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Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away

Dendritic fireworks

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

                           From Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson

Mr. Hiroaki Koide
I sent the link to my most recent post to Mr. Hiroaki Koide, who had just reached the mandatory retirement age this past March as an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute.

In his reply mail, Mr. Koide said, "The more I learn about the reality facing the Okinawans, the more I feel ashamed of being a mainlander."

He added to this effect: "To this mail I attach my recently published essays in which I draw a parallel between the Japanese who failed to bring the Emperor to justice for his war crime and their descendants who have once again let 'the Nuclear Mafia' go unpunished for the Fukushima disaster."

Mr. Koide concluded one of his essays by describing his frame of mind like this: "Like it or not, every creature is destined to grow old and die. The mandatory retirement age is just one of the milestones along the way. With this in mind I will be fading away little by little. Throughout my career I have chosen to do what anyone else doesn't or can't. But from now on I'll be even choosier about what to do, and keep looking for what I can."

His writing deeply resonated with me. But at the same time, it reminded me of a letter I wrote to the editor of The Japan Times nineteen years ago when my retirement age was drawing near.

Among other things I found a 638-page book titled The Fountain of Age very helpful in understanding what exactly man's aging is.

Its author Betty Friedan wrote that as neurological and gerontological studies had revealed in recent years, people over 65 demonstrated an almost limitless potential to grow if they were exposed to stimulating real life, instead of segregated into nursing homes or the like. (See NOTE.) She added longitudinal studies showed they tended to outperform younger people when measured in terms of ability for "contextual thinking," rather than abstract thinking. Friedan quoted neuroscientist Arnold Scheibel as describing the spectacular dendrites' projections which can be seen even when an aged person is learning new things as dendritic fireworks.

NOTE: Actually my question was always "what if not," not "what if," because in reality we were always segregated. But I think now I know the answer.

I was especially impressed by her explanation about the historical origin of the mandatory retirement age. According to the author, the world's first rule on retirement was laid down by Otto von Bismarck of the Second Reich. The Prussian leader demanded every government employee retire at the age of 65 when life expectancy at birth was a mere 37 in his country.

Although Bismarck's decision may have been more or less arbitrary, I thought it shouldn't be ruled out that in theory the following arithmetic notation could hold true given the average lifespan of the Japanese which stood at 74-5 at that time.


This prompted me to write a letter to the editor of The Japan Times to suggest the mandatory retirement age be raised to 130 across the board if ever these ageists couldn't live without one. Needless to say, I wasn't talking about the retirement age of government employees. As a taxpayer, I would have said it should be lowered to 13 because that's where the brains of millions of these parasites at public offices stop growing.


Everybody thought it was a tasteless joke. Admittedly I was playing devil's advocate. Yet I was damn serious and still remain so 19 years later.

Japan is an eerie nation-state in that it was not created by any human being. That means there wasn't any founding principle that would have been used to bring the nation, i.e. the people, and the state, i.e. the system, together. The nation and the state were one inseparable entity from the beginning.

The Japanese are taught the 17-Article Constitution allegedly promulgated by a fictitious figure named Prince Shotoku in the 7th century was where they can find the principle, or at least its substitute. But there's no other way to interpret Article 1 of the Constitution, that supposedly stipulated harmony should be put before anything else, than to understand harmony should prevail over any principle.

The legal system was already there when the people found themselves inseparably incorporated in it.

This is why the Japanese always "think" it's the law that changes the people whereas it's the people that should change the law. In fact they have developed a tendency to constantly enact laws invariably modeled after legislation in the West in order to avoid changing themselves.

Take the Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1986 for example. Almost three decades have passed since it was enacted but practically nothing has changed.

Sexist bias (See NOTE) still remains a widespread practice, though a little less explicit now. Fortunately, some, if not many, Japanese women have fought the discrimination in an ingenious way. They have refused to get assimilated into the male-dominated society by neglecting the feminine duty as a "birthing machine." As a result the decline in Japan's fertility rate seems unstoppable now.

NOTE: I'm not advocating equality. Remember Japan is a principle-less country. Violation of what unprincipled Americans call human rights has never been really at issue here.

On the contrary, we don't see the slightest sign that biologically old men are defying the equally deep-rooted ageist bias. Apparently they are all determined to submit to the demand that they conform to the stereotypical profiles given to them.

As if in a self-fulfilling prophecy, they have stopped growing by confining themselves in actual or virtual nursing homes and playing the state-defined role of the senior citizen.

The official statistics puts the population over 65 at 31.9 million whereof 4.6 million are afflicted with senile dementia. Needless to say this is a gross underestimate simply because those who are compiling the statistics are already suffering from what I call "premature senility" themselves.

To make it even worse, this particular state has long withstood all the difficulties resulting from the lack of principles by defining itself as a mechanism of income redistribution. In a normal country, people conduct themselves on the principle of self-reliance. They do help one another as the necessity arises, but basically it's a voluntary and spontaneous act. But in Japan, it's always the state that extends a helping hand to the people who it unilaterally picks as beneficiaries of the benefits funded by taxpayers. As a result the people feel they are indebted to the government.

For one thing Japan's national pension programs are mostly contributory type. But in this sick nanny state, every pensioner feels he is nothing but a burden on the younger generations, who are actually suffering premature senility or juvenile dementia.

It's, therefore, no accident they forget that a society evolves only when mature people hand down to their children and grandchildren what they have experienced or witnessed firsthand as independent individuals.

It's true NHK and the like keep saying, day in, day out, that we should listen to the elderly before they are all dead so as not to weather away what they have experienced. But how can we expect someone to narrate un-sanitized, first-person singular, nonstandard accounts of how he lived the history when he feels he is nothing but a social nuisance? He "thinks" he owes the state much more than the state owes him.

In his lecture at Okinawa University, Mr. Hiroaki Koide confided to his audience that his lifetime role model is Shozo Tanaka. (See the picture on his desktop in the above photo.) It's quite understandable. But if it's not too irreverent to say something about the second career of the first-class scientist and seasoned activist like him, my humble advice would be that now it's his turn to be his own role model.

The good news for him is that unlike this blogger, Mr. Koide has a large audience of his followers. But the bad news is most of them don't seem to have the ability to really internalize what they have heard about Okinawa, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima. In all likelihood, they will repeat the same mistake we old generations have committed in the past, That is evident from the way they chant the all-too-familiar incantations like "No more Hiroshimas," "No more Fukushimas," etc.

Our generations know many things that they don't know.

We have known or even witnessed how people let Emperor Hirohito offer the strategically unimportant cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and densely-populated downtown Tokyo as sacrifices so Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman would refrain from decapitating the nation in a total departure from the textbook tactic. It's true the very heart of the capital was targeted. But records have it that thousands of bodies were piled up in Yuraku-cho Station of the Japan National Railways, while the Imperial Palace which is located just around the corner from the station was deliberately kept intact.

The same is true with the life of Hirohito. In 1947 he sold off Okinawa to the Unite States to reciprocate these favors.

I'm one of the remnants from the turbulent days of nationwide protest against the Security Treaty of 1960. Although something prohibited me from marching toward the Diet Building myself, I feel something still remains unsettled deep inside when I recall that then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, former Class-A war crimes suspect and the grandfather of Shinzo Abe, signed the treaty amid the anti-treaty outcry. In 2007 then New York Times reporter Tim Weiner revealed that Kishi was an undercover agent of the CIA disguised as Japan's Prime Minister at that time. A small group of citizens was going to file a class action lawsuit to have the treaty repealed. But their appeal was instantly turned down by the authority.

Of course Mr. Koide is much better off than I in telling the young people of the crime the Nuclear Mafia has committed in the past, and will be committing in the future. And I think he is "old" enough to know there's no reason to believe we can expect a different outcome from repeating the same traditional approach to these issues over and over again.

Equally important, now he can express himself more freely to political racketeers and media rogues because he is no longer shackled by the National Public Service Act.


On Monday Lara, Chen Tien-shi gave an awesome lecture to a class of dozens of local citizens at a nearby Chinese school. At the end of her presentation about the changing patterns of massive migration of Chinese, which she terms "Huaqiao diaspora," I asked her this question: "Why do you think there's no Japanese diaspora taking place? Today we can see ethnic Japanese everywhere in the world." Lara carefully avoided answering my question directly. Instead she said, "Actually one of my postgraduate students at Waseda University has recently submitted a paper in which he (or she?) discussed the worldwide dispersion of Japanese from that angle. But I'm still in the middle of reviewing that paper."

Someone in the class who looked to be in his 60s expressed his opinion. He said, "When addressing this issue, we've got to take a look at two factors, PUSH and PULL. In my opinion we ordinary Japanese haven't felt pushed because the Japanese polity has never been as unstable as in China. You never lose your fortune, social status or human network overnight every time the regime changes."

Obviously he was oversimplifying what this particular nation-state is really like when he suggested there is a seamless continuity as if it's a going concern. I doubt the validity of his utopian assumption. Yet I think he had a very good point. ·

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Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away | 3 comments | Create New Account
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Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away
Authored by: samwidge on Thursday, April 23 2015 @ 06:40 PM JST

You mentioned that Koide concluded one of his essays by describing his frame of mind ...: "Like it or not, every creature is destined to grow old and die."

Nice point but it seems to me that we should always remind that us old people have one important thing that the young cannot provide; We have the time to seriously wonder about what may be best for society. Obviously, every society can do better than it does. Unfortunately, young people must work hard just to support their families. If any society actually will do better it will be because old people like you and me made suggestions and requested that those suggestions be implemented.

You said, "But how can we expect someone who feels he owes the state much more than he can possibly repay by the time his life as a mere social nuisance comes to an end?" That's a nice sentiment but each of us has to remind ourselves that we continue to contribute to what society is. There will always be somebody demanding money from each of us and there always be decisions to make about whether or not it is possible or reasonable to pay. Feelings of guilt help nobody!

As to your thoughts on equality of the sexes, I can offer a third opinion; Anyone can be a boss. Not just anyone can be a lower-level worker.

Being a boss is a nice contribution but bossing is not nearly so valuable as being a worker and providing good products. In my span as both a worker and as a boss I met many women who thought that they should run companies without being workers for those companies. They refused the vast array of required learning experiences given only to those who will do hard physical work.

Those women's reasoning was that direct, hard, physical work was not good enough for them. The reality is that much of real, productive work damages the human body. Regardless of our bigotries we must concede that hard work must go to those bodies that respond reasonably well to it. Strong bodies tend to be male and when strong workers succeed at the hard work they tend to be held in those positions because there are few replacements.

Equal pay for equal work is definitely not the simple issue that activists claim.

Where women respond well to hard physical work, they tend to be retained in those positions because they are needed and replacements are hard to find.

These facts make it difficult for the rest of us to believe that women are treated unfairly. We would like to hear better reasoning.

These points do not serve in every example but they certainly exist in many. Here is an article I wrote for "Northwest Mining and Timber Magazine"; Readers seem to agree with my premise.

Elsewhere; I understand how resentful you are about the nuclear blasts at the end of the war. Indeed there might have been an easier way to handle the problems at the time. I can tell you also that things were very bad for our people at the time. We were very afraid that we would all be enslaved or murdered if we lost the war. It was a desperate and unreasoning time. In our circumstances you might have behaved as our people did.

It seems to me that the right thing to do is to go on from here. Japan is not doing at all badly in that regard.
Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Friday, April 24 2015 @ 04:50 AM JST

Just a couple of things to set the record straight.

You say, "I understand how resentful you are about the nuclear blasts." But as every American does, you take me wrong. As I've repeatedly said, I'm not resentful about the blasts. Neither am I resentful about Truman just because he ordered it. It hasn't affected my life in any way.

I'm resentful about the Emperor for asking Truman on his knees to detonate Little Boy and Fat Man over the two strategically unimportant cities in total departure from the textbook tactic of decapitation. This has really affected my life and still it does.

Also you take the fact wrong. You say, "We were very afraid that we would all be enslaved or murdered if we lost the war." But that can't be true.

Just take this song for example. It was first released by Columbia in November 1943 and nominated for 1945 Oscar for Best Music. Despite its cheap sentimentalism, I loved this tune very much. There are some reasons, one of which is because Sinatra sang it a cappella. Were studio musicians all too busy to defend their homeland against the possible invasion by the Japanese troops?

No, that wasn't the case. They were all on strike for a pay raise while Sinatra was crooning the lovely tune.

I don't know why you guys are so enthusiastic about rewriting history. But that's your business, not mine.

Mr. Koide, you'll never be an old soldier; it's always too early to start to think about fading away
Authored by: Y.Yamamoto on Friday, April 24 2015 @ 06:41 AM JST

I said it's not my concern no matter how you rewrite the history of your country. But please don't rewrite the history of Japan. For better or for worse it's my country.