Spreading warmth in a cheerless fiscal season
Here is a verse from the poem "Kurisumasu o Iwau" (Celebrating Christmas) by a Christian poet: "Let us warm each other/ Let us make each other happy/ No matter how hard life is/ For once on this day/ We think of nothing else."
At this time of year, people reflect on the past while making merry, mixing cheerful and solemn moods. Without one or the other, the New Year holiday season wouldn't feel right.
Such thoughts bring to mind the winter of 1988-1989, when the Showa Era made way for the Heisei Era. The atmosphere that spread across the archipelago from the capital where Emperor Hirohito (posthumously known as Emperor Showa) lay on his deathbed was a heavy one. The streets were strangely quiet, as people refrained from celebrating the New Year with dance and music.
This year, unlike 20 years ago, not only Japan but also many other nations are sunk in lethargy. Yet, on the Emperor's Birthday holiday of Dec. 23, Tokyo was blessed with fine weather, seemingly to combat the stagnant atmosphere.
Emperor Akihito, who just turned 75, concluded his official statement issued in place of his usual news conference with these words: "I sincerely hope that everyone will work together to overcome these latest difficulties by cherishing mutual ties and helping each other."
On the same day, Tokyo Tower also celebrated its 50th anniversary. The official commemorative promotional song goes: "(Tokyo Tower) always stands there/ Watching thousands of stories unfold/ And continues to shed light." Today, this symbol of Japan's rapid postwar economic growth must be viewing thousands of scenes of poverty and financial difficulty.
Many businesspeople must be in shock to hear that even Toyota Motor Corp. is in the red.
Yet, politicians and the government bureaucracy are slow to act even as companies formulate plans to ax jobs.
Despite the hard rain pouring down, the government's leaky job security roof over our heads seems to do little to keep workers dry. Until the government takes action, we will all need to warmly share our umbrellas with others who are soaked in the downpour.
A seasonal haiku goes: "Jingle bells/ The music plays for rich and poor alike." Seasons pass equally for everyone, but sometimes they are incredibly cruel.
People having no one to turn to, fears of isolation and despair about tomorrow have begun to spread. Society's tolerance of such anxieties is about to be tested.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24(IHT/Asahi: December 26,2008)