Are you having a Happy New Year 🎊 so far? I hope you are staying bundled up.
Just a reminder: I am sending this missive to you from a new service (Buttondown). If you no longer want to receive my monthly updates, you can unsubscribe easily.
Iki was shut down for January due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Since Dec 28th we have had 56 people come down with the virus. All but one have healed up, and that person should be out of hospital within days (I hope!).
We spent the month mostly indoors playing chess. Each day my 9 year old daughter and I get on our iPads, fire up Chess.com, play bots and do drills, all in preparation for the evening’s “Immortal Match” in the living room after having a bath. Every night is a new epic battle (and I am not talking about the battle of getting the kids to bed!). It’s fun to learn something with your kids. I haven’t touched a chessboard since I was about 14, and she has a good eye. She even offers me cute tactical advice! We even started watching some Chess YouTubers together. I am surprised this new passion has lasted a whole month, but I will ride this fad as long as I can!
Hopefully you are staying healthy and warm, and not being forked, pinned, or checkmated by a 9 year old. Until next month!
Greeting the sun and moon for 2021
We were up early on Jan 1 to catch the sunrise on a freezing, windy cliff, then make devotions to the Moon God (a rare thing in Japan).
Pros and cons of waiting out the pandemic on a remote island
Coronavirus exploded on Iki over the holidays. We started to wonder if we should move back to the city.
Island emergency broadcast system
One of the things that surprised me moving to Iki was having the police remind me of things IN MY HOUSE! 👮♂️ 🔈 🏡
Review—Japan’s Quest for Stability in Southeast Asia: Navigating the Turning Points in Postwar Asia
At Books On Asia I compare Japan’s postwar “southward advance” with today’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific, and wistfully think of Fukuda’s 1977 “heart-to-heart.”
Snowpocalypse in Iki. Speaking to a neighbour, he said it hasn’t snowed like this in at least 50 years. Photos →
Long piece catching up on 45K Syrian refugees to Canada, and how they are getting through the pandemic. Link →
Pizza Bus is a unique food “truck.” Link →
Egypt growing 40 local “Japanese-style schools” to 100. Link →
Discovering a Reddit of Buddhist memes led to one of my most popular tweets ever 🤷♂️ Link →
The Irish Buddhist: The Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire
Reading about the intersection of Buddhism, Asian history, and politics (Pan-Asianism, anti-colonialism) gets me really excited (🤷♂️). I had already bought the book, but this podcast with one of the authors made me move it to the top of the pile. Pankaj Mishra has also written about this era. It is an interesting bit of 19th-20th C history that in modern times seems totally replaced by economism. Rather than Buddhists traveling throughout Asia building cultural and religious bridges that anti-colonial thought can cross over, it is FDI and infrastructure loans that link the region preventing conflict and enabling hedging against greater powers like the US, USSR, and China. Are the Buddhists doing anything now? I don’t think so… the threat this time is a historically Buddhist nation and they don’t want this new political battle to be based on “values.” It is hedges all the way down right now in Asia.