During my undergraduate days, I studied Asian history under an urbane, old-school academic. Prof. T. could be erudite and absent, often at the same time. That’s what made him so interesting. Looking back, it is difficult to tell if some, or even most, of the confusion was mine — a second-semester senior looking for the door rather than to the books, but this is how I remember him. Prof. T. had an understated wit, which more than made up for when his lectures moved onto an entirely different country without notice. (“And so that brings us up to the 19th Century in Thailand” — Thailand? What happened to Burma?)
One day, I happened to see him across a parking lot. He waved at me (or was it a butterfly?) as he got into the driver’s seat. Panic gripped me – oh no, Prof. T., don’t drive! I caught shout before it could escape, but worried until he arrived to class the next day.
Prof. T. has been on my mind because the previous Japanese prime minster, Yukio Hatoyama, seemed to be of a similar disposition. The U.S. press (much noted by the Japanese press) described him as loopy. Perhaps, his academic background had something to do with it: Ph.D., Industrial Engineering, Stanford. Regardless, this trait made Hatoyama oddly interesting. He seemed to not have a firm grip on what he wanted to do as PM, but, brave fellow, was willing to give it a shot despite the lack of target or aim.
Watching his resignation speech June 2, I initially thought my Japanese had misled me, but now that I’ve had time to check, it wasn’t my Japanese. Hatoyama did say, somewhat figuratively, that a bird told him it was time to resign. Starry Brooke has a detailed translation, but you can watch the video. The bird flutters in at 6:30 minutes.