from Back Issues
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See also KJ Encounters
Kikuo; Resurrecting a Cultural Ecology
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.
"To Learn From the Forest"
– Ito Akira, from Andy Couturier's new book, Another Kind
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
Europe Western? Tawada
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...
of the Border: Consumed by Divisions, by Donald Kirk
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
Protest Culture by Gabriele Hadl (#60:
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.
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
- 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
"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 -
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
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
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
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.
& Me (an interview, sort
of, with Murakami Ryu) - Ralph F. McCarthy
"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 (#47)
"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
- 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'
" 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
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.
- Colonization.com - Robert
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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)
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
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,
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...
and Hermes - an essay by Philip Grant
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
- Salvation - Philip Hammial
(#33, Orthodoxy & Heresy Bookzine)
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
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...
the Secret Out of Cid Corman - Gregory Dunne
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
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...
Against the Wa - F.J. Logan
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
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
"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
- 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
- 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..
If? - Review of Chronicle: the Great
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...