The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Japan Beat
The Agenda
Dining Out
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
About Us
Distribution Points


Start brushing up on your kanji to prepare for the annual Japanese Language Proficiency Test, this year taking place on Sunday, December 3 throughout the country. Passing the coveted ikkyu (level one) is considered the ultimate mark of achievement for a non-native speaker, indicating a comprehensive level of fluency and a guaranteed boost on a resume. Those who want to take the test must apply in advance by September 5, and application forms can be picked up for ¥500 at many bookstores (see www.jees.or.jp for a complete list). Results will be announced mid-February.

For more information, call the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services at 03-5454-5577. NU

776: Tokyo Fiancee
774: Japanís Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity
772: Sparkling Rain: and other fiction from Japan of women who love women
768: Population Decline and Ageing in Japanóthe Social Consequences
766: The Diving Pool
764: Showa Japan: the Post-War Golden Age and Its Troubled Legacy
762: Exhibit C
760: Art Space Tokyo
758: Bar Flower: My Decadently Destructive Days and Nights as a Tokyo Nightclub Hostess
756: Lala Pipo
754: The Erotic Odes
752: Travels in the East
748: Translucent Tree
746: Japanese for Daydreamers
744: Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
742: Tokyo Guidebooks
740: America & Other Poems
738: Losing Kei
736: Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White
734: A Wild Haruki Chase: Reading Murakami Around the World
732: Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
730: Noon Elusive and other stories
728: Midori by Moonlight
726: From Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor: Who Was Responsible?
724: Erotic Haiku
722: Vibrator & Sayonara, Dream-eater
720: Love Poem to Tofu & Other Poems: Poetry & Calligraphic art
718-719: A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics
717: The Astro Boy Essays
714: Mrs Fergusonís Tea-Set, Japan and the Second World War: The Global Consequences following Germanyís sinking of the SS Automedon in 1940
712: Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman
710: Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom
708: Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku
706: Yakuza Moon: Memoirs of a Gangsterís Daughter
704: The Swordless Samurai: Leadership Wisdom of Japanís 16th-Century Legend Toyotomi Hideyoshi
702: Tokyo Year Zero
700: Japonisme: Cultural Crossings between Japan and the West
698: The Pillowbook of Dr. Jazz
696: Kamakura
694: 69
692: Border Town: A Novel
690: A Diplomat in Japan
688: Glory In A Line: A Life of Foujita, the Artist Caught Between East and West
686: Crossfire
684: Japan-ness in Architecture
682: Nectar Fragments
680: Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan
678: Shutting Out the Sun
676: The Passion of Phineas Gage & Selected Poems
674: Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne
672: Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US
670: Autobiography of a Geisha
668: Japanese Portraits: Pictures of Different People
666: Bedtime Eyes
665: Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isaac Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822
664: Skin Museum
662: The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
660: The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan
658: Last of the Red Hot Poppas
656: Lost Girls and Love Hotels
654: In the Pool
650: Wrong About Japan
648: Japan Modern: New Ideas for Contemporary Living
646: The Couch Potatoís Guide to Japan: Inside the World of Japanese TV
644: My Handís Tired & My Heart Aches: Letters from Japan 1995-2005
643: Kamikaze Diaries
642: The Blue-Eyed Salaryman
640: Certainty
638: Modern Japanese House
636: Native American in the Land of the Shogun
634: The Reindeer People
632: Undercurrents: Episodes from a Life on the Edge
630: The Snake that Bowed
628: The Black Lizard & The Beast In The Shadows: Two Classics of Suspense and Detection
624: Inside and Other Short Fiction: Japanese Women by Japanese Women
622: Modern Asian Living
620: Japanese in Mangaland
618: Do You Know What it means to Miss New Orleans?
616: A.A. Gill is away
612: JRock, Ink.
610: Toppamono: Outlaw, Radical, SuspectóMy Life in Japanís Underworld
608: Mao: The Unknown Story
606: Japan Houses
604: A Hundred Years of Japanese Film
602: Sai Kon Tan: 100 All-time Precious Proverbs
600: Shadow Family
598: Dr. Noguchi’s Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery 596: Oh Pure and Radiant Heart
594: Inspired Shapes: Contemporary Designs for Japan’s Ancient Crafts
592: Remembering Japanese Baseball: An Oral History of the Game
590: The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan’s Finest Ryokan and Onsen
588: Chibikuro Sambo
586: The Yasukuni Swords: Rare Weapons of Japan 1933-1945, Japan’s 21st Century Vision
584: Japanese Dishes for Wine Lovers, The Stadium: Architecture for the New Global Culture
582: Snakes and Earrings, The Very Small Home

By Roy Mustang

Shadow Family
by Miyuki Miyabe
(Kodansha International, ¥2,400)

Miyuki Miyabe’s first mystery to be translated into English, All She Was Worth, won the Shugoro Yamamoto prize and was well-received in a calm, bestseller sort of way—like a de-sexed Natsuo Kirino for your mom. Her second translated work, Shadow Family, tells of a murder investigation in which the dead man was living a double life on the Internet, where he pretended to have a second family. Did his lonely Internet “wife” or “daughter” kill him? Detective Takegami is on the case. That’s to say, Detective Takegami asks them. Seventy-five percent of the novel is Takegami in an interrogation room with the surrogate Internet “family” doing a good Kids in the Hall cop with his variations on, “Didja kill the guy?” But poor old Takegami doesn’t even have the intriguing lack of tension of Haruki Murakami’s recurring protagonist (“So then I drank two beers and listened to jazz records for eight hours and went to bed”); he simply has no character. The “family” themselves are grating, and several extraneous police officer characters have nothing to do with the story. Moreover, Shadow Family is written like a newspaper article, with dialogue in chunks like statements given to police. It’s as though Miyabe took her plot outline and forgot to dramatize it—the very opposite of “show, don’t tell.” Worst is the manipulation—the feeling that you’re so obviously not being told the truth about the characters, unlike in a good thriller in which you feel like you’re discovering things alongside the detectives. An Internet mystery for your mom? An Internet mystery by your mom.


Advanced Stick Fighting
by Masaaki Hatsumi
(Kodansha International, ¥3,500)

Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, the 34th Grand Master of Togakureryu Ninjutsu and eight other fighting disciplines, not to mention professional osteopath and popular actor, has, with Advanced Stick Fighting, penned the definitive book on the art of bojutsu, and lo it is something to behold.

Hatsumi is not scared of sharing his opinions. On previous bushido writers: “They did not reach the highest level in martial arts, and their experiences and writings are mere illusion.” On his firm belief that you, the reader, are weak: “Those who fail to understand the meaning of [the] six laws will never prosper.” And his own “six ages of human history”: Myth, Pathos, Elegant Simplicity, Stylishness and Chic, Vanity and (presumably the modern age) Blatancy. Some of Hatsumi’s more startling claims (“Beavers gather sticks to build their dams… In this we can see the inception of bojutsu.”) and the book’s questionable typesetting (“doesn’t” is hyphenated for a line break after the ‘s’!) are more endearing than distracting. What comes across clearly is his wise argument for living a plain, dignified life, free from the vain search for martial arts’ supposed “illusional world” of medieval chivalry, the warrior code and the wealth that accompanies power. He wouldn’t like gangsta. He does, however, go to New Jersey to explore “international terrorism, global warming and environmental destruction.” (Come on, it’s not that bad.)

As well as a lifestyle guide, though, the book is a step-by-step instruction manual on using the bo, or big long stick, to kick ass. The photos are especially detailed and useful, including some amazing ones of fighters upside down in mid-air wielding sharp pieces of metal. Hatsumi’s life’s work has been bojutsu, and he argues for mastering the killer instinct that he says is at the root of humanity’s survival, but which must be controlled to “change the world from one of war and massacre into a true and great world of peace.” Some might say this book is a little over the top. I say: Dude. Be the ultra-conscious tiger.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.