VOX POPULI: What words inspired young people in 2021?

Back when actress Meiko Nakamura was a young woman who just got engaged, she found herself in a tough spot.

This is because Rokusuke Ei (1933-2016), one of her male friends, started crying inconsolably when she told him of her upcoming marriage.

According to her book “Mo Ittokanaito” (I have to say it now), she called her father, an author, from a public phone booth asking for advice.

He said to her: “Say (Ei) this: ‘Go home, look at the sky so that your tears do not fall.'”

She repeated those exact words to Ei. And they must have left an indelible impression on her, she recalls, as they became the inspiration for the lyrics of the megahit number “Ue wo Muite Arukou,” which was renamed “Sukiyaki” for its overseas release.

We humans have times when someone else’s words resonate with our whole being, especially during adolescence.

Such moments can be seen in some of the winning entries of the “2021 Oriori no Kotoba Contest”, in which junior and senior high school students were invited by The Asahi Shimbun to send in comments made by others that deeply inspired.

“Let’s work together one day” was the message Azu Takahashi, a first-year high school student, received from her teacher when she was in middle school.

Her teacher wrote the message in Takahashi’s high school yearbook at the time of her graduation, as the teacher knew her dream was to become a primary school teacher.

While writing the message, her teacher told her, “I can’t wait to meet you when you become a teacher yourself.” The professor had to see her as his future colleague, not as a student.

Aoi Sano, a third-year high school student, was told by a classmate, “Overwork yourself,” rather than the more predictable “don’t overwork yourself.”

Sano had announced his candidacy for class representative and was about to give his campaign speech, and his friend’s encouragement really fired him up.

Hina Toyofuku, a junior high school freshman, is a firm believer in Snoopy’s famous maxim: “You play with the cards that are dealt to you.”

She says she remembers this when she feels discouraged, because envying or resenting someone who is luckier won’t help you move on.

Walk with your head held high looking up at the sky. Indeed.

–The Asahi Shimbun, January 19

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that covers a wide range of topics, including culture, the arts, and social trends and developments. Written by veteran writers from Asahi Shimbun, the column offers helpful perspectives and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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