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Morimoto Kikuo; Resurrecting a Cultural Ecology
Molly Harbarger
(KJ #73)

Declaring "year zero" the Khmer Rouge willfully tried to strip the nation of its rich culture and heritage. Today, in concert with efforts to rebuild shattered lives, some projects aim to restore arts such as music, dance and architecture. The casualty that Japanese expatriate Morimoto Kikuo is trying his hardest to save is Cambodia's traditional art of silk weaving and dyeing. At its heart, Morimoto's is an eco-cultural enterprise bringing back lost skills as well as the vanished raw materials they require, once plentifully provided by the land.

Extract: "To Learn From the Forest" – Ito Akira, from Andy Couturier's new book, Another Kind of Luxury

Wrestling with Myths
Trevor Carolan
(KJ #72)

But when the Japanese terror had wiped the floor with every good guy in local Christendom, by default it was up to Kiniski, former terror of the meek, to take on the demon Shibuya and whup him once and for all — preferably in each lower mainland and Vancouver Island wrestling market.


THE WRONG PARADISE by Rabindranath Tagore
Translated from Bengali by Srinjay Chakravarti
(KJ #71 – Tea)


    Illustration © by Amane Kaneko:

    I. The youth was absolutely good-for-nothing.
    1 He had nothing to do, no work at all; yet he was busy all the time.
    1 He would collect small hollow squares of wood, into which he would pour dollops of mud, and set little seashells. If you looked at one of these from a distance, it would appear to be a hazy picture, with perhaps a flock of birds in its sky; or maybe a blurred field, where cows were grazing; or the jagged outlines of mountains, with maybe a wild waterfall here or a snaking pathway there.
    1 He stoically bore the endless scorn his family heaped upon him. Sometimes he would pledge to give up his eccentricities, but his eccentricities refused to let go of him.

    Ryuta & Chieko Kobayashi: 'Open' Homeless
    interview & photos by John Einarsen
    (KJ #70 KYOTO LIVES)

    Kojinguchi was one of eight gates that led inside the ancient walled city of Kyoto. Today its location is marked by a bridge that crosses the Kamo River — a concrete span that also serves as a roof overhead for Ryuta and Chieko Kobayashi.

    Over the past eight years, this married couple has resided in shelters made of cardboard and wood, crafted with their own hands. Wrapped in bright blue tarp to protect against wind and rain, their structures are tucked between the stone river embankment and the underside of the bridge. A picture hangs on the wall of one of the shelters: a reproduction of a dragon painted in sumi ink.

  • FRONTIER COUNTRY: The political culture of logging and development on the periphery in LaosBenjamin D. Hodgdon (KJ #69)
    “The logging started a few years ago, first at the south edge of the village, now around the middle and towards the mountains,” says Khampone, who like most indigenous people in Laos uses only one name. “We don’t agree with the decision to log, but their bosses come with government officials from the province, with papers signed by the Governor himself. They have made it legal, so what can we do?”

  • In Mandalay, Franz Kafka Meets Lenny Bruce – text & photos by Roy Hamric (KJ #68)
    The Moustache Brothers, three plastic-faced comedians — Par Par Lay, Lu Zaw and Lu Maw — and their band of family members and friends have spread laughter across Myanmar for decades. But, in this bizarre, benighted land, if the joke’s about the generals, laughter can be dangerous. The price to be paid can be hard labor crushing rocks in a labor camp where people die from overwork and malnutrition. Par Par and Lu Zaw each served six years as political prisoners, including hard labor and solitary confinement.

  • Little Soman’s Little Warkeith harmon snow (KJ #67)
    Children not yet ten push on the barrel and run with it, rotating the turret and running with it, around and around. The barrel rises and falls across their chests or bellies or noses as the ground rises and falls beneath their feet, and when they reach a certain point in the cycle they throw their bodies over the barrel and tuck their legs and together they are carried forward on the momentum of a long steel pipe cast with the intent to commit murder.

  • Master Rumi: The Path to Poetry, Love and EnlightenmentRasoul Sorkhabi (KJ #66)
    Written for the 800th anniversary of the birth of Rumi...
    A fifteenth-century Persian poet, Jâmi, writes that one day in the late autumn of 1244, Rumi was sitting by a pool along with his disciples and books. Shams (unknown to Rumi) came along, greeted him and sat down. Interrupting Rumi’s lecture, he pointed to the books and asked, “What are these?” Rumi replied, “This is some knowledge you wouldn’t understand.” Shams then threw all the books into the water and said, “And this is some knowledge you wouldn’t understand.”

  • How to Move a TreeWilliam Stimson (KJ #65)
    Early one morning in a park in Taiwan I came across a man who had stopped off on his way home from the market to harness himself to a tree. For a moment it looked as if he were trying to move the tree to another place, maybe drag it home for his front yard...

  • Questioning Gender: An interview with Japan-based psychotherapist Kim OswaltStewart Wachs (KJ #64)
    Spiritually speaking, this is a very pluralistic society. My inkling is there’s something here that makes life a bit easier for transgender people than in the U.S. They're not told that they’re going to hell for being transgender. God does not hate them; you don’t hear that here in Japan. You may have social prejudice, but you also see people like Miwa Akihiro, a transgender female with blonde hair, being consulted on NHK-TV by everyday people, like Dear Abby, and she’s elevated.

  • The Barber Dustin Leavitt (KJ #62)
    My goatee and shaved head perplex many Vietnamese because in their country beards are for venerable old men like Uncle Ho and bald heads for monks, and I am neither. Their confusion revolves, as so often with Americans in Asia, around my role in life and what deference I am owed.

  • Blogology 101 Robert Brady (KJ #61)
    The term ‘blog’ is on everyone’s tongue nowadays, where some find it not very tasteful, mistakenly believing that blogs are rank upstarts without tradition. Neither is the case, as the following brief history — organically commencing with what will one day be known among blogologists as paleoblogging — makes perfectly clear....

  • Entering the Blogoshere Ken Rodgers (KJ #61)
    Contrary to rumor, blogging’s not just some Babel echo chamber of white-guy geek pseudo-punditry. Blogs are a new way to see through others’ eyes, to in-vision other cultures. People around the world are now communicating beyond geographic, political or social borders, in ways unimaginable just a few short years ago.

  • Is Europe Western? Tawada Yoko (KJ #61)
    In Europe people like to talk of Asian cuisine, Asian medicine, or of Asian philosophy, because they would like there to be some sort of unified Asian culture. If they didn’t, the existence of a European culture would be in doubt. In Asia, however, for a variety of reasons one is happy that there is no Asian culture...

  • South of the Border: Consumed by Divisions, by Donald Kirk (#60: KOREA)
    Refugees from North Korea could tell all the tales they wished of unimaginable suffering, of starvation and disease, public executions, hangings and shootings, but to most South Koreans these stories were remote, of little interest, someone else’s nightmares, yarns they tended to skim whenever they saw them reported in the papers. When I asked demonstrators campaigning for repeal of the National Security Law why they never raised their voices in protest against torture and killing in North Korea, the answers were always the same — so similar, in fact, that they might have been taken from a textbook on what to say when asked. “We have no proof of what goes on in North Korea,” said one young protester. “We will know only after the Americans have gone home and we are one country again.”

  • Korean Protest Culture by Gabriele Hadl (#60: KOREA)
    In 1985, the struggle was reignited en masse, and a two-year protest campaign brought down the government. No velvet revolution here, but a series of powerful, sustained confrontations, culminating in a radical rewriting of the social contract. Its provisions are still being negotiated, in parliament and on the street.
    Demonstrations, accepted and widespread as they are, are now but one facet of public debate. The traditional protest repertoire of marches, sit-ins, stones and Molotov cocktails is evolving. Some of the new techniques remain confrontational, even violent. Others rely on technology, subtlety, inner strength and community.

  • Beyond East and West: Reliving Iran on the road in Burma & Cambodia, by Miro Phanruang (#59)
    "When I landed at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran in late 2002, I finally met the Iran I had glimpsed in these books — an Iran that revealed a thousand and one stories of itself to outsiders’ dazzled, blinded eyes, each of them circling back, somehow, to the writers’ own secret selves. The Iran I saw held forth a fierce hybridity, passionate struggles over ideas and over identity. As an Asian-American traveler who is simultaneously both and neither East and West, I found unexpected personal resonances in Iran, along with a poetry that was ineffably and unmistakably Iran’s own."

  • Stifling Spirit: KJ contributing editor Donald Kirk, on the ground in Baghdad, reflects on Iraq, North Korea and Vietnam (#58)
    "The war over here, and the rumors of war over there, on the Korean peninsula, all revolve around the issue of democracy, the credo the United States purports to want to instill or else to defend. In the struggle for democracy, however, real freedom, the freedom to speak and think as one wishes, appears to be a casualty as conflicting factions speaks in the tongues of ideologues and myth-makers.

  • Letting Go of Ego - An interview with David Daigaku Rumme, by Nevin Thompson (#57)
    "There's this idea in spiritual practice that you're seeking for the truth. However, the actual way to discover that everything is the truth is to let go of dualistic ideas: good and bad, right and wrong, this and that.
    In the West, especially in America, this idea of being somebody and having opinions and being able to articulate your opinions and so on is very important. If you can't do that, it's like there's something wrong with you. On the other hand, here in Zen you have this emphasis on letting go of your viewpoints and opinions. As Dogen says, 'To study the way of Buddha is to study the universal Self, the Self that is one with everything.' Okay, now how do you do that? All you have to do is forget the ego, that thing we associate as being 'me.' In other words, the body and all of those opinions that go along with it."

  • The Clarity of Double Vision - An interview with Mary Yukari Waters, by Stewart Wachs (#56)
    "I remember as a child feeling that since I was part Irish-American and part Japanese, I could never look at either Ireland or Japan in a bad light. And I recall thinking that the more mixed you were, the more countries you’d perhaps see as home. When you are relatively familiar with two cultures, especially two as different as America and Japan, one thing that does stick with you is what these cultures have in common. You can see which qualities are Japanese and which are just human and transcend all of that."

  • May 4, 1989: The Road to Tiananmen - Philip J. Cunningham (#55 - STREET)
    A long line of police watch intently from the far side of the road. They are ridiculously outnumbered and make no attempt to stop the crowd. Immobilized automobiles get swallowed up, lapped by bodies on all sides, like listing ships in a turbulent sea. From the north comes a spirited procession of students from other schools, and in no time students fill the road as far as the eye can see.

  • Buddhism is Not Un-American: Lawrence Ferlinghetti and 50 years of City Lights - Interview by Carl Freire (#54)
    "In the present American corporate culture, the technocratic culture, the electronic culture, the mercantile mentality, Buddhism is a dissident movement against all of that. So what the Kyoto Journal is doing is part of this dissident movement against the American corporate monoculture and the prevailing militarist McCarthyite semi-fascist government that is now in power in Washington D.C. and has hijacked our democracy."

  • Living Deeds: Ashoka - Ken Rodgers (#53)
    Ashoka (meaning in Sanskrit 'the active absence of sorrow') was named for the 3rd century B.C emperor who unified India, renouncing violence and dedicating his life to social justice and economic development. Since commencing its initial program in India in 1982, Ashoka has elected over 1,200 Fellows, actively promoting new ideas in health, education, civic participation, environment and economic development in 43 different countries, including six in Asia

  • Dear Leader Russell Working (#52)
    Let us call her Eun-ju, for people may die if her real name is revealed. Her own life is in danger, and her two sisters, her brother-in-law, and one surviving nephew remain at large south of the Tumen River, near the port of Hongwan, a city of apartment blocks without toilets, empty wharves populated by slump-shouldered cranes and rusty destroyers, a train station where the homeless sleep in the waiting room seats or on the floor with the mice, and bony children who lie down in the streets because after a certain point — thirty, thirty-five days, perhaps — one cannot stand any longer.

  • Getting Beyond Good vs Evil: A Buddhist Perspective on the New Holy War - David R. Loy (#51)
    One way to summarize the basic Buddhist teaching is that we suffer, and cause others to suffer, because of greed, ill will and delusion. Karma implies that when our actions are motivated by these roots of evil, their negative consequences tend to rebound upon us. That is true for everyone. However, the Buddhist solution to suffering does not involve requiting violence with violence, any more than it involves responding to greed with greed, or responding to delusion with delusion.

  • NonZen Poet Missing Since 9/11 - Morgan Gibson (#51)
    Expecting death, I have lived as if peace were possible, though violence is pandemic. Buddhism opened my eyes to death-in-life and life-in-death, their nonduality. The NonZen Poet opened them even wider. Terrorists come and go, civilizations rise and fall, our own among them whoever we may be, but death is always with us. As the Buddha asked, is there a family that has never known death?
  • Coyote Man, Mr. President and the Gunfighters - Gary Snyder,  (#51)
    Mr. President was fascinated by gunfighters. Expert gunfighters were invited to his White House, three thousand of them, like guests in the house. Day and night they practiced fast-draw and shootouts in his presence until the dead and wounded men numbered more than a hundred a year... (After the Discourse on Swords, Chuang-tzu, 3rd century BCE)

  • The Arbor of Floating Wine Cups - Kosaka Hirokazu (#50 - Transience)
    When I was eight years old, my father took me to a monastery for training and discipline. We started in the early morning light, on a path through rugged mountains.

  • Icing on the Cake: A Day in the Life of a Tibetan Sand Mandala - Lauren W. Deutsch (#50 - Transience)
    Stripped down to his swim trunks, a ski jacket, a Disneyland Mickey Mouse hat and his rosary, one of the monks said he would like to see a video if possible. "Jackie Chan, in Hindi" was his translator’s remark. "Hindi I can’t get after 7pm," I replied.

  •  Ryu & Me (an interview, sort of, with Murakami Ryu) - Ralph F. McCarthy (#49)
    "Beneath the level of consciousness, we human beings have an entire universe of darkness and chaos. The rational faculty is only one small part of us. We try to control the dark parts with laws, morals, common sense, and so on, but human beings are too deep, diverse, and free to be contained by such things. Novels can sometimes depict the struggle between reason and the darker regions of the heart."

  • Imagining Lady Murasaki (#48)
    Liza Dalby, interviewed and profiled by Sally McLaren

    "Her quest to bring Murasaki [author of The Tale of Genji] to life for her novel led Dalby to blacken her teeth, in the Heian style, and retrace the steps of the woman who single-handedly invented the genre of the novel. Where Dalby's obsession took her and what she had to learn are part of her experience as anthropologist turned historical novelist, or as Dalby puts it "literary archaeologist."

  • Demons, Misinformation & Kimochi - Interview by Catherine Pawasarat
    Alex Kerr on the Failed Modernization of Japan

    "When information is hidden, lied about, mishandled etc. — as it is routinely in this country, from top to bottom — then you have a big problem from a modern technology point of view."

  • Media in Asia Special Theme Issue (#46)

    Twelve articles from this issue are available online, here.

    (Also Asia Online, with links to hundreds of Asian media-related websites).

    Culture Jammers' Guide to Enlightenment
    - Gabriele Hadl talks with Adbusters' Kalle Lasn

    " TV and the mass media are to the mental environment what factories are to the physical environment. A factory dumps pollutants into the water or air because that is the most efficient way to produce plastic or wood pulp or steel, and the mass media pollute the cultural environment because that is the best way to produce audiences."

  • The Lists of a Lady in Waiting - David Greer (#45)
    In The Pillow Book's opening lines, Shonagon puts things in motion to remind us they will not last: the clouds stretch only to disappear; the fireflies' paths do not meet again; the geese fly into the setting sun and darkness descends. Her sentences don't end so much as they scatter, like cherry blossoms tugged off branches in the wind — a favorite simile of writers at the time — mono no aware. But frankly, mono no aware was pop culture during the Heian period.
  • - Robert Brady (#44)
    History will record that throughout its long existence Japan was unique among Asian nations in never having been colonized until around 1996RT (Real Time), when, as the country's elder rulers were still pondering their next go stone placement, the nations' key virtual real estate was being snapped up like free Gucci bags at the Gate of Heavenly Peace.

  • Hawaiian Hips - Suzanne Kamata (#44)
    Victor is always late. We practice while we are waiting. Each of us, in our own bubble, dreams of ukelele music, palm trees in the wind. We make fog with our arms. We plant flowers with our hands. We move our hips from side to side and toss nets into the sea.

         In a bind, Victor will ask me to translate. When he does, I see the ladies’ eyes darken. They do not want to listen to me. They’d rather look at Victor—Victor’s burnished skin and Kona-coffee eyes.

  • Alice in Shikaland - Malena Watrous (#43)
    Only a week after that blue flash at Tokaimura, a mere chainlink fence separates our vehicle from Shika's own massive nuclear power station, the source of electricity for the Hokuriku region. At Tokaimura, workers followed executive instructions to flout national nuclear safety laws. They dissolved massive quantities of uranium in steel buckets, then poured it into a tall cauldron, begetting a chain reaction and critically injuring themselves. We crack nervous jokes about mutant vegetation.

  • All the Times in the World - Pico Iyer (#42, a special issue on Time)
    Time, like value or proportion, is one of those currencies we exchange (at the going rate) every time we cross a border. An hour in Japan (where everything is clockbound, and even televisions show the hour) is equivalent to a day in laid-back India; yet a single day in Cuba (so crazily eventful) can feel like a year in any calmer place. One of the curious paradoxes of time, as with the money for which it is often exchanged, is that those who are richest in it are the ones least attached to it.

  • Shima Spain Village - Bruce Caron (#41)
    The nineteenth-century period of the "opening of Japan" is often described as a time when that nation began to "learn from Europe." In the summer of 1994, out on the Kii Peninsula, I reckoned this century-long class was officially over when, in the middle of an outdoor arena show, the Japanese-actor conquistadores started dancing the Funky Chicken with other nearly naked actors (presumably Aztecs). A cartoon-costumed hang-dog Don Quixote with a pudgy puddy-cat Sancho Panza came on stage to save the day, and it became clear that Japan had already learned just about enough from Europe.

  • America's "Japan " - Thom Burns (#40)
    Europeans and Americans traveling to distant parts of the world in the 19th century were, for the most part, well grounded in generalizations about their own culture as well as those of the peoples they encountered. Broad concepts, such as "Christendom" and "the Orient" were more commonly used than "the West," "Asia," or "the modern world."

  • An Interview with Johan Galtung - Philip Grant (#38, Transforming Conflict)
    I first set eyes on Johan Galtung, often referred to as the "founder of the field of Peace Studies," in the fall of 1986. I had stumbled into the coffee shop of my Amman, Jordan hotel after only a few hours sleep, looking for a caffeine rush to get me through what promised to be another raucous day of debate...

  • An Interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - Debbie Stothard (#38)
    "We have said again and again that dialogue is not a debate in which there will be winners and losers. A dialogue will be a process through which we can come to a solution which will be beneficial to the great majority of us, which would be of benefit to both sides, or to all participants in the dialogue process..."
  • Down in the Country, Out in the Bush - Royall Tyler (#37, Inaka Bookzine)
    These days I am translating The Tale of Genji, so I meet Genji often.  He used to live in Miyako, too, and though he never existed, he is far more real than most people who did.  He first traveled out of the city at eighteen, when he had malaria, to visit a healer at a temple in the Northern Mountains (Kitayama)...

  • Nakaumi - An environmental report by Gavan McCormack (#37, Inaka Bookzine)
    This project, originally designed to increase national food self-sufficiency in rice, has developed into one that is destroying a  major fishing industry and diminishing sustainability...

  • Siva and Hermes - an essay by Philip Grant (#36)
    Given that all social and political ideals must today be expressed in the language of the market, is any meaningful change conceivable? Without the impetus of man-made and natural catastrophes, have human beings ever voluntarily pulled back from the abyss and adopted modes of thinking and living based on considerations of fairness, equality and compassion?

  • Salvation - Philip Hammial (#33, Orthodoxy & Heresy Bookzine)
    A man sets out to shave the world. It's logical to start with himself, & this he does. Plenty of lather & a sharp  razor, he has some difficulty with those in the ears & around the anus, but using mirrors, he prevails...

  • The Last of the Smokers -Tsutsui Yasutaka (#33)
    Sitting on the roof the National Diet Building, under attack by tear-gas fired from the Defence Force helicopters circling above, I am smoking my last cigarettes. One of my comrades, a painter called Kusakabe, has just fallen tumbling down to the ground below, making me the last remaining smoker in the whole world...

  • Getting the Secret Out of Cid Corman - Gregory Dunne (#31)
    In 1963, Cid arrived in Japan almost by accident. He had applied for 27 teaching jobs in Asia, 26 of them outside Japan. As luck, or fate, would have it, he was offered the job in Japan. Since then, excepting a short stay in the U.S. in the eighties, Cid has remained in Japan...

  • Talisman - Yoko Tawada (#31)
    This city is full of women who wear pieces of metal on their ears. They have holes put in their earlobes especially for this purpose. Not long after I got here, I wanted to ask someone what these pieces of metal on people's ears meant. But I didn't know whether or not I was allowed to speak openly about this...

  • Up Against the Wa - F.J. Logan (#31)
    Early spring, clear, 2:30 p.m., cherry blossoms sprinkled across the sidewalks, drifted in the gutters, mashed to atoms on the asphalt. You're in your lovely late model white-with-maroon interior Toyota Sprinter, northbound on Machida Kaido, closing in on Hashimoto. But slowly...

  • An American Issei - Robert Brady (#30)
    I came to Japan from the old country over twenty years ago with no intention of being an immigrant; I was just a traveler who stopped. Like age, immigrancy was upon me before I knew it...

  • Speaking in Tongues - an interview with David Byrne, by Robert Brady (#29)
    "Paradoxically, you appear to be an introspective performer. Are you really a poet first and a singer second?... "

    In a way; I think of myself as a poet who works in every medium available, pretty much except poetry. It's either song, or in pictures or something else.

  • 60 Ideas to Make Kyoto a Better Place to Live (#27)
    Think beyond construction project spending. Bearing in mind Kyoto's role in the evolution of so many time-proven  elements of traditional Japanese lifestyle, its successful Meiji transformation, and current world environmental  imperatives, make the primary goal of new Keihanna Science City the development of innovatory Green alternative "soft"  technology providing practical means to improve life and halt environmental degradation within Kyoto, nationally, and beyond Japan...

  • Somewhere on the Water Planet - poem by Nanao Sakaki (#22)

    In the beginning

    There was a forest, a beech forest.

    The forest gathered rain & divided rivers..

  • What If? - Review of Chronicle: the Great Hanshin Earthquake
    Experienced overseas medical teams rush to Kobe, where they are told that they cannot treat the injured without Japanese medical licences. The Health and Welfare Ministry establishes an emergency HQ in the devastated city - one week after the quake...