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The Story of a Comet Hunter's Life

My 50 years with Comets

Part 19: The stars and the spirit of guitar

    There is an peculiar place in Kochi city named gChikyu 33-banchi (33 Earth Street)h in Kochi city. Enokuchigawa river runs from east to west through the middle of the city and passes north of Kochi castle winding around it like a moat, and finally flows into Uratowan bay. The river runs under the famous Harimayabashi bridge and one kilometer east from there, a peculiar tower stands on the river bank. The area happens to be at longitude 133 degrees 33 minutes 33 seconds east and latitude 33 degrees 33 minutes 33 seconds north. To mark this peculiar location, the Rotary Club of Kochi built a monument and donated it to the city about 40 years ago. It is merely two straight numerical lines of 3s and carries no particular significance or historical importance, but to me it is something I cannot forget, because a friend of mine loves near this memorial as if he were its guardian.

    Letfs call him a gSen-nin Yh (Unworldly Man Y) for the sake of this story. His address written on his calling card is gChikyu 33-banchih, that is, 33 Earth Street. Simply put it, he is a total outsider of contemporary society. He doesnft drive; instead, he rides a bicycle around the city visiting like-minded friends. He loves writing poems and has kept writing for many years. To an ordinary person like me, his poems were difficult to
understand and unusual.

    Mr. Y had great educational qualifications and joined a major newspaper company with an excellent academic record. He tackled all the tasks diligently and would never easily compromised with his principles. One of his colleagues who joined the company at the same time was nervous of his superiors and tried to please them. This person conformed to the companyfs policies even against his will and wrote conservative articles that the the company president would like. Unlike him, Mr. Y would steadfastly refused to compromise himself and stick to his principles. He wrote his poems in the papers as well. Because of this, he constantly clashed with others everywhere and had trouble with his superiors. This made his otherwise secured path to a great journalist precarious.

    Even after retiring, he didnft stop writing. His mottoes as a journalist was to report truths accurately and tell the readers, as a man of letters, his own thoughts with his excellent observation and writing skills. (The papers contained too much ostentation and in a few cases truths were compromised.) There he found a joy and dream as a journalist. His writing was beautiful and full of life just like poems. His investigations went straight to the heart of the matter and appealed to conscientious readers.

    When I discovered my first new comet 1961f in October 1961, the first person who came to see me was Mr. Y. At that time he was running his own small newspaper company. During the meeting with me he continued to write while thanking me for everything I said. His sentences did not show any exaggerations and ostentations. He reported faithfully what I intended to say. His own unique thoughts about the meeting impressed the readers.

    I sometimes wonder: When you face the end of your life filled with pretension and hypocrisy and look back on your life, would you be content? Mr. Y, who held to his principles and fearlessly lived with honesty in spite of unfortunate circumstances, would see his life as a fruitful and happy one. In a sense he is the happiest person of all.

    A few days ago, Mr. Y stopped by casually on a bicycle riding from 33 Earth Street. Due to hardships his hair was grey, but his eyes staring at the scandalous aspect of the society is sharp and penetrating. The moment he saw me, however, with gGood morning, Seki-san!h these eyes changed to truly gentle and peaceful eyes.

    When two people live their lives looking at beautiful things, their minds sometimes lead them to a lively conversation somewhat philosophical, about the the stars, literature, and life. Genjiro Yoshida, an author of the past years, wrote something to the effect: gThis world is full of evils. If I try to live decently I will feel suffocated. However, as long as there is one good person in this world, I want to be a good person myself.h When I am with Mr. Y, strangely I feel I have become genuinely a good person forgetting about the revolting things and contradictions in the world. Mr. Y regards me with respect and seems to overestimate me. He wrote the following poem for me:
I dedicate this poem to you, wishing you good health and happiness.

Segoviafs tremolo of love
Twinkling stars of a love-struck heart
Keep on strumming eternally
Transcending place and time
Immersed in your endeavor like no-one else
    Poetsf ways of thinking is incredible. Seemingly unrelated occurrences in different dimensions are securely connected in their minds. Segovia and stars are, at a glance, are unrelated, but Minor Planet Segovia (3822) exists @

    Segovia is a Spanish-born genius of guitar. gGeniush sounds impressive, but he learned harmony and instrumental execution by himself. He gained the fame of a genius guitarist as the crown of his hard work. It was at Nakanoshima Festival Hall in 1959 when I went to Segoviafs concert for the first time. Unexpectedly, Vincent Galileifs suite was played at the start of the program. (Vincent Galilei is Galileo Galileifs father.) Segovia played his favorite music one after another; Bachfs Gavotte, Haydnfs Minuet, Mendelssohnfs Songs with Words, Albenizfs Seville. For his encore he played Recuerdos de la Alhambra in the gtremolo of loveh. @

    Until that day, I had believed Segovia was a genius. In fact, his ideas were those coming from geniuses and his guitar techniques were perfect, without any flaws whatsoever. I thought geniuses were created only by God, completely forgetting about individualsfefforts.

    That night, I happened to be staying at the hotel where Segovia was staying and I wanted to visit him in his room after the concert was over. For many years I had been dreaming of seeing the great guitarist Segovia playing. I was overwhelmed by a thought of the realization of my dream and wanted his autograph. If possible at all, I wanted to shake that very hand which strummed incredible sounds. While I was walking along the scarlet-colored hallway with the concert program in hand, something unexpected happened. As I got closer to his room, I heard the faint sound of a guitar. It was surely the sound of guitar. As if it were not played right, the same phrase was played again and again just like learners would practice. Is it what the great guitarist Segovia doing? He is just like us, isnft he? I couldnft believe my ears. He had just finished his first concert in Japan. You would expect he would take a bath leisurely to rest his body and restore his exhausted energy. Instead, he was already practicing intensely for the next goal. I felt I glimpsed real Segovia. (Segovia, after all, was just a human. Genius is something to be created by onefs hard work!) I froze in the dimly lit hallway and listened to the sounds of his guitar for a long time.

    I experienced the same thing when I first met the comet hunter Mr. Ikeya. It was amazing that he had successively discovered comets for 5 years beginning in 1963. If you look at someonefs achievements, they appear so easily made. And, you may think it is just luck or because of his genius, forgetting about the personfs efforts and hard work. When I actually met him, I learned that his ways of comet search are truly creative independent of any other search method and that his achievements are the result of overcoming bad luck, exhausting efforts, and perseverance. He devoted far more hours and hard work to his search than I did, although I was senior to him chronologically. I have met several successful comet hunters, but this observation of Mr. Ikeya has never changed.

    One late autumn day, 35 years after Andre Segoviafs concert, I visited a musical instrument store in Kanda, Tokyo. There displayed was the guitar Ramirez, Segoviafs favorite guitar. I looked at it with deep interest thinking that this was the instrument which had mesmerized many listeners across Europe for many decades. The surface of the guitar turned dark brown showing signs of long and frequent service. There were also many marks and scratches. I took it up and pluck the strings, but this ancient instrument didnft make any sound perhaps because I wasnft its master. Being curious, I checked the label inside the guitar. Surely the label read gMade in 1955 by Ramirezhand signed by him. At the 1959 Osaka concert, Segovia used a renowned Hermann Hauser. Soon after, Segoviafs favorite guitar became a Spanish guitar Ramirez. There is no reason that this guitar I had tried to play did not make a sound. I had listened to his numerous recorded performances and been moved by the enhanced beauty of the sounds and power. Having lost its renowned master Segovia, it stopped to make any sound. After all, what is important is the performer on the instrument, not the instrument itself. If Segovia was alive and continued to play, this instrument would keep generating beautiful sounds.

    The same will be true with the world of astronomy. Even if a good observatory is built with a large telescope, without good observers and operators it will become an observatory of little significance. For the purpose of astronomy education or just public viewing, very large telescopes are not necessary. In recent years, large aperture telescopes have been built as if competing with each other for apertures. It is an amazing development for us searchers of Solar System objects. News of large telescopes having been built does not make us anxious, but the emergence of good observers does. The reason is that excellent observers can do a good job even with relatively small telescopes. The important thing is the users of the telescope and their hard work. We should not be preoccupied with large apertures. Instead, we should make efforts to train good observers or acquire capable observers.

Copyright (C) 2018 Tsutomu Seki.