| 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 ...

| Oct 25, 2014

Abe downsized, comfort women reprised

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe now understands why political gurus say that a week is a short time in politics. Last week, I speculated about why Abe remains popular despite promoting policies that most people oppose. But even before two of his Cabinet ministers submitted ...

| Oct 18, 2014

The Abe conundrum and the pitfalls ahead

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a polarizing figure, lauded as the resolute leader Japan needs to revive its flagging fortunes and slammed for mishandling history issues in ways that undermine national interests. The Abe conundrum is how he manages to retain a high degree ...

| Oct 11, 2014

China's new strongman Xi has a dream

President Xi Jinping is China’s most authoritarian leader since Deng Xiaoping, a strongman who has moved aggressively to assert and consolidate power while promoting a cult of personality. Rivals have been dispatched, he has rooted out those in the ruling oligarchy that were planted ...

| Oct 4, 2014

Manga, the Rising Sun and Abe's history problem

During his recent visit to the United Nations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reasserted his eagerness to improve relations with Japan’s East Asian neighbors, but the reaction from Beijing and Seoul was tepid. That’s because in both China and South Korea, Abe is reviled for ...

| Sep 27, 2014

Hyperbole over Asahi affair tarnishes brand Japan

The Asahi Shimbun has been apologetic of late after it confessed to journalistic wrongdoing in several articles. The newspaper has admitted an interview with the president of Nintendo was fabricated and that a story in May on the Fukushima accident erred in asserting that ...

| Sep 20, 2014

Jokowi's victory brings high hopes and challenges

In July, Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, won a decisive victory in Indonesia’s presidential elections. Even before assuming office in October, he faces extravagant expectations in a nation that has endured mercurial (Sukarno), repressive (Suharto) and feckless (B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri ...