Shinichi Tsuji (Keibo Oiwa)

Summer Solstice--it is the longest day of the year. Many traditional societies cerebrated, worshiped and prayed for it as a holy day. They were in awe and thankful--people at that time realized that they could only live thanks to the solar energy. However, no one today seems to remember those facts.

When you turn off the lights, darkness comes back. It has been a long time since the darkness disappeared from Japanese cities, where 80 percent of people live. Some people want to watch the moon and stars, or fireflies. Some might sit still in the darkness and some exchange their love for each other. Some make fire and others light candles. The flame of candles accentuates the darkness, and the darkness highlights the fire.

The majority of Japanese people eat dinner watching TV. Is this a sign of affluence? To me, this is simply a sign of cultural impoverishment. Let us turn out the lights and eat dinner under andlelight. Just a little act like that can give us a great opportunity: forming a circle, eating together and sitting by the firelight. Just think about it. Aren't these three major factors of culture to show what we, humankind, are all about?

I have had many opportunities to take my students to the ancient forests of North and South America. They looked happiest when they sat around a bonfire at night. Some even cried with a full smile on their faces. Then I realized--I took them all the way to see the moment. At the same time I was appalled by the fact that our "affluent" society could not give our children even that much joy. We seem to have pursued freedom under the fluorescent lamps.

We have been fixed in a strange idea that the more electricity we consume and the brighter the nights are, then society is more affluent and advanced, as the U.S. President Bush suggested 5 years ago that U.S. economy would be secured only if they construct one or two new power plants every week for the next 20 years. However, can we call it "economy" when its pursuit for money allows us to wage a war or to destroy the ecosystem that supports our lives?

Darkness, candlelight and bonfire will bring us a relaxing and peaceful time. Going with the flow of the time, we can come back to life from the madness of the "fast life" that has occupied us for a long time. Some might cynically say to us, "Such a little thing will not work for energy-saving," but we do not need to hold back. Candle Night can change me, and then the world, which I am part of, can certainly change, even though the change may be slight.

There is a folk legend that has been transmitted among indigenous peoples of South America.

"The forest was on fire.

All the animals, insects and birds in the forest rushed to escape.

But there was one little hummingbird named Kurikindi, or Golden Bird,
who stayed behind.

This little bird went back and forth between water and fire, dropping a single
drop of water from its beak onto the fire below.

When the animals saw this, they began to laugh at Kurikindi.
"Why are you doing that?" they asked.

And Kurikindi replied, "I am only doing what I can do."

--I am as little as the hummingbird, but I will do just what I can do, too.

Shinichi Tsuji (Keibo Oiwa)
Cultural anthropologist, Professor at Meiji Gakuin University
Promoter of Candle Night

June 15, 2005