| Jan 8, 2012

'Strange' is the new 'normal' for 2012

“Whatever happens won’t be strange.” Thus the weekly Shukan Gendai sums up the prospects for the year now dawning. Shaken by 2011, we face the blank slate that is 2012. Mankind’s history of trying to read the future is very long. We’ve sought clues ...

Dec 25, 2011

The aftershocks of 2011 will be felt for many years to come

We made history this year. They’ll be writing about 2011 a hundred, maybe a thousand years from now, seeing it more clearly than we can. We’re too close for a proper perspective. We know what it feels like — not yet what it means. ...

Dec 25, 2011

Soseki leaps to defense of Japanese literature

Most people probably have a list of universally acclaimed geniuses, icons and luminaries whose greatness they simply fail to appreciate. “Am I stupid?” you wonder — or do claims of greatness tend to be inflated? Topping my personal list, as far as Japan is ...

The holy trinity of religions

Dec 25, 2011

The holy trinity of religions

Michael Hoffman’s latest book is “Little Pieces: This Side of Japan” (VBW, 2010).“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” — Genesis 1:1 “But after all, who knows, and who can say, whence it all came, and how creation happened?” — Hindu ...

| 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) ...