| Feb 21, 2015

Militant monks rabble-rousing in Myanmar

With the people of Myanmar heading to the polls later this year, there are troubling signs that some extremists are intent on stirring up trouble. Last month, one such extremist held a rally in Yangon. Ashin Wirathu gave a vitriolic speech that attacked U.N. ...

| Feb 14, 2015

Japan's public diplomacy is expensive and errant

Global understanding does not come cheaply. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has budgeted ¥70 billion — yes, that’s more than $500 million — to help get the word out about Japan and ensure that China and South Korea aren’t the only ones controlling the ...

| Feb 7, 2015

Abe acts quickly to exploit Japan's 'nightmare'

On adjacent televisions at my gym, I watched breaking news on the beheading of journalist Kenji Goto by the Islamic State group next to a “One Piece” anime segment in which fresh-faced youth defended their boat from marauding pirates. The kids routed them in ...

Diplomatic blundering on hostages and history

| Jan 31, 2015

Diplomatic blundering on hostages and history

Japan’s latest hostage crisis has exposed shortcomings in Japan’s public diplomacy and raises questions about the advice Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received in publicly announcing $200 million in humanitarian aid to help those displaced by conflict with the Islamic State group. Understandably, the prime ...

| Jan 24, 2015

Can the DPJ reinvigorate Japanese democracy?

Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis recently wrote, “It is a sad commentary on Japan’s politics that after nearly 70 years of democracy a competitive party system has all but disintegrated.” The Democratic Party of Japan is a culprit in this disintegration and slim hopes for ...

| Jan 17, 2015

Sri Lanka votes against fear and kleptocracy

The stunning ouster of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Jan. 8 was good news for that island nation of 20 million, and further evidence of a universal yearning for good governance. After a decade in power, Sri Lankans chose to hold Rajapaksa accountable ...

| Jan 10, 2015

The people's Emperor speaks truth to power

Emperor Akihito began the new year with a statement that pointedly referred to two major controversies: war memory and nuclear energy. His thoughts on these demonstrate why he is so admired by the public and underscore the crucial role the 81-year-old monarch plays in ...

| 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 ...