Table Speech

How Much Japan Has Changed ~ What Interests Me Lately

July 13, 2011

Mr. Shigeaki Saegusa
President, May Corporation Inc.
Professor, Tokyo College of Music

I hope you will deepen your understanding on how much Japan has changed through the 9 topics I brought for my speech today.
1. Opera
The beautiful stage of “La Traviata” performed at the 2005 Salzburg Festival is the must-see opera. Anna Netrebko is a Russian operatic soprano of great beauty, who performed Violetta in a ruby red costume on a white stage. The Mexican tenor Rolando Villazon performed Alfredo and got international recognition. Please enjoy the excellent performance of this “dream couple” directed by Will Decker.
“The Ring of the Nibelung” by Richard Wagner performed at Valencia Opera in 2009 surprised and moved the opera fans around the world with its novel production of the last scene of “Twilight of the Gods.”
◆Verdi / La Traviata (Universal Music)
◆The Ring of the Nibelung DVD Collection of Opera (supervised by Yoshiyuki Nagatake, Sekai Bunka-sha )

2. “Boys’ love” and comics
“Boys’ love” or BL refers to novels, comics, animation and game software that depict boy-on-boy love. Grown-up women are the main readers of this growing market, and the number of publishers is increasing while well-known bookstores are allocating larger space for such books. Incidentally, yuri (lily) refers to girls’ love, while bara (rose) is jargon for BL.

3. From Yukiguni (Snow Country) to Otome-kei (lesbian novels)
Japanese people have traditionally been sensitive to sensual matters. I came to realize how sensual the novel Yukiguni by Yasunari Kawabata (a Nobel laureate) is. The works by Yu Kusanagi are also commendable.

4. Adult-entertainment magazines
I assume Japan is the only country in the world where information on prostitution is available from magazines sold at convenience stores in towns. Such weekly magazines give the latest information each week.

5. Life of a musician
The cause of Mozart’s death at the age of 35 is still much talked about as it is not known with certainty even after 200 years since his death. Giorgio Taboga claims to have unraveled the mystery of his death, which, if true, is an epochal finding.
Mozart is known for his affair with Magdalena Hofdemel, a beautiful married woman to whom Mozart gave piano lessons. Taboga conducted extensive research and concluded that Magdalena’s husband clubbed Mozart to death. By the order of then Emperor Joseph II, this scandal was hushed up. It is documented that Beethoven never played the piano in front of Magdalena Hofdemel. I am sure you will get a new picture of Mozart by reading this book based on thorough research.
◆Assassination of Mozart – Truth of the Death in 1791 (written by Giorgio Taboga, translated by Ihei Taniguchi)

6. Economic theory
Hitler rebuilt the devastated German economy in two years, which got commendation from Keynes. Nazi Germany started the Olympic torch relay. Live TV broadcast started in 1935 in Germany. Construction of the autobahn started as an unemployment relief, with clear rules to allocate 45% of the construction budget for salaries and hire only the poor having a child and not to hire bachelors..
◆Economic policies of Hitler, Hitler and Keynes (both written by Tomohiro Takeda)

7. Androgenic hormone
I also get androgenic hormone injections, which give me full strength. Androgenic hormones whip up our fighting instinct. It is said that lack of androgenic hormone triggers senile neurosis. If you feel you are losing your vitality, I advise you to visit a medical institution. You must first get your blood tested to find out what is lacking.
I have an ambition to write six more operas, so I get androgenic hormone injections and recharge myself with vitality. My physician studied in Belgium and has devoted himself to preventive medicine over many years.
◆Tsuji Clinic Dr. Naoki Tsuji

8. Longevity gene
NHK broadcasted a special program quite recently titled “You can prolong your life—Discovery of the longevity gene!”
Almost all animals, including humans, have the sirtuin gene. By maximizing the function of this gene, we can control nearly 100 aging factors. As a result, life span can be prolonged by 20-30 years. Resveratrol, a type of polyphenol, seems to maximize this gene.
Extensive research and development are currently under way to turn resveratrol into a new drug to prevent or cure illness related to aging, such as dementia, diabetes, hypertension and arterial sclerosis.

9. Bookstores and department stores
Please visit MARUZEN & JUNKUDO bookstore on the 7th floor of Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya, if you have time to spare. It is an amazing floor, full of books. There are chairs for you to sit on and read before you decide which books to buy. It is like a library turned into a bookstore. You will find the same type of bookstore at Mitsukoshi Alcott in Shinjuku, where 3 floors are full of books. I welcome such type of new bookstore, where you can make new discoveries.
One extra information, if you visit the 2nd floor of Isetan Department Store, you will find provocative and fashionable outfits, catering for gay customers. If you have a chance to visit Isetan, please have a look to deepen your understanding on gay culture.