Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba

Rating: 5 out of 5

I have been a fan of the writings of Mr Shiba for nearly a decade now — and I was overjoyed when I saw that yet another of his books had been translated into English (or, well, the first volume of one of his books…). That was the beginning of my story of reading ‘Ryoma!’, the first volume of which details the early years of a figure who was to feature very strongly in the politics of 1860’s — the end of the first volume sees the reader through to that decade in a very colourful description of Sakamoto Ryoma’s formative years. Continue reading “Review: Ryoma! Volume I, Ryotaro Shiba”

Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall

I recently read Tim Marshall’s ‘Prisoners of Geography’, and this short post here is meant to be a brief look at some points within there that I disagreed with.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Overall, the book is written in a very poetic style — too much so for what it should be like for the topics considered. What is more important, however, is the cluttering of bad phrases and inadequate comparisons which do no justice to the book. Continue reading “Review: Prisoners of Geography, Tim Marshall”

Memories of Tōkyō

One of my most favourite moments of 2016 took place on September 7th. Why? What? Where?

This was in Tōkyō, the capital of the State of Japan. More precisely, it was in the Imperial district and by the entrance to the Imperial Palace. The sun was setting with its last rays still casting a faint light, bringing the park to life in an unique way. There were not many people present, the tourists had come and gone though it was not yet late (twenty to six) — but the Sun was setting and people move with it, so for that day, they had passed on.

The setting was beautiful in every mentionable way. It is still in my mind, the Sun’s quiet descent as daylight slowly receded, as it left the Imperial District, and as its last rays illuminated the former heart of the Shogunate.

Overall, I did not see much of Tōkyō as I had barely 24h there, but I am incredibly happy that one of the places I decided to go to was the Palace. Having the limited time to explore, I had started out without much of a plan and with a very limited grasp on which options were plausible. Chance ruled. The providential decisions which made me exit the underground in that station and walk down the street to arrive in the nick of time to see the day pass away are worth pondering about on their own. How much of what happens to us is chance, and chance alone? How much of this was indeterminable by anything I did?

But, with regards to this post, I mostly wanted to share this image:

Kōkyo

I can still remember the serenity. Can you sense it?

Permanence

Is it a paradox that when one thinks of oneself as permanent, it is not difficult to do things placing the same person into the greatest of dangers? And when it is clear that there is no permanence, that end will be there, then preservation of self gains importance.

What do I mean by permanence here? Certainly not the actual body of flesh, that fades quickest. Instead of that, it might be the name that one leaves behind, the ideals that were believed in…

Maybe, but how can we know without actually feeling the same? Is it possible to reproduce any feelings as they might have been in that, that instant?

“For the samurai to learn 
There’s only one thing,
One last thing –
To face death unflinchingly.”
— Tsukahara Bokuden

 

 

Oh Mirror Mirror

Recent days have brought destruction and devastation in much of Japan, recent weeks would add New Zealand, China and North Africa to that list. It’s possible for me to say that 2011 has seen already so many more things than would have been expected merely two months ago: Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt gone from power; open civil war in Libya; Christchurch devastated in a second earth-quake in less than a year; Japan’s north-eastern provinces destroyed in one of the largest earthquakes the world has seen and the following tsunami with now the possibility of a nuclear disaster on top of that.

Where else will this year lead us?
Saying anything definitive would be foolish given how the past months have demonstrated how nothing can be foreseen. If we did not guess what two months could bring, how can we say what nine will? Yet, from what we know we can still derive much.

What is interesting to think is whether it is really the events which are more plentiful than in past times or is it the extended coverage which gives us so much more detail. Only ten years ago knowledge of either Libya or Japan would have been low. There was something, but the development of the Internet over the last decade has completely transformed it. Two decades ago? A faint idea and TV broadcasts, nothing more. Four decades ago? TV, radio, newspapers. A century ago? Newspapers with outdated information, telegraph connections.

And yet, nothing that we actually learn of these events helps us in any way. It just creates an illusion that we know, for in no way can we know what is fully going on (yet, at least).

I have to add: That the earth-quake and tsunami hit Japan with the largest force is something that needs to be observed. Had it been any other place, we would be expecting casualties in the hundreds of thousands much like in 2004. Now, they might well reach that level but the approximations right now are kept at a few tens of thousands. It might all change, however, it is clear that the systems the Japanese have in place such as the city-wide warnings, automatic train-brakes, etc, are useful and helped saved countless lives.

It is only to be hoped that what happens to the nuclear reactors is not brought as a charge against the industry as a whole when again we have decades-old reactors which failed to act by their security mechanisms. If anything, it is a proof that we need more rapid modernization and quickly in the industry.

As said, we will see.

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