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 ...

Jul 24, 2011

Unraveling the evolution of modern Japan

ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK OF JAPANESE CULTURE AND SOCIETY. Edited by Victoria and Theodore Bestor with Akiko Yamagata. Routledge, 2011, 325 pp. (hardcover) This is a tremendous book and should jump the queue of all those books on contemporary Japan you have been intending to read. ...

Marvelous Minakami: the great year-round escape

Jul 10, 2011

Marvelous Minakami: the great year-round escape

Face it, you need to get out of Tokyo during the dog days of summer, when it gets like a fetid sauna. Yeah, you can while away a few hours at an outdoor beer garden and dull the pain, but basically you know you ...

Memories of a missing mom

Jun 12, 2011

Memories of a missing mom

This is an intimate drama brimming with sadness, suspense and surprises as the search for a missing mother in Seoul gives us glimpses into the heart of a family. PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM, by Kyung-Sook Shin. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, 256 pp., $24.95 (hardcover) ...

May 22, 2011

Power play in the Far East

CHANGING POWER RELATIONS IN NORTHEAST ASIA: Implications for Relations Between Japan and South Korea. Edited by Marie Soderberg. Routledge, 2011, $125, 188 pp., (hardcover) From mid-March until mid-April, South Korean charities raised over $52 million for earthquake relief in Japan, a record sum that ...

Apr 17, 2011

Lest we forget: Tiananmen Square massacre revisited

TIANANMEN MOON: Inside the Chinese Student Uprising of 1989, by Philip J. Cunningham. Rowman Littlefield, 2010, 290 pp., $39.95 (hardcover) This is a gripping story told with page-turning brio by an American who had ringside seats for the gathering student protests in May 1989 ...

Mar 27, 2011

Love, war and betrayal in old Siam

THE TALE OF KHUN CHANG AND KHUN PHAEN: Siam’s Great Folk Epic of Love and War. Translated and edited by Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit. Silkworm Books, 2010, 970 pp., $60 (hardcover) Those who like their novice monks prim and proper, taming desires, meditating ...

Mar 6, 2011

LDP: fall of Japan's political machine

THE RISE AND FALL OF JAPAN’S LDP: Political Party Organizations as Historical Institutions, by Ellis S. Krauss and Robert J. Pekkanen. Cornell University Press, 2011, 318 pp., $26.95 (paper) Japanese politics is in a sad state these days with the media likening Diet debate ...

Papering over the CCP cracks

Feb 27, 2011

Papering over the CCP cracks

I happened to be in Chengdu during the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize wrangle. Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned human rights activist, became the third person to receive the prestigious award while in detention. When his prize was announced in October, Beijing denounced ...