In Japan, all that is true melts into hot air

| Jun 11, 2016

In Japan, all that is true melts into hot air

‘Is it because the truth is so boring,” asked the 14th-century monk Yoshida no Kenko in a classic collection of musings known as the “The Grasses of Idleness,” “that most stories one hears are false?” Boring, unbearable or merely inconvenient? A nuisance, however you ...

Poverty and boredom gnaw at Japan

| May 28, 2016

Poverty and boredom gnaw at Japan

Boredom, poverty and war: three themes you’d think (wrongly) would be extinct by now — war because humankind as a whole is more peaceably inclined than ever before, poverty because of an abundance of riches and boredom because … doesn’t it go without saying, ...

There's no escape from big data's eye

| May 14, 2016

There's no escape from big data's eye

I am being watched. I am under surveillance. So are you. There are eyes on us, or maybe it’s just one eye. Singular or plural, it is/they are ubiquitous, all-seeing. It/they never sleep(s). So much the better, for at least two reasons: 1) We ...

Human primacy is go-ing, go-ing, gone

| Apr 30, 2016

Human primacy is go-ing, go-ing, gone

It is said of the ancient Chinese game go that the number of possible positions on its board exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe. This is old news, presumably, to masters of go and master mathematicians. To the rest of us ...

Can Japan make itself great again by 2050?

| Apr 16, 2016

Can Japan make itself great again by 2050?

The bad news is, Japan is beset by seemingly insoluble problems. The good news is the word “seemingly.” No nation whose rise to economic superpowerdom began a bare decade after being bombed to rubble in history’s most destructive war will ever find anything truly ...

Understanding Heian nobles’ snobbishness

| Apr 16, 2016

Understanding Heian nobles’ snobbishness

Once upon a time — the fairy tale opening is apt, though it’s history we’re dealing with — peace lay so thick upon the land that war was inconceivable. The capital was a city named “Peace and Tranquility” — Hei-An (modern-day Kyoto). There was ...

Japan is as happy as it feels — miserable

| Apr 9, 2016

Japan is as happy as it feels — miserable

Who are the unhappiest people, asks Spa — the married, the single or the divorced? The negative question is characteristic of this chronically depressed magazine, which could as easily have asked who are the happiest. Or perhaps not. Japan, with so much going for ...

'Teflon Abe' gets high marks despite unpopular policies

| Mar 26, 2016

'Teflon Abe' gets high marks despite unpopular policies

Is Japan a democracy? Yes, of course, obviously. Voters vote, demonstrators demonstrate, critics criticize. These are the vital signs, and they’re positive. Just look at the government scrambling to blunt the charge of an anonymous blogger venting rage at being unable to get her ...