| Jul 29, 2012

Who can we vote for to avoid the worst-case scenario?

“Japan’s Worst-Case Scenarios” — that’s the title of the lead feature in the July issue of the monthly Takarajima. No one writing on such a theme need fear a shortage of material. The magazine easily fills 40 pages analyzing catastrophes and catastrophes-in-waiting: Tokyo leveled ...

'Taisho Democracy' pays the ultimate price

Jul 29, 2012

'Taisho Democracy' pays the ultimate price

Party politics seems as natural to many of us today as government itself, but imagine how it looked to the uninitiated 150 years ago. “A perplexing institution was representative government,” wrote Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901), Japan’s great popularizer of Western civilization. In England in 1862 ...

| Jul 15, 2012

Aging Village shows the way with switch to solar

Eighty kilometers from Oi, Fukui Prefecture, is the village of Sanno, Hyogo Prefecture — 11 households, population 42, average age 60 plus. There’s nothing special about Oi except for its nuclear reactors, one of which earlier this month became the first to be reactivated ...

After 15 years, Mainali is a free man

| Jul 2, 2012

After 15 years, Mainali is a free man

Freed June 7 from 15 years’ imprisonment for a murder he apparently never committed, Govinda Prasad Mainali declared himself full of gratitude. Speaking through his lawyer, he said, “Mujitsu, shinjitsu wo shinjite kureta saibankan ni deaete yokatta. Kansha no kimochi de ippai desu,” (「無実、真実を信じてくれた裁判官に出会ってよかった。感謝の気持ちでいっぱいです”」”It’s ...

| Jul 1, 2012

The land where sex fears to tread

No love, no sex, no marriage, no kids — such, in glum outline, is Japan today. It’s too bleak a picture, it can’t be true! But it can’t be false either. If it were, people would be marrying, making babies and having love affairs. ...

| 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 ...