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Category Archives: Japan

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 […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E14: New York, Tokyo, and Back Again with Roland Kelts

Colin Marshall sits down in Echo Park, Los Angeles with Roland Kelts, visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Tokyo, contributing editor to the literary journals A Public Space and Japan’s Monkey Business International, which he will be launching in New York City with Motoyuki Shibata, Paul Auster and Gen’ichiro Takahashi and others this […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E10: Trouble Sparks Creativity with Christopher Stephens

Colin Marshall sits down in Nishinomiya, Japan with translator, writer, and former Kansai Time Out editor Christopher Stephens. They discuss whether higher Japanese skills get a foreigner more suspicion; the nearby presence and touristic effects of novelist Haruki Murakami’s elementary school; the older writers, like Yasunari Kawabata, Junichiro Tanizaki, and Yukio Mishima, who stoked his interest in […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E9: The Poet’s Peak with Stephen Gill

Colin Marshall sits down overlooking greater Kyoto on Mt. Ogura with Stephen Gill, poet, BBC radio scriptwriter, and executive director of People Together for Mt. Ogura. They discuss the mountain’s place in a traditional Japanese poetry card game; how, after scores of Japanese noticed in it an opportunity for free trash disposal, the mountain generated […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E6: Form Over Function with John Dougill

Colin Marshall sits down seven stories above Kawaramachi, Kyoto, Japan with John Dougill, professor of British culture at Ryukoku University, blogger at Green Shinto, and author of books including Kyoto: A Cultural History, In Search of Japan’s Hidden Christians, and Oxford in English Literature. They discuss the commonalities between the Kyoto geisha and the English […]

Notebook on Cities and Culture S3E5: A Decent Banger with Josh Parkin

Colin Marshall sits down in Nakatsu, Osaka, Japan with guitarmaker Josh Parkin proprietor of Josh Parkin Guitars. They discuss how the intensity of Japanese enthusiasm extends to guitar-playing; how Japanese friends in London urged him not to set up shop in Tokyo, but in Osaka; his early life in Yorkshire, “the English Kansai,” where he […]