| Dec 17, 2012

Buzzwords show the changing face of Japanese in 2012

While hamming it up before the TV cameras on a diving board last September, entertainer “Sugi-chan” (real name: Eiji Sugiyama) suffered a fractured thoracic vertebrae. Wild, right? Or as the chunky 39-year-old entertainer — easily recognizable in his blue denim shirt with cutoff sleeves ...

Japan loses its cool as South Korea heats up

| Dec 16, 2012

Japan loses its cool as South Korea heats up

Last month, a nationwide survey of 3,000 people by the Cabinet office found that the percentage of Japanese who do not view South Korea on friendly terms rose to 59 percent, up by 23.7 points from 2011. The sharply negative shift appeared to reverse ...

| Dec 9, 2012

New breed of 'criminal elements' emerging from the shadows

Don’t look now, but some new bad guys have come to town. Referred to as han-gure, they’ve actually been around for a while already, flying under the radar of the mainstream media. Atsushi Mizoguchi, an investigative journalist specializing in coverage of organized crime, is ...

Dec 9, 2012

Serious business of murder turned into entertainment

THE INCENSE GAME, by Laura Joh Rowland. Minotaur Books, 2012, 290 pp., $25.99 (hardcover) ONE RED BASTARD, by Ed Lin. Minotaur Books, 2012, 280 pp., $25.99 (hardcover) Since publication of her first mystery, “Shinju,” 18 years ago, Laura Joh Rowland has churned out about ...

The convoluted crime spree of Amagasaki's 'piranha family'

| Nov 25, 2012

The convoluted crime spree of Amagasaki's 'piranha family'

By next week, the media will start compiling lists of the top news stories of 2012. The short list can be expected to include natural and manmade disasters, political bombshells, international disputes, indiscretions by celebrities in the worlds of sports and entertainment and, of ...

| Nov 18, 2012

Yoshiwara busts send message: 'Keep it clean'

On May 24, 1956, the Diet voted Japan’s anti-prostitution statute into law, effective from April 1, 1957; but enforcement was postponed a year to give sex workers time to seek new livelihoods. “On its last night of business, after the 106 houses — with ...

It's a bad time for Sapio to downsize

| Nov 4, 2012

It's a bad time for Sapio to downsize

Japan’s first two shūkanshi (weekly magazines) appeared so closely, their arrival could be described as analogous to a “photo start” as opposed to a photo finish. The Asahi Shimbun launched Junkan Asahi on Feb. 25, 1922. Rather than appearing weekly, however, it was issued ...

Halloween in Japan: no trick or treat, but scary spots galore

| Oct 29, 2012

Halloween in Japan: no trick or treat, but scary spots galore

Japanese people generally have a well developed appreciation for the supernatural, and while the American practice of ringing doorbells in the neighborhood to demand “trick or treat” has yet to take root, Halloween-related events continue to grow in popularity. Seasonal parties, variously called 仮装パーティー ...

In search of the fearsome Onibaba

Oct 21, 2012

In search of the fearsome Onibaba

“Here’s as close as I can take you,” said my taxi driver, a charming fellow named Ishii whose pronounced zuzu-ben (Tohoku accent), was strong enough to cut with the proverbial knife. “Just follow the path down the hill there — you can’t miss it.” ...