| Jul 27, 2013

What if Columbus had reached his goal: Japan?

Every school child knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America. Every school child knows wrongly. When the Genovese explorer’s three ships sailed westward from Palo de la Frontera, Spain, on Aug. 2, 1492, he was bound, he thought, for “the noble island of ...

| Jul 20, 2013

Japan's weeklies debate modern man's burden

Pity the declining male in an age of expanding female empowerment! True, he has only himself to blame. For centuries, millennia, man lorded over woman, subjecting her to every indignity, reducing her to servitude, denying her full membership in the community of human beings. ...

Gender bending in Japan

Jul 13, 2013

Gender bending in Japan

Do our genitals define us? Increasingly, they do not. Is sexuality more complicated than male/female? Increasingly, it is. Or maybe not increasingly: Maybe the only thing that’s changed over the ages is how much of our true selves society lets us show. The Bible, ...

| Jun 30, 2013

Smartphones are killing the art of conversation

If our age is rich in anything, it is, one would think (wrongly), rich in things to talk about. How can anyone nowadays be at a loss for words? What excuse is there for awkward silence? The merest glance at a newspaper furnishes conversational ...

| Jun 23, 2013

The 'barbarians' were coming — like it or not

‘Sonnō jōi!”: “Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians!” The writing was on the wall long before the wall crumbled. Japan’s splendid isolation — splendid in its own eyes — would no longer be accepted. The outside world was growing restless. Nations were reaching out, ...

| Jun 16, 2013

Occasionally Japan's glass ceiling is smashed

Someday people will look back in astonishment at the way society treated women. Women haven’t always been regarded as an inferior species. In prehistoric, preagricultural Japan, archaeologists tell us, an instinctive reverence for procreation cast an aura of awe upon the bearers and nurturers ...

Scrutinizing identity through one's family

Jun 9, 2013

Scrutinizing identity through one's family

Lucky great-grandfather Julius. This first member of the Helm family to settle in Japan was “as rooted in his German identity as an old oak tree.” For his mixed-race descendants, life would not be so simple. YOKOHAMA YANKEE: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders ...

| Jun 2, 2013

Society no longer shuns solitary pursuits

“A solitary cloud wafted by the wind.” Thus the 17th-century wandering haiku poet Matsuo Basho described himself. Not an ordained priest, he nonetheless wore priestly garb on his journeys and was steeped in the principles of Zen Buddhism, among which solitude ranks high. Japan’s ...

Taking anime too seriously

Jun 2, 2013

Taking anime too seriously

"Why study anime?" the author of this study of anime asks himself. Good question, thinks the reader. Why indeed "study" a pop art whose appeal is less to thought than to mass, unreflecting, spontaneous enjoyment?