| Feb 27, 2012

The first rule of writing ate-ji: There are no rules

As a general rule, kanji (Sino-Japanese ideographs) are classified in dictionaries according to two readings: kun-yomi (native Japanese) and on-yomi (approximation of the original Chinese pronunciation). For example, 東, the tō in 東京 (Tokyo), meaning “east,” is an on-yomi that came from the Chinese ...

Gallant cop, reporter on quest hit right notes

Jan 29, 2012

Gallant cop, reporter on quest hit right notes

RED JADE, by Henry Chang. Soho Press, 2011, 248 pp., $14 (paper) KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT, by Colin Cotterill. Minotaur, 2011, 374 pages, $24.99 (hardcover) It is pleasing to note that among the growing number of Asian-Americans producing works of fiction ...

| Jan 15, 2012

'Made in Japan' label under assault

Take a stroll through home sweet home. You’ll almost certainly see an entertainment system, refrigerator, microwave oven, rice cooker, toaster, mixer/blender, vacuum cleaner, heater/air conditioner, hair dryer, electric blanket and so on. From personal hygiene to food preparation to recreation and entertainment, electric appliances ...

| Jan 1, 2012

Japan's troubled royals put up a brave front

Bungei Shunju (“literary spring and autumn”) is arguably Japan’s most prestigious monthly magazine. Emblazoned in celebratory red across the cover of its New Year’s edition is the rather ominous headline, “The Day the Heisei (Era) Ends.” The eponymous 12-page article was written by Manabu ...

| Dec 26, 2011

A look back at the buzzwords and street slang of 2011

On Dec. 1, publisher Jiyukokumin-sha announced that the winner of its annual 流行語大賞 (ryūkōgo taishō, buzzword grand prix) for 2011 was 撫子ジャパン (Nadeshiko Japan). This of course is the name of the winners of the Women’s Soccer World Cup held last June-July, and you ...

Crime, war, and laughs unintended

Dec 25, 2011

Crime, war, and laughs unintended

Bill James, a well-known baseball authority, deviates from sport coverage to introduce some of America’s most celebrated true crime cases in “Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence.“ Many of the cases — which include Lizzie Borden, O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey — ...

The times may change, but the hits keep coming

| Dec 18, 2011

The times may change, but the hits keep coming

The 46th year of Showa, 1971, is remembered as the year of the “Nixon Shock,” when the U.S. president took unilateral action to raise the Japanese yen’s value against the dollar — from ¥360 to $1, to around ¥308 to $1. Nixon sought to ...

Dec 4, 2011

No safe haven for modern-day assassins

MAXIMUM TARGET, by Martin Gower. NoirEast Publishing, 2011, 360 pp., $26 (hardcover) THE DETACHMENT, by Barry Eisler. Thomas & Mercer, 2011, 324 pp., $14.95 (paperback) Some time ago, it became clear that thriller fiction set in Asia that featured Caucasian superheroes like James Bond ...