Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | pop culture
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Let me say right upfront: I don’t like “Miss Saigon.” The musical has been a megahit staple of the stage since it made its debut in London in 1989 and then Broadway in 1991. It ran for a decade in New York, and was revived in 2017. Touring versions have crisscrossed the US, including in Denver in September. “Miss Saigon” makes lots of...

In a previous life during my long and winding journalism career, I was a rock critic. I was the music editor for Denver’s weekly newspaper, Westword. So when the Denver Press Club recently asked me to participate on a panel discussion for the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival, I was eager to join in the fun. I write a...

Like a lot of people, when Kim Kardashian, who is famous only because she (and everyone in her family) is a celebrity, named her new line of body-shaping underwear “Kimono,” I was appalled. I thought the headline was a joke – you know, “fake news.”...

“Aw, man. This is the best job ever…. The best job ever,” says John Daub with a supremely satisfied smile. He had just taken a sip of fabulous creamy onion bacon soup at a restaurant named Kokoya de Kobayashi in the city of Kobayashi in Miyazaki prefecture, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.

He’s not kidding. He has a great job.

Daub and his wife, Kanae, have been “working,” spending several days in the area livestreaming videos for his “Only in Japan GO” YouTube channel. It might seem like an amazingly fun gig, and obviously, it is. But don’t be fooled -- he works hard at his job.

Daub began this series of livestream episodes two days before in Miyazaki prefecture, to attend a Mango Auction. Yes, in Japan they auction off mangoes just like the tuna auctions in Tokyo’s famous fish market – the top fruit went for $5,000. For one fruit. (He posted his edited report on the $5,000 mango a week later.)

Erin and I attended the opening performance of "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill," a moving tribute to the tragic life of jazz singer Billie Holiday, who is remembered today for classic renditions of "God Bless the Child" and the stark song condemning the racist lynching of black men she first recorded in 1939, "Strange Fruit." Holiday was one of the most influential singers ever, whose influence crossed over jazz and blues to folk, R&B, rock and pop music. "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" is set in a bar in Philadelphia just months before her death in July 1959 from heart failure caused by cirrhosis.

All the recent controversy over “whitewashing,” Hollywood’s habit of casting white people in Asian roles, got me thinking about how Japan has been portrayed in films over the years. Because I was born in Japan, my earliest movie memories are chambara, or samurai (and especially ninja), movies that I watched in black and white on television. We didn't get to see many movies in theaters, but my mom used to take my brother and me to Disney features when they opened, riding the trains with us to the cinema. After we moved to the States, I treasured American films that were set in Japan. There haven’t been a whole lot but it’s interesting to see how Hollywood depictions have showed Americans’ stereotypes of Japan, and how that’s changed over the years. Here are a few (Click the images to purchase the films):

The recent 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima went by quietly on American news (in part because there’s just so much news to cover exploding out of our own White House). So on Aug. 6 I turned to the one place I knew would give the commemoration of the bombing its due coverage: NHK World, Japan’s English-language public television...