| 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?

| May 26, 2013

History shows one man's rape is another's wooing

“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, ...

| May 19, 2013

Trimming the fat from Japan's problems

Why do people disagree? It seems a stupid question. Maybe it is. Or maybe not. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that we are all rational beings. We possess average intelligence, adequate and more or less similar education, and copious exposure to ...

| 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 ...