29 March 2008

Trip to 那覇 (Naha, Japan) on 25-29 March 2008

Source and photos: http://horizons.free.fr/seikatsu/eng/memories/2008-03_jp-okinawa.htm

7.9m-long whale sharks at 美ら海水族館 (Churaumi Aquarium) I travelled to 沖縄 (Okinawa, Japan) for the first time on 25-29 March 2008 to give a talk at the 22nd International Conference on Advanced Information Networking and Applications in 那覇 (Naha) with Christian. We drove nearby to discover the landscapes, relax on the coast, and reach great coffee shops and restaurants. The climate was so warm at night that I barely slept without air conditioning.

Christian and I were globally satisfied by the most famous places of the island. We were impressed by the depictions of war at ひめゆり平和祈念資料館 (Himeyuri Peace Museum) and by the live 7.9m-long whale sharks of 美ら海水族館 (Churaumi Aquarium), which is a great and unique aquarium. Nearby, the less well-known 熱帯ドリームセンター (Tropical Dream Center) was also worth a visit. However, we were disappointed by 首里城 (Shuri castle), a UNESCO world heritage, which was crowded and radiated a theme-park aura; we enjoyed much more the modest and quiet 識名園 (Shikina garden).

After several cold months in 東京 (Tokyo), this stay was a pleasure. Although moving without a car is unrealistic, the pace is slower and the food delicious. I recommend カフェくるくま (Café Kurukuma), オリーブの木店 (Olive tree restaurant), 花人逢レストラン (Restaurant Kajinbo) with its funny menu written on a fan, ブリリアント・モトブヒルズ (Brilliante Motobu Hills), and above all the extraordinary ぱいかじ上之屋店 (Paikaji Uenoya restaurant). Beware however of the アメリカンビレッジ (American village): we enjoyed an interesting ambiance but had terrible food there.

[Update 04-Nov-2008] I explored jungles, walked among traditional houses, and toured beaches in several Southern islands of 沖縄 (Okinawa) during my second trip there, from 31 October to 03 November 2008 (see Post 04 November 2008).

14 March 2008

The Holy Bible (King James Version) and Biblical apocrypha

Source: http://horizons.free.fr/seikatsu/eng/thoughts/religion_holy-bible.htm

I read The Holy Bible in China, Japan and South Korea from July to December 2007 to better understand international events, and Western cultures and countries through their religious background. I selected the King James version because it is a famous and respected reference. I will continue with main texts from Buddhism, Judaism and Islam between 2008 and 2012 to quickly extend my grasp of other sizable populations and of more diverse contexts.

Although born in a country with Christian values, I had never read The Holy Bible before because its length and style were daunting and I assumed I knew its content. In 2007, I read it in detail, although I quickly forgot the family trees. Globally, the book matched my expectations but three passages shocked me because they conflict with French values.

First, in the Exodus, God asks Pharaoh to free people from Israel but prevents him from complying then punishes him by killing Egyptian babies. These actions are deeply unjust.
{Exodus, 4:21}And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
{Exodus, 4:22}And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
{Exodus, 4:23}And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

Second, in the first letter to Corinthians, equality between men and women is discarded, in favor of men.
{1 Corinthians, 11:6}For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
{1 Corinthians, 11:7}For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
{1 Corinthians, 11:8}For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
{1 Corinthians, 11:9}Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

Third, in the first letter to Ephesians, slavery is acclaimed.
{Ephesians, 6:5}Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

I thought the roots of the French motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" were Christian. Reading the Holy Bible shows it is much more about modernity.
As a complement to The Holy Bible, I read several Biblical apocrypha:
  • The Book of Enoch (translated from Ethiopic by Richard Laurence, London, 1883)
  • The First Book of Esdras
  • The Second Book of Esdras
  • The Greek Additions to Esther
  • The First Book of the Maccabees
  • The Second Book of the Maccabees
  • The Book of Tobit
  • The Book of Judith
  • The Wisdom of Solomon
  • The Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
  • The Book of Baruch
  • The Epistle (or letter) of Jeremiah
  • The Book of Susanna (in Daniel)
  • The Prayer of Azariah
  • The Prayer of Manasseh
  • Bel and the Dragon (in Daniel)

I recommend the Book of Enoch for its description of the events leading to the flood, the Book of Judith for its interesting apology of treachery, and the Book of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus) for its dense and detailed listing of values and rules. Most Biblical apocrypha are available on the web site of The Project Gutenberg but the Book of Enoch should be found elsewhere, for example as the 1883 translation by Richard LAURENCE.