Thu-Huong Ha
Thu-Huong Ha is the culture critic at The Japan Times, focusing on contemporary art and fiction. Previously she was a reporter for Quartz, an editor for and an executive producer of TEDxNewYork. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, The Believer, and ArtReview, among others. Her debut novel, "Hail Caesar," was published by Scholastic/PUSH in 2007. Get in touch: [email protected] or
For Thu-Huong Ha's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Pages from a new Otaku Dictionary catalog the lexicons of Japan’s various subcultures.
PODCAST / deep dive
Nov 30, 2023
A problematic otaku dictionary and the Japanese approach to sitting
An “Otaku Dictionary” has Japan’s subcultures upset at an attempt to define them.
Yoshiko Koide sits in a classroom at Nagoya College where she teaches a Japanese-language observation seminar.
LIFE / Language / Longform
Nov 27, 2023
How a dictionary came to spark outrage among the web’s otaku
A project to create a reference book categorizing subcultures didn't seem to cause offense until it was packaged and sold as a dictionary.
“Bubble Universe” contains dynamic lights inside spheres that interact with visitors and each other.
Nov 21, 2023
A first look inside teamLab’s new Borderless museum
The international art collective unveiled two installations that will appear in the digital museum’s new space in Azabudai Hills in 2024.
Japan's culture of floor-sitting stretches back to ancient times. Only in the last 60 years has it faced off against a new lifestyle brought along by the rapid spread of chairs and other high furniture.
LIFE / Lifestyle / Longform
Nov 20, 2023
Has Japan mastered sitting?
Sitting is a deceptively simple act. But the story of sitting in Japan spans centuries of culture, politics and religion.
Yoshiko Koide, a professor at Nagoya College, and 12 female students delved deep into otaku culture to create “Otaku Dictionary Daigenkai,” a dictionary of terms from all walks of fandom.
LIFE / Language
Nov 20, 2023
Test your otaku vocabulary, from 'oshi' to 'bacon lettuce'
“Otaku Dictionary Daigenkai” has gathered the language of fandom, from idols to games and anime.
Labyrinth organizer Russell Moench sparked controversy with transphobic tweets, leading booked artists to pull out of the highly regarded electronic music festival’s 2023 edition.
Oct 20, 2023
Art and politics clash at Labyrinth 2023
A controversy surrounding the prestige electronic music festival sparks an old debate over separating art and the artist.
A 19-year-old girl plagued with strange visions sets out with her younger brother to uncover the truth about her perfect family in Banana Yoshimoto’s “The Premonition.”
Oct 14, 2023
Banana Yoshimoto’s new book is a sickly sweet fantasy
In “The Premonition,” the characters exist in a dream-like state of sweetness and steer clear of examining complex questions.
Rahm Emanuel, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Ann Burroughs, president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, discuss the importance of preserving the history of interned Japanese Americans.
Oct 6, 2023
U.S. ambassador honors artworks by interned Japanese Americans
“This is not a great moment for America, and we have to own it,” Rahm Emanuel said at a reception in Tokyo.
Rows of sequins affixed to Faig Ahmed’s “Door to Yourself” gives the work its sparkle.
Oct 6, 2023
Oku-Noto Triennale brings art into stark relief against rocks and sea
Taking place in the remote city of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, the contemporary art event's pretty program aims to instill pride in the local community.
In "Dragon Palace," Hiromi Kawakami's new collection of short stories, middle-aged and elderly characters inhabit a world in which sexuality and attractiveness are liberated.
Sep 17, 2023
Hiromi Kawakami's 'Dragon Palace': Delightfully raunchy and funny
In her new collection of short stories, the author returns to a world of fluid transfiguration with dry matter-of-factness and knowing humor.
Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron” follows a young boy who enters a strange realm on a quest to find his missing stepmother.
Sep 4, 2023
‘The Boy and the Heron’ hype ramps up ahead of English release
Pairs of tickets to the Hayao Miyazaki film’s international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival are reselling for as much as ¥45,000.
Saou Ichikawa won Japan's Akutagawa Prize for her novella "Hunchback," which takes place in a group home in present day and centers on a woman diagnosed with myotubular myopathy.
Sep 2, 2023
Saou Ichikawa’s 'Hunchback': A darkly funny portrait of disability
The winner of the second 2023 Akutagawa Prize is a sardonic commentary on the utility of bodies, both abled and disabled.
Reader opinions have been mixed on Haruki Murakami's latest novel, “The City and Its Uncertain Walls.”
Aug 20, 2023
Haruki Murakami’s latest has readers and reviewers perplexed
Following the arrival of the renowned author’s first full-length novel in six years, critics and readers have been left scratching their heads.
The protagonist of Yu Miri’s “The End of August” is a fictionalized version of the author’s maternal grandfather, a long-distance runner who lived in Japanese-occupied Korea.
Aug 6, 2023
Yu Miri’s new book is a bleak, dizzying epic in colonized Korea
In “The End of August,” the Akutagawa Prize-winning author excavates her own family history and traces multiple generations living under Japanese rule.
Visitors to the "Henri Matisse: The Path to Color" exhibition at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum face tough decisions in the gift shop.
Aug 5, 2023
Matisse gachapon, Hockney parfaits: Japan’s next-level art merch
A Tokyo art exhibit doesn’t feel complete without a room filled wall-to-wall with custom trinkets.
A woman takes a picture of the poster for the new Hayao Miyazaki film, “The Boy and the Heron.”
PODCAST / deep dive
Aug 2, 2023
Hayao Miyazaki’s confusing new masterpiece
Our critics Thu-Huong Ha and Matt Schley discuss what they thought of the new Hayao Miyazaki film, “The Boy and the Heron.”
A cinema employee checks on a display showing a digital poster for Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, "The Boy and the Heron," on the first day of its premiere in Tokyo on July 14.
Jul 21, 2023
For his last movie, Hayao Miyazaki recycles himself
While visually and technically stunning, "The Boy and the Heron" might give some viewers an unsatisfying sense of deja vu.
Japan Times
Events / Art
Jul 7, 2023
The world’s premier explosion artist buttons up for Tokyo
Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Ramble in the Cosmos ― From ‘Primeval Fireball’ Onward” at the National Art Center, Tokyo gives the artist’s fans something to linger over.
Japan Times
LIFE / Food & Drink
Jul 7, 2023
Why you may never see a permanent In-N-Out in Japan
Did you miss out on June’s In-N-Out Ebisu pop-up? Well, either get ready to wait until 2026 or book a flight to California.
Japan Times
PODCAST / deep dive
Jul 5, 2023
Would you spend the night in a coffin … for art?
Want to know what it’s like to spend the night in a coffin? Culture critic Thu-Huong Ha joins us to discuss her night in artist Marina Abramovic’s nightmare-inducing Dream House.


Tokyo Healthcare University professor Takayuki Mifune explains how he is trying to re-create bonito broth from 1,300 years ago.
The quest to re-create what the Japanese ate 1,300 years ago