Art of Ninja


I have a 12 year younger sister. When she was very small, I asked “What is your brother like?” She lisped “You like to eat tofu.” I know she was not wrong. Indeed, I like tofu even now, but her answer was far from what I expected at that time. Feeling disappointed, I thought by myself who I was, and realized it was very difficult to define myself. For the same reason, most people can’t see their own countries and cultures, but multi-lingual speakers are better at it because language creates culture, and vice versa. Today, let me share cultural differences and Japanese uniqueness found especially by a Japanese-English speaker.

When working as a translator, onomatopée was always headache. Japanese language is said to have the largest number of onomatopée in the world. Making matters worse, there’s onomatopée to express even silence, though I know the sentence is logically inconsistent. It seems we Japanese can hear the sound of silence. There’s another example to show our uniqueness in a sense of sound. A Japanese professor visited Cuba for a medical conference. When someone threw a presentation, he couldn’t focus because the sound of insects was too loud. He got interested and asked a man sitting next to him about the insects, but the man answered he didn’t hear anything.

The professor became more curious, started studying his experience once coming back from Cuba, and found only Japanese and Polynesian people perceived the sound of insects as language in the left hemisphere. On the other than hand, the sound of insects is perceived as a sound in the right hemisphere by the other people, and they subconsciously cut off such a continuous sound as noise. This is the reason why the man sitting next to the professor didn’t even notice the sound of insects. His further study reveals that the difference is caused not by race but by language, and that this unique ability inheres in anyone grown up in Japanese-speaking environments as a mother tongue. The article didn’t explain how Japanese language worked, but I hit upon the idea that we, Japanese furniture manufacturers, may be able to hear better the voice of trees as well.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


Photo Credit: https://kokoro-jp.com/culture/1293/


The Shoulders of Giants


Hokkaido, this northernmost island of Japan, is getting deserted. In rural areas (Hokkaido itself can be said a rural area in Japan, though), you can see abandoned and collapsing houses everywhere. Houses with a roof and walls deformed by the weight of snow, like ones in Tim Burton’s movies; rusty bicycles, snow shovels, etc. a part of which are seen in the grass around the house. They are returning to the earth. Generally, such sceneries may just look sad, but (as writing before) I personally like to see them because they remind me of the fact that we are also a part of nature. At the same time, I’ve been interested in the differences that separate things passed down to the next generation from the others.

I once attributed the differences to the features or characteristics of things, but the words of a museum curator that I found in an article gave me a good awareness. He said “There’s no high and low in things. In order to study a specific period of history, important are things made and used at that time. Once we lose things, we can never take them back, and will even forget the fact that they existed. It’s too big a responsibility for one generation to decide which thing should stand the test of time. I want to keep as many things as possible to the next generation.”

Splinter series by nendo and Conde House

I think many people believe whether things are saved or not is the result of the test of time, and that things worth saving are saved anyway, but it seems most of them are just arbitrarily selected and happen to be preserved by some enthusiasts. As the curator said, things brought in the museum are only a part of many things equally valuable. Once, there were many wooden furniture manufacturers everywhere in Hokkaido, the area of rich forests, but more than half of them are gone now. I come to think our struggles to survive in the market have more meaning than business continuity, remembering we are just dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


Photo Credit: https://places.branipick.com/abandoned-house-in-hokkaido/