| Mar 19, 2012

Excuse me, but aren't you so-and-so's whatchamacallit?

According to a dispatch by the French news agency AFP, France on Feb. 21 officially banished use of the term Mademoiselle when referring to unmarried women. Henceforth, Madame will be used irrespective of marital status. The Germans phased out Fraulein four decades ago. And ...

Yu Darvish under the magnifying glass

| Mar 18, 2012

Yu Darvish under the magnifying glass

Barring a major natural catastrophe, war or government upheaval, the vernacular news headlines for the next several months are almost certain to be dominated by baseball. Specifically, former Nippon Ham Fighters hurler, Yu Darvish, who on April 8 is scheduled take the mound in ...

Lucky Dragon's lethal catch

| Mar 18, 2012

Lucky Dragon's lethal catch

At just over 25 meters from stem to stern, and 140 tons, the wooden long-line tuna-fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru (No. 5 Lucky Dragon) is hardly imposing. Yet despite its diminutive size for an ocean-going vessel, in March 1954 the Lucky Dragon’s encounter with ...

Anti-yakuza laws are taking their toll

| Mar 4, 2012

Anti-yakuza laws are taking their toll

Five months after tough new ordinances cracking down on the activities of organized crime syndicates went into effect, it’s not yet clear what impact, if any, they’ve had on gang activities. “We are resigned to the new antigang regulations, but they have not interfered ...

| 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 ...