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David McMahon
  • David McMahon 
  • By this author: 13 Latest posted: 2018.08.20
Translator and editor active in Tokyo. Graduated from the University of York in 2001 and followed a longstanding interest in Japanese music to move to the country two years later. Remained active in the Tokyo music scene throughout 10 happy years as an English teacher; began translation in mid-2012 and worked at in 2014–15.
Dialogue in Silence: Going Beyond Language Ahead of Tokyo 20202018.08.20

As Tokyo prepares for the 2020 Olympic Games, the focus is increasingly on the need to prepare for people of different linguistic capabilities and physical needs. A range of activities are underway to prepare residents and visitors alike to interface with one another in positive ways, both during the sporting events and beyond.

Good Heir Days: Prince William’s Soft Power a Big Hit in Japan2015.03.04

The United Kingdom’s Prince William—the Duke of Cambridge, second in line to his country’s throne—was in Japan from February 26 to March 1 on a whistle-stop tour that was equal parts tradition and technology, celebrities and civilians. It was a state visit that for many sparked memories of another nearly 30 years ago, when William’s parents Charles and Diana, then Prince and Princess of Wales, …

Signs of Growing Acceptance for Japan’s Gay Community2015.02.20

In what is seen by some as a landmark ruling for Japan’s LGBT community, the city government of Shibuya, Tokyo, last week outlined plans to issue same-sex couples with a certificate recognizing their relationship as being “equivalent to marriage.” The draft statute—now awaiting approval by the Shibuya Municipal assembly, scheduled to convene in March—was unveiled on February 12 as part of the d…

Experimental Music from Japan: Folk Roots, Noise Routes2015.01.23

Despite Japan’s lucrative domestic music scene (recent tribulations notwithstanding), few mainstream Japanese artists have achieved significant success outside of Asia. There may have been recent sold-out tours in the West for the likes of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Babymetal, but their songs are not the ones sought by discerning sound-seekers overseas. For many of these aficionados, the buzzword tends…

Freak Scene: The Public Life of Japan’s Private Eccentrics2014.11.07

Every town in every country has its solitary eccentrics, shy and reclusive, but marked by some quirk of behavior or appearance. Their reluctance to interact with others allows elaborate mythologies to arise, often founded on rumor and half-truth, and gradually their fame grows. And in the Internet era, all this can happen very quickly indeed.  Japanese fables are populated by a rich parade of y…

Mountains, Mummies, and Modern Art: Ascetic Practice in Yamagata Prefecture2014.10.04

For over a thousand years, Yamagata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan side of the northern Tōhoku region, has drawn pilgrims and mystics to its mountains. As the native Shintō faith intertwined with imported Buddhism, Yamagata became the site for scores of shrines and temples, some of which remain to the present day. The holiest of all the sites in the region are the three sacred mountains of Dew…

Speeches and Dreams: A Growing Generation of Japanese Learners2014.09.12

Japanese has a reputation as a fiendishly difficult language to learn. With its three writing systems, multiple levels of formality, and subtle, syllable-timed pronunciation, this unique Asian tongue seems to have put off a significant portion of prospective students for decades with the scale of the task facing them as newcomers. Even during the economic bubble years from 1986 to 1991 and the …

Festival of Friendship and Fortitude: Photohoku Brings Emotional Relief to Fukushima Prefecture2014.08.15

A 50-meter-long nagashi sōmen stand was one of the many attractions at the festival. (© Miseon Park) It is perfect weather for a matsuri, and the air in the small coastal town of Shinchi, Fukushima, is abuzz with the hubbub of children frolicking and old folks gossiping. School dance teams and other performers entertain the crowds from a modest stage, and refreshment stalls offering local produc…

Methinks the Nation Doth Protest . . . How Much?2014.07.15

Japan, the popular consensus goes, is a country in which congruence and harmony are valued above all else. For many years I accepted this wisdom at face value and assumed that this tendency lay behind the seeming absence from Japanese society of any sort of large-scale civil disobedience, the strikes and demonstrations that are a periodic occurrence elsewhere in the world. Gradually, though, I fo…

Japan’s World Cup: The View from Shibuya2014.06.20

To many, leaving the house shortly after 6:00 AM is a badge of honor and a regular feature of the working week. For me, though, the need to rise with the sun in the land of the rising sun is infrequent enough to make the times when it is required a shock to the system. And today this jarring effect was further compounded by my waking before 4:00, only to pass the hours until heading to my station …

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