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 ...

Hit product lists laud the year's marketing successes

| Jan 14, 2013

Hit product lists laud the year's marketing successes

Toward the end of every year, Japan’s print media and many business organizations look back on “hit products” whose successes helped define consumer spending over the previous 12 months. The term hitto shōhin (hit products) is credited to the 日経流通新聞 (Nikkei Ryutsu Shimbun, Nikkei ...

| Jan 13, 2013

Magazines struggle to maintain relevance

The print edition of venerable U.S. weekly news magazine Newsweek is no more. From the Jan. 4 issue it relaunched as a digital-only publication. Writing in the final print edition of Dec. 31, 2012, Editor in Chief Tina Brown wrote, “A magazine that will ...

Alternative histories about JFK

| Dec 23, 2012

Alternative histories about JFK

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy next November is expected to see a flood of new works on that topic. Two alternative history novels have already appeared on this theme. In Stephen King’s “11/22/63: A Novel” (Scribner), Maine ...

| Dec 17, 2012

Buzzwords show the changing face of Japanese in 2012

While hamming it up before the TV cameras on a diving board last September, entertainer “Sugi-chan” (real name: Eiji Sugiyama) suffered a fractured thoracic vertebrae. Wild, right? Or as the chunky 39-year-old entertainer — easily recognizable in his blue denim shirt with cutoff sleeves ...