Home > Hot topics
A Boy Named BonsaiIrmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit

For most of the modern era, the linguistic balance of trade between Japan and the West has been fairly unequal. The transfer of knowledge from the West, accompanied by the assimilation of new vocabulary, was an inherent part of Japan’s modernization. Since the late nineteenth century, countless loanwords from Western languages have become central to Japanese. Compared to these words’ sheer number …

The Lessons of World War I and Twenty-first Century International RelationsSven Saaler

Recently, there has been considerable discussion both in the academic world and the media concerning Japan and World War I. This has focused particularly on the reasons for and background to the outbreak of the war and similarities with current relations in East Asia. However, there has been very little consideration of what lessons Japanese politicians, military officers, and commentators of the …

A Forgotten Tale of World War I: Life for German POWs in Japanese CampsSeto Takehiko

At the outset of World War I Japan waged a short, successful campaign against German forces in China, taking thousands of prisoners of war, who went on to spend more than five years in camps in Japan. Documents and photos from the period reveal the surprisingly livable conditions of these World War I camps.

Is Japan Drifting Toward Isolation?Sven Saaler

Almost a decade ago, Newsweek International featured a story titled “A Very Lonely Japan,” and the cover of the magazine provocatively proclaimed that the issue would explain “Why Japan Has No Friends.” Although somewhat over-generalizing, the article did have a point regarding Japan’s growing diplomatic isolation as a result of Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō’s controversial visits to Yasukun…

Japan’s Gaffe-prone PoliticiansSven Saaler

Japan’s attitude to its wartime history has been in the spotlight again around the world in the wake of recent comments by Hashimoto Tōru, the controversial mayor of Osaka, and Asō Tarō, the deputy prime minister and finance minister. Shortly after Hashimoto made a series of statements that seemed to downplay the significance of the “comfort women” issue, Asō suggested in a speech that Japan mig…

How I Learned Japanese: The Freedom of the Non-Native SpeakerMarei Mentlein

As a presenter of NHK’s German language programs on television and radio, Marei Mentlein is a familiar figure to students of German in Japan. She also writes a regular column introducing European mystery novels to Japanese readers. Here she talks about the path that took her from an early childhood fascination with Chinese characters to discovering the pleasures of writing in Japanese as a student in Tokyo.

Japanese Cuisine Behind the Iron CurtainIrmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit

Imagine a small town in a mountainous region of central Europe containing roughly 30,000 inhabitants, located more than 300 kilometers from the capital, and isolated from the general flow of information, travel, and international goods exchange due to being located in the German Democratic Republic—the former East Germany. To open a Japanese restaurant in such a place under such economic conditi…

Energy Politics in Japan and GermanySven Saaler

The debate about Japan’s future energy policy has intensified in recent months. Germany is often discussed as a possible point of reference for Japan in this context. In October 2012, Ozawa Ichirō of the People’s Life First Party insisted that his party’s objective of phasing out nuclear energy in Japan within ten years by generating an equivalent amount of renewable energy was “not unrealistic,” …

China’s Rise: Views from Germany and JapanSven Saaler

The resurgence of China on the international stage has caused concern in Europe and East Asia. While Europe, for the time being, is busy with itself, Japan still seems to have enough leisure to engage in—not always fruitful—quarrels with China, as recent developments have demonstrated. Unfortunately, not only diplomatic relations between Japan and China have deteriorated. The people of Japan and …

“Accounts of Huts”: Repercussions of 3/11 in the German Cultural SphereIrmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit

The most radical repercussion from the 3/11 disaster and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, on an international scale, arguably took place in Germany, where the government decided only a few days after the cataclysm to phase out nuclear power. This radical change in the country’s energy policy was confirmed by the German parliament in June 2011. Beyond this political leve…

Video highlights

New series

  • From our columnists
  • In the news