Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'Japan'

The Art of Getting By

September 21st, 2012 · No Comments

A while back, I explored the athletic means by which American prisoners-of-war coped with confinement in North Korea. That story popped to mind when I recently came across Bill Manbo’s color photographs of life in Japanese-American internment camps, which depict the unfortunate inmates’ efforts to inject some sense of normalcy into their daily lives. Sports […]

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The Roles We Must Play

July 13th, 2012 · No Comments

Like many a non-fiction nerd whose tastes run toward the sinister, I was enraptured by Richard Lloyd Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness. The book’s central narrative was compelling enough—a young British woman’s disappearance set against the backdrop of Japan’s hostess-club industry. But what really makes the work sing is Parry’s exploration of media drama, and […]

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Squished

May 11th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I’ve been breaking out all my old kiddie books to read to Microkhan Jr., an experience that has taught me a lot about the formative images that shaped my worldview—sometimes to horrifying effect. One that jumped out at me the other day was from Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World. It purports to depict the demoralizing […]

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A Different Approach

March 2nd, 2012 · 2 Comments

I’m a point in my book where I need to describe a cultural misunderstanding, one that has dire consequences for all parties involved. It’s a tricky thing to describe, since my worldview naturally aligns with the American characters—in trying to write the scene, I keep on expressing too much sympathy for their predicament. To wriggle […]

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Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That

November 17th, 2011 · 2 Comments

It’s been far too long since I posted about suicide, a Microkhan staple since this project’s earliest days. Let me rectify that oversight by quoting from this 1971 study of mortality among Hiroshima survivors. One might expect such unfortunate souls to be so psychologically traumatized by their experiences that they would be unusually prone to […]

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Progress Report

November 14th, 2011 · No Comments

Lost the morning to a parent-teacher conference at Microkhan Jr.’s school. Now on to shaping my next Wired feature. Back to this space as soon as humanly possible.

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The Exclusion Zone

March 15th, 2011 · 8 Comments

Having grown up in fear of nuclear catastrophe, the post-earthquake turmoil at the Fukushima reactors has really knocked me for a loop. From the moment the plants’ administrators started issuing mealy-mouthed explanations about the situation, I knew that disaster was imminent. The big question now is not only how much radiation will blow toward Japan’s […]

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Degrees of Fragility

March 11th, 2011 · No Comments

I was all set to end the week with a post about a particularly egregious patent-medicine fraud, but it somehow seems wrong in light of the catastrophe in Japan. We often forget how much our species is at the mercy of the planet, and how quickly everything we treasure can be snatched away. For the […]

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Genteel Decline

February 18th, 2011 · 2 Comments

When I’ve looked at cases of urban decay in the past, I’ve typically focused on two types of hollowed-out human settlements: towns that were suddenly abandoned, and those that transformed from prosperous to troubled as their principal industries waned. But there’s a third model of decay to be considered, and that is one in which […]

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The Greenless Island

February 11th, 2011 · 7 Comments

Abandoned human settlements are a pet topic ’round these parts, so I couldn’t resist the urge to post about the Japanese island of Hashima (aka Gunkanjima). Entranced by this haunting collection of photos, I tracked down a primer on the coal-mining outpost’s tragic history. As is so often the case with operations designed to pillage […]

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…But Somebody’s Gotta Do It

February 9th, 2011 · 4 Comments

A dozen years ago, this New York Times Magazine story wormed its way into my memory banks by citing a single, jaw-dropping stat: “About 70 percent of all Indian motel owners—or a third of all motel owners in America:mdash;are called Patel, a surname that indicates they are members of a Gujarati Hindu subcaste.” After reading […]

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The Grim Handiwork of Man

February 1st, 2011 · 2 Comments

In researching my Teddy Weatherford yarn for The Atavist, I was compelled to revisit a tragic event that I described in Now the Hell Will Start: the Bengal famine of 1943, which ultimately claimed the lives of 3 million Indians. In the book, I detail how a bare modicum of foresight could have prevented the […]

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The Men With Weathered Hands

April 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

Given that our stance on immigration tends to dovetail quite nicely with a certain hoity-toity newsmagazine, we can only shake our heads at Arizona’s latest legislative shenanigans. Sure, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by anything that comes out a state that often seems content to go its oddball way (to Chuck D.’s tremendous displeasure). But […]

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“An Alligator Half That Size Would Starve in a Week”

March 12th, 2010 · 4 Comments

We’re a bit embarrassed to admit this, but we once wrote a magazine piece that seriously examined the physiological feasibility of Godzilla. We called various eggheads and asked them to assess whether a lizard-like creature as massive as Tokyo’s favorite monster could ever exist in the real world. The universal answer, of course, was nyet—Godzilla’s […]

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Too Big to Fail?

November 25th, 2009 · No Comments

In the midst of our annual Thanksgiving pigout, we’ve often justified our gluttony on the grounds that the ensuing expansion of our girth really shouldn’t be frowned upon by society. After all, isn’t the disapproval of fatness of a modern phenomenon, egged along by the Fitness Industrial Complex? In Medieval times, we tell ourselves, our […]

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First Contact: The Ainu

November 20th, 2009 · 5 Comments

Every eight to ten months, we run across a story more-or-less identical to this one lamenting the declining visibility of Japan’s Ainu minority. It’s certainly a sad tale, given that forced assimilation was the nation’s official policy throughout much of the twentieth-century. Yet the Ainu have received equally callous treatment from the West, particularly at […]

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A Life Spent in Limbo

November 13th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Since 1983, the average amount of time a condemned American convict spends on death row has tripled to 153 months. Yet that mammoth stretch of time is nothing compared to that endured by Sadamichi Hirasawa. When he passed away from natural causes in 1987, the alleged mastermind of Japan’s most infamous and lethal bank robbery […]

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The Herminator Bids Auf Wiedersehen

October 13th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Our first-ever overseas assignment was covering the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. We thus have incredibly vivid memories of Hermann Maier, the celebrated Austrian skiier who just decided to call it a career. We were at the downhill slopes the day of the crash shown above, and remember instantly thinking “He must be dead” […]

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Those Wage Earners Left Behind

September 4th, 2009 · 1 Comment

As you’re stuffing your face with sweet sausages and Budwesier Chelada this holiday weekend, we hope you’ll pause for a brief moment to remember those who really could have used a Labor Day respite: victims of karōshi, who remain far more numerous than they should be. Karōshi translates from the Japanese as “death from overwork,” […]

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Farewell, Arena Football League

August 4th, 2009 · No Comments

We can’t say we ever watched more than 90 seconds of an Arena Football game, so news of the league’s imminent demise didn’t exactly make us cry hot, salty tears. But 22 years is a long time for an upstart pro-sports league to make it—the likes of the USFL could only dream of achieving such […]

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Master at Work

August 3rd, 2009 · No Comments

So we’re back to working hard on the screenplay, trying to bang out a second draft by (gulp) August 28th. To get in the right frame of mind, then, we’ve started watching a bunch of cinematic classics that have resided too long on our “must see” list. Chief among these was Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog, […]

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Sports Transition Fail

July 27th, 2009 · 2 Comments

In response to our recent post about Japanese tackle football, a commenter asked a salient question: I’ve always wondered if some of the high-ranking sumo wrestlers could make it in the NFL as blitzing specialists. There’s been a long history of association between football and wrestling in the US, with a lot of highschool wrestling […]

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Divorce in Ye Olden Tymes

July 27th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Following up on last week’s divorce theme, we thought we’d take a look back at pre-modern marital splits. While divorce may not have been common in the West until the advent of women’s lib, it was apparently a staple of several Asian and Middle Eastern societies for centuries: The outpouring of scholarly and popular works […]

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“Speed Like the Wind”

July 24th, 2009 · 7 Comments

After receiving word that a team of Notre Dame pigskin alums will soon take on Japan’s national football team, we got to wondering about the uniquely American sport’s history in the Land of the Rising Sun. Our natural assumption was that it was brought over during the post-World War II occupation. But it was, in […]

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“Kobe 55.7 Percent”

July 6th, 2009 · 3 Comments

We touched down on Spaceship Earth after the Vietnam War’s conclusion, so we can’t say that the late Robert McNamara ever loomed particularly large in our imagination. But we do recall being gobsmacked by The Fog of War, perhaps the most thought-provoking documentary we’ve encountered. As a small memorial to McNamara, the most memorable (and […]

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Stepping Into a More Brutal Ring

July 2nd, 2009 · 2 Comments

We were saddened to learn of the death of Alexis “The Explosive Thin Man” Arguello, one of our all-time favorite boxers. And we were surprised to discover that just a year before his passing, Arguello had been elected the mayor of Managua. (Okay, we admit it—we don’t keep up on Nicaraguan municipal politics like we […]

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The Mob Psychology of Desperate Men

July 2nd, 2009 · 2 Comments

It took us well over a week, but we finally got around to finishing Harp of Burma last night, while sitting on the 2 train back from Brooklyn. Yes, a week-plus is an awful long time to tackle a so-called children’s book, one which clocks in at a measly 132 pages. But such is life […]

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“Step Into My Dojo…”

June 25th, 2009 · 2 Comments

This morning’s sumo-related post stirred up memories of another Hawaiian-born legend of the sport: Konishiki, aka “The Dump Truck.” Though he never attained the exalted rank of yokozuna—perhaps due to anti-foreigner prejudice among sumo’s elite—Konishiki never let the disappointment get in the way of his artistic ambitions. As evidenced by the above video, the truly […]

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Scouting for Hawaiian Titans

June 25th, 2009 · 6 Comments

The sumo world is saddened by the passing of Larry Loyes Kukahiko Aweau, the man most responsible for the sport’s “Hawaiian invasion.” A judo black belt whose cousin was among the first Americans to wrestle in Japan, Aweau spent decades combing the 50th state in search of sumo talent. His greatest scouting find was an […]

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Tapping Into Japan

June 23rd, 2009 · 7 Comments

Last night we started reading Harp of Burma, a book often touted as Japan’s post-World War II version of All Quiet on the Western Front. It provides a soldier’s eye view of Lieut. Gen. Renya Mutaguchi‘s ill-fated campaign in Burma, which ended up turning into one giant suicide mission as the war turned against the […]

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