Working in Japan as a foreign correspondent, as I did three decades ago for The Economist and as David Pilling did brilliantly for the Financial Times from 2002 to 2008, can be a frustrating business. You quickly realise that the big news about Japan is that there’s no actual ‘news’ there. Or, more precisely, that Japan is a culture of processes and evolutions, not big events, flashy announcements and dramas. This makes it all the more fascinating, but produces another phenomenon, born out of frustration: a yearning, prevalent among foreign observers and also many Japanese, for a big exception to this rule – an event, even a crisis, that might accelerate these processes and produce a sudden transformation.
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Perception is a weird thing. Lawrence Durrell saw Hydra as a ‘great horned toad’ but Henry Miller thought it resembled a ‘huge loaf of petrified bread’. Niko Ghika painted it as a series of neat white and orange squares.
The minimalist Fumio Sasaki 'confesses that as he began to purchase fewer consumer goods, his meals shrank in size. He decluttered and lost weight. Accumulation is not just an economic way of life but a form of embodiment too. Enlightenment is reduction.'
'The river’s desecration mirrors Colombia’s long history of violence: "for years we treated it like a sewer," says Ahmed, a survivor of a particularly brutal paramilitary massacre, "just like we treated each other".'
Patrick Wilcken on the Magdalena.