Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Monkey has landed

Visit the new website & blog here.
Facebook page is here.
Digital editions forthcoming.


Asia Society will once again join with Monkey Business to present an American-Japanese literary dialogue in conjunction with the PEN World Voices International Festival. Writers Masatsugu Ono and Tomoka Shibasaki—both featured in MBI 2—will be joined by Stuart Dybek and Kelly Link for an intriguing and original cross-cultural encounter facilitated by the eminent translators and co-editors of MBI, Ted Goossen and Motoyuki Shibata.
Followed by a book sale and signing. More information here.
Posted on March 1, 2012 | Comment | Permalink


Live from Tokyo, it's "Japan Night @ Joe's Pub," a unique and very special transcultural evening of readings, music, and live performances in the heart of downtown Manhattan. Revered Japanese writers Masatsugu Ono and Tomoka Shibasaki and award-winning author and translator Motoyuki Shibata arrive from Tokyo to share the stage with American authors Stuart Dybek and Kelly Link and Canadian translator, scholar, and editor Ted Goossen to launch the second issue of MBI. The evening will be hosted by Japanamerica author and Monkey Business contributing editor Roland Kelts, and a short list of special guest musicians and performers will be announced soon. Japanese-themed food and drink will be available; book-signings and a meet and greet session will follow. Brought to you by A Public Space Literary Projects and the Happy Ending Reading Series.
Click here for tickets.
Posted on March 1, 2012 | Comment | Permalink


Following a reading by authors Masatsugu Ono and Tomoka Shibasaki, the writers will be joined by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen, co-editors of Monkey Business International, to discuss the journal and contextualize their work in the broader literary culture of both Japan and the United States.
May 7, 6:00pm
Room 403, Kent Hall
Columbia University

Posted on March 1, 2012 | Comment | Permalink


In celebration of the release of MBI 2, which once again brings the best of contemporary Japanese literature to English readers, co-editors Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen will lead a reading and discussion that will feature Masatsugu Ono, Tomoka Shibasaki, Roland Kelts, Kelly Link, and Barry Yourgrau, who are all included in the new issue. The issue will be on sale at the reading, along with complimentary wine and beer. Don’t miss it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Japanamerica on the BBC

This week's shoot for the BBC with Stacey Dooley, font of charm:

[photos by Lisa Kato]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pokemon turns 15

My comments to author and critic Charles Solomon on Pokemon's 15th birthday and the series' critical role in the spread of anime and Japanese pop culture in the West--in the Los Angeles Times:

‘Pokémon’ at 15: Success is still in the cards, films and TV shows

After 15 years, 700 TV episodes and 14 feature films, Ash Ketchum and millions of kids are still trying to catch ‘em all.
In April 1997, the animated version of “Pokémon” premiered on Japanese television. Based on the hit Nintendo Game Boy title introduced two years earlier, the series follows the travels and travails of Ketchum (Satoshi in the original) as he tries to become a Pokémon Master by building a team that can beat other trainers in stylized battles. Traveling with Ash are perennially love-sick Brock, feisty Misty and Pikachu, the “electric mouse” Pokémon.
The series scored a huge hit in Japan, and by 1999 the game and show had conquered America. Pokémon paraphernalia were everywhere. The original motto, “Pokémon Getto Daze!” (Let’s Get Pokémon!) became “Gotta Catch ‘em All!” The first “Pokémon” feature film grossed more than $85 million, and horror stories appeared on the news about kids stealing one another’s “Pokémon” trading cards.
Once the craze peaked, the mainstream media and a large portion of the population assumed that “Pokémon” faded away. But gamers, anime fans and parents of elementary school boys know it’s still very present — as its staggering sales attest.

Pokémon Black Version/White Version video game. (The Pokémon Company International)
“People remember the late ’90s/early 2000s ‘Pokémon’ because it was so big,” says J.C. Smith, marketing director for the Pokémon Co. International. “Many people believe ‘Pokémon’ went somewhere after that, when it’s been steady for 15 years. Over that time, 230 million ‘Pokémon’ video games have been sold worldwide: The franchise is second only to ‘Mario,’ which began 10 years earlier. The most recent game, Pokémon Black Version/White Version, has almost sold 14 million units so far. Over the years, we’ve also sold 19 billion Pokémon cards.”
That’s more than two cards for every person on the planet.
The animated series is licensed in 160 countries in 30 languages. More than 700 episodes have been broadcast over the last 15 years — by comparison, in February, “The Simpsons” hit its 500th episode over 23 seasons.

The characters of the "Pokémon: BW Rival Destinies" TV series. (The Pokémon Company International)
Although “Pokémon” has been accused of fostering gambling, un-Islamic conduct and Darwinism, the series and games stress friendship and good sportsmanship. When a player wins, it’s not a glorious victory but a testament to his exceptional bond with his Pokémon. In the series, Ash never allows anyone to mistreat a Pokémon, and he learns self-sacrifice when he permits his Butterfree to find a mate and depart for their nesting grounds.
“Pokémon” also awakened a generation of American children to the wonders of Japanese animation. Roland Kelts, the author of “Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.,” comments, ” ‘Pokémon’ was a breakthrough series for anime and remains one of its touchstones. It also introduced audiences, usually kids, to what I call anime style: the line-based, edgy-looking, two-dimensional visuals, and a golden triangle of merchandising strategies comprising games, collectibles and the stories themselves. Shows like ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Dragon Ball Z’ serve as gateway drugs to anime, manga and sometimes Japanese culture itself. They’re often the childhood catalysts for college students who study Japanese in the U.S., or sign up for short-term home-stays or English-teaching gigs.”

Pokémon game cards. (The Pokémon Company International)
In August, players from 25 countries will compete in the Pokémon championships in Kona, Hawaii. The 14th “Pokémon” feature recently aired on Cartoon Network and will appear on DVD this month. This fall, Pokémon Black and White Version 2 games will debut—the first sequels in the history of the franchise. The online Pokémon Trading Card Game — for people who want to learn and play whenever they have free time — is in open beta at
When asked about the enduring appeal of “Pokémon,” Smith replies, “One of the reasons is the richness of its world. There are more than 640 Pokémon now, so everyone has a favorite or a team of favorites. The principle tenet of ‘Pokémon’ is collect, trade and battle: Now you have 640 options. You can collect them, trade them with your friends, or train them for battle in the trading card or video games. People want to complete their collections or find that one new Pokémon that helps their battle strategy.”
– Charles Solomon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Crunchyroll 'Live Show' interview via Tokyo

Video interview with Keith Kawamura for Crunchyroll's "The Live Show."  We discussed Japan post-3/11, my recent trip to Ishinomaki, one of the hardest hit municipalities in Tohoku, northern Japan, the virtues of living in Japan, and, of course, Japanamerica.  Keith was in a studio in San Francisco; I was in Tokyo. And we were live at the time. 
My segment starts @ around 26:00. Video link is here.