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:

Human primacy is go-ing, go-ing, gone

| Apr 30, 2016

Human primacy is go-ing, go-ing, gone

It is said of the ancient Chinese game go that the number of possible positions on its board exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe. This is old news, presumably, to masters of go and master mathematicians. To the rest of us ...

Can Japan make itself great again by 2050?

| Apr 16, 2016

Can Japan make itself great again by 2050?

The bad news is, Japan is beset by seemingly insoluble problems. The good news is the word “seemingly.” No nation whose rise to economic superpowerdom began a bare decade after being bombed to rubble in history’s most destructive war will ever find anything truly ...

Understanding Heian nobles’ snobbishness

| Apr 16, 2016

Understanding Heian nobles’ snobbishness

Once upon a time — the fairy tale opening is apt, though it’s history we’re dealing with — peace lay so thick upon the land that war was inconceivable. The capital was a city named “Peace and Tranquility” — Hei-An (modern-day Kyoto). There was ...

Japan is as happy as it feels — miserable

| Apr 9, 2016

Japan is as happy as it feels — miserable

Who are the unhappiest people, asks Spa — the married, the single or the divorced? The negative question is characteristic of this chronically depressed magazine, which could as easily have asked who are the happiest. Or perhaps not. Japan, with so much going for ...

'Teflon Abe' gets high marks despite unpopular policies

| Mar 26, 2016

'Teflon Abe' gets high marks despite unpopular policies

Is Japan a democracy? Yes, of course, obviously. Voters vote, demonstrators demonstrate, critics criticize. These are the vital signs, and they’re positive. Just look at the government scrambling to blunt the charge of an anonymous blogger venting rage at being unable to get her ...

| Mar 19, 2016

The Meiji Era and the soul of Japan: part 2

An ambitious young man of the 1880s, flattering a girl he may want to marry (or may not, if a more advantageous alliance materializes), asks her, “What are you reading these days, Osei?” When Osei in reply mentions “Outlines of the World’s History” by ...

Beneath the chaos, an old new order

| Mar 12, 2016

Beneath the chaos, an old new order

We are all going to die. Most of us will die miserably — it’s in the nature of things. Hopefully none of us, infirm in body and mind, will die falling from an upper story of a nursing care home, pushed to our deaths ...

| Feb 20, 2016

The Meiji Era and the soul of Japan: part 1

‘Japan’s first modern novel” was published serially between 1887 and 1889. A magazine article of 1887 helps us get our bearings: “It is now over 20 years since the Restoration; our Meiji society will soon have gone through a whole generation. … The ways ...

One slip can sink a salaryman's career

| Feb 13, 2016

One slip can sink a salaryman's career

‘I’ve always been shy,” says Kazuo. “Face-to-face communication never came easily to me.” At 48, he’s been out of work five years. He lives with his mother, who’s close to 80 — mostly off her pension. A typical day — typical not only of ...