Category Archives: News and politics

Nagoya Castle’s Castle Gates and Watch Towers 2: Watch Towers

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     1403058_10152815111282356_7611750469628211205_o “I said JUST eleven!” Professor Miura said, looking at Chris from the corner of his eyes again.

     Professor Miura is a specialist in castle architecture at Hiroshima University. Chris Glenn, the famous radio DJ and samurai expert in Japan, was interviewing him about Nagoya Castle’s gates and watch towers. It was November 15th and I was attending the lecture. 1513753_10152815111457356_992569869806058203_n

     The number eleven, Professor Miura mentioned, indicates the number of watch towers in Nagoya Castle. Watch towers were the buildings for looking out, the strongpoints of defense, and arsenals before the Meiji Era (1868).

     “I said JUST eleven!” Professor Miura said again. The whole room was filled with giggling. You know the reason if you have read my former article (Nagoya Castle’s Castle Gates and Watch Towers 1: Death Box). Actually, almost the same thing had happened a few minutes previously when he mentioned the number of castle gates in Nagoya Castle. He said “I said JUST six!” at that time.

     10155448_10152815111777356_721926655084910360_n “Why did you say JUST eleven?” Chris asked him, rolling his eyes. Professor Miura nodded approvingly and said, “There were more than 80 watch towers in Hiroshima Castle and Okayama Castle. Kumamoto Castle and Himeji Castle had over 100 watch towers! Therefore, the number of watch towers in Nagoya Castle was extremely small.”

     Actually, two more watch towers were planned to be built in Nagoya Castle. But Osaka Castle, which was the enemy’s stronghold, fell in 1614 before all the watch towers were completed. That newfound victory is why the foundations for those watch towers remain unbuilt-on.

     Interestingly, the designs of the watch towers in Nagoya Castle are all different. Their size, style, shapes of roofs and windows and everything are diverse. Professor Miura gave a funny example to illustrate this uniqueness. “Imagine all the fighters in the Japan Self-Defense Force are different.” Oh, I see…1939566_10152815111937356_3404223952661816583_n

     One big difference between Nagoya Castle’s watch towers and those of other castles except for its diversity is their largeness. Each tower is as big as other castle’s main buildings (donjon). After the lecture, the participants had a rare opportunity to tour one of the watch towers. It is called Seihoku-Sumi-Yagura, and used to be the main tower of Kiyosu Castle, which was the castle of Oda Nobunaga, one of the most powerful feudal lords in the Age of Provincial War (the 16th century). That is why the watch tower is also called Kiyosu Yagura.

     10430362_10152815111882356_7696285545257231049_n Kiyosu Castle was demolished and its main tower was reconstructed as one of the watch towers in Nagoya Castle at the beginning of the 17th century, when Nagoya Castle was built. I do not know the reason but the present main tower of Kiyosu Castle is a replica of Inuyama Castle’s main tower…

     Although the number of watch towers is very small, the scale is more impressive than other castles due to the capacity of Nagoya Castle’s watch towers. Moreover, Nagoya Castle had a series of huge roved corridors which surround the main enclosure of the castle. It was called Tamon-Yagura and was also a gigantic store-room for weapons and armor. The width of the corridors was about six meters and the dimensions were equal to more than 300 watch towers from other castles. Unfortunately, this has not been rebuilt yet after it was burnt down by air raids during the Second World War. 1618320_10152815112082356_4570931935487098778_o

     I wrote in my previous article that enemies could not enter through the castle gates or other places. The reason is the existence of this huge series of corridors. It was impossible to break into the main enclosure of the castle through the strongest gates and the roofed huge corridors at that time. Actually, the corridors had a disconnected fireproof compartment, and the idea of fire protection was introduced to castle architecture for the first time in Japan. Not only its military preparedness but also the concept shows that Nagoya Castle was the most advanced architecture in Japan in the 17th century.

   10257195_10152815112942356_8133282589992585861_o   Professor Miura shouted, “Nagoya Castle should be rebuilt to its original style including Tamon-Yagura! It is Nagoya City’s duty!” Yeah! I would like to see the beautiful appearance of Nagoya Castle with the legendary Tamon-Yagura!

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Walking with a stray child: Excuse me…Where’s Nanami?

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“Excuse me…” a little girl stopped to talk to me. I was walking to a grocery store. She looked up at me and kept on. “Where’s Nanami?” I was confused and asked her, “Sorry, I don’t know about Nanami. Who’s Nanami? Your friend?” But she did not reply to my questions. She was just staring at me. Then I thought, “Oh, God! Again!

Somehow I sometimes pick up lost or unconscious people when I am walking. Interestingly, I am always alone and cannot find anyone to ask for help when I find them. That is why I feel like I am being tested by God like a pop quiz at school.

When I found an old man who could not move in the street several years ago, I was almost mistaken for a scammer or something by his family! He was hospitalized at that time and got lost while walking outside of the hospital. He turned at the wrong corner and kept on walking more than two hours. He was far away from the hospital. I offered him to tell the hospital about this situation, but he asked me to call his family instead. So, I phoned the number he gave me and tried to explain what was happening to his family. But the voice on the other end of the line was cold. “My father is in hospital now!” she said that and hung up. I told the old man that his family did not believe me and phoned the hospital, where staff was looking for him, of course. I caught a cab for him…A few days later, his family visited me with a lot of sweets!

So, this little girl looked lost. I crouched down and talked to her. “What’s your name?” But she did not say her name. “Do you live near here?” She tilted the head and said, “I don’t know.” I changed questions. “Are you a first grader?” She nodded. “Which is your school?” She said, “K Elementary School.” Oh, she answered precisely for the first time! The school was near the place. “Okay, then, let’s go to your school. You might find Nanami there. (And your teachers know about you!)” She nodded and started walking with me. What if I were a psychopath?!

Actually, there was a terrible murder case last month in Kobe. A first-grader-girl was killed by a 47-year-old man. The girl had promised with a friend of hers to play together after school, but she could not meet her friend. When she was walking alone, she was spoken to by the criminal. According to the news, the murderer invited her to his apartment, saying, “You’re very cute. Why don’t you become a model for my painting?” Taking the victim to his apartment, the perpetrator killed and mutilated her…

Walking with her, I tried to know her name and get other info. But she was incoherent. Without knowing her name, we got to a pedestrian bridge, on which we were able to see her school. “Look! That’s your school. Now, do you know where you are?” She seemed to be confused. She just said, “Where’s someone’s house?” I was at a total loss. “Someone’s house? Well…Who?” Both of us were puzzling now. “Anyway, let’s go to your school.” I said that and started walking, but she did not move. We were just in front of the grocer store where I was going to. I decided to ask for help there.

“Where are we going?” She asked me anxiously. “To the service counter.” I replied with a smile and entered the shop. She soon came running to me and said, “Do you buy me something?” I laughed and replied, “Ha ha, no. But we’ll find someone who can help us here.”

“Help me.” I whispered to a clerk at the service counter. There were three clerks behind the desk. They looked from me and to the girl. “This girl seems to be lost. I couldn’t get her name, but she seems to be a pupil at K Elementary School. I found her outside of this shop, not inside. But could you help me to find someone who knows her, please?” They said, “Of course!” in chorus. Two of them crouched down and started to talk to her immediately. I was relieved watching the exchange between the girl and the staff members for a while. It seemed that there was nothing for me to do. So, I asked one of them, “Can I go shopping? I’ll leave my name and phone number just in case you call the police.” “Okay. Take your time!” She said with a smile.

After buying some food, I went back to the service counter. One of them realized and came to me. I could not find the girl anywhere around the desk. “What happened?” I asked. “Oh, I was about to call you. Soon after that, her mother appeared and took her home. According to the mother, they don’t live around here.” I do not know how her mother found out that she was in the store, but I was relieved to hear that she met her mother anyway. “You know, we had that horrible murder case in Kobe last month. So, she was lucky because she found me!” “Exactly!” She laughed nodding. By the way, what is the girl’s name?

Change in the Field of Health and Medicine: Anyway, I went to buy oil for cooking after the class…

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20141002_192419     At that moment, all the students in the classroom let out a scream. Raising a hand and mouth dropping open, I stared at my teacher. It was one scene at an English class, which I started to take at Chukyo University this week. Actually, the course had already begun at the beginning of last month. I was a little nervous to enter the room before the class because I did not know what the class and my classmates were like. Hoping to relax myself, I took a deep breath, and then opened the door timidly. But it was soon revealed that I already knew most of my classmates. The room was filled with greetings as if I was in a class reunion.

     The English course is entitled “Life in Our Changing World 2.” Oh, I must have missed #1 in the first semester! The course description on the leaflet says: Nowadays, our lives and the world around us are changing faster than ever before in history. People are living longer, yet they are also suffering from new diseases. Now countries are forming and old countries are breaking up. Scientists are making new discoveries and creating technologies – some useful, some dangerous. Even our way of thinking is changing: we used to read long novels, but now we surf the Internet. On this course, we shall look in detail at some of the changes that are so dramatically affecting our lives, and discuss their significance.

     In line with this, the topic of that day was change in the field of health and medicine. For example, dairy products, such as milk, butter and cheese, were thought to be good for our health because of their high calcium and protein content until about 40 years ago. But people started avoiding them as they were afraid of taking too much cholesterol. Now it is known that they do not affect people’s cholesterol levels directly. We produce cholesterol inside and stress rather than dairy products elevates its levels.

     Okay, let us go to the beginning. What happened at that moment? The teacher said to the class, “Raise your hand if you use olive oil at home.” All of them raised their hands and waited for what was coming next. “Extra virgin oil changes to trans fatty acid after heating…” said the teacher with gravity. “Whaaaaaaaaat?!” “Reallyyyyyyyyyyyy?!” All the students made a big exclamation in surprise.CAM00369

     That is, cold pressed olive oil also can be transformed when it is heated. Meanwhile, olive oil extracted by other ways such as heat or with chemicals will not change when it is heated. So, we should use cold pressed olive oil like extra virgin for unheated food such as salads, and use cheaper olive oil (in general, non-cold pressed oils are cheaper) or other kinds of oils for cooking. But the teacher added, “You shouldn’t think about it so seriously. Look at Italian and Spanish people. They don’t mind it so much, yet Mediterranean diet is generally healthy.” 20141002_192450

     After studying about oils, the teacher gave the students a new scientific discovery: Brain repair may be boosted by curry spice! If you cut your skin, the wound will heal gradually. Of course, this is as long as the injury is not so serious, though. And if your brain is injured, what would happen? The damaged cells will never heal again. Brain cells are never regenerated. However, researchers in Germany have found recently that a substance called aromatic-turmerone contained in turmeric could encourage the growth of nerve cells, which is thought to be part of the brain’s repair kit. We might conquer some brain diseases like Alzheimer’s in the near future. In addition, curcurmin, another substance in turmeric is also known for its anti-cancer, liver-protective and –repair benefits. Oh, should I eat curry more? Anyway, I went to a grocery store to buy oil for cooking after the class.

Churchill in Love: I thought it had Churchill’s bedroom scenes!

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チャ     “A Yes vote for Scottish independence on Thursday would go down in history as a political and economic mistake as large as Winston Churchill’s decision in 1925 to return the pound to the gold standard or the failure of the Federal Reserve to provide sufficient liquidity to the US banking system which we now know brought on the Great Depression in the US…”20140914_143033-a

     The chief economist of German financial giant, Deutsche Bank, warned Scottish people about independence from the UK last Friday. I do not know whether Scottish people accepted warnings like his or not, but they finally chose to remain as part of the UK yesterday. I am wondering what the result will cause from now on, but at least it seems that we were able to avoid a world crisis.

     By the way, I went to see a play last Saturday about the politician who was referred to in the German economist’s warning to Scottish people. The title was Churchill in Love. Yes, the protagonist Winston Churchill was a high-flyer during the interwar period. But “in love”? So, I asked the actor who played Churchill when I received a flyer for the play, saying “Not ‘Churchill in Nagoya’?” But he replied, “Ha ha! No, no. It’s Churchill in Love!” with a laugh, and then added, “It’ll be the first time for me to have a bedroom scene.” Whaaaaaat? Churchill in a bedroom scene? I bought a ticket on the spot. 20140914_123326-a

     The flyer had the plot: In the summer of 1959 Sir Winston Churchill and his family boarded on the luxury yacht Christina at the invitation of Aristotle Onassis and his wife, Tina. Also invited on board the yacht was the mercurial opera diva, Maria Callas. What follows is a tempestuous cruise into the heart of deceit, desire, and disillusion as the aging Churchill and his family, seek to avoid any hint of impropriety. Love and lust wage war in this historical meditation of one man’s long love affair with his wife and another man’s descent into desperation. 20140914_125705

     Hmm…What will happen on stage? I was excited as I walked to the theater, which looks more like an old warehouse than a theater. It is a 42-year-old building named Nanatsudera Kyodo Studio which is located in Osu, Nagoya. An army major was standing in front of the building when I arrived. He was the actor who was playing Major Lang. Before the curtain-up, the play had already started. In fact, he and an actress who was playing Churchill’s wife came and went between the stage and the audience seats inside to enhance the mood.20140914_142300

    Actually, there was no bedroom scene played by Churchill and his wife. Instead of them, Ari Onassis and Maria Callas played love scenes. I was relieved. You know, Churchill was in his 80s. Love has different kinds like ancient Greek identified: familiarity (storge), friendship (philia), sexual and romantic desire (eros), and divine love (agape). The play depicted that Ari and Maria did not know true love or how to love someone from the heart. But they just pursue eros, one form of love. So, they also knew about love, which was just different from Churchill’s. Anyway, the play was interesting with thrilling episodes of those historical famous characters!

Japan Air Self-Defense Force participates in US military drill: Reinterpretation of the Constitution?

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     A formation of F-15 fighters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has participated in a military maneuver which the US Air Force has led. They had exercises jointly with a B-52 for covering the bomber. It is capable of meaning to depart from “the defense-only policy” that Japan has been acting up to since the end of the war. The Abe administration adopted a change the chief of Cabinet Legislation Bureau at a Cabinet meeting this month to let them accept the use of the right to collective self-defense by “reinterpretation of the Constitution”.

     This military exercise is called “Red Flag-Alaska (RFA)”. It was named that way in 2006 since then it has done in Alaska, and it started on August 9th this year too.

     “This happened during the OCA (offensive counter air operation) mission in RFA. A formation of F-15 of JASDF took the lead and kept covering B-52 bomber….But B-52 had run the mission and had gone back with the other formations before the Japan’s team knew. The formation of JASDF was left behind and got down without covering forces. This misstep was because all of the operation plans and the pre-flight briefing had been done in English and Japan’s pilots had not understood correctly that they had to go back when B-52 finished its bombing mission and because they could not catch the MC’s “Mission accomplished. Retreat” …

     That is a part of an article in the July issue last year of the monthly magazine of the Air Self-Defense Force. The writer is a captain in the 6th aircraft wing. He did not write when the drill was held. Actually Japan Air Staff Office has not affirmed the contents of the exercises. According to them, it was an “air defense drill”.

     The relations between Article 9 of the Constitution and activities of Japan’s Self-Defense Force have been stretched gradually. However, the exclusively defensive defense and the individual self-defense are the base, and the government has been conditional on these three points:
1) if Japan gets an imminent and unlawful incursion,
2) and there is no other appropriate methods to get rid of it,
3) resort to force to minimum necessary
And they have banned to exercise the right of collective defense because it departs from those three conditions. But they have used the ideas of “logistical support” or “non-combat areas” since 1990s and have delivered weapons and provided information to the US Armed Force because they interpret those actions are not using of force and do not regard them as the right of collective defense.

     What do experts think about the participation of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to RFA? :

Kyoji Yanagisawa (The chairman of International Geopolitics Institute Japan, a former aide to deputy chief cabinet secretary for security in the first Abe administration) : The government might reply that they assume the situation in which North Korea launches missiles to Japan. When Japan is in such an emergency situation, the activity is within the individual self-defense.

Akira Kato (A professor at Obirin University, a former research worker at the National Institute for Defense Studies): The Japan Air Self-Defense Force always keeps joint operations with the US Air Force in mind. That is why they practice many drills together to boost mutual understanding and communication. In actual condition, members of Self-Defense Force don’t think whether their action is collective or individual so much.

Tetsuo Maeda (A military commentator): B-52 is notorious for using napalm during the Vietnam War. The recent white paper on defense says, “There is no risk of getting a direct invasion to Japan”. So, it’s difficult to accept their activities as self-defense. It is rather a proof that they practice the use of the right to collective self-defense on a daily basis. It has no reality of using B-52 in the Korean Peninsula because the bomber is incapable of point attack to the deployment place of Taep’o dong or Nodong. It’s natural to think the practice is to join wars between the US and other countries like Iran.

Motofumi Asai (A political scholar): Strategic bombers are used for aggressive attack or invasion. So, covering B-52 departs from “minimum necessary” of self-defense. Politicians may be creating “faits accomplish” such as the drill.

     B-52 is capable of strategic nuclear strike. It seems to be difficult for US to handle attacks from North Korea with a ballistic missile defense system. They appear to have a nuclear retaliation plan. That exercise may be for sharing the project. It might be the aim for the use of the right to collective self-defense to support wars between US and other countries. The worst thing is that the government has neither opened the activities of the Japan Self-Defense Force nor assumed situations to the public. They have never even placed those things on the agenda. In the meantime, Prime Minister Abe is scrambling for acceptation of the use of the right to collective defense.

(From The Chunichi, August 13, 2013      translated by moshimoshimo)

Living Article 9 of the Constituion: Never forget the heaviness of pulling the trigger

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a9     When they gasped for air, the ground cracked and revealed their naked chests.

     It happened in June, 1941, half a year before Sino-Japanese War extended to the Pacific War. Katsumi Nishio, 93, was an army soldier at that time. He was having a break near the Great Wall when other soldiers brought two Chinese farmers there. The unit to which Katsumi belonged was chasing their enemies in the front line of the northeast area in China. The two farmers were forced to lie on their backs on the ground and were covered with dirt from the neck down.

     “Tell everything you know!” When the two men said nothing, Katsumi’s fellow soldiers hit their faces and heeled their bodies. The troops had to set out soon. Then the platoon leader said, “I’ll fix them,” and took a shot to the head of one of the farmers. “Shoot another,” said the leader and gave Katsumi the gun. Katsumi pulled the trigger quickly. The first bullet missed the vital point, and then the second one took the farmer’s life. Katsumi must have been shot to death if he had disobeyed the order.

     Katsumi had fought in China and the Kurile Islands, and then was taken to the prison camp in Siberia when the war was end. He worked at a coal mine with some 1500 other prisoners. The Soviet government gave them their original “Japanese newspaper” three times a week.

     “Is this true?” On the sooty paper issued on March 9 in 1946, there was a headline of “To renounce war forever” with a basic outline of new Japan’s constitution. Some believed the article, but Katsumi did not. “It must be the Soviet’s false info!” He could not think about the article calmly in the condition he needed to worry about the day’s water and food.

     After a-five-year detention in Siberia, Katsumi was sent to the war criminal office in China, where he had shot a farmer. “I just did a right thing in the battle field.” Katsumi thought that and saw the Chinese officials as enemies. But there were no Chinese people who blamed Japan’s behaviors during the war.

     How come they can be kind to us? Katsumi began regarding the Chinese officials as human-beings, not his enemies. One day he got to know that China was preparing for their new constitution. He thought a new constitution had already been proclaimed in Japan and one day he requested an officer a copy of the Constitution of Japan.

     “That was true!” The basic principles of the war renunciation, which he had thought false info in Siberia, were written in Preamble and Article 9. After that he started having nightmares in which the farmer he had killed appeared. He was scared of what he had done and he confessed his secret to Chinese officials.

     Katsumi came back to Japan in August, 1956, 11 years after the end of the war. He was very surprised to see Japan’s reconstruction because he had heard that his country had been burned to ground. The government had published in July of the year an economic survey that said “It is no longer termed postwar.” Japan looked like a new country in its high economic growth period for his eyes.

     However, Shinsuke Kishi became a prime minister half a year later and started claiming that the present Japan’s constitution was an obtrusion from GHQ (General Headquarters of Allied Forces) and that Japan needed its own constitution. Moreover, the prime minister tried to amend the security treaties between Japan and the U.S. Katsumi was very shocked at the government’s attitude and wondered if Japan forgot about the misery of the war after just ten years.

     “Japanese people should never have guns!” Katsumi thought that strongly. He never forgets the farmers. He can say this because he knows the heaviness of pulling the trigger. “Wars have neither justice nor injustice. So we should preserve Article 9!”

(From The Chunichi on August 13 in 2013, translated by moshimoshimo)

The Sacrificial Light – Wakasa’s Tears 7: Two Homes (From The Chunichi, a local newspaper in Nagoya)

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wakasa 7     “That’s a monster of civilization. You don’t need to go and rest near the monster’s coffin in old age.” (“Kokyo (Hometown)” Tsutomu Mizukami)

     The sun was setting in Wakasa’s sea. It was as beautiful as the one she had seen in her childhood. The beach in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, is the archetypal scenery of her home for Miki Suzuki, 44. But Miki is a little afraid of the place now. “We also have ones here.” Her eyes were directing to the white domed nuclear reactors.

     Miki came back to her home town Mihama two years ago. Until then she had lived with her husband in Fukushima’s Minami Soma for 20 years. She evacuated to her mother’s home from that nuclear accident. The nuclear power plant in Mihama has been a familiar existence for her since she was a child. Most of her relatives and acquaintances work for the power station. She entered a local bank after graduating from the high school, and worked at one of its branches near the powerhouse. The slogan of the day at the bank was “Let’s solicit deposit to workers at the nuclear power stations!” It was the late bubble economy in 1980s, when a sodium-cooled fast reactor “Monju” was being built in Tsuruga the next town to Mihama, and many workers came to Fukui.

     Miki’s home town was getting affluent. She left Mihama, looking at the sight. She got married a man at the age of 21 and moved to Minami Soma in Fukushima Prefecture. Her husband was a teacher in Fukushima. “In Fukushima, the sun rises from the sea,” he said. The climate and the language were different there from her home town, but its local people were very friendly and Miki had two daughters. She was happy there. She was going to live there forever as her second home town until Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant, which was in 25 kilometers south of her house, exploded…

     As soon as Miki and her family evacuated to Mihama, her husband went back to Fukushima for his job and her older daughter entered a university in Tokyo. After she and her younger daughter were staying at her mother’s house for a while, they decided to move to an apartment for victims of the disaster. But her home town offered an old building of Kansai Electric Power Company standing along the sea. “What if a big tsunami comes? What would happen to the nuclear power station?” She who had lost her home in Fukushima because of the radioactive contamination felt like being hit her mental bruise. Hinako, the younger daughter, had to say goodbye to all of her friends in Minami Soma and to enter a junior high school in Mihama. She cried in her bed every night: “I wanna go back to Fukushima! I don’t mind being exposed to radiation!” Moreover, she sometimes shouted “This is not a home. Just a box!”

     In the spring last year, one year after Miki’s evacuation, when the plan of the resumption of Ohi No.3 and No.4 Nuclear Reactors came alive, Mike sent a message to the governor of Fukui Prefecture. She thanked for the support for the victims, but opposed to the resumption: “Please don’t forget many victims are living in Fukui.” She did not receive anything from the governor. And soon the nuclear power plant restarted.

     Hinako has entered a high school in Fukui, but still now she says: “This is your home town, not mine, Mom.” The evacuation instruction has been left around her home in Fukushima. “Are you coming?” Whenever Miki’s husband says so, she wants to go back. But she cannot say “Let’s go home,” to her daughter because the radioactive density is still more than 10 times the normal value there.

     “What does richness mean?” Now Miki is thinking about that when she looks at handsome roads and tunnels in Mihama and Tsuruga. “Everything might have been in exchange for security.” She is now suffering the reality between her two home towns: Fukushima and Wakasa. Home is a comforting, nostalgic, and relaxing place for everyone. My hometowns have changed. Nuclear Power Plants have changed them…

(The Chunichi June 3, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)