Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged Japan

Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: The Living, Dead, and Undead in Japan's Imperialism, 1895-1945

Mark Driscoll, an associate professor of Japanese and International Studies at the University of North Carolina, here presents a very thorough reassessment of Japanese imperialism of Asia in the first half of the twentieth century. Driscoll focuses his attention on the fringes of the colonized Asian peoples, writing about the Chinese coolies, Korean farmers, Japanese pimps and trafficked women of various Asian nationalities that moved Japan's empire along and provided the behind-the-scenes energy that created such an empire.

Dear Pyongyang

Yonghi Yang and her parents are Zainichi, meaning a Korean who lives in Japan. During the division of Korea in 1948 and the war that followed, the Zainichi took sides just as those who dwelled on the peninsula did. Yang’s parents had never been to North Korea, but were so enamoured of communism and the country that in 1971 Yang's father sent his three teenage sons to live in Pyongyang, the capital, as part of the Zainichi “Return Project.” This emigration occurred between the 1950s and 1970s when “Returnees” hoped for a better life in the “fatherland.” This better life never materialized, yet Returnees were forbidden to go back to Japan.

Tales of Tokyo

Full disclosure: Alan Rose and I are friends, and over the years I have enjoyed every bit of his writing. His first novel, the plot-driven ghost story The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, may differ in tone and content from Tales of Tokyo, but the underlying themes aren’t so different.

In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun: The Autobiography of a Japanese Feminist

In the beginning, woman was truly the sun. An authentic person. Now she is the moon, a wan and sickly moon, dependent on another, reflecting another’s brilliance. _ _... The time has come for us to recapture the sun hidden within us. These lines launched Seitō, a women's literary journal, in 1911 Tokyo. Hiratsuka Raichō was one of the founders, and she poured her emotions into this opening editorial.

The Japanese Wife

Here’s what I can muster for Aparna Sen’s film The Japanese Wife: I still don’t quite get it. The Japanese Wife is not as simple as Madame Butterfly, but I think a similar analysis applies.

Entangling Alliances: Foreign War Brides and American Soldiers in the Twentieth Century

When men are shipped out to foreign locations to engage in wartime activities, it seems inevitable that they will become romantically and sexually involved with foreign women. In Entangling Alliances, Susan Zeiger explores this phenomenon, examining governmental, military, and societal responses to American soldiers’ desires for sex, companionship, and marriage while engaged in combat overseas.


I just got back from seeing the documentary Babies. I have to say that it was great! Director Thomas Balmès followed four babies from four countries for a little over a year each. The movie is mostly without dialogue, except for the little bit of the parents' talking. It is mostly shot from the baby's level, and is organized by the developmental stages of babies' lives.

Nakigao (Crying Girl)

You may have already heard about Nakigao (Crying Girl), a DVD released in Japan last month. It features eleven young Japanese actresses crying over real-life dramas they’ve had. And… that’s about it. The DVD is being marketed toward Japanese men, either for sexual or ego enjoyment purposes.

Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater

Full disclosure: I am an avid fan of William T. Vollmann's work and was excited to read this book. Vollmann often has strange and interesting things to say about women and gender relations, and his notorious interest in prostitutes (who feature prominently in both his fiction and non-fiction) may almost be labeled as an obsession.

Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan

Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan is a culmination of professor Lieba Faier's fieldwork in the late 1990s in the Nagano region of Japan, specifically Central Kiso. For a few years, Faier lived in the area, interviewing both the Japanese natives and the Filipina women who came to Japan under entertainment visas.

Japanese Floral and Forest Pendants

My first assignment for the Indian edition of Marie Claire was to write a book review of Kamila Shamsie’s novel Burnt Shadows. Having never written for a glossy mag before, I was quite excited about this opportunity—but nervous too. Bigger publications have a tendency to censor unflattering sentiments that might alienate potential advertisers, and when it comes to fiction, I’m not easy to please. If I failed to be impressed by Shamsie’s work, would I still get the gig?

Arminico Hewa

When I was twenty, I flew off to Japan one spring with a stated mission “to be alone.” While this may sound more glamorous than it actually was, I did accomplish my goal. Unable to speak to anyone, wandering between cities and sights in dazed confusion, I was undeniably alone. It was either the best ten days of my life or the strangest—and really, it was probably both. Japanese band OOIOO recreate the strangeness of that experience.

C'est La Dernière Chanson

When the songs on Maher Shalal Hash Baz’s latest release, C'est La Dernière Chanson, last longer than thirty-seven seconds, they are very enjoyable. The eighteenth record for the band is a two disc album consisting of a total of 277 songs ranging from a confusing eleven seconds of horns and drums to three minutes and one second of musical pleasure.

Learning to Behave Naturally

Learning to Behave Naturally is a seventy-six-minute documentary based on a series of interviews in a language class at the University of Western Japan. A cross-section of students and faculty of diverse ages, gender, race, and social classes talk freely about childhood experiences regarding their gendered roles, interests, and behaviors.

Big Man Japan

The experience of watching Big Man Japan, directed by and also starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, is akin to the pleasure of watching a five-year-old running on a child-size hamster wheel in the park. One alternates between confusion, amusement, and boredom as the aesthetic combines and alternates between the humor of a Hollywood slapstick, the visual dynamic of a video game, and the tone of a documentary.

Burnt Shadows

Kamila Shamsie’s latest novel, Burnt Shadows, is a well crafted story, centering on the life of a fierce and feisty Japanese woman named Hiroko.

AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities

Aside from a women’s studies class I took as an undergraduate, of which I remember very little, thoughts on gender and sexuality typically have not taken up much of my time. AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities totally changed my perception on these subjects. As a self-proclaimed tomboy, who happens not to be a lesbian, society is much more accepting of my “ways” than they would be if I were an effeminate man.

Under the Cherry Tree, Japanese Dolls from the Collection of Hatsuko Ohno (11/5/2008 - 2/22/2009)

For the first time a number of Japanese traditional dolls from the collection of Hatsuko Ohno (1915-1982), a renowned doll maker, are touring Vienna, Austria in the exhibit Unter dem Kirschbaum, Japanische Puppen aus der Sammlung Hatsuko Ohno (Under the Cherry Tree, Japanese Dolls from the Collection of Hatsuko Ohno). Her dolls have spent some time in Poland, Hungary, and Italy. Call it an exhibit within an exhibit.

The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito: An Exhibition of His Work (5/8 - 6/29/2008)

"One day I encountered the line in the Great Parinirvana Sutra that reads, ‘One who gives priority to making Buddha images and stupas, and takes great joy in doing so, will thereupon be born in the Land Immovable (the realm of resolute determination)’" - Shinjo Ito Shinjo Ito (1906-1989) is one of Japan’s great modern Buddhist artists, although he thought of himself as primarily a religious man.

Lust, Caution

Ang Lee seems to have a thing for short story adaptations and violent sexual encounters. While I respect much of Lee’s previous work and believe he often possesses masterful vision, Lust, Caution is a sadistic, repulsive disaster. Lee takes great liberties with this pseudo-drama portraying an amateur conspiracy against a prominent Japanese collaborator in 1940s occupied China.

Big Dreams Little Tokyo: A Half Japanese Comedy

Big Dreams Little Tokyo is written by, directed by and stars David Boyle, who plays the character of Boyd, an awkward American who speaks perfect Japanese. Boyd is a well-dressed young man who claims to be a businessman, yet his most successful business only has one client. The relationship that subtly develops between Boyd and Mai, a nurse and his only English student, is the most enjoyable aspect of the movie.

Geisha: A Photographic History, 1872–1912

Geisha: A Photographic History, 1872–1912 is a beautiful hardcover coffee table book. I paged through this volume of history and beauty, and learned so much about the culture through this most amazing collection of photos and well-researched history that bullets important landmarks for the unknowing reader.

Glory in a Line: A Life of Foujita

Readers interested in art, Paris, Tokyo, or multiculturalism in the first half of the twentieth century will enjoy Phyllis Birnbaum’s carefully documented biography of Foujita’s tumultuous life as an aristocratic playboy and fiercely dedicated artist, both acclaimed and vilified for his controversial works.


Upon listening to the debut full-length album by Tokyo, Japan’s Caroline, one is immediately mesmerized by her ability to invite you inwards through mere Murmurs.