| Sep 24, 2007

The Self-Defense Forces: living with a lie

NEW YORK — Many commentators have invoked historical analogies for U.S. President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq and its still unfolding aftermath, with some saying, correctly, that no exact historical analogies are possible for anything, the least of all this damnable war. Still, ...

| Aug 20, 2007

Why can't Americans give up their guns?

NEW YORK — Is there anything comparable to the numbing obstinacy, the utter blindness to reality, that politicians display toward the consequences of untrammeled gun ownership in this country? So I wondered, once again, when I stumbled upon President George W. Bush’s answer to ...

| Jul 30, 2007

How a woman portrayed Hitler as human

NEW YORK — What kind of courage, or audacity even, is required to stage, in Washington, a play featuring Adolf Hitler — one provocatively titled “My Friend Hitler” and written no less than by Yukio Mishima? After all, not just Hitler, but anything associated ...

| May 28, 2007

Rooting out the purplish, yellow perils

NEW YORK — A certain plant of the pea family has been appreciated in Japan — poetically, dietarily and medicinally — since ancient times. So, in the oldest extant anthology of Japanese poetry, the “Man’yoshu,” it is used as an epithet for “without interruption,” ...

Apr 8, 2007

Broadening the literary view of choosing a purposeful death

SUICIDAL HONOR: General Nogi and the Writings of Mori Ogai and Natsume Soseki, by Doris. G. Bargen. University of Hawaii Press, 2006, 289 pp., $42 (cloth) The name of Maresuke Nogi (1849-1912) reverberated through the world twice: when he subdued the Russian fortress at ...

| Mar 26, 2007

Jury system doesn't guarantee justice

NEW YORK — My U.S.-Japanese business consultant friend John Gillespie dropped by and, upon hearing that my wife Nancy had been summoned to jury duty, said Japan should introduce a similar system. At the time, the Lewis “Scooter” Libby case — about whether the ...

| Feb 26, 2007

Eastwood didn't idealize Kuribayashi

NEW YORK — Isn’t the Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Clint Eastwood’s film “Letters From Iwo Jima” idealized? That was a question my poet friend Geoffrey O’Brien asked on New Year’s Eve. A dedicated student of film, O’Brien had remembered a poem about the general ...