Monthly Archives: April 2006

Model Japanese Entrepreneur in Cambodia

The Asahi Shimbun carried a story on 19 April about a model Japanese business entrepreneur in Cambodia.

SIEM REAP, Cambodia–Two years ago, a savvy Japanese tour guide saw her chance to fill a business niche here.

Sachiko Kojima opened a cookie factory. She was soon supplying foreign tourists from Japan and around the globe with souvenir confections from this northern Cambodia city, the gateway to the Angkor Wat Khmer ruins.

Her “Madam Sachiko” cookies, shaped like the ancient ruins, are now the must-buy souvenir for tourists visiting the city.

Kojima, 33, who grew up in Gunma Prefecture, runs her business with Japanese management finesse. But her company, Khmer Angkor Foods Co., procures all its ingredients from Cambodian suppliers. The factory includes a bakery, sales shop and head office….

In the shop and bakery, Kojima follows a Japanese business style. The shop’s interior is attractive and inviting. The factory is clean and sanitary. Her employees follow rules similar to workers in Japan: No sitting down and no eating or drinking while on duty in the shop.

Foreigners in Cambodia rarely start businesses outside of travel agencies and restaurants. Kojima had the choice of starting up as a non-governmental organization (NGO), which would have received tax breaks and other advantages.

However, she was determined to form a privately owned, for-profit company.

“I think the people here need to see examples of basic business ideas, such as how to make a profit and how to pay taxes,” she said.

via Colby Cosh

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Aussie Troops Back to the Solomons

Australian troops are heading back to the Solomon Islands to quell another outbreak of violence after the latest elections, the BBC reports.

Some 180 Australian soldiers and police have begun arriving in the country to try to impose order after a written request from the Solomons government. A smaller contingent of additional New Zealand peacekeepers are set to arrive on Thursday.

But the BBC’s Phil Mercer says there are concerns that the presence of more foreign troops could inflame the situation in the troubled city.

About 280 Australian police were already in the country as part of a regional force sent to restore peace in 2003, after violence stirred up by local warlords left hundreds dead and 20,000 displaced.

Wednesday’s rioting came after newly-elected MPs met in secret to elect a new prime minister.

‘Chinese connections’

Mr Rini, 56, beat off two main rivals in Tuesday’s secret ballot for the leadership – former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Job Dudley Tausinga, leader of the new Rural Advancement Party.

He is accused of being too closely linked to former Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza’s administration, which was tainted by corruption allegations.

As usual, the Head Heeb is already on the case.

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Japanese Straggler in Ukraine

BBC News reports on yet another long-lost Japanese soldier finding his way back to Japan.

A Japanese ex-soldier who disappeared after World War II and was officially declared dead in 2000 has turned up alive in Ukraine.

Ishinosuke Uwano [上野石之助] was serving with the Japanese Imperial Army in Russia’s Sakhalin Island when the war ended. He was last reported seen there in 1958.

The 83-year-old has now reappeared, in Ukraine, where he is married and has a family, Japanese officials say.

Mr Uwano is due to visit Japan for the first time in six decades on Wednesday.

He is expected to visit his surviving family members and friends in Iwate, 290 miles (467 km) northeast of Tokyo, with his son before returning to Ukraine on 28 April, the AFP news agency reported.

The family’s last reported sighting of him was on Sakhalin in 1958; after that they lost all contact with him.

He’ll arrive in Iwate just in time to see the cherry blossoms he has expressed a desire to see. Uwano has pretty much forgotten his Japanese, but speaks Russian quite fluently, it seems.

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Speaking German in Moscow, 1941

Vova must have been frightened, bearing a German name [Knipper] at this moment of pitiless struggle [as the Wehrmacht closed in on Moscow]. Daily bulletins from Informburo were attached to trees and walls. On one of them he was shaken to see an excerpt from a letter taken off the body of a German soldier called Hans Knipper. And a schoolfriend of his, a Volga German about to be transported to Siberia, came to see them in despair. Vova’s father, Vladimir, advised him to volunteer for the army to save himself from an exile of forced labour which would be as bad as the Gulag, but Vova’s friend replied that the description ‘German’ was stamped on his papers and they would not accept him in the army. Those of German origin were implicitly categorized as potential enemies of the state. The NKVD had not wasted time assembling records on every Soviet citizen of German descent, some 1.5 million people. Local NKVD departments ‘from Leningrad to the Far East’ began a programme of arrests immediately after the Wehrmacht invasion. Yet no member of the Knipper family was touched [presumably because Vova’s cousin Lev Knipper worked for the NKVD].

Other Germans in Moscow were also in a strange position, but for different reasons. In the same building as the Knippers lived the family of Friedrich Wolf, the famous German Communist playwright, who had left Germany soon after Hitler came to power in 1933. They were part of the so-called ‘Moscow emigration’ of foreign Communists seeking sanctuary and would have faced instant execution at Nazi hands if the city fell. Vova used to act a roof-top fire-watcher, ready to deal with incendiary bombs, along with Wolf’s two sons, Markus and Koni. Markus later became the chief of East German intelligence and the original of Karla in John Le Carré’s novels, and his younger brother, Koni, became a film-maker, writer and the president of East Germany’s academy of arts. During air raids, Vladimir Knipper and Friedrich Wolf sat in the cellar, chatting together in German. ‘People sitting around us,’ wrote Vova, ‘turned to look at the two of them with anger and fear. There they were in the centre of Moscow arguing about something in the enemy’s language.’

SOURCE: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova: The true story of a family torn apart by revolution and war, by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 2005), pp. 173-174

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Barber for the Lubyanka Night Shift, 1930s

Lev’s first cousin Vova Knipper had a friend who was a barber in the proezd Serova near the Lubyanka [during the Soviet Great Terror of the 1930s]. Most of his clients were NKVD officers. When the barber’s shop opened at eight in the morning, NKVD interrogators, in a nervous state with heavy stubble, turned up in either military uniform or civilian clothes. They wanted a shave and a face massage to freshen up after a hard night’s work beating confessions out of their prisoners. They asked for bloodstains to be daubed from their tunics and trousers with eau-de-Cologne. Some were so exhausted that they would fall asleep in the chair, and the barber found it hard to wake them up afterwards. But those who stayed awake talked compulsively about their work. The hairdresser warned Vova about the need to keep his mouth shut at all times. ‘We’re in a trap,’ he warned.

SOURCE: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova: The true story of a family torn apart by revolution and war, by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 2005), p. 148

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Mound Tombs in Northern Japan

Before spending time in Ashikaga, I had not been aware how widespread in Japan were the mound tombs known as 古墳 kofun lit. ‘ancient grave’. When we walked over to Ashikaga Park to see the cherry blossoms there two weeks ago, we found that the hillside park includes 12 kofun, two of which have small, blocked-off, stone passageways facing east. (You would enter facing west.) I had always associated kofun with western Japan, where the largest imperial tombs were built, but an article on the Kofun Period (A.D. 300–700) by Sophia University archaeology professor Charles T. Keally set me straight.

  • The first excavation of a mound tomb in Japan was conducted my Mito (Tokugawa) Mitsukuni in 1692, the 5th year of the Genroku era. Mitsukuni (1628-1701) was the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The tomb he excavated is called the Samuraizuka Kofun, located in Ohtawara City, Tochigi Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. This excavation is considered the first academic, or scientific, excavation conducted in Japan.

The origins of the Kofun Period mound tombs is clearly in the Yayoi Period, although ultimately continental influence might well be a factor, too. The most common Yayoi burials were in the ground in a square area delimited by a ditch or moat. The burial in the middle had a low mound over it. Toward the end of Yayoi, some of these ditches or moats became round. With higher mounds, these were the most common kofun tomb in the Kofun Period, but the burial was on top of the mound instead of under it. The square mounds, too, continued from Yayoi into Kofun, but these later ones also had the burial in the top of the mound instead of under it.

The most distinctive mounds of the Kofun Period are the keyhole-shaped mounds, thought to be associated with the Imperial Family. This shape is uniquely Japanese and its origins are unknown. But Korean archaeologists recently have identified a few contemporary mound tombs in southeastern Korea that they say are also keyhole-shaped. Some people try to use these recent Korean finds to argue for a Korean origin of the keyhole-shaped mound tombs. But this fails to explain why this shape is rare in Korea and only recently recognized there through excavation, whereas this shape is common in Japan, obvious without excavation, and has been known for centuries….

Mound tombs, especially the larger ones, tend to be located in clearly defined regions. Mound tombs are common in Kyushu only in the northwest, especially in the Chikugo River plain in Saga and southern Fukuoka prefectures. There is another such concentration of tombs in the eastern part of the Inland Sea in Okayama Prefecture on Honshu island and just across the water in Kagawa and Tokushima prefectures on Shikoku island. Similar concentrations are found in eastern Shimane Prefecture from Izumo to Matsue City on the Sea of Japan, in Nara and Kyoto prefectures, along the shores of Ise Bay from Nagoya to Ise, in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea of Japan, on the Kanto Plain in eastern Japan (especially in North Kanto), and on the Sendai Plain in northern Japan. There are smaller concentrations of tombs in Shizuoka Prefecture, and in the intermontane basins around Nagano, Yamagata and Kofu cities.

Archaeologists identify these concentrations with regional power centers, and they identify small clusters of tombs within these concentrations with the various clans known from later documents. In the north, keyhole-shaped mounds appeared in the Sendai Plain as early as the 5th century; the northern-most such tomb is in southern Iwate Prefecture. But most tombs in the northern regions are later. This northern region was the frontier with the Emishi barbarians who lived in northern Tohoku. Keyhole-shaped mound tombs are extremely rare in southern Kyushu, the home of the Hayato barbarians.

Ashikaga has always struck me as a city of Old Money, but I never thought it went back quite that far.

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Wordcatcher Tales: Udo no Taiboku

うどの大木 udo no taiboku ‘all hat, no cattle’ – We tried out a new restaurant in Ashikaga the other night, after a long circuit to view the many lovely shidare-zakura ‘weeping cherry trees’ that line a long, curving, landscaped ditch that borders the city’s huge civic center athletic complex.

The seafood restaurant Yanagi-ya [柳屋 ‘willow shop’] turned out to be a haven for Hanshin Tiger and sumo fans in the area. It caught my eye last month when it advertised the sumo wrestler’s special chanko nabe on the first day of the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament. Unfortunately, the chanko nabe season is over now that the weather has started to get warmer, but the various dishes we ordered were all nicely presented, and tasty to boot. Each glass of sake had the name of a sumo wrestler on it.

At one point, the waitress brought over a complimentary dish of tempura vegetables that looked like celery tops, but tasted less bitter than celery, more like asparagus. She identified it as うど, which my electronic dictionary identified only as ‘an udo (a plant of the ginseng family cultivated for its edible shoots)’. The University of Virginia Library’s Japanese Haiku Topical Dictionary page for spring plants is more helpful.

独活 【うど】 udo, udo [a wild asparagus-like plant, Aralia cordata, sometimes cultivated and noted for its edible young shoots] (late spring).
山独活 【やまうど】 yamaudo, mountain udo [a wild variety, noted for its pungency]
深山独活 【みやまうど】 miyama-udo, high-mountain udo [Aralia glabra, rare]
芽独活 【めうど】 meudo, sprouting udo / udo shoots

The Anime Companion Supplement U offers a different context.

udo うど or 独活 Aralia cordata. The leaves and stalks of this plant are eaten either raw or cooked. The flavor is similar to asparagus. The cultivated type is grown in the dark to blanch it. Wild udo is used in sansai ryôri (mountain vegetable cooking), as the flavor is stronger it must be blanched before it is used in dishes.
Udo salad is one of the foods cherry mentions in the Urusei Yatsura TV series (Episode 36 story 59)
Maho buys udo from Tachikawa in MahoRomatic (ep.3) and pickles it.

Wikipedia includes udo in its surprisingly long list of English words of Japanese origin, defining it as ‘an edible plant found on the slopes of wooded embankments, also known as the Japanese Spikenard’.

Well, “Japanese spikenard” is not likely to be any more intelligible to most English speakers than the term “udo” itself, but here’s a derivative expression that has more familiar English parallels: うどの大木 udo no taiboku lit. ‘huge tree of udo’. (I had expected the pronunciation for 大木 to be daimoku but it seems to be taiboku in all contexts.) The Hoita Kokoro Center in Canada explains its meaning:

Just big man with nothing (lit. A huge udo tree) All bark and no bite or All hat and no cattle in English

Wikipedia explains further.

Despite its size, it is not a woody plant, as demonstrated in the popular saying Udo no taiboku (独活の大木), literally “great wood of udo”, meaning roughly useless as udo has a very soft stem.

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