Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Forbidden Diary - Sachiko Kishimoto

from monkey business: new writing from japan #1
Sachiko Kishimoto
transl. by Ted Goossen


The Cancel-Out Apartments

I have a little brother sprouting from a spot behind my right hip. He’s about four inches long without any arms and legs, and when he gets hungry (which is like all the time) his face turns red and he starts bawling in this ear-splitting voice; and then he whips his body back and forth so that it goes whap, whap against my butt. I hate the kid, and there’ve been so many times I’ve thought about taking a razor and slicing him off, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.
Cicadas shrilling outside my window.

February 4
Heard a rumor about something called the “Cancel-Out Apartments” today. Seems it’s a two-story building with five small apartments on each floor. If, say, a cop is living on the second floor, and then another cop moves in on the first, the two cancel each other out. I mean, they both vanish, poof, just like that. If there are two babies in the building, poof, they’re gone too. If a Mr. Yamada moves in, and another Mr. Yamada’s already there, you guessed it, both gone. In one case, two tenants who seemed totally different—a thirty-five-year-old guy working part time and a sixteen-year-old high school girl—disappeared together. Nobody could figure it out. Then it was discovered that both had the same fetish for, get this, the smell of dirty socks. People living in the Cancel-Out Apartments are totally stressed because they can’t tell when someone who’s somehow like them might move in. According to the rumor, the building is right here in Tokyo.

February 5
Talked with O. on the phone for the first time in a long while. Our topic was the names of the bullet trains. If the Flash is faster than the Echo, and the Hope is faster than the Flash, then, we decided, if they made a train even faster than the Hope it would have to be called the Death, but no one would board the Death 101 for Kyūshū.
Translated a bit.

February 6
Met a dozen or so people at K. Station on the Odakyū Line and we all headed off to a bar/boxing gym called Knuckles. Everyone ordered their “sandbag set,” which gives you a drink and forty minutes punching the heavy bag for fifteen hundred yen, so we drank and pounded away to our hearts’ content.
After that we went out to a Korean barbecue place, and after that drinking in Shimokitazawa. The party broke up at 4:00 a.m.

February 7

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Book: Yurei Attack!: The Japanese Ghost Survival Guideby Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda; illustrated by Shinkichi.

Break: Night @ Inokashira Park, Tokyo, Japan.
Matt and Hiroko give me tips on the last night of Japan's Festival of the Dead (O-bon) on surviving a Japanese ghost:

Whew. Straight faces please!

Book Break Take: Forty Japanese ghosts rendered in gory detail; their roles in Japanese history, culture, mythology--and who they haunt today; how to recognize them, why they're here, and what to do to survive an attack. The authors call it, "ghost porn."

"[Oiwa] is hands-down the most famous ghost chronicled in this book ... she has inspired legions of imitators -- most recently Sadako, from the hit J-Horror novel and film series Ring. Her ragged tresses  and ruined face are the first thing many Japanese think of when they hear the word 'yurei.'"

"Visit the Tamiya Shrine on the site of Oiwa's family home in Yotsuya. For a fee, a priest there will perform a custom-tailored Shinto exorcism to cut away any ties one might have to Oiwa's eternally furious spirit."

Yurei illustrator Shinkichi's Oiwa:

Alt & Yoda haunted by weeping willow:

Yurei Attack! w/ghost:

Get one:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Latest segment for KPCC/NPR on Hiroshima, Fukushima and Steven Leeper

The latest in my "Pacific Rim Diary" series for The Madeleine Brand Show  at KPCC/NPR is about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear weapons, my interview with the American Chair of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, Steven Leeper--and the current state of Japan's post-Fukushima nuclear power dilemma.  

Hear it here.

A story I wrote last week about Leeper and Hiroshima for The Christian Science Monitor is here.

[photos courtesy of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From Answering Machine to iPad

My very personal account of technological displacement for the  PUNCH! app for iPad here, and online here via The Awl.  [Illustrations and lettering by Gant Powell.]

August is ghostly in Japan

THIS IS a ghostly time of year in Japan. Not only is it the annual Obon season, when the spirits of the dead return home. August 6th is also the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, when the Japanese are reminded of the invisible horrors of radiation.
[David McNeill in the Economist here]

Monday, August 13, 2012

The London Olympics, The End, The Who

"Put out the fire / And don't look past my shoulder"
Click here to see the dousing of the Olympic flame and The Who's Olympic Finale in London on Nico in Japan.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Latest Paper Sky column on travel and terminal ... illness

Bit too personal, this one. Click to enlarge, if you dare ...

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hosoda's Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki

Mamoru Hosoda's (Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) latest film, Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children: Ame and Yuki), is an exhilarating work of animation, and a measured, patient and exacting example of first-rate storytelling.

Update**Keen to report that Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki is on course to be Hosoda's most successful film, earning an estimated $4.6 million during its opening weekend, and slotting in at # 2 in Japan last weekend, with a current estimated gross of $20.6 million.  Given the relatively basement budgets of most anime, and the hoary competition from Hollywood (Spiderman 3000! Batman...AGAIN), this is welcome news.  More importantly, it will help Hosoda-san continue to create.
We met at this 2007 event  hosted by Ian Condry at Harvard and MIT in Cambridge/Boston.  I am making plans now to interview him in advance of his latest film's US release.

Chinese woman turns Geisha in Shimoda

...where, incidentally, American Perry and his 'black ships' first landed 150+ years ago. Reuters video report.

Rinka--born Zhang Xue--preps for the art.

Monday, August 06, 2012

An American in Hiroshima, 2012

An American's key role as Hiroshima commemorates atomic bombing

Steven Leeper oversees Hiroshima's commemoration of the Aug. 6, 1945 dropping of the atomic bomb. The US presence at the memorial ceremony has grown, with even President Truman's grandson in attendance this year.

By Roland Kelts, Hiroshima
At 8:15 a.m. on every Aug. 6 since 1952, a moment of silence descends over the Peace Park in HiroshimaJapan, to commemorate the estimated 200,000 victims of the first atomic bomb deployed in a wartime act of aggression.
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Among the attendees are family members of the deceased, foreign and domestic dignitaries, and visitors from around the world. The silence is signaled by the solemn ringing of a Peace Bell by a bereaved family member and a local schoolgirl. Like the annual 9/11 memorial services in America, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Japan, broadcast live and replayed throughout the day, is almost impossible to avoid: a haunting 24-hour reminder both of past horrors and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.
Since 2009, when President Obama announced that he sought to visit Hiroshima, stories of a more proactive American engagement with one of history's worst nightmares have grown. In 2010, John Roos became the first US ambassador to attend the ceremony, and he was here again this morning (“very moving and powerful,” he tweeted). Also on hand today were Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of President Harry Truman, who authorized the bomb, and Ari Beser, grandson of Jacob Beser, the only person involved in both atomic bomb deployments, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
They joined an estimated 50,000 visitors from 70 nations for a ceremony and declaration of peace that will be redelivered via live stream this morning at 9:15 EST.
For the past five years, another American seated in the VIP section also has been intimately involved in ensuring that the ceremony goes off without a hitch. Since 2007, Steven Leeper has been chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, responsible for overseeing the annual ceremony, the Hiroshima Peace Museum, and the city’s efforts to communicate its message to the world.
That a citizen of the nation that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima now leads the city’s 100-employee, $18 million peace foundation raises eyebrows.
“Very odd that I as a non-Japanese should be at the very top,” Mr. Leeper admits.  “But I’m not here to tell them how to run things. I’m here to help them rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

First tapped by Hiroshima's former mayor

Leeper was first tapped to join the cause in 2001 by former Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, the best known of the city’s many mayoral advocates of a nuclear weapons ban. Unlike most Japanese politicians, Akiba is fully bilingual, a graduate of the University of Tokyo and MIT in Boston.  As president of the international organization, Mayors for Peace, he traveled the globe to convey Hiroshima’s plea, leading a delegation of mayors from 61 nations at the UN to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2005.

Totoro straw man on Tawain farm

Or ... Ghibli scarecrow?
[courtesy @heterophyllum]

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Saturday, August 04, 2012