Feb 27, 2011

Murder and mystery behind the burqa

CITY OF VEILS, by Zoe Ferraris. Little, Brown and Company, 2010, 393 pp., $24.99 (hardcover) One device frequently used by writers of mystery fiction is the intrusion of some force to obstruct the investigator’s job, which sometimes takes the form of a powerful adversary ...

| Feb 23, 2011

How a fine sensei began my journey with language

You’ve probably heard the famous saying, 千里の道も一歩から (senri no michi mo ippo kara, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step), attributed to both 老子, Roshi, Laozi) and 孔子 (Kōshi, Confucius). The Rosetta Stone that enabled me to take my personal ...

Aspiring animator comes to Japan to chase her dreams

Feb 20, 2011

Aspiring animator comes to Japan to chase her dreams

It’s fun to walk down the street or get aboard a train with Tracey Seals and watch how Japanese people react. Once they notice the blue-eyed, bespectacled 21-year-old redhead from Mississippi in their midst, some break out in smiles. And others do double-takes, as ...

When criminals bask in the media spotlight

| Feb 13, 2011

When criminals bask in the media spotlight

“Before I committed that incident, I was given many opportunities from my parents and others close to me. But I disregarded these. I never gave any consideration to my privileged situation.” With this display of contrition, Tatsuya Ichihashi — who will soon go on ...

| Feb 6, 2011

There be all kinds of monsters among us

An old saying goes “Issun no mushi ni mo gobu no tamashi” (even a one-inch worm has a half-inch soul); i.e., even the most humble and powerless creature can put up with only so much before turning on its tormentor. As if to confirm ...

Jan 16, 2011

Korean wordsmiths strut their stuff

YOUR REPUBLIC IS CALLING YOU, by Yong-ha Kim. Mariner Books, 2010, 326 pp., $14.95 (paper) INTO THE LIGHT: An Anthology of Literature by Koreans in Japan, by Melissa L. Wender. University of Hawaii Press, 2011, 226 pp., $22 (paper) I didn’t expect a novel ...

Back to the future of a 'hotel for 2001'

| Jan 16, 2011

Back to the future of a 'hotel for 2001'

The year was 1979. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Hirohito was in the 54th year of his reign. Japan’s prime minister was Masayoshi Ohira. In 1979, people still paid for goods with ¥500 bills. There was no consumption tax or Internet, there were no cell ...

| Dec 29, 2010

Looking back on 2010 one word at a time

Perched majestically at the summit of the clutter on my desk this sunny December morning is a copy of the 2011 edition of Jiyukokuminsha’s 「現代用語の基礎知識」(“Gendai Yōgo no Kiso Chishiki,” “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words”) — all 1,688 pages of it. Since 1948, this annual publication, ...

Dec 19, 2010

Final word on the year's best reading

Over the past 12 months I’ve been refamiliarizing myself with Swedish mystery fiction. THE MAN FROM BEIJING, by Henning Mankell. Knopf, 384 pp., $25.95 (hardcover) Since the early 1970s, I’d been a big fan of the husband-wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Walloo, ...