| Jul 8, 2012

Attitudes hardening toward the welfare state

Last March, the number of individuals receiving seikatsu hogo (financial assistance from the government) exceeded 2.1 million people, the first time the record had been surpassed since 1951. Payouts this year are likely to exceed ¥3.7 trillion. Based on the 2007 figures, Japan’s ratio ...

Adventures and danger in the land of smiles

Jun 24, 2012

Adventures and danger in the land of smiles

Vulture Peak, by John Burdett. Knopf, 2012, 304 pp., $25.95 (hardcover) A World of Trouble, by Jake Needham. Marshall Cavendish, 2012, 356 pp., $5.09 (Kindle) “Vulture Peak” is the latest installment in John Burdett’s ongoing saga of Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep. Whatever impression ...

| Jun 17, 2012

Social networking, online games in Japan media's sights

While much attention overseas has been focused on the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Facebook’s recent initial public offering, the Japanese media have been subjecting online gaming and social networks to increasingly critical scrutiny. The issues raised range from complaints over lax privacy ...

Hashimoto: A man with a plan, or dictator with an agenda?

| Jun 3, 2012

Hashimoto: A man with a plan, or dictator with an agenda?

Thirty years ago, while a program director at NHK, Nobuo Ikeda oversaw a panel discussion on the merits of adopting a federated political system. Among the panelists were several influential politicians, including Morihiro Hosokawa, then-governor of Kumamoto Prefecture and later prime minister, and Takahiro ...

Life and death north and south of the Korean DMZ

May 27, 2012

Life and death north and south of the Korean DMZ

The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson. Random House, 2012, $26.00 464 pp., (hardcover) Mr. Kill, by Martin Limon. Soho Crime, New York, 2011 $23.00 375 pp., (hardcover) A North Korean will instantly recognize that the young man called Pak Jun Do was raised ...

| May 21, 2012

Save face when taking the expressway

Foreigners in Japan often encounter conversations in which Japanese terms or concepts are expressed in English in ways that, while not necessarily idiomatic, still get the meaning across effectively. One such example would be the Japanese expression 強い (tsuyoi, strong), which in addition to ...

| May 20, 2012

Japan faces a long, hot, nuclear-free summer

Is Japan — and particularly the Kansai region — going to have enough electric power to get it through peak summer demand? The Meteorological Agency’s three-month projection for May through July, posted on its website (www.jma.go.jp/jp/longfcst/000_1_10.html) hedges its bets. For the four main islands, ...

| Apr 23, 2012

For a challenge guess unknown kanji

A mastery of written Japanese comes not through rote memorization, but by developing your inductive reasoning so as to nurture a “kanji-oriented thought process.” Soon after I began my study of kanji I acquired a book titled “Pictorial Chinese-Japanese Characters: A New and Fascinating ...

Past and present on Route 66

Apr 22, 2012

Past and present on Route 66

“Ah, there’s nothing like a Polish sausage smothered with jalapenos to settle a queasy stomach,” I said to my skeptical traveling companion Bob Allen, adding a squirt of mustard for good luck and taking a humongous bite. There’s something about driving the length of ...