“Drops of God” 150 years old Chateau Lafite, the ultimate luxury

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150 years ago, Japan was at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration (1867) – a time of great change.  It was the time when diplomatic relations with Britain and France were officially established as well as the foundation of Keio University.  Last year, a variety of events commemorating the 150th anniversary took place.

One more important historical event – publication of "The origin of species" by Darwin was also 150 years ago.

I had the great honor and privilege to taste 2 bottles of Chateau Lafite of 1858 (I heard that it was a vintage year, and also a decade before it was owned by Baron Rothschild), that very year of 150 years ago.

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photo1-3: Chateau Lafite, 1858

It was on January 24th, a day before my departure to London.  About 20 people or so gathered, but let’s not discuss about who was there. You might be held a grudge against such an experience even if you were just invited and have nothing to do with it.  All I know is that they were found in Gibraltar, and somehow someone succeeded in purchasing them (For your reference, I will introduce you a link to an antique wine company).

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photo4-6: carefully, carefully

We enjoyed listening to Mr.Kogai, President of Japan Sommelier Association (photo8) explaining about the wines during the one hour interval of opening two bottles but I assume that this was an unprecedented experience even for him to encounter such a wine.  Although the 2 bottles were the same wine, they tasted quite differently.

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The rest of the wines we tasted that evening are as in the list below (photo10). Dinner was a French course with vegetables from Kyoto.

Gemurztraminer Vendange tartives 1998, Louis sipp
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Canet 2006, J.M. Boillot
Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Epenots 2005, Courcel
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1996
Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2002, Torley
Philipponnat Reserve Rosee N.V

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As digestive, Chateau d’Yquem 1975 was served.

My goodness, it was the ultimate luxury, thank you so much.

This happened only 3 weeks ago, but seems like a long time, still like in a dream.

Once again about Dr. Kan’ichi Asakawa, the man who fought against “arrogant Japan”

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As regards to Dr. Kanichi Asakawa, I have introduced his masterpiece “Omen of disaster in Japan (orijinal title "Nihon no Kaki". Published in Japanese only)”  in a book review titled “requirements for a leader:  historical percpectives, view of the world and vision” together with “The taming of the Samurai” by Eiko Ikegami and “Embracing defeat” by Dr. John W. Dower of MIT. This was the first time I wrote about Dr. Asakawa, but ever since then, I have been repeatedly writing about him in my site, so please “search” them.

He is truly an admirable person, the first Japanese to become a professor at an American university, a historian at Yale. 2005 was the 100th year since the end of Japanese- Russo War and the conclusion of Treaty of Portsmouth so there were a lot of articles about Dr. Asakawa in Japan. Please look up Dr. Asakawa’s books in Amazon and search on Google and Yahoo! for more information about him.

The other day, I wrote about a symposium on Dr. Asakawa held at Yale University this year but I also found Dr. Yabuki’s lecture on Dr. Asakawa, from an academic perspective, being introduced in Gakushikai’s newsletter. In 1904, 5 years before Dr. Asakawa wrote “Omen of disaster in Japan”, in the midst of a conflict between Japan and Russia, he claimed Japan’s legitimacy in a paper titled “Russo- Japan Conflict” (I think it was written in English).  I remember reading it in the blog site of Dr. Yabuki at Yokohama City University.

Why Dr. Asakawa again? I think it is because the situation of Japan has essentially not changed at all after 100 years and in a sense, the circumstances surrounding Japan is somewhat similar. Even in such a global era, I feel that there is no strong leaders or scholars like Dr.Asakawa in those days as described in “The man who fought against ‘arrogant Japan’ ? behind the scenes of Treaty of Portsmouth” by Miwa Shimizu and “The last ‘Japanese’ – life of Kan’ichi Asakawa”by Yoshio Abe (both in Japanese only). Now is just the time that scholars should speak out from a higher standpoint to the power, government, and to the people .

I understand well that someone like Dr.Asakawa is rare. But universities nowadays say in every occation that they should earn money and only talk about money when it comes to researcher’s “incentives”. The world is not only greedy people. What kind of a person would want to be a teacher in such  greedy place? Don’t you think that it’s nonsense to say that anything “can be measured by money”? Children become lively only when everybody supports the school and the teachers. This is the essenctial of education.
Basically the same things have been said and written repeatedly for 20 years about this “theme on Asakawa”, so please think about it.

Dr. Ito’s article in the Gakushikai’s newsletter is also referring to a primordial issue that has been unrecognized in the Japanese society saying that the deviation education for university entrance exams were thought to be working well but it is obviously time to change in this global era of which Japan is a part of it.

“Leaders” of Japan

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There are lots of extreme and one sided arguments going on regarding the NGO and private citizen in custody in Iraq. It seems immature or should I say lack social nature and gives you the feeling that we are back to pre-world war II when the country was everything.

In the February edition of “Wedge”, I introduced 3 books (“The Taming of the Samurai”, “Embracing defeat”, “Japan’s chance of disaster” original title: 『日本の禍機』) (in Japanese) The common question is the “leaders”. The books that I’ve read in the past few days raise the same issue. They are both wonderful books, so let me introduce them.

One is “Why Japan reached its dead end” (Original title: 『なぜ日本は行き詰まったか』 Iwanami Shoten, 2004) by Michio Morishima, professor emeritus of London School of Economics (a highly known economist). This book seeks Japan’s future via a journey of Japan and world history, not from an economic point of view, but begins by observing world history and the ethos of its people from the perspective of social science as a whole. It argues the future of a nation whose people lost its traditional ethos. The author shows the history and the formation of capitalism society and the difference between Germany, Britain and America with insight. It is a well written book.

Another book is “The nation’s history of civilization” original title: 『国民の文明史』 (The Sankei Shimbun, 2003) by Terumasa Nakanishi・Professor of Kyoto University. The author observes Japan’s challenges from the viewpoint of history of civilization. This book supports the view of Professor Samuel P. Huntington as written in his book “The clash of civilization”, that Japan is a civilization, and focuses on the historical observation of the movement of civilization in Japan. This is also a remarkable book.

Both books are written by scholars with great historical view and are worth reading. They both point out that the problem lies in the wandering of the once successful “Japanese system” and lack of historical, global perspective and ambition in the “leaders” in the “iron triangle; politics, industries and government”.  However, the interpretation is different.  Dr. Morishima indicates the possible danger of the “right wing action” from historical viewpoint while Dr. Nakanishi seems to take “ right wing kind of support” as a turning point .  Although their context and analysis may differ, their common suggestion gives you a good reference. What’s the matter with the Japanese “leaders”?

Another book that I’ve read in this view point is 「Saving the Sun」(Harper Business, 2003). This is a non-fiction about the fall of Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan written by Ms. Gillian Tett who was the chief correspondent of Financial Times in Japan. Real names like Mr.Onogi, Mr.Yashiro, Mr.Collins and other bureaucrats from the Ministry of Finance show up and is thoroughly written about the common problems of “Japan Co., Ltd.”. As you can see, Japan’s issues are widely known throughout the world.