MUSINGS / Oct. 4, 2017

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Oct. 4 issue.

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The maid was asked late at night what time it was and said, “It’s already 12 midnight, sir.” The response must have really upset literary giant Ogai Mori (1862-1922), because he yelled at her, saying: “What do you mean by ‘already’? Why can’t you just say ‘It’s still 12 o’clock’?”

Literary critic Roan Uchida (1868-1929) wrote about what he had witnessed at Mori’s home in an essay in “Omoidasu Hitobito” (People I remember; Iwanami Bunko pocket edition). Mori did not mind losing sleep to indulge himself in his literary work and would often say, “A two-hour sleep should be enough for anyone.”

With all due respect, however, I would like to tell master Mori he is unreasonable, due to the medical knowledge shared by many people today — that is, of the “biological clock” [circadian rhythm]. They say defying this clock by leading an irregular life is what invites various illnesses.

The mechanism was unraveled some three decades ago. Three American scholars, who found that the secretion of hormones and other bodily functions are regulated by the clock, will be awarded the Nobel prize [in physiology or medicine]. The clock is at work, say, when people go to sleep. When the maid said, “already,” she was correct to a tee. What’s more, you could tell she was concerned [about Mori’s well-being].

There are people other than Mori who charged ahead by cutting down on their sleep. Bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928) and Napoleon Bonaparte come to mind. In today’s entertainment world, Akashiya Sanma is rumored to be one of those people. Make sure you’re not influenced by these people the next time you read their success stories.Speech

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