Thursday, March 31, 2011

No Gulag Archipelago at Kinokuniya & No Grated Parmesan in Singapore

Another fever-free day. But the pain is still with me. Funnily most of it moved to the other side almost overnight.

I spent about half an hour at an MBS suite to help a 15-minute media interview. And after the work, I went down to Kinokuniya to buy Gulag Archipelago. I’ve seen a three-volume edition at the Russian history section many times before. Alas, Kinokuniya has now only an abridged edition at the section and none at its literature section. Pity. Wondering if I should go home empty handed (I finished Years of Renewal last night), I came across Mokugekisha (目撃者) by Kondo Koichi (近藤紘一). This is an out-of-print work of Kondo, which Kinokuniya revived. Good job, Kino! Please revive his Pari he itta tsuma to musume (パリへ行った妻と娘) too!

Deep respect felt by Dr. Kissinger toward Gerald Ford is unmistaken. Ford became the 40th Vice President of the United States almost accidentally and its 38th President almost accidentally. His do-the-right-thing attitude is refreshing in the world where betrayals and manipulations are the norms.

It seems Kraft’s grated Parmesan cheese has completely disappeared from the domestic market. It’s been this way, I think, for about two months. Why?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Antibiotic Story (cont.) & When Elephants Make Love

My condition was greatly improved, but only for less than a day. Sunday night, my body temperature began climbing up again. Though I was sure that I had been given the same two kinds of antibiotic (Mideca and Beatacycline) by Doctor Goh at least once before, I was also certain there has been yet another type prescribed for my badly infected throat. On Monday, my body was feeling heat and chill. I tried to find the name of the drug in my diary. The only thing I managed to find was the name of the one given by an expensive specialist doctor a few years before for a similar condition (Zinnat). In the meantime by early evening, fever went up to as high as 39.4 degrees. As the doctor had instructed me to come again if the condition had not improved by Monday, without hesitating I went see him. I honestly told him about the other kind and he was aware that he had prescribed me different antibiotic types before. The other was, well, Zinnat. With Zinnat, the fever started coming down yesterday afternoon and is staying down now. I will visit the clinic again on Saturday for a prognosis check. It should conclude this infectious episode.

There are only 10 pages left to reach the end of Dr. Kissinger’s 3-volume memoirs. Reading the heavy volumes, I’ve often heard Kissinger’s accented bass. In page 1057 of Years of Renewal, there is this passage: “The fate of the vast majority of the people of Lebanon who were not participants in the battles and meneuvers of the various militias and outside forces [of 1976] called to mind a story told me by Julius Nyerere, the President of Tanzania. At one Nonaligned meeting or another, Nyerere had justified his mistrust of the great powers to pro-Western Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, by saying: ‘When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.’ Lee had replied: ‘When elephants make love, the grass gets trampled too.’

Throughout the volumes, one thing that strongly impressed me is a visible lack of presence shown by Japanese players. Two major issues between Japan and the US, negotiations over Okinawa and textile, were described in the first half of the first volume, The White House Years. Thereafter, there was not an in-depth analysis of any Japanese politicians, though Prime Minister Miki seemed quite deep in his sleep in the 1975 Rambouillet summit. Dr. Kissinger has very high regard for profound insights and statesmanship exhibited by allies and adversaries alike. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Leonid Brezhnev, Anwar Sadat, Hafez Assad, Golda Meir, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda are examples.

And this is not my first time I felt this way. Reading books by US major political players (and Che Guevara), it seems that there has not been even one post-war Japanese statesman. One accolade is from Bill Clinton to Tsutomu Hata, Prime Minister for 64 days. “I like Hata. Speaks more English than he lets on; caught himself answering my questions before they were translated. But he’s a good politician.” (p.275, All Too Human, George Stephanopoulos) Just maybe, Hata’s listening power in English is better than his Japanese speaking capability. I remember his days as Prime Minister for his struggle to find the right Japanese words at press conference. Failing to do so, he would a pronoun for the substitute though nobody knew for what noun the pronoun was substituting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Emotional Roller Coaster of March Ends in Sickness & Southern Africa

This month, it has been an emotional roller coaster to me because of what fell upon the people of the Tohoku region and beyond. Now more than two weeks after that day, the nuclear reactors in Fukushima are still giving hell. As an organisation, Tokyo Power should be held responsible and liable at the very least for providing confusing information on radiation leaks. A huge number of people are bracing up at shelters with more than 10,800 confirmed dead.

And this roller coaster took a toll on me in the form of bad throat infection with a high fever. Thursday night, I was feeling heavy and dull. By Friday morning, my throat was causing an impossible pain. To prevent it from creating more trouble, I went to a clinic in Tiong Bahru, which I had visited a few times previously. I also thought about seeing Dr. Goh who definitely knew more about this condition of mine. Given my condition, I decided his clinic was too far. Wrong decision. The consultation by the doctor at the TB clinic whom I had met before was professionally done and I liked his examination style that was rather old-fashioned. The problem was that his prescription was not appropriate for my throat condition. I strictly followed the instructions given taking the antibiotic tablets. By Saturday morning, there was no improvement. In fact, it was much worse.

After all, I pushed and kicked myself out of bed and took Bus 961 to visit Dr. Goh’s clinic. It was 9:10 when I arrived. I was much relieved when I saw the OPEN sign when the clinic entered into my view. But it was dark inside and a notice on the door was saying that there would be no morning consultation from 21 to 25 March. I called but there was nobody to answer my enquiry. At this point I started thinking about going to the TB clinic again for a second consultation. After a few minutes, I realised this was 26 March and also the consultation would start only at 9:30. I showed the antibiotics to the doctor who said, “This does not work for your kind of sore throat”. The pain is still with me but the condition is now greatly improved.

Part Nine of Years of Renewal deals with Southern Africa, notably Namibia and Rhodesia. I am reading this part of the last volume of Henry Kissinger’s memoirs with keener interest than otherwise. So far away from where I am, but Rhodesia would become Zimbabwe. An occasional visitor to Singapore and whom I saw at Ngee Ann City some months ago, Robert Mugabe, would be at the helm.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In This Disaster, Keepin My Routine Is Also a Contribution

So much has happened for the past week and I am sure so much more will happen. This morning, SDF helicopters sprayed sea water onto the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant four times in an attempt to cool it down. And this afternoon, the government also used high-pressured water-cannon vehicles, designed for dispersing unruly mobs.

When events of this magnitude (literally) occurred, it will take some time to collect my mind. This is confounded by the fact that I still have to maintain my everyday routine. In a sense, I, a overseas Japanese, believe doing things as I usually do them is a form of expression of my positive contribution, which I also believe was reflected by the calm attitude of many people, evidenced so many times before in emergencies.

And almost naturally, foreign (=non-Japanese) media have been reporting that a devastating earthquake hit Japan. True, but if the reporting gives their audience the wrong impression that the whole country has been destroyed or is now being destroyed, I should say they are not doing their job as journalists. We all know that something unbelievably extraordinary has been happening. But what we need is accurate reports that do not cause any kind of panic. Some media guys seem to love panics on the principle that good news is no news.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

World Is Watching and Feeling for You, Japan

The whole world is watching the desperate effort to get those reactors under control. (I used to laugh when I encountered this the-world-is-watching expression in reports on domestic matters by the US media, thinking, “Oh, Americans believe they are the world”.) The progress appears painstakingly slow and I hope they are making any progress at all. The situation has been, as soon as a problem got solved, another crops up. The government decided to use SDF helicopters to extinguish the fire on the No. 3 reactor but then suspended the operation because of an unacceptably high level of radiation detected above it. In the meantime, on the ground and inside the damaged reactor structures, people are working with their hands and torch lights to avert a nuclear catastrophe. Salute to them. Tokyo Power, as a company, is dead.

Partly because of some of the media reports, the wrong impression that people outside of Japan may fall victim to is that the whole country is on the brink of meltdown. This is not the case though the situation is horrifyingly critical now. After all, Chernobyl did not melt down the whole Soviet Union. Just yesterday, I met a man from Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, for an interpretation work. He told me that things were as usual in his region. Not surprising at all.

If there is any consoling thing, it is that the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant stopped automatically and successfully soon after the earthquake struck. We are now talking about the residual heat of the reactors. Left alone (an impossibility definitely), over time the temperature should go down with the help of cooling water. The problem is there is no functioning cooling system.

But then, this nuclear drama has been going on already long enough. When the government is supposed to be putting all its resources to rescue those still under rubble, it has to deal with this engineering, environmental and human disaster. It decided to mobilise SDF reserves for the first time.

On my own personal level, I thank all who expressed their concern for my family and friends in Japan. Some are people whom I barely know like a taxi driver who took me to the meeting point yesterday and cashers of 7-Eleven in my neighbourhood.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuke Concern: Possible Meltdown & Any Water to Wash away Radioactive Materials

No doubt, this is a national disaster. In addition to heart-wrenching personal tragedies, the link to our history has been broken with some physical historical heritages destroyed. Another big concern is with nuke plants. Their cooling operations having been failed for some time causing some of the fuel rods completely exposed, three reactors in Fukushima must have had partial meltdown.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Kesenmuma Being Engulfed Now!!

This is a reminder that Japan is a pretty big country. Watching and listening to reports from Tokyo on this massively devastating earthquake on the BBC, a woman, “Yukiko,” actually chuckled, saying “I’m watching TV” responding to the question, “what do you do?” And a guy on Skype was describing people who were using Twitter when the shake struck and another guy said things were “normal.”

Pity I don’t have NHK feed here. The images I’ve seen on the BBC and CNN are powerfully overwhelming. And at this moment, the city of Kesenmuma seems engulfed in inferno as I can see from BBC/NHK footage.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Japan's Mr. Clean Prime Minister Sleeps through Summit

The one possible exception to the general cooperative mood [at the Rambouillet summit in November, 1975] was Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Miki. Except for his opening statement on trade, which had concentrated on Japan’s national problems rather than the global economic system, Miki was not heard from. He seemed to be dozing through most of the presentations, which was a polite way of avoiding participation in the dialogue being, however, carefully transcribed by a note taker. This caused Simon to send me an irreverent note – “I think Miki has just died” – which I had framed as a reminder that not every moment of high-level meetings is equally portentous. (Years of Renewal, p. 695)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Japanese Foreign Minister Resigns


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

20 February 2011: I received the news when I was with Sheldon Adelson and a Japanese media crew at MBS. My ex colleague and drinking buddy, Tony had passed away. He navigated me through this society in my first months here. At Singapore Casket, his wife looked distraught but polite as she always was. It was rather more heartrending that their two daughters, especially the younger one who even remembered my name, was so nice greeting me and answering my questions about what had happened to her father so suddenly.

友人がうちに忘れ物をした。「鷹標 徳國 風油精」と書かれている。ネットで調べてみると、次のような効能書きがあった。