| Apr 2, 2012

Noda's plan to increase sales tax

There’s no such thing as a popular tax increase. Woe betide the leader who sees no other way out of a fiscal impasse. Such is Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unenviable plight. A kōreika shakai (高齢化社会, aging society) like Japan’s must fund its swelling shakai ...

Sakura: Soul of Japan

Mar 25, 2012

Sakura: Soul of Japan

“If I were asked to explain the Japanese spirit, I would say it is wild cherry blossoms glowing in the morning sun!” — Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), nativist thinker and poet The cherry blossom is not just another pretty flower. Pause to consider, as you ...

Blooms of death

Mar 25, 2012

Blooms of death

“If only we might fall Like cherry blossoms in the spring — So pure and radiant !” Quoted by historian Ivan Morris in “The Nobility of Failure,” 1975 World War II transfigured the cherry blossom. The 22-year-old kamikaze pilot who composed that haiku shortly ...

Petals 'perfect beyond belief' stir poetic

Mar 25, 2012

Petals 'perfect beyond belief' stir poetic

Two natural facts have had a disproportionate impact on Japanese culture: cherry blossoms are beautiful, and they fall. Cherry blossoms, wrote the scholar-poet and shogunal mandarin Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1828), “seem especially suited to the ways of our country, with branches so gentle, flowers so ...

| Mar 25, 2012

Is Japan as busy as it first seems?

Are things what they seem? Can you tell a book by its cover? Does the face reveal the heart? Does your appearance give you away? It does indeed, says brain researcher Yuji Ikegaya, writing in Shukan Asahi. Your deepest secrets are written all over ...

| Mar 11, 2012

The power of bad news

Weekly Playboy magazine discerns among young people a rising interest in Buddhism. This is surprising, given Japan’s well-known “religion allergy” — or not, given that troubled times often inspire spiritual quests. “Buddhism is often considered a doctrine of resignation, but it isn’t,” explains Masaru ...

| Mar 5, 2012

Hashimoto: a young politician to keep an eye on

He’s young, photogenic, energetic, brash, bold, intelligent — and, almost oxymoronically, a politician, one of very few in Japan within living memory who come close to fitting such a description. He has many ideas, all of which boil down to this: “Nihon no kuni ...

| Feb 26, 2012

Media continues to despair over Japan's fall

Japan’s decline has no historical parallel. It is a current fed by two streams — economic and demographic. Economically, barring an unforeseen upsurge, gross domestic product is forecast to fall 16 percent by 2025, 42 percent by 2050. Demographically, in 50 years there will ...

Feb 19, 2012

Japan's indigenous Ainu, 'a different world'

AINU SPIRITS SINGING: The Living World of Chiri Yukie’s Ainu Shinyoshu, By Sarah M. Strong. University Of Hawaii Press, 2011, 314 pp., $58.00 (hardcover) “In the past this spacious Hokkaido was our ancestors’ world of freedom. Living with ease and pleasure in the manner ...

| Feb 12, 2012

This country needs a lot more lovin'

Japan’s rather tepid sex life of late has drawn considerable attention, not so much prurient as anxious. What does it mean when young people in their sexual prime are bored by sex or can’t be bothered with it? The implications are various: psychological (has ...