

At the Seicho-No-Ie Fall Festival ceremony on November 22nd of this year, I spoke on the former, and it is also recorded in an entry on the website entitled, "Seicho-No-Ie Is Not Fundamentalism." Today, I would like to touch briefly on the latter.

Although I'm not too familiar with Afghanistan, according to a Pakistani journalist who has reported on this country for over 20 years, 90% of the people in Afghanistan are of the moderate Sunni group of Islam. Moreover, they also belong to the "Hanafi Sect" which is considered the most liberal. In this doctrine, it is believed that, in order to implement the Koran and other scriptures in the present, it is more important to draw conclusions through analogies and explanations from what is written there, rather than to respect/honor the "authority." In contrast, those of the "Maliki Sect" suppress their own interpretations and emphasize the details as written in the "scriptures."

The Taliban which controlled Afghanistan got their theological principles from the Wahhabi Deobandism, a strict by-product of Sunni Hanafi Islam. According to this journalist, "They fitted nowhere in the Islamic spectrum of ideas and movements that had emerged in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1994" and its interpretation of Islam, the Holy Wars, and social reform was heresy in Afghanistan." For this "heresy" to gain control of the government, there were many serious problems with society, one of which was the fighting and the intervention by foreign forces. This can be surmised by the fact that Osama Bin Ladin himself is from Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban is made up of many Arabs, Pakistanis and other foreigners. But we need to emphasize the fact that in Islamic teachings, the Taliban are "heretics"" Their policies of banning "frivolities" like television and video, and the way they deny modern-day law enforcement and strictly enforce public stoning and amputation, and forbid women to show their face and body in public is not the true Islamic society. It is the cruel result of what happens when a small heretical group of believers gain control of government policies. The traditional and historical Islam of Afghanistan has always hoped to decrease government intervention and want a "small government", but, when the country is in danger, a "large government" is established through force and strength, with a movement to "foreign" elements, influences and control of the smallest detail of people's lives--similar to what the Japanese people have experienced in the past as well.

In Islamic society, the unification of religion and government has been a given, but, when we consider the background and history of this incident, we find that this does not always bear the best results.

References:Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

- MT

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Reflecting on the Year 2001 (1)

It's difficult to believe we've already reached the end of the year. I'd like to pause and reflect on the year 2001 and express my personal thoughts in a couple of installments of this site. Just a few days ago, my book entitled, Shokan Zakkan (Sekai Seiten Fukyu Kyokai), consisting of my journal entries for the past six months, was published. Much like a "diary", it records my personal observations. Each entry and picture posted here on this website has been designed to fit more or less within the dimensions of the computer screen. Since the book has 113 of these entries, it can be said that it's a heaven sent child of the internet age.

This year was the year in which I made my debut on the internet. The opening of my website made it in time for the beginning of the New Millennium, and this journal section began on January 13th with the entry referring to the birth of a monkey through genetic alteration. Continuing this type of daily entry, however, requires a lot of energy, and, if it weren't for the support of you, the readers, I don't think I could have written the 190 entries that I did. The Japanese title of the books means "Collection of Essays Written in My Spare Time." The truth is, however, this is not something that I can really write in "my spare time"--even more so, if I include a drawing with it. If I try too hard, it affects my other work, so, next year, I don't think I'll write at the same pace as I did this year.

At the beginning of 2001, I wrote and published a book entitled Before Playing God about the sorrowful, "wild and uncontrolled" advancements of modern technology. I used this book as a text at the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lectures in Japan for about a year. That being the case, I also wrote a lot in this journal about things related to genetic engineering and life ethics. I've touted my "opposition to human cloning", and during this time, Japan has passed a "Law Regulating Cloning" which prohibits the cloning of humans. In the U.S. government also, at least at the lower level, there is an agreement completed that states there will be no human cloning. This is definitely something that is needed. We still can't be sure, however--There are still concerns regarding those areas of science/technology in cloning and stem cell research that may take on "a life of its own" or run "out of control", and there are no ethical standard that is agreed upon, which control or govern technology in the field of reproductive medicine, either domestically or internationally. We found out this year that "surrogate mothers", formally prohibited by Japan's Association of Gynecologists, are, in actuality, being used here in Japan. This just goes to show that a voluntary agreement among physicians regarding this ethical issue is inadequate.

The basis of this problem lies in the theological, moral and religious thesis of just exactly how much society is willing to allow in man's search to satisfy his own desires. Saying that its one's "right to have children" may sound impressive, but it's not much different than "the mind that wants children." In the same way, within the "right to a healthy life" lies the desire to "escape from hereditary (genetic) disease" or "never to grow old." In time, this may lead to the "right to select gender" or the "right to select ethnicity." We must avoid the misconception that the "right" to do something is "right." Endlessly stretching a "right" makes it become a "wrong." We must find a happy medium between the two. I think the 21st Century is a time when mankind must work to come to grips with the root of these problems, and, together, find a solution to them all.

- MT

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Virus Hoax

I received an e-mail from a friend in California, warning against viruses. As I wrote in my December 12th entry, I've already had the frightening experience of being infected with a computer virus, so I stood prepared--"OK, now which one?" According to this message, he had received an e-mail on how to eliminate viruses. Using this to check his computer, he found that the C:\WINDOW\COMMAND folder in his hard drive was infected. The e-mail was an "FYI" message. Since the last experience, I still hadn't cleaned out my hard drive, so, since it seemed simple to find the virus, I decided to try it. All we needed to do was to run the "find or search" function, find the "sulfnbk.exe" file, which is the virus, and delete it by sending it to the "recycle" bin.

I found the problematic file immediately after starting the search. According to my friend, "This virus has an incubation period of two weeks, after which it begins to destroy the hard drive." I thought it best to delete this evil thing, and threw it in the recycle bin. He'd also written that I should "empty the bin" as well, but that's where I hesitated. If I empty the bin, that file would disappear completely. If, however, the information this person sent me was false, and this file isn’t a virus, wouldn't the results be "fatal"? I decided to take a look at when this virus was created? June 2000. This was strange, since I'd just bought my computer this past summer. If the virus had been in my computer since then, it should already have destroyed my hard drive completely.

The previous infection happened because I believed the e-mail sender. Unbeknownst to the sender, the virus had sent out entirely false information by e-mail. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I decided to question the contents of the e-mail sent by this person, too. So, I sent a message confirming, "Did you really send this e-mail?" At the same time, I asked the virus specialist at work if this e-mail had anything to do with virus. I didn't even have to wait for an answer from my friend in California. The result of my inquiry was "correct." The specialist said, "That’s called a 'bogus virus.' Viruses do all sorts of complicated things within the computer, but this 'virus hoax' isn't a program or anything. It's simply 'false information.'" Telling someone who isn't very computer literate that "This is a virus" might fool them. And, if they see it in their computer, they might misunderstand and think they're infected, too. Furthermore, if they're told there's a possibility that they may have sent it to others, they may, with every good intention, send the same incorrect information to friends and acquaintances. In this way, false information is spread throughout the world. This is a sophisticated strategy that preys upon the "good intentions" and "insecurity" of others.

By the way, where and how do religion and this type of bogus virus differ? When you think about it, there might be an interesting conclusion. When you have time, perhaps during the holidays, how about trying to think of an answer?

- MT

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Christmas Shopping

Thursday, on my day off, my wife and I went shopping. Since Christmas is just around the corner, we couldn't let this opportunity go by. We were there when the doors opened at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi, and, first of all, my wife chose presents to give to our two college-age sons. Since they were selling ties in the same department, I browsed around, and, finding some nice ones, I, with my wife's advice, bought two. Those became my wife's present to me. They were selling winter pajamas nearby, so, at her suggestion, I bought a pair. My wife bought her father a birthday present since he'll be celebrating his birthday soon. Next, on a different floor, my wife got our daughter a present. We looked at each other and said, "We're really having a very productive day."

Since it was getting close to lunch, we left the department store and headed towards the Tokyo ANA Hotel in Roppongi. We had lunch at a sushi restaurant there, after which we went to some nearby shops to look for presents for my parents. Since there are a lot of American companies in the buildings in that area, security guards were everywhere, regulating the traffic of people, protecting against any possible terrorist activity. We had to go the long way around just to get to a store located nearby, so we were exhausted. There just happened to be a coffee shop which prohibits smoking, and, since the smell was so inviting, we decided to go in and take a break. We shared a cappuccino and were relaxing at a table when one of the sales people came up and offered us a small paper cup of their original Christmas blend to sample. There being no reason for us to refuse, we gratefully accepted the drink.

As it turned out, we couldn't find anything for my parents around there, so we got in the car again and drove to the Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya. There we bought my mother a present, and a sweater for my wife as well. Although we've been married for over 20 years, there are still times when we make mistakes buying something for the other person. There are many instances when we've bought something we liked, only to find that it didn't look good on the other. That being the case, the two of us made the selection of my ties together. And, it's always best to have her try on the sweater I'm going to give her. In this way, by the time we finished 90% of our shopping and got back home, it was already past 3 pm.

After this day-long shopping experience, I feel the strain of life as a consumer in the city. Why is "shopping for presents" so exhausting? It's probably because there are too many things from which to choose. Moreover, there's always the concern that the person may already have the similar item, so you really have a hard time deciding. Also, if you think that "it needs to be something from the heart," you may find something, but feel a bit reluctant if it's too cheap. What would happen if this were someone living , not now, but long, long ago, not in the city, but in the country? Presents in those times were only handmade items, or something caught or captured. These were "originals"--things that the other person didn't have, and there wasn't much room for decisions when it came to something you made or caught on your own. And, since it's something you made or got using your own hands, it's obviously something that "comes from the heart." With the advancement of civilization, giving presents has become difficult.

- MT

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Rules at Our House

According to the final draft report prepared yesterday by a section council of the National Education Council, adopting "Rules at Our House" is being encouraged as a part of "The Way to Educate Regarding Cultural Refinement in the New Generation." Wondering what this meant, I read the article in the Sankei Shimbun. It seems that this means we should "limit the time spent (at home) playing video games and watching TV." "Does that mean, then, that a lot of families nowadays allow children to play video games and watch TV as much as they want?" I was shocked and disappointed. Do parents now do so little that someone in the government has to say something to the effect of "Don't let your children do everything they please"? I'm very much aware that our house isn't "the average", but I thought there were a lot of other families who were equally as strict when it comes to bringing up their children. But, it may well be that ours is an "endangered species."

I've always known that neuroscience tells us that watching too much TV is bad for a growing child. Even if that wasn't the case, I think that most TV programs these days are vulgar and senseless, so we've always tried to strictly supervise the amount of time and the content of the programs our children watched. Even then, there weren't too many programs we felt were worth watching, so we would buy some videos we thought would be good and showed them to our children again and again. We also set the time frame for watching--Until such-and-such a time at night. Video games, too, were limited to "this many hours on weekdays and this many on weekends and holidays." My wife, also (although perhaps not as strict as I) was supportive of my policy, so I don't think she ever used the TV as a "babysitter." Our disappointed children would say, "We have little in common to talk about with our friends." But, I was indifferent.

Lyricist and author, Yu Aku, fills his book, The Third Family Member -- TV, This Troublesome Member within the Family, with some outstanding observations about the negative aspects of TV. Just a few examples, "TV is an invention by, and, at the same time, a disciple of the devil. It invades families, and, at a distance of only 2 meters, continues to hypnotize everyone", "Unbelievable laws such as, 'One mistake can cost you your life, but, if you continue this for three days, you may become quite popular' can be made through TV", "Certain types of anti-social campaigns can, at times, be carried out with the idea that, if they exist in society, it's okay to do. After it has become a crime, it still gives people a certain comfort since other people are doing it", "The fact that 'people would rather believe in 'the 1% of corruption rather than the 99% virtue', is what TV takes advantage of", "The horrifying sense that, in baseball, being hit by the ball is funny. There's something that has numbed one to the fact that being hit by the ball could be fatal."

Those are the warnings regarding the "content" of TV programs, but, some people are of the opinion that watching TV itself is dangerous. The brains of small children develop in a number of stages. During this time, there is a period when large quantities of "excess" brain cells die off. It's like woodcarving--you get a large piece of wood and whittle way the unneeded excess. The second developmental stage for the brain is at 7-8 years of age, after which time, a large quanity of brain cells die. One of the important functions of the brain is to automatically change the word into mental images. The best way to nurture this ability is to read on your own or to have someone read to you. By doing this, children come to understand the feelings of others and develop the ability to empathize with others. However, with the advent of TV, parents have stopped reading to their children. Since both the sound and image appear simultaneously on TV, there's no need to create the image in the brain through the sounds. So, children "brought up" with TV, lack imagination and lack the ability to understand the feeling of others--That's the theory.

Kindergarten and elementary school-age children can't be expected to understand this. So, it's up to the stubborn dad to declare bluntly that "It's a rule in our house that we don't watch TV very much." Sometimes being resented comes with fatherhood, but, on the other hand, I also made reading to our children a fatherly duty.

- MT

Friday, December 14, 2001

Truth About Santa Claus

Now that we're halfway through the month of December, I'm probably not the only one concerned about Christmas plans. Everything is adorned in holiday splendor, and strains of Christmas carols and hymns are just about all we hear as we walk through the streets of the city. For the time being, "all of Japan" seems to be "Christian." There aren't too many Santas on the street corners yet, but department stores and shops are full of "Dancing Santas" and other types of Santa dolls on display. Looking at them, I wonder if children nowadays actually believe in Santa Claus. Even if they believe when they're little, I wonder when it is that they learn "the secret."

Today's International Herald Tribune ran an article* written by a reporter of the Washington Post who wondered how to answer her children, ages 6 and 8, when they asked, "Mommy, isn't Santa really you?" She wrote that they asked her this question when she was "fed up with telling them the truth." The reason for this is that she is undergoing treatment for cancer, and, when talking with her children, has been trying to be particularly careful to balance the truth that she might die and her concern that she not overburden them with unneeded fear about their future. Her choice, therefore, was to tell them that they "can have it both ways"--that is, know what they know, "but also pretend he's real." She wrote that they themselves can then decide which parts they can take on best.

I can't imagine that telling a young child about a parent's "fatal disease" (although cancer is not always fatal) is the same as telling him/her about the existence or non of Santa Claus. In my family, however, none of our three children asked this type of direct question, so there was no need for us to explain anything. Every December when they were little, I would bring home a catalogue from the neighborhood toy store and say, "Why don't you cut out the picture of what you want, paste it on a postcard and send it to Santa Claus?" They loved doing this, and, when they were done, I'd take the postcards and say, "I'll take it to the post office for you." I would, of course, head off, not to the post office, but to the toy store, bring them back home and hide them, either in the closet or the trunk of our car. On Christmas Eve, we'd give them a huge, special deluxe Christmas stocking and have them put it by their pillows. And "Santa Dad" would come in and carefully slide the presents into their stockings when they were fast asleep. We used to do this every year until our older son, who is now 20 years old, entered junior high school.

I don't know just exactly when or from whom our children found out the "truth about Santa Claus", but our older son probably played along with us a number of years, enjoying this "play" that his parents were creating. It's not that Santa Claus "doesn't exist", but, rather, that the parents are playing the part of "Santa Claus." Therefore, it's okay to continue and be the "delighted child"--that may be how he felt.

Our daughter, a high school junior, who is the only one of our three children still at home, finished her finals a few days ago, so we went out to dinner to celebrate. My wife bought two small stuffed animals, a cat and a dog, that they were selling at the restaurant. Since this was so unusual, I asked her what had prompted her to do so, and she replied, "It's going to help the people in poor countries of the world." I looked at the label on the stuffed animals, and it said that the company was, "through the continuous import" of these handicrafts made in economically disadvantaged countries in and around Nepal, "aiming at the expansion of local employment." Santa Claus resides in the hearts of all of us.

- MT

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Virus Infection

My face grew taut as I read the fax from the U.S. I received at the office the first thing in the morning. It was because the thing that I had been worried about for the last few days had become a reality. When I checked my e-mail around noon on the 10th, I was surprised to see several messages from a Japanese friend of mine living on the West Coast. The subject was "Hi", and it was written in English, in a very relaxed, informal way. "I found a great screen saver and I'm sending it to you. I know you'll like it. Gotta run," was all it said. (Screen savers protect computer monitors by displaying animated characters, designs, when not in use.) However, this friend is far from being computer savvy. I thought it a little strange, since he's more of a serious humanities-oriented person--not someone who's interested in anything related to computers. I should have been much more cautious since I received several e-mails from him on the same subject. People are funny, though. Even when confronted with the most contradictory information, we resolve the contradiction by interpreting it the way we want.

I interpreted this particular situation as, "Well, he probably has discovered how fun computers can be and even his personality has changed", and I carelessly opened the "screen saver" attachment on his e-mail. Not just one, but on all the messages sent to me. And, on all of them, a small box popped up after launching, and, after a few seconds, an error message would appear and then freeze. That's all it was. "Is that it?" I thought, and continued working on the computer. After a while, when I was going to shut the computer down, an error message I'd never seen before came up, "."?file does not exist." This is when I first thought, "My computer may have been infected with a virus." The fax I received this morning was a very polite apology, written in Japanese, "I sent you a message, not knowing my computer was infected with a virus. Please accept my sincere apologies?" He probably sent the fax either because his computer is still not working properly or he thought a fax would be a faster way to bring my attention to the problem. This was an example of his very serious character--the relaxed style of the e-mail had been a warning of trouble.

After reading the fax, I got an anti-virus program from the IT specialist at work. Fortunately, the name of the virus was written in the fax, so we were able to take care of it immediately, and, after backing up all my important data on a CD, we ran the program. After this, I stopped getting the error message every time I tried to shut down the computer. However, we're not sure if the scan is complete. According to the specialist in our IT Department, we need to "reinstall Windows", but, if we do this, I won't be able to use my computer for several days, so I've decided to leave it as "homework for the winter break."

I want to reassure my readers, however, that I do not use either Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express for e-mail. This e-mail software has a monopoly throughout most of the world. In order to infect as many people as possible, a large number of the viruses, including the one which infected my computer, automatically sends out messages to all addresses in the address book of this software. Since I don't use this software, I do not infect others with this virus. In the past, I've written something to the effect of, "The diversity of Nature protects against fragility and ensures the stability of Nature." I am now, more than ever before, keenly aware of how very true this statement is.

- MT

Friday, December 07, 2001

Christmas Cactus

The buds on the cactus in our living room have flowered. The potted plant that my wife had taken such good care of, was by the window through which it could get a lot of light. But, about a week ago, many round dark-pink buds started to appear from the pointed ends of the crab leg-shaped green stems. In this cold weather it grew to about 5 centimeters long, and, once the petals on the end opened, it bloomed. With the stamen jutting out from the middle of the blossom, it looks almost triumphant--as if it had been waiting for the arrival of December. The pistil at the end of the blossom is the same dark pink color as the petals, but delicate white thread-like stamen surround it. If you look closely, you can see all the yellow pollen at the ends. It's very lovely, very sweet, the way the stamen seems to be extending out, as if trying to bear fruit, even in the winter, when there are very few insects. So, at the end of the day, when the sun was going down, I closed the curtain only halfway so the thick material would not damage the blossoms.

It seems that it's very difficult for this type of cactus to bear fruit from the blossom. It comes from the jungles of Brazil and is vigorous. When the crab leg-like stem is broken and falls off, it sprouts roots and the stem grows. This is generally the way it grows. Because of this the "joints" of the crab-like legs break quite easily. This stem segmentation is the way it multiplies and flourishes. My wife tells me that this particular plant has been with us for more than 10 years. She has been putting it out during the day, watering it occasionally and transplanting it in a slightly larger pot every 2-3 years. Right now, it's about 25 centimeters from the top of the soil--the plant, and the dozens of crab leg-like stems stretch like an arch, and each of the reddish pink buds have flowers at the ends. It's fabulous--like a countless number of birds with red faces and beaks, stretching their necks. Since it flowers in December, it's known in the United States and England as the Christmas Cactus.

I described the stems on the plant as "crab legs", but there might be a little confusion since there is also a similar variety of plant called kaniba cactus(crab-like cactus). There are sharp, jagged saw-like edges, on the stem of the Christmas Cactus, similar to the Mantis Crab. On the other cactus, however, the edges aren't as jagged and sharp. Since it blooms in February or March, it's called the Easter Cactus. There are also varieties that bloom during April or May. Because of their different shapes and characteristics, there are people who enjoy collecting and growing different types of cacti as a hobby. We, however, have only this one type at our house, but we do have three separate pots.

- MT

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

Ginger's True Identity

Details regarding the "dream transport machine", known by the code name, Ginger, much talked about on the internet since the beginning of this year, have been released. It's an electrically operated two-wheeler, and not a hovercraft, or a helicopter that you strap on your back, or hydrogen engine propelled car that it was first rumored to be. It's so ordinary that some people were said to be quite disappointed, but what's "unordinary" about it is the way it works. You ride the machine by standing on it, and all you have to do to change directions and slow down or speed up is adjust the handle and the way you lean, and, what's more, it doesn't have brakes. According to the inventor, Dean Kamen, to move forward or backward, the rider just leans slightly forward or backward. The sensors on it monitor the rider's weight at a frequency of 100 times per second, calculate the change, and automatically computes the speed and direction. The maximum speed is about 12.5 miles per hour, and the batteries can be charged with ordinary household current. At an average speed of 12 miles/hour, one could travel for 15 miles after charging it for six hours.

The official name is the "Segway Human Transporter." They have already received some inquiries from groups and companies that recognize the possibilities for this machine. The U.S. Postal Service and National Park Service, and the city of Atlanta are planning to test it early next year. It also seems that there are companies that are thinking about using them to transport employees around within their facilities. This means that there will be a decrease in the number of trucks used by mail carriers, and, as far as public use, it will substitute for cars in short distance travel, so they think it will help decrease exhaust fumes. Co-founder of Apple Computers, Steven P. Jobs, is reported to have said, "It (the Segway) is equal in importance to the birth of the computer."

I've seen people on T.V. riding the Segway. I thought it looked like a lot of fun, being able to change directions simply by shifting your body, but I'd have to stop and think if someone asked if I'd actually use it in Tokyo. Since it's supposed to be used on the sidewalk, that would mean bringing traffic congestion to the already congested areas of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku. And, also, it's already dangerous with the bicycles and skateboards on the sidewalks, so spare us from yet another "moving hazard." As far as my using it personally, considering taking care of my health, I feel I should avoid any further cutting back on "walking." Even if we can't drive because of traffic congestion, there are still buses, subways and trains. After all, it weighs over 60 pounds, so you can't very well carry it up a pedestrian bridge, and people living in upper levels of apartments and condos would have to deal with this problem. The price, too, is not exactly "reasonable"--they're thinking of pricing them at around $3,000.

In this way, this new invention probably won't be an "explosive hit," but it probably would be useful in parks, amusement parks, factories, expos, and exhibits. I thought for a minute about the "Seicho-No-Ie Main Temple where there are a lot of slopes," but I changed my mind--It's probably important to "climb the slopes there on our own feet."

- MT

Sunday, December 02, 2001


I've come to Kashiwara City in Nara Prefecture for a Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture. Using satellite broadcast communication, over 10,000 people in three locations, the Kashiwara Prefectural Public Gymnasium" and Nara 100 Years Hall and Nara Historical Landmark Cultural Center-- both in Nara City--participated in the event. I learned the day before, on December 1st, at about 4:15 pm, at the Kintetsu Kyoto Station, on my way here, that Crown Princess Masako had given birth to a baby girl. This is wonderful news, and at the Public Lecture the next day, everyone's eyes were shining, and it seemed that their voices were full of joy as they sang the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo. The venue in Kashiwara is right next to Kashiwara Shrine, where Emperor Jimmu is enshrined. I don't think it's coincidental that we were near the resting place of the first Emperor of Japan when the much-anticipated child of the Crown Prince, the "heir" to the imperial family, was born. After the seminar, not wanting to let this opportunity go by, I visited Emperor Jimmu's tomb which is next to the grounds of the Shrine.

I'd visited this mausoleum when I was in either junior or senior high school. According to the Nihon Shoki (the oldest chronicles in Japan), the emperor's death dates back to 584 B.C. I remember being moved at the thought that it all existed since such ancient times. However, the brochure I was given at the site says that this imperial tomb was built for a cost of 15,612 ryo, at the end of the Edo Period, in 1863 (FYI--Kashiwara Shrine was built in 1890, which is also relatively recent). This disappointed me a bit. But the further reading tells me that the location is chronicled in the Kojiki and Engishiki, but the exact location is unknown. Archeological traces are also not clear. That's how rare it is that one country can remain unchanged from so long ago. It's all the more so, then, when it comes to the Imperial Household which has remained at the center of it all, uninterrupted through the years.

After paying my respects at the mausoleum, I was walking towards the Shrine Office, when I saw a small building with a sign hanging from it that read "Office of Unebi Mausoleum Maintenance Division, Records and Mausoleum Department, Imperial Household Agency", where you could write down your name and address for congratulatioo on the birth of the new princess. Since it was Sunday, there were families standing in groups of three and four, who had come to visit the shrine and mausoleum, waiting to sign the registry. I lined up at the back of the short line, and, shortly thereafter, signed it in pen. Right in front of us, there were two men, dressed in what seemed to be the navy blue uniforms of the Imperial Household Agency. I was surprised to see that the younger man had dyed their hair brown. Even those young people unsatisfied with the black hair of time immemorial, work in the Imperial Household Agency, the epitome of the upholding of tradition. It's no wonder that there are discussions on a female inheriting the Imperial throne.

- MT

Friday, November 30, 2001

Let's Stop Smoking

The third round of discussions, being held in Geneva, amongst nations that are, for the first time in history, trying to reach an agreement regarding health issues through the "Framework for the Cigarette Restraint Regulations Pact", ended on November 28th. It was reported in the evening edition of yesterday's Asahi Shimbun that the 191 countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) met to sort the points in question, and it seems that opinions are intensifying to go in the general direction of banning of cigarette vending machines. Japan, where influence of the "cigarette promoting forces" have been strong and, therefore, the vending machines are virtually unregulated, are trying to keep this to "regulating", rather than "prohibiting" the vending machines. But, since the United States, too, supported the "ban", based on some conditions, these forces seem to be in a difficult situation. Cigarette advertising in Japan is generally given free reign, but, under this agreement, it looks like it will either be banned, or subject to "appropriate regulations." It seems that Japan is behind when it comes to awareness in this area.

Amidst this, it is only natural but, at the same time, pleasurable that the Japan Medical Association has officially acknowleded that "Cigarette smoking is harmful." We should also give credit to the fact that an increase in tobacco tax is being considered. According to one report, revenue from cigarette taxes is approximately trillion yen annually, while overall losses by society, which include cigarette smoking-related medical expenses, is about 3.2 trillion yen. In other words, although some companies may profit by cigarette sales, the people of Japan as a whole are suffering losses. Non-smoking areas in public places are becoming more predominant. For example, three-quarters of all trains are non-smoking and airplanes are all non-smoking. Despite this, though, I see people who've been affected by this, light up a cigarette as soon as they step out of the train stations and go walking down the street, a cigarette hanging from their mouths. And, of course, they throw the cigarette butts on the streets, ignoring the Tokyo, Shibuya Ward "Regulation Against Littering""

I started smoking while I was in college. I'm not sure what actually got me started? Probably because people around me were doing it, so I thought, "Oh, yeah, right," and began smoking "Seven Star." That's the brand that was popular at the time, and I myself liked the design. Looking back at this now, though, I think there's a problem with this "smoking for some reason or another" attitude. This doesn't mean that there is no reason, but, rather, that one isn't conscious of a reason. Most all of the actors I liked at the time all smoked in their movies. The young, naive subconscious in me thought that was really "cool." I also had that old conception that "Cigarettes are proof of adulthood." In novels, comics, and in advertising, there were always scenes of people "stylishly" throwing the cigarettes butts away. Moreover, there was the incorrect information circulating amongst young people that, "Smoking prevents weight gain." In other words, you began smoking in order to show off and from sheer ignorance, which is probably the case with young people these days, too.

So, adults today must teach young people what they know. We shouldn't have that, "I did it, too, so it's okay" attitude. Only adults can say, "I did it and it was wrong, so you shouldn't." Along this line, I think the Board of Education in Wakayama Prefecture made a wise decision when they decided to make the grounds on all elementary, junior and senior high schools non-smoking areas. President of the Board of Education, Mr. Youji Koseki, said, "Smoking amongst minors has gone from starting at junior high age to the elementary school age children. Even with the traditional separation of smokers and non-smokers you cannot avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking prevention is the first and most important fact of education, with the effects on education being tremendous." You don't have to be an educator to send out the same message. The youngest of the former Beatles, George Harrison, died on November 29th of cancer of the larynx--A much too early death at the age of 58. He was a heavy smoker.

- MT

Monday, November 26, 2001

Cloned Human Embryo

It seems that the human embryos have been cloned for the first time. Just as when scientists cloned Dolly the sheep, a single adult cell was fused with a nuclear-derived egg and tricked into behaving like a newly fertilized embryo. If this is implanted into the uterus, a child would be born, and that is, in essence, a clone. Therefore, scientific technology has brought mankind to the brink of producing a human clone. Although the purpose of this experiment is said to be the development of a way of obtaining embryonic stem cells matched to patients for tissue engineering and transplantation medicine, what is concerning is that, once technology develops, there are many instances when it is used for an entirely different purpose than originally planned.

Researchers from Advanced Cell Technology in the United States used somatic cell nuclear transfer in which the nuclear DNA in an egg is replaced from an adult cell and then fused to form pre-implantation embyos. Of the 19 eggs used, three went on to develop to the six-cell stage. According to the evening edition of the Asahi Shimbun, in a separate experiment, researchers used a technique in which an egg cell is activated without being fertilized by a sperm cell. A special chemical was added to 22 egg cells and six of them reprogrammed themselves to develop blastocoele cavities. That means the embryo had developed an inner and outer group of cells--the inner cells being the potential source of embryonic stem cells. This technique is called "parthogenesis."

In the Seicho-No-Ie Japanese magazine Hikarino Izumi (Fountain of Light), I have already expressed my opposition regarding fertilized eggs produced from the union of egg and sperm for use in creating stem cells and other purposes. However, the cloned embryo in this case is not created from a fertilized egg that would eventually develop into a fetus. The egg cells are, of course, "alive", but they are, if left unfertilized, destined to die. It's difficult to say, then, that using this for medical purposes is entirely unethical. On the other hand, however, if cloned embryo created through techniques such as this are transplanted into a uterus and the process of creating humans is established, the cloned embryo would be extremely similar to "normal" fertilized egg or embryo. To use this as a means to create human organs, I think, brings forth some ethical questions. In other words, at this point, it's still unclear as to how to determine the ethics of embryo cloning. That's why the "Human Cloning Law" created by the Japanese government this summer does not prohibit to create a cloned human embryo itself.

According to news reports, successful cloning of human embryo have been reported in Korea in 1998 and in China last year, but no details have been disclosed. This is the first time that the "know-how" has been announced. If, from this announcement, the cloning of embryo is facilitated, the use of stem cells and human cloning may become easier as well. In this sense, I think there is an urgent need to expedite the establishment of a worldwide moral/ethical standard for this field.

- MT

Thursday, November 22, 2001

From Mad-Cow to Cow-Dreading Disease

A second case of mad cow disease has been found in Japan during a nationwide inspection of all cows. Since this inspection of all beef focusing on that for consumption began on October 18th, 87, 872 were negative, so that means that 1 out of every 88,000 (0.00114%) has been infected with the disease. If we include the first infected cow discovered on September 22, the ratio would be 1 out of every 44,000 (0.00228%). Approximately 1,300,000 cows are said to be slaughtered annually in Japan, so that means there is a possibility that anywhere between 15-30 infected cows may be found within the next year. In that case, then, it may be possible to control the situation with the system of nationwide inspection of all cows now in place and prevent human infection. There are predictions, however, that it may not be all that easy.

Presently, the government suspects the source of infection to be contaminated animal feed made from meat-and-bone meal imported from England and other contaminated areas. The two infected cows found so far (1) are both five years old, (2) were both born in Hokkaido, and (3) are both Holstein dairy cows. Since meat-and-bone meal increases the milk in dairy cows, the possibility of feeding it to dairy cows is greater than beef cattle, and, since the incubation period is so long (two to eight years), cows that have been given this animal feed long enough and have grown old are finally killed for human consumption, then tested "positive." However, there is also data that contradicts this. That is, in each of these two cases, those raising the cows deny having given them any of this animal feed. The government blames the lack of thorough administrative guidance for the situation, but, if what the breeders are saying is true, that means there is a source of infection other than the meat-and-bone meal.

One possibility that has been given is infection from mother to child. In the cases of this disease found in England, approximately 10% are thought to have been passed from mother to child. If that is the case, then, the second infected cow found in Japan has already had three calves, so it is possible that one of the three is infected with the causative agent, a prion or abnormal partially-proteinase K-resistant protein. Dr. Richard Lacey, authority on Mad Cow Disease commented about this parent to child infection in the December issue of Bungei Shunju as follows, "The blood is the most suspicious route for prion infection." According to Dr. Lacey, "In many instances, there have been confirmed cases in which the protein antibody has been inherited from mother to child, so we can conclude that prion, which is a type of protein, can be passed through the bloodstream from mother to child. Even in areas of the body other than those known to be dangerous, as long as there is blood circulating through that area, we cannot say they are entirely safe." If we can't say that the blood is safe, then we cannot say that steak or barbeque meat are safe either, so the problem is quite serious.

Since the government issued assurances that homegrown beef was safe to eat, consumption of beef was slightly on the rise, but, with this second confirmed case of Mad Cow Disease, it will more than likely decrease once again. "Mad Cow Disease"" where the brain of the cow is affected, has become a "Cow-Dreading Disease" in which humans are now afraid of cows. As I have written before, I would like to encourage readers to take this opportunity and stop eating beef altogether. Eating beef not only has these safety issues, but it isn't good for the preservation of the environment, nor is it desirable from a religious perspective either.

- MT

Sunday, November 18, 2001

A Mother's Strength

In my April 20th entry, I introduced the results of a study on how, during the years before entering kindergarten, children who spend long periods of time in daycare facilities and such, away from their parents, often times become more aggressive and rebellious than those who have been brought up by their parents. This was the finding of a psychological study of 1300 children, and a recent study in the field of neuroscience concludes that there is a possibility that the brain of children whose mothers do not look after them in early developmental stages, may not develop normally. This was confirmed in an experiment with mice, and specialists believe that the same may be true for the human brain. These findings were published in the November 15, 2001 issue of New Scientist.

According to this report, Dr. Bruce McKewen of Rockefeller University and his team conducted an experiment on newborn mice. During the seven days immediately following birth, a period when they would normally be under their mother's constant care, the mice were separated from their mothers for three hours a day. After this, the team studied the 30,000 genes of the mice and found changes in two cranial areas. Thereupon, they found that, compared to normal mice, the nerve cells in the brain that seemed to connect the genes had changed. Dr. Wayne Brake of the University of California, Santa Barbara stated, "This indicates that the brain is developing differently in the mice in this experiment, and perhaps that the nerve cells are connected differently." A similar change is found in the study of production of dopamine in the brain. It is said that increased levels of dopamine in the brain are responsible for the symptoms of schizophrenia, while decreased levels have to do with depression.

With all the technical terminology, it may be difficult to understand, but, put simply, it means that the brain of the mice who grew up without enough of their mother's love were different than that of those which had not been separated from their mothers. It is very possible that the same mechanism as this works in the brain of a human child. In that case, it is possible that the child might develop schizophrenia or depression. This shows what a tremendous influence a mother has on her child. Therefore, mothers should not use the TV as a means of "baby sitting" and avoid leaving children at a daycare center, particularly in early developmental stages.

After the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture in Takasaki City, I went to see a statue called the Goddess of Mercy in a White Robe (AKA Takasaki Goddess of Mercy) in that city. When we hear the word, "Goddess of Mercy", we tend to think of an "affectionate", "child rearing" Goddess -- symbols of "mother" or "women." Looking at this statue, however, for some reason, it struck me as being quite masculine. The mouth was set in a firm, tightened way, and the eyes were clear and dignified. It occurred to me that perhaps it is just this type of strong will, faith and conviction that young mothers nowadays need to bring up their children with.

- MT

Saturday, November 03, 2001

A Detention Center in Harajuku

At a press conference called yesterday, Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, announced that there are plans to build a large-scale detention center in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, very near the Seicho-No-Ie Headquarters. Apparently they are going to build a new Harajuku Police Department building on the site of the old Japan College of Social Work, and, at the same time, build a new detention center that can accommodate approximately 600 people. That property, however, is adjacent to Harajuku-Gaien Junior High School, the Shibuya Ward Central Library, and Togo Kindergarten (Togo Shrine). I can see it, too, from my office at Seicho-No-Ie Headquarters. Local residents have collected 25,000 signatures on a petition to stop this plan, but, according to The Asahi Shimbun, the Governor said, "Tokyo residents want measures for public order. Any opposition to this plan is the ego of the area getting in the way."

The November 2nd edition of The International Herald Tribune--The Asahi Shimbun reported that, due to the increasing crime rate, the prison system is operating at maximum capacity. Officials at the Justice Ministry report that, although the capacity of Japan's prisons is 64,300, the system is now operating at 108%. To explain this in more detail, there are usually six people to a cell in Japanese prisons, but now there are seven, sometimes eight. With these overcrowded conditions come hostility between prisoners. The number of rule violations increased from 3,729 in 1996 to 6,033 last year. Also last year, 29,000 new inmates were imprisoned, 4,000 more than were released, and the average prison term served was 26.4 months, four months longer than in 1991. During the first half of this year, the number of reported crimes was up over 16% from last year.

It seems that an aging society and prolonged recession are behind the increase in crime. Prisoners over the age of 61 have increased; the number of elderly inmates in Tokyo's Fuchu Prison is 13% of the total (2,870), whereas 20 years ago, it was only 4.7%. Immediately after taking office, Governor Ishihara cited the increase of foreign laborers as a major reason for the increase, but it seems from this that there are other reasons.

So, then, should Seicho-No-Ie approve or oppose this plan? There may be many ways of thinking, but, since this jail is not a large-scale condominium complex, there probably won't be any problems with the "Right to Sunshine." It's also a little different from a prison, and it's not a sex-related business nor a nuclear power plant or biological/chemical weapons factory. With the cooperation of the City and Harajuku Police, it might be an opportunity to propagate the teachings to the 600 detainees in the new facility. Is it possible to offer some Seicho-No-Ie "sunshine" to these people? Ummmmmm. What do you all think?

(This photo was taken from the top of the pedestrian bridge over Meiji Blvd. You can see the greens of Togo Shrine in the distance.)

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Afghanistan Frontlines

After breakfast, I returned to my room in a hotel in Kobe where I was for a Seicho-Noi-Ie Grand Seminar. Opening the newspaper, I listened somewhat absent-mindedly to the BBC World News on TV. Before I knew it, I was drawn to the images of John Simpson, reporting from Afghanistan on the frontline confrontations between the Taliban and Northern Alliance troops. Different from the Gulf War, there are almost no raw, detailed reports from the frontlines. What we do get are cut and dried facts--names and numbers of how many locations the U.S. bombed, how many combat aircrafts went out, which cities/towns were attacked--devoid of human pain and sorrow. Then again, similar to what we saw during the Gulf War, computerized images of Taliban buildings and tanks destroyed by the guided missiles from U.S. bombers are shown repeatedly. This, too, is devoid of the cries of those who lose their lives, or the images of the people who are suffering because of this destruction. It's almost like a computer game.

The newspaper reports, which have no visual images, are even more abstract, with many vague, ambiguous references to, "Attacks today were more intense than usual," or "U.S. bombers today concentrated attacks on such-and-such?" In today's edition of the Nihon Keizei Shimbun (Japan Economic News), there was an article which said, "Bombing continued, the most aggressive to date, on the 26th and 27th, as more than 30 bombs were dropped successively on the base positions of the Taliban troops north of Kabul in an air strike which was said to reach near civilian homes." We who read these articles, are surprised and shocked at the descriptions--"most aggressive to date," "dropped successively," "reach near civilian homes"--and tend to imagine, not only that the Taliban forces are experiencing huge losses at the hands of the violent U.S. bombings, but also that there are many Afghan civilians who have become victims of these attacks.

However, reports from the "frontlines" by Mr. Simpson, showed no exchange of gunfire, no soldiers flinging themselves at the enemy, nor carpet bombing upon the Taliban troops. In a moment before dawn, in 25 degrees (Centigrade) weather, with no wind, bombings occur only sporadically. Even those are from one or two U.S. bombers whose silvery wings look small against the clear blue sky. There are no sounds of return fire from the anti-aircraft guns, and, amidst it all, there are small explosions that occur and little mushroom clouds billow sporadically here and there. Soldiers of the Northern Alliance look out at it all calmly, chatting amongst themselves. Moreover, according to the explanation given by the commanding officer of the Northern Alliance unit, the Taliban frontline base immediately in front of them was not touched, but the backup trucks and tanks were being shot, in sniper-like fashion from above, and destroyed . In other words, U.S. forces avoided hitting the Taliban main positions, and were, instead, attacking the peripheral areas. Come to think of it, it was strange that there were "over 30" (in other words, less than 39) bombs dropped in what was touted as "the most aggressive attack to date." Even at a rate of one every 15 minutes, it would have been 40 within the span of 10 hours.

For soldiers and civilians hurt or killed in combat or bombings, war is definitely horrible, but there seem to be wars carried out for political reasons which "pull some punches". I recall that President Bush said recently, "The Taliban are tough." This seems very strange. Not giving it their all, and yet calling them tough? It seems that in this war (and in other wars as well), we ordinary citizens are getting news that is "turned around."

Placing it on a piece of dark colored paper, I tried drawing a picture of a bottle of liquid soap that was in my hotel room. It had a strange effect--like the entire picture was somehow "turned around."

- MT

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

My Father's Birthday

Today being my father's birthday, we invited my parents to a dinner party tocelebrate the event. By "dinner party", though, I mean, a modest gathering with the five of us and my parents, 7 total, partaking in a meal together. My twosons, who are attending college and living on their own, were there too, so it was the first time in a while that we were all together. Although dinner wasn't until 6 pm, I, being the chef, got home at about four, and my wife and I got started on the preparations. We shared the duties with me making the sushi and my wife making various side dishes. Since my father likes rolls, I made two each of two different types of rolls, and rounded things out with tuna, salmon, and yellow tail, arranged on a platter in an attractive color scheme.

Whenever we make sushi rolls at our house, we usually make something called "Asahi Maki." This goes back about 4-5 years ago, when I was in Otaru City, Hokkaido for a Seicho-No-Ie Grand Seminar, and refers to a roll that I tasted when I went to a sushi restaurant called "Asahiya," on Sushi Restaurant Row there. It was so delicious that I jotted down everything that went inside the roll, went home, made it and served it to my family. It was such a hit that it's become a family tradition of sorts. You wrap lots of the ingredients--which include tuna, squid, seaweed, cucumber, shiso and sweetened ginger--firmly into a roll, and you get something with an indescribable taste and texture. It probably has to do with the contrast in the different textures of the tender tuna and the crisp cucumber and ginger. The other type of roll I made has crab legs, avocado, cucumber and shiso -- a variation on the California Roll.

Our second son, who's a college freshman, and my daughter, who's in her second year of high school, came home around 5:30 and began helping to get things ready. Our older son, who's a junior in college and had had classes until the last minute, arrived several minutes after 6:00 pm. The two boys, who don't get much from us as a monthly allowance, work part time to supplement their incomes. As a result, they don't get to eat sushi very much, so really took advantage of the opportunity and enjoyed the meal. Anticipating something like this would happen, we cooked five cups of rice for the sushi for the seven of us, and the sushi, as well as the leftover fish, was all gone before we knew it. It was gratifying to see it disappear so quickly, and made the preparation all worthwhile.

After dinner, we gave Father his gifts. My wife and I gave him a compact flashcard for the new digital camera he bought and has started using recently. The grandchildren gave him a leather book cover to put on the paperbacks that he reads. Although they probably had no way of knowing that he's started reading the paperback version of "Before the Dawn" by Touson Shimazaki, I thought it was a very well thought out gift. Thinking perhaps that my mother had something todo with it, I looked over at her, but couldn't tell from her smiling face whether or not she had.

- MT

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Three Beliefs in One

Several questions regarding the terrorist attacks were raised by the attendees of the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture in Mito City, Ibaragi Prefecture. There were such general questions as, "What do you, as a religious leader, think of the attacks?" to more specific questions such as, "As Japanese citizens, is it right for us just to be grateful for being as blessed as we are?" or "Shouldn't we concern ourselves more with our relationship with the Muslim influence?" Time constraints prevented me from answering all the questions in depth, but I did emphasize the following points: That is, the recent events were not conflicts between religions, but, rather, one between nations or countries, and/or a political problem between a small group of radical extremists versus countries. Not too long ago in Japan, there was a group of radical extremists called the Aum Supreme Truth who believed in a very unique, very unusual, doctrine, and they tried, using armed strife, to take on the Japanese government. The recent events in the United States are similar to this but have been taken to an international level. Just as the former was not a battle or conflict between the Aum Supreme Truth and Japanese Shintoism, or one between Buddhism (Members of the Aum Supreme Truth claimed to be Buddhists.) and Shintoism, the latter is not a battle or conflict between Islam and Christianity or Judaism.

Another thing I emphasized at the lecture was that Judaism, Islam and Christianity are much like "spiritual brothers and sisters" in that they all share belief in the same God (one Absolute God). So one God is not being pitted against another. This is an extremely important point. If one "God", supposedly of more merit, is pitted against another, it is impossible for both to coexist peacefully. However, in reality, that is not so. These three monotheistic religions all share the same absolute God. But they differ in their view on who communicates God's words or teachings better. This "difference in interpretation" is the reason for these three religions. Broadly speaking, to those of Judaism, the Old Testament is the best, to those of Christianity, the New Testament completes the Old Testament, and to those of the Muslim faith, the Koran completes the sum total of the prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments. In this way, if the three would stop being so attached and adamant that their interpretation is "the one absolute", and, as seen in the diversity of nature, recognize the fact that there are a probable diverse number of ways for expression of the One Absolute God, and, furthermore, show their respect for this diversity, the three would not only live together in coexistence, but also develop and grow.

Theoretically, that is how it goes, but, things don't always go according to theory. After the lecture, I stopped by Lake Semba, which sits adjacent to Kairakuen Park in Mito City. The gingko trees had already started to turn a golden color and the cherry trees were starting to turn red. Looking at all the beautiful colors of the fall--colors somewhere between green and yellow, a gradation of colors from green to red, and neutrals between red and brown--spread out and layered, creating a truly complicated yet delicate mosaic of colors, my thoughts turned to how, since we all love this diversity of nature, there was no reason why we cannot recognize and appreciate the diversity of religions and cultures and celebrate them all.

- MT

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

A Heartfelt Invitation

Results of an experiment have shown that the prayer, "Please bless (this person) with a baby" are actually effective. This study was written up in a recent edition of the "Journal of Reproductive Medicine", a respected medical publication, so must be scientifically sound. Since there have been a number of past studies that have verified the effects of prayer, it can be said that this experiment has gone further in confirming that "prayer is effective." However, the "whys" and "hows" of the connection between the mind and pregnancy, and the prayer mechanism are not known.

It's probably safe to say that the stage for this experiment was "the whole world." Those who were receivers of the prayers were 219 women who, from December 1998 to March 1999, were undergoing treatment for infertility at Cha General Hospital in Seoul, Korea. Those who were responsible for giving the prayers were members of various Christian denominations in the United States, Canada and Australia. The prayer givers were only given photos of half the women in the study, in batches of five at a time, and during the course of the three weeks of treatments, they gave direct prayers such as, "May this person definitely get pregnant" or indirect prayers such as, "May our prayers for her pregnancy be answered." As a result, of those who did not receive prayers, 26% became pregnant, but, of those who did receive prayers, 50% became pregnant. None of the women in either group knew that the prayers were taking place.

The women in this study were undergoing in vitro fertilization. The fertilization rate was about the same for both the prayer receivers and non-receivers, but the big difference came when the embryo was transferred to the woman's uterus to develop naturally. Although the probability of multiple births increases due to the administering of hormones during the in vitro process, the proportion for these multiple births was greater in those who received prayers than those who did not. Dr. Rogerio Lobo, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University, who headed the team conducting this study said, "We set out with the expectation that we would show no benefit of prayer."

We can't blame them for thinking that since the predominant thinking of modern day scientists is that our mind's are generated by electro-chemical reactions within our brains. So, it would be impossible for such a faint, miniscule amount of energy such as that to cross the Pacific Ocean and travel to Korea, through the concrete walls of the hospital in Seoul, and stimulate the fertilized eggs in the uteri of the women there. This time science proved that "there actually are things that science cannot explain." It's no mistaking, then, that the hearts of many Japanese citizens played a large part in Crown Princess Masako's pregnancy.

- MT

Sunday, October 14, 2001

A Prayer to Dispel the Dark Clouds of Battle

(Please feel free to make copies of this prayer and share it with those around you.)

Though scenes of conflict are shown on TV day after day, this is false appearance. Though people, consumed with hatred, stand on street corners waving their clenched fists, this is false appearance. Though there may be reports of "hundreds have died", this is false appearance. This is not to say that these facts do not exist in the phenomenal world, but rather that, in the True Image World created by God, there is no hostility, animosity, hatred, anger or sadness. That which appears as though it "exists", does so because of our minds--our minds that recognize the enemy and our minds that hate, get angry and mourn. It is because we believe that that mind to be the "true mind." Once we release that mindset, conflict will disappear because God did not create a world in which His creations hate each other nor did He create a world in which those created "in His image" need to kill each other in order to fulfill His will.

The act of killing in the name of "God" is delusion. The mind that vows revenge while calling upon the name of "God" is delusion. Thinking that God has to fight against evil, is delusion. Thinking that the world of God will not be manifested without "God" judging other children of God, is delusion. This is all delusion, but it is played out in the phenomenal world created by children of God. Though none of this is the will of God, if man has the wild idea that this should be, it is reflected in the phenomenal world and these feelings are expressed in fighting. Like a play acted out in a theater, this is not "real" or "genuine", but is fictitious and imaginary. However, we, as "actors" not only perform this play physically, but also by skillfully combining stage props, lighting, and sound effects, we throw ourselves into the play feeling as though it is all, indeed, "real." This is a play that we wish for. This is a play that we wrote. This is how one act of the battle began. It is by no means something begun by God.

Though Act One of this play may be "Conflict", we can perform "Peace" and "Trust" in Act Two. This is possible not only because we can perform "Peace" and "Trust" in the same way we performed "Conflict", but also because both "Peace" and "Trust" are real, and, from the onset, have always existed in the world of God. There is no need for man to try and forcibly create on earth something that already exists in the world of God. If man simply recognizes that which already exists, it shall appear. Since "peace" is God, it is already in the hearts of all children of God. Since "love" is God, it is already in the hearts of all children of God. The only problem is that this is open only to some and closed to others.

We are children of God, and, as such, we have within us God's infinite love, peace, and trust. God does not discriminate between His children because of differences in religion, race or ethnicity. Neither should we discriminate between our brothers because of differences in religion, race, or ethnicity. God blesses all with His infinite love, peace and trust, and so we, as children of God, spread that love, peace and trust amongst all mankind. We are so very grateful that God always blesses mankind.

(The "Prayer for World Peace" may be given after this.)

Friday, September 28, 2001

A Prayer to Praise the March of Light

(Please feel free to make copies of this prayer and share it with those around you.)

Repeated reports on preparations for war in retaliation for the terrorist attacks are shown daily. These reports are, however, not the truth itself. The recent trend in reporting is the rarer the incidents and facts, the more widely they are treated and information is reported repeatedly. Since this is an unprecedented incident, there is all the more reason for the concentrated focus. It's not that the media is to blame. However, there is an undeniable reality that is not being reported. That is, if we are to think of this incident as "darkness", there is a tremendous outpouring of "light" to dispel that darkness, proceeding at a heretofore unheard of scale, with a heretofore unheard of number of people participating. This "light" is, without a doubt, proof that man is a child of God.

This light is being emitted from our country, too, but it is most remarkable in the United States. Many show business celebrities, singers and musicians came together to put on a show and raise money for the victims of the terrorist attacks in a two-hour commercial-free program broadcast in a collaborated effort on four major television channels. This was a very "showy" light, but individual donations, relief efforts for the family of the victims as well as to those injured--simple and inconspicuous acts of love--are being done daily, in innumerable numbers, by "ordinary" people. This movement is similar to the internal physical process our bodies go through when healing a wound. When a part of our body is hurt, our entire immune system is activated, and it fights bacteria and tries to heal the wound. Without asking for any compensation, the individual immune cells rush to the "scene", and, at times, even do not begrudge self-sacrifice for the benefit of the entire body. However, the "entire body" that is suffering now, is not just one country, the United States, but the entire world. The immune system of the entire world must be activated and heal the wound.

There is a true story* shared by Stephen Gould, PhD. Someone set up a depo near ground zero to distribute needed supplies--from face masks to shoe inserts--free of charge, to the relief workers. Many people who heard of these efforts joined in, bringing batteries and even hard hats. Then one night, a cook brought a shopping bag and said, "There's a dozen apple brown bettys, the best dessert in our restaurant, and still warm." A firefighter who received one of them, said, with a smile restored to his weary face, "Thank you. This is the most lovely thing I've seen in four days--and it's still warm!"

Unity and love are expressions of God's "Light." We must not change this into the "darkness" of hatred. Let us not extinguish this light, but spread it rapidly and steadily, to all corners of each and every country. Moreover, let us transcend narrow-minded national interests and spread this light so that it overflow into the entire world. Let the "Light" within us bring forth the "Light" within others. Darkness cannot stop this advancement of light. That is because God's infinite Love is within us and within others as well. I give my heartfelt gratitude to God who has given us all the realization that "Man is a child of God."

* Stephen Jay Gould, "Decency Trumps Depravity at Ground Zero, Too", International Herald Tribune, September 27, 2001

Saturday, September 22, 2001

May God Bless!

I received an e-mail message in response to my September 19th entry, "A Prayer for Love and Forgiveness", from a Japanese iving in the United States saying, "It lacks love and is too harsh a message to the Americans who are suffering so much." For a moment, couldn't believe my ears (eyes). That is because I had no intention of being offensive. But, after re-reading the words in that "prayer" again, I could see why people might misinterpret if they read this one piece only. In that respect, I feel badly for the misunderstanding. However, I would like to offer three explanations: 1. This column is too short to allow me to say all that needs to be said, 2. My personal feelings, albeit only a part, were written immediately following the tragedy, in my September 12th entry, 3. The reference to "We" in "the prayer" was used assuming that people in Japan would also offer this prayer. In other words, "We" does not mean the United States only, but rather refers to all developed nations, including Japan. That is why, my feelings are together with the United States.

Seicho-No-Ie International Headquarters has decided to donate $300,000 which will be disbursed through SNI New York Center to a non-profit organization or two in New York as the relief fund. That is not to say that donating money is everything. However, by donating what is needed at the time needed, we wanted (it was my hope) to show that Seicho-No-Ie is not insensitive nor oblivious to the tremendous suffering and sadness of the American people. I wrote my own personal thoughts and feelings about New York in my February 6th entry*, and one of the reasons I decided a couple of years ago to translate the novel, The Greatest Spiritual Secret of The Century, now running in the SNI magazine The Risosekai, is because it is set in New York. Nevertheless, there shouldn't be a war based solely on the feeling that, "I'm going to get back at and destroy the enemy because they destroyed the city that I love""

Despite the tremendous sadness and grief that people in New York are experiencing now, I understand that there were people who, after President Bush's Congressional Address, participated in "anti-war" demonstrations. I have an even greater respect for the American people than ever before. This "anti war" sentiment is probably because the United States is a country where people of many races and nationalities live, and, through their contacts abroad, know the tragedy that is brought about by war. They know that what is needed now is not retribution, but, rather, building. President Bush also said that New York should "rebuild." In the drawing that accompanied my September 12th article, I, too, wrote "Build More."

Actually, the idea behind my comment was the exchange between the two gods, Izanagi and Izanami, as described in the Japanese classic Kojiki. Izanami, the god of after life, said, "I will kill 10,000 people a day!" To this, Izanagi replied, "Then I will create 20,000 people a day!" This was not using destruction to oppose destruction, but, instead, using something greater than destruction--that is construction or building. And I believe that many New Yorkers are moving forward in that very direction to try and rebuild their lives with that same mindset. God bless New York! God bless America and everybody!

- MT

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

A Prayer for Love and Forgiveness

(Please feel free to make copies of this prayer and share it with those around you.)

The world now stands at the brink of war. Four bombs of hatred were dropped on densely populated areas of a major power, giving way to screams of pain, suffering and destruction. In answer to this, plans of counterattack and revenge are being made. With the major power at the lead, there are plans for a full-scale assault on a small country harboring the group that waged this attack of hatred. This is, however, delusion colliding with delusion. Even if this battle is carried out in the name of God and religion, God, who, "created Man in His own image", does not hate one and love the other. This is, Man, who, because of his tremendous hatred, has lost sight of the light and forgotten the "God's image" of his own true nature and that of others, and is using darkness to battle darkness.

The terrorist attack is a warning to those who, in their own material wealth, have forgotten the suffering of their spiritual brothers and sisters. We grieve for the many friends whose lives were lost. However, we must not forget that our own economic blockades took the lives of other spiritual brothers and sisters in other countries as well. Living our lives concerned only with the abundance and wealth of those immediately around us, and forgetting about the suffering and poverty of those far away brought about this tremendous jealousy and hatred. This "darkness" came from Man's ignorance and delusion and is not God trying to punish nor discriminate. We are, from the onset, spiritual brothers and sisters, and friends, working together cooperatively. It is our minds that divide our spiritual brothers and sisters into "enemy" and "ally" by looking not at the "God's image" within others but only at the darkness in them, and that actually brings enemies and allies to bear.

No matter how we may confront "darkness" with "darkness" it serves only to spread darkness further. Children, wanting their parents' love and attention, sometimes deliberately do things that their parents don't like. Children who do this are prepared for the worst. Although "parents" were born before their "children", they are still human. In this way, there may be countries which are economically and socially more advanced, while there are others that are not, but we cannot say that one exploiting the other, and remaining unconcerned, is in tune with God and a right way of life. Even if we are hurt by our "children", do we banish them to oblivion as "Satan"? Perhaps it is that we lacked the necessary "love" for our "children"? Or, even if we did love them, perhaps it is that we were concerned only with ourselves, and did not have the opportunity to express our love enough?

We are hurt by these rebellious individuals, but we believe in the "God's image" within them and forgive them. That is the only way we can dispel the "darkness", for darkness always disappears when confronted with light. The "God's image" within us makes that possible. May all our hearts be awakened now to the common bond of our humanity. We are so very grateful to God's infinite love and compassion.

- MT

Sunday, September 16, 2001

Omens of War

It appears that the terrorist attacks on the nucleus of U.S. society is leading to a new war in the Middle East. President Bush has not only received promise of cooperation from NATO, but also has "the complete and total cooperation" of Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan. Another neighboring country, Iran, in order to obstruct an influx of refugees, has decided to close its borders. Omens of war are pronounced. This is extremely unfortunate for all mankind, but, with no credible mediator between the United States and the terrorists, the gap in their "world views" can probably only be filled with a "collision of hatred""

On an ABC TV broadcast this morning, children, six years old and older, were invited to the studio, along with their parents, and the newscaster asked their opinions on the recent incidents. One teenage girl asked, "There are people who hate the U.S. this much, so what exactly have we done to them?" To this, a teenage boy, about the same age, said something to the effect of , "Even if we did do something, it probably wasn't done intentionally, so the killing of so many innocent U.S. citizens is unforgivable." I cannot help but think that answering this question accurately holds "the key" to this situation. A tremendous gap in world view that has grown between people living in parts of the Middle East and people in developed nations, including Japan, is probably behind these horrible events.

However, "the first shot" has already been fired by one side. If it had been before this, there may have been hope of mending the relationship. It's difficult, after the massive killing of over 5,000 U.S. citizens, to say, "Don't retaliate." Moreover, considering the fact that "the first shot" ignored all international laws, and the unprecedented fact that it was done, not by a "nation", but a group of people full of hatred, many countries with similar groups must do something now or risk the possibility of facing the same problem of public order in their own countries. Therefore, it is probably impossible to stop military actions of retaliation.

Up until this point, this has been a discussion of "politics." Terrorism and war are clearly "darkness". In the Seicho-No-Ie teachings, it is said, "Dispel darkness with light"" In order to apply this, there may be some who say, "Even though the hijacked plane was crashed into a building, give only words of the Truth in return"" However, we also have studied the law of cause and effect, "Evil brings about evil". "Express words of the Truth because the hijacked plane was crashed" is not enough. It's because "expressing words of the Truth" has not been enough that the hijacked plane was crashed. In order to prevent hatred from spreading any further, it becomes increasingly critical to expedite the dissemination that "Man is a child of God", "We are all spiritual brothers and sisters".

- MT

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Religion and Terrorism

On Tuesday, September 11th, the entire world was thrown into mass chaos after the coordinated acts of terrorism in the United States. According to media reports, "Muslim extremists" are responsible for these crimes. I think that the pairing of the word, "religion" with the word "violence" in this way, and having this association broadcast around the world, is very unfortunate for the people of the world who believe in any God/religion. For those people living under cruel and harsh circumstances, belief in God or Buddha helps make the decision between right and wrong and also gives a reason and hope for living. Religion has also helped their survival and development. On the other hand, for those who are seen as "evil" or "wrong", the religious movement can be a threat and even becomes the object of oppression and obliteration. What happened to Jesus and his followers 2000 years ago is a prime example of this.

Many people living in a complicated real world, look for simple, easy-to-understand principles and answers or solutions. Religions that provide this, at times, increase membership and strengthen their movement and can become great political powers. However, even then, society does not actually become simple and easy to understand. Nevertheless, if religion tries to control society, they must color things in "black" or "white." If not, then the doctrines cannot explain reality. In this way, a forced/strained explanation of reality is born, and, in order to fully support that explanation, manipulation and falsification of facts, unconsciously at first, but eventually consciously, is done. And, when this type of "religious outlook on the world" itself becomes the object of blind faith, reasons to fight and destroy in the name of God or Buddha are created.

So, when it appears that religions employ violence or destruction, the cause lies not in God or Buddha, but in the deficiency and negligence of the people who fail to understand (or don't try to understand) the complexities. Consequently, we should not address this destruction and violence with the same deficiency and negligence. In other words, exhibiting a simplistic "black-and-white" picture of the world and indiscriminately obliterating and destroying that which is branded "evil," simply creates more violence out of violence. Those who blatantly disobeyed the rules of the international community and committed acts of terrorism should be punished according to international rules and regulations, under legitimate means and measures and mutually agreed upon proceedings. Unfortunately, however, in today's international society, there are areas without such legal framework and there is not total agreement on the means and processes. With this unprecedented incident, I fervently hope that the world will come to a stronger agreement--socially, legally, morally and religiously.

Lastly, to all those living in the United States, particularly to the citizens of New York that helped me personally in many ways when I lived there a couple of decades ago, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences, and, at the same time, pray that you not, in reacting to the destruction and violence of this horrifying tragedy, use the same destruction and violence to take revenge on innocent spiritual brothers and sisters.

- MT

Thursday, August 23, 2001

After the Passing of Typhoon

The Seicho-No-Ie International Headquarters offices were closed on August 22nd due to a major typhoon. It was a slow moving one, traveling at a speed of 15 km/hour, but it didn't show any signs of weakening, and kept pounding Japan with torrential rains. Since the Kanto Region had a serious water shortage this summer, this rainfall was very much appreciated. The 23rd was my day off, though, and my daughter, wife and I had initially planned to go to our villa in Ohizumi village on the evening of the 22nd. Due to this slow moving typhoon, though, it didn't seem as though we'd be able to go at all. In the morning of the 22nd, the typhoon had reached Mie Prefecture, by noon it had gotten to the Izu Peninsula, and by 3 pm it had hit Tokyo. However, it was only sprinkling in Tokyo at this time, with moderate winds--nothing at all like a typhoon. My wife phoned an acquaintance living in Ohizumi and asked how the weather was there. "Oh, I can see the blue sky among clouds," was the reply and the TV reported that there was "No danger of storms traveling at over 25 meters." So, we decided to leave in an hour.

We left our house at 4 pm, and traveled straight down the Chuo Expressway. Thanks to the typhoon, traffic was light, with very few big rigs and families going on outing. We saw some signs indicating "Rainy weather--50 km speed limit", but, since it wasn't raining, we drove normally. The hurricane clouds coiled and spiraled throughout the blue sky. The misty vapor coming from the rain drenched mountains reminded us of a person just coming out of a hot bath. The clouds and the misty vapor caught the light of the sun from the west and glittered with a shimmering golden glow. "Wow!" "My, how beautiful," my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to me, exclaimed repeatedly. But, since I was driving, I didn't have an opportunity to appreciate the scenery. After about two hours, we got to Ohizumi, bought something for dinner at a convenience store, and the three of us had dinner out on the deck of our villa. The clouds were moving from south to north and the rain had stopped. I took a bath after dinner and came out and found the room in total darkness, and my wife and daughter were outside on the deck exclaiming in wonder. They said that they couldn't see the stars as clearly if the lights were on. I went outside, looked up and saw a beautiful glittering starlit sky.

The next morning--in other words, this morning, I woke up when my wife got out of bed. It was before 5 am. She likes to go out on the deck early when we're staying here, and likes to enjoy the beginning of the morning in the mountains. I dozed off for a while again but ended up getting up about a half hour later. The south side of our villa faces the Southern Alps and Mt. Kai Komagatake, but in the summertime, with the high levels of humidity, you rarely see these mountains. But, we'd seen all those stars the night before--So thinking, I walked straight out onto the deck, and saw the green Kaikoma clearly, bathed in the brilliant morning sun.

- MT

Sunday, August 19, 2001


The fig tree at our home in Tokyo bore few fruit this year. That's because, we had the tree, which had grown a little too much, pruned at the beginning of the summer. They took off a lot of the branches with the fruit buds on it at that time. Still, we had some small fruit on the tree, and last week my wife picked the biggest, about 4 cm in diameter and 5 cm long, and put it in the refrigerator. Figs are very unusual--although they have no blossoms, fruit suddenly appears.

You can now find the large figs grown in Aichi Prefecture being sold in the supermarkets and fruit specialty stores throughout Tokyo. When I went to Uji City in Kyoto for the Seicho-No-Ie Urabon Ceremonies, I had some beautifully purple ripened figs that were just as big as those, about 7-8 cm in diameter and length. We heard that they were grown in the neighboring city of Johyo City. It had a refined, delicately sweet taste, and there was a pleasant crunching sensation of the little seeds as you chewed. We were talking about this at breakfast, and my mother asked rather demandingly, "Are you going to draw it?" Since I had drawn a picture of a fig when we came to Uji at about the same time last year, I really wanted to draw something else, but I answered somewhat vaguely, "I'm trying to decide what to draw?.." But then, after our meal, she had someone send 3-4 figs to our room, so I couldn't let it go.

Figs are actually the oldest cultivated fruit in the world. They were first found in either Turkey or the southern part of Arabia, and, from there, were widely cultivated in Israel and along the Mediterranean coast from about 2000 BC. The passage in the chapter on "Genesis" in the Bible where Adam and Eve, after having partaken of the "forbidden fruit" realize that they are naked and "they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" is widely known. So, it follows that there was a fig tree in the "Garden of Eden"" It's said that fig trees came into Japan, through Nagasaki, at the beginning of the 17th Century. Although I said that fig trees have no blossoms on their branches, the flowers are inverted and actually develop inside the fruit. The seeds are drupes, or the real fruit. The many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little seeds that give figs their unique texture. It's really amazing.

Pollination is done by a tiny wasp. This stingerless insect, no bigger than a gnat, enters the open "eye" at the bottom of the fig, and unwittingly pollinates it by brushing pollen onto the female flowers. The tiny wasp then exits the fig to pollinate other fig flowers. However, these wasps cannot survive in the weather in Japan. I wonder how they reproduce then? If it's done by cuttings, then that means that all the fig trees in Japan are clones.

- MT

Monday, August 13, 2001

An Unmanned Vegetable Stand

In areas which grow vegetables, it's probably not very unusual, but, in and around the Northern area of Yamanashi Prefecture, where our villa is located, there are a number of unmanned vegetable stands along the road. It's not that this is the only place that you can buy vegetables. Right off the Nagasaka Interchange, the main thoroughfare here, there's a large supermarket, not much different from those in the city. In the town next to ours, Takane, there are shops where you can buy vegetables by the cardboard boxfuls. But what's best about these unmanned stands is that you can get fresh vegetables picked that very morning. Unlike those sold in supermarkets, you can buy fully ripened tomatoes and things at a very cheap price.

There are different types of these vegetable stands: There are simple ones with vegetables laid out on wooden stands underneath a tent, and there are also those built like small wooden huts, with a roof and walls, in front of which the vegetables are arranged on a special stand. In the former, you pay for your purchase by putting your money in a box, without a lid, that's left there. If you need change, you take from the coins left by people who bought before you. In the latter case, there are often times a metallic cylinder that juts out from inside the hut and you put your money in there. It's made so that the cash isn't exposed outside the stand. In either case, however, it's selling merchandise putting wholehearted trust and good faith in the customer. It's truly refreshing to look at.

It seems, though, that there are "customers" who betray that trust. At one stand, there was a written notice, enough to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, saying, "If you don't leave payment, we'll notify the police." We've bought at the supermarket as well as at the shops, but we've also gratefully purchased tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, okra, string beans, green peppers and other vegetables at these stands. Actually we would have liked to have seen the farmers who grew these vegetables, but that's probably asking too much. They were selling large, full-sized squash at the stand, but, wanting to share in the humor of the farmers, we bought some mini-squash instead.

- MT

Saturday, August 11, 2001

College Professor Next Door

My wife and I went to visit a neighbor of ours today--a college professor who lives next door. I say "neighbor", but sometimes the forest blocks the view, so, in actuality, there really isn't any house that you can see from our villa. This person lives about 2-3 minutes away from us. We'd never met him before, but the realtor who helped us with our villa told us that a "fussy, difficult college professor lives next door", so, if he was as fussy and/or difficult as he was made out to be, we thought we'd better go and say hello. We took some pastries that we had brought from Tokyo and set out for his house.

I'd seen this college professor's villa from the outside before on a number of occasions, and it's very unusual. There are two cylindrical buildings, about 4 meters in diameter, and about 12-13 meters long, connected at one point, next to each other. In addition to this, there's a separate small wooden house connected out in back. Furthermore, in the round area on the side of the metal cylinder facing the road, there was a comic-like "face" drawn in thick lines on it. From the outward appearance of the building and the rumors about him being so "fussy/difficult", I'd secretly named him "The Mad Scientist". I had to muster up a little courage to ring the doorbell to the house.

We heard the bell ring inside, and a lady, apparently in her 60's, came out and looked at me rather suspiciously. When I said, "Sorry for coming by unannounced. We're the Taniguchis. We just moved in next door and wanted to say hello", the lady's expression immediately softened. As we exchanged a few words, a bespectacled gray-haired man in his 70's, came toward us from the road. I knew immediately from the way he looked that this was the "college professor." He was much more "normal" than I had pictured him, and, from the wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, he did not come across to be "fussy/difficult" at all. My wife and I began talking to him when his wife, who had opened the door when we first got there, invited us in. It ended up that we stayed and visited with this professor for about an hour.

The professor told us that he had built his villa about ten years ago, and the odd shaped buildings were actually Chinese-made nuclear bomb shelters. He also told us about conditions in the area, past history, picking wild edible plants and mushrooms, and interesting stories about how deer run wild in the forest nearby and how an owl actually came flying up to his window. We also heard about a place where they raise rainbow trout and char fish and even sell them to individuals upon request. So, in the evening, on our drive back from shopping, we stopped by a place which was apparently what the professor was talking about. The rainbow trout were 120 yen a piece and the char fish 230 yen. We bought two char fish at this extraordinary price. We are very grateful to the professor for everything.

- MT