Okinawa: In the crosshairs of war

Apr 4, 2015

Okinawa: In the crosshairs of war

“We always seem to be at the tail end of history, dragged along roads already ruined by others.” — “Memoirs of a Declining Ryukyuan Women,” Kushi Fusako On a recent trip to the Pacific island of Guam, I came across a peculiar omission in ...

Soraku-en: Kobe's well-grounded garden

Mar 28, 2015

Soraku-en: Kobe's well-grounded garden

On Jan. 17, 1995, as the city of Kobe suffered one of the country’s worst earthquakes in living memory, the rocks, artificial hills and root systems of Soraku-en, a Meiji period (1868-1912) circuit garden, held firm. This was rather remarkable, given the extent of ...

The wanderer, writer and suspected spy who embraced Japan

Mar 21, 2015

The wanderer, writer and suspected spy who embraced Japan

T.S. Eliot may have written that “April is the cruellest month,” but for Roger Pulvers, this spring is an extraordinarily felicitous one. In March, an English translation of his novel “Starsand” was published and in April, translations will be released of both an anthology ...

A tragic story of red tape and fatal ineptitude

Mar 14, 2015

A tragic story of red tape and fatal ineptitude

At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a 9-magnitude megathrust earthquake triggered a tsunami that slammed into the aging Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant along the country’s northeastern coastline, less than 250 km north of the capital. In the worst nuclear accident since ...

The origin myth that beat the drums of war

Feb 28, 2015

The origin myth that beat the drums of war

Since the 18th-century — the age of English historian Edward Gibbon — Western theories of history have held that the past consists of causes, effects and events; there are no determining laws or theorems, and no divine purpose. This is the opposite of the ...

Taking a critical look at the prison of history

Feb 7, 2015

Taking a critical look at the prison of history

Those who write about history do so at their peril. The difficulties are manifest: how to contribute anything meaningful, to be divergent but remain credible and to research the past without losing sight of the present. Japan and the Shackles of the Past, by ...

Mishima: sliced from the shackles of time

Dec 27, 2014

Mishima: sliced from the shackles of time

Henry Scott Stokes, Yukio Mishima’s first biographer, once told me that the thing he most remembered about the writer was his exquisite manners — one of those telling details that lend a touch of authenticity to the work of those who knew Mishima personally. ...