| Oct 28, 2012

You can't choose your (invisible) neighbors

by Michael Hoffman

Some animals are solitary. Others live in flocks or herds. Human beings are somewhere in between. Our sociability and our economic needs force us into communities, where our misanthropy, meanness and selfishness — or maybe it’s an instinctive craving for solitude — can make ...

| Oct 21, 2012

Watching the wealthy, a popular spectator sport

by Mark Schreiber

Twenty-five years ago, in what was to became known as the bubble economy, many Japanese suddenly found themselves awash in money. In a book published that year titled “Hokokuron” (“The Theory of National Affluence”), business pundit Taiichi Sakaiya gleefully extolled Japan’s newfound wealth, remarking, ...

| Sep 23, 2012

No trusting those who descend from heaven

by Michael Hoffman

Just for fun, try this whimsical little experiment: search the Japan Times website for “regain trust.” It’s an expression that recurs so often, and has such a long history, you’d almost think it meant something. “[Prime Minister Yasuo] Fukuda vows to regain public trust” ...

| Sep 9, 2012

Joy among the clouds and shadows

by Michael Hoffman

Yoko Sakata was an ordinary “office lady,” not earning much and not aspiring to much, when she began suspecting her boyfriend of having an affair. She hired a private detective, who confirmed her fears and then paid her a compliment: “You have good intuition.” ...

| 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 ...