Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Keep on slowly slithering up Mt. Fuji, Mr. Snail!


soro soro nobore
fuji no yama

Keep on slowly slithering up Mt. Fuji, Mr. Snail!
Issa Kobayashi (1763-1828); trans. R J F Villar

I faltered mid-way through a recent speech supporting a candidate in the local elections, and instead of my scripted banalities decided to expound why I find the poem above to be so wonderful. I am not sure whether the politician I was supporting, Kentaro Hibi (see post here), was pleased with being associated with a slowly slithering snail--Issa's gastropod does not naturally have the energy and spice that most candidates seem to want for their personal PR--but for an opposition politician in a country where the status quo is rarely booted from power, I thought it particularly apt.

That little squishy slug-with-house is a vision of hope. The snail is dwarfed by Japan's highest peak (3,776m), yet still it battles against adversity and pushes for the summit. The going may be tough, but anything is possible; progress--change--is inevitable. For Hibi, who has the slogan "Learning every day, Striving every day", and for the Democratic Party (DPJ) which needs to topple the firmly entrenched Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in this summer's Upper House elections, perhaps Issa's snail can be an inspiration.

At the 4th anniversary of the start of the disastrous Iraq War (officially on 17th March), the little snail reminds me that there is hope for the future, no matter how morally corrupt British foreign policy appears to be at present. Governments will change and criminals will be brought to justice--but slowly, oh so slowly.

R J F Villar

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