Sunday, July 30, 2006


The term 'blog' is on everyone's tongue nowadays, where some find it not very tasteful, mistakenly believing that blogs are rank upstarts without tradition. Neither is the case, as the following brief history - organically commencing with what will one day be known among blogologists as paleoblogging - makes perfectly clear.

The earliest known examples of blogging, apart from the network of cave paintings - oldest evidence of the human need to blog - are probably the Sumerian clay tablets: early prototypes of the hard disk, but with data impressed by wooden stylus, in lieu of a keyboard. The tablets were then stacked up in rooms where, for want of a decent search engine and complete lack of RAM they weren't accessed for thousands of years, until some specialists at last extracted them by pick and shovel, an early form of data mining. Pharaonic tomb walls are another example of paleoblogging technology, which even had a virtual hypertext, afterlifewise.

Other early attempts at virtual hypertext include the Bible, widely acknowledged as the first multiple-author blog. Things then got a bit more authorially organized and along came personal quill-and-parchment efforts, historically notable among them Caesar's records of the conquest of Gaul, one of the early political blogs.

Surfing ahead a bit among the highlights of blogging history we come to Samuel Pepys, an early pioneer in cryptosecurity who, for reasons of personal privacy, blogged in an early version of SHTTP, which, unlike the top-notch security systems of today, wasn't successfully hacked for nearly 300 years. Another notable protoblogger was Henry Thoreau, who cut-and-pasted his earlier handwritten blogs into the dead-tree version those who still read books know as Walden.

And now that there are said to be three million blogs in Japan and climbing fast, we must mention from among many others the Japanese protobloggers Murasaki Shikibu (Genji blog), Sei Shonagon (Pillowbook blog) and of course Basho, the grandfather of the travel blog, who wandered wireless around Japan for decades, recording his many experiences in poetic fashion using unlinkable ink, which nevertheless links directly to today, and the magazine you are now holding.

Thus, as this brief historical purview indicates, blogging is but one tiny blossom on the big, ancient and well-rooted tree that flowers with human expression. As one of those multiple authors mentioned above might have put it, were he alive today, "There is nothing new under the sun, and that includes blogs." For hands-on realization of one small difference between Sumerian blogging and the modern version, click here.


[As published in Kyoto Journal #61 and Ode Magazine]

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Just received word from Kasumi, my embedded agent, that the Toddler Squad has arrived at their HQ across the lake; I just got my SuperG spandex outfit back from the dry cleaners and I'm ready to go. Now all I have to do is find a phone booth.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mick just posted

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold War

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Woke up startled this morning and wasn't quite sure why; there was something about the atmosphere... something about the air... the environment... the... an intangible something I couldn't quite identify was floating unnamed in my dawning consciousness, like a word I used to know, the sound of it or the meaning... maybe the edge of a song, the color of a name, a voice from long ago... it hovered just beyond the reach of my... ear. My ear?

Then it came to me and all at once I knew, as surely as one knows there's no more beer: it wasn't raining! The sudden cessation of constantly cascading water from an overloaded sky onto a sodden earth had ceased, and the abrupt forestwide blast of noiselessness had awakened me like a cannon going off in my doorway. I could hear birds out in the rainlessness, a lot of nonplussed chirping! I noted the quizzical tones of cicadas savoring the new phenomenon of initial dryness and the absence of competing white noise! New harmonies burgeoned!

Then I saw something odd among the leaves of the trees outside, that was also falling on the floor, then the walls, it was gold; no, it was warm and insubstantial, it was sunshine! I remember sunshine from when I was a kid, and here it was again!

Then more clouds came and it started re-raining so I went back to sleep.

Monday, July 24, 2006


As rains continue here in Japan, where we're having the coolest July I can remember, it's a different story in Woodland Hills near Los Angeles, where the 119-degree temperature broke the heat record. In LA, the temperature was a cooler Death Valley 115. Of course this doesn't detract at all from the fact that "Global Warming" is a myth. Just an anomaly in the overall weather pattern. Merely a matter of air conditioning and emergency-level power use. Of course if LA were to spontaneously combust, then maybe some folks could begin thinking about preliminary discussions on selecting carefully vetted representatives to pursue a tentative agreement regarding the potential establishment of a strictly confidential committee to study the possibility of proposing a non-binding dialog on the few fronts not yet in flames... or under water...

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Well its been raining for 40 days and 40 nights or so (one loses track if not writing on a god's behalf, but such rain gives one much time to ponder), yet there's not a single ark in sight, nor any reported in the news.

In fact, though there have been some local floods and landslides here and there in Japan, most folks are still walking around on the ground, so I guess the old Noah story numbers weren't crunched quite enough and so were apocryphal if accurately translated, as I myself concluded early on in life, especially when as a young mind I realized after studying a few things that water enough to flood the world above the mountaintops would have to come from outside the weather system, which has no outside, the system being one big recycler (the god-scriveners thought maybe that particular deluge came all the way from a watery heaven and just augmented the water that was already here; they lived in the desert where it scarcely ever rained anyway, so: "'40 days and 40 nights' should just about cover it, don't you think, Ezekiel?"

To say nothing of the effect all that extra water would have on the earth's gravity, orbital balance, magnetism, temperature, vegetal biomass etc.-- but then if a god created the extra water he would also take care of all those other scientific anomalies and remove the extra water when it was all over, so that's no problem, if you're a believer. You can tell by the way I'm babbling that we've had a lot of rain.

A couple of decades ago a US astronaut thought he'd found Noah's ark on Mt. Ararat, and now some other accredited scientists believe they've found it too, or another one of it, I saw a photo of one of them smiling into the camera while fondling the actual rocks thereof and as I stare into my 41st day of rain or so I wonder if the sciences I studied are different from theirs...

But to be on the safe side, maybe I'd better start building...

I have a lot of big cedars on my land...

How long is a cubit, anyway?

Let me get my big umbrella...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Elder village lady

in her gateway at sunset

gazing down the road

of all her life

Friday, July 21, 2006


Historians have always wondered why Hirohito, Japan's wartime emperor, seldom visited Yasukuni Shrine after the conflict, and stopped visiting completely after 1975. He never visited the Shrine annually, like so many rightist-supported politicians do today despite (or perhaps because of) the political foment such visits generate throughout Asia, where Japanese wartime atrocities will never be forgotten as long as Japan keeps poking at the wounds this way. It turns out, though, that Hirohito expressed "strong displeasure" at the fact that Yasukuni had enshrined 14 Class-A war criminals in 1978, and that's why he never again visited the war memorial.

This revelation is a severe embarrassment to Prime Minister Koizumi, who has been visiting the Shrine every year since he first became PM, for what he calls an "issue of the heart." As we all know, some hearts are smaller than others. Koizumi’s noisy nationalist supporters have been pulling his strings calling on him to visit the shrine one last time before he leaves office, and thereby set a precedent for visits by future prime ministers on the road to the righteous conflict the nationalists would love to have again one day to justify their uniforms, but Showa (Hirohito's posthumous name), their Shinto deity, has spoken.

We'll soon find out whether anybody around here listens to gods anymore.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


As of July 4, Shiga Prefecture has a lady governor, one of five in Japan. Yukiko Kada, a professor at Seika University in Kyoto, handily defeated the former governor who, in the local tradition, was running for his third term and was expected to wind handily just by waving his white-gloved hands from the speakered van window while the cutely uniformed campaign girls beside him squealed "(Very Formal)Please! (Very Formal)Please!" in the traditional manner. Round up the usual voters. What a surprise then, when the well informed electorate declared its preference for intelligent feminine rule and actual decision making!

Here's a quote from a Kada interview: "The four case studies illustrate two types of community formation found in Japan: closely knit community (e.g., Minamata and Lake Biwa) and loosely knit community (e.g., Niigata and Nagara). We discovered that closely knit communities develop their own impetus for generating social movements that lead to significant progress on the environment. Such communities also tend to be more progressive, with members stepping forward to take responsibility for the community's future. For the purposes of our research, we have named these individuals 'framers': they frame the context in which the community develops. In loosely knit communities, by contrast, there is less impetus to seek solutions to environmental problems. Likewise, local leadership is harder to cultivate."

In her new capacity as "Framer," Governor Kada immediately kept her main campaign promise and froze construction on the pork barrel Biwako-Rikken Shinkansen (Bullet train) station. ("According to the Construction and Transport Ministry, in-process Shinkansen-related construction work has never been abandoned before.") I must say, a flabbergasted national ministry is a welcome sight around here.

The lady governor will stir things up for sure, where things are so rarely stirred up; she is already having trouble with the entrenched pork dispensers, who are set to thwart her at every turn. Kada, a Professor of Environmental & Social Studies, also said "a desired outcome of our research is to empower Japanese people to do something about their environment at the local level instead of leaving these issues entirely in the hands of national government officials. Ideally this would mean treating pollution and other problems early on, instead of waiting until a crisis occurs." Well they're doing something now; here's hoping they keep at it.

Local political history is about to get interesting. If that's really possible.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


The images intensify: a chewed-up little pink toothbrush on the kitchen floor, a face-down teddy bear on the way to the bathroom, an elephant under the table, two or three crumpled playing cards randomly arranged, four boots at large distances from each other, a big box with a little white stuffed dog in it, tiny handprints all over the tv screen... like that tremoring water in the cup on the dashboard in Jurassic Park... The KMM triumvirate is approaching...

There is a big lesson here - a lesson approximately the size of the cosmos - that by giving us children when we're old enough and grandchildren when we're older enough, the universe is saying: Hey guys, let's not forget where we came from huh? Honor your ancestry! And that includes yourself.

So stay in harmony with the universe by giving chaos an honored place in your life: let me know when you're available for babysitting.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I keep seeing it and hearing it here and there-- just this morning in the newspaper, a woman of formerly youthful beauty, in the grip of metaselfishness does not appreciate her elder beauty; rather, she laments her "loss." "Who doesn't mind getting older?" asks her interviewer of the reader. I, for one. I have a lot more flexible fun now than I did when I was in my 20s and fun was bounded by all those constraints of image and ambition...

"Who doesn't mind getting older?" Might as well ask who doesn't mind being born, or being a child or an adolescent! Every age has its laments and regrets of passage that, in a life well lived, are more than offset by the rewards that come unbidden with genuine growth. If there is no true growth - as within as without - then one must bear increasing sadness at loss of joy that should have been.

But joy and pain, loss and gain give heart to every phase of the genuine life, without exception; it is a crime of the soul to believe otherwise, and an even greater crime to propagate that belief. I have found my elder age to be as deeply interesting and stimulating as I found childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, but less intellectually constraining, more spiritually satisfying and physically much wiser. That is the sparkle you see in a well-lived elder's eye.

All that ignorance under the bridge leaves you in a more spiritually youthful state of mind than you can have at an age that is younger merely in years. It is sad to see people fear to age. Might as well fear to grow. Every bit of a life, from birth to death, is by nature an adventure; who lives genuinely savors every heartbeat of that vital passage, the dark as key as the light, where losses are naturally salved by the lasting measures of pleasure and joy whence they arose.

And if you've genuinely lived, when it comes time to die, you simply step forward into the light as you always have.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I cut some lemon verbena for tea--
monkey in treetop yells
"He's in the garden!"

Friday, July 14, 2006


On my walk to the office this morning through the labyrinth of annexes, tunnels, byways, autowalks, escalators, overpasses, underways and internal roads of the big train station, I was zombily following one of my many routes to work (the stop-at-the-bank one, which I haven't taken for some time and usually don't in summer, it being visually more interesting but hotter and slower) (how natively we fine tune our monotonies), I was autopiloting along in weekend daydreams when my body stepped off the curb and down into the taxi street that runs inside the station but there was no longer any down at that location.

The down removers (or the up emplacers, as they're sometimes called) had raised the street to curb level since I last stopped at the bank. My body has been taking this route now and then for a couple of decades, so it knows every surface nuance, and when it (not I) stepped down into that upstreet it was like the famous crow, flying at what he thought was high altitude in the foggy air of England and suddenly coming upon a moor-strolling Aldous Huxley's face – or was it Thomas Huxley's - and squawking in disbelief, thereby evidencing to whichever Huxley that animals had assumptions, expectations, convictions, even.

The reaction I got from my body was in that same squawky ballpark when, in its quotidian naivete it could come to no other conclusion than that the entire world had suddenly risen 20 centimeters! What could this mean, it asked in adrenalin syntax. It informed me in the same but louder terms that some sort of doom was at hand, and that I should immediately seek a way to escape, wherever I was. As I had been reclining in daydream mode atop the turret roof, it took me a second or two to return to full control and override, but during that time it was quite a corporeal adventure in downup land.

Bodies too have assumptions, expectations, convictions even. Still, it's best not to get too far from the controls.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Another in the endless stream of puzzling scientific studies has just revealed to the world that active elders live longer than silver couch potatoes. You could have knocked me over with an industrial-sized Twinkie. To which sector of society it is news that an active life is a healthy (and long-lived) life? Where was that secret hidden away? Among the 'puttering and fidgeting' activities they speak of (how pointless and undynamic the journos make elderhood activity sound), I don't think these scientists ever really gardened; certainly not organically.

I do think, though, that if you were to walk down any street and ask 100 people: which do you think is healthier for an elder, A: doing chores around the house every day, or B: sitting on the sofa with potato chips watching soap reruns? I think you'd get a 100 "A" answers, except perhaps in the neighborhood of General Foods.

I see my 80-year old neighbors down in the village puttering around in their gardens every day (hand-planting potatoes at the moment); don't those scientists have neighbors like that? Maybe not, if it's only an aerobics neighborhood. But what is held to be 'more surprising' about the study is that it apparently doesn't matter what form the exercise takes! Why should that matter? What scientist thought that gardening, for example, was not every bit as much an exercise as aerobics? Let him raise my beds and turn my compost pile!

Gardening, by and large, is also more relaxing, as are most chores, like chopping firewood; plus you get something done (in this case something that feeds you, in one way or another) and you're better toned in body and mind because it's a comprehensive, natural exercise that also yields external results, not an artificial and merely corporeal one that does nothing productive, yet requires a fee.

I would imagine that the lab-potato scientists who do these kinds of studies have a shorter life expectancy than scientists who grow their own organic tomatoes.


In another landmark finding: Mushroom drug produces spiritual experiences
Guess these scientists weren't around in the 60s and have never been to Bali...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


This morning when I was talking to the roofer, who had come to fix a winter ice-broken rooftile when we happened to be not at home (walking down by the lake to get some wild peppermint), he said that when he had arrived at the house (about 15 minutes after we'd left for the lake), the roof was covered with monkeys. Needless to say, the roof had been radiant with monkeylessness at the time of our departure, with no sign whatever of de facto imminent monkeyfulness.

This confirms my hypothesis that the hairy marauders have a comprehensive spy network linked to a garden watch committee. Our roof is never covered with monkeys while we are at home because the beasts know what will happen: they have it on their hard drives. The simian spies are watching and waiting for us to leave, when they signal the committee, which then gives the opposable thumbs-up to timely invasion by the entire tribe so as not to suffer the slings and arrows of apish fortune in the form of my accurate rocks, which accuracy I'm sure is factored into their finely tuned rampaging algorithm. That they do not so suffer is all the proof they need that they are in the right, as the hairy wind passes through my garden uncontested.

I sagely note that they glommed that last plum but did not touch the peppermint, lemon verbena, oregano, spearmint, lemon thyme, angelica, ginger, lemon balm, shisso, chives, St. John’s wort, Echinacea, basil, parsley, ginger or red pepper.

Slowly I acquire the necessary credits at Monkey University.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


"Chapter II
Renunciation of War
Article 9

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."


Now we're in the midst of those rainy season days when the sky can't make up its airy mind, though we on the ground know that the dominant theme is rain, as it has been and will be for a while. Still, the sky keeps trying to change its ways and be nice, which it probably prefers. Who would choose to be brooding and ill-tempered, rather than infinite with light?

One minute the sky looks like it's about to go all sunny and blue on us at last, like a big tender moment, when all is warm and green and gold; but even as that calm fills the scene and everywhere the bright new green is strung with sparkling rainbeads in festive readiness, the huge muscleclouds of the next rain are already shouldering their way over the mountaintops and gliding downward, sending little winds ahead like emotions of air that grow darker and darker, until hammering waves of rain come cascading, making all the sky an ocean, we in our little houseboat trusting to our anchor...

Monday, July 10, 2006

air so still
hot as hell--
dragonfly heaven

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Posted The Ratty Sneakers of Happiness on The Blog Brothers yesterday...

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Standing on the Plum Pavilion (as I call my deck in plum season) watching my plums ripen is a lot like playing the commodities market, where you keep checking the charts, waiting maybe just another day - or two - to try and get the price at its peak before it plunges 10, 20 percent, maybe more...

Except in the case of plums up here on the mountain, though there is no margin risk, if you don't get out in time the price goes instantly to zero, the agency in this case being not a market decline but a living black hole comprising a deeply experienced and extremely well-organized monkey agency run by God. Or refined to the task by eons of evolution, whichever you prefer. In any case, I was not created, nor have I evolved, to guard plums.

I am excellent, however, at standing on the Plum Pavilion on early summer mornings drinking my tea, eyeing the still-only-yellow plums on my tree and foreseeing how delicious they will be one day soon when they ripen; maybe three or four days from now, I was thinking on Wednesday, though maybe I should take them right now and let them ripen in the kitchen so the monkeys don't get them... no, that wouldn't be nearly as good as fresh picked, the monkeys won't take them either until they're ripe enough and boy was I wrong,

I told you I hadn't evolved to guard plums, because although the monkeys knew as per their appointment books that I would be in the office on Friday while Echo was away for a few days in Nagano to visit her parents, leaving the plum tree as vulnerable as a Fort Knox made out of air, and as the Monkey Plum Committee suggested, even though the plums have not yet reached the fullness of flavor that Brady is so anticipating, Friday will be the optimal time to harvest, otherwise we'll have to do it over the weekend, when the plums will taste better but Brady will be home alone and even more plum-attentive...

So, also perhaps recalling the accuracy of my AMBMs (Anti-Monkey Ballistic Missiles) the Committee opted for the safer course, according to the clear record presently available to me. Thus it was that, while having my tea this morning I familiarly scanned the plum tree where it overgrows the Pavilion and saw at once that my plum commodities had plunged to zero. In their fruity wake was strewn a smattering of broken twigs where a horde of commodity pirates had rampaged in haste to reach the now sufficiently edible goods, leaving one prominent plum maybe to ripen for their next visit, though more likely as a metaphoric thumb to the nose; monkeys are ferally good at insults.

Think maybe I'll switch to copper futures...

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I don't really know whether we're all doomed or not, currencywise, not to mention all the otherwises. As for me, I've gotten out of cash and into wines. Still, even though the signs look ominous on pretty much all fronts, international exchange is going on apace as North Korea exchanges missiles with the Japan Sea, while the US exports not only its currency problems but its obesity problems as well, which are already being felt here in Japan. Now I read that the Krispy Kreme people are going to open 50 donut shops here, which is just what the country needs. Perhaps they'll open one down in the village that will take wine in exchange...

As a donut gourmet of grand master rank who has suffered repeated bouts of long-term donut deficiency here in Japan (a condition that, left untreated, can lead to severe carbohallucinations), during my most recent full-spectrum donut sampling spree in the US I didn't rank Krispy Kreme very far up there in the donut pantheon, if the truth be told, though it's nirvana in comparison to the Japanese industrial standard donut, an interpretation of the general donut concept that comes in one variety and taste-texturewise evokes an air-flavored kind of sawdusty paperweight with a hole in the middle, that makes an interesting conversation starter when used as a golf tee.

So the news got me wondering whether or not the introduction of actual donuts on such a scale in this country, if successful (there have been attempts by other chains, but they quickly became what they were not), would have any more effect on the Jdonut than the brief introduction of Ben and Jerry's had had on full-spectrum vanilla. Then I read in one of the articles: “Krispy Kreme said it doesn't own any part of the Japanese franchise company,” and I thought: uh-oh; slightly salty, dryish Krispy Kremes filled with anko, here we come. Kind of makes me wonder about the long-term actuality of international exchange.

Then I read news like “Kobayashi broke his own record of 531/2 hot dogs, set at Nathan’s on Coney Island in 2004,” and I start wondering all over again.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


The North Korean leadership-in-reverse, like any other inherited (and some elected) leadership, has a sovereign right to cranial ossification, exemplified in this instance by the launching of 7 deadhead missiles (the only things actually directed out of the country), one of which would be capable of reaching Vancouver (if it didn't malfunction 40 seconds after launch as it did today) or, in the form of cash expended, feeding North Korea's underfed populace for a year. But Dear Leader just wanted to hit that ocean; as for the loyal subjects, let them dream of ten minutes in a Vancouver restaurant...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Photo by Kasumi

Just got word that Kasumi and the crew of Kaya, Mitsuki and Miasa will take to the road and arrive here later this month for a long vacation, general depredations and some welcome breaks from non-stop parenting for Kasumi (husband/father Tatsuya will arrive later). Time to break out my red cape and blue spandex tights with the big red G on the chest.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


"A clear picture emerges of a government completely out of control. The blue line is the history of the U.S. Federal Government debt. The green line shows the path we are now on, with debt soaring to impossible levels against projected GDP. Importantly, the source isn't some crazy hand-waving blogger [sic this!]: these are the government's own projections--and we all know they have every incentive to accent the positive. If this is the best they can do at this point, then you know things are not just bad, they are calamitous.

This glimpse at the future clearly shows that the debt of the U.S. will, in the foreseeable future, go from being a troubling yet manageable fraction of the economy to being several times the size of [the] economy. That can't happen without serious repercussions.

The government will be spending money they don't have, which means creating more of it out of thin air and diluting the value of all the dollars that came before.

The government is closer to bankruptcy than anyone who has not studied the situation can guess. You will hear government apologists claim that the government can't go bankrupt because they are the government, and along with a complicit Federal Reserve, they can meet any debt obligation because they have the printing press. That is precisely the problem. They can print any amount of money they want. That has been theoretically possible since we went off the gold standard in 1971.

It is this loss of any constraint on government spending that has let the genie out of the bottle. The track is now laid. The long-term future of the dollar is not in question. And to the extent that it is the basis of all other currencies, the reserve currency of the world's central banks, all currencies are doomed."

Might as well stock up on some good wines...


Interesting afterlink: Is Cheney Betting on Economic Collapse? (Tax free, too!)

Peaceful village fills
with clacks and thuds and screams--
kendo in the school gym


Cognitive dissonance--
I just wrote my first
hyperlinked haiku

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Japan's ambitious but merely wealthy rightist Foreign Minister, whom I've mentioned before in similarly flaky circumstances, now has another political black hole to his credit. His recent and surprising appointment to office by Koizumi says much about the rightist aspect of the apparently folksy Prime Minister's political aims. I predict that as a result of these efforts, China and India will lead the way in the coming Asian world economy, leaving a strident and unrepentant Japan isolated in the rear. (Koizumi's "Hello American people... Love me tender..." from Graceland perhaps betrayed his increasing sense of isolation.)

"'This fiasco never had a great chance of succeeding,' said Robyn Lim, professor of international relations at Nanzan University, an Australian and a former acting head of current intelligence at the Office of National Assessments in Canberra. 'Mr Aso is still in denial that his own family company enslaved Australian POWs and that two of them died in his mine,' she said.

Earlier this week, The Age aired criticism of the planned ceremony from historians, political analysts and veterans' representatives. Central to their criticism were doubts that Mr Aso, an ambitious right-wing politician, lacked genuine remorse for Japan's war record and might manipulate the event in his campaign to be Japan's next prime minister.

The episode has cast new doubt on Mr Aso's political skills and appears certain to put another hole in his prime ministerial ambitions."

Couldn't happen to a flakier guy. Appointed by Koizumi to represent Japan to the world.


"Japanese women had a life expectancy of 85.6 years in 2005, the world's highest for the 20th straight year. Japanese men live an average of 78.6 years, second only to Icelandic males.

The fertility rate is hitting rock-bottom _ 1.25 children per woman, far below the 2.1 needed to keep the population steady. The U.S. rate is 2.04 children per woman.

Those two trends converged at some point last year, when Japan silently marked a demographic watershed: The population started to drop, beginning a long decline that demographers predict will cut the number of Japanese from 127 million now to about 100 million by 2050. Three of every 10 will be over 65.

It's already visible in the gleaming nursing homes cropping up in every corner of the archipelago, while once-crowded schools are closing for lack of students. Some 4,000 have shut their doors in the past 20 years."


"A book of his poems has caused sales of the traditional HB and 2H wooden pencils to soar by nearly a third in the past few months."

Elder wisdom is gaining...