SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • YEH Wenchang “Japanese sake and Taiwan Shaoxing rice wine”

    I was told by SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association) in 2018: How about having the Japan-Taiwan Forum (we had the Forum in Taiwan in the past) in Shimane Prefecture in Japan this time? I thought it was all right first if the forum would be in my field. However, SGRA asked me if the forum theme would be understandable for predominantly liberal arts (not STEM) members. (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) They are asking me “about the integration of “liberal arts and STEM””. STEM people are asked to understand liberal arts people under “cultured”. A lot of liberal arts people, on the other hand, do not try to understand STEM’s words. Is it strange?   As it cannot be helped, I tried to think of any theme that everybody could enjoy. Key words are ‘Shimane’ and ‘Taiwan’, ‘integration of liberal arts and STEM’ and ‘craftsmanship’, which I can enjoy. Shimane Prefecture is proud of ‘Tatara ironmaking’ and ‘Japanese sake’. When I got a job at Shimane University, I read “Satetu no Michi” (The Way of Iron Sand) by Ryotaro Shiba, paying honor to the craftsmanship of Shimane. I have tried to enjoy Japanese sake.    And I found ‘Sake’ can integrate liberal arts and STEM. Then, how about Taiwan? There is old sake, as a recent trend in Japanese sake. Japanese sake, which features freshness, is matured for several years, and when I tried sake, I found similar factors with Shaoxing rice wine. That is to say, its main raw material is glutinous rice. And I decided the theme of the forum to be “Japanese sake and Taiwan Shaoxing rice wine”.     It is said that ancient Chinese poets, Li Bai and Du Fu, advanced their intellectual creation for sake. In Matsue City (in Shimane Prefecture), Chinese poetry has been flourishing since the Edo period. I invited a lecturer who can speak about Chinese poetry in Matsue from the Edo to the Meiji period in order to understand it multidimensionally, hoping the intellectual creation of audiences will flourish.    The ingredient of sake is alcohol. In order to get alcohol, it is necessary for sugar to ferment yeast. In the case of wine, the sugar of the grapes is fermented by yeast. On the other hand, as rice is starch and does not contain sugar, we cannot make alcohol with yeast. So, it is necessary to change sugar from starch. There is ‘kuchi-kami sake’ all over the world from a long time ago. It is a liquor made by chewing with one’s mouth. It means human saliva saccharify enzyme. However, in the case of Japanese sake and Shaoxing rice wine, saccharification is made by yeast. We call it ‘multiple parallel fermentation’ in which starch, koji(mold) and yeast are mixed. Why do we call it multiple fermentation? I think it is fermentation in a broad sense, because its saccharification is due to microorganisms. In short, both Japanese sake and Shaoxing rice wine are fermented parallelly and multiply from rice.   I had several tours of Japanese sake breweries. The fermentation room is the most important point in sake breweries, and it is built of hinoki (Japanese cypress). Why do they use hinoki, not stainless? It is said that, in order to make ferment, they take advantage of the normal bacterial flora of hinoki. It is the same idea with the Japanese secret sauce of eel restaurants or Taiwanese Lo bah png (minced pork rice). I could have an expert say “It’s great that a pan is not washed for a hundred years. And foods that are cooked using such frying pans would be good.”   Do first-class chefs leave their taste of dishes to the dices of gods? It cannot be right. Do factory workers in cutting-edge technological semiconductor factories not clean room saying gods dwell in the rooms? No! It cannot be right. If I tell those two fables to sake drinkers, I will be accused. I am not criticizing hinoki rooms or secret sauce. Tradition is important. I think it is unnecessary to change such a tradition if they make foods nicely and profitably. However, I feel a sense of romance in craftsmanship that does not rely on gods. They aim for a taste by trusting a mix of bacteria, like 1+2=3, not entrusting it to gods. In the case of Japanese sake brewing, traditional predecessors have followed the rational and efficient path through the Edo period (‘kimoto’ yeast starter), the Meiji period (‘sokujyo’: quick fermentation), and after World War II (non-foaming yeast).   Then, how about Shaoxing rice wine? I visited Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL), where Shaoxing rice wine is produced for the preparation of the forum. Their process is very similar to that of Japanese sake by the reason that both factories adopt parallel and multiple fermentation system. It was surprising for me that fermentation room was made by Hforoki. They do not use the words ‘kimoto’, ‘shubo,’ and ‘moromi’, but, when I explain the meaning of those words, they could understand. Then, what is the difference between Japanese sake and Shaoxing rice wine? And what is the difference between Taiwan Shaoxing rice wine and Chinese rice wine? Taiwan Shaoxing brewery has been converted from Japanese sake brewery in Japan rule age by Chinese craftsmen of Shaoxing rice wine who came from China. Then, what is the difference between Taiwan Shaoxing wine and Chinese Shaoxing wine?   I do not reveal the answer here. Please come to the forum and find the answer by listening to the lecturers’ speeches and enjoying the differences in taste with your five senses.       SGRA Kawaraban 743 in Japanese (Original)     YEH Wenchang: Researcher of the SGRA Research Team (Environment and Energy), Professor of Shimane University (Physics and Engineering)     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English was checked by Sabina Koirala
  • XIE Zhihai “How to be together with ChatGPT?”

    ChatGPT (generative AI) became a topic in Japan this year. While we could not fully understand in Japan, it is said that in the U.S. where GPT was developed, their local government decided on its access control in schools. Some teachers have classes named “How to Use ChatGPT” to encourage using it proactively. In the academic world, ChatGPT is a threat. I am not so strong at the new functions of smartphones and home electrical appliances. But I am not in the position to ask students to teach me what ChatGPT is. Or rather, I must reconsider myself about school lessons, problems and countermeasures against tests. It is said that ChatGPT is a shock not only to academic fields, but to all ‘white colored peoples as well (Weekly magazine “Toyo Keizai”). AI can be accepted by not only professionals in the technology field and AI researchers but by everybody. In the year 2023, AI became familiar through ChatGPT. I think ChatGPT declared “You cannot turn back now”.   As we cannot be afraid of saying threatened or shocked, I tried to create my account. I registered my email address, name, date of birth, and cell phone number. And I put in my authorization code, which was sent to my cell phone. It means people who have cell phones can create an account. It was not so difficult, and I could open my account easily and use it now. It would be timesaving, if my ChatGPT could complete the essay undermentioned. But, as it was not so easy, I input my question, “I like to teach my university students important notes when they use ChatGPT.” Then, I got a brilliant reply in twenty seconds:   Please note following when university students use ChatGPT:   Confirmation of sources: As ChatGPT has no information before the year 2021, there is a possibility that we cannot give up-to-date information. As to important information, we recommend you confirm it from in reliable sources.   Protection of personal information: ChatGPT is not a tool to protect secret information. Please do not share personal or private information.     Perception of bias: As ChatGPT learns from training data, it is possible to be influenced by bias. When you judge information, it is important to keep your objective viewpoint and make your original research.     Time management: ChatGPT is very useful tool. But it is important to manage time properly. Do not depend on others too much and cultivate your own ability to solve problems yourself.   Critical thinking: Answers by ChatGPT are made by machines and are not always correct. You are requested to have a doubt and try to have critical thinking.   The above are important points about which university students should take care when they use ChatGPT. Keeping those points in mind, please take advantage of this tool.   I was surprised at how smooth and beautiful Japanese is! Those sentences look like the ones that human beings (of course, Japanese) studied and wrote hard, and they are different from the ones that AI made awkwardly. I was also surprised that those sentences were itemized so that everybody could understands them easily. I did not ask ‘itemized’. The most surprising point is the fifth advice, rather than the cautionary point. We are requested to have ‘critical thinking’, which we, as teachers, tell students to have in the classes. We are scared that ChatGPT will see through teachers’ techniques.       I got punched when I heard the opinion of Mr. Jensen Huang, CEO of NVIDIA, a major semiconductor maker in the U.S. At the keynote speech of the development conference, he said “Generative AI started ‘the iPhone moment’ of AI”. I am ashamed of having ignored his opinion first. But I can understand now. It is terrible to use AI too much on smartphone. But it is more terrible that you do not use it at all. It is generative AI, starting with ChatGPT.   The CEO of ‘OpenAI’, the original developer of ChatGPT, strongly urged regulation of AI at public hearing of the U.S. Federal Parliament. I do not know its meaning. As he recognizes its dangers and disadvantages most, the Government has started discussions with representatives of generative AI developers, and they are in the stage of developing concrete guidelines about the use of AI. Actually, Microsoft executives who offered ‘Bing’ (a search engine) said “We welcome the function of the Government and authorities concerned who offer AI safely to people”. It seems the Government and enterprises that develop AI are moving forward. How about in Japan? Weekly magazine Toyo Keizai summarizes their opinions in their special issue “Revolution of Work Hacks by ChatGPT” about the use policy in big companies saying that “Japanese companies are very cautious”. Big companies starting with Panasonic say, “We can use ChatGPT on the condition of our internal rules”. It is a good point about Japanese companies that they make internal rules and employees obey the rules.   How about in universities? The university where I am working follows the guidelines of the Ministry of Education. However, at the actual site of education, we cannot wait for it and have begun to consider generative AI. When I searched ‘Waseda University’ or ‘ChatGPT’ by Google, I could hit a page ‘About the Use of Generative AI’ on the university’s home page. It is a message to students and teachers. The message is easily understandable and explains how to use ChatGPT. It explains the strong and weak points of Generative AI, how to use it, and the reasons why we cannot use it.   I do not understand yet whether everybody can utilize Generative AI, which enterprises and schools can access easily, and utilize it on the condition that everybody can access it. When we began to use Twitter or LINE at first, everybody jumped on them, and then, problems appeared depending on how to use them. In the case of ChatGPT, a representative of the developing company himself appealed in public for regulations on how to use it. It means there is a possibility that “it may bring risks into society and human beings”.   When I used ChatGPT, I realized I should be cleverer than ChatGPT, which can manipulate words well like human beings. I think strongly that we should not rely on ChatGPT too much and should not be governed by it. At this moment, the ideal way for users who should be wiser than ChatGPT is mentioned in Toyo Keizai as mentioned above. “Let’s fear, know and use properly”. Generative AI is always being developed somewhere or everywhere in the world.     SGRA Kawaraban 742 in Japanese (Original)     XIE Zhihai/Professor of Kyoai Gakuen University.       Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala   
  • AHN Eun-byul “One day diary at my sickbed”

    I had an operation for uterine fibroid and polyp removal on March 17. As the operation was simple, it was one-day hospitalization. I put off the operation for a year because I could not care about it because I had a doctoral dissertation. However, I got a surprisingly big bleeding one day before submission of my doctoral dissertation and made a quick re-check and reservation for an operation.     Hospitalization in Japan was the first for me. I was hospitalized in South Korea ten years ago. So, I would like to compare hospitalization in Japan with that in South Korea in this essay. Korean university hospitals are something like busy complexes, and doctors and nurses seem to have lots to do and give only glances at patients. However, the hospital in the suburbs of Tokyo, where I was hospitalized this time, made me relax. I do not know why. They gave me their maximum attention despite their busy schedules. According to a Korean lady who has lived in Japan for more than twenty years, she was rejected to have an operation in Japanese hospitals and finally changed to a big hospital in Korea to have an operation. It is said that Korean hospitals weigh heavily on operations for the purpose of showing off their careers, and Japanese hospitals tend to avoid operations as much as possible. When we compare the clinical environment in Korea and Japan, we can find out their cultural tendencies: Korean hospitals value operations, while Japanese hospitals value care and nursing.   When I answered a medical questionnaire, I noticed a big difference between the usual medical checkup and ‘the assumed physical condition of the patient’. When I answered a medical questionnaire that asked me about my clinical history, usual pains and prosthesis, if any, I could imagine the daily life of elderly people and their speed a little. How are medical questionnaires used in other areas?   Since I started my study at graduate school in Japan, it has become my habit to observe everything through my ‘cultural comparison lens’ and contemplate the next research theme, though I could not reach any effective thinking. The meaning of ‘difference’ in experience between this time and ten years before was personal, and it may come from differences in disease and operation method. Or my memory might fade away because ten years have already passed. Such experiences as the operation and hospitalization I had as ‘different things’, may become important mental food for my future life. What kind of memory shall I keep? How do you imagine such memories? Such thinking will have ‘the power’ to make my experience.   The most memorable thing is waking up from the anesthetics. Ten years ago, when I woke up from the anesthetic, I was brought to the recovery room and left alone for thirty minutes, and I felt horribleness and the cold in the recovery room. Such feelings might make me hesitate to get an operation. However, I was moved to ‘my’ sickroom (my personal place) after the operation and could be relaxed this time. I had a mysterious and foggy happy feeling, which was confused with a daydream that I wanted to read any books when I sat up. I thought it unnecessary to be afraid of ‘general anesthetics’ hereafter.   Though the operation finished at noon, I did not take a nap, worrying about sleepless nights. I kept reading books or looking video on YouTube in the afternoon. I read a book called ‘Think/Classify Sociology in Daily Life’ (by Georges Perec). In this book, he classifies ‘reading (action)’ in connection with ‘human Body’ and ‘surroundings(circumstances)’ in ‘Reading: A Social and Psychological Sketch’. As to ‘surroundings’, he classifies ‘time (while waiting for something)’, ‘means of transport’ and ‘others (like hospitalization)’. However, I think those factors are connected. It is ‘the time during which we wait for night’ or ‘the long flight time that has physical non-movement’. It is a long flight (from passage to recovery) toward the destination (discharge). I initially mistook it for ‘reading’. I had a feeling very often that I did not like to get off, even when I took a short flight or ride. The expression that processes are more important than purposes is not only an example of metaphor.   When I was in the hospital, I read the book “Wake Up! You, a freshman!” written by the late Kenzaburo Ooe. ‘Mr. H’, who is fighting diseases, said to ‘I’, ‘in the process of our lives, you may hurt others, or you may be hurt by others. And you may try to quit during your lifetime. However, those questions cannot be settled during your lifetime. You will end up being allowed by the others whom you have hurt. Of course, you allow the others. There will be no choice.’   In this novel, ‘I’ who have a handicapped son, read and rely on a poem written by William Blake, an English poet, to overcome the fear of living his life. ‘My’ fear is that my son will live alone after my death. For ‘myself’, not only reading but also writing a novel is an itinerary for ‘overcoming’. Of course, fears for living are not ‘the slate that can be cleaned’. However, when you read ‘words’ which record the appearance of relying on ‘words’, you can step forward in your future with courage and hope.   The hospital ward is very quiet, and I had to refrain from keyboard sounds. At midnight, I could hear the cry of a newborn baby. There is a stone monument in front of the hospital and the words of the Gospel John are engraved: “I am resurrection, and I am life”.      SGRA Kawaraban 741 in Japanese (Original)     AHN Eun-byul/ 2022 Raccoon, Doctoral Course at the University of Tokyo     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala                                                   
  • Chen Hongyu “What AI can do and cannot do”

    AI (artificial intelligence) is a word that Professor John McCarthy, a computer scientist and cognitive scientist, suggested in 1956. It is defined as “science and technology that can make intellectual machines, especially intellectual computer programs”. At present, research on AI has progressed, and definitions of AI differ depending on scientists and their fields. Automation and streamlining in various fields are facilitated by AI. For example, autonomous driving of automobiles, inspection of defective products, and detection of unauthorized entries on credit cards. Those technologies are fulfilled by the acquisition and study of large quantities of information through the recognition and reading of pictures and voices by computers. As we can use ChatGPT without any professional knowledge, it is now a worldwide topic. It can generate, summarize, and collect information through natural communication, conversation or sentences with other people automatically.   My research field is organic chemistry. As a new current in the development of chemical reactions, the utilization of machine learning and data science is drawing attention. At present, the development of an asymmetric catalyst that can control the three-dimensional chemistry of data science under the trials and errors of researchers is ranked as a challenge in organic synthesis. I have been working at my doctoral course on building and demonstrating methodologies that adopt machine learning to the system design of stereoscopic branched type asymmetric catalysts that supply complex molecules to green. I succeeded in the efficient development of a complicated but new catalyst system and could realize the convenience of AI.   On the other hand, many people began to worry that the development of AI will take away the work of human beings. At present, AI is specialized in specific issues, like the solution of simulated or mathematically modeled issues. However, when singularity (technical singular point: at the time of new AI, which is at the same level as the brains of human beings) will get near in the near future, AI will alternate what only human beings can do, and it is the big change in the living environment of human beings. It is likely that AI will be applied not only to simple tasks like cleaning and delivery, but also to professional fields like medical and financial services.   Then, in a technologically advanced period, what kind of AI works that cannot be alternated are there? In principle, when we reach ‘singularity’, computers can keep the same or higher-level knowledge with human beings. As computers can reduce work and human errors, we can realize cost reduction and efficiency improvements comparing with human beings. However, there is a possibility that such ‘no-mistake’ perfectness becomes a demerit. For example, take the case of kindergarten teachers. If we set up AI, AI will teach students knowledge or manners, and play with them. However, kindergarten period is important for students’ growth, and it is essential for their formation of characters and sociality that they know emotion and mistake mistakes that ‘human being teachers’ commit unconsciously. If we introduce ‘AI teachers’, it will be difficult for kindergarten students to obtain a suitable lifetime rhythm for their ages.   AI technologies are progressing rapidly. It may take a long time to reach ‘singularity’. But it is an important issue how human beings coexist with AI and complement each other’s.     SGRA Kawaraban 740 in Japanese (Original)     Chen-Hongyu, 2022 Raccoon, Researcher at Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.              Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala
  • CHO You Kyung “AI Music from Aesthetic Viewpoint”

    My research life started in 2008, when I encountered a study on “Aesthetics” in Japan. It is not easy to define “aesthetics” in short. If I would like to explain straight forward how human beings acknowledge ‘beautifulness’, and ‘sensibility’ at that moment. So, every deed done by human beings can be an object, and its scope is infinite. For such reasons, the center of discussion about ‘aesthetics’ would sometimes be ideology or art, depending on the time or country. As the definition of art is being diversified, as mentioned above, it is possible to make research like this essay. As an example, let’s study AI music from an aesthetic viewpoint.   If you put a lot of music into an AI system, it would make similar and new music by analyzing original data. For example, “AI Composer Emily Howell” composed by David Cope, can produce a lot of music in a short time based on the old composing style of Beethoven or Mahler. In the field of popular music, a research team led by Ahn Chang-Wook under the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Korea developed “AI Composer EvoM”, and various popular songs including K-pop. Against such AI music, regardless of academic or non-academic field, public opinion has shown its interest in such scientific and technological aspects of AI as its historic, scientific potential and commercial value. Moreover, such controversies have recently extended to the field of ‘post-humanism’ like social and ethical issues, and aesthetic and philosophical fields by environmental philosophers.   We can re-consider, from the relationship between AI music and human beings, “creativity” which is one of the main concepts of “aesthetic”. In the evaluation of AI music in classical music (western artistic music), it is criticized as poor tasting songs that imitate songs by great classical composers simply. When I listen to AI music, I think its quality is much inferior to ‘music by human beings’. However, such criticism may be caused by the creativity of ‘human music’, which has been controversial since the latter half of the18th century. At that time, the concept of ‘genius’ or ‘originality’ rose, and the composition using existing music, which has continued since the Middle Ages, was criticized.   Namely, borrowing behavior itself means no originality. For example, the citation technique of Gustav Mahler, composer of the post-romanticism era, was related to ‘Jewishness’ (negative meaning), and its originality was suspected. Such a tendency lasted until the modernism of the 1950s and 1960s. For composers and critics who asked for novelty, the use of adjusted music means ‘return to the past’, and quoting the behavior of existing music means ‘dirty music’.   Deliberation for ‘creativity’ in AI music may become the start of this issue. Against various aesthetic questions for AI music, like 1) What is creativity? 2) What is the function of a composer? 3) What is work? 4) How do listeners react? The answers would be the following: When you input information into AI, it is ‘human composers’ that select information, and, on the other hand, it is AI that creates new music. As David Cope mentioned above, even if ‘human composers’ collect, select, and input information, AI will produce unexpected results.   From the theory mentioned above, I can say that AI has ‘originality’. According to David Cope, it does not depend on human inspiration alone but arises from another factor like a machine. And ‘originality’ does not come from anything but the context that comes around ‘originality’. ‘Originality’ comes from the composition of works that other people have done. Furthermore, it must rely on the judgement, for or against, of other people who accept or reject the things that are aesthetic. We can find such insistence of Cope in the process of creation, not in the result of works of ‘originality’. Such discussion about the ‘originality’ of AI marks an important beginning for understanding the ‘originality’ of human beings. It gives us the big suggestion that we create something new from nothing, and we can review our attitude toward appreciation, which is bound by modern mythology.     SGRA Kawaraban 739 in Japanese (Original)     CHO You Kyung /2021 Raccoon, Postgraduate student at the University of Tokyo     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala       
  • Oksana KAKIN “Beautiful Nature in Japan – Healing Spots in Tokyo”

    I am writing a doctoral thesis now and feel mentally tired quite often. Even if I do not write a doctoral thesis, there are so many dreadful things in the world. There are various ways of healing. It is effective for me to go out to beautiful and calm nature spots that are not so congested. When I go to such places and breathe deeply, I can relax mentally and physically. I feel heartwarming and think “Let us work more and harder!”   I could finish my doctoral thesis because I went to such places once a week last year. So, I would like to introduce such healing spots from my experience.   Firstly, I recommend going to the Institute for Nature Study and the National Museum of Nature and Science in Shirokane (very close to Tokyo METRO station). It is not well known among international students and is different from other parks in Tokyo. It is a real forest, not a garden like Koishikawa Koraku-en Garden or Shinjuku Gyo-en (the National Garden). There are passes and bridges for taking a walk, and various plants are growing like forests. We can forget being in Tokyo because tall trees are standing to hide towns. We cannot enjoy such feelings without going to the mountains, which take three hours to reach. It is just a place where we can enjoy walking, forgetting our daily lives.   We can enjoy its beauty every season, but the time of the autumn leaves is the best. There are many gardens or temples that are famous for their autumn leaves, and the leaves of those trees are pruned so that they do not grow tall. However, the trees in the Institute of Nature Study are not pruned and there are a lot of tall autumn trees. I think it is the only place in Tokyo where we can enjoy tall, red autumn trees. If you would like to enjoy walking, I recommend you go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. You can enjoy modern architecture and history there, and the garden is very beautiful.     I recommend you secondarily to go to Sankeien in Yokohama. Minato-MIRAI and Yamashita-Park, both in Yokohama, are famous. But I will be tired more because those places are popular spots. Sankeien, however, is located in a quiet place, ten minutes by bus from Yamashita Park, and is not crowded. It was released by a businessperson named Hara Sankei in 1906, and it is very big and worth walking. It is very beautiful, especially when plum blossoms are fully bloomed. Harbor views of Tokyo Bay from Sankeien are good also. The most highlighted one is its buildings, which were relocated from Kyoto and Kamakura. All of them are valuable historically, and I recommend them to people who like to know Japanese architecture and history. You can see many luxurious houses around Sankeien and may be interested in modern architecture while taking strolls.   The last place that I recommend is the place where I would like you to go in cherry blossom season. Some people may dislike going to famous spots that are famous for their cherry blossoms because of their crowded conditions. But the cherry blossoms alongside the Shakujii-River is different. Its beauty is just the same as that of the Meguro-River. But the Shakujii-River side is not so crowded. The river is very long, but I recommend you take the course between Otonashi-Shinsui Park (Sound Nothingness Water Park) which is very near Oji-Station (Tokyo Metro), and Naka-Itabashi Station (Tobu-Tojyo Line). The park is strange or peculiar because this river was constructed using the old waterway of the Shakujii River. It is worth going only for this reason. When you walk along the river, you can enjoy cherry blossoms for five kilometers. As there are no Yatai (food stands) and few people like Meguro-River, you can enjoy cherry blossom while being relaxed. You will be healed fantastically if you walk while watching cherry blossoms and listening to your favorite music.      You may feel persistent stress every day. But let’s refresh and heal ourselves yourself by watching beautiful scenery.      SGRA Kawaraban 737 in Japanese (Original)     Oksana KAKIN / 2021 Raccoon     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala
  • XIE Zhihai “Vacant House Situation in Japan and China”

    I have “Problem Based Training Class” at my university. Students raise various social questions in English and try to find solutions. The vacant house situation is one of the issues which were taken up recently and I found this issue is not only for students who live in the provincial area, but mass media has taken up recently very often also.   Financial Times (electronic edition) reports in their “Japan’s Empty Villages Are a Warning for China” (October 30, 2022) that the number of vacant houses in Japan is increasing, and Chinese people are afraid that their real estate bubble would “Japanize”. However, I think there is no similarity in the vacant house situation in Japan and China. Then, how does China study from Japan? I did not have any special awareness of this article at that time. But the vacant house problems in both countries have made me uneasy now.     The reasons why it became vacant in Japan, are: There is no person to live with after old residents passed, away and being almost untouched condition. Now I notice such houses between my house and the nearest station in the same situation. I can say such an area is a vacant zone.   In China, an image of vacant houses is the one that has no residents despite being built for speculative investment purposes in high-rise building areas. There is no difference in the meaning of the words “vacant house” in Japan and China. But the origins of the words “vacant house” are quite different. I have distinguished these the words “vacant house” in Japan and China in this way.    There are so many “no occupancy” high-rise apartments in China and such areas are called “鬼城”(ghost town). Many people in Japan know these words. However, in Japan, the words “ghost town” mean a trace of the place where people have lived, and residents have disappeared. Of course, some residential areas have a few vacant houses, and some areas are called ghost towns when all residents disappear. The number of statics (every five years) by the Ministry of Public Affairs for vacant houses shows 13.6% in 2018 and this figure reached a record high in these 20 years.   I realized now that vacant houses mean just the same for non-Japanese and non-Chinese. A vacant house is a vacant house. According to Financial Times, the Japanese economy are keeping continue without any economic recovery after the collapse of the real estate bubble in the 1980s, and the FT worries about the present excessive investment in housing projects in China. Yes, if we will go back to the Japanese Bubble Period, we might be able to find similarities in the vacant house situations in China.   The FT warns further that if the real estate market in China would continue in such a present situation, they may repeat the same failure as the collapse of the real estate bubble in Japan. The reason why the population of China began to decrease. In Japan, the population has begun to decrease already and there are a lot of elderly. The increase in vacant houses is one of the reasons and there exists an inheritance problem also. If they cannot clean up their inheritance problems, they must keep their houses to be vacant. Such vacant houses cause the deterioration of public security and delay in urban development.   Now real estate problems include a wide range of issues both in China and Japan. Then, what does China learn from Japan? The excessive debt problem of China Evergrande Group (CEG) is still fresh in our minds. And excessive financing to real estate prices and soaring prices of real estate became distinct. Those situations are very similar to the collapse of the real estate bubble in Japan. After the regulation of CEG, we saw a lot of companies suffer from cash flow or are burdened with their debts. People who purchased real estate from CEG began to distrust CEG and cancel their contracts. Social confusion spread among ordinal citizens. Mr. Shin-ichi Seki, Head Researcher of JRI (The Japan Research Institute, Ltd.) says “China has already learned from Japan”. Weekly Magazine “Economist,” says also “China has made interest rate reduction and deregulation of financing to real estate companies already”. (September 13, 2022) I hope matters would not become worse.   Real estate is considered precious property both in Japan and China. (Of course, such thinking is not limited to Japan and China only.) As I feel strongly that people in both countries believe building houses revitalize their economy. In Japan, we see the news about depopulation, declining birthrate, or aging society almost every day. However, in such a situation, houses are being built new every day. It is not an exaggeration. According to the data from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the number of housings starting in 2022 increased by 0.4% from the previous year. We can say China is not an aging society. But the population began to decrease last year for the first time.  I hope both countries should reconsider comprehensively the balance between the population forecast and the supply of new housings.     SGRA Kawaraban 736 in Japanese (Original)     XIE Zhihai / Professor, KYOAI GAKUEN University   Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala
  • CHIAN Hsun-y “What I got from ‘Comparison’”

    My life was a stream headed North. I was born in Nantou (南投)County in Taiwan. Nantou County is the only county that has no sea. It locates in the center of Taiwan and has a famous tourist spot “Sun Moon Lake (日月潭)”. Except for such tourist spots, it is not bustling and there is an image of the countryside. I enjoyed my childhood in Caotun (草屯), and moved to Taichung (台中) to go to a prestigious junior high school and high school. I went to an elite university in Taipei (台北). I headed for the North and urbanity. I am now in another further northern island country and living in the international big city Tokyo.   I do not forget a day when I was impressed with snow in Tokyo for the first time in my life. I used a humidifier for the first time because I felt an occurrence strongly of various health problems like skin drying when the temperature becomes low. I was surprised at the length of the night also when the sun sets at 16:30 in winter. When I encounter people who came from many countries, using complicated railway networks which seem to be a labyrinth of a different world, I realized that I am living in a big city.   The subject of my research is a Confucian scholar Ogyu Sorai (荻生徂徠) in Edo Period. He was ejected from Edo (Tokyo) and spent his teens and early twenties living in Nanso Town (midlands of Chiba Prefecture). After returning to Edo in the latter half of twenties, he was enlightened to be in a situation surrounded by “enclosed districts (廓)”. He compared his “Experience in Nanso” with thriving Edo in his front. And he concluded that the influence on  the people by “ customs (風俗) is big. Because their insight comes from the environment in which they are living, and their own experience. As a result, he emphasized the importance of their ability to understand “native customs” relatively apart from their present “enclosed districts”.      As I have changed the living places, I could acknowledge the difference between “native customs” and the limitation of “closed districts”. Though various information is flowing freely and quickly now, people’s ways of living and interests are different. Needless to say, there is a big difference in culture and concept of value once they cross borders.   Before I came to Japan, I had a simple impression of Japan. I shared the Taiwanese common images of Japan like “foods are salty” and “people are polite” etc.  Although these conclusions are not wrong, the complexities of Japanese culture are summarized in a very rough style. “Salty” may be applied to ‘Ramen’ or ‘ton-katsu (pork cutlets). Japanese home cooking is relatively lighter seasoning than that of Taiwan. I think traditional Japanese cuisine does not pursue heavy seasoning. As to Japanese politeness, they keep a certain distance in human relations. Sometimes, I feel the difference between their principles and real intentions.     Through my living in Japan for years associating with a lot of Japanese friends, I understand now that we cannot comprehend “the others” simply. And, at the same time, I feel I could comprehend various phenomena in “ourselves”. For example, when Japanese friends asked me “what are the characteristics of Taiwan foods?”, I noticed the meaning of this question for the first time. My conclusion was “Taiwan foods are sweet”. We can see discourteous behaviors often in Taiwan. But I think it comes from an atmosphere that does not pursue “conformity” with humane societies.   The purpose of comparison of “ourselves” and “the others” is not a judgment of their superiority or inferiority. Based on the understanding of the actual situation of “ourselves and the others”, to understand the others, we speculate “the others” by our features. And, to acknowledge ourselves, we contrast ourselves from the features of others. Through such understanding, we can relativize “the others and ourselves” and release both from “enclosed districts”. As I changed my living places very often, such understanding is very beneficial for me and useful for my comparative study of the history of thoughts also.     SGRA Kawaraban 733 in Japanese (Original)     CHIANG Hsun-yi /2021 Raccoon, Studying at ph. D course in Humanities and Sociology at the University of Tokyo   Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala
  • LI Dian “My Study Abroad supported by my partner.”

    This Spring, I will start my new life after finishing seven years of training in the doctoral course. I spent ten years in Japan studying abroad and like to look back on these ten years.   I came to Japan at the age of six. I moved to Osaka from Beijing because of my parents’ job and lived for two years in Osaka. I remember my homeroom teacher in my elementary school learned Chinese to communicate with my parent well and my classmates were kind to me. So, I wanted to come again to Japan when I left Japan.   Thirteen years later, I could make my second visit to Japan in 2011 spring, just after the Great East Japan earthquake. As an undergraduate in biology, I came to Yokohama for an exchange program. I lived in a foreign country by myself for the first time fearing aftershocks of the earthquake. But I could spend fulfilling days due to interesting classes and practices. I had a chance to visit a laboratory to which I belong now an introduce my teacher, and they accepted me luckily after the doctoral course.      After graduating from the university in Beijing, I started my new life in Tokyo in 2014 spring. I did not expect to spend nine years at Keio University. As the doctoral course was not so difficult, I kept taking the usual lessons and used my remaining time for experiments. Though there were challenging projects, those projects went smoothly and I was getting good results. As I could enjoy getting data from brushing up way of experiments, two years have passed in the blink of an eye.     I proceeded to the doctoral course without hesitation because I liked to pursue an academic path. However, there were various changes. Project did not go smoothly because experiments did not go well. I could not get good any results despite my repeated tries and errors. The balance of my lifeworks began to collapse when my good seniors, who have taught me about experiments, graduated. When I made my research presentation, severe designations aggravated me further. There was a time when I could not do anything by the reason that research and personal relationships were unpromising. I got sick. I could not get out of bed in the morning and could not go to the research laboratory.   In such situations, it was my husband that supported me emotionally. He came from China and stayed together until I got over. I took time to recover and started new project from scratch changing the way of research. It was the third year of my doctoral course and made up my mind to enjoy my research life. My husband resigned from his job in China and started his research doctoral course as new research life in Japan at the same research laboratory.   This March, we completed our research work taking four years and obtained a Ph.D. During these four years, everything did not go well smoothly as mentioned above. I encountered problems almost every day and got setbacks sometimes. I realized it is important that we keep the balance of our hearts calm to support our hearts in overcoming difficulties, and not mind little things around us. Usually, emotional support in our daily life would be family. But it will not cover its works. I feel emotional support both in daily life and work are necessary equally. I could overcome my difficulties with my partner’s support who understood both in private life and work.      Another important thing that I keep in mind is I do not care for little things in daily life using unnecessary energy. It will be a waste of time and energy to have hope and fear alternately for every result of the research. We cannot be depressed by any news or SNS information. It will be efficient to analyze everything logically, not emotionally. When I use my energy too much, I will be tired the next day. So, I understand it is effective to keep my condition at a certain level suppressing a waste of my energy. I may be said to be “not expressive”. But I do not care about it.       I feel now that I have been blessed with help from a lot of people. I experienced both successes and failures. However, such experiences lead me to my growth. So, I like to challenge myself with immediate projects without forgetting to feel gratitude.         SGRA Kawaraban 732 in Japanese (Original)     LI Dian / 2021 Raccoon, Studying at Graduate School of Medicine, Keio University,     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala
  • CHEN Xi “Live in Plural Hometowns”

    It was the 2013 autumn that I came to Japan for studying abroad. As I liked to study in Japan from the beginning, I applied for an application and was selected luckily as a government-financed scholarship student. I started my research life at graduate school in Tokyo. It was not easy to live surrounded by foreign languages and continue my research in a foreign language. However, I do not remember I have been in a difficult situation with language. There are two reasons.   The first: I had the experience to study the Japanese language in university before I came to Japan and communicated with teachers and foreign students. Thanks to such experience, I could be familiar with Japanese life comparatively smoothly.   The second reason: I transferred schools often in Guizhou State when I was little. It was languages that I struggled with first because there were several languages in Guizhou State though it is one state. As Mandarin Chinese was not so popular at that time, it was usual that we use several dialects not only in daily life but in the classroom also. So, time and elaboration were necessary for kids to adjust to the local languages.   What I realized through my repeated change to schools was that speaking languages are different depending on the place. Common knowledge in certain places is not common in other places. I have had a kind of feeling that, in my childhood, what people trust in their ideas or ways of thinking is not absolute but relative.   Lu Xun (魯迅) said, “I venture out to find different people in different places walking the different roads.” Following his words, I chose to study abroad in Japan and could meet several “different” people luckily in Japan. Being supported and under the corporation of such “different people”, I could finish my doctoral thesis on the Corona Virus. And I got a bachelor’s degree and took the first step as a researcher.   As I wrote a doctoral thesis with limited time and talent, I do not think it is enough to find materials and analyze textbooks. I think I could consider other viewpoints and the point of the issue. Such reflection will be the next issue for me.     What I realized often in my study abroad life is I have no homeland to which I can return. As I spent in Guizhou in my childhood, Guizhou maybe, roughly speaking, be my homeland. However, I left Guizhou when I went to university and spent six years in Tianjin and eight years in Tokyo. I kept living in distant lands from Guizhou. Without realizing it, Guizhou, my native land, became one of the places where I have lived for a short while.   However, it is not unlucky. Because I could get plural hometowns by losing my native land instead.   There is a book titled “Mille Plateaus” written jointly by philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychoanalyst Pierre-Felix Guattari. Those two thinkers say in this book that the histories of human languages, cultures, and natures are not held up by a single theory. In other words, human beings are alive in various languages, cultures, natures, and histories. Deleuze and Guattari advocated a theory of “diversity” or “plurality”.   I think a theory of “plurality” means not only the simple fact that human beings have diversity but human beings have hidden potential which can change the world also. And I like to keep my standpoint practicing “living in plural hometowns” having a certain responsibility.     SGRA Kawaraban 731 in Japanese (Original)     CHEN Xi / 2021 Raccoon, Specially Appointed Researcher at East Asian Academy for New Liberal Arts of the University of Tokyo     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Sabina Koirala