| Jan 25, 2009

Buddhism: a religion for death

Japan is so successfully ecumenical, the various religions of Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam happily living side by side, that one is tempted to doubt Japanese belief in any of them. DEATH AND THE AFTERLIFE IN JAPANESE BUDDHISM, edited by Jacqueline I. Stone and ...

| Jan 11, 2009

Blood, sweat and tears of Zen

Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller: the 1996 “Ku Neru Suwaru: Eiheiji Shugyoki,” Kaoru Nonomura’s account of the rigors and rewards of hard Zen training. EAT SLEEP SIT: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Zen Temple, by Kaoru Nonomura, ...

| Jan 11, 2009

Blood, sweat and tears of Zen

EAT SLEEP SIT: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Zen Temple, by Kaoru Nonomura, translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Kodansha International, 2008, 324 pp., ¥2,600 (cloth) Here is an unusually fine translation of a most unusual best-seller: the 1996 “Ku Neru Suwaru: Eiheiji Shugyoki,” ...

| Dec 28, 2008

The swift strokes of 'no-brush' calligraphy

KEN-ZEN-SHO: Zen Calligraphy and Painting of Yamaoka Tesshu, with a foreword by Rupert Faulkner, introductions by Sarah Moate and Alex Bennett, an essay by Terayama Tanchu and an afterword by Takemura Eiji. Bunkashi International (Kendo World Publications), 2008, 200 pp., 33 color plates, 67 ...

| Dec 21, 2008

A trove of fiction, all for the love of women

SPARKLING RAIN and Other Fiction From Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes, with introductions by Hitomi Sawabe and Mieko Watanabe. Chicago: New Victoria Publishers, Inc., 2008, 216 pp., $16.95 (paper) As editor Barbara Summerhawk writes in her ...

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

| Dec 14, 2008

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

BASHO: The Complete Haiku, translated by Jane Reichhold (Kodansha International) Japan’s most revered poet has never before had all of his haiku translated into English and gathered into one volume. Translator Jane Reichhold spent nearly 10 years at this task and our reward is ...

Kabuki rescued by national defeat

| Nov 30, 2008

Kabuki rescued by national defeat

KABUKI’S FORGOTTEN WAR: 1931-1945, by James R. Brandon. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008, 466 pp., with photographs, $52 (cloth) The role that Japan’s “classic” drama, kabuki, played during the 15-year “Sacred War” is largely undiscussed, and even in Japan itself it is usually ...

What's between sex and gender?

| Nov 16, 2008

What's between sex and gender?

GENDER GYMNASTICS: Performing and Consuming Japan’s Takarazuka Revue, by Leonie R. Stickland. Melbourne, Australia: Trans Pacific Press, 2008, 282 pp., with five plates (I through V). A$49.95 (cloth) The Takarazuka Revue is one of the several entertainment anomalies of Japan. It is an all-female ...

| Nov 2, 2008

Some 19th-century blood and gore

THE STRAW SANDAL OR THE SCROLL OF THE HUNDRED CRABS by Santo Kyoden, translated by Carmen Blacker, introduction by P.F. Kornicki. Global Oriental, 2008, 116 pp., 28 b/w illustrations by Utagawa Toyokuni, £35 (cloth) Santo Kyoden (pen name Iwase Samuru, 1761-1816) was among the ...

| Oct 19, 2008

A video archive that is music to the ears

JAPANESE VOICES: A Video Archive of Singing Styles and Techniques in the Japanese Language. Compiled, written and edited by Ichiro Nakayama. English translation by Mika Kimula under the supervision of Christopher Yohmei Blasdel. Osaka: Ad Popolo, 2008, Vol. I, 148 pp. (paper); Vol. II, ...