| Jun 24, 2012

The doomsday cult of 9-to-5 depression

One of the enduring mysteries of the Aum Shinrikyo atrocities of the 1990s is the ease with which the cult attracted members. The arrest this month of the last two fugitives allegedly involved in Aum’s fatal 1995 sarin gas assault on the Tokyo subway ...

| Jun 10, 2012

It's not that easy to quit

“If you don’t like it, quit.” That ill-tempered remark, lately uttered by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, echoes a sentiment frequently encountered in people in authority — but how true is it? How free are we to “quit” what we don’t like? Hashimoto was addressing ...

Okinawa: a long history of hardship

Jun 10, 2012

Okinawa: a long history of hardship

THE OKINAWAN DIASPORA IN JAPAN: Crossing the Borders Within, by Steve Rabson. University of Hawai’i Press, 2012, 312 pp., $55.00 (hardcover) Okinawa, mainland Japan’s subtropical playground, is no paradise to Okinawans. Ryukyu, the archipelago’s original name, means “circle of jewels.” Lush appearance is one ...

| Jun 4, 2012

A hot genpatsu-free summer threatens

Two things make a battered Japan cringe: genpatsu (原発, nuclear power) and fukeiki (不景気, economic stagnation). The nation has suffered deeply from both. As spring fades into a potentially sweltering, potentially stagnant summer, there arises an agonizing dilemma: Can the latter be avoided, or ...

| May 27, 2012

For some, jail is the best place for aged care

So it’s come to this: “Prison is heaven, freedom is hell.” A country of which this can reasonably be said is in sad straits. Can it be reasonably said of Japan? It’s the subhead of a recent article in Shukan Shincho magazine whose main ...

| May 13, 2012

Beware not the loud girls, but the plain ones

No one who remembers the ganguro (black-face) girls of the mid to late 1990s will be shocked by Friday magazine’s little article on the hadeko (loud kids) of today, but it all gives rise to a bemusing question: How did the age-old quest for ...

May 13, 2012

Tokugawa: the art of governing

PERFORMING THE GREAT PEACE: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan, by Luke S. Roberts. University of Hawai’i Press, 2012, 263 pp., $49.00 (hardcover) “…a daimyo could be both dead and alive at the same time…” One of the rewards of studying Japan’s ...

| Apr 29, 2012

Japanese families on endangered list

The family is humanity’s oldest and most universal institution. But its shape, size, aims and ideologies seem infinitely variable. Japan’s families down the ages have been polygamous and monogamous, multigeneration and single-generation, swarming with children or comparatively, if not entirely, devoid of them. Through ...

| Apr 22, 2012

The weeklies need to expand their worldview

Japan cuts the world down to size. Thumb through the popular weekly news magazines to get the idea. The weeklies pride themselves on broader, bolder, feistier coverage than the daily press typically musters. All the same, theirs is a small, shrunken world. It consists ...

| Apr 8, 2012

Lack of strong ties spurs business of dying alone

New businesses arising to meet new needs tell us much about the times we live in. A cleaning company named Green Heart, for example, thrives on a peculiar expertise. Its website explains: “Sadly, it often happens that unclaimed bodies go long unnoticed. In summer ...