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. ...

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 ...

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 ...

Tying the knot is unraveling in Japan

/ | Apr 15, 2017

Tying the knot is unraveling in Japan

Love, marriage; marriage, love. It was so simple, once upon a time. No, that’s not true. It never was. So ancient a subject calls for a classical allusion. The 14th-century “Tsurezuregusa” (“Grasses of Idleness”), random musings of a monk named Yoshida no Kenko (1283-1350), ...

/ | Apr 15, 2017

The Japanese ego: the difference of self

“Go, my son! Fight, make your way in the world.” But — the proviso is implicit — tell no one who or what you are. Ushimatsu Segawa, the protagonist of Toson Shimazaki’s 1906 novel “Hakai” (“The Broken Commandment”), harbors a deep, dark secret: who ...