Schoolchildren at the Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, January 1977. Photo by UIG/Getty Japan’s Cold War education policy used religion to ‘make’ the ideal humans needed by its nascent economy. Did it work? By Jolyon Baraka Thomas – is associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (2012) and Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan (2019). In 1932, Matsushita Kōnosuke, the founder of Panasonic, had an epiphany. On visiting the headquarters of the religion Tenrikyō, he was inspired by the sense of collective commitment he witnessed … Continue reading Hitozukuri

The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love my tsundoku. KEY TAKEAWAYS By Kevin Dickinson I love books. If I go to the bookstore to check a price, I walk out with three books I probably didn’t know existed beforehand. I buy second-hand books by the bagful at the Friends of the Library sale, while explaining to my wife that it’s for a good cause. Even the smell of books grips me, that faint aroma of earthy vanilla that wafts up at you when you flip a page. The problem is that my book-buying habit outpaces my ability to read them. … Continue reading The Japanese call this practice tsundoku, and it may provide lasting benefits

Our contaminated future

A rice field in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 2016. Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Corbis/Getty In Fukushima, communities are adapting to life in a time of permanent pollution: a glimpse of what’s to come for us all Maxime Polleri is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at Université Laval, in Quebec City, Canada. He is working on a book about the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, ‘Radioactive Governance: The Politics of Revitalization after Fukushima’. As a farmer, Atsuo Tanizaki did not care much for the state’s maps of radioactive contamination. Colour-coded zoning restrictions might make sense for government workers, he told me, … Continue reading Our contaminated future

Escape the perfectionist trap with the Japanese philosophy of “wabi sabi”

Perfectionism is on the rise, and its consequences for mental health can be devastating. The Japanese philosophy of “wabi sabi” can help. KEY TAKEAWAYS by Kevin Dickinson I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I plan vacations to a T, my mind replays blunders on loop, and the thought that there might be typos in my articles makes my jaw clench in agitation. Okay, maybe more than a “bit.” The thing is, I know I shouldn’t be this way. The pursuit of the perfect is not synonymous with the pursuit of excellence or even the worthwhile, and whether that drive is … Continue reading Escape the perfectionist trap with the Japanese philosophy of “wabi sabi”

The great regression

To understand why so many adults are acting just like children, don’t blame Millennials – look to Japan in the 1990s Matt Alt is a Tokyo-based translator, writer, and speaker. He is the author of Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World (2020). These are trying times. People are working harder and earning less. They’re buffeted by terrifying headlines and grim predictions. They’re having less sex and living with parents longer. And they’re burrowing under weighted blankets and escaping into the childish comforts of colouring books (or the fairytale fantasies of corporate theme parks and video games). If life in the … Continue reading The great regression

Dancing with water

As storms, droughts and floods become more intense, what can the world learn from Japan’s profoundly wet history? by Giulio Boccaletti is an author, entrepreneur and senior executive. He is co-founder of the tech startup Chloris Geospatial, an honorary research associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, and the author of Water: A Biography (2021). He lives in London. In early June 2018, I landed at Kansai airport in Japan, with a full day of travel ahead. A few hours later, I was sitting on a Shinkansen – the high-speed train connecting Osaka to … Continue reading Dancing with water

Japanese Food Artist Uses Toast as Her Canvas for Edible Masterpieces

By Emma Taggart  Since it’s the most important meal of the day, many of us are pretty particular about how we like our breakfast. Toast is a staple for most, but for Japanese designer Manami Sasaki, slices of bread aren’t just tasty snacks—they’re her artistic canvas. She meticulously tops toast with colorful ingredients to create edible designs based on Japanese art and geometric patterns. These breakfasts aren’t the type of meal you can quickly prepare and eat as you run out the door. Sasaki spends hours cutting and positioning each ingredient on the toasted bread with perfect precision. For one eye-catching spring-inspired … Continue reading Japanese Food Artist Uses Toast as Her Canvas for Edible Masterpieces

Millions of tons of nuclear wastewater from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea

By Brandon Specktor The water contains more radioactive material than the plant’s managers previously stated. Japan’s government announced on Tuesday (April 13) that it will dump more than a million tons of contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, beginning in two years. Roughly 1.25 million tons (1.13 million metric tons) of water have accumulated around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan since 2011, after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region. The twin disasters killed nearly 20,000 people, according to NPR, and caused meltdowns in three of the plant’s six reactors, triggering the worst nuclear disaster … Continue reading Millions of tons of nuclear wastewater from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea

Chloe Jafe Takes Big Risks as She Photographs the Japanese Mafia

“Idon’t really consider the people I photograph as ‘subjects’ because a lot of them become part of my life,” says Chloe Jafe. She adds, “it’s a moment of connection, an exchange, where vulnerability is on both sides. Photography is just what is left from the moment.” Jafe, who’s based in Japan, has fully immersed herself in the culture. For a photographer, living in Japan offers a range of interesting topics. In Jafe’s case, she found herself focusing her creative energy on the Yakuza, otherwise known as the Japanese mafia. It’s a series of photographs and encounters that have spanned over … Continue reading Chloe Jafe Takes Big Risks as She Photographs the Japanese Mafia

The myth of Westernisation

Americans liked to believe that Japan was Westernising through the 20th century but Japan was vigorously doing the opposite by Jon Davidann is professor of history at Hawai‘i Pacific University. He is the author of Cultural Diplomacy in US-Japanese Relations, 1919-1941 (2007), Cross-Cultural Encounters in Modern World History (2nd ed, 2019) and The Limits of Westernization (2019). He lives in Kailua.Listen here Edited by Sam Haselby In 1860, Fukuzawa Yukichi, a young Japanese student still learning English himself, accompanied the first ever Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States as its English interpreter. This American encounter, along with a second trip with a Japanese Embassy to Europe … Continue reading The myth of Westernisation