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May 30, 2006

Parody of the Japanese national anthem, Kiss me Kimigayo

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A parody of the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo, is now spreading on the web. Interestingly, the lyrics of this parody song is written in English, not in Japanese, but what is most striking is that every line of this English lyrics sounds similar to the pronunciations of the original Japanese one (See below). And more importantly, the meaning of the English lyrics is completely opposite to that of the original Japanese anthem, a "heartfelt respect" for the Imperial House. A commentator in Sankei Newspaper, one of the leading conservative newspapers, accuses the parody song of a "sinister protest."

Probably, the readers of this blog would need "background" information about the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo. But before that, please see the English parody song, and the original Japanese anthem.

Parody:

Kiss me, girl, and your old one
a tip you need, it is years till you're near this
sound of the dead "will she know
she wants all to not really take
cold caves know moon is with whom mad and dead"

Meaning (besed on a Japanese explanation attached to the parody song):

Kiss me girl and kiss those old jokes (such as "The Nanjing massacre did not exist" etc.) and say good-by to them.
I will give you a piece of advice you need. It took many years for this voice of the dead to reach you.
"A nation wants what must not be taken, but will the day come when the nation comes to realize it? Even cold caves (such as in Okinawa etc.) know that the moon always looked at those who went mad and dead injured by the war."

The original Japanese anthem:

Ki mi ga a yo o wa
chi yo ni i i ya chi yo ni
sa za re i shi no
i wa o to na ri te
ko ke no mu u su u ma a a de

Meaning of the original anthem (according to Wikipedia):

May your reign
Continue for a thousand years,
For eternity,
Until pebbles
Grow into boulders
Covered in moss.

Correspondence:

Ki mi / ga / a yo / o wa
Kiss me, / girl, / and your / old one

chi yo / ni i i / ya chi / yo ni
a tip you / need, it is / years till / you're near this

sa / za re / i shi no
sound of / the dead / "will she know

i wa / o to / na ri / te
she wants / all to / not really / take

ko ke / no / mu u / su u / ma a a de
cold caves / know / moon / is with whom / mad and dead"

Particularly, the first sentence (kiss me girl and .... and ki mi ga a....) and the last phrase (mad and dead... and ma a a de...) are excellent. Those who know Japanese language will be impressed with this.

First, we have to know that the original anthem is a song for praising the "everlasting glory of the emperor's world (or society)" (a literal translation of "Kimigayo" is "the emperor's world"). The problem is that the Korean and Chinese people remember their painful memories of World War II, especially Japanese invasion into their countries and massacres executed by the Japanese army under the name of Japanese emperor. It should also be noted that Japanese nationalists continue justifying their past invasion of China and Korea, and they aggressively stress that the Japanese should respect for the emperor and Imperial House, and that the Japanese must swear loyalty to the emperor by singing the Japanese anthem loud and clear in a ceremony etc.

In constast, those who object to the justification of the past invasions refuse to stand and sing the Japanese anthem, for example, at a school entrance ceremony. An extreme tension exists on this topic in our country. (I am among those who refuse to sing the Japanese anthem.)

Several years ago, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology ordered teachers in public schools to stand and sing the anthem. More than a hundred school teachers who refused to stand were punished, some were even fired. The principal of a school committed a suicide. Today, many teachers who oppose to the justification of the Japanese invasion in the past are forced to stand and sing the anthem that praises the Japanese emperor, in their school entrance ceremonies. Their final protest was to stand in the ceremony but not to sing the song, or just moving their mouths but not uttering a voice. Then, the board of education of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government started measuring the volume of voices in school entrance ceremonies using a special machine in order to know whether the anthem is sung loud and clear.

You might think this is ridiculous, but this is the reality of Japanese school education.

Ok, let us go back to the parody song. This song was invented to save those who are "forced" to sing in a ceremony. Since the parody song sounds like the Japanese anthem, no one can distinguish which song they are actually singing.

I am not sure whether teachers actually start singing this parody song in a school entrance ceremony and in other settings. I really HATE the mentality of Japanese society that seeks to suppress different opinions and ideas.

Some comments from today's Japanese blogs:
"If you hate Japan, please leave Japan, and never come back again." CutplazaBlog http://plaza.jugem.cc/?eid=1537
"Why don't you cure your mental illness and abandon your nationality?" NichijononakanoHinitijo http://drugmania.exblog.jp/3154149
"This might be one of the left-wing's plans to destroy Japan." Oyobidenakutomo.. http://knstir.exblog.jp/2338044

Report by Reuter: Parody of Japan anthem spreading as protest
Guardian: Japan's rebels sing out with English parody of anthem

Related article: Racist Cartoon Image
                      Yasukuni Shrine and the justification of war

Related external links: http://smt.blogs.com/mari_diary/2006/05/i_read_lation_v.html

Photo: My kitchen

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 27, 2006

Aims and motives of life studies

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I am writing a paper on "life studies" in Japanese. By the way, what impression do you have of the words, "life studies"? A professor replied that this term sounds like a kind of "life history study," that is, the study of a person's life history from birth to the present. This is not wrong because life studies places special importance on a researcher's own life, that is, how the researcher actually live his/her life; however, life studies is not the same as life history studies. Life studies seeks to integrate both the study of a researcher's own actual life, and more general philosophy of life, death, and nature.

On this blog I often talk about issues in bioethics (medical ethics). This is because those issues have a special importance in life studies in the age of contemporary scientific civilization. I have not talked about environmental issues so often, but some of my books dealt with environmental ethics as a key issue in life studies, hence I think of writing about environmental issues here from now on. Another characteristic of life studies is the criticism of current civilization. Our life is molded by contemporary materialistic civilization and our view of life is heavily biased by it. This is the reason life studies have to criticize contemporary civilization. My criticism can be found in the book Painless Civilization. I am thinking of advancing this criticism.

Isn't it important to advance this kind of study worldwide? Anyway, I have to clarify the idea of life studies, and try to provide an explanation that makes it easier to understand the aims and motives of life studies. I am going to completely rewrite the life studies page after I finish the paper.

It is getting warmer and warmer here in Osaka. This year I want to go abroad at least twice, and if possible three times.

Photo: Restaurants at OPA, Osaka

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 21, 2006

Liberal & conservative bioethics, Ruth Macklin and Eric Cohen, Hastings Center Report

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The January-February issue of Hastings Center Report features two articles, "The New Conservatives in Bioethics" by Ruth Macklin and "Conservative Bioethics and the Search for Wisdom" by Eric Cohen. As I wrote in a former post, current American bioethics seems to be divided into two parties, liberal bioethics and conservative bioethics. Actually, theses two articles are worth reading, and both are stimulating.

Ruth Macklin attacks "conservative" bioethicists saying that they use "mean-spirited rhetoric," and they appeal to emotion, sentiment, and intuition, and they use poetic and metaphoric language. Macklin concludes:

[Conservatives] are not bioethicists at all. They are something else -- social critics, perhaps -- who rely on dramatic impact and rhetorical persuation rather than rational argument to convince their readers. (p.42)

In contrast, Eric Cohen tries to defend the conservative viewpoint, stressing that conservatives are not fanatic devotees, but rational people searching for wisdom "in those puzzling human situations where wisdom is most needed" (p.46). It is interesting to me that Cohen clearly states as follows:

conservatives believe that nobody should abort a fetus because of a genetic disability (p.45)

And in the last part of his paper, Cohen severely criticizes liberal's support for the genetic screening of disabled fetuses.

Interestingly, I feel that Ruth Macklin's article is very emotional, and Eric Cohen's article is relatively rationalistic. I am a "left-wing" philosopher in essence, but I sympathize with Cohen's article rather than Macklin's one. In Japan, disabled people's rights have been defended mainly by left-wing academicians and activists, not by conservatives, hence, Cohen's statement sounds interesting to me. But I must confess that I don't agree with his atittudes to abortion and family. I don't understand why he doesn't accept women's right to abortion (except selective one) and the possibility of various types of families. (Cohen admits that most conservatives are "traditional Christians, Jews, and Muslims" (p.46). ) And I would like to know whether conservatives have actually defended the rights of minorities, such as African-Americans and disabled people.

I think it is needed to salvage "wisdom" from conservative bioethics and transplant into the heart of liberal bioethics. What I really want is "wisdom" released from religious dogma. Liberal/conservative dichotomy is fruitless.

On July 13-14, the conference, "Bioethics & Politics: The Future of Bioethics in a Divided Democracy" will be held in New York. I would like to read a report of this conference.

Related article: Disability Movement and Inner Eugenic Thought

Photo: A goldfish in a bowl

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 19, 2006

Contemporary Asian philosophy?

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Recently I started watching Chinese TV programs on a cable channel. Chinese news, Chinese dramas, Taiwan music programs, Hong kong movies, etc. are broadcast 24 hours a day. I don't understand Chinese because the pronunciations are completely different from "Chinese characters" used in Japan, but I can follow the story reading Chinese captions appeared on the screen. Chinese TV programs are very interesting. Last week I saw a gangster movie made by producers from mainland China and Hong Kong. This movie (I forgot the title) was great. I coudln't believe it was a movie produced by a former communist country. Interestingly, Hong Kong movies have both Chinese and English captions, which makes us easier to follow the story.

There are many people here who stress that we need the East Asian community in the near future. Of course, we have to resolve some difficult political issues between China and Japan, and between Korea and Japan, before creating such a community. And these will be one of the main topics in the coming International Bioethics conference in Beijing.

I would like to know what kind of philosophical researches are going on in the East Asian region. In Japan, philosophers have studied "Western" philosophy for a long time, and we have a great deal of commentary on "Western" thoughts, but I must say there are very few "original" thinkers in this country. In Japan, "philosophy" means "Western philosophy." And there are still many academicians who believe contemporary issues such as "bioethics" are not the "real" philosophical topics. For them, research on Hegel or Heidegger, for example, is the "real" philosophy, and bioethics is a mere "application" of it. What about in China and Korea? I once read the abstract of a Chinese journal of philosophy and a Korean one. Almost all papers were commentaries on "Western" philosophers.

I think this is a very strange phenomenon. But I don't think that we should go back to our philosophical traditions, such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Zen, and Taoism, and develop research on traditional thinkers in Asia. I would like to communicate with philosophers who understand both the importance of recent "Western" philosophical approaches and the richness of our traditional thoughts, and seek to research "contemporary" philosophical issues from one's own perspective. In a word, I would like to communicate with philosophers, not with commentators. We know much about contemporary European or American philosophers, but we don't know about "original" philosophers outside those area. I belive there are many around the world. But how to connect these unseen people?

Related article: "The Structure of the Inner Life of a Philosopher"

Photo: A cafe near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 12, 2006

Method of combining living and studying

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My 1997's book, An Intellectual Method of Facing Oneself, was republished today from Chikuma Shobo publishers as a handy edition. This is a collection of essays on life, death, sexuality, novels, movies, etc. The first and second chapters are dedicated to an outline of "life studies." I believe this will be a good introductory book for college students and/or teenagers who are interested in philosophical thinking.

I don't have time to translate this book into English. Instead I am now writing a long paper on life studies in Japanese, and I think of translating it after it is published in an academic journal.

I am often asked whether "life studies" is a new version of "bioethics." The answer is no. Life studies is a new method of combining "living and studying" that was found in the process of criticizing current bioethics. Life studies is a methodological mixture of philosophy of life, way of living, and criticism of contemporary civilization. Not only academic research but also various life-study activities outside an academic context constitute life studies. Anyway, the image of life studies has changed a lot since I created "What is life studies" page. My recent paper "Painless Civilization and Fundamental Sense of Security" might serve as another introductory essay to life studies.

Today I had a chat with Kaori Sasaki, who has just finished writing her Ph.D. thesis at Lancaster University, UK. We discussed about the academic atmospheres in the UK and Japan, and the difference between Queen's English and American English. Every time I "do" philosophy I use Japanese, and then put it into English. English is not a good language for me to do philosophy. This is mainly because my native language is Japanese, but this difficulty might also come from the nature of English language (and culture).

Photo: A bookstore near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 08, 2006

Racist cartoon image

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In the SistainTokyo blog, you can see some racist illustrations that are printed in a booklet distributed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. I was really shocked to see these cartoons. This is a booklet for "earthquake preparedness." The followings are a couple of examples.

Pay a special attention to the black man's roles in these illustrations. This illustration was made by a Japanese illustrator. I am astonished with the illustrator's lack of imagination about foreigners of African origin living and working in the Tokyo area. However, you should also know that the governer of Tokyo, Mr.Ishihara, is notorious for his racist comments against Asian and other foreigners. See this article "Foreign Worker Groups Protest Gov. Ishihara's Racist Remarks". More problematic is that Mr.Ishihara has enormous popularity among Tokyo residents in spite of his racist and discriminative attitudes. His discriminative remarks on disabled people are also well-known to the general public.

Anyway, what do you think of the above illustrations?

Please read my post Racist cartoons (2) June 25th, 2006, for the subsequent result.

Photo: A bookstore near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

May 05, 2006

Genetic enhancement and conservative ethics

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The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity announced that they would strongly object to NIH funding of "genetic enhancement" research. I didn't know that there is a researcher who has planned genetic enhancement research and applied to the MIH for research grants. The following is from CBHD website:

The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity strongly denounces the decision by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund a project to develop guidelines for the use of human subjects in genetic enhancement research. The grant, totaling almost three-quarters of a million dollars, is being given to Maxwell Mehlman and Case Law School to promote the genetic re-engineering of human beings for non-therapeutic purposes under the rubric of "enhancement.”

“This is a violation of the spirit of the NIH-sponsored Human Genome Project,” says CBHD Senior Fellow Ben Mitchell. “Providing this grant signals a fundamental and dangerous change in the policy of the NIH, resurrecting the mistaken goals of the eugenics programs in the United States and Europe in the early twentieth century.” (web)

I searched the name "Maxwell Mehlman" on the web and found that he is JD, not MD, and his research is not medical research, but a kind of interdisciplinary research aiming to promote ethical and legal discussions about what regulations should be made if we are to accept genetic enhancement research on human subjects. Case Western Reserve University's website explains as follows:

Researchers will determine whether there are any conditions under which it would be ethical to conduct research on genetic enhancement using human subjects. Based on their findings, the investigators will propose changes in existing rules and regulations to govern research on genetic enhancement using human subjects. (web)

It is clear that Maxwell Mehlman aims to put regulations on genetic enhancement, and approve some kinds of clinical research. (See the abstract of his paper in 2005). I personally object to human genetic enhancement, however, I don't think discussion on the regulation of genetic enhancement should also be refrained from, even if discussion is made using taxpayers funds. What do you think?

By the way, The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is a representative group of "conservative bioethics," which is supported by Christian fundamentalists (I suppose). Their main rivals are, probably, bioethics.net, Hastings Center etc., which represent American "liberal bioethics." But I don't know much about the political scheme of American bioethics. If some of you know better than I, please let us know the details. Personally, I am not conservative or liberal. Such a dichotomy does not suit my philosophy. American bioethics tends to be dichotomous, such as in the debate on abortion, and forces us to choose one of the two sides. This is the limitation of current politicized American bioethics.

See also: Liberal & conservative bioethics, Ruth Macklin and Eric Cohen, Hastings Center Report

Photo: A cafe near my apartment

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org