| Dec 17, 2004

Book Trade Booms in 2004

by Janet Ashby

2004 was a prosperous year for the Japanese book trade with revenues exceeding the previous year’s figures for the first time in seven years. Despite many small bookstores going out of business, innovative marketing from publishers and book retailers produced several million-sellers. The year ...

| Nov 18, 2004

Hey Mr. Trainman

by Janet Ashby

A new best seller has appeared, bringing an old-fashioned love story into the digital age. “Densha Otoko (Trainman),” whose author writes under the pseudonym Nakano Hitori, is the saga of the romance of a 22-year-old otaku, the “Trainman,” with “Miss Hermes,” an attractive young ...

| Oct 21, 2004

New life patterns for a new age

by Janet Ashby

The end of the high-growth period and of the go-go bubble years has brought both new opportunities and great uncertainty as the old social system based on lifetime employment crumbles and even the outlines of its successor system remain hazy. Such uncertainty no doubt ...

| Mar 4, 2004

New Akutagawa winners offer hope

by Janet Ashby

It’s been amazing to experience all the excitement surrounding the latest winners of the Akutagawa Prize, a famous literary prize awarded twice a year to promising, new authors. While TV cameras and photographers crammed Tokyo Kaikan, newspapers and magazines wrote breathless descriptions of what ...

| Feb 5, 2004

Japan mulls its future with Koizumi

by Janet Ashby

What stance should Japan take in a world dominated by the American superpower? Is Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi no more than an errand boy for bullyboy George W. Bush, as a Shukan Gendai headline implied last March? Is he an incompetent know-nothing who has ...

| Dec 4, 2003

Living on 3 million yen a year

by Janet Ashby

Is there a conspiracy among Japanese politicians, economic experts and elite bureaucrats to destroy Japan’s egalitarian postwar social and economic systems and replace them with an American-style, dog-eat-dog type of capitalism typified by a society of haves and have-nots? In his best-selling “Nenshu 300 ...

| Nov 6, 2003

'Grotesque' cuts too close to the bone

by Janet Ashby

Do the suffocating pressures of Japanese society produce monsters? Does trying to live by men’s rules drive women crazy? These are two of the questions posed by Natsuo Kirino in her powerful new novel, “Grotesque.” In her earlier mystery, titled “Out,” now available in ...