| 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 ...

| Dec 4, 2011

Occupy Wall Street resonates within Japan

While Japan’s vernacular media has regularly reported on the Occupy Wall Street movement that has swept the United States over the past several months, coverage regarding the movement and its aims has been somewhat bland. There have been exceptions, however. Weekly magazine Aera (Nov. ...

Is Aum's guru finally headed for the gallows?

| Nov 20, 2011

Is Aum's guru finally headed for the gallows?

Tomorrow, Nov. 21, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the appeal filed by Seiichi Endo, a former member of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult. Endo, now 51, was sentenced to death in 2002 (upheld in 2007) for his ...

| Oct 30, 2011

Less acclaim, more fun for Japan's Ig Nobel Prize winners

Since Hideki Yukawa in 1949, a total of 16 Japanese nationals have been named recipients of Nobel Prizes. In 2010, when the most recent Japanese winners were announced to receive prizes for chemistry, NHK interrupted its scheduled programming with a nyuusu sokuho (breaking news) ...