Monthly Archives: September 2006

Singing Fighter?



     Last Sunday I went to Tea Concert held by M&P’s Tea, a tea company, at Yama-no-Hall in Nisshin City. M&P’s Tea sometimes have Tea Concert, where you can listen to wonderful music and after the concert you can enjoy afternoon tea party.

     The players were a macho bas baritone singer named Ken Yasuda and a female pianist named Yuka Fukuda that time. The bas baritone singer used to be a wrestler of K-1. His body is built up and he looks like a wrestler rather than a singer. To the contrary, the pianist is very skinny, and it’s amazing that her thin arms create powerful music on the piano. Beauty and Beast…

     After concert I had an opportunity to talk to Ken, having many kinds of wonderful tea with some sweets and delicious cucumber sandwiches (I love the cucumber sandwiches! According to the organizer, they seem to make the sandwiches by secret recipe!).

     Ken told me that he tried to sing clearly because he had noticed that the lyrics were important. He thinks all singers have to sing more carefully thinking of the meanings of the words. He said, “It’s a kind of task for all singers. But it’s really difficult to accomplish to send the words to audiences when we sing.”

     So I said him, “Oh! You are a fighting singer, then! Or maybe a singing fighter!?” He replied me, “Ah, I prefer to be called a singing fighter!”

     Anyway I had a wonderful time at the Tea Concert.

     Ken Yasuda :

     M&P’s Tea:


Visas and Virtue


     I take an English class at a university. The class in the second semester started last Thursday at last after long summer vacation. The class I belong is not a normal English class but a psychology class. In the class, we use movies for study it.

     On the first day of the class last Thursday, we voted which movie we would start with from these three movies: American Beauty, Pay It Forward, and Hotel Rwanda. And we decided to start with Hotel Rwanda.

     Hotel Rwanda is a story of a conflict in Rwanda in 1990’s. I am going to write about the movie in detail later on after seeing the whole movie. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to see it yet because all of the DVDs have been out in a rental video store in my neighborhood. Anyway, it seems that the hero of the story helps many people’s lives in spite of danger to himself during the war.

     Probably in the psychology class, I’ll study how people sometimes carry out believes or principles and become to face up squarely to problems regardless of their own safety through seeing the movie.

     We watched another movie before Hotel Rwanda in the class. It’s a short film entitle Visas and Virtue, which won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1997.

     The hero of the movie is a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara in Lithuania during the World War II. After the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 and the taking over of Lithuania by Soviet Union next year, many Jewish people tried to escape from Poland. Chiune Sugihara issued visas to the refugees in spite of Japanese government’s ban. As a result, he was fired later, but many Jewish people’s lives were saved. That’s why he is sometimes called Japanese Schindler.

     Chiune Sugihara was born in Yaotsu, Gifu prefecture. Many people around here know about him because Gifu is next to Aichi prefecture where Nagoya is. His monument is in Yaotsu.

     In the movie, Visas and Virtue, Chiune is not keen to help people first. He is rather reluctant to issue visas to refugees because he is afraid of punishment by Japanese government. He just thinks of his family’s safety. But he gradually changes his mind and tries to save as many people’s lives as possible.

     I’m looking forward to studying how people change their minds and become to act up to their principles in the class from now on.

Visas and Virtue
You can watch the movie. Click the icon. An advertising clip streams before the movie.

Courtesy of IFILM

Food and Health



     Today my third intensive course finished. The final topic was food and health. According to the handout the teacher in the course gave the students, it seems that in UK the government will limit junk food advertising on TV for children’s health.

     Here in Japan, you can see many food and drink advertisements on TV.; snacks like potato chips, convenience food like instant noodles, sweet drinks like cola, fast food, dairy products, and alcohol like beer and so on. And most of them are not so good for health.

     In UK, they care about pediatric obesity mainly, but in Japan not only children’s overweight but also their skinniness is a big problem. I think both issues are because of lack of education and floods of information, of course there are also other causes, though.

     Both parents and children are too busy to care diet nowadays. I often see children bite snacks or sweet rolls in the bus probably in spare moments from schools to cram schools in the evening. Maybe they have dinner on the bus! Obviously their diet is lack of nutritious.

     And because girls, especially teenagers, care about their figures too much, they are often on excessive diet. So their diet is inadequate for growing as well.

     Nevertheless adults care about their health too much. One of the reasons is the progress of aging society, I think. Everyone wants to live longer without disease. So there are many healthy food advertisements on TV at the same time when there are many junk food promotions there. 

     Particularly, special functional foods guaranteed by the government, for example, oolong tea which can reduce fat and retard assimilation of saturated fat, are getting popular and popular in Japan. But sometimes people tend to be just incited by information.

     A movement that too skinny fashion models are shut out from shows in Spain and Italy has happened. It may be time for thinking our eating habit and health now in Japan, too. 

Nouvelle Vague


 The forth day’s topic was movies in the intensive course I joined in. I hadn’t known about Jeff Skoll and his company Participant Productions until the teacher gave the handout.

     Jeff Skoll is a Canadian businessman, who was one of the founders of internet auction firm eBay. He cashed his eBay’s stocks 5 years ago, and then found Participant Productions, a movie production company 2 years ago.

     Participant Productions has gained critical success and got Oscar nominations, and have made lots of money, though it is quite new. They released these movies so far: Murderball, Arna’s Children, Syriana, Good Night, and Good luck, North Country, The World According to Sesame Street, An Inconvenient Truth, Fast Food Nation, American Gun and Electric Dreams.

     Hollywood producers have made films to only entertain people and have aimed for the big profits until today. And their success has been judged by the box office.

     But Participant Productions’ aim is different. They want both to entertain and to make people aware of social issues. Jeff Skoll says, “If a film is successful but does no good in the world, I would consider it a failure. Whereas if a movie does some good but doesn’t make a lot of money, I’d still say it was worthwhile.”,,14931-2325191,00.html

And the Executive vice president, Meredith Blake also says, “Our product is social change, and the movies are vehicle for that social change.”,6903,1681361,00.html

     Now Hollywood dinosaurs have trouble with high production costs, piracy and the rise of Internet. And they don’t have new original ideas. So new producers like Jeff Skoll and his company with their originality may conquer the silver screen in the near future and affect our society.

The Glass Ceiling


     As I wrote in the latest two diaries, I am now taking an English course at a university. The teacher gives the students in each class a handout for the day’s topic. On the third day of the course, the topic was women. And the handout’s title was “Top women cheated by pay gap”, which was written by Lorna Martin.

     According to the article, more women are getting top jobs in UK, but the pay gap between men and women is greater than in low-paid jobs. It means that the ‘glass ceiling’ remains still now there. But the article also says that the problem for the pay gap is made by women themselves.

     It says that the main problem is the existence of a ‘psychological barrier’. What is the psychological barrier? It means that women make themselves weak and modest. Women tend to underestimate their abilities and to avoid taking responsible jobs by thinking of their weakness.

     I thought it was very interesting and was very surprising when I read the article because the situation in UK and in Japan is very similar. In Japan, lately many women have jobs, especially even after marriage. Yes, it’s common that both of husband and wife work and have double income nowadays.

     However, house chores and child care tend toward women’s roles still now. That’s why women don’t agree to work long hours and to take on many responsibilities at work. Besides, I’ve heard of that most men don’t want their wives to make much money and most women hope to rely on their husbands. That’s interesting psychology.

     Many people have called for sexual equality, but both of men and women may don’t want true sexual equality in depth psychology. As far as both sexes have that psychology, the ‘glass ceiling’ won’t vanish forever, I think.

Life in the old dog yet


     It was media that on the second day’s topic in the course I am taking now. Nowadays we can much information from various media: print media like newspaper and magazines and electronic media like TV, radio and the Internet.

     Many people must think print media will be killed off by the rise of the Internet in the near future. But according to the handout given by the teacher in the course, the development of electronic technology doesn’t mean that newspapers will disappear.

     As for me, I seldom read newspapers lately because I can get most information from the Internet. The newspapers’ news is not new any more. The world is always changing. With regard to speed, electronic media is more quickly than print. You can know the latest news from the flash on TV and the radio. And the headlines on the news website changes every second.

     Especially, the Internet is an interactive medium. You can not only get information but also give it, too. The Internet has another role as a communication tool. Of course, it has many problems, for example it is sometimes fraudulent and still lawless. Yet I think it is very convenient for life.

     The handout said that the technology is not yet as flexible as newspapers, in that it is difficult to read a laptop while riding a crowded train. Yes, it’s true. Newspapers can be read anywhere anytime without power. And it mentioned that newspapers are investing heavily in websites where they can continue to deliver reliable news and comment, and each medium is demanded for good reporting and analysis more than ever.

     So some newspapers will die and some will exist. It will depend on their content ultimately, I think. Personally I think old newspapers are very useful, though…

The Importance of Grandmothers

     I am taking an English course now at a university. It is my third summer intensive course. Usually each course starts on Monday and finishes on Friday. But this time the schedule of the course is unusual. It started last Wednesday and finishes next Wednesday because there is a national holiday during the week.

    The teacher in my class is a dandy British gentleman, who is from London, England. Actually I am not good at catching British English. My first English teacher was an American, and since then I have learned American English. But the teacher tries to speak clearly because he knows that many students have as similar experiences as I have.

     There are 12 students in the class. All of us are women. One dandy gentleman and 12 pretty ladies! Wow! I have already known most of them. Actually I have taken the teacher’s class before. Probably this is the fourth time to take his class. And I didn’t know only three of my classmates.

     First day’s topic was the family. The teacher gave us an interesting handout for the topic. It was hardly believe for me when I read the story, which was about the importance of grandmothers.

     According to the article, grandmothers influence the survival rate of their grandchildren! Can you believe that?

     Dr. Ruth Mace and Dr. Rebecca Sear in the Department of Anthropology at University College in London studied about people in the countryside in Gambia, Africa in 1996. And they discovered the presence or absence of the child’s father did not affect the death rate. But the presence of a grandmother reduced the death rate by 50%. Besides, they found out a surprising fact that the children were only helped by the presence of their maternal grandmother, and the paternal grandmother had no effect on the mortality rate!

     Another anthropologist, Dr. Cheryl Jamison at Indiana University in Bloomington studied the population records of a village in central Japan for period 1671 through 1871 with her colleagues. Those days, the mortality rate for children in the village was very high. 27.5% of children died by the age of 16. Their discovery was unbelievable: girls were not affected for their mortality rate by their grandmothers’ existence. But boys were very affected. If a maternal grandmother lived together, boys were 52% less to die in childhood. On the contrary, if boys lived together with their paternal grandmother, they were 62% more to die in childhood! Really?!

     In the old days before Kamakura era, our society had been matrilineal. I’ve heard that matrilineal society is primitive but is normal for mammals. It may relate with children’s survival rate.

     Nowadays nuclear families are increasing, grandchildren and grandmothers seldom live together. Since medical techniques are developing, the mortality rate for children is decreasing and aging society is advancing. So now do grandmothers affect their grandchildren for the survival rate? I don’t know that, but maybe economically their influences on their children and grandchildren are great!