Japan traces robots' past, future

| Oct 24, 2007

Japan traces robots' past, future

“Robots will become the Ford Model T of the 21st century,” says Japanese scientist Hirohisa Hirukawa. If the car that put America on wheels is any guide, robots will have a revolutionary effect on people’s everyday lives. They have already transformed manufacturing industries around ...

Sep 30, 2007

The Murakami addiction

Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture, by Michael R. Seats, 2006, 384 pp., $70 (cloth) Haruki Murakami’s novels have much in common with potato chips. Both are often addictive and both are often ultimately unsatisfying. Yet one can’t help but buy another ...

Aug 19, 2007

Osamu Tezuka: Fighting for peace with the Mighty Atom

The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, by Frederik L. Schodt. Stone Bridge Press, 2007, 248 pp., $16.95 (paper) When legendary manga and anime artist Osamu Tezuka visited the 1964 New York World’s Fair, he met a man he ...

Jan 14, 2007

Bullet train straight to the heart of Japan

Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan, by Christopher P. Hood. Oxford: Routledge, 2006, 266 pp., $125 (cloth). The needle-nosed bullet train racing past the base of Mount Fuji is one of the most enduring images of Japan, a postcard mix of ...

| Oct 2, 2005

Timeless complement of form and function

INSPIRED SHAPES: Contemporary Designs for Japan’s Ancient Crafts, by Ori Koyama, translated by Charles Whipple, photographs by Mizuho Kuwata. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2005, 112 pp., 3,900 yen (cloth). Life in urban Japan is so suffused with artificial, factory-produced materials that the soul can cry ...

| Jun 12, 2005

In Japan's tabloid world, truth trumps pulp fiction

TABLOID TOKYO: 101 Tales of Sex, Crime and the Bizarre from Japan’s Wild Weeklies, by Geoff Botting, Ryann Connell, Michael Hoffman and Mark Schreiber. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 2005, 255 pp., 1,400 yen (paper). Aside from the sight of middle-age Japanese businessmen happily reading comic ...

Dec 23, 2003

Mountain hermitage offers challenge to dole

By far the most common sign along this road twisting up the Iya River in Shikoku’s remote Oboke Gorge, a spectacular chasm that is the deepest in Japan, is “under construction.” Cartoon animals smile from the many warnings about roadwork and slope reinforcement as ...

Jan 22, 2002

Elvis wannabe crooners soothe to 'Rabu Me Tenda'

Dressed in a black tuxedo, a middle-aged former company executive took the stage, cued the six-piece band and launched into Elvis Presley’s version of the syrupy ’60s ballad “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.” Corny? Not to the hundreds of Elvis fans ...

Jan 12, 2002

Filmmaker records life and death in Manila's garbage dumps

“Someone get a saw!” yells a rescue worker frantically digging in a heap of garbage for a buried body. A blackened corpse slowly emerges, but rescuers are unsure if it is a man or woman. “I know her,” someone finally says. “It’s Mrs. Garret.” ...

Apr 14, 2001

Gadget guy puts ideology over profit

On a cluttered desk in a dimly lit office in central Tokyo lies a golden, cylindrical object you can’t find in any store. It’s a combination lock that would take 3.2 trillion years to crack, about 160 times the age of the universe. “The ...