Today's Note - Lapis Lazuli

Yomiuri Shimbun (Osaka Edition):

"Today's Note - Lapis Lazuli" - October 29, 2008

by Hiromichi Nagata, Editorialist

Mr. Kazuya Ito, who was an agricultural instructor and lost his life in Afghanistan, recently received the Yomiuri International Cooperation Special Award. Two months after his death, his smile, seen in the pictures of him, has proven unforgettable.

In the 6th century, Afghanistan was known as "Khorasan,” meaning the land of the rising sun. Mr. Haron Amin, the Afghan ambassador to Japan, wrote a history of diplomatic relations between Afghanistan and Japan in his book "LANDS UNDER THE RISING SUN" the data can also be viewed on the embassy's Web site. He wrote of his surprise regarding the amount of commonalities between Afghanistan and Japan. Some examples of parallels include religious ceremonies such as funerals, the "Aryyan” knights which contained similarities to Bushido, the concept of Menmoku marutsubure (egg on one's face in English) which is based on the culture of shame, human relations such as Anmoku no ryokai (implicit understanding in English) and many others. The ambassador writes that an indigenous gem, Lapis Lazuli, was the first item brought to Japan as he described the heritage that the Silk Road created. This blue, shining gem is known as "Ruri” in Japanese and is one of the seven treasures in Buddhism. Proof of this early exchange was found in the treasures of Shosoin in Nara prefecture. Lapis lazuli can be found in the Heiradenhaino octagonal mirror. After the Taliban were ousted from Afghanistan, Japan contributed 1.4 billion dollars for reconstruction support. Even though terrorist attacks frequently occur, representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency are stationed in Afghanistan.

It is true that many treasures have made their way to Japan from this center of the Silk Road that is Afghanistan. We would do well to remember our ancient links when thinking of Afghanistan's need for support.