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June 27, 2014


Although Takuboku Ishikawa, a famous Japanese poet, led his life wandering from place to place, the longing for his hometown never left his mind and often read poems which were evoked from his nostalgia. Like Takuboku, one cherishes his/her hometown with affection but the Japanese must be extremely careful not to perceive Japan with a feeling of sentimental tenderness. This is because Japan (as nation state) is the sovereign power which governs the geographical area which the nation is established and the people who live in the region.

Back in the Meiji era, statesmen still retained humane qualities so even when Akiko Yosano (famous female author and poet) published the poem “Thou Shalt Not Die” expressing her deep concern for the life of her younger brother who was sent to Port Arthur (Ryojun in China) to fight the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), she was spared from nationalistic punishment although her poem was a form of anti-war protest.

However, according to my recollection, statesmen who took control of Japan during the period covering the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1941) to the Pacific War (1941-1945), in general, were undoubtedly not only ignorant but were merciless and they did not even have the conscience to take descent responsibility for the vast devastation they caused to the land and their countrymen.

After defeat at World War II, Japan was able to achieve miraculous economic growth owing to the change in the political structure implemented by the Allied occupational forces, the energy and the intellect of the Japanese people who were liberated from the fear of death together with the unexpected turn of events in the international arena. The statesmen who were democratically elected into office were also able to win confidence both domestically as well as internationally.

But all things considered, Japan’s democracy was a given from the West, not something which evolved from within out of necessity. This resulted in the continual deterioration of the personal attributes of the statesmen and this degradation hit rock bottom during the latter part of the 1990’s when the bubble economy burst. With the economy’s collapse, the country went through the “lost two decades” syndrome while being tormented by a nationwide depression. Since then, Japan’s presence in the global scene diminished tremendously.

The world underwent drastic changes in the name of globalization with the end of the cold war. Japan, in the past several years, is advocating this movement 20 years behind and in an irrelevant context but if things make a wrong turn, Japan, contrary to globalization, may return to being an autocratic nation. Alas!


June 22, 2014


A year and a half have already passed since the start of the second Abe administration. During this time, Prime Minister Abe was constantly on the move and the way he energetically tackled his responsibilities is worthy of praise when compared to past prime ministers. At any given occasion, he, nowadays, is becoming eloquent in his response and appears to be comfortably in his own element. Furthermore, he even seems to have overcome the initial concern others had about his health condition (the very reason why he had to resign his first administration in a year) and looks confidently fit. As a citizen of this country, I welcome this as something to congratulate. However, this does not mean that I am an active supporter of the prime minister since I, more or less, consistently continue to be a “good-intentioned critic” of the Liberal Democratic Party. Although I wholeheartedly hope that Abenomics, implemented after the establishment of the current administration, will succeed, I am extremely disturbed that the steady progress this policy is making appears to be reinforcing the prime minister’s “rightist” comments and actions which bothered me from the onset of his administration.

Not only this. Many of the remarks the prime minister made recently are conspicuously careless. A typical example of this is his comment regarding how to make best use of women’s talent. He seems to undervalue their household and child raising tasks and expects women to pursue their career outside the home by playing a leading role in the workplace like their male counterparts. Raised in a well-to-do family since early childhood and unfortunately not blessed with an offspring in his marriage, I fear that he may lack the knowledge of the unpretentious yet significant social role the “family” plays and how it impacts society. Granted that men and women have equal rights, the task of giving birth to a child (be it a blessing or a burden) is impossible for men and consequently rearing children (from the infant’s instinct) seems to overwhelmingly favor women. In light of this, “Ikumen,” the current trend to encourage fathers to actively participate in raising their children, may be a futile effort.

Today, I turn 87 years old. Besides my birthday, I also look forward to the party my 4 children are planning this fall to celebrate the 56th wedding anniversary of my wife and myself. After all these years, it is only now that I have come to genuinely appreciate the indispensable role my wife played as a devoted full-time housewife for over half a century to nurture a wholesome and caring family and taking loving initiative to raise the children to become respectable adults. Hats off to my wife. What do you say to this, Abe-san?


April 21, 2014


Mr. Tetsuro Funai, the founder of Funai Electric Co., Ltd. which is renowned for its outstanding management policy among growth corporation after World War II, is a delightful friend of mine whom I respect (we are the same age too). Every year, the meeting of the board of directors as well as the awarding ceremony of Funai Overseas Scholarships (which offers tuition fees and stipend to promising young students to study at a top-level research university of foreign countries to obtain a Ph. D. degree) of the Funai Foundation for Information Technology is held at the Funai Tetsuro Auditorium which was built within the Katsura Campus of the Kyoto University by the donation of, of course, Mr. Tetsuro Funai as the name explicitly indicates. Later on in the evening, a magnificent dinner party is held at a hotel in Kyoto City.

Prior to the dinner party, all the participants are invited to view Miyako Odori (Dance of the Capital) performed at Gion Kobu Kaburen-jo Theater with their wives. As I am a member of the board since the founding of the foundation, I attended the event with my wife and we relished the flower tour of Kyoto the following day. However, since the event was held a week later than usual, all the cherry trees had shed their blossoms. At a time as such, I have another dependable friend who can solve this situation.

His name is Mr. Yutaka Yoshida., a self employed taxi driver who is 66 years old but he is no ordinary driver. He has nurtured an extraordinary love of mountains since his youth and has climbed the “100 Famous Japanese Mountains” written by mountaineer Kyuya Fukada and the “300 Famous Japanese Mountains” published by the Japan Mountaineering Association. In addition to these, he has climbed nearly 900 mountains ranging from Hokkaido to the north and Satsuma to the south and is on his way to achieve the goal of “Famous 1000 Mountains Climbed by Yoshida.”

In order to live his life as an avid mountaineer, the profession he chose at age 20 was a self employed taxi driver and he usually drives around Kyoto City to make a living. On the other hand, he drives his own private car when he is pursuing his great love of life. He takes the ferryboat from Nagoya Port when he is traveling to the mountains in Hokkaido and sleeps on the same ship that his car is on and when he drives 900 kilometers to Kagoshima, he, at times, sleeps in his car at highway rest areas. He is in fact a “great eccentric.”

Prior to attending the board meeting of the Funai Foundation for Information Technology, I called Mr. Yoshida to find out his availability to guide my wife and I around Kyoto the next day of the event. Fortunately, he replied that he will be in Kyoto that week. As we embarked on the tour, the cherry trees were all in breathtaking full bloom at places we visited which included Hosenji, Jyoushoukoji, and Kuroda Kasugajinjya. On our way back to Kyoto City after going over the Hanase Touge (hill), my eyes delighted at the colorful riot of azaleas and rhododendrons. In doing so, I truly felt that what one needs is a good humored friend whom one can respect.


April 15, 2014


This June, I will be turning 87 years old. So far, I have been blessed with good health since my childhood so not only have a surgical knife penetrated my body but I have never been hospitalized. Every time my wife of 57 years remarks to our acquaintences that not only once has she nursed me in illness, I have jokingly said, “Call me a prize-winning old man in health contest!” However, it seems like I have finally joined the circle of the elderly befitting my age.

This all started in the latter part of last February when I vacationed in Hawaii with my family for a week and enjoyed playing golf during the first 3 consecutive days. On the 4th day after breakfast, I suddenly felt an acute pain in my right calf as I was leisurely window shopping with my wife and started to have trouble walking. As I started mountain climbing accompanying my father since I was a child and belonged to the alpine club during my student years and severely trained my legs, I still walk with quick strides even when I am on the city streets. It has often been the case where some of my companions could not catch up with the briskness of my strides that I have left them behind without intending to do so. I owe them an apology for my inattention.

The pain did not go away after returning to Japan. After walking for 100 meters, my right calf would shriek in pain and it would go away after resting for a few minutes but the pain recurred after walking another 100 meters. Walk, rest, walk, rest - with this repetition, I finally decided to see a friend who is a doctor of internal medicine at the Hanzomon Hospital. He diagnosed me as having a circulation problem in my right leg and advised that I see a specialist in vascular surgery. I was dumb struck! However, I had no choice but to abide by my friend’s suggestion and went to solicit advice from a vascular surgeon last week.

The specialist after examining my leg calmly said, “Oh, not to worry. This is a circulation impediment which occurs frequently among elderly people. It is arteriosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries. I will prescribe you medication to alleviate the symptom so take it as prescribed and I recommend that you keep on walking even if you have to endure pain.” This was the doctor’s oracle. Half of me was persuaded by the explanation but the other half of me was in a state of shock that I must finally admit to the reality. In accordance with the doctor’s recommendation, I am making studious efforts everyday to walk the streets of Tokyo by dragging my right foot. But rest assured! I will be playing golf with my friends tomorrow, pitiful as my condition may be.


April 6, 2014


On March 15th, the Graduate School of Project Design, the third university which I was involved in founding and became the first President of, successfully held the first graduation ceremony. At the same time, I passed on the baton of the President’s post to Mr. Tadao Kiyonari (former President of Hosei University) and am feeling relieved as I have been liberated from this responsibility.

The graduate school had three attributes: they are (1) located in Aoyama/Omotesando which is acknowledged as one of the most sophisticated and fashionable areas within the huge metropolitan city of Tokyo, (2) an extremely small-scale institution where only 30 students are admitted every year and (3) target the educational and research focus on “project design” which is an academically unprecedented field. Regarding (3), I believe that the graduate school was the first of its kind not only in Japan but in the world to specialize in cultivating this intellectual venture and I am really grateful that the institution was able to materialize with the collaboration of my young friend, Mr. Hideya Azuma (Chairman of Sendenkaigi Co., Ltd, Chairman of Azuma Kyoiku Kenkyudan).

Although I will be turning 87 years old this coming June 22nd, I am thankful of the fact that my advice is being solicited in establishing another new university which will be the fifth for me. I do not intend to become the first President (fourth for me) of this institution but being engaged in a new project itself is both stimulating and exhilarating. When I embark on drafting a plan for the next project from step one, everything, including personal conversation and information obtained from the media/internet, take on the form of valuable intellectual stimuli in contributing to directly or indirectly executing the plan. Furthermore, they, at times, play an important role by providing a concrete breakthrough in promoting the project so every minute that I am awake becomes immensely precious since I am on constant alert not to overlook anything that may have meaningful value.

My father who studied in Germany and introduced aviation technology to Japan worked as an executive specializing in technology at the Aircraft Manufacturing Plant of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries when I was a youth. While he was responsible for developing new airplanes, his interest was constantly concentrated on “what is up next” and he showed little interest towards “what has already been made” including the famous Zero Fighter plane he was deeply involved in developing. I always felt puzzled with this temperament of his. However, as I near the age when my father passed away, it is with unexpected joy and pride to realize that the way I live my life is exactly like that of my father.


March 14, 2014


With the rapid spread of the internet, the newspapers and magazines which formed and led public opinions for a long time are all encountering the problem of decreasing subscribers. As I am an analogue person, I, on the other hand, prefer to read information on printed paper rather than via the screen (since it gives me ample time to digest and contemplate on the issue in question). It was through the article published in the "Shukan Bunshu" magazine that I learned of the shocking news that Mr. Mamoru Samuragouchi, admired as the modern-day Beethoven, was faking his hearing disability and deceived the Japanese public by having a ghostwriter compose the works released under his name. It was also the article written by Mr. Akira Senjyu (famous Japanese composer) which was published in the April issue of the "Chuo Koron" magazine that gave a clear-cut answer to my query, "But why were the compositions released in succession highly assessed by classic music fans as well as musicians and music critics?”

By all means, incidents that cannot be easily judged as true or false have been reported successively. Symbolic of the current trend was the report that Dr. Haruko Obokata of Riken (a large research institute funded by the Japanese government) succeed in discovering STAP cells, a groundbreaking stem-cell. As a leading author of the research report published in the prestigious British scientific journal “Nature,” the young female researcher was cast in the limelight as every national newspaper excitedly reported of her splendid achievement with huge headlines and pictures on the front page. But while the excitement was still ongoing, the article on the internet pointed out that the thesis published in “Nature” had flaws including data fabrication and manipulation. This instantly triggered the suspicion as to the legitimacy of STAP cells and created a lot of confusion and debate among science experts and in the media. Amid this, the “Shukan Shincho” magazine (March 20th issue) published an article with an eye-catchy title. Although there was no official explanation, it ran as “Is Obokata Ph.D. at a Checkmate?” It was quite obvious that the title was a pun on Miku Hatsune’s (a popular humanoid or a Vocaloid character which sings by utilizing synthesizer application) “Wiki Checkmate,” in an attempt to sarcastically refer to the young researcher. The original lyric is in Japanese but is translated as:

“Checkmate, it’s done, I’m beat. If it all ends there, then god, for me, is out of the question.”


March 3, 2014


On my return from the event to commemorate the death of Mr. Seiji Tsutsumi which has held last Wednesday’s noon at the Imperial Hotel, I strolled through Hibiya Park by myself and reminisced about the life of my deceased friend who was the same age as I. Since I had heard that he has not been well for quite a while, I was taken aback when I suddenly received a book of poems titled “On Death” (死について) from him last summer. Rather than the title of the book, what took me by surprise was the ghostly picture on the cover as well as the following explanation.

The words read, “A row of the dead wrapped in bandages pass in front of the poet who is lying in a hospital bed. Where are the deceased headed for in this country which is perishing?” These words exactly portray his extraordinary talent as a writer, a career he avidly pursued in his later years (by the pen name of Takashi Tsujii). To Mr. Tsusumi who was able to retain his exquisite sensitivity even at his death bed, I immediately wrote a thank you letter stating my impression of the book as well as conveying my words of encouragement. It was only a few months later that I received words from his family about his departure from life (November of last year).

When one reaches my age, receiving news that friends the same age have passed away do no evoke sadness anymore. They, more or less, become a part of daily life like accepting the fact that the number of friends in the world hereafter have increased and that I will be joining them not so long from now. It also renews my determination that I do not want to live to an age where people say, “That old man is still alive” with disdain.

As I look at the figures forecasting the drastic increase in the number of the elderly with dementia in Japan which inevitably goes hand in hand with the increase in the senior citizens’ population, I cannot help but wonder how many of them can actually look forward to spending their old age in peace and tranquility. Unlike Japan, Singapore implemented a wise and courageous immigration policy but the country recently is finding out that immigrants wishing to shoulder the burden of taking care of the Singaporean elderly with dementia are not applying for immigration. The Japanese politicians, in general, adhere to obstinate immigration policy which does not favor foreign immigrants to enter Japan. So what are the future plan they envision for this country which is accelerating its velocity to becoming a hyper elderly nation?


January 6, 2014


(Note: Yaroujidai means a person who is arrogant with no knowledge of his own limitations)

The Winter Olympic Games closed peacefully in Sochi despite prior concerns of terrorist attacks. What was most memorable and which I probably will never forget in my life was the two day performance of figure skater, Mao Asada. Her charm, in contrast to her archrival Yuna Kim’s unyielding looks and spirit, always accompanies a somewhat melancholic air and this stirs a certain amount of insecurity among the audience. This anxiety materialized as she fell at the opening triple axel which seems to have had a domino effect on her performance as she made consecutive mistakes and ended the short program in 16th place, an unbelievably low rank for a gold medal contender. I went to bed praying that she will regain her usual self and skill so that she can display an outstanding performance in the free skating program which was to be held the next day.

It was actually on that very next day that former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori made the absurd comment that skater Asada “always has the habit of falling at the most crucial time.” When I learned of this, I felt outraged rather than disgust. During his Prime Minister years, Mr. Mori had a reputation of making improper remarks and when he pronounced “IT” (i.e. information technology) as “it” during his official duty, both the media and the public could only laugh in scorn He resigned his post by leaving a dismal record that his administration had the public’s lowest approval rating ever but as the political arena is a peculiar world in itself, Mr. Mori has been utilized conveniently by succeeding administrations as “former Prime Minister” on occasions where he has personal connections. As the Chairman of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, the remark Mr. Mori made was outrageous and I even think that the term “夜朗自大” (yaroujidai) was coined on his behalf. On the other hand, Mao Asada, knowing or not knowing the humiliation she received, exhibited an overwhelmingly perfect performance at her free skating program. Deeply impressed, I thought I got in touch with the true essence of sports in a long while.

On a related topic, I genuinely hope that Abenomics will successfully reinvigorate the Japanese economy and I highly regard what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished so far. But at the same time, I am anxious about the consequence of his “forcible personnel selection” which is being criticized not only by the opinion leaders and supporters of the Liberal Democratic Party but even by the members of his own Liberal Democratic Party and the coalition New Komeito Party. Regardless of official duty or not, the frequency of the incidents which can be considered “夜朗自大” by individuals who were appointed to the post upon Prime Minister Abe’s personal preference are on the rise. Furthermore, it is truly regrettable that the names of the close aides who desperately opposed Prime Minister Abe to pay homage to the Yasukuni Shrine, an extremely sensitive event to neighboring countries which may sway the fate of his cabinet as well as the fate of Japan, are not yet disclosed.


February 10, 2014

(Upon the request of many, I will continue
my Rapport series on my homepage)

As I was surfing the T.V. channel after dinner in a relaxing mode (having accomplished a project) the other day, I came across an interesting program. The main theme of this show was for the program staff members to ask foreigners who are going about Narita International Airport as to why they are visiting Japan as well as their impression of Japan.

As the program staff must have selected those that will amuse the viewers, all the comments and answers made by the interviewed foreigners were interesting but among them, the stout middle aged man from the U.S. struck me as most interesting. He said that he came to Japan to attend Perfume’s (Japanese pop girl trio group) performance for three consecutive days having procured their concert tickets in advance. According to him, he has been a fan of Perfume for quite some time and that he finds the group’s songs and dance to be extremely unique and that he watches the group’s DVD everyday to invigorate himself. He further continued to say that it has been his long cherished dream to intoxicate in Perfume’s concert with many other Japanese fans and that he was already really excited just at the thought of finally realizing it.

The program follows this American man to Osaka’s Kyocera Dome where the female band is performing their concert next day and skillfully includes a video footage of him cheering wildly at the concert. As I was not familiar with Perfume, I checked them out via the Wikipedia. The group was formed in 2000 by three 7th grade girls living in Hiroshima and attending a young talent training academy. As soon as they became the number one idol group of the Hiroshima region, they were asked to transfer their home base to Tokyo to debut as a national trio rather than a local band. With the collaboration from novel minded producer, designer, composer, etc., the group completely revamped their costume, song, dance, etc. and identified themselves as a contemporary techno-pop unit and have now gone on to the global entertainment scene with their distinctive performance style.

Under the current globalization movement, Japan is trying to incorporate this trend by frivolously adopting English as the official corporate language to facilitate better communication and information sharing between the Japan headquarters and their overseas branches as well as between Japanese and foreign employees/customers. However, this imposes even native Japanese employees to communicate in English with each other. Contrary to such futile efforts to be competitive in the global market, Masahiro Tanaka (Japanese professional baseball pitcher who is now the starting pitcher of the New York Yankees) and Perfume pose perfect examples of what it is to be truly successful in the globalized world.


January 6, 2014

- Notice of Rapport’s Termination -

I hope all of you enjoyed your New Year holidays. As for myself, I spent most of my time at home and relished heartwarming moments with my children and grandchildren who visited my wife and me as well as taking time to leisurely read the numerous New Year greeting cards I received. Other then these, I entirely devoted my time to contemplate about the future prospect of the world and Japan as well as what I would like to do with the rest of my life. Since everything is, fortunately, going fine with my work, my health and human relations, it may be more accurate to say that I just let my mind wander on its own will to scribble the image of my life’s near future within my heart.

At the most, I foresee that I have 10 more years to go since I do not want to live to the age where people contemptuously whisper, “Look, that old man is still alive” behind my back. During that time span, I believe that the developed countries which are struggling hard to recover from economic stagnation and developing countries that are exerting all efforts for further growth will somehow passively maintain a peaceful world although each respective country may harbor political and social conflicts and dissatisfaction domestically (not to mention that frequent regional disputes will unavoidably occur). Under such global backdrop, the current Abenomics policies do not seem capable of bringing about social reform in Japan. In line with this, I have abandoned hope on Japan as she will inevitably be trailing the decline path as a nation in the years to come.

So, what am I going to do? In short, rather then fostering false expectations on politicians to better the country, I have decided to stake the rest of my remaining life to a number of large and small projects which can be realized and achieve concrete results through my own will power and efforts. In order to do so, I have come to the conclusion that I need to comprehensively reevaluate the time I have allocated to all my intellectual activities. In light of this, the Rapport series sent via postcard will be terminated so this (Rapport ? 911) will be the last issue you will be receiving by mail. I solicit your generous understanding. As I am considering the possibility of continuing my Rapport series via my internet home page, I will certainly let you know if this is to take place. Last but not least, please accept my genuine and sincerest appreciation for being a reader of my Rapport issues for such a long time. Thank you from deep down my heart!

copyright(C) Kazuo Noda.  All rights reserved.