An avian flu outbreak in Japan could kill 'Abenomics'

| Apr 28, 2013

An avian flu outbreak in Japan could kill 'Abenomics'

No one has ever fully explained why, in 2002-3, the virulent pathogen known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ran rampant in mainland China (5,328 cases, 349 deaths) but only infected four people in South Korea, with no fatalities, and none in Japan. Unlike ...

| Apr 22, 2013

Ways to 'spell' Japanese out loud

I dial a number and ask to speak to my literary agent, Mr. Suzuki. “Moshi-moshi. Suzuki Masatoshi-sama oraremasuka?” “Sumimasen ga, okyakusama wa?” Literally “Excuse me, as for the guest?” That is the speaker’s polite way of asking “Who should I say is calling?” “Shuraibā ...

Tabloids sharpen claws for North Korea's 'X-Day'

| Apr 14, 2013

Tabloids sharpen claws for North Korea's 'X-Day'

Three months before the present crisis on the Korean peninsula, Shukan Jitsuwa (Jan. 24) ran an uncharacteristically astute article predicting that in addition to potential for armed conflict with China over the disputed Senkaku Islands, North Korea, under its inexperienced young leader Kim Jong ...

| Mar 24, 2013

Mandatory retirement takes a leap forward

The angels that guard you / When you drive / Usually retire / At sixty-five That ditty, for Burma-Shave brushless shaving cream, appeared in signs along U.S. highways in the early 1960s. The number 65 suggested drivers who exceeded that figure in miles per ...

No clearing the air over neighbor's pollution

| Mar 10, 2013

No clearing the air over neighbor's pollution

Pollutants from China and their resultant problems are nothing new to Japan. Acid rain, principally caused by high levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in industrial pollutants, has been a concern for several decades. While Kyushu and western Japan are most vulnerable to ...

| Feb 24, 2013

Overseas voyages by retirees include more than a few shipwrecks

In 1986, shortly before the beginning of Japan’s “bubble economy,” a department in the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) announced a plan named Silver Columbia 92. The project encouraged Japan’s private sector to develop “silver towns,” communities abroad that would attract ...

Can-can dancers, tea-time snacks and katakana confusion

| Feb 18, 2013

Can-can dancers, tea-time snacks and katakana confusion

In last month’s column, I looked at the origins of several famous Japanese product brands. Thinking back, perhaps the very first brand I noticed here was a confectioner named 文明堂 (Bunmeido). The company, a 老舗 (shinise, well-established shop), was founded in Nagasaki in 1900, ...

What's in a Japanese name? More than you might expect

| Jan 28, 2013

What's in a Japanese name? More than you might expect

Last year I went to Yumenoshima Park in Tokyo’s Koto Ward to see a museum housing the 第五福竜丸 (Dai-go Fukuryu Maru, aka No. 5 Lucky Dragon), the ill-fated fishing boat that inadvertently sailed too close to a 水爆実験 (suibaku jikken, thermonuclear test) at Bikini ...