Goto's stories put Japan woes in perspective

| Feb 21, 2015

Goto's stories put Japan woes in perspective

“More than diamonds, I want peace.” Kenji Goto knew hell as well as anyone who doesn’t have to live there. He was a journalist. His place, he felt, was where suffering was greatest, misery deepest, evil ugliest, cruelty most feral. He covered genocide in ...

Kafu the Scribbler

| Feb 14, 2015

Kafu the Scribbler

“A querulous, self-righteous man, whose social criticism rarely rose above the level of personal complaining … .” Kafu the Scribbler, by Edward Seidensticker368 pages.Stanford University Press, Nonfiction. If this is how the writer Nagai Kafu struck his biographer and translator, Edward Seidensticker, what are ...

| Feb 14, 2015

Doomsday fever spurs a religious revolution

Sometimes the world seems eternal; sometimes the end looms black and near. We moderns know the apocalyptic mood well, having survived Dec. 21, 2012, in spite of an ancient Mayan “prediction” of doom on that date, but, facing as we do numerous other portents ...

In violent times, young Japanese just shrug

| Feb 7, 2015

In violent times, young Japanese just shrug

The weekly Shukan Kinyobi discerns a “new fatalism” among young people. Meaning what? A feeling that effort reaps no rewards and so is not worth making; that the world is what it is and cannot be changed — at least not by me, even ...

For All My Walking

| Jan 31, 2015

For All My Walking

Poet Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) cut a pitiful, tragic figure. His mother’s suicide when he was 11 seems to have unhinged him for life. After a failed marriage and a failed sake-brewing enterprise he took to drink and hit the road. Someone took pity on ...

Amid French crisis, Japan frets over virgins

| Jan 24, 2015

Amid French crisis, Japan frets over virgins

Still in its infancy, the new year has already spawned a theme: diversity. Is it possible? Is it desirable? Is there any common ground, besides mutual, irreconcilable loathing, between those who declare “I am Charlie” and those who riposte “I am Mohammad”? The West ...

| Jan 17, 2015

Seeking independence through civilization

For the first time in 600 years Japan was threatened by foreign aggression. One among many differences between the 19th century American threat and the 13th-century Mongol invasions is this: 13th-century Japan was fiercely militarist, 19th-century Japan was impotently militarist. What to do? There ...

Concern for Japan's democratic process

| Dec 27, 2014

Concern for Japan's democratic process

Elections are the lifeblood of democracy. They represent an awesome empowerment — the right of citizens to peacefully overthrow their government and choose another. The prime minister called an election. He submitted his government to the judgment of the people. The election was held. ...