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Category Archives: Japan

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 […]

A Los Angeles Primer: Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo sold me on Los Angeles. My northern Californian childhood introduced the delights of San Francisco’s Japantown, still one of my beloved areas, but every time I go there, it looks to have wearily endured yet another wave of exodus and surrendered to yet another degree of decrepitude. This, of course, makes for its […]

Bookforum syllabus: Western literary expats in postwar Japan

  My new syllabus for Bookforum magazine covers four favorite volumes on life in postwar Japan by four favorite literarily inclined Western expats: Pico Iyer, John Nathan, Donald Keene, and the late Donald Richie: The 1950s through the 80s saw Japan go from post-war disrepair to world-frightening powerhouse, adapting and even improving all manner of Western […]

Podthoughts: The Japan Show

Vital stats: Format: two expats on the news from Japan, especially of the irksome variety Episode duration: 35-55m Frequency: erratic They call it “Seidensticker Syndrome”, in a tribute of sorts to famed translator and Japanologist Edward Seidensticker. Seidensticker, to put it far too uncomplicatedly, had a love-hate relationship with the country and the people who […]