| Dec 11, 2011

Japanese 'good-for-nothings' heart Bhutan

Japan is in love — with Bhutan, a supposed Shangri-La of a country nestled in the Himalayas, famous for deemphasizing gross domestic product (GDP, the standard measure of well-being) in favor of a more abstract, possibly more human metric known as gross national happiness ...

Dec 11, 2011

No quick, easy path to haiku enlightenment

100 SELECTED HAIKU OF KATO IKUYA, translated with a study by Ito Isao. Chuseki-sha, 2011, 104 pp., ¥3,500 (paperback) Ikuya Kato (born 1929) is a modern haiku poet of the “free verse” school. Haiku itself is probably the shortest form of literature there is. ...

| Dec 5, 2011

Unknown consequences if Japan joins TPP

Japan couldn’t make up its mind, so it was up to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. On Nov. 13 he made it official: Japan would join multilateral negotiations aimed at forging a free-trading Kan-Taiheiyo Keizai Renkei Kyotei (環太平洋経済連携協定, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP). It was an agonizing ...

| Nov 27, 2011

Nuke fears may spread faster than radiation

There are the measurable aspects of Tohoku’s ongoing tragedy — so many becquerels or sieverts of radiation, so many million tons of rubble, so many trillion yen worth of damage and losses of various kinds, so many weeks, months, years or decades before cold ...

| Nov 13, 2011

Creating a future for Japan's aging society

Japan is an elderly country. Twenty-three percent of its population is 65 or over. By 2050, nearly 40 percent will be. Nothing like these demographics has ever been seen before, here or anywhere. This is well-known and much discussed, usually in terms of the ...

| Nov 7, 2011

Occupy Tokyo lacks focus but still demands change

“Tokyo wo senkyo seyo! (東京を占拠せよ! Occupy Tokyo!”) Tokyo’s “Occupation” last month was a relatively small-scale affair, with crowds measured in hundreds as against thousands and tens of thousands elsewhere in the world. But is size everything? Uōru-gai wo senkyo seyo, (ウォール街を占拠せよ, Occupy Wall Street) ...

Oct 30, 2011

Hope found in despair of Japanese POW camp

VICTORY IN DEFEAT: The Wake Island Defenders in Captivity, by Gregory J.W. Urwin. Naval Institute Press, 2010, 478 pp., $38.95 (hardcover) An American solder mused, “We were amazed. We had always been told that [the Japanese] were inferior people. We was amazed at how ...

| Oct 23, 2011

Rich can afford to jump Japan's sinking ship

If Shukan Bunshun and Shukan Diamond are both right, Japan is in serious trouble. The former says the nation’s middle class is vanishing. The latter says the rich are deserting. The descent into national poverty that these developments imply would be a shattering epilogue ...

| Oct 9, 2011

Nonprofits in Japan help 'shut-ins' get out into the open

Not everyone fits into society. Dropping out, or falling by the wayside, has numerous causes and many manifestations. Two categories cover the more extreme forms — homelessness and hikikomori, a withdrawal from all social activities into the security of one’s own room, usually in ...

Women warriors of Japan

Oct 9, 2011

Women warriors of Japan

“Ah, for some bold warrior to match with, that Kiso might see how fine a death I can die!” Tomoe Gozen was the prototypical Japanese female warrior. She had “long black hair and a fair complexion, and her face was very lovely; moreover she ...