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August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Kobe Beef!



No.  It is not my first time eating this coveted beef, but it's been awhile and it was good being back in Sannomiya in Kobe, Japan.   If ever down this way you'll be pleasantly confused at how many restaurants offer this beef, and where to eat it.   I have always had my favorites, and one such place is Kobe Plaisir the top favorite.



To be classified as true Kobe beef, the Tajima-gyu cow:
Must be  pure bred of Tajima-gyu lineage.
Must have been born and raised in Hyōgo Prefecture.
It must be a steer (castrated bull) or virgin cow.
It must have only been fed grains and grasses from within the Prefecture.
It must have been processed in approved slaughterhouses within the Prefecture.
It must have a fat marbling ratio (called BMS) of level 6 or above.
It must have a Meat Quality Score of A-4 or A-5 (the top grades).
The animal’s gross carcass weight must be 470kg or less.


Must be assigned a 10-digit ID number so that its authenticity can be traced back to the individual cow it came from.



I have had and tried various styles of beef throughout Japan, here, here, here, and a few others among the big three called the "Sandai Wagyu."   I have also eaten Hide Beef, which is not mentioned among the top three, which in my humble opinion is sublime.  



Wine and steak have always been the perfect marriage in the culinary world, and I agree, however, Japanese sake also compliments premium grade A4 and A5 beef!  In the photo you can see from Hyogo called Sennen Ju brewed by Hakushika!   And just like true Kobe beef is raised and fed in Hyogo, so is the sake.   The acids and bouquets in the sake clean the palate and refreshes you for the next bite.  I ate it slowly.

The matron for the evening did the steak proper, medium rare and she cut it perfectly and slowly and served it up with veggies on a nice white clean plate.

 The condiments on the right are all miso based.  Left is a radish, middle spicy mis, and third is salt and pepper.   Two different soy sauce dipping sauces.   All complimented the steak very well.  Meat was so tender I could cut through it with a plastic knife.
Notice the marbling?

Japanese cows get the least exercise  since most often they spent time in confined spaces like barns.   It snows six months out of the year in some places in Japan.  Hyogo does get snowfall.  Cows here are often fed beer and are given massages.  Beer is used to stimulate appetite and massages are used to relieve stress from being in tight spaces.  Japanese sake is used to wash Kobe cows so that their coats are shiny like a sheen to make them more appealing to beef distributors.   




As a finisher to the meal, I had fried rice infused kobe beef!   Amazing.  The finest fried rice I ever had, and I saw it cooked right before my eyes.    If splurging on a meal like this makes you uncomfortable, remember, it may be your last meal, so enjoy it.  It was well worth the price.   There was a lot I left out, but you get the point.   Enjoy.

Elegance Gardens: Kyoto




Both Entokuin and Kodaiji Temples are in the same vicinity of each other and offer arguably the best night views of autumn leaves in the world, so I chose these two gardens to visit for my night viewing!    There are approximately 17 temple gardens in Kyoto city that are open for nighttime leaf peeping, and each with its own beauty.

List:

Nishihonganji Temple, Toji Temple ( closest from Kyoto Station), Kiyomizu Temple, Joju-in Temple, Eikan-do Temple, Kodaii, Entoku-in, Chion-in, Shoren-in, Shogunzuka Seiyuden, Manshuin Temple, Daigoji, Kitano Temangu Shrine, Torin-in, Daikakuji, Hogon-in, and a few others.

Leaf peeping season generally runs from Novemeber 3rd to December 11th here in Kyoto, so if you decide to go shortly after me posting this, you won't be disappointed.   N.B. Day and Night are simply not the same experience.  Remember to set aside time for both opportunities to experience leaf peeping then.

The list I gave you above are open to the general public for evening leaf viewing.   Admissions prices range from 1000 yen to 500 yen and all have brochures in English.



Essay:

Autumn nights, under a full super moon lit starless night sky in Kyoto, and already I am feeling enchanted, and yet bequeathed by the legacy  of Entokuin Temple on the beauty of generations passed down to the younger generation by their ancestors.  For I have known of Kyoto's beauty through its geisha, sake, and delicious cuisines.    But on this night, my eyes were arrested by beauty in the form of red-robed trees  and eaves covered in yellow leaves...




The pitch blackness of Kyoto City is mysterious to me after dusk, like if I had a knife I could cut through the fabric of night with it.  City planning officials designed it that way in order  keep the look of antiquity.  In many areas of Kyoto City you could walk along cobblestone pathways and be surrounded by wooden samurai style houses, each with its own lamp, ambient  enough to spread just enough light to the walkways.   Almost suffocatingly beautiful.   




I often tell visitors that you need a whole month to really see Kyoto.   Everything from the food to the sake has a story to tell.   The temples and shrines are beholden of timeless beauty.   Even the smell of tatami flooring is authentic.   70% of tatami in Japan is imported from China, and almost all modern domiciles use fake or altered tatami as flooring in some way or another.   Real tatami is made from a grass called "Igusa"and is part of the "washitsu" legacy established by the Japanese thousands of years ago.   80% of foreign tourist have never experienced the aromatics of true tatami, which is a medicinal herb that relaxes you.   When lying on one you get a real sense of being outdoors on the grass.   In Kyoto everybody uses authentic tatami, and it is amazing to sit in an evening garden overlooking the turning leaves, and being draped in a warm blanket with someone special and smelling the tatami's perfume aroma permeate up through to your nose.  If you are an older man, you'll probably be wearing some cologne with spices and this will only add to the allure.   If you are a woman, you'll probably be wearing Tresor.

Local Lovelies


First order of business after disembarking the bullet train was heading over  to the bus terminal just outside the gates to catch the #206 bus bound for Kiyomizu Temple.   I had been to Kiyomizu on a previous business trip in the daytime during cherry blossom viewing season.   In my humble opinion, daytime viewing of Kiyomizu Temple is far better than night viewing.   




Kodaij-ji Temple is located in the Higashiyama Hills of eastern Kyoto, not mountains.    Like many holy edifices in history, this temple was built in honor of the memory of a late spouse, hence the solemn beauty of the layout.  The calmative effects of the tatami, the turning leaves, the night sky, and the lake were warm on the senses.   Could really feel Kyoto in this garden.



Another thing I need to mention is the bamboo forest.  Absolutely the best I have ever seen.  



And how can I forget the sake.   I recommend Tabi Koromo Junmai-shu.   


There were tons more photos, but decided to just give a brief essay on one of the best spots in Kyoto to view autumn leaves.   On a last note.  This temple garden is best enjoyed all evening after you've had a great dinner and drinks.  You could sit in the tatami rooms for hours and hours and just enjoy the night scene.   

Enjoy

Tokyo Subway Route Map

Tokyo Subway Route Map Explained by a salaryman who commutes a lot ( numbering in the post is wrong.  Tech glitch )

Toei Line

This post is going to tell you about my own experiences riding on these lines, and some input on places of interest that I feel showcase some of Tokyo's charms.   A good point I would like to suggest is that often times places that are off the beaten track and that are not in travel magazines are the best places to visit.   Sometimes, it is okay to get lost in Tokyo and explore the place without having to worry so much about if you can find your way back to your hotel or not.   You will be amazed at what you discover if you take a step out and explore new places.   







List of Train Lines in no particular order:
  1. Asakusa Line :  Clean and comfortable carriage cars.   Plush seating with good suspension and clean.    Trains come often so no long wait times.   Fares are cheaper than JR.   Asakusa Line is both surface and underground and connects you to Oshiage Tokyo Sky Tree, the highlight of this line.   However, there's another place of interest at Sengakuji Station that has a historical temple dedicated to 47 Ronin.   My personal experience riding this line is during my evening commutes to work to Magome Station via Keikyu changeover at Sengakuji Station....  
  1. Mita Line:  Frequency of stops is good.  This train line connects you to major business  and commerce areas in downtown Tokyo.   Uchisaiwaicho Station is where you can reach companies like Japan Steel and other heavy industries, even banking.    Places of interest would be Jimbocho Station if you love curry and books.   Suidobashi Station for Tokyo Dome.   Sugamo Station if you like visiting the "Harajuku for Grannies" district and getting a taste of old Tokyo.  I frequently use this line when working because it connects me to either the Hibiya Line or the Chiyoda Line.  You could easily spend the afternoon riding around on this line if you have extra time during your visit.  


  1. Shinjuku Line:  From Shinjuku Station  to Motoyawata Station you may be able to sit down depending on the time of day of course.    This line is completely sub-surface and efficient.  When this train is not moving, most if not all station will have free Wifi < code > ( Toei_Subway_Free_Wi-Fi ).   Free Wi-Fi service is available in all Toei Buses and subways stations.  This service is available in both English and Chinese.   Station concierges are useful for basic train lines informations, but don't hold your breath!   You will probably do better on your own.    Places of interest.  Shinjuku Station of course, but it's a bit of a walk from the JR Lines along with West Exit route.  The best way to reach Shinjuku if you are inbound from Kanagawa Prefecture would be via the JR Lines.    Kudanshita Station will put you off near major religious places like Yasukuni Shrine and the Yushukan Museum.    Ichigaya Station will put you in the governmental offices district.   If you want to see Japan's twin towers and the central government building you can get off at Tochomae Station.   If you decide to tour the government building there's an observatory deck at the top...  Don't remember  if there was a fee or not.   From the top on a clear day is beautiful.  


  1. Oedo Line:  One of my favorite lines will take you to Tsukuji Fish Market...  This is like a loop line.  You can reach Oedo Line from Tochomae Station from Shinjuku Station.    The line itself is clean, efficient, comfortable and subsurface.   Stops worth mentioning would be Roppongi Station - foreigner district.    Azabu-Juban, one of my favorite stops if you want to experience culinary heaven such as American-style BBQ, tequila bars, and super markets that cater to the long-term expat community.     Continuing down this line would be Shiodome Station.  This station has a lot of good places to enjoy good food and good shopping.  There is also a Tower Records just outside the exit.( Not sure if it's still in business as of 2015...?).   This station also has a McDonalds which I used to stop through for breakfast on my way to Shimbashi.   Overall.  This is one of my favorite transit stations in all of Japan.   Oedo Line will also take you to an old historic drinking district called Monzen-Nakacho Station where you can stop in the many standing bars and experience meeting and drinking with the locals in the community.    Afterwards you can go out for sushi.   Next station would be Ryogoku Station where sumo wrestling events can be seen.   I also recommend stopping through Akabanebashi Station to check-out Shiba Park near Tokyo Tower and Zojo-ji Temple.   



Tokyo Metro Lines


  1. Ginza Line:  By far the cleanest and coolest carriages.  Great connections to places like Asakusa, Ueno, Kanda, Ginza, and Toranomon.  Omotesando and Shibuya are the top stops on this line - one stop from each other.   Ginza Line exits are also placed well in stations.   The only improvement I could recommend would be to have more ticket machines for buying ticket placed in more places.   The ticket machines at Shibuya station look outdated and a lot of foreigner travelers feel a bit intimidated on how to use the ticket machines.     Ginza Line is by far one of the best local commuter lines in Tokyo and you can visit so many places.  


  1. Marunouchi Line:  If we start from Ikebukuro we can work our way down through Ochanomizu Station, Awajicho, and then Tokyo Station.   This line also stops in Ginza, but the highlight of this line is Kasumigasaki Station where the National Diet Bldg. is located.  It's called the Kokkai-Gijidomae.   Here you can see planery sessions conducted by Japanese congress.      Next stop I recommend is  Shinjuku.

  1. Hibiya Line:  This is a line I used to frequent last summer  and it stops through Hiro-o Station - one stop from Ebisu Station.   Here at Hiro-o you have a Red Cross Hospital and many small clinics and pharmacies that can be accessed through this station.   Ebisu Station has a New York burger chain called Shake Shacks!  

  1. Tozai Line:  From Nishi-Funabashi to Nakano this line will take to such stops as Waseda Station, site of the famous Waseda University.  Urayasu Station where Disneyland is located.   Nihombashi and Takebashi Station.    In terms of history, if you are interested, Nihombashi Station street was the mother road of all of Japan, the gateway to the capital.   

  1. Chiyoda:  This line connects you to Yoyogi Park,  Meiji-Jingumae, Omotesando, Akasaka, Kasumigaseki, Nishi-Nipppori, and Kita-senju.  I skipped over a bunch of other stations on this line because I have never been to areas around those station.    Kita-Senju should be explored deeply.  There are alot of interesting shops around there.  My experience riding on the Chiyoda Line is rather ordinary.  It's still a convenient line though.   I could easily see someone having breakfast in Omotesando at the famed Ansel Bakery, then heading over to Meiji-Jingu Shrine to walk off breakfast; maybe grabbing a coffee on the walk.  For lunch I could see you heading over to Kita-Senju for lunch at some posh bistro with a dozen different arabica on menu with a newspaper in your hand.


  1. Yurakucho Line:  This is another line that I love with stops  in Toyosu, Ginza, Yurakucho, Nagatacho, Ichigaya, Ikeburkuro and Heiwadai.  I left out a few other stops.   If you have a German beer and sausage fetish and love it cold and hot then I recommend stopping through Yurakucho for German fair.   There are a few very good places for sausages and potatoes and pints of frothy beer.    This station is also the salaryman paradise as it has a lot of good places for ramen and beer.  


  1. Hanzomon Line: This is a very good line.  I used to ride this line to Kinshicho Station then transfer to JR ( surface train) bound for Chiba.  On the inbound to Tokyo from Chiba, even the green seats are full.   Very easy and simple connections because I was able to get a seat.    Those familiar with this commute and who live in Chiba know that the trains are jam-packed from Chiba to Tokyo, both ways, almost every morning.   If you reach Kinshicho Station you can go down the the Hanzomon subway and ride it to central Tokyo to places like Shibuya for shopping.  Hanzomon Line stations are spacious and and are never overcrowded, plus you get free Wi-Fi.   Most surface stations on the JR Lines so not offer authentically free Wi-Fi.  You'd need to be on some sort of carrier service.    One more place very worthy of mention would be Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station where you can visit Kiyosumi Gardens for a nice stroll  in a classical Meiji Period garden.  


  1. Namboku Line: Connects the Saitama Railway Line and its people to Tokyo.   It runs straight through Tokyo and makes connections with all the major train lines on both the Toei Lines and Tokyo Metro Lines.  .  Some places you may want to explore would be Oji...  Don't ask me why, you may want to discover it on your own.  Like I said in the beginning.  The best part of Tokyo, is exploring off the beaten track paths that are not known.  


13:    Fukutoshin Line: This is the newest of all the lines and  is excellent.   This is because it connects you through to Motomach-Chukagai Station via the Tokyo Toyoko Lines!  You can stay on the same train           without having to change.   This line runs through 3 prefectures:  Kanagawa, Tokyo, and Saitama prefectures.   It is one of the most frequent long distance lines in Japan with excellent connections to Chinatown in Yokohama, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro.   


You can get Tokyo Subway Tickets for overseas tourist for unlimited rides on both Tokyo Metro and Toei Lines.   Phone number is #03-3816-5700   I'm an experience businessman with years of experience riding the rails in Japan's vast and expansive rail network.  I have more ass miles than foot miles.


Tags


#asakusa #mita#shinjuku#oedo#ginza#marunouchi#hibiya#tozai#chiyoda#yurakucho#hanzomon#naboku#fukutoshin#tokyo#subway#route#map#japan#ebisu#shackshack

Board of Education: The selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde ( pg. 162 polestar English textbook)

Preface:  Here is yet another example of how the Board of Education is implementing Christianity in its textbooks to teach kids values.   The purpose for teaching kids about Christian virtues is to help instill values and a sense of morality, I suppose, but then, that would mean Japanese do not have virtue by birth nor upbringing.   Basic considerations for human beings and the general welfare of others has always been a cultural feature of the Japanese ever since Buddhism merged with Shintoism, thousands of years ago, way before North American colonizers discovered the teachings of the Ten Commandments of the Bible, or even knew of the contents of the original Bible for that matter.   In fact, most Anglo colonizers could hardly read the written words nor understand the content in their own Constitution of 1776 scribed in English.    Japan had had a written Constitution long before North America had one, and was internationally recognized by most of the Western world except for the U.S.   When the former Occupational Authorities under General Douglas revamped the educational system  here, nearly 60 years ago, Shinto was supplanted by Christianity and as a result values were re-taught in school through pacifism.    Even the current-day Constitution in Japan has nearly 50 entries from the American Bill of Rights of which almost no Japanese is aware of, save a few snarky lines they remember by heart like having the Right to Vote and equality and justice for all, which they do not even believe themselves.   Below, is a story written by Oscar Wilde that subtly teaches an aspect of Christianity and salvation through the use of incredibly beautiful and innocent child-like story lines.  


Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.


  It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass.   Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of ink and pearl, and the in the autumn bore rich fruit.   The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children usd to stop their games in order to listen to them.    "How happy we are here!"  they cried to each other.

[ Notice the use of stars and the number twelve symbolic scripture]


     One day the Giant came back.   He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had to stay with him for seven years.   After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle.    When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden. [ The number 7]

   "What are you doing here?" he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

     "My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself."   Se he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board..  " Trespassers will Be Prosecuted"

     The poor children had now nowhere to play.   They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it.   They used to wonder round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside.  "How happy we were there," they said to each other.


     Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds.   Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter.   The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom.   Once a beautiful flower put is head out  from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep.   The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost.   "Spring has forgotten this garden," they cried, "so we will live here all the year round.  ."   The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver.   Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them and he came.   He was wrapped in Furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-post down.   "This is delightful spot," he said, "we must ask the Hail on a visit," So the Hail came.  Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go.   He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.


     "I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming," said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; " I hope there will be a change in the weather."



     But the Spring never came, nor the Summer.    The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant's garden she gave none.   " He is too selfish," as he said.   So it was alway Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost and the snow danced about through the trees.


     One morning the Giant was lying awake in the bed when he heard some lovely music.   It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King's musicians passing by.   It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world.  the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and the delicious perfume came to him through the open casement.   "I believe the Spring has come at last, "  said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.


    What did he see?

    He saw a most wonderful sight.   Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees.   In every tree that he could see there was a little child.   And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently about the children's heads.   The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing.    It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter.   It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy.   He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly.   The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it.   "Climbed up" a little boy," said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.



     And the Giant's heart melted as he looked out.   " How selfish I have been!"  he said; " now I know why the Spring would not come here.   I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children's playground for ever and ever."  He was really very sorry for what he had done.  



      So he crept down stairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden.   But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again.   Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming.    And the Giant came up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree.   And the tree broke at once in to blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant's neck, and kissed him.   And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and then came the Spring.   " It is your garden now, little children," said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall.   And when the people were going to market at twelve o'clock they found the Giant playing with the  children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.


     All day long they played, and  in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.


     "But where is your little companion?" he said: "the boy I put into the tree."  The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him...


     "We don't know,"  answered the children; "he has gone away."


"You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,"said the Giant.    But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.




     Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant.   But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen  again.    The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him.  "How I would like to see him!" he used to say.




     Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble.   He could not play about anymore,  he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden.   "I have many beautiful flowers," he said; "but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all."



   One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing.   He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.



     Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked.    It was certainly was a marvelous sight.    In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered white lovely white blossoms.   Its branches were all golden, an the silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved..



     Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into  the garden.    He hasted across the grass, and came near to the child.   And when he came quiet close his face grew  red with anger, and he said, " Who hath dared to wound thee?" For on the palms of the child's hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

   " Who hath  dared to wound thee?" cried the giant; "tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him."

   " nay!" answer the child; "but these are the wounds of Love."

   "Who hath dared to wound thee?" said the Giant, and a strange awe fell over him, and he knelt before the little child.

     And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, "You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden,  which is in Paradise."

  And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.



[ In this very sweetly  written story by Oscar Wilde, we can see a beautiful depiction of the seasons and childhood innocence.   The story itself was beautifully packaged with Christian principles, and at the end of the story an offer of salvation to the Giant.   When The Christ was on the Cross he offered salvation to another man on the Cross with a similar invitation.    This is yet another example of how the school board is educating high school kids on Christianity through creating these incredibly beautiful stories with birds, flower, and wonderful themes of love and kindness.    

Japan Board of Education: Amazing Grace...?

Japan Board of Education Textbook.

Amazing Grace

Shuken Shuppan  Polestar textbook English Communication


Preface:  Japanese / Japan is  one of the leading donors in humanitarian aid around the world.   They have donated billions of yen to charities, developing countries, and startup business to just about every country on the globe.  Some Japanese have even taken matters to the extreme  to the point of poking their noses into hotspot areas like Palestine and Isreal, things the Japanese may want to avoid.  Had Japan shared its borders with an ethnic minority with its own government, the relative peace and calm of this country would be questionable.   No other country can be like nor emulate Japan.   So, where does this spirit of charity and altruism come from exactly?   Why do the Japanese feel they need to save the whole world, while caring very little for its own people?   It's the Board of Education...?  The essay below is one such example of what Japanese kids learn in school, and how stories like Minako resonate with so many Japanese and how the spread of Christianity is subversively being taught to Japanese kids.   


This article was taken from Polestar Shuken Shuppan English textbook:


Amazing Grace is a very popular song.   It has been heard by millions of people at least once in their lives.   In Japan, probably the most famous version was by Honda Minako.   Two years after its release in 2003, Minako entered hospital.   She had leukemia.   In hospital, Minako recorded the song on a voice recorder.   It was to cheer up a friend in the same hospital.   A short time later, in November 2005, Minako passed away.

[ I have noticed over the years, mainly through my  empirical observation  with a lot of Japanese people, that they take comfort and joy in western  religious hymns  with Christian themes such as Amazing Grace.  Most admittedly do not understand the lyrics.  I am wondering how this is possible when 90% of Japanese are non-Christians...   [ " Many Japanese are familiar with Christianity and have had exposure to the religion either through school or churches based in Japan"].  [me]


According to her wishes, a commercial was made for a bone marrow bank.   In the commercial, the version of Amazing Grace on her voice recorder was used.   Many people were moved by her beautiful voice.   However, most people had no idea of the meaning behind the song.   The words to Amazing Grace were originally written by an Englishman called John Newton in the eighteenth century.   The reasons why he wrote this hymn are rather interesting and unexpected. 

[ In this paragraph, I notice the virtues of Minako and how she tries to offer solice and comfort through her voice.  This is good, but I do not know why Christian hymns are chosen for this when most Japanese do not even understand the songs  words, or why they were used in the hymn.][me]


John Newton was born in London in 1725, the son of a ships's captan.   At the age of 11, he began going to  sea with his father.   When he grew up, he found work in the slave trade.   He took slaves from the west coast of Africa to the New World .   In those days, trading slaves was legal.   Newton himself saw nothing wrong with the business.


[ I am also concerned about why slavery in context seems to be justified because it was legal?    Why couldn't Shuken reword this by condemning slavery as wrong in spite of it being legal for the sake of posterity?    
And then going as far as to say Newton saw nothing wrong with it.   Where the students should be feeling more sympathetic towards the slaves, they now feel endeared toward John Newton as a sort of man who was spared by God's wrath for his own personal transgressions and not for the condemnation of slavery bought upon him by his involvement in human trafficking***]   Most slaves perished at sea due to disease or  were thrown overboard during storms at sea to lighten the load of the slave ships, why couldn't they have been spared?  Why does Shuken need to  attach some altruistic virtue to Mr. Newton?  Maybe young Japanese want to be like John Newton, or other Anglo saviors of the world?


In 1748, at the age of 22, Newton experienced a life-changing event.   It occurred in the Atlantic Ocean during a great storm.   His shop was about to sink.   For the first time in his life, he called out to God: "Lord, have mercy upon us!"  Eventually, the storm passed and the ship managed to make it to Ireland.   Newton saw it as a miracle. 

[ The miracle here is that he was spared?  Were the slaves spared, too? How did one man's legacy become something worthy to be published and taught in a Japanese textbook..?   How does it relate to education?  ]


Newton believed that he survived as a result of God's protection.   When he reached land, he went straight to a church and got baptized.   After that, his faith in God gradually increased and he began to regret his sins.   He also began to feel sympathetic towards the slaves that he met on his work.

[ So, here we see the slaves were not important until a storm hit and that is the reason god spared his life was because of his own sins....   The real reason God may have spared his life was to save the lives of the slaves he was trading... and not his own for the sake of his own salvation...]  


At the age of 30, Newton had a stroke.   His doctor told him to give up his life as a sailor.   He worked as a tax collector, but he was no happy.   Newton felt that the time had come when he should serve God rather than himself.   In 1764, Newton became a clergyman in Olney, a small village in the English countryside.   Around this time, Newton wrote many hymns to tell people about the Christian message.   he never forgot the memory of this miraculous rescue at sea.   That was the image in his mind when he wrote the famous lines of Amazing Grace. 


[ So again, I am wondering what was the intended message for publishing Minako singing a song with religious implications?   What are Japanese students supposed to take from this story?   The story could have been written with a greater focus on her talents as a singer and her struggles with Leukemia rather than using her legacy as a great singer to elevate a white slave owner who had an epiphany with God with a ship full of slaves to the New World.  Shukan, you can do much better than using Minako's legacy for spreading Christianity in your public schools. ]me  

Final notes:  

Christian themes  on salvation have been subtly implemented in school textbooks in Japan for well over 50 years either through songs or stories of Anglo salvationism.    They start to see Anglo favorably in the site of God, and not the lesser people like the slaves who endeared horrors unspeakable during the human trafficking and slave trade days.   The original teachings of Japanese ancestry where those of suicidal glory or death through sacrifice, has now been replaced by Anglo salvationism indirectly.    What were the reasons for the BOE to add this story in their high school textbooks?   What exactly is the lesson to be learned by Japanese students from this story?    Was it the story of Minako and her struggle or John Newtons?  Whose salvation?    Minako was not spared.    What did the students actually learn here?


N.B. Not all slaves were from African countries, some came from southern Europe and that is why I used the word human trafficking, too. 

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