Table Speech

”Rotary Awareness Month” Meeting
Sampei Sato Way of Breaking Away from Slump

January 16, 2013

Mr. Fumio Ikebe
Former Journalist, Asahi Newspaper

 I was a newspaper writer for Asahi newspaper and spent many years in the editorial department of Asahi Weekly magazine. I am grateful to continue giving interviews and writing articles even after my retirement. I currently interview Rotarians across Japan and write articles that introduce their personal and professional life for the monthly club bulletin “ROTARY-NO-TOMO.” I also help to put the Asahi newspaper manga (cartoon) series “Fuji Santaro” in e-book form, the series drawn by Mr. Sampei Sato over 26 years. It started a year after the Tokyo Olympics in April 1965 and ended in September 1991. I first met Mr. Sato when he drew the two-facing-page manga series “Yuhi-kun (Mr. Sunset)” for Asahi Weekly and I have enjoyed my longstanding relationship with him, who has turned 83 years old and enjoys good health today.

 When I wrote my running stories for Asahi Weekly about taking care of my father suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia and my mother from Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Sato kindly drew the illustrations that gave a heartwarming touch to rather depressing stories.

 I gave advice to the 67-year-old Mr. Sato to start learning how to use personal computers. He later wrote an introductory book on how to master PC, which became a big seller.

 Mr. Sato has established a remarkable career in the golden days of the Showa era surging from the income-doubling plan and high economic growth. Other notable Showa manga artists include Mr. Suiho Tagawa with his masterpiece “Norakuro,” Mr. Ryuichi Yokoyama with “Fuku-chan,” Ms. Machiko Hasegawa with “Sazae-san,” and the originator of Japanese comic books Mr. Osamu Tezuka. Mr. Sato put a rather surprising end to his series in 1991 when he was 62 years old, as he believed that manga artists must know his/her time to withdraw from career when they can no longer keep up with the trends in the world or the younger generation. I feel it is somewhat suggestive that the timing coincided with the collapse of the bubble economy.

 Mr. Masao Ninagawa is initiating the project to preserve “Fuji Santaro” in e-book form. Mr. Ninagawa was a reporter of Asahi newspaper and later became the first chief editor of Asahi’s weekly news magazine AERA. He launched his company J-cast, which works on the project. The 27-volume e-book will have appendices based on extensive interviews with Mr. Sato on wide-ranging interesting stories about his early childhood, difficulties he encountered during his career and funny incidents he experienced while he was travelling overseas. I help making interviews with Mr. Sato and we plan to publish the volume this spring.

 Today, let me share with you the “Sampei Sato way of breaking away from slump,” which was actually handed down from a prominent critic Mr. Soichi Oya when Mr. Sato was young. Mr. Oya advised to “read books, meet people and start on a journey” to overcome slump. At that time, Mr. Sato simply thought it was important to get new knowledge and information from books and people. It was only in his later years that he realized what counted was the “sense of exaltation” one gets from reading books and meeting people. Mr. Sato said that several days after you set out on a journey “you break away from your daily routine, feel relaxed and somehow playful. You regain the innocence of a child and get more impressed by many things.”

 When Mr. Sato traveled to Innsbruck, Austria, he was impressed by the beautiful scenery around the hotel he was staying in the suburb and decided to take a walk. As he was walking through the fields filled with wild flowers in an approaching evening twilight, he suddenly heard the sounds of cheering. He turned around to find about a dozen children aged 5-6 cheering to surprise him. Mr. Sato tried to say something in German and said “Ich mädchen (I young girl).” The children responded “Nein, nein (No, no)” in a burst of laugher. Then Mr. Sato came up with the name of a mountain and said “Ich Jungfrau” which could also mean a young lady. The children laughed again. Mr. Sato added “Ich fräulein (I unmarried young girl)” to get an even bigger laughter. Then he said “Auf Wiedersehen! (good-bye).” As he was walking back to the hotel after a while, he heard the cheering again. The children ran towards him, stopped in front of him and with the call of “Eins, Zwei, Drei” they held forth small bouquets of colorful flowers picked from the field. Mr. Sato was touched and filled with happiness. He said that he realized the reason why Mr. Oya advised him to set out on a journey.

 As for reading, Mr. Sato read “Anne of Green Gables” after he turned 40 and got impressed by the imaginative power of an 11-year-old girl. He was inspired to work even harder on his works.

 We get touched and stimulated as we meet and talk with other people. Mr. Sato said “I can draw better works the day after I have met somebody who is more energetic than myself.”

 I have been interviewing Rotarians around Japan who are all very active and energetic. I feel a bit nervous before the interviews but I always get moved by their interesting stories. Each time, I strive to convey their attractive personality and stimulating professional life to the readers, and I think this assignment recharges me and helps to keep myself healthy. Let me conclude my speech by thanking Rotary and Rotarians for your energetic and stimulating input that motivates me both physically and mentally.