Michael Hoffman

Michael Hoffman is a fiction and nonfiction writer who has lived in Hokkaido by the sea almost as long as he can remember. He has been contributing regularly to The Japan Times for 10 years. His latest novel is “The Naked Ear” (VBW/Blackcover Books, 2012).

For Michael Hoffman's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

In uncertain times, Japan opts to save

| Jan 21, 2017

In uncertain times, Japan opts to save

A funny thing happened on the way to the marketplace. The crowd thinned out. Consumption? Been there, done that. Enough. It’s a watershed. Minimal consumption equals a minimal economy — which equals what, long-term? The dreadful deprivation of the 1930s and ’40s fed a ...

| Jan 14, 2017

The evolution of the Japanese ego: part I

When Adam and Eve defied God, creator and master of the universe, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, what did they learn? To say “I.” They learned that they were “naked” — they were selves, egos. As such, there was no ...

Japan and the world enter a long night of 'post-truth'

| Dec 31, 2016

Japan and the world enter a long night of 'post-truth'

In an essay titled “The Future of Mankind,” British philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) laid out three possibilities: “The end of human life,” “a reversion to barbarism” or “unification of the world under a single government.” He saw the third as the only alternative to ...

Western culture and the end of Japanese 'harmony'

| Dec 17, 2016

Western culture and the end of Japanese 'harmony'

Japan grew up with wa (harmony). Conflict and competition are the creative engines of Western civilization; Japan traveled a different route to the tumultuous present. Wa breathes the sanctity of ancient roots. It is enshrined in a “constitution” dating back to A.D. 604, attributed ...

Meiji Restoration leader's lessons of sincerity

| Dec 10, 2016

Meiji Restoration leader's lessons of sincerity

Is there any understanding a man like Saigo Takamori? His spirit seems as vast as his bulk, and his bulk was that of a sumo wrestler. He is “the quintessential hero of modern Japanese history,” said historian Ivan Morris. “Sincerity” was the quality Saigo ...

What shape will populism take in modern Japan?

| Dec 3, 2016

What shape will populism take in modern Japan?

Populism isn’t new. A wave of it generated democracy in ancient Greece, circa 500 B.C. Its modern form, born in America in the early 19th century, was a revolt against the planter aristocracy that had governed since independence in 1776. Andrew Jackson — said ...

Will Trump join forces with Abe or push him toward Putin?

| Nov 19, 2016

Will Trump join forces with Abe or push him toward Putin?

What do intellectuals know? Nothing. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump proved it. Pre-election, the only intelligent forecast seemed to be that his manifold defects would undo him: his boorishness, prejudice, intellectual vacuity, political inexperience, etc., etc. It’s all been replayed so often over the past ...

| Nov 19, 2016

Vileness is a quality more repugnant than evil

There is a kind of moral ugliness that, without being quite evil, may be even more repellant than evil because evil — genuine evil — has, sometimes, a certain romantic appeal. You can admire the villain’s strength, or courage, or dash, or reckless defiance ...

South Sudan and Japan: a tale of love and civil war

| Nov 12, 2016

South Sudan and Japan: a tale of love and civil war

If you can call South Sudan “stable,” you can call anything stable. You can call anything anything. Defense Minister Tomomi Inada’s sunny assessment of this infant African nation in the throes of civil war followed her whirlwind tour last month. What did she see? ...