Hirata Oriza is one of Japan’s most famous playwrights. When he was just 16, he made a 16-month around-the-world trip on a bicycle. Soon after the trip, when he was 18, he wrote a book about it.
I’ve always loved bicycles and traveling, even when I was a kid. When I was 13, I made a plan to cycle around the world. I told people I was going on a world tour, but no one would take me seriously. They would say, “forget your silly dreams. Keep your feet on the ground.” But that didn’t stop me. If I succeeded, fine. If not, I would learn to live with failure. My motto is: “Flexibility and optimism.”
I began to plan seriously. I decided to go to a night high school so I could work during the day to make money for the trip. I worked in a ramen shop, in a bakery, and as a newspaper boy. Luckily, my parents supported me. They respected my wish to be independent.
I took a two-year leave from my high school. I bought a new bicycle, picked up my passport, and got an airplane ticket to Los Angeles. On May 5, 1979, I was on my way.
On May 7, I started on my bicycle tour from the Los Angeles airport. When I stopped at a traffic light, I heared someone calling, “Hi! Where are you headed?” It was a young man on a bicycle.
I said, “New York!”
Looking a little puzzled, he said, “Where did you say you’re going?”
“New York!” he repeated.
I could hardly understand his English; all I could figure out that his name was Dennis and that he was inviting me to his house. After a moment’s hesitation, I accepted.
Dennis was sharing a house with a friend and his wife, who happened to speak Japanese. I had dinner with them－fried chicken and fried potatoes with ice cream for dessert. Dennis took out something for me to read: it was a list of people who supported traveling cyclists. Dennis explained that I could stay in any one of their homes with free meals.
The directory was very useful. While cycling across America, I made full use of it, visiting 20 homes and meeting many friendly people. Meeting Dennis and receiving this great gift on the very first day of the trip made me wonder at the mystery of human life. So much of life depends on luck and chance.
During my bicycle tour, there were good days and bad. I was always getting flat tires: 18 times! And weather was sometimes a problem. People were helpful－but not always.
Most days I slept in a tent. In Spain, it rained day after day. One morning, when I woke up everything was wet, even my sleeping bag. I had to move to a hotel.
In Cambridge, England, when I was writing in my diary, someone began to throw stones at my tent. I heard kids singing a song that seemed to make fun of Asians. Was it racial discrimination or was it just a joke? I reminded myself that I had good friends in England and decided not to get angry. But it was a dark night for me.
In France, I lost my passport. Luckily, some honest person turned it in to the police. I got it back a few days later. Along the way, I was often impressed with the kindness of strangers.
In Milan, Italy, all my belongings were stolen. I felt very sad and even thought of quitting the tour. Then I remembered all the acts of kindness I had experienced and decided to keep on going.
I visited 26 countries, riding about 20,000 kilometers. On September 17, 1980, I came back home safe and sound.
Back in Japan, I remember people asking me the same question: “What did you learn from the trip?” I always found myself hard put to answer. It is true that I visited a number of countries, and this experience would turn out to be useful for the rest of my life on my own.
I know that people wanted to hear big generalizations. But I simply couldn’t say something like: “Like is hard, so we have to learn to live with o be able to say one another,” or “What is most important for human beings freedom; I am ready to give my life for freedom.” Instead, I would just smile and mumble, “Well, nothing much. I may find my experience helpful in the future. I don’t know.”
I’m now 18. At this point, I still cannot answer definitively what I learned from my trip. There is a long stretch of road in front of me, branching off into a number of winding roads futher ahead. In the future, as I look back, I hope to be able to say what I learned from me trip. All I can say now is that the boy who returned home was a different boy from the one who left Japan 16 months earlier.
Habu Yoshiharu is one of the greatest shogi players in history. He is truly "King of the Board." Here he talks with an interviewer about his experience as professional shogi player.
1.When did you first learn to play shogi?
In my first year of elementary school. At first, I lost almost all the games, but in a month or so, I began to win. In my second year, I went to a shogi dojo in Hachioji, where I participated in a children’s tournament. I didn’t qualify for the final, but I enjoyed the games. I wanted to become a better player, and I started to go to the dojo for practice.
When do you like about shogi?
As a child I found it interesting that you play with many different pieces; each place has a different move. Also, the results of a game are very clear-cut: you either win or lose. The entire game is a process of cause and effect, and winning or losing is your own responsibility. Of course, it doesn’t feel good to lose, but I like shogi because it has great depth to it.
In your professional career, you’re won over 70 percent of the games. Are you always confident when you make a move?
At times it is difficult to decide which move to make. Not having enough time to think deeply, you don’t even know what your next move will be until you place your hand on the piece. This is when luck comes into play. You trust your hand to make a good choice. So, to answer question, I’m not always confident when I make a move.
I’ve heard that professional shogi players can think hundreds of moves ahead. Am I correct?
Well, I’m not so sure about that. A group of shogi players were discussing whether or not you could predict what the game would be like 10 moves from now. They all agreed you could not. In playing shogi, you need to make a decision every time you make a move. As I said before, it’s not always the case that you have full confidence; rather, you are thinking that this is probably the right move. Your opponent may in turn make a move which you do not expect, and this process goes on until the game is over. What’s most important is your decision-making power.
When you make a decision, are there times when you depend on your intuition?
Yes, I believe in intuition. In my experience, about 70 percent of the moves based on intuition turned out to be correct. Being able to anticipate a lot of moves is important, but what’s more important is to be able to focus your attention on a few good moves. And that’s where you need your intuition. But remember, you gain intuition only though lots of experience.
Do you spend a lot of time studying strategies from the past?
It’s important to learn various strategies. But knowing strategies is one thing, and being able to win a game is quite another. What you need is to change your knowledge into wisdom by truly understanding the meaning of the strategies.
You sometimes surprise your opponent by making unexpected moves. Are they effective in winning the game?
Not necessarily. If you try something new, the chances are that you will fail more than 50 percent of the time. If you play it safe, you may be able to maintain a higher winning percentage for a while, but you cannot keep winning 10 years from now. And eventually you end up losing creativity. It’s more fun trying something original.
We all know that you have a great talent. How do you define your talent??
Well, if I have any talent, it’s perseverance. Being able to anticipate the moves or having inspiration is important, but working hard to improve your shogi is the greatest talent you can ever have.
You seem to be in love with shogi. What’s the most fascinating aspect of this game?
In the history of shogi, hundreds of thousands of games have been played, and yet we only know a small portion of the world of shogi. Each time I play, I feel like I am starting on a journey into unknown territory. And that’s what’s fascinating about shogi.
Have you thought about what you would be doing if you were not a professional shogi player?
I have never really thought about that. Forced to take another job, maybe I would like to be a taxi driver for a day. I think that’s an interesting job because you don’t know where you will go each day.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
Fortune smiles on the bold.
Some discoveries just don’t fit in with what we know. They are called “out-of-place artifacts” (OOPARTS). They seem to show that ancient people knew about modern technology.
1. Ancient Egyptian aircraft
Did the ancient Egyptians understand the principles of flying? Some people believe that the “Saqqara Bird” shows that they did.
The Egyptian Saqqara Bird dates back to about 200 B.C. No one knows what it was made for. Perhaps it was a toy. Does the Saqqara Bird show that the Egyptians knew the principles of aviation? The Egyptians often placed models of an actual airplane. Scientists tested a model based on its design and found that the Saqqara Bird could have flown.
Perhaps the Egyptians understood the principles of aviation a thousand years before the Saqqara Bird. In the Temple of Seti I, built around 1280 B.C., there is a hieroglyph showing what appears to be a hieroglyph showing what appears to be a helicopter. Where could the ancient Egyptians have learned about aircraft?
2. More aircraft
Several centuries after the Saqqara Bird, the Quimbaya civilization existed halfway across the world in what is now South America. The Quimbaya are famous for their gold artifacts. One of these artifacts looks like an airplane.
The “airplane” is probably a model of an insect or bird. But some people believe that a model built to this design could actually fly. In the 1990’s, a model of the Quimbaya airplane with an engine attached was able to get off the ground.
At about the same time and not very far away from the Quimbaya, the Mayan civilization existed. Some people think that the ancient Mayan knew about space travel.
They point to the tomb in which Pakal I is buried. He ruled the Mayans from A.D. 615 to 683. Pakal tomb seems to show him in a spaceship. It seems that he is wearing a mask, his hands are on some controls, and his left foot is on a pedal. Outside, you see a little flame, coming from what looks like a rocket engine.
How can we explain that the Quimbaya airplane looks like a modern plane and that Pakal’s tomb looks like a spaceship?
3. Big Circles of the Middle East
In the 1920’s, some strange circles were found in the desert of Jordan. Recently, scientists used satellites to take photographs of some of these strange artifacts. They are now called the Big Circles of the Middle East. According to some people, they are so large that they could only have been created if they had been planned from high in the sky. Twelve circles have been found in Jordan, one in Syria and two in Turkey.
These big circles are low walls made of sone. While some are a meter high, others are only a few centimeters tall. They are about 400 meters in diameter and almost perfectly round. Material found in and around some of the circles dates them between 4500 to 2000 B.C. It appears that others were built during the Roman period, up to the 7th century.
No one knows for sure what the purpose of these circles could have been, or how they were built. Because they are low and lack openings, it is believed that they were not used for keeping animals. The near perfection of the circles would have required careful planning, maybe even from the air. How did they get there?
4.More mysterious drawings
The Big Circles of the Middle East are not the only mysterious drawings. In the same area and at about the same time as the Quimbaya and Mayan civilizations, the Peruvians created the Nasca Lines: drawings of birds and animals so large that you can only see them clearly from the air. Like the Big Circles, some believe they couldn’t have been created without the help of an aerial view. Why go to the trouble to make them if they can only be seen from an aircraft or spaceship?
If a hieroglyph looks like a helicopter and a tomb looks like a spaceship, that is a matter of interpreting a picture. But the Saqqara Bird and the Quimbaya airplane really could have flown. And the Big Circles and Nasca Lines really appear to be difficult to build without an aerial view. How can we explain these mysteries?
Some people jump to conclusions and say that ancient people were visited by aliens. Other people say that OOPARTS are all fakes.
No matter what position we take, we have to admit that there are mysteries which simply cannot be explained at the present time. Perhaps we should keep our minds open. As Einstein believed, the mysteries is “the source of all true art and science.”
|fit in with~||~と合う|
|date back to~||~(時代)に遡る|
|what ~ for?||何のために?|
|what is now||現代の、今日の|
|in and around||~の中と周辺で|
|go to the trouble to~||わざわざ~する|
|jump to conclutions||慌てて結論を出す|