To: Newsletter
From: Peter Rivard
Subject: Freemasons in Japan?

HI, all,

       Just noticed something funny--I'll tell you about it, then I'm off to bed. On the front of the ¥5000 note (the ever-popular $40 bill), there's picture of the world, an elongated globe, right under the characters for "five thousand yen." Oddly, the view isn't from directly above Japan or the equator at the longitude of Japan but from a point above the middle of the Pacific, a bit north of the equator, so that most of the world is ocean, with land around the rim. California is actually closer to the center than Japan; both America and Australia show as prominently as Japan, and the country closest to center stage is, of course, New Guinea. Most people center the view on their own country, so having the homeland off on the side while centering on open ocean seems a bit odd. What's more odd is that the view is indeed centered on open ocean--because, in exactly the middle of this globe, there should be not open ocean but Hawaii. It's not a question of scale or resolution because the map does show the much smaller Aleutian Islands. Yes, the map of the world on Japanese money is centered on Hawaii, and Hawaii has been erased from the map. What could this mean?
       In language, too, Japan is off on the side, with someone else in the middle. The name of the country, for which "Land of the Rising Sun" seems a fair enough translation, is an honest description of Japan only if one happens to be in China at the moment (the name "Nippon," of which "Japan" is a corruption via Chinese, refers to the fact that from China the sun appears to rise out of Japan; the Japanese word for "China" is "The Middle Kingdom," affirming their neighbor as the center of the world, at least before Hawaii came along).
       And despite all this, Japan is usually recognized as the most inward-looking of the non-fruitcake countries.

For your contemplation,


--quick question: Could you imagine any US government-printed map being centered on the Bay of Pigs or Vietnam, or on blank spaces where those places should be?


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