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Around the World by Remote Control


The other day, something made me think about Anjin-san, the English ship pilot who came to Japan about four hundred years ago, and who is now quite famous as a result of the best-selling novel 'Shogun', in which the main character was roughly based on his experiences. Anjin-san's voyage to Japan from Europe aboard a tiny sailing ship took many, many months, and only a few of the crew members actually survived the extremely arduous trip. He never made it back to England, and spent the remainder of his life here, almost completely cut off from any contact with his native land. How he must have longed for news from home!

On the other hand, my trip to Japan some years ago only took about 10 hours or so, and of course everyone on board survived the adventure! Perhaps like Anjin-san, I too will spend the rest of my life here, but unlike him, I do not have to 'give up' communication with the rest of the world if I do so.

The thing that started me on these reflections was my radio. I had been sitting in my workshop carving one of my woodblock prints, and at the same time listening to an interesting series of programs. I started with a music program from NHK here in Tokyo. I then switched channels on my cable radio to pick up a show from a popular music station in Los Angeles. After that I moved on to New York where I spent an hour or so catching up on local news, and then wrapped up my travels by listening to a current affairs program from the BBC in London. All these programs were being broadcast 'live', and came 'crystal clear' through the cable into my room. During the course of the afternoon I heard various announcements: "The time is now 10:00 PM" ... "Here is the 2:00 AM news" ... "In a few minutes it will be 7:00 AM." I had to keep a careful eye on my own clock, to keep track of what time it really was!

What would Anjin-san have thought of such things? With a mere flick of my finger on the remote control unit sitting on my workbench, I am flashed around the globe. The vast distances are simply erased. Of course to him, this would all be just 'magic' - completely beyond belief. And you know, I have to confess that I too have somewhat the same feeling. Even though my 'rational' mind understands how it is done, with radio, satellites, fiber-optics, etc., it still remains a mystery. To hear these voices from afar at the same moment as they speak ... yes, it must be magic.

So although my body is sitting here in a small workshop in Tokyo, my mind can roam around the world ... Truly I feel very fortunate to live in an age that contains such wonders. Anjin-san, gomen ne!