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Roland Kelts
For Roland Kelts's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Aug 13, 2013
Otakon celebrates 20 years of anime fandom in the U.S.
The American anime convention, Otakon ("Otaku Convention"), begins with a costume parade before it officially opens. Last week I had a bird's-eye view of the spectacle from my 14th-floor hotel room in Baltimore, Maryland. An endless army of imaginary characters trudged across the elevated concourse and down adjacent sidewalks to the Baltimore Convention Center to register and obtain entry badges. Most were instantly recognizable from anime series old and new, brandishing swords or other weaponry fashioned out of homemade materials, or wearing massive multicolored wigs, capes or sewn-on tails — or very little at all.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jul 9, 2013
Can METI's ¥50 billion fund unfreeze 'Cool Japan'?
Naysaying is almost always risk-free, especially if you do it online. If you're a cynic, you're usually right, and if you're wrong, you can just delete those errant tweets and posts and join the party.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Jun 12, 2013
Preserving a classic Japanese art form: tokusatsu magic
Our monster is scaly, spiky, reptilian — a cross between a dinosaur and an irradiated insect that shrieks like an angry bird. Our hero is lean, faintly muscular in a rubbery skintight suit with inscrutable praying-mantis eyes. They face one another, stomping left to right like sumo wrestlers, posing karate-style. The humans below clasp their hands in hope, their city fragile as cardboard.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
May 8, 2013
Social clubbing takes off with iFlyer service
Clubbing in Japan is a kick. The country's zeal for global pop trends and its prominent club scene draws big-name DJs and performers from the international circuit. Japan's hodgepodge approach to urban planning means that clubs seem to blossom nearly anywhere — in the back alleys of unsung neighborhoods such as Tokyo's Yoyogi, with its funky music haven, Zher the Zoo, or behind nondescript docks in the Hyogo Prefecture capital of Kobe. Despite recent crackdowns on after-hours dancing, Japan's club scene continues to thrive past the midnight hour, buoyed by itinerant hipsters with wads of cash.
Japan Times
CULTURE / CULTURE SMASH
Apr 10, 2013
Pop tourism gains traction
Pre-flight shopping at Narita airport a couple of weeks ago, I passed a mannequin sporting a light-blue necktie and a turquoise wig with pig tails dangling down to its mini skirt. The vision spoke volumes: It was Hatsune Miku, of course, Japan's holographic, animated virtual pop star, beloved fashion icon and model for pop culture fans and cosplayers worldwide. But why was she suddenly manning the plaza concourse of Japan's busiest tourist portal, standing tall beside Uniqlo and Shu Uemura?
Japan Times
LIFE / CULTURE SMASH
Mar 13, 2013
The online anime revolution has finally ignited in Japan
The first question after a panel I once chaired at an anime convention in the United States sounded innocent enough. "So, what do you guys think about Crunchyroll?"
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Dec 21, 2012
Hatsune Miku goes highbrow
On her own, Japanese pop superstar Hatsune Miku can't sing. Nor can she rap, dance or DJ. She is drug- and alcohol-free because she can't indulge in either, and she can't have affairs or engage in offstage shenanigans fit for YouTube scandals or tabloid headlines. Now entering her sixth year as a beloved idol with a global fan base, she looks as youthful and demure as she did when she debuted. She can't even get old.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Dec 6, 2012
Townshend: Japan, U.K. took same postwar path
Who guitarist and composer Pete Townshend originally wanted to call his memoir, "Pete Townshend: Who He?" His publisher, HarperCollins, settled on the less cheeky, more digestible, "Who I Am" — though a better title might be: "Who I Was."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Dec 21, 2007
'I carry The Who brand with pride'
I first met The Who's Pete Townshend 10 years ago at a hotel near his home in London for an interview. He entered the first-floor suite energetically. When he sat down, his crossed legs bounced with barely contained passion in response to each question.
CULTURE / Books
Sep 30, 2007
Beyond darkness: sleepless in Tokyo
After Dark by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin. Knopf, 2007, 208 pp., $22.95 (cloth) If New York is the city that never sleeps, Tokyo is the city of sleepless souls — or so it appears in the cinematic narrative of "After Dark," among the most hauntingly detached of Haruki Murakami's nine novels published in English, and among his shortest.
Japan Times
LIFE
Jul 11, 2004
Believe it ... or not
Japan's vast hoard of war booty known as Yamashita's Gold was long thought to be buried in caves in the Philippines. But in their book 'Gold Warriors,' Sterling and Peggy Seagrave sensationally claim that the treasure trove was secretly recovered -- and continues to oil the wheels of politics in Japan and beyond. As Roland Kelts discovered through interviews with the authors, it is a tale as disturbing as they insist it is well-founded.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY
Jun 22, 2003
Evil war crims had it cushy
From behind a wooden lectern in Princeton University's Department of East Asian Studies last month, 85-year-old Tokio Tobita, a Japanese World War II veteran and convicted war criminal who served 10 years in Sugamo Prison, surveyed the intently focused faces of scholars, artists, students, American war veterans and their families.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY
Dec 29, 2002
Koma Square -- a new years' tale by RK
1997-99 He woke to the sound of a prerecorded voice booming from the nationalists' minitruck rolling through their neighborhood, making the windows rattle. Shirtless on the tatami, his bare back pressed to the ribbed weave, he heard the voice as part of his dream and then part of the day, and then back into the dream again; a soundtrack threaded through two worlds.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / CLOSE-UP
Dec 1, 2002
Writer on the borderline
Haruki Murakami is Japan's most important and internationally acclaimed living writer. "Norwegian Wood," his fourth novel, has sold more than 2 million copies since it was published in 1987. His latest, "Kafka on the Shore," has sold more than 200,000 copies since its publication in September, and has topped the bestseller lists in Japan for more than two months.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Music
Oct 27, 2002
Coldfeet raise pop to a higher plane
"Sure, we want to be famous," Coldfeet's chanteuse, Lori Fine, says a little defensively in the faux tavern environs of Shibuya's TGIFridays, stabbing at a half-eaten pizza quesadilla. Fine is a former model and has the effortless poise and posture of one -- minus the myopic egotism.
COMMUNITY
May 5, 2002
What is terrorism?
Two weeks after the attacks on New York and Washington, an article by Susan Sontag, novelist, essayist, director, playwright and easily America's most provocative public intellectual, appeared in the now-famous black-cover issue of the New Yorker magazine. In it, Sontag excoriated Americans for their ignorance, blind patriotism and the "reality-concealing rhetoric" spouted by the nation's public officials and media commentators. The perpetrators of the attacks were not "cowards," she wrote, adding: "Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together."
CULTURE / Books
Mar 24, 2002
Shimoda sounds a literary lament
SAN FRANCISCO -- A foreigner in Japan is an outsider by default, a fact foreign residents have lamented for centuries in what is now a ritualized barstool grievance: "I've lived here for so long, learned the language, love my natto, but still . . . "

Longform

Yayoi Kusama’s “Pumpkin,” once the victim of high waves that dragged it into the sea, sits at the end of a pier on the south side of Naoshima.
Why is the most exciting art in Japan so hard to get to?