Concern for Japan's democratic process

| Dec 27, 2014

Concern for Japan's democratic process

by Michael Hoffman

Elections are the lifeblood of democracy. They represent an awesome empowerment — the right of citizens to peacefully overthrow their government and choose another. The prime minister called an election. He submitted his government to the judgment of the people. The election was held. ...

Debating milk, names and workplace blues

| Nov 29, 2014

Debating milk, names and workplace blues

by Michael Hoffman

Milk — liquid innocence. If milk lets you down, what won’t? It looks healthy, tastes healthy — surely it is healthy? Appearances, we know, are deceiving; still, this particular illusion dies hard. Whose earliest childhood memories do not include a parent admonishing, “Drink your ...

Creative crooks stay one step ahead

| Nov 15, 2014

Creative crooks stay one step ahead

by Mark Schreiber

The “Ore, ore” (“It’s me”) fraudsters and their ilk, who telephone elderly people and pretend to be a relative in need of money to help them out of a jam, keep coming up with new scams. One might say Japan is a target-rich environment. ...

Determining good and evil, with the kids

| Nov 8, 2014

Determining good and evil, with the kids

by Michael Hoffman

What is “moral education”? Assuming we more or less know what education is, try defining “moral.” The education ministry’s website takes a stab at it: “A heart-and-mind (kokoro) that values life, a heart-and-mind that is considerate toward others…” That’s unimpeachable as far as it ...

Media whips up fuss over S&M bar claim

| Nov 1, 2014

Media whips up fuss over S&M bar claim

by Mark Schreiber

First came what the tabloids referred to as “W-jinin,” the resignations of two female Cabinet members — Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi and Justice Minister Midori Matsushima — on the same day. The “W” in this case conveys two nuances: the first ...

The romantic notion of rural relocation

| Oct 25, 2014

The romantic notion of rural relocation

by Michael Hoffman

Yu Iwamoto began adult life working in the slums, refugee camps and precarious schools of Afghanistan. Had he even heard, back then, of the Oki Islands off the coast of Shimane Prefecture? He may have. The little archipelago is remote but famous. Political rebels ...