Wednesday 27 March 2013

Booked for Japan

Hi folks,
I'm going to appear briefly on NHK World, NHK's international broadcasing service, in a programme called 'Booked for Japan' this coming Saturday, 30th March.  The programme goes out four times over 24 hours at 6 hourly intervals. As well as TV, there's live streaming on the internet.
Here are the details:
About 'Booked for Japan'
NHK World Live Stream
It's a great honour to be on this programme which usually features household names - a famous singer, Kabuki actor, astrophysicist - though to be fair the main focus is Genyu Sokyu, the Zen Buddhist priest I've mentioned before. He won the most prestigious literary prize in Japan, the Akutagawa prize, in 2001 for his novel Chuin no Hana which is about that nebulous time between dying and going to heaven. The wife of a priest obsessively makes decorations out of paper and hauls them up into the roof of the temple. As the priest and his wife pray, somehow, at some moment, someone - it's not clear whether it's the old lady who died at the beginning of the story, or their miscarried child - becomes a Buddha. It's very atmospheric, almost a ghost story.

Genyu came to prominence in the Fukushima saga when he sat on The Reconstruction Design Council which was formed straight after the disaster to come up with a vision for the future. People were still in a daze but the committee, under the leadership of Professor Iokibe, did, very eloquently, form a consensus that the whole nation should bear the taxes to pay for reconstruction, and came up with plans including building houses on higher ground and creating special economic zones which, after endless delays, are only now being translated into action. 

Since the disaster Genyu has published many books and has been a voice of reason, common sense and consolation. I always listen to his 5 minute spot on Wednesday mornings on Radio Fukushima (podcast available). His new novel is Ogami-mushi Praying Mantis. He also speaks excellent English.

The programme is fronted by Robert Campbell, professor of Japanese literature at Tokyo University and a familiar face on Japanese television. You'll be treated to the sight of him and me speaking in Japanese. Though in all honesty it didn't feel at all odd! He's a very learned man. Genyu says on his home page that when Prof. Campbell visited the temple, he read, with the greatest of ease, Zen writings which most Japanese would have difficulty deciphering.

The programme hangs on a peg, the 'Book' in the title. I don't know if it'll be shown but I chose 'Middlemarch' by George Eliot. I chose the closing words of the book and Robert had some really interesting insights. For me, this was the highlight of the filming. They also did some filming on the factory floor of Tohoku Kogyo, the box company of which I'm Chairman, which I hope they will show.

Also on the programme is Fujita Koshi who you may remember is the farmer whose speech I translated before he went to London in July at the time of the Olympics. He's an eighth generation farmer, a Vegetable Sommelier no less, and goes everywhere to promote his produce. He's also turning into a spokesperson for agriculture in these  parts.
Anyway, catch it if you can.


  1. Watching you on TV right now! :)

    Greetings from Singapore.

    Warm Regards,

  2. watching right now

    regards from the Philippines

  3. Caught the show and it was good to see you. Minneapolis MN USA

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It was great to get those messages coming in!