| May 5, 2013

The first kiss of death for a single society

Let us pause for a moment to consider … the kiss. So simple a gesture; so overpowering, sometimes, the effect. Who doesn’t remember his or her first kiss — and remember it with pleasure? First sex can be a painful memory; a first kiss ...

| Apr 28, 2013

Disaster long lurked amid Japan's isolation

“The evolution of political thought in this relatively isolated island nation during the period in question is unique to the point of being somewhat freakish.” This gives a reader pause. Freakish? The judgment is historian Hiroshi Watanabe’s in “A History of Japanese Political Thought, ...

| Apr 21, 2013

Fearing the worst if Japan joins the TPP

Here is Shukan Josei magazine’s nightmare scenario of a typical Japanese salaryman’s TPP future, if in fact Japan joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement currently being negotiated among 12 countries. After a genetically-engineered, chemical-drenched breakfast, he hops into his American-made car, drives to his ...

| Apr 7, 2013

Men cry discrimination as women's status rises

Japan, it seems, is forever discriminating against someone. Women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, lifestyle minorities, the disabled, part-time workers — all have made claims against a state and a national psychology that define acceptability very narrowly relative to most other developed societies. Who in ...

| Mar 31, 2013

Life is too short for an undesirable satori

The wise have always inveighed against materialism. But most people are not wise, and it remains a material world. The economy dominates the news, an indication of where our strongest interest lies. Our spirits rise or fall with the stock market, the unemployment rate, ...

| Mar 17, 2013

Japan needs to humor its old teacher: China

Is it true, as the American philosopher George Santayana famously remarked just over a century ago, that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”? If it is, is the reverse necessarily false? Imagine he had said — his eye, for ...

| Mar 3, 2013

Solution to bullying lies in 'resetting' culprits

“The biggest problem in Japanese education is the idea that you can eliminate bullying by reforming the system.” That provocative statement opens an article in Shukan Gendai by the eminent Catholic novelist and conservative thinker Ayako Sono. It is provocative because the prevailing view ...

| Feb 17, 2013

Hiding from strangers in the global village

In his 1993 novel “Hanauzumi,” Junichi Watanabe pictures a prosperous farming village in Saitama. The year is 1868. The Meiji Restoration has just occurred. The shogun has been overthrown. The teenage Emperor Meiji has been conveyed from the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto and ...