National Topics

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Tokyo's robotic eyes are everywhere

by Michael Hoffman

You are not alone. You are never alone. Is that comforting, or terrifying? It’s up to you. But Josei Seven magazine writes about “our surveillance society” in these terms: “Take one step outside your house and wherever you may be — on the street, in a store, at a train ...

Home is where the hard work is

| Aug 16, 2014

Home is where the hard work is

by Philip Brasor

Earlier this year, house builder Asahi Kasei Homes produced a video “white paper” based on a survey of 1,371 “double-income families” with children. Seventy percent of the husbands surveyed said they had been subjected to kaji-hara, or “housework harassment,” by their wives. AKH defined ...

Grisly Sasebo murder defies explanation

| Aug 16, 2014

Grisly Sasebo murder defies explanation

by Mark Schreiber

Homicides involving dismemberment, referred to in Japanese as bara-bara jiken (scattered incidents), fall into a wider category known as ryōki hanzai (bizarre crimes) — written with kanji meaning “hunting the strange.” Typically when minors were involved in such cases they tended to be victims, ...

Critics get frank when it comes to Godzilla

| Aug 9, 2014

Critics get frank when it comes to Godzilla

by Philip Brasor

Because Japanese media are incestuous in their inter-corporate dealings, those writers referred to as hyōronka (critics) tend to be less critical about popular culture than their counterparts in North America and Europe. They are more likely to engage in punditry or public relations, because ...

Ah, vaginas! In defense of taboos

| Aug 9, 2014

Ah, vaginas! In defense of taboos

by Michael Hoffman

Two words have been let loose on society by an artist who, for better or worse, may find the rest of her life and career inextricably bound up with them, “vagina” being one and “taboo” the other. The artist herself needs no introduction. She ...

Is the next stop 'brokesville' for the maglev?

| Aug 2, 2014

Is the next stop 'brokesville' for the maglev?

by Philip Brasor

Robert Moses, the civil servant who built the great park-expressway-bridge network in New York state during the middle of the last century, succeeded by gaming the system. Understanding how politics would make it difficult for him to fulfill his vision, he often started a ...

Fast-food follies have media in a frenzy

| Aug 2, 2014

Fast-food follies have media in a frenzy

by Mark Schreiber

Almost exactly a year ago (on July 27, 2013), this column reported on how the print media was inundated with concerns over the safety of foods from abroad. Among the sources cited was Takarajima magazine, which quoted a foodstuffs importer as saying, “The decline ...

Art vs. morals debate plays out in the press

| Jul 26, 2014

Art vs. morals debate plays out in the press

by Philip Brasor

In her semiautobiographical feature film “Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?,” Anna Margarita Albelo plays a struggling film director who makes ends meet by screening her movies in art galleries where she shows up dressed as a vagina. Though the story is mainly about relationships, ...

Is Japan sinking further into 'Aum-ification'?

| Jul 26, 2014

Is Japan sinking further into 'Aum-ification'?

by Michael Hoffman

The world — this insignificant little spinning rock we call home — is nearing its end. Armageddon lies ahead: violence, upheaval, horror. The normal human mind shrinks from the mere thought, but “higher consciousness” embraces it. Higher consciousness sees things in a wider perspective. ...