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Category Archives: Japan

Diary: An Urbanist in Okinawa

I had to step out of Korea this past weekend, and Peach, my discount airline of choice, offered three possible destinations: Osaka, the first city I ever visited in Japan and still the one in which I spend the most time; Tokyo, which I could stand to explore some more but which Peach only flies into […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: W. David Marx’s “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style”

Forty years ago, four Japanese writers and photographers came to town and invented Los Angeles. Or rather, they invented an image of Los Angeles they could distill, package, and sell — first to Japan, then to the rest of the world — with the debut issue of Popeye, published July 1976. Described in its own […]

Los Angeles Review of Books: Donald Richie’s “The Inland Sea”

“IT IS PERHAPS TRUE that the best way to get to know a people is to sleep with them,” writes Donald Richie about halfway into The Inland Sea, “but this is complicated in Japan.” That hardly stops him from trying, however. In this account of a journey through the towns and villages of the titular […]

Everything I’ve written about Haruki Murakami for Open Culture

I began writing for Open Culture with a post on In Search of Haruki Murakami, a BBC documentary on the elusiveness of the novelist and his work. In the years since, I do believe I’ve written more about Murakami there than I have any other culture figure, Western or Eastern, living or dead. (Orson Welles probably […]

Presenting the Notebook on Cities and Culture Guide to Japan

The Notebook on Cities and Culture Guide to Japan indexes all the show’s Japan-recorded and Japan-related interviews. Stay tuned for much more and about the Land of the Rising Sun.   Osaka: Brian Ashcraft, Senior Contributing Editor for video game site Kotaku, contributor at Wired, and author of Arcade Mania! and Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential Josh Parkin, luthier and proprietor of Josh […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: Brother (Takeshi Kitano, 2000)

On January 25, 2015 Colin and “The City in Cinema” come live to Portland, Oregon’s Hollywood Theatre – for details and tickets, visit In the mid-1990s, Takeshi Kitano, who made his name in Japan as a television comedian, broke into the west as an auteur. Did it with Sonatine, a tale of a Tokyo yakuza exiled […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E42: The New Guy with Eric Nakamura

Colin Marshall sits down in Sawtelle (also known as Los Angeles’ “Little Osaka”) with Eric Nakamura, founder of Asian-American aesthetic culture and lifestyle brand Giant Robot. They discuss the differences between the Sawtelle he grew up in and the Sawtelle he finds himself in today; how and where he got his doses of Japanese pop […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E37: Closed Worlds with Mark Edward Harris

Colin Marshall sits down in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile district with photographer Mark Edward Harris, author of such books as Inside North Korea, Inside Iran, The Art of the Japanese Bath, and Faces of the Twentieth Century. They discuss filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s introduction to his Iran book, and his rule about always excluding people from his own photographs; the importance […]

Outsider: Donald Richie in Japan, 1947-2013

PITY THE WESTERN JAPANOPHILE who longs to become Japanese. He either takes on every trapping he can manage of what he imagines as the Japanese existence, going as native as possible and in the process turning into a grotesque, or, having collided with one too many of the invisible barriers honeycombing his adopted homeland, throws […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E26: Fifth-Generation “Japanese” with Leslie Helm

Colin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with Leslie Helm, former Tokyo correspondent for Business Week and the Los Angeles Times, editor of Seattle Business, and author of Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan. They discuss the Asia connections of Los Angeles and Seattle; Japan’s changing place in the zeitgeist since when […]