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'Taisho Democracy' pays the ultimate price

Jul 29, 2012

'Taisho Democracy' pays the ultimate price

by Michael Hoffman

Party politics seems as natural to many of us today as government itself, but imagine how it looked to the uninitiated 150 years ago. “A perplexing institution was representative government,” wrote Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901), Japan’s great popularizer of Western civilization. In England in 1862 ...

Jul 22, 2012

Taxi facts and figures to impress your driver

by Mark Schreiber

Next time you’re in the back seat and tired of watching the meter clock up, use these ice-breakers to get the conversation flowing in your driver’s language. • Tokyo’s 51,950 taxis account for 20.7 percent of the national total, with the categories broken down ...

A century of Tokyo taxis

Jul 22, 2012

A century of Tokyo taxis

by Mark Schreiber

The year 1912 is recorded in Japan both as the 45th year of Meiji Era and the first year of the Taisho Era. After a protracted illness, Emperor Mutsuhito expired, age 61, on the night of July 29 (although the official announcement came the ...

Jul 22, 2012

Talking the talk

by Mark Schreiber

Taxi-business jargon is a lingo all of its own. Here’s a sample of the way those drivers think: • Baramaki: Meaning “to spread or scatter at random,” this refers to carrying several passengers who ask to be dropped off at different places. • Genkotsu: ...

Farmers try to fence out nasty nature

| Jul 15, 2012

Farmers try to fence out nasty nature

by Winifred Bird

I once asked a professor of agriculture in the southwestern United States what sort of fence would keep a goat from escaping. “Well,” he replied, taking a long and pensive draw on his cigarette. “If it can keep out air and keep out water, ...

Life up in the treetops

| Jul 15, 2012

Life up in the treetops

by Eriko Arita

Imagine strolling through a forest and coming across a hut supported by four trees 8 meters off the ground. With its triangular roof, stained-glass door panels and timber decking, at first sight it’s like something in a fairyland. This is, however, the latest lofty ...

Okinawa's first nuclear missile men break silence

Jul 8, 2012

Okinawa's first nuclear missile men break silence

by Jon Mitchell

In October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war after American spy planes discovered that the Kremlin had stationed medium-range atomic missiles on the communist island of Cuba in the Caribbean, barely over the horizon from ...

Jul 1, 2012

Disabled women speak out on discrimination

by Tomoko Otake

Being a woman in Japan often comes with a variety of challenges, but when you are a woman with disabilities here, the scale of hardships you must endure can be overwhelming. A recent survey conducted by an all-women sub-group of the Japan chapter of ...

Hunting ivory netsuke carvers is like a big game

Jun 17, 2012

Hunting ivory netsuke carvers is like a big game

by Julian Littler

Netsuke are the diminutive works of art that dangled from cords attaching purses or other pouches to a kimono’s obi sash before Western garb ousted traditional dress after the modernizing Meiji Restoration of 1868. Particularly in the political capital of Edo (present-day Tokyo), these ...

Exoskeletons await in work/care closet

Jun 17, 2012

Exoskeletons await in work/care closet

by Rob Gilhooly

There are friendly smiles on the faces of the engineering students peering past their PCs and half-finished gadget designs in the Tokyo lab as I try to lift 40 kg of rice. Normally I’d worry about impending humiliation, but today I’m confident my ego ...