Poverty takes on a new look in today's Japan

| Dec 6, 2014

Poverty takes on a new look in today's Japan

In the early years of the 21st century, such neologisms as nyū puā (new poor) and wākingu puā (working poor) began appearing in the Japanese media. Like their equivalents overseas, the terms were typically applied to people unable to realize a decent livelihood while ...

| Nov 17, 2014

Double up on your kanji to avoid homonym mixups

Although the Japanese and Chinese languages differ considerably in their syntax and pronunciation, one characteristic they share, along with use of kanji, is lots of homonyms. Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, for example, lists 70 characters with the pronunciation shih (or shi, when transcribed in hanyu ...

Creative crooks stay one step ahead

| Nov 15, 2014

Creative crooks stay one step ahead

The “Ore, ore” (“It’s me”) fraudsters and their ilk, who telephone elderly people and pretend to be a relative in need of money to help them out of a jam, keep coming up with new scams. One might say Japan is a target-rich environment. ...

Media whips up fuss over S&M bar claim

| Nov 1, 2014

Media whips up fuss over S&M bar claim

First came what the tabloids referred to as “W-jinin,” the resignations of two female Cabinet members — Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima — on the same day. The “W” in this case conveys two nuances: the first ...

Perfidia

Oct 25, 2014

Perfidia

This sprawling period piece from the prolific author of such works as “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dalia” takes place in Los Angeles and environs between Dec. 5 and 29, 1941. Central to the plot are the enigmatic slayings of a Japanese family of ...

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

| Oct 20, 2014

Subtle humor of haiku's cousin senryū is on a roll

“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,” philosophizes the long-winded Polonius in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” That’s also a fitting description of senryū — a form of short poetry defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a three-line unrhymed Japanese poem structurally similar to haiku, but ...

The sinking yen is a threat to the cost of living

| Oct 18, 2014

The sinking yen is a threat to the cost of living

If the items you purchase these days seem more expensive, you’re not imagining things. Electric bills are higher. The price for a liter of gasoline or diesel fuel has gone up, with costs being passed on throughout the distribution chain. The raising of the ...

Unburdening oneself of life's possessions

| Oct 4, 2014

Unburdening oneself of life's possessions

Japanese often cite an old aphorism that goes, “Tatsu tori ato wo nigosazu” (“It is a foolish bird that defiles its own nest”). This can be taken to mean that a departing person should not leave behind a mess. What kind of mess? Well, ...

Confessions

Oct 4, 2014

Confessions

The award-winning 1950 Akira Kurosawa film classic “Rashomon,” based on two short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, used different and contradictory accounts of a samurai’s death to explore humanity’s self-serving behavior. Kanae Minato’s first novel, “Confessions,” adopts a somewhat similar approach, with its six chapters ...