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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 TED.com 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 instagram.com/whatthusee.
For Thu-Huong Ha's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
An adult Natsuki (Manami Goto, center) and her husband (Hiromichi Aramaki, right) enter into a twisted relationship with her cousin (Mittsun, left) in “Earthlings.”
CULTURE / Stage
Feb 24, 2024
Sayaka Murata's 'Earthlings' is a fittingly wild ride on stage
The book’s gore and guts make for a fun, zany stage adaptation.
At the new teamLab Borderless museum, the crowd-favorite room of lamps from Borderless 1.0 has evolved into a room of light bubbles, which interact with each other and the bodies passing by.
CULTURE / Art
Feb 8, 2024
Have we reached teamLab saturation?
The art collective re-opens its Borderless museum in Azabudai Hills. But the experience is starting to feel stale.
The thick, supposedly lucky sushi rolls of Setsubun are full of it.
LIFE / Food & Drink
Jan 31, 2024
How a trendy sushi roll usurped the traditions of Setsubun
The lore around “ehōmaki” sounds just whacky enough to make it an old custom, but it turns out to be a fairly recent phenomenon.
Following the death of manga artist Hinako Ashihara, X users are going in search of clues, treating the internet as a virtual crime scene — and appointing themselves the arbiters of law and order.
CULTURE / Wide Angle
Jan 31, 2024
The internet goes in search of blame after the death of Hinako Ashihara
To piece together what happened, social media users are going in search of clues, treating the internet as a virtual crime scene.
Rie Qudan speaks to reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday after being awarded the Akutagawa Prize.
CULTURE / Books
Jan 19, 2024
Akutagawa Prize draws controversy after win for work that used ChatGPT
Rie Qudan won Japan’s most important prize for early career writers for “Tokyo-to Dojo-to,” a novel that “exposes the prophecy of the AI generation.”
In his new memoir, “Rental Person Who Does Nothing,” Shoji Morimoto describes his journey to becoming a professional blank page, citing his own posts on X (formerly Twitter), where he reflects on his transactions to nearly half a million followers.
CULTURE / Books
Jan 18, 2024
‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ finds value in just being
In his new memoir, Shoji Morimoto describes his unique business model: Do nothing for his clients.
“Transfer to my Account” shows dozens of "furikomi" stubs from deposits that Yasuko Toyoshima made to her own bank accounts
CULTURE / Art
Jan 14, 2024
Yasuko Toyoshima creates delight from the quotidian
A new Tokyo exhibit of the conceptual artist’s works presents a cohesive worldview about the interaction between a life of rules and deviation.
A colorful coral reef made out of wool to raise awareness about climate change, at a museum in Baden-Baden, Germany, in January 2022
ENVIRONMENT / Sustainability
Dec 31, 2023
The art world's big planetary problem
Over the last five years, it’s become increasingly clear to major art institutions in Japan and around the world that the sector has a sustainability issue.
Visitors in the last gallery of “Yves Saint Laurent, Across the Style” at the National Art Center, Tokyo, view designs inspired by fine art.
CULTURE / Art / 2023 in Review
Dec 16, 2023
Eager crowds congested Tokyo’s biggest art museums in 2023
Art fans came with wallets ready for a lineup of blockbuster exhibitions, creating bottlenecks at photo-friendly masterpieces and gift shops.
A still from The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
PODCAST / deep dive
Dec 14, 2023
Big in Japan 2023: Anime, Murakami and The Legend of Zelda
Our guests tell us why anime dominated in 2023, which books stood out among a lackluster crowd and why the Zelda franchise is experiencing a renaissance.
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.
CULTURE / Art
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.
CULTURE / Music
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.”
CULTURE / Books
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.
CULTURE / Art
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.
CULTURE / Art
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.
CULTURE / Books
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.

Longform

Hideo Shimoju points to a possible site that his fellow neighbors may relocate to. Such relocations have happened before, but not preemptively.
In disaster-prone Japan, some communities consider major moves