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:

Who is keeping an eye on Japan's surveillance power?

/ | Jul 15, 2017

Who is keeping an eye on Japan's surveillance power?

Utopias and dystopias have this in common: surveillance. From Thomas More’s “Utopia” (1516) to George Orwell’s “1984” (1949), from Plato’s “Republic” (c. 380 B.C.) to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” (1921), the view prevails that people behave better under scrutiny. Why conceal good deeds? For no ...

Harsh lessons learned from Zen meditation

/ | Jul 15, 2017

Harsh lessons learned from Zen meditation

The monk Dogen lived in dreadful times. A revolution culminating in 1185 had brought to power warriors who for centuries had served perhaps the most unwar-like aristocracy in world history, the effete but highly cultured ladies and gentlemen of the Heian Period (794-1185). Their ...

Tracing the decline of a beautiful Japan

/ | Jun 17, 2017

Tracing the decline of a beautiful Japan

Two irreconcilable views of patriotism were given their classic expressions by two Englishmen: Lord Byron, the poet (1788-1824), and Dr. Johnson, the lexicographer and jack-of-all-literary-trades (1709-84). Byron said, “He who loves not his country can love nothing.” And Johnson: “Patriotism is the last refuge ...

Is Japan slipping into prewar politics?

/ | Jun 3, 2017

Is Japan slipping into prewar politics?

“The recent flurry of legislation, including a proposed anti-conspiracy amendment to the organized crime law, recalls prewar Japan,” Kobe University criminal law scholar Hirofumi Uchida told the Asahi Shimbun in an interview in March.“Prewar Japan” is a pregnant phrase. It suggests militarist fascism. The ...

Hokkaido's ancient place in the modern world

/ | May 20, 2017

Hokkaido's ancient place in the modern world

“Even the birds do not fly to Ezo,” went a popular 19th-century saying about Japan’s northernmost island. “Ezo” means “land of barbarians.” Settlement tamed it into “Hokkaido” — “north sea road.” But it was a rough passage.Pioneers from the mainland — for centuries a ...

Corporate zombies need 'rich brains'

/ | May 6, 2017

Corporate zombies need 'rich brains'

Japan has lost something. That’s a stark but uncontroversial statement. Few whose memory goes back a generation or more will disagree. Controversy arises when the talk turns to what was lost; when, how and why it was lost; whether the nation is the better ...