The well-off families who are feeling unwell

| Aug 23, 2014

The well-off families who are feeling unwell

We’re not living right. It’s obvious, though whose fault it is may not be, and what to do about it is certainly not. We’re rich but poor — and getting poorer. We’re healthy but sick — and getting sicker. It’s not a pretty picture. ...

The Nobility of Failure

Aug 16, 2014

The Nobility of Failure

Who hasn’t at one time or another suspected that failure is nobler than success? Here the late British historian Ivan Morris celebrates Japanese heroes who refused to make the tawdry compromises success all too often demands. They fail, but fail gloriously, reaping the posthumous ...

| Aug 16, 2014

The awakening of a nation permanently at peace

There’s something to be said for national isolation. Peace, for example. The very few foreigners allowed into Japan during its 250-odd years of almost total seclusion, from the early 17th century to the mid-19th, were awed by the spectacle of a nation permanently at ...

Ah, vaginas! In defense of taboos

| Aug 9, 2014

Ah, vaginas! In defense of taboos

Two words have been let loose on society by an artist who, for better or worse, may find the rest of her life and career inextricably bound up with them, “vagina” being one and “taboo” the other. The artist herself needs no introduction. She ...

Is Japan sinking further into 'Aum-ification'?

| Jul 26, 2014

Is Japan sinking further into 'Aum-ification'?

The world — this insignificant little spinning rock we call home — is nearing its end. Armageddon lies ahead: violence, upheaval, horror. The normal human mind shrinks from the mere thought, but “higher consciousness” embraces it. Higher consciousness sees things in a wider perspective. ...

| Jul 19, 2014

'Leaving the world' to gain freedom

A challenge: Scan Japanese history in search of freedom fighters. You won’t find many. Not freedom but submission was the proud Japanese ideal. It was the “way of the warrior.” A 16th-century poem declares, “For the samurai to learn / there’s one thing only ...

The high cost of peace and quiet

| Jul 12, 2014

The high cost of peace and quiet

Peace and quiet! How rare it is, how precious. Why rare? Because a full-blooded modern economy is no monastery, no “ancient pond” into which a frog may jump, producing the hushed “sound of water” immortalized by the haiku poet Basho (1644-94). Engines roar, machinery ...

A life of lettuce has its benefits

| Jun 28, 2014

A life of lettuce has its benefits

Lettuce. Let us raise a glass to lettuce. There’s a village in Nagano Prefecture called Kawakami — nothing, nowhere little place, deep in the mountains, far from the main road, population 3,960. Why does Shukan Gendai magazine devote three full pages to profiling it? ...