Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence (沈黙), published 50 years ago and winner of the Tanizaki Prize in 1966, is being made into a movie, directed by Martin Scorcese. I read the novel in English when I was studying Japanese literature in college, but seeing this trailer made me want to go back and read it again. The movie is opening in the US in January, and IMDb says it will open in Japan on January 21. That gives us time to read it over the winter break.



I’m reading a novel called “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” — about a retired man in Southern England who decides on the spur of the moment to walk the length of the country in order to visit an old friend. I haven’t finished it, so I don’t know if he reaches his goal, but he’s discovering many things along the way.

The Hajj — the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca — is happening now. Here’s one news story from The Independent: “What is the Hajj? The significance of the pilgrimage in Islam”

And then there’s this: “A journey along Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route” (from the Financial Times). The article is a little long, but it’s worth reading.

Two lines I liked:

“the ramen-thin sidewalks”

““Speech is the silver medal. You get the gold medal for not speaking.”

And a rather discordant meeting of traditional and pop culture (and the reason Ms. Kunihashi decided to embark is kind of funny):

“Kunihashi let me join her on the mulchy trek up through the cedar trees of Mount Unpenji. It took us three hours to emerge from the green gloom on to a stone courtyard hemmed by spotless temple buildings. There, Kunihashi began a series of rituals that culminated in a chant of the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist prayer that she had memorised. “People who do it without reading anything look cool, don’t you think?” she said. That’s why she had decided to learn it from YouTube. She pulled out her iPhone to show me a musical version of the sutra sung by Hatsune Miku, a wildly successful Japanese pop star who happens to be a cartoon character.”

Observing: the moon and the month

Ramadan moon 1

This article from Al Jazeera explains how the timing of Ramadan is decided, and it’s surprisingly “analog”. Well, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s an ancient observation.



I don’t mean to make light of this religious observation, which is one of the main pillars of Islam, but it does remind me a little of how cherry blossom season is decided. I don’t know the details (research topic, anyone?) but from what I can tell, one guy goes out to a certain park, looks at the blossoms and declares them to be in full bloom.

The article has some interesting visuals (reminder for your presentations and research project final products!):

Ramadan moon 3

Ramadan 4

Here’s an article from the NYT about Ramadan:

“The Right Way to Observe Ramadan”

And here’s an explainer from Vox:

“Ramadan 2016: 9 questions about the Muslim holy month you were too embarrassed to ask”

Something I didn’t know: during Ramadan, you’re not allowed to chew gum or take medicine, either (though people who are sick, pregnant women, children and the elderly are exempt from the fasting rules). But:

“Doing any of those things “invalidates” your fast for the day, and you just start over the next day. To make up for days you didn’t fast, you can either fast later in the year (either all at once or a day here and there) or provide a meal to a needy person for each day you missed.” (from the Vox explainer)