Category Archives: News

Memories of Donald Richie

I was very much saddened to read of the death of Donald Richie on February 19, 2013 in Tokyo at age 88. He was the greatest of the early postwar generation of expat Japan experts, commonly referred to as “the old Japan hands.” Although Richie, the author of some 40 books (and 50 years of Japan Times columns), was best known for his work on Japanese film, his body of work was all the more impressive because his writings consistently maintained a clear vision. He was neither an apologist for Japan nor a bitter critic. He was able to write perceptively about both Japan and himself with exceptional honesty and clarity. Among all the obituaries and tributes to his professional career, I’d like to take a moment to recall what a kind, humble and generous person he was. Continue reading

Television, Summer 2012

The big news in the Japanese TV world this week is that the private television networks’ have finally discovered Japan’s burgeoning antinuclear movement. Despite their protests, petitions and pleas, proponents of the antinuclear cause have been edged out of the media spotlight this past year. Now the private networks are finally beginning to take off their blinders and pay attention. Continue reading

Nostalgia and News

Ah the joys of satellite TV. It saves me from the noisy, irritating, mind-boggling menagerie that Japanese TV–circa 2012–has become. Satellite TV takes me not only beyond Japan’s borders but back to the days when watching TV in Japan was actually fun. This month, SkyPerfecTV’s Lala Channel 372 is rebroadcasting the 1997 hit drama Virgin Road. (The title is a Japanese-English term for walking down the aisle on one’s wedding day.) Lala is airing two episodes at a time, Sundays from 9 p.m. and it’s a very pleasant journey back in time. Nostalgia for the past is often considered a sign of getting old and refusing to adapt. Yet, Continue reading

Child Stars and the Landscapes of Childhood

Does anyone ever really forget the landscapes of their childhood? The people, places, scenery and customs that shaped us in our early years can stay with us our entire lives, deeply influencing the paths we follow and the careers we carve out for ourselves.  This seems especially true of those who follow creative professions such as writing and art, music and design.  That premise is behind the new Magazine House book Comic Furusato Hokkaido which features works by twelve manga artists, all of whom were born on Japan’s northernmost island.

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The Grinch That Stole My Gall Bladder

Well, nothing like promising a weekly blog and then promptly disappearing.  Actually, I didn’t really vanish. I just went off to join the half a million Americans a year who have their galll bladders removed—only I was doing it in Japan, in Japanese on the kokumin kenko hoken (national health insurance system). Continue reading

The Best Laid Plans

The best laid plans of mice and men – and even Wilhelmina Penn – often go astray.Due to unforeseen circumstances, the blog will not be able to return until June. Until then, cheers! Wilhelmina

Wednesdays with Wilhelmina

It’s hard to believe a month has passed already since I parted ways with the Daily Yomiuri. (See: “Penn sans Paper” below for details). During that time, I took my first vacation outside Japan in ten years.  I’m still dreaming of those lovely Dutch daffodils here in Sapporo, where it’s cold and grey even in April. Yet, I have had to come to grips with the facts: I’m back, the Televiews column is gone, and the big question looms–so now what?  What do I do next? Continue reading

Penn sans Paper

PENN sans PAPER

I’ve written the weekly “Televiews” column for the Daily Yomiuri since March 1987. This week, I decided to bring it to a close. It’s always hard to know when to bow out and when to carry on. Then, sometimes, something unexpected happens to hasten the decision and make the choice obvious. Late on the evening of March 1, Continue reading

Listen to the Children

This past week, Japanese television has been full of programs marking the six month anniversary of the triple disasters of March 11, 2011–the megaquake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdowns.  On the September 11 edition of the variety show “Tetsuwan DASH,”TOKIO’s Tatsuya Yamaguchi made a nostalgic journey back to the DASH Mura farm (See: Ostriches of Fukushima, April 28) located in Namie-machi, Fukushima Prefecture. Continue reading