| 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 ...

| May 20, 2012

Japan faces a long, hot, nuclear-free summer

by Mark Schreiber

Is Japan — and particularly the Kansai region — going to have enough electric power to get it through peak summer demand? The Meteorological Agency’s three-month projection for May through July, posted on its website (www.jma.go.jp/jp/longfcst/000_1_10.html) hedges its bets. For the four main islands, ...

| Apr 29, 2012

Japanese families on endangered list

by Michael Hoffman

The family is humanity’s oldest and most universal institution. But its shape, size, aims and ideologies seem infinitely variable. Japan’s families down the ages have been polygamous and monogamous, multigeneration and single-generation, swarming with children or comparatively, if not entirely, devoid of them. Through ...