Dec 11, 2011

Deng: China's tarnished visionary

DENG XIAOPING and the Transformation of China, By Ezra F. Vogel. Belknap Press, 2011, 876 pp. $39.95 (hardcover) Deng Xiaoping is one of the most influential men in modern history and here his dramatic story, one intertwined with elite intrigues in the Chinese Communist ...

Dispatches from the labor front line

Nov 27, 2011

Dispatches from the labor front line

This timely and excellent analysis of the changing employment system in Japan greatly improves our understanding of what it is like to be a dispatched worker (haken) in contemporary Japan and discourse about nonregular employment, of which haken is only one of various categories ...

Lessons of loss and healing

Nov 6, 2011

Lessons of loss and healing

This is a haunting saga, brilliantly told, about the 1985 crash of a Japan Airlines flight in the mountains of remote Gunma that claimed 521 lives. It is a gripping tale that explores what happened and why while probing the human tragedies that have ...

Pan-Asian history writ large

Oct 9, 2011

Pan-Asian history writ large

Finally there is an excellent source book on Pan-Asianism, an ideology that has played an important role in Japan’s regional interactions since the late 19th century. PAN-ASIANISM: A Documentary History (2 volumes 1850-1920; 1920-present), edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher Szpilman. Rowman & Littlefield, ...

The prelude to Pearl Harbor

Oct 2, 2011

The prelude to Pearl Harbor

It is safe to say that Japanese thronging the malls in Honolulu and scooping up apartments thanks to the mighty yen probably don’t give much thought to how Hawaii became part of the United States, but they know about Pearl Harbor. Pacific Gibraltar: U.S.-Japanese ...

<em>Theyyam</em>: Trance dances in the Indian countryside

Sep 11, 2011

Theyyam: Trance dances in the Indian countryside

Watching the two whirling dancers’ straw skirts aflame as they kept their balance under elaborate, 4-meter-high headdresses while circumambulating the central shrine of the village to the beat of drummers amid a buzzing throng, I did not expect a nudge from the local standing ...

The annual Kerala festival in Tokyo

Sep 11, 2011

The annual Kerala festival in Tokyo

This is the traditional season for the Keralan festival called Onam, the one time a year when the mythical King Mahabali leaves the netherworld where he now rules and visits his people to help them celebrate the harvest and their traditions. It is a ...

God's own country

Sep 11, 2011

God's own country

Everywhere around Kerala in southwest India there are signs emblazoned with the state motto: “God’s Own Country” — and certainly no supreme deity could have chosen a better place to call home. There is much to explore, incredible natural beauty, more temples than anyone ...

Sep 4, 2011

Flowering of civic activism

MAKING JAPANESE CITIZENS: Civil Society and the Mythology of the Shimin in Postwar Japan, by Simon Andrew Avenell. University of California Press, 2010, 356 pp., $24.95 (paper) In recent years the growth of civil society in Japan has attracted considerable attention. The invaluable contributions ...

Aug 14, 2011

Japan through the eyes of Richie

VIEWED SIDEWAYS: Writings on Culture and Style on Contemporary Japan, by Donald Richie. Stonebridge Press, 2011, 264 pp., $16.95 (paper) Viewed any which way, Japan through the eyes of Donald Richie is an interesting and rewarding place to read about. This is the third ...