The transcript of the Emperor Akihito’s speech indicating his wish to “abdicate”


The following is the English transcript (followed by the Japanese original) of the speech given by Emperor Akihito on August 8, 2016. It hints at his wish to abdicate, something which has never happened in the history of the Imperial Family. His Majesty’s decision to make such a request has been seen by some as his disapproval of Prime Minister Abe’s recent actions which have loosened Japan’s stance for peace. Many see Japan as heading again down the path towards militarism. The atmosphere and character of now is similar to that of the years leading up to WW2.

A major milestone year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has passed, and in two years we will be welcoming the 30th year of Heisei.

As I am now more than 80 years old and there are times when I feel various constraints such as in my physical fitness, in the last few years I have started to reflect on my years as the Emperor, and contemplate on my role and my duties as the Emperor in the days to come.

As we are in the midst of a rapidly aging society, I would like to talk to you today about what would be a desirable role of the Emperor in a time when the Emperor, too, becomes advanced in age. While, being in the position of the Emperor, I must refrain from making any specific comments on the existing Imperial system, I would like to tell you what I, as an individual, have been thinking about. 

Ever since my accession to the throne, I have carried out the acts of the Emperor in matters of state, and at the same time I have spent my days searching for and contemplating on what is the desirable role of the Emperor, who is designated to be the symbol of the State by the Constitution of Japan. As one who has inherited a long tradition, I have always felt a deep sense of responsibility to protect this tradition. At the same time, in a nation and in a world which are constantly changing, I have continued to think to this day about how the Japanese Imperial Family can put its traditions to good use in the present age and be an active and inherent part of society, responding to the expectations of the people.  Continue reading

Materialism must take precedence

If life, in the form of a non-material entity, can exist independently then there would not be a need for a physical being in the first place. The simpler solution is usually the most economical. So life must require a physical form to exist in the first place. The mind or soul is therefore a product of the body, not the other way around. Nor is the mind/soul independent of the body.

Yet, the body is what produces the very illusion of the soul in the first place. It is a part of the material world and it is a necessary part of our humanness. Without this we would not know what we know, and we would not live how we live. That is the irony of the mind and body.

Periscope Tip #3 – use a mic

The mic used by your phone may depend on whether you are using the front or rear camera. If the rear camera (the one facing away from the screen) is used the mic may be the one facing away from you also. To improve the quality of the sound of your speaking voice use a mic to override this. 

Periscope Tip #2 – choose a good informative title

Titles are important. They tell us what your scope is about, even if it is just a chat. Viewers want to know what they are coming to see. So make sure it is not left blank. It will also help you focus on your content (and viewer’s perspective) as well.

Periscope Tip #1 – don’t get burnt out

Do not set unrealistic goals time schedules for yourself. Scope because you have something to say, not because you have fans to please. Do not make promises which you cannot keep (example: do not say “I will scope everyday” unless you can).

My thoughts on 10 years of sustainability dharma

Has it been that long?

sustainability dharma started ten years ago on 17 February 2006. It was a critique of our lifestyles and a call to sustainability and a sustainable lifestyle. I still believe in these values but I myself have not achieved that. I am not even close. But this, as a log of who I am, is invaluable.

To live sustainably would mean to give up many things and to change my way of life. Blogging would most definitely be one. My work as an assistant professor would be another. They both use more energy than necessary. A lot of wastage.

But that is not a reason why I should quit. One must look at the overall situation. Do I lead an overall sustainable lifestyle? No, I do not. But perhaps the most sustainable part of my life is the farming, the growing of food. My wife estimates 80% of our vegetable come from our garden. It is grown organically and we probably have room to increase capacity.

My spiritual practice also has gotten better. More than anything my giving up of alcohol (for health rather than spiritual reasons) has made me a better and more controlled person, less likely to blow up and react inappropriately.

During this time I have watched my children grow up, grown older together with my partner, become a father and husband of sorts. I have taken on many more responsibilities, chosen to do things I have believed in, learned more than perhaps I have imparted.

Blogging is not easy. You need to have something to say in order to blog. You could say a lot but whether they are worth saying is a different matter. Which is why I have less to say today than I did ten years ago.

Another difference is that the internet landscape has changed somewhat. Blogs made it easy for everyone to have an online voice. But it was relatively static. It took a long time to reach an audience and to get comments. In 2016, we have Twitter but I think more importantly we have Periscope. No other time have we had life broadcast with an interactive audience to boot. Anyone can show their world to an audience and get realtime feedback and interaction. Once I have done my live broadcast, my scope, I am finished. No more is necessary. No editing is needed. It is different and efficient. It is the future of communication.

So is there a place for traditional blogs? Can we call them traditional even though they are no more than 15 years old? The time length for anything to become traditional has become shorter. These are stressful times. I would hate to be my son’s age. I would hate to be born now. It is so confusing and at the same time exciting in a strange kind of way.

We no longer surf the net with notebook or desktop computers. We go online with our mobile devices – our smartphones and tablets. The landscape has changed a lot. I no longer read about this morning’s protest at this afternoon’s website, I can now see it from four people’s perspective in realtime and even react to and with those people who are scoping.

But somewhere in there, still, is room to write these posts, albeit only once in a while rather than on a daily basis like in “the old days” when I had no other means.

2016 New Year’s resolutions

That time of the year again.

Reflecting on what I have done. This year I went back to my old temple to visit my teacher, Harada Tangen Roshi after a 25 year absence. Unfortunately, he has been weakened with age and I was not able to meet him. I hope to go back again soon and continue my practice. His disciple (I ashamed to say I have forgotten his name) met us and looked after us.

Zen is an important part of me. It has influenced my life and outlook. I even gave a talk on Zen and language learning this year. They are not so different. Indeed, Zen is part of everyday life, part of the ordinary. And this is what makes Zen extraordinary. I am still in awe of the understand of Zen.

So I guess that is why my resolutions always revolve around Zen.

This year, I resolve to focus like I (am supposed to) do in Zen. What happens on the cushion is no different to what happens off it. That is what Zen is about. If you think meditation is something done on the cushion that is a misunderstanding.

And because I shouldn’t make too many promises, too many resolutions, I will end it with just one.

Happy New Year and I hope 2016 will be more peaceful one for all. Let’s try to make the world a better place.