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Raj Mahtani
A translator of books from Japan on marketing, lifehacking, culinary delights, and mythology
Recent Activity
Riku and the Kingdom of White is my translation of リクと白の王国 (Riku to shiro no ōkoku), Randy Taguchi’s... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2017 at Passage J
Asian Advertising and Marketing/Published circa 1995 Manga credit: Smile Kobou TV idols in Japan are usually charming and 17. Twin sisters, Kin Narita and Gin Kanie, are TV idols and charming, but hardly 17. In fact they will be 103 on August 1, making them possibly the world's first twins to make it big at their age. Japan’s idolmakers, at least in this instance, can't be blamed for following a heartless hit formula. Standing at a dainty height of about four feet and exuding an aura of immaculate politeness, Kinsan and Ginsan, as they are known (Kin means gold and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2015 at Passage J
“Paris is a movable feast," Hemingway said about his bohemian days on the Left Bank in Paris. It's no wonder. With the Eiffel Tower and the spires of Notre Dame setting the scene, he could muse metaphysically in a cafe with like-minded companions from dusk ‘til dawn, while fashionable mademoiselles strolled by with their equally fashionable pet poodles. If he got bored, all he had to do was switch cafes and enjoy another feast, whiling away the day on either beer or coffee, depending on his whim. Papa sure had a life. Like Hemingway's Paris, the English-language scribes who make... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2014 at Passage J
Ms. Shiho Kishimoto, the author of the novel I Hear Them Cry, is a strong proponent of neuro-linguistic programming. A therapist herself, she has employed this technique to help women navigate through turbulent divorces while also helping so-called "corporate warriors" of Japan ease into retirement when they tend to have a tough time reinventing themselves at home. According to Ms. Kishimoto, that's the time when they really need to make the transition from left-brain thinking to a right-brain one. But more importantly, she believes that's when empathy and understanding can begin to blossom, a key theme explored in I Hear... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2013 at Passage J
Mama Chari is endearing on so many levels. It's endearing as a record of a personal journey of an intrepid expat journalist--a "free writer"--and it's endearing as a fish-out-of-water narrative of the life of a gaijin in Tokyo, shedding light on many comical and sometimes cringe-worthy instances of culture shock, such as the dynamic that takes place between the wide-eyed new arrival and a few xenophobic police officers patrolling Tokyo's tranquil neighborhoods. But above all, Mama Chari is endearing as a love letter to Japan. The name roughly translates to "mommy bike" and--just as it suggests--it's intended for moms (not... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2013 at Passage J
San Cancion is Yokoyama Maki and Shu Keikin on guitars, Shibata Munesumi on bass, and Mori Takaharu on drums. The band is an instrumental ensemble and its name is a wordplay on the Japanese phrase, san kan shi on, which means a cycle of three cold days followed by four warm ones. It’s also Spanish for Saint Song. The mystery of this wordplay shines in their performance when it becomes clear that they’re not just a band, but a four-man force of nature, doing their bit to reshape reality with their brand of sonic shamanism. Covering classic tunes, the ensemble's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2013 at Passage J
A brief introduction to the retro paintings of Masashi Anranku. Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2013 at Passage J
An account of Randy Taguchi's launch party for the release of "In the Zone." She relates a touching story about her meeting with her late idol, the prominent Jungian, Dr. Hayao Kawai, who is also the author of the seminal work, “The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan.” Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2013 at Passage J
The inaugural Tokyo International Literary Festival was a fantastic dream come true, treating Tokyo's literati to live readings and panel discussions on various topics, ranging from otaku romance and global travel to jazz writing, monsters, the future of books and reimagining Tokyo. There was even a live writing performance that saw the author Shinji Ishii improvising a short story while riding a train. "It swayed, writing in there," he said, commenting about both the train and his spirit. And boy were spirits swayed! Junot Diaz, the highly acclaimed author of "This is How You Lose Her," talked about how the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2013 at Passage J
An interview with Ms. Randy Taguchi, acclaimed author of Consent, Outlet, and Fujisan among many other works of fiction. Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2012 at Passage J
As a child, Mount Fuji was an exciting getaway to me, an escape into the green and airy wilderness far removed from the orderly, plastic confines of Yokohama city. My father, a free-spirited, traveling bard wearing the guise of a family man and silk exporter, would usher my brother and me on a sunny Saturday into the back seat of a brown, four-door Toyota Crown, as my mother prepared some “grasshopper-green” chutney sandwiches. Once she and the tasty morsels made their way to the passenger seat, my father would sing out a hymn to praise the Overseeing One in the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2012 at Passage J
Re: Japanese onomatopoeia [link]: via Cover via Amazon Here's the legendary musician's take on the richness of Japanese onomatopoeia, which, as he so rightly says, has the power to not only describe literal sounds, but states of mind as well. "Can you imagine? States of mind have sounds?! Concepts have sounds!? Who’d ‘a thunk it? Is this a kind of synesthesia? So therefore a musical composition (musique concrete, most likely) COULD be a real map or analogy or model of a progression of concepts——a sonic map of a progression of thoughts…sometimes proceeding one after another, in traditional logical fashion,... Continue reading
Reblogged Oct 3, 2012 at Passage J
So say the Upanishads, India's ur-collection of sacred texts. String theorists and acoustic poets like John Cage may very well relate to this mystical claim. But here in Japan, there's Ms. Toyoko Matsuzaki, a seasoned vocalist, who goes way beyond merely relating. "I have the power to perceive the foundation of a person's soul by sensing fluctuations in their voice, breathing, and even footsteps," she claims in her bestselling book on her mystical powers, which she refers to as "Hado." The scientist, Dr. Masaru Emoto, defines Hado as the intrinsic vibrational pattern found at the atomic level in all matter... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2011 at Passage J
My friend translated into Japanese the moving acco... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2011 at My Blog 2
A friend of mine forwarded this touching account from a friend of hers. The sender is in quake-stricken Sendai, where she has lived for the past decade teaching English. Hello My Lovely Family and Friends, First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2011 at My Blog 2
Along with anime and manga, contemporary Japanese literature continues to grow in global appeal. While this is hardly surprising, considering that Japan’s literary landscape is home to such international luminaries as Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto, producers of popular culture in Japan tend to be lukewarm about promoting their intellectual properties overseas. As pointed out by Mr. Roland Kelts, the author of Japanamerica, a highly acclaimed treatment of the layered relationship between Japanese pop culture and the American cultural mainstream, this reluctance appears to be symptomatic of a nationwide, isolationist trend, coined "the Galapagos syndrome." Nevertheless, a growing appetite across... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2011 at Passage J
If you love the theater and you happen to be in Japan, the obvious choice is to go see some Kabuki, the classic Japanese-dance drama extravaganza. But the fringe in Tokyo is quite vibrant as well. One major, time-tested name to have emerged from this scene is Issey Ogata, a solo performer who has staged more than 600 character vignettes to date. His portrayals range from the mundane, such as the bartender lubricating the denizens of late-night Tokyo, to the esoteric, such as the reclusive illustrator self-exiled in New York. Apart from his one-man shows, he is also internationally recognized... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2010 at Passage J
Dataspeaker is a one-man electronica wonder, launched in 1999 by the artist known as Ainee, a seasoned, eclectic remixer, unrestrained by genres. “I believe the quality of all electronic music, regardless of whether it is drum and bass, house, or hip hop, hinges on “breakbeats,” the lean music imagineer claims. Inspired by DJ Shadow and Fatboy Slim, Ainee cut his teeth as MC in the band, Smorgas, which promoted itself in the 90s as “the sensational breakbeats band.” Their modus operandi involved performing live vocals, guitar, and bass over sampled drum beats and sampler effects. While they had a good... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2010 at Passage J
"Kawaii" is a phenomenally popular word in Japan. It's bandied about by people from all walks of life to describe anything cute. I also tend to say kawaii now and then with frivolous abandon, but the last time I used it, and really meant it with heart and soul, was when I was exposed to the artworks of Chico Hayasaki, exhibited in a gallery tucked away in a storied section of Wall Street. For me, what makes Chico's works "kawaii" is her sensitive rendering of delicate lines and her liberal use of watercolors. The end result is sheer elegance. But... Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2010 at Passage J
My favorite part was simply daydreaming about all those people, animals, and buildings that came to life after filling in the colors. But more importantly, I suppose dabbling with them was how a lot of us got our wobbly start in the wild and wooly practice of decision making. After all, you were required to make a dizzying number of choices, including choosing which colors to use and whether a pencil or crayon would be appropriate for the task at hand, depending on whether you were shooting for, ahem, impressionism or realism. For a gloriously befuddled child such as the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2010 at Passage J
Inspiration, like lightning, could strike anywhere. For Michiko Yoshinari, the bubbly vocalist of Modern Girl & Sniper, a techno-pop sensation she fronts with Juri Goto, it struck when they were riding the Yamanote Line, one of Tokyo’s busiest commuter trains. “Some of the passengers just sleep there, others look really angry, and others are simply strange,” said Michiko. A few more investigative rides later, the duo gave birth to a track titled, “Okashikunachauyo,”(I’m Going Bananas), a lyrical and tuneful meditation on the Tokyo commuters the two had encountered of late. The track is featured on their debut album, Let’s Modern... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2010 at Passage J
Modern Girl & Sniper is a techno-pop duo formed by Michiko Yoshino and Juri Goto. Their brand of electronica is a hyperkinetic soundscape of varying styles, heavy on breezy, playful lyrics and feel-good jazzy rhythms. While their debut album, Let’s Modern Hyper, was released on August 18, 2010, under the label, apart.RECORDS, they had already attracted a sizable following in Japan by that time, thanks to their eternally sunny number, “Rainbow Jyunrei” (Rainbow Pilgrimage). Picked up as the theme song for the pachinko program, Pachislo Battle League (Pachinko Battle League), “Rainbow Jyunrei” aired via SkyPerfec TV, a major Japanese satellite... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2010 at Passage J
Raj Mahtani is now following David Byrne
Jun 1, 2010
A moving passage from Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman. …translation…dedicates itself to denying and negating the impact of divine punishment for the construction of the Tower of Babel, or at least to overcoming its worst divisive effects. Translation asserts the possibility of a coherent, unified experience of literature in the world's multiplicity of languages. At the same time, translation celebrates the differences among languages and the many varieties of human experience and perception they can express. I do not believe this is a contradiction. Rather, it testifies to the comprehensive, inclusive embrace of both literature and translation. I’m keeping... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2010 at Passage J