Monday, July 31, 2006

Two Heads

These two species of animals have two very different heads. Yet, they share many commonalities: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, hair, and a mouth. Indeed, the appearance betrays internal commonalities. DNA sequences shared by humans and cows are vast. They can communicate with each other. They even share diseases: "Mad Cow" disease can spread among humans, for example. When we look at the differences, we feel it's acceptable to torture, kill, and consume the animal. But when we remind ourselves of the similarities, we can reduce the death toll.

- MT

Sunday, July 30, 2006


A cat is an animal because it is animated. This simple statement invites many questions when we look at this photos. Is it possible to say that a cat in a photo is not an animal because it is not animated? If the cat is still an animal even in a photo, what about the sandals and boots? Is it appropriate to say that the sandals and boots are also animals when they are animated (by someone's feet)? We may say that they are not animals because they don't have life. But the problem still remains: We cannot measure life. A lotus seed in a stratum thousands of years old may or may not sprout. We cannot predict this in a scientific manner.

- MT

Saturday, July 29, 2006


The essential part of dating is conversation. You may not be able to tell from appearance whether or not a couple is truly enjoying the conversation. But you may be able to see their eagerness to connect.

- MT

Friday, July 28, 2006

Green Tower

A green tower stands out in the dark of Harajuku, one of the most popular districts in Tokyo. I live about one bloc south of the building but seldom go inside because most of the shops in it are for girls. Harajuku once was a quiet and serene residential area, with a tree-lined street dotted with shops and restaurants for older adults. It is now filled with beauty shops, boutiques, and restaurants for young adults. This building represents the new trend, in which I feel increasingly uncomfortable. But the night showed it differently.

- MT

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Night Tower

The night in Tokyo creates unexpected sights at unexpected times. The 1100-feet-high Tokyo Tower is the tallest landmark in the city but not the brightest since it does not have as many internal lights as an ordinary skyscraper. But, when seen from a direction, with no other buildings in sight, it does look the brightest, and even dangerous.

- MT

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Once every week or two, I travel throughout Japan on business. I generally take a flight that leaves Tokyo at around noon on Saturday and get back at night the next day. On the way from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) to Shibuya where I live, there are several long tunnels. This photo was taken on one of my trips back home when I felt very free and relieved after my trip.

- MT

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dolls at the Grave

If you are Japanese, the immediate interpretation of something like this would be that there were a number of unborn children, aborted or miscarried, who do not have a final resting place. Japanese women remember these children in this way by putting dolls in front of a diety. The words engraved in the tallest stone read, "Please bless all souls in the three worlds." I don't know why all the dolls are girls, though.

- MT

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fish Head

Fish heads are a delicacy in Japan, especially when they are from large fish such as blue-fin tuna and bonito. I found this head at a fish market in Misaki, Kanagawa prefecture. There is a wooden tag attached to the nose of the fish reading "Reserved for the restaurant Kaneko." Cartilage, cheek, and even eye balls are served for the Japanese dish "kamayaki."

- MT

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Three Pots

These pots displayed in the shade of a Tokyo restaurant caught my eye. They looked like three proud persons neatly dressed.

- MT

Saturday, July 22, 2006

An Accident

Surfing through the Internet, I recently came across a photo of an Japanese old man closely resembling my father. Actually, I thought at first he was my father. But he couldn't be my father because my father has been ill in bed for more than a year. I asked the photographer when and where he took the picture. The answer: recently in Shibuya, Tokyo. My father lives in Shibuya, next to my house. I showed the photo to my father, and he denied the photo was him.

This is an example of an accident, an unintentional happening. Or, it can be called coincidence, a simultaneous agreement without human intervention. But I doubt this happened truly without human intention or intervention. Given the global population, it is conceivable that anyone's appearance resembles someone other than himself/herself. But the probability that they would meet face to face, unless they are identical twins, is very slim. Does the emergence of the Internet, where time and space are minimized, make this probability greater? I think so. But the meeting of any two persons on the Internet, even for the first time, is not an accident or coincidence because it necessitates a series of intentional selections on the part of both parties.

- MT

Friday, July 21, 2006

Colongne Box (from my archives)

I don't know if there are still any more of these dispensers in the United States, but I found it 30 years ago in a restroom in Placervill, CA. I am not sure if it was a box for colonge or soap. It looked shining and clean, so I shot this photo. The boy is a grandson of my English teacher.

- MT

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Running Girl (from my archives)

Being independent by nature, a cat normally does not want to be dragged along with a leash. This kitten, howerver, seems happy to run with its neck bound probably because it likes the companion. The girl was the granddaughter of my English teacher. The girl was born and raised in Japan and looked very nice in kimono. She even has a Japanese name. I wonder how she looks now after 30 years.

- MT

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

County Fair (from my archives)

This is a good old-fashioned county fair, where people enjoy ridings, selling and buying things they produced and crafted. I was born and raised in Tokyo. Attending this type of community event, at that time (30 years ago), was totally a new experience to me. I enjoyed the day with my host family.

- MT

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Goat and A Car (from my archives)

A goat looks at a car in the shade. The engine of the car is probably off because the goat would hesitate to come so close if the engine were running. The goat may be curious about the car, for the car may have been driven by a visitor. Who is the visitor? I am not sure, but it may have been myself.

This picture was taken about 30 years ago when I visited an American family in Placerville, California. They were my English teacher (when in Japan), her husband, daughter, son, this goat, horse, cat, and dog.

- MT

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I am on a plane flying from Asahikawa, Hokkaido, back to Tokyo. My wife and I attended the Seicho-No-Ie Public Lecture meeting held in Asahikawa. Although it was too warm and humid in Tokyo, the people in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, are now enjoying the best season in the year. It is dry and cool with many different blowers blooming.. The leaves of the trees are bright in the sunshine, and the cherry trees are heavy with their red delicious fruit.

After the lecture meeting, we went to a flower park in Bibai, located on the outskirts of Asahikawa City. the park was literally covered with flowers of so many different colors--sunflowers, lavender, petunias, begonias, digitalis, lupines, marigolds, lilies, and California poppies. We walked slowly by the blanket of flowers, praising their beauty as we took photos here and there. There were many other people doing the same. I realized that they were truly enjoying the sights and we were, too.

As I wrote in my July 12th entry, we are "visual animals." All the colorful stimuli entering my eyes made me feel truly relaxed and happy. It was especially revealing that this took place even after the six hours of work at the meeting. The lecture meeting started at 10:00 am and lasted until 3:00 pm with an hour taken for lunch. I gave two one-hour lectures for this meeting and conducted a short meditation session as well. Afterwards, my wife and I attended a one-hour meeting with the local SNI leaders. by the time the meeting with these leaders was over, I felt exhausted. But I recharged myself with a glass of cold water then proceeded to the gate of the lecture hall where dozens of people were waiting to shake hands with us. I would say that flowers are man's dearest friends, just as dogs are our oldest. They lift us up and make us feel gentle and loving with their colors, shapes and fragrance.

- MT

Saturday, July 15, 2006

If Mice Have Empathy...

Science magzine recently reported that mice may have empathy toward other mice(Science vol. 312, 30 June 2006). This shocked me because I just got the renewed impression that humans have little empahy toward other animals, especially those raised for consumption. Empathy has often been thought to be a uniquely human attribute. It has been argued that in order to experience empathy we humans developed story-telling, operas, sports, novels, movies, and many other cultural events. When the German soccer captain butted an Italian player in front of TV cameras, many, if not most, felt empahy toward the former, thinking that he had been badly insulted, so badly that no one could blame him for ruining his last match as professional soccer player.

But if mice too have capacity for empathy, a whole different picture would emerge. A laboratory mouse may feel pain when seeing other mise being subject to unpleasant treatment. Since there is no reason to believe mice have more empathy than pigs, a pig, too, may feel intense fear seeing other pigs butchered. Then, what about a cow hearing other cows screaming in a slaughterhouse reeking with blood? I would therefore suggest that we should treat our fellow animals more "humanely." I'm not only talking about dogs and cats but also about cows and pigs.

- MT

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I am back home from our mountain villa, lying in bed, typing on the keyboard of my laptop. A soft breeze coming from the electric fan makes me relaxed. It has become cooler, but I was shocked by the heat in Tokyo about four hours ago when I came out of my car to have dinner with my daughter and wife. It was humid and around 30 degrees celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. We all agreed that we missed the cooler temperature and drier atmosphere at the villa.

During the dinner my 21-year-old daughter raised a question on Macrobiotics. Skimming throughthe two books on this subject which my wife bought during our stay in Ohizumi, my daughter seemed to be interested in this dietary lifestyle. She asked if my wife and I, already semi-vegetarians, were going to quit all meat including chicken. My wife answered, "No. At least not now, though we may be gradually reducing chicken meat."

Macrobiotics recommends that we base our diet primarily on foods native to the climate and environment in which we live. That is because our body is genetically adapted and, therefore, most fit to our environment. The basic idea is to eat food that is locally produced. Macrobiotics also asserts that our teeth represent the ideal proportion of foods in the human diet. That is, it recommends that we eat less meat and more grains and vegetables because most of our teeth are designed to crush or grind grains, beans, seeds, and other tough plant fibers and to cut vegetables. According to them, the ideal proportion of human foods is five parts grain and other tough fibrous foods, two parts vegetables, and one part animal food.

About a week ago my wife and I attended a Seicho-No-Ie Special Conference, where many problems in meat-eating were discussed. There are basically three areas of concern: 1) ethical and religious issues, 2) health issues, 3) environmental issues. My wife seemed so impressed with the seriousness of the problem in meat-eating that she wanted to pass some of the information she got there to our daughter.

- MT

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mowing the Lawn

It took some time for me to notice that my wife was up and working outside. I was in my futon bed trying to go back to sleep, thinking that I had not had enough sleep, when I heard the knocking-like sound near the front door of the villa. The sound, rather hollow and not repetitive, was not exactly like knocking. I assumed therefore that my wife was taking something out of the storage by the front door and made the sound when she shut the door of the storage room. I went back to sleep afterward.

I woke up from a short dream, noticing that she was sitting by the kitchen table. I asked her about the time and she told me that it was around seven-thirty. I decided to get up. She told me that she couldn't wait pulling out weeds and cutting the overgrown lawn until I got up. I asked her when she got up."Well, I think it was around five thirty," she said. I was impressed with her vitality.

After having breakfast I went out to see what my wife had done. It was a mess, not because she had done anything wrong but because she could not catch up with the wilderness nature had produced during the two months of our absence. I started to gather drawn-out weeds and cut grasses and, then, involved myself in mowing the lawn. It was only after my wife came out and told me what time it was that I, drenched with sweat and mud, decided that I should stop the work no matter how unsatisfactory it looked. Two hours passed like a half an hour.

It is sometimes said that humans are "visual animals." This is because we are preoccupied with the information obtained through our visual system. Visual arts, tourism, gymnastics, sports, racing, scuba diving, sky diving, space flight, and even eating cannot be fully enjoyed without seeing. Gardening may be one of those human endeavors born out of this preoccupation. No matter how strongly we are attracted by nature, we seldom give up modifying nature when nature looks truly natural.

- MT

Escape from Humidity

It has become humid and warm in Tokyo these days. The tropical storm that hit China and Korea recently has brought even more humidity and heat over Japan. It is this humidity that makes living in Tokyo unconfortable and even miserable in Summer. This is why I decided Today to go to our mountain villa with my wife.

It's been more than two months since we were there the last time. It was in May, and we still could see cherry blossoms in the mountains. There were even snowcaps on the mountain tops above 2,000 meters. I took several Spring shoots from Taranoki (Aralia elata) and enjoyed tempura using them.

This time our 22-year-old daughter decided to join us. Three of us had dinner together at an Italian restaurant near Meiji Park and left Tokyo for Ohizumi, Yamanashi prefecture, where our villa is located. We were all jubilant. My wife had just finished her one-hour lecture at a meeting, my daughter after her work, and I after submitting my manuscript for a monthly magazine. We all needed some good rest.

- MT

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Can't Help Saying This

I've decided to enter this club of bloggers so that I could say something to my English audience. I wanted to say that my Japanese blog has been experiencing a problem for a while, probably about 3 days. I had difficulty in entering and registering blog entries, and the system administrators, whoever they are, were not responding at all. So, I decided to go "overseas" and complain. This may not sound like a good reason to blog. But I cannot help it.

Thank you for your taking the time to read this.

- MT