| Dec 27, 2014

Homage to a beautiful dog named Rhubarb

Earlier this month, our 15-year-old dog died, leaving our household grieving and heartbroken. Readers may recall that in August my two dogs saved me from a bear in Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, barking and chasing it off after it had swiped my head and arm. ...

| Dec 20, 2014

The good, and not-so-good, reads from 2014

I was lucky enough to read a number of good and informative books on Japan in 2014, but also read my share of clunkers. At the top of that list is Haruki Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage.” It is woefully ...

| Dec 13, 2014

Abe's secrets law undermines Japan's democracy

On Dec. 10, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new special secrets law took effect despite overwhelming public opposition. The new law gives bureaucrats enormous powers to withhold information produced in the course of their public duties that they deem a secret — entirely at their ...

| Dec 6, 2014

Hot-air Abe can't campaign on 'womenomics'

For a guy with a two-thirds majority in the Diet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished remarkably little since 2012. In the past year, real wages declined 3 percent while the economy fell into recession. Even so, this may be the least-worst bad time ...

| Nov 29, 2014

Abe seeks mandate for floundering 'Abenomics'

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s call for snap elections, implausibly pitched as a referendum on “Abenomics,” is a waste of time and money, and a stunning 63 percent of the public remains unconvinced there is any good reason to hold it. What is the point ...

| Nov 15, 2014

Japan's 21st-century tsunami stones

A familiar sight along Tohoku’s Sanriku coastline are the tsunami stones erected by past generations that alert residents to the high-water mark of previous tsunami and the perils of building any closer to the sea. Over time these warnings were ignored, and those who ...

| Nov 8, 2014

Right-wing witch hunt signals dark days in Japan

Many Japanese and long-time Japan observers have expressed dismay about the recrudescence of self-righteous nationalism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has emboldened right-wing extremists now threatening democratic institutions and civil liberties. “The revisionist right in Japan with the active encouragement, if not involvement, ...

| Nov 1, 2014

Commemorating wartime Soviet spy Sorge

Seventy years ago on Nov. 7, the Japanese authorities executed Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy who became a member of the Nazi Party and was operating as a journalist in wartime Tokyo. He was a raffish, womanizing, hard-drinking party animal who produced intelligence coups ...