Monday, May 19, 2014

On Japan's 'satori sedai,' the enlightened generation, for Adbusters

The Satori Generation
A new breed of young people have outdone the tricksters of advertising.
by Roland Kelts

[photo by Ono Kei]

They don’t want cars or brand name handbags or luxury boots. To many of them, travel beyond the known and local is expensive and potentially dangerous. They work part-time jobs—because that is what they’ve been offered—and live at home long after they graduate. They’re not getting married or having kids. They’re not even sure if they want to be in romantic relationships. Why? Too much hassle. Oh, and too expensive.

In Japan, they’ve come to be known as satori sedai—the “enlightened generation.” In Buddhist terms: free from material desires, focused on self-awareness, finding essential truths. But another translation is grimmer: “generation resignation,” or those without ideals, ambition or hope.

They were born in the late 1980s on up, when their nation’s economic juggernaut, with its promises of lifetime employment and conspicuous celebrations of consumption, was already a spent historical force. They don’t believe the future will get better—so they make do with what they have.  In one respect, they’re arch-realists. And they’re freaking their elders out.

Toronto Japanamerica report

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On manga and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2014 for my Japan Times column

Manga becomes a major draw at Toronto Comic Arts Festival

The 11th annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) kicked off May 10. As its title suggests, it’s less a fan-focused pop convention than a platform for comics and graphic novels as art, and for the artists who create them. It has also emerged over the past few years as a great friend to manga.

Toronto is often cited as one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and one of the safest, with crime rates far lower than in neighboring U.S. metropolises. Half of Toronto’s population were born outside of Canada, a good portion of them in Asia. When I visited the city a few months ago to take part in a week of readings and presentations at the behest of The Japan Foundation, I was surrounded by Asian cuisine and culture on nearly every block. My audiences were large, deeply engaged and multi-ethnic, looking less like a hockey team than a Benetton commercial.

“Toronto has become a great place for fans of Japanese pop culture,” says the festival’s director and co-founder, Christopher Butcher. “We’re fortunate to have a large Japanese population and other ethnic communities here. And even our French community has a great native appreciation of comics culture.”

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

On Japan's Beethoven for The New Yorker

The Unmasking of “Japan’s Beethoven”

The strange saga of the man once dubbed “Japan’s Beethoven,” Mamoru Samuragochi, was first made public this winter, amid the Sochi Olympics and Tokyo’s worst snowstorm in forty-five years. That was when Japanese television networks interrupted daytime programming for a press conference held by a slim, horse-faced man blinking morosely against the flashbulbs. His name was Takashi Niigaki, and he was a forty-three-year-old adjunct music professor at a Tokyo college.

Samuragochi, Niigaki announced, was neither deaf nor a composer. Over the past eighteen years, it was he who had composed Samuragochi’s music. Moreover, Samuragochi was not a musician and could not even write musical notation or scores. The Olympic figure skater Daisuke Takahashi was about to perform his short program in Sochi to Samuragochi’s “Sonatina for Violin” in front of a global audience. Niigaki was there before the cameras, he said, because he couldn’t stand to see an accomplished Japanese athlete skating to a fraud.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

MONKEY BUSINESS Vol. 4 launches in NYC this weekend

Monkey Business authors are coming to NY! 

To celebrate the the 4th issue launch, the magazine’s contributing authors Toh EnJoe, Hideo Furukawa, Laird Hunt, Matthew Sharpe, founding editors Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen, contributing editor, Roland Kelts will be coming to New York and have discussion events in various locations. Please come meet us!

Saturday, May 3, 2pm-
PEN World Voices Festival
Monkey Business — Japan/America: Writer’s Dialogue
Dialogues between Hideo Furukawa and Laird Hunt, and between Toh EnJoe and Matthew Sharpe
Asia Society
725 Park Ave. New York, NY 10021
$10 Asia Society & PEN members, $12 Students & Seniors, $15 non-members (Ticket includes a copy of Monkey Business Issue 4.)
Tickets are available at

Sunday, May 4, 2pm-
Reading at Kinokuniya Bookstore
by EnJoe, Furukawa, Hunt, Roland Kelts, and Sharpe
Kinokuniya Bookstore
1073 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10018