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