| Aug 19, 2012

Yakuza face new battles within and without

by Mark Schreiber

The nation’s largest underworld syndicate, the Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi, is 97 years old. Jumping the gun on the gang’s centennial by three years, Shukan Asahi Geino (Aug. 16-23) ran eight pages of historical photos under the title “Yamaguchi-gumi: A Turbulent First Century.” The same magazine ...

| Aug 5, 2012

Steamy, sleepless nights grind down the nation

by Mark Schreiber

Sleeping-goods manufacturer Nishikawa Sangyo Co. Ltd., founded in Omi Province (modern-day Shiga Prefecture) in 1566, got its start in business selling mosquito netting. The company’s Tokyo retail outlet, on the opposite side of the Nihonbashi Bridge from the Mitsukoshi department store, has been in ...

| Jul 8, 2012

Attitudes hardening toward the welfare state

by Mark Schreiber

Last March, the number of individuals receiving seikatsu hogo (financial assistance from the government) exceeded 2.1 million people, the first time the record had been surpassed since 1951. Payouts this year are likely to exceed ¥3.7 trillion. Based on the 2007 figures, Japan’s ratio ...

| Jul 1, 2012

The land where sex fears to tread

by Michael Hoffman

No love, no sex, no marriage, no kids — such, in glum outline, is Japan today. It’s too bleak a picture, it can’t be true! But it can’t be false either. If it were, people would be marrying, making babies and having love affairs. ...

| Jun 24, 2012

The doomsday cult of 9-to-5 depression

by Michael Hoffman

One of the enduring mysteries of the Aum Shinrikyo atrocities of the 1990s is the ease with which the cult attracted members. The arrest this month of the last two fugitives allegedly involved in Aum’s fatal 1995 sarin gas assault on the Tokyo subway ...

| Jun 10, 2012

It's not that easy to quit

by Michael Hoffman

“If you don’t like it, quit.” That ill-tempered remark, lately uttered by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, echoes a sentiment frequently encountered in people in authority — but how true is it? How free are we to “quit” what we don’t like? Hashimoto was addressing ...