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28 February 2007

Short Novel: The Flight to Tokyo: Chapter 3

A story of a B-29 bomber pilot who time-travels from the war-time Tokyo to present-time.

Please read Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 first.


Sayuri recognized Jim’s face looking very shocked. She wondered if there was any news that shocked him so much. Actually he didn’t read any of articles. All he saw on the paper was the date of issue.

Jim then said, “Hey, is this some kind of joke? Are you teasing me or kind of psychological test for POW?”

“What are you talking about? Have I done anything wrong?” said Sayuri.

She did not know POW stands for prisoners of war.

“Yes, you are. You are doing a wrong thing. I can’t stand for that.” Jim said.

And he just ran, ran to get out of the hospital. He just thought he had to. He found the entrance of the hospital and rushed into it. The door opened automatically but he did not care about that.  As soon as he got out of the hospital, and saw the view outside, he just stopped his feet.

He could not believe what he was seeing. The hospital was located on the riverside. The river name should be the Sumida River according to the map for air raid he saw. That was not what surprised him. What surprised him was the other side of the river. There were several very tall buildings. Like skyscrapers in New York . He remembered when he went to New York in high school days. He remembered what he saw from the riverside of Hudson River . The view was magnificent. This was not exactly the same as that but kind of similar. He was never informed Tokyo had such tall buildings. In his knowledge, they never had such sophisticated technology.


“Hey, what are you doing? Why are you running away? I cannot understand you.”

Sayuri came up to him.

“Are we in Tokyo , now?” Jim asked.

“Yes, we are in Tokyo . I understand how you are confused, you might have lost your memory of how you came to Japan .” Sayuri thought Jim was acting very strange because of amnesia.

“What date and what year is it today?”

“Today is March 10, 2005”

“2005” Jim just realized that he was in Tokyo but not in 1945, 2005. But if so, he should be now 81 years old. He should look very old thus he could not run like he just did.

The car came up to where Jim and Sayuri are. A driver in a car called on Sayuri. Sayuri responded and talked with a man for a while. Then Sayuri said to Jim.

“Jim, here is my brother, Ken.”

Ken smiled and said, “haro, Jim-san.”

“Why don’t we get in? We are going to my family’s house.”

Jim and Sayuri got in the car. Jim kept silence while driving. Sayuri and Ken talked each other in the language he could not understand. Jim was surprised Ken never touched the car’s engine gear while driving. It was kind of automatic gear system.

After 10 minutes drive, the car stopped at a house. They got out of a car. Jim was guided to a house by Sayuri. Jim was told to take off his shoes to get on the floor and he did. The house was smaller than that he was living in Connecticut . The ceiling was lower.

Sayuri introduced Jim to her family. Ken, Ken’s wife, Keiko, Sayuri’s mother, and Sayuri’s grand mother. Sayuri explained to them how Jim saved her in the fire.

Mother smiled and said “Sankyu (for saving my daughter.)” Jim then smiled back. Ken and Keiko followed and smiled and said some words. Grandma didn't say anything and just got back to her room as soon as the greeting ended.

Jim just thought an old lady didn’t like a foreign man. Sayuri explained to her family about Jim’s condition of amnesia.

Jim said “Thank you for taking care of me. I appreciate that very much.” Sayuri interpreted. Then Ken and Mother replied in Japanese. Sayuri interpreted.

“Jim, you saved my life. It is our duty to take care of you, because if you were not there, I wouldn’t live any more.”

Sayuri told her father was on business trip to Shanghai until next month. That was why her father was not at home. So she would be staying in her parents’ room sleeping on Father’s bed. Instead Jim can use the room Sayuri was living before she moved to burned apartment.

She moved to the apartment after Ken got married. She thought Ken’s wife should have felt uncomfortable surrounded by too many Ken’s family members such as Father, Mother, Grandma, and Sayuri. Sayuri took him to her room. The floor was kind of strange. It was made of straws. It was called “tatami” straw mattress.

Sayuri said. “While you are here, why don’t you try to revive your memory? Take a look at this. Do you know internet?”


“Internet is how you get the information of the world. Haven’t you ever used this? It is not very new thing. Well, I guessed you are surprised with everything. You were even surprised with TV and newspaper.”

 Sayuri said and showed a personal computer on the desk.

“Here it is.”

She pressed the bottom on the computer. Computer screen showed internet browsing window.

“What is this? New type of television?” Jim got another surprise.

“I’ll teach you how to use this. Do you know how to use typewriter?”

“Of course”

“Then you can use keyboard.”

After an hour, Jim learned basic rules of using computer and internet software. Jim was more curious than surprised. Jim was smart and learned things very quickly.

Sayuri went outside for her things. Jim was alone and started to use internet for his purposes. He wanted to know what happened between 1945 and now. He accessed search engine Google, and typed “History of the United States of America .”

He learned so many things that he never knew but had happened before.

In March 10, 1945 US army bombed capital of Japan, Tokyo . It was successful and more than 100,000 people were killed. In May, Germany and August of the same year, Japan, surrendered to the US and its allies. Japan had been occupied by the allied forces for 6 years.

The US became the leader of the free world and enjoyed its greatest prosperity. In postwar era, the Uncle Sam’s new enemy became communist nations such as China and Soviet Union . The former enemies, Japan and Germany turned close allies to counter the spread of Communism.

The US got involved in the war in Korean peninsula in 1950’s and Vietnam in 1960’s in the name of fighting against evil communism.

But the war in Vietnam was failed. During that era, civil rights movement was booming so that Civil Rights Act was enacted to outlaw discrimination against minorities such as Blacks and women.

In 1990’s communist nations’ leader Soviet Union fell down and non-Russia states regained independence. Most of communist nations turned into capitalist free nations. So called “Cold War” was over. China and Vietnam liberated their economies.

It seemed there had been no more enemy for America . The new enemy showed up. The terrorists. Twin Skyscrapers in New York was demolished by airplanes hijacked by Islamic extremists. The new era began. Global war on terror started. The US bombed Afghanistan to break down the regime that harbored the terrorists, and then invaded Iraq to remove the regime which the US claimed potential terror.

What many things happened between the times! Of course 60 years was long period. It was natural so many things happened and changed. The nasty enemies for the US he believed now became closest friends to the US . Black American woman became the secretary of the States. The same sex marriage was legalized in the State of Massachusetts . It seemed he experienced 60 year-long lifetime in 1 hour.

He still could not understand what happened to him. The time passed 60 years but he hadn’t changed anything. He was still 21 years old man.

“Jim, I am back. Why don’t you go downstair to join the lunch? My mother made it for us.” Sayuri said behind his back.

He went to the dining room. Jim and Sayuri sat on the chairs. The lunch was served.

“I hope my mother’s food would please you. She made spaghetti and salad for you” said Sayuri.

“Thank you, I like spaghetti.” Jim said smiling. Indeed he was very hungry. He started eating spaghetti and salad. They were very delicious. At the table, were Jim, Sayuri, Ken’s wife, and Mother. Ken went out for work.

Jim wondered where her Grandma was. Sayuri said, “Well, she is at home now. But seems like she doesn’t want to join the lunch with us. She is eating it alone in her room.”

“How come?” Jim asked her because the way she talked and looked at him implied there was something related to Jim.  

“I'm sorry to tell you that Grandma doesn’t like Americans because she lost her mother who is my late great-grand mother and Grandma’s brother by the air raid in Tokyo 60 years ago.”

Jim was shocked and his face turned pale. He then stopped eating spaghetti.

Go on to Chapter 4.

23:35 Posted in My novel | Permalink | Comments (0)

24 February 2007

911 Film "World Trade Center" Too early to make

Such kind of films. I have seen the movie "United 93" before.

It's been only 5 years and so since 911. The story was about two policemen trapped in the rubble of WTC.

The movie was overall boring.

There is not many dynamic scenes. But there were some real scenes. I just wondered if the film makers sent some crews to capture the scenes at the time of that incident, so that they can use it in the future. They are always ready to make money.

 So I understand how they were careful in making the films of such real tragedies. Maybe 20 years later, they can make very dynamic and real and objective story. At this point you still cannot see things objectively. If you make stories about 911, you should include people in Iraq, people in Palestine, people in Afghanistans and people of Peaceful Tomorrows.  

If I make a drama for TV or movie now, I would make a soapopera which a man who lost a wife in 911 decides to remarry another woman but some days before a wedding, a wife whom he thought died and whose body was never found shows up. He has to cancel the wedding. A wife says she had suffered amnesia because of the shock caused by the incident. He gets a trouble in between of two women he loves. In fact a wife got a new lover but remembers she still loves a husband. His supposedly new wife gets shocked and doesn't know how to deal with this problem and began to jealous his revived wife. Then she hires a hitman to kill or let him go back to the old woman? 21st century version of "Dynasty." Too bad Mr. Spelling is already dead.

 I do not mean to insult the victims of 911. But now is just too early to make a film of that incident. There are too much still unknown. Too much to be revealed.

Have you ever thought about real cause of 911?

02:25 Posted in Film | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: 911, World Trade Center, Terror

21 February 2007

Congressman Honda is doing the right thing!

Congressman Mike Honda speaks on legistlation urging Japan to apologize for war-era sexual slavery.

There were once women called "Ianfu" meaning Comfort Women in Japanese. They were focibly taken to battlefield to be sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

The congressman is trying to let our government make official apology to those women.

In fact, Japanese government did in 1993, but very grudgingly. The government at that time gave some speech of the apology and has made compensations to those women but by civil donation not by our tax.

 The textbooks barely mentioned such history. The right wingers including some ruling party's politicians deny such women were forced to do so by the army and claim the women are all liars and making accusation for money.

They are doing the same things on Nanking Massacre which Japanese army slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Chinese including POWs and civilians in Nanking, the capitol of China in 1937.

 I am afraid that I do not want such legistlation pass in US Congress because this is something our country should have done a long time ago so that no other country would claim Japan has not done enough of such matters. Unfortunately, we failed. Germans has succeeded in this and recovered relationship with former enemies, France and Britain. It is illegal to deny hollocaust in public. If you say that there was no mass-murder of Jews in Germany, you are put into jail.

Well, but I do support Mr. Honda's action. He is Japanese American. I just guess if he is doing this because he does not want to be considered that he is too gentle to his anscestral country. This should come from his childhood memory of Internment Camp. I know the tales of Japanese American during the war between Japan and the US.  

Japanese should reflect on the past whether it is comfortable or uncomfortable to look to the future and recover relationship with neighboring nations. Maybe the legistlation would give a great chance for this.  

16 February 2007

Debate on English education in elementary school

Mr. Ibaki, the Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), has been creating a stir with his opposition to English education in elementary school.  I work as a translator, and naturally am proficient in English.  I started learning in the 4th grade in elementary school, from a private tutor who was Japanese.  After that, I studied at English conversation schools with native speakers, and I learned not only the English necessary to pass tests in school but I also became conversationally fluent.  After I graduated from high school, I went to America to study at a university for five years, and thanks to my previous English education and current “real-life” English education, I earned my Bachelor’s degree.



Based on these experiences, I both agree and disagree with Minister Ibaki’s opinion.



First of all, with regard to why I agree with Minister Ibaki, it is because when we talk about language, language is not just about communicating information.  While we talk, we think about various things, and when we say that we are polishing up our speaking skills, we are also polishing up how we think.  The sentence construction of English and Japanese are very different.  In particular, when one becomes used to expressing the conclusion at the beginning, Japanese becomes a very difficult language in which to speak.  In addition to being able to find the right words, it is also important to have the ability to consider exactly what it is you want to say.



In translating work, this definitely becomes an obstacle.  Without completely considering the flow of the entire sentence, it is impossible to translate that sentence.  Being stuck between the two languages, left without the power to think, even understanding the main point that you want to communicate becomes difficult.  To take the example of this author, when I was in junior high school, in addition to excelling at English the other subject I excelled at was Japanese.  I believe that because I became very good at reading comprehension in Japanese, it helped my progress in learning English.



That is to say, rather than language being something that one learns, language is something that one becomes accustomed to.  From that point of view, the younger one is, the better one is able to adapt.  Setting aside the merits and demerits of English, English is becoming the common global language.  If one learns it well, it is clearly to that person’s advantage.  If one is raised in an environment in which one does not feel uncomfortable around English, then after that things will be much easier.



Particularly with pronunciation, it is much better for children to learn at an early age when they have no preconceptions.  Because the pronunciation of the Japanese language is one of the simplest in the world, it creates many difficulties.  For example, the differences between L and R, V and B, and Th and S do not exist in Japanese and are therefore hard to grasp, and by the time one is an adult the fixed habits interfere and it becomes difficult to hear the difference.



However, I do not believe that Japanese education and English education should progress simultaneously.  Before learning how to speak as if it were one’s mother tongue, one should learn the native language properly and build up reading comprehension and critical thinking.  Whether it is the native language or a foreign language, without the ability to comprehend, one can neither speak nor listen.

Written by Masagata. 

 Translated by a MIT graduate.

20:32 Posted in Language learning | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: education

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