Roger Pulvers


Roger Pulvers
Roger Pulvers is an author, playwright, theater director and translator who divides his time between Tokyo and Sydney. He has published more than 40 books. His latest book in English is "The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn."
For Roger Pulvers's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Oct 1, 2006
Age-old 'naked friendships' lay bare new bathhouse concerns
I do it about three times a week, but I tell you I would double that frequency if I could. It is surely one of life's great pleasures, and it takes on average (for me) 45 to 50 minutes. Some people smoke afterward, but I just like to cool down and think about things -- you know, life, the human body, that sort of stuff.
LIFE / Language
Sep 26, 2006
Be warned: we're talking rather rude Japanese
In a society like Japan's, where civility in public requires a high degree of decorous formality, crude language rarely rears its ugly head.
Sep 24, 2006
Japan's hordes of hoarders still look to their navel nest eggs
I have spent nearly 40 years writing about Japan, virtually all of the time trying to show how Japanese people are really no different from other nationalities. But, by God, there is one aspect of Japanese life that makes this country unique. I defy any reader to name a society that has a custom like the one I am writing about today.
LIFE / Language
Sep 19, 2006
Rougher language behind face-value meanings
First of a two part series
Sep 17, 2006
Self-censorship conjures ominous echoes of the past
These days a simple but potent Japanese word is appearing in the media with inordinate frequency. It is hannichi, which means "anti-Japanese." An incident last month brought to mind an earlier era, when the word hannichi was also in common currency. Some words skip decades, returning to haunt the national consciousness.
Sep 10, 2006
War's heroes and villains: Two sides of the same coin
For two days, on Aug. 18 and 19, 1966, Australian soldiers fought a battle at the village of Long Tan in South Vietnam. Though vastly outnumbered, they held their ground. Subsequently, they were given medals for bravery by the then-government of South Vietnam; and in May 1968, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson awarded D Company 6RAR, as they were known, the Presidential Unit Citation, or PUC.
Sep 3, 2006
Toeing the line may take a name-change for the LDP
It's September, and Japan is in the grips of selection fever. This month Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down, and the ever-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will choose a new president. To all intents and purposes, due to the party's parliamentary dominance, selection of an LDP leader is tantamount to election of prime minister.
Aug 27, 2006
An underclass returns -- and with it, what?
All indications are that Japan is reverting to prewar norms. I am not referring solely to the new nationalism, bolstered by Japan's increasingly aggressive military stances, but rather to the notion of social equality -- or inequality -- that is being created for its citizens today.
Aug 20, 2006
A nation of animal lovers -- as pets or when they're on a plate
The Japanese consider themselves a compassionate people when it comes to an animal's fate. Memorial stones have been erected in whaling villages since the early Edo Period (1603-1867), as they are today at slaughterhouses. Buddhist priests are hired to read the sutras before altars set with incense and piled with fruit to pray for the souls of animals killed for food.
Aug 13, 2006
Shouldn't talking, not killing, be 'the name of the game'?
'Military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. . . . The target is a purely military one."
Aug 6, 2006
Many happy returns to my Tokyo village past and present
As readers of this column last week may recall, I wrote there about a period in the early 1980s when my wife and I lived in the western Tokyo suburb of Soshigaya in Setagaya Ward. Three of our four children were born in the local hospital, and we have only the fondest memories of the old neighborhood.
Jul 30, 2006
Time-capsule Tokyo along a street where I lived
In the early 1980s, my wife and I lived in a tiny flat in Soshigaya on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. The eldest three of our four children were born then, and I have only the fondest memories of pushing a pram up and down the kilometer-long shotengai (shopping street) between the station and our home.
LIFE / Language
Jul 25, 2006
When muzukashii means more than 'difficult'
I wish I had a share of Google stock for every time I have heard a Japanese person tell me that their language is "aimai na gengo (an ambiguous language)." How did this bizarre notion originate, and why do many Japanese entertain it? And what's more, can a language itself be ambiguous, apart from the people who use it?
Jul 23, 2006
Dark chronicler of a dubious Jewish uniqueness
Who are the Jews? What do Jewish writers have in common with each other? What, strictly speaking, is a "Jewish" writer . . . and, for that matter, what is meant by "strictly speaking"?
Jul 16, 2006
Fractured families bode ill for Japan's gray army
The late actor Kiyoshi Atsumi, who played Tora-san in all of the movies with that title, was a compassionate man of the old Japanese school.
Jul 9, 2006
Home from home from home
Three days ago marked an anniversary of my own personal day of independence. Thirty years ago, on July 6, 1976, I became an Australian citizen and legally forfeited my U.S. citizenship.
Jul 2, 2006
Hedge your bets: Conform, but don't act like you belong
'The barriers of racial feeling [between Japanese and foreigners], of emotional differentiation, or language, of manners and beliefs, are likely to remain insurmountable for centuries."
LIFE / Language
Jun 27, 2006
Colorful proverbs capture a peculiar sensibility
Every language has a vast number of proverbs, mottos and saws, and native speakers often quote them to express a feeling or to prove a point. The fact is that you can "prove" almost anything with a colorful turn of phrase as practically every proverb has an equal and opposite proverb.
Jun 25, 2006
What's in it for them to return us to 'prewar values'?
The leaders of many countries evoke their nation's history as if it were an idyll of virtue and civility. They gaze into the mirror of the past and see no dark blemish, only purity, goodness and light.
Jun 18, 2006
To whom it may concern:
Something exceedingly tragic is occurring in Japan today, something it falls to me to reveal now on these pages. It is, simply, that the Japanese people are becoming invisible before our very eyes. At the present rate, by my rough estimate, not one single identifiable Japanese individual will be living in Japan by 2030.


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