| 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.” ...

| Oct 21, 2012

Watching the wealthy, a popular spectator sport

Twenty-five years ago, in what was to became known as the bubble economy, many Japanese suddenly found themselves awash in money. In a book published that year titled “Hokokuron” (“The Theory of National Affluence”), business pundit Taiichi Sakaiya gleefully extolled Japan’s newfound wealth, remarking, ...

| Oct 7, 2012

Tabloids return fire, urge China business pullout

On Sept. 29, the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Sankei Shimbun editorial writer Ryutaro Kobayashi asked how it would be possible for Japan to continue discussions with a China that had “lost its national dignity.” Kobayashi was ...