Rising Sun Sets on the Age of Aquarius


Norman Mailer's Sumo-style slam against New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani—in a Rolling Stone interview, he called her a "one-woman kamikaze," a "token," and a "two-fer"—leaves me nostalgic. Not for the Prisoner of Sex's Jong-gongings of yesteryear, but for the not-so-long-ago days when the inscrutable Japanese were poised to threaten America's very way of life. Just over a decade ago, it was still a rite of passage for every high-thinking Boomer journalist to devote 500+ pages to How the Rising Sun Is Kicking Our Ass, and the national knees got wobbly just thinking about the Emperor's children buying up Sony Columbia Pictures, the Rockefeller Center, and (shudder) the Seattle Mariners.

The Nipponophobia was bogus then, as Reason enjoyed explaining, but there was a certain entertainment value in watching polite commentators struggle to find elegant packaging for their spasms of national anxiety, economic ignorance and ethno-centrism. With that once-thriving publishing niche now down the rabbit hole (or grafted onto newer foreign menaces), all we have left are the very occasional anti-Jap flashbacks from the Greatest Generation. Whose real complaint may be that Japan, after all that noise, is just another country.