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Musings(編集手帳)


It was at the age of 13 that the “Daruma Prime Minister” Korekiyo Takahashi traveled to the United States to study. He signed a document and started to live with an American family. But something appeared not quite right. He was made to take care of cattle and horses, and had no time to study.

“I was surprised. The document I signed was in effect a contract selling myself,” was how he recalled it in “Takahashi Korekiyo Jiden,” his autobiography, in the Chuko Bunko paperback series. It seems that a U.S. trade merchant who had mediated Takahashi’s travel had pocketed the travel expenses and tuition fees and sold him as a slave. It seems there is no end to the seeds for such behavior in outrageous people throughout the world.

So where had the money gone? While they had not been sold as slaves, their overseas dreams had vanished in misery, with certain similarities to the old anecdote.

Additional room fees are charged at the travel destination. Or air tickets are not issued on the day of departure. This is what happened to people who used the travel company Tellmeclub in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. This company went bankrupt due to its unjustifiable bargain business method. What kind of nerve must it have taken for the company to continue to accept customers right up to the point when it entered bankruptcy procedures?

It is very understandable that victims of this kind of company would become red in the face like a daruma, which reminds us of the prime minister’s nickname.

“My friend, you are setting out / On a long, long journey — / May the gods of heaven and earth / Help you till you reach your home!” goes a poem in the Manyoshu poetry anthology. It is believed that there are 1,100 travelers who arranged their trips with Tellmeclub still overseas.

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s April 5 issue.

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