Dec 26, 2010

Mastering the enemy's tongue

Creating a language-learning program may not sound like the kind of material to set the readers’ pulse racing, but author Roger Dingman has a unique and compelling story to tell. DECIPHERING THE RISING SUN, by Roger Dingman. Naval Institute Press, 2010, 250 pp.,$29.95 (hardcover) ...

Dec 19, 2010

Final word on the year's best reading

Kicking his heels while waiting for a design commission to materialize, English architect Ralph Adams Cram might easily have frittered away his time getting pickled at the bar of the Rokumeikan, or in the perfumed chambers of Yoshiwara, but he chose instead to take ...

Nov 7, 2010

Remaining in Nanking and chronicling the horrors

The history of missionary work in Asia and the Pacific region has not always been exemplary, as we know from the eradication by religious zealots of entire micro-cultures in the name of Christ. THE UNDAUNTED WOMEN OF NANKING: The Wartime Diaries of Minnie Vautrin ...

Oct 31, 2010

Those risky, robust, resplendent architects of Japan

If Europeans are overawed by the architecture of the past, convinced that nothing as accomplished can ever be built again, this is where the Japanese, having none of these convictions or inhibitions, radically deviate, believing they can improve on the past, produce something more ...

Okinawan garden majesty

Oct 31, 2010

Okinawan garden majesty

The world’s first gardens may well have been made of coral, natural clusters of underwater beauty that could be glimpsed through the transparent water. Perfectly tone-coordinated, balanced and formed, they were refined by nature to a degree that may have suggested the divine. Those ...

Fukuoka: Designed for living

Oct 3, 2010

Fukuoka: Designed for living

Inquiring as to the whereabouts of English-language bookstores in Fukuoka, the person at the Rainbow Plaza information center’s desk straightaway handed me a printout of English listings, maps and directions. This, I began to realize, is a well organized city. Despite the riches they ...

Aug 29, 2010

How Japan embraced the advent of cinema

Japanese cinema was different from the very start. In the days of the silent movie, recitators called benshi, took it upon themselves not only to interpret the action, but to add their own vocal and acting embellishments as self-appointed supra-dramatists. VISIONS OF JAPANESE MODERNITY: ...

Garden dualities

Aug 29, 2010

Garden dualities

Traditionally, gardens patronage in Japan came from two sources: the nobility and the coffers of well-endowed temples. The wealthy and privileged commissioned landscaped gardens for their estates; head abbots employed the services of ishi-tate-so (rock-setting priests) to create gardens that would complement religious architecture ...

Amami Oshima: Take a trip to the cloud forest of the imagination

Jul 4, 2010

Amami Oshima: Take a trip to the cloud forest of the imagination

Despite the environmental mistakes of the postwar decades, the violation of a once pristine landscape, a recent trip to Amami Oshima, gave very real cause for hope. Some regions have always, it seems, been in good shape. Flying over the island’s green, volcanic hills, ...

Jul 4, 2010

Pearl Harbor: setting history straight

It is extraordinary the lengths to which some people will go to reorganize history to suit their own ends. There are still voices, for example, claiming that Emperor Hirohito knew nothing about Pearl Harbor, the aerial attack that launched Japan’s holy war. DEMYSTIFYING PEARL ...