TOPICS January 2023

Haiku Challenge in English

An Australian haiku poet, Dougle J. Lindsey, recently gave a lecture at Matsuyama University. He works at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology in Kanagawa Prefecture while serving as an English haiku judge for a national newspaper.

When he was 19, he studied in Japan and stayed with a haiku poet’s family, who inspired him to learn about haiku. He was fascinated by haiku through attending haiku gatherings or haiku outings.

With his 30 years’ haiku experience, he explained the difference between “haiku and haiku” from his own perspective. In contrast to the haiku’s fixed form of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, the English
haiku has one-line or three-line forms. He said it is important to try to compose your haiku according to the fixed form.

Haiku poets from the Edo period, such as Matsuo Basho, are well known outside of Japan. and the words and animals those poets used in their haiku often appear in English haiku. He mentioned that the common point when writing haiku and haiku is “relaxing to listen to”. He introduced “rhyme” including incomplete rhyme, which is more relaxing to him, like “sea” and “galaxy.”

He explained the difficulty of translation in different cultural areas: the perception of “August 15th”, which is the day of the defeat of the second world war for the Japanese, differs from the United States, and the day of the defeat of the war for the Germany is in May. He encouraged the audience to try writing haiku in English.

(December 14, Ehime Shimbun)

A Sword Returned After 77 Years

Michell Lavine from the southwestern part of France visited Uwajima to return an old Japanese sword which he had bid on at an auction in France.

He desired to return it and struggled to find the original owner. He finally found Yoshiko Utsunomiya in Uwajima who is the wife of Masanori Utsunomiya, the original owner of the sword, and called on her.

Mr. Lavine loves Japanese Art and found the old Japanese sword, which had been condemned by GHQ after WWII, in an auction catalogue in France in April 2022. He looked for the original owner by referring to a wooden tag that came with the sword on which the name and address were written. He finally reached the owner’s family in Uwajima with the help of two Japanese women and was able to visit the family.

Mrs. Utsunomiya touched the sword and tearfully thanked everybody involved. She said that her husband would have been surprised and very happy, if he were still alive, that his sword had finally come home.

Mr. Lavine said that seeing Mrs. Utsunomiya hold the sword was the most impressive thing him in his life.

(December 7, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Frenchman Appointed as Iyokan Ambassador

On December 5, 2022, Ehime prefecture appointed Michel Brillat, who lives in Paris and worked as a doping inspector for cycling races, as an Ehime-Iyo Tourism Ambassador: Iyokan Ambassador. The ambassadors are responsible for improving the prefecture’s tourism image and spreading information to the world.

In 2018 Mr. Brillat appeared in a promotional video for cycling around Shikoku, which the prefecture produced. Last November he completed cycling around Shikoku and contributed to the promotion of cycling tourism in Ehime. With memories of the hills covered with orange trees and the calm inland sea in Ehime, the 77 year-old said he would seek friends to whom he could convey the beautiful features of Ehime after he returns home. There are now 79 Iyokan Ambassadors: 55 in Japan, and 24 overseas.

(December 6, Ehime Shimbun)

Rags of Imabari Towels used for Airplane Maintenance

Japan Airlines is now making a trial of using Imabari towels, which are torn in the production process and cannot be sold, as rags in aircraft maintenance. Using the rags at the Matsuyama Airport, JAL found the rags had strong absorbency and did not scratch the aircraft bodies.

According to JAL, many rags are used to remove grease stains from the engines. They used to use small pieces of cloth cut up from old uniforms.    However, they were not very appropriate due to their weak absorbency.

Utilization of Imabari towel rejects was introduced by a staff member of JAL on temporary assignment to Imabari-city. He heard that lots of rags were discarded, and thought that high-quality Imabari towels could be used for maintenance and sought the corporation of the Imabari Towel Industrial Association.

The trial started in August 2022. The rags which are pieces of damaged Imabari towels are used to remove grime on the aircraft.

The company which provides the towels for JAL is Kontex Co., Ltd. located in Imabari. They used to throw away 200 kg of towels a year. Takefumi Kondo, Vice President of Kontex Co., Ltd., said that they had even paid for the disposal and now appreciated JAL using them.

Imabari towel rags are now used for maintenance at four airports in Shikoku and at Nanki-Shirahama airport in Wakayama.

(December 6, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

YONDEN Applies for 28% Price Increase for Residential Electricity from Next April

On November 28, Shikoku Electric Power (YONDEN) applied to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to raise regulated electricity rates for households by an average of 28% from April next year. About 60% of the total accounts (about 1.59 million) will be subject to the price increase. Household electricity bills with an average monthly usage of 260 kWh are expected increase by 2,205 yen per month to 10,120 yen.

This application for a price increase by YONDEN is the first since February 2013, when all three reactors at the Ikata Nuclear Power Station were shut down due to the Tohoku Earthquake (Great East Japan Earthquake). Keisuke Nagai, president of Shikoku Electric Power, said: “We cannot deal with the current severe situation by absorbing cost increases. Therefore, we have been forced to ask our customers to bear a huge burden. For that we are deeply sorry, and we seek your understanding.”

The performance of power companies has deteriorated due to soaring fuel prices, with Tohoku Electric Power and Chugoku Electric Power already applying for average price increases of 33% and 31%, respectively.

METI is set to examine whether its rationalization efforts to improve management efficiency, such as reducing labor costs, are sufficient in the future, and may reduce the range of price increases. In anticipation of the price hikes from next spring, the government plans to implement a measure to reduce the burden by subsidizing electric power companies to enable lowering electricity rates by about 20%.

Electricity charges are automatically adjusted based on the import prices of fuels such as crude oil and coal in accordance with the fuel cost adjustment system (fuel adjustment). However, there is an upper limit to the amount of adjustment to alleviate the impact on customers when fuel prices spike.

Since April, fuel price hikes have been exacerbated by the weaker yen and continue to exceed the upper limit of fuel adjustment. YONDEN will have to bear fuel costs of about 50 billion yen this fiscal year, contributing to an expected loss for the full year of about 30 billion yen.

In addition, YONDEN announced it will abolish the upper limit of fuel adjustment from May next year for discretionary electricity rates for households such as “Otoku-e-Plan” (about 360,000 accounts.) Based on the fuel costs for December this year, the price is estimated to increase by about 2,600 yen per month.

(November 29, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

Additional Information:

Since the liberalization of the retail electricity market in Japan in 2016, there have been two types of household electricity rates: regulated rates and discretionary rates, which power companies can revise freely.

Ticket App Released by JR Shikoku

JR Shikoku has announced the release of its first mobile app named “Shikoku Smart Eki-chan” (Suma-Eki). Some tickets will be available via the app from November 28, such as the “Shikoku Free Ticket” that allows you to use a non-reserved seat on express trains as many times as you like for three consecutive days.

To use the app, first, download it to your smartphone from the App Store or Google Play. Next, register for free. Then, choose the ticket you want to buy, the date of use, and the number of passengers, and pay with a credit card. On the day of use, present your phone with the ticket showing to the station attendant or train crew when getting on and off.

JR Shikoku stated that although the app is available only within the JR Shikoku service area, it expects the app to be more convenient for customers because they can purchase tickets at any time. From next spring, tickets for local trains, commuter passes, non-reserved seat tickets for express trains, and others will be available for purchase.

(November 28, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

Additional Information: (Currently Japanese version only)

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HAIKU January 2023