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:

Generations square off in a battle for the ages

| Dec 13, 2014

Generations square off in a battle for the ages

You’d think they owned the planet. They think they do — pushing into line at supermarkets, hogging seats on trains, generally behaving as though no one but themselves existed except to provide the services they need. Once upon a time — not very long ...

Debating milk, names and workplace blues

| Nov 29, 2014

Debating milk, names and workplace blues

Milk — liquid innocence. If milk lets you down, what won’t? It looks healthy, tastes healthy — surely it is healthy? Appearances, we know, are deceiving; still, this particular illusion dies hard. Whose earliest childhood memories do not include a parent admonishing, “Drink your ...

Is happiness worth the risk of addiction?

| Nov 22, 2014

Is happiness worth the risk of addiction?

You’ll have heard this story before, in one form or another. “Mr. B,” 66, is a pachinko addict. Hard core. Until a certain fateful day 10 years ago there were no premonitory signs, unless straight-arrow conventionality to the point of dullness is one. Company ...

Determining good and evil, with the kids

| Nov 8, 2014

Determining good and evil, with the kids

What is “moral education”? Assuming we more or less know what education is, try defining “moral.” The education ministry’s website takes a stab at it: “A heart-and-mind (kokoro) that values life, a heart-and-mind that is considerate toward others…” That’s unimpeachable as far as it ...

Zen and Japanese Culture

| Nov 8, 2014

Zen and Japanese Culture

This is one of those books you read to the last page without ever finishing; you keep going back for more — and finding it. Strange, strange characters, these Zen men! What to make of their weird utterances? “(A) master, holding up his staff, ...

The romantic notion of rural relocation

| Oct 25, 2014

The romantic notion of rural relocation

Yu Iwamoto began adult life working in the slums, refugee camps and precarious schools of Afghanistan. Had he even heard, back then, of the Oki Islands off the coast of Shimane Prefecture? He may have. The little archipelago is remote but famous. Political rebels ...

From Race to Ethnicity

Oct 18, 2014

From Race to Ethnicity

The first known Japanese in Hawaii were shipwrecked fishermen circa 1806, unwitting forerunners of a diaspora they can scarcely have imagined. From Race to Ethnicity, by Jonathan Y. Okamura.University of Hawaii Press, Nonfiction. In 1868 came the first Japanese contract laborers. The local sugar ...

Tales from the city show cracks in the system

| Sep 27, 2014

Tales from the city show cracks in the system

Why are people unhappy? Think back to just about any historical period you like, from the remote past to times within living memory; imagine people then looking at us now and saying, “How dare you be unhappy? You haven’t earned the right!” It’s hard ...