| Jul 13, 2004

The big squeeze

The news from Japan these days is untypically sunny. The economy is performing at its sharpest clip for 13 years, investment and profits are up and analysts are gingerly forecasting a sustained recovery. And like a giant exclamation mark to the optimistic predictions, along ...

McEnglish for the masses

| Feb 24, 2004

McEnglish for the masses

American sociologist George Ritzer coined the term McDonaldization to describe how a method of production that originated in fast food restaurants is sweeping through every aspect of society. Ritzer wondered why a system supposed to make life easier is slowly imprisoning us in an ...

Japan: pink heaven for traffickers

Feb 1, 2004

Japan: pink heaven for traffickers

How many of the 700,000 to 4 million global victims of human trafficking a year (according to a 2002 U.S. State Department survey) end up in Japan? Given the secretive nature of the trade, nobody knows for sure, but the Geneva-based International Organization for ...

| Dec 9, 2003

Burden of proof impossible to bear

It may not have been exactly what the government has in mind by the cliche “international cooperation,” but dozens of ordinary Japanese folk recently gave up a precious Sunday to help out foreigners in trouble. The gaijin are locked up in jails around Japan ...

| Nov 11, 2003

Running the sex trade gantlet

It could be a scene from most neighborhoods in urban Japan but it happened to be mine in Hashimoto, Kanagawa Prefecture. Weary male commuters file through the ticket barriers of the JR Yokohama Line greeted by half a dozen leggy beauties carrying fliers for ...

| Oct 28, 2003

Convicted Briton says he was drug run patsy

Most of us can name a time when our lives changed forever, but few can do so as precisely as Nicholas Baker: 11.30 a.m. on April 13, 2002. The scene is Narita International Airport. The bleary-eyed Baker, on a shopping trip for World Cup ...

Confessions of a foreign correspondent

| Sep 23, 2003

Confessions of a foreign correspondent

These are not happy times for people who make a living writing about Japan. With the country apparently having become, as one magazine put it, the “Switzerland of Asia,” i.e., rich but boring, foreign newspapers are shuttering their Tokyo bureaus as fast as they ...

Time running out for shrinking Japan

| Sep 2, 2003

Time running out for shrinking Japan

Last week when I started to research this article I went looking for foreign factory workers. I didn’t have to travel far. A few kilometers from our house in Tsukui, Kanagawa Prefecture, I came across a restaurant called Sabor Latino catering to a small ...

Refugees treated like criminals

| Apr 29, 2003

Refugees treated like criminals

Last month, these pages carried the story of a Kurdish family that came to Japan seeking asylum, only to be torn apart by the country’s arcane immigration laws. The experience of Erdal Dogan, his wife Meryem and their two small children, suggested a system ...

Apr 15, 2003

Shintaro Ishihara on North Korea

“Japan’s support for the war is special,” believes Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara. “We are under threat ourselves from another terrorist state, North Korea, which has kidnapped 150 of our citizens. 150 people! I don’t think any of them are alive. Pyongyang is also sending ...