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Matt Treyvaud
For Matt Treyvaud's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES
Jul 18, 2015
'Mystical Realist' Eihei Dogen's 13th-century writings
Eihei Dogen (1200-53), founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, is a key figure in the intellectual history of Japan, but for many centuries his work was not widely read. This changed in 1926, when the publication of Watsuji Tetsuro's "Shamon Dogen" ("The Monk Dogen") reframed him as a philosopher in the contemporary sense and inspired a new interest in Dogen's writings.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES
Jul 11, 2015
Lafcadio Hearn's timeless anthology of ghost tales
What is it about "Kwaidan"? It wasn't Lafcadio Hearn's first take on Japanese ghost stories — it wasn't even his first such book whose title was a single Japanese word starting with "K" ("Kotto" was published two years earlier, in 1902). But it's "Kwaidan" that still claims a place in literary history, even as its siblings among Hearn's prodigious oeuvre recede into cult status.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink
Jul 3, 2015
Rice organization uses fried food and folklore to revive a Shinto purification ritual
Traditions are just innovations that happened to catch on. Culinary traditions are no different. Some self-organize out of circumstance, such as yakisoba (literally "fried noodles"), which triumphantly emerged as the iconic food of summer festivals in large part thanks to a particular combination of demographics and ingredient availability after World War II. Some traditions are the result of more careful planning, such as the National Confectionary Industry Association's precision rebranding in 1978 of March 14 as "White Day," a day where men are expected to reciprocate any gift of chocolate they received from women on Valentine's Day, this time with white sweets. People love special events, people love food — there will always be room for new ways to combine the two.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES
Jun 27, 2015
'Harp of Burma' is an adventure story concealing weighty themes
"Harp of Burma" was published in Japan in 1946, but it would be 20 years before Michio Takeyama's story of Japanese soldiers stranded in Burma after the close of World War II was translated into English. In fact, Kon Ichikawa got there first in 1956, with his stark cinematic adaptation, "Biruma no Tategoto" ("The Burmese Harp"), which was internationally praised upon its release. Anglophone cinephiles who bought the book expecting the same gravitas were surely disappointed. Although immediately popular with a wide cross-section of Japanese readers, "Harp of Burma" is unmistakably an adventure story for children. Its themes are weighty — the human cost of war, the healing power of song — but they are not explored in great depth; the cliffhanger-driven plot takes precedence.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES
Jun 6, 2015
Osamu Dazai's travel guide 'Return to Tsugaru' is more concerned with people than place
In the northernmost reaches of Honshu, Japan's largest island, lies Tsugaru, an area isolated even from its neighbors in Aomori Prefecture, let alone the rest of Japan. As a celebrated author and son of Tsugaru himself, Dazai Osamu must have seemed the perfect choice for this 1944 volume in Oyama Shoten's series of books on regional diversity. But a few pages into "Return to Tsugaru," the result of this commission, Dazai warns the reader that they shouldn't expect to learn too much about Tsugaru itself. Instead, he will be concentrating on his own chief interest: "love, for want of a better word ... the human heart in its relations with other hearts."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books / ESSENTIAL READING FOR JAPANOPHILES
May 30, 2015
'Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings' reveals intricacies of Edo Period architecture and interiors
"Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings" was first published in 1886, less than two decades after the Meiji Restoration, a time when Japan reopened itself to the world. But the same openness that allowed Morse to document Japanese architecture as a living tradition would soon transform the urban landscape beyond recognition.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on