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Japanese notes III, IV

Japanese notes III: written by Vaclav Klaus in Beppu, Japan, February 15th, 2007

Original source in Czech:
In the morning, when we were leaving the famous "Imperial" hotel where T.G. Masaryk - not yet a president - spent some time almost 90 years ago, we were looking forward to a short, 60-minute flight to Hiroshima and we were getting psychologically ready to visit this tragic place of the human history.

However, an unexpected cold shower was expecting us at the airport - a broken aircraft that was evidently unable to take off. The government squadron has a new seam although the culprit is no longer the proverbial "Challenger" but an old and mostly reliable Russian Tupolev. It is becoming more than clear that modernization of our airplanes is necessary.

After more than three hours of waiting at the airport, a small part of our delegation continued along the original trajectory using regular Japanese airlines. The best experience was to fly above the crater of the holy Fuji mountain whose one-half was under snow. The views in the ideal sunny weather were the ultimate plaster for our morning irritation.

When you stand at the place of Hiroshima where the nuclear bomb exploded, you simply can't speak. It seems that whatever word you use will be weak and insufficient. But you should still come here, stop here, and imagine the unreal human tragedy that occurred here. It's somewhat paradoxical that the only building that was preserved in Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, at least as a ruin, was designed by the Czech architect Jan Letzel in 1915. It became a memento forever and it has been named an atomic cathedral.

Hiroshima is a modern, very picturesque city that was built from the scratch in a beautiful bay with dozens of islets and it is surrounded by steep hills. Earthquakes are frequent here, much like at other places of Japan. One can finally understand why every house is built independently even though the space in between is sometimes 20-30 centimeters only. The point is to avoid a domino effect during earthquakes.

Because of the delay, we had to cancel a sailing trip to one of the prettiest sanctuaries in Japan. Instead, we took Shinkansen, a wonder of modern technology, to get to Bepu. Five days ago I took a Pendolino from Prague to Ostrava but the Japanese train is nevertheless faster. And the Japanese railway stations are more similar to our modern airport buildings than our C.K. main railway station in Prague.
Japanese notes IV: written by Vaclav Klaus in Beppu, Japan, February 16th, 2007

Original source in Czech:
Our train trip to the Beppu Spa Resort on Kyushu, a Southern Japanese island, allowed us to see the landscape, their countryside, and ordinary life. Although everyone learns about the density of population during geography classes, one must get here to really understand what it means. There are either uninhabitable hills or a continuous sequence of buildings. Something like a space in between two villages or towns simply doesn't exist here.

In order to fit into Japan, everything must be small. The countryside houses are incredibly tiny. My wife adds that this must also be the reason why they grow small bonsais (a garden is an extraordinary luxury), and it might even be the reason why Japanese electronics is so unbelievably miniaturized.

Beppu is a Japanese counterpart of our Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary) but water as hot as 95 Celsius degrees springs from nearly every piece of land. The soil is "steaming" wherever you look.

Japan continues to be a kind of masculine society. Men dominate and women are more sheepish. A typical example are the female secretaries at the university who organize our visit. Their anxiety and uninterrupted jogging around the building is frustrating for all Central Europeans. Of course, I can't know how it really looks like in the privacy of their homes, behind the closed door. But the lack of space can't be any advantage.

The Asia Pacific University in Beppu where I was awarded another honorary PhD is a very modern and highly cosmopolitan place: students from 76 countries, including a Czech girl, attend this university. The lectures are taught in English. This university represents a large deviation from the system of traditional Japanese universities - whose classic example is the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo [where Klaus received another honorary PhD, comment by LM]. The University symphonic orchestra played My Country during our lunch - at a good amateurish level - and we were very surprised when they added Monti's Czardas. The names of Smetana and Dvorak belong to the general knowledge in Japan; in the case of the older generation, you may add Vera Caslavska. I received a flower from the Czech student while my wife got one from a Japanese student who is a distant relative of our second president Benes (great great grandson of his brother Vojta: although his name is Masataka Matsumoto, he uses e-mail address starting with WilliamBenes).

There are numerous active groups of Japanese-Czech friendship at many places of Japan. One of them can be found in Oita region where our trip ends. Meeting with them was a nice finale of our visit.

Let's hope that our airplane is gonna work. We will stop twice in Irkutsk and Yekaterinburg to fill up the tank but we won't leave the airport.
See also Japanese notes I,II.

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