Taking a walk down felony lane

| Apr 5, 2014

Taking a walk down felony lane

As part of the commemoration of the 140th anniversary of the Metropolitan Police Department, monthly magazine Bungei Shunju polled some 50,000 active-duty policemen on the 100 most significant crimes, incidents and disasters since 1874. The magazine received approximately 45,000 responses, and published the results ...

Good and bad, for better or worse

| Mar 16, 2014

Good and bad, for better or worse

One approach to acquiring new vocabulary that I’ve always found effective is to seek out the 反対語 (hantai-go, antonyms) of words. To prove my point, how about looking at words that relate to “good” and “bad,” which are about as opposite as you can ...

Portrait of the assassin as a young man

Mar 15, 2014

Portrait of the assassin as a young man

Sometime in the 1970s, as more Americans began to rally against the Vietnam War, an unknown cynic parodied the U.S. Army’s promotional recruitment tagline with the slogan, “Join the Army! Travel to unusual places. Meet interesting people, and kill them.” The killing part, at ...

Media await rightist ex-general's next move

| Feb 22, 2014

Media await rightist ex-general's next move

“Thank you, everyone,” wrote Toshio Tamogami in his weekly column in Shukan Asahi Geino (Feb. 27). “This has given me great courage toward my next move.” Tamogami, former chief of staff of the Air Self-Defense Force, received 610,865 votes in Tokyo’s gubernatorial election on ...

Playing the Japanese name game

| Feb 16, 2014

Playing the Japanese name game

Once, when telephoning the international PR office of a major electronics manufacturer, I got lucky. Without my even asking, the young woman who picked up the phone volunteered her name, saying 私は青木と申します (Watashi wa Aoki to mōshimasu, My name is Aoki). Actually it sounded ...

Promises of 'taboo' topics rarely live up to the billing

| Feb 8, 2014

Promises of 'taboo' topics rarely live up to the billing

When you see the word "tabū" in a headline, it's probably not really a taboo, mainly because self-censorship ensures that topics that really are taboo are treated with commensurate caution. Thus, an article claiming to expose some taboo might titillate, but probably won't reveal ...

Marketers succeed by generating <I>hitto</I> products

| Jan 19, 2014

Marketers succeed by generating hitto products

Japanese consumers and marketers alike certainly love their ヒット商品 (hitto shōhin, hit products). To understand how this term came about, we need to look back to the decade following World War II. When living standards gradually began to improve from the early 1950s, Japanese ...

After Aum, post-9/11 lull, weeklies rediscover faith

| Jan 18, 2014

After Aum, post-9/11 lull, weeklies rediscover faith

March 20 will mark the 19th anniversary of the toxic nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by members of the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) doomsday cult. That attack, which shook Japanese society to its very foundations, resulted in 13 deaths and thousands of ...