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:

Japan tries to shed its pessimistic image

| Feb 18, 2017

Japan tries to shed its pessimistic image

Japan ailing? Japan suffering? Nonsense. “Japan is the richest country in the world,” proclaims Sapio magazine. And the best. And the happiest. The brightest future looms. It’s an interesting identity crisis Japan is going through. Is it a rich country or a poor country? ...

Does contemporary Japan need religion?

| Feb 4, 2017

Does contemporary Japan need religion?

“God, Buddha — where are they?” asks Aera magazine. At the Cafe de Monku, is one answer. It’s a good name for an establishment set up by monks for the airing of monku (complaints). Its very existence (in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture) is suggestive of ...

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 ...

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 ...