|ＩＳＡＳニュース 2001.10 No.247
Dogiel VladimirMy acquaintance with Japan had started long before my first visit to this country.
In 1962 I completed my study in grammar school in Moscow, and entered the Moscow Physical-Engineering Institute. It was one of the best educational institutes in physics in Russia. Physics at that time was the most popular specialty among young people. Competition to enter the institute was very large, and I was very happy when I passed successfully the competitive examination. Just at that time a new complex of buildings for the institute was built on the bank of Moscow River with a nice sporting center. Each student had to choose a sport which he would like to go in. I chose“sambo”. The word sambo is an abbreviation of the Russian words for“unarmed self-defense”. It is a sort of combat very similar to Japanese judo. Just at that time judo started to penetrate into Russia and naturally sambo wrestlers were first who switched to judo. I did not escape a keenness of judo too. We bought books about judo; we knew names of famous judo wrestlers. I still remember the names of Inokuma and Hensink who competed with each other at that time. I read many books about judo and found that it was not a sport only. The meaning of the word“do” is“way”. Judo is a kind of philosophy. Right actions by arms and feet are a minor part of judo. I was impressed by my first contacts with Japanese judo wrestlers who came to Russia for the first time. It seemed to me that they did not bother whether they won or lost. I saw an expression of absolute imperturbability on their faces. We discussed the main postulate of judo“to yield in order to win”, which seemed to us absolutely unacceptable. I would say that our motto in sambo was“not to yield in order to win”. Judo led us to an unknown philosophy, to unknown ideas, to unknown relations between people and to an unknown way of self-understanding. Thus through judo I discovered Japan, a country which I hoped to visit sometime.
At that time it was an unrealizable dream. Russia was a closed country and all contacts with foreign countries and with foreigners were strongly restricted. Nevertheless, there were many books in which people could find necessary information. I bought a two-volume edition of Chinese philosophy; I read a nice book about Japan “Sakura twig” written by a Russian journalist Jurii Ovchinnikov, who lived for a long time in Japan. From there I knew a little about Japanese and Oriental philosophy. I knew that Japanese tried not to insult each other in order not“to lose face”. Not so long ago Japanese turned foreigners back. For Europeans it is a sort of insult, but Japanese did this just to avoid any insult, in order not to insult them by a covert glance.
At that time I read many short Japanese poems“haiku” in three lines of which one could find an understanding of many problems. I read many novels of Abe Kobo in attempt to understand spirit of Japanese people. And, of course, I watched many Japanese movies of Akira Kurosawa, the title role of which played Toshiro Mifune. I remember“Genius of judo”,“Seven samurai” and many others but the strongest impression I got from the movie“Rashomon”.
At last in 1993 I came to Japan for the first time. There was a conference on plasma physics in Nagoya. I was impressed how this country was developed; I was impressed how much money this country spends for science and education. I visited the center of thermal nuclear researches and looked there at the worldﾕs four largest installations for thermal nuclear synthesis.
After that visit I came to Japan twice, and I have spent more than a year in ISAS. And now Japan is a country in which I have lived a significant part of my life.
I come to ISAS and see my colleagues who work very hard. Even at midnight one can see light in many windows of the institute. I meet here Prof.Inoue who is busy with many new X-ray projects, who spends much time with young scientists and students. He told me once that he could meet his children only once a week. In spite of that he made many efforts to make my stay in ISAS very comfortable. On evenings I feel a delicate smell of a very good tobacco. Then I know that I have a chance to talk to Prof. Nagase who smokes his pipe in the lobby near the institute elevator. He told me a lot about Japan. When I go to the Senda restaurant I meet there many local people who are glad to see me in spite of the fact that I do not speak Japanese and they do not speak English or Russian. Now Japan is not a strange land for me though I cannot say that I understand everything here and up to now Japan is a huge enigma for me which I tried to understand during almost all my life. It may be that one of enigmas of Japan is that this country penetrates into you and you do not feel this. I am Russian and feel myself as a Russian with all my Russian merits and shortcomings but recently I participated in one conference in Germany, and many of my colleagues from different countries told me the same: Volodja, sometimes you conduct yourself like Japanese, there is something Japanese in what how you say, in your gesticulation.
Is it true?