Hans Brinckmann: Born in 1932 in The Hague and growing up during the German occupation of Holland, Hans had to suppress his early hope to become a writer in order to make a living. He joined a Dutch bank after high school, and in 1950 was assigned to Japan, where he lived for the next 24 years. After reaching the position of area executive, he left banking and retired to Buckinghamshire in 1974, to write and to continue his Japanese studies. He returned to banking two years later. He worked in Curaçao, Amsterdam and New York, where for a time he chaired the Institute of Foreign Bankers and a foundation active in Dutch-American cultural exchange. In 1986 Queen Beatrix made him an Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau for 'cultural and professional achievements' notably in Japan and the US. In 1988, aged 56, he quit banking for good and since then he has been writing fiction, nonfiction and poetry and contributed intermittently to the Op-Ed pages of Dutch newspapers, often on Japan-related topics. Since 2003 Hans once again makes his main home in Japan.
Hiromi Mizoguchi (Translator): Born in Tokyo, Hiromi obtained an MA from the Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University. She worked for the Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo from 1990 to 1994. She met Hans Brinckmann through the Japan Society in London while living there from 1999 to 2001. Her translation work includes "Magatama-moyou no Rakugaki" (2005, Shinpusha), the Japanese version of Brinckmann's "The Magatama Doodle"; "Aru Oranda-jin no Showa Japan ron" (2009, Random House Kodansha), the Japanese adaptation of his "Showa Japan"; and "Owaranai Ichinichi", the Japanese title of the bilingual collection of poetry, "The Undying Day" (H2H/Trafford, 2011). Since July 2014, her translations of Hans' essays appear regularly in the Japanese literary magazine "Atlas" published by Nishida Shoten in Tokyo.
She also translates and edits the Japanese pages of this website.
For further information on all Hans Brinckmann's books and how to order, go to:
They all offer Look Inside features and Kindle editions
The Japanese-language literary magazine Atlas, published by Nishida Shoten in Tokyo, has been featuring, since 2014, one of Brinckmann's essays in each of their half-yearly issues, in Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation. The essays will eventually be published also in their original English version.
Part personal memoir, part professional flashback, part socio-cultural commentary, The Call of Japan chronicles my experiences during my 40 years of living in Japan, from 1950 to 1974 as a 'reluctant banker', and from 2003 to the present as a writer. But mindful of what Eliza said to her wordy suitor Freddy in My Fair Lady: "Don't expl'ine – show me!" the book mostly relates my personal experiences during the early post-war reconstruction as well as more recent times, and let my readers draw their own conclusions. It has received highly favourable reviews from professional writers:
The Monkey Dance
Chronicle of a 12-year old Dutch boy in the Winter of Starvation, 1944/1945
by Hans Brinckmann
The Monkey Dance is a self-published, 35-page memoir, which describes how, as a 12-year old, I travelled several times on a boy's bicycle along a 10 km long dangerous road to the center of The Hague during the "winter of starvation," 1944-45, to visit my father who lived with his second wife above a stationery store he owned, and to collect food. The memoir describes the hair-raising events during that period, and the secrets in my father's house.
The cover photo of the memoir at left shows my father's house.
Anyone wishing to buy a copy of the memoir, priced at Yen 700 plus postage, should contact me at info+habri.jp (change + into @ before sending your message).
This, My sixth book, and first novel, won an Honorable Mention Award at the 2015 Pacific Rim Book Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The story is about Peter van Doorn, born inHolland, who dreams of life with a camera. His father, Eduard - a journalist and former WWII photographer - at first supports his son's ambition and even gives him his wartime Leica. But when Peter tries to save someone from a fatal accident instead of "capturing the moment of violent death," Eduard decides that his son lacks the guts for "real" photography, the kind he practiced during the war, the only kind of photography "worthy of a man," even in peacetime. He forces Peter into overseas banking instead.
Starting in 1953, Peter's exotic career takes him from his native Holland to Singapore and on to Chicago where he marries a socialite. But his dream never dies, and at last, in 1978, he sacrifices his stable career and family to embark on the life of a freelance photographer - in New York. Two years later, with his savings running out, an unexpected breakthrough: an exhibition on the provocative theme "White poverty in black New York." But a vicious attack disrupts this first success, leaving him to wonder how he will ever reconcile with a stubborn father with whom he's never seen eye-toeye.
The story is a human drama, rich in dialogue, and with a healthy dose of humor and, well, 'intimacy.'
"The hallmark of a writer as urbane as Brinckmann is that he can balance intimacy and distance, creating a narrative that draws from his own experiences, but remains firmly within the realm of fiction. ... Written with subtlety and force, Brinckmann brings his main character to the point of no return. Crucially, from a reader perspective, it is also a damn good yarn." (From the review by Stephen Mansfield)
An examination of Japan's rise from defeat to prosperity during the post-war period (1950-1989), the spectacular collapse of its bubble economy at the end of Showa, and the often agonizing restructuring of its economy and society since then. The book considers some of the options open to Japan as it tries to come to terms with the very different realities facing it in the globalized world of today.
"This is a good book. The writing is readable and concise. The book is impeccably organized. Mr. Brinckmann has sorted out what he wants to say and how he's going to say it. And most of all, the book is incredibly interesting.' (From an online review by T.Velasquez, OR, USA, March 19, 2014)
"This book is really a delight....His insights on Japan are really high quality....and after reading this book, I understand more about the country. Many of the things that I have wondered about are nicely explained in this book... The book should definitely be on the top-three reads on Japan. A clear five star book.' (From an online review by "Jackal, New Hampshire, September 21, 2012)
"...interesting, because it raises fundamental questions about how Japan may develop in the twenty-first century... There is plenty of food for thought by the Japanese in this book..." (Sir Hugh Cortazzi's writing in The Japan Society Review, July 2009)
"... a work of eminently readable journalism, but also of scholarly scope, an engaging mix of analysis and memoir... When you read Brinckmann's description of the 1960s' demos in Tokyo you know the writer is a witness to the facts of history..." (From Stephen Mansfield's review in The Japan Times of February 1, 2009)
"A unique view of Showa which has escaped the attention of most Japanese" (From the review of the book's Japanese edition by Kazutoshi Hando, historian and writer, in the Kobe Shimbun of January 9, 2010)
(Random House Kodansha, October 2009)
This is Hiromi Mizuguchi's translation of "Showa Japan: the Post-War Golden Age and its Troubled Legacy.' The Japanese edition was published with this comment (in Japanese) on the book's paper cover from the historian Kazutoshi Hando: "Brinckmann - who shares the post-war experiences through the eyes of a European - sounds a warning about looking back on the Showa era with nostalgia."
The Kobe Shimbun and other Japanese mass media gave the book very favorable reviews.
Note: Due to closure of the publisher, Random House Kodansha, this Japanese edition of the book is no longer on the market, but second-hand copies can be found here
(Strategic Publishers, Texas, March 2012)
Recipient of a Literary Award!
This collection of short stories, all set in Japan, won an Honorable Mention Award at the 2016 Pacific Rim Book Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.
From the book's back cover:
"With this striking and highly engaging collection of stories, author Hans Brinckmann takes us into the heart of his adopted country of Japan. Highlighting the intriguing surroundings and cultural details, each story draws the reader into an extraordinary experience. The offerings include A Leap into the Light, the compelling tale of a Dutch businessman's secretive life with the young daughter of his late Japanese mistress; Kyoto Bus Stop, about the chance encounter between a visitor from Europe and a mysterious young French woman in Kyoto; Pets in Marriage, which chronicles a Japanese married couple and their respective preference for cats and dogs, which comes to a head at the foot of Mt. Fuji; Twice upon a Plum Tree, an exploration of a Dutch diplomat's ambivalence about a Japanese woman he once loved; and the title story, The Tomb in the Kyoto Hills, about a Chicago-based lawyer who moves his family to Japan to find the truth about his origins once and for all."
"I'm quite choosy with new titles... It was, therefore, a delight to come across such well-grounded and engaging narratives. The stories, all very strong on local detail, atmosphere and credible characterization, are structured to build anticipation and reader commitment, no easy task.
In Hans Brinckman we find a seasoned writer who has spent much of his adult life in Japan, and is thereby able to summon cultural elements that immeasurably enrich the tales in this collection.... [A] small miracle.' (From the online review by Stephen Mansfield, Tokyo, June 24, 2013)
(H2H Publishers/Trafford, April 2011)
Recipient of a Literary Award!
From the book's back cover:
"A widowed water bird in an Amsterdam canal... abandoned villages 'flitting fitfully by' as he rides the Eurostar to Paris... the sun, 'averse to setting, extending the you-filled day'... such are the diverse sources of inspiration for Brinckmann's poetry.
Unconstrained by locale or subject matter, his lines celebrate the marvel of love and ponder life's irretrievable losses. He is no stranger to whimsy either, nor to the search for life's ultimate meaning."
From the review by Stephen Mansfield in the Japan Times of 6 November 2011:
"Consistently, Brinckmann casts himself as mediator, a conducting material recharged by the stream of time. Where some poets, even great ones, resist the vision of anything finer than a futile individual existence, Brinckmann celebrates life's brimming energies, even as they discharge into more temperate currents with the advance of age."
For the full review, "Words for All Seasons"
(H2H Publishers/Trafford, 2006)
This is a cosmopolitan collection of seven short stories. An American architect in Paris, a Balkan parachutist, a Dutch diplomat in Japan, a New York heart surgeon, an English undertaker - the characters are as colorful as they are diverse. What they have in common is that they are all in the throes of personal crisis, mild and manageable, or severe and harrowing. Consciously or not, they are in search of the high noon of life.
"The characters... are neither masters of their fate nor captains of their souls; rather they have become unanchored by some chance event that forces them to make a decision...Contains some crackling good writing." (Mark Austin in The Daily Yomiuri of April 30, 2006.)
"Brinckmann's measured tone [and] understated humor makes this book a delightful, yet thought-provoking read." (Hillel Wright in The Metropolis of March 21, 2008)
For details and how to order: click here
(Global Oriental, UK, 2005)
Hans Brinckmann's account of his long involvement with Japan, half that time as a resident. It is part personal memoir, part professional flashback, part commentary on Japanese society and culture. The publisher: 'Rich in anecdotal material - often highly amusing - the book also delves beneath the personal in search of the bigger picture.'
"An engrossing, enchanting and illuminating account of the postwar years in Japan." (from Mark Austin's review in The Daily Yomiuri, April 17, 2005)
"Superlative and personal.... While naturally heavy on the personal, this delightful volume nevertheless succeeds in accurately describing and assessing the character of the land. I believe this is one of those rare writings on Japan that are worth retaining in your library."(from the review on Amazon.com by Philip Philipsen, Copenhagen, Denmark, November 7, 2009)
"...his thoughts on Japan are more convincing than those of any other commentator, because Hans witnessed first-hand how Japan recovered from defeat. He lived through that period as a young man." (from the review by Hazuki Saisho, well-known non-fiction writer, in the Asahi Shimbun of April 24, 2005, of Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of the book.)
In Janaury 2006, the Asahi reviewer selected the book for the Misuzu literary journal as one of her five favorite titles of the previous year. Her reasons include these words: "A great book. Strongly recommend it to everybody regardless of his or her literary taste."
For further information and how to order, click here
Hiromi Mizoguchi's Japanese translation of The Magatama Doodle has been published in Tokyo by Shinpusha. It has attracted highly favourable reviews in the Asahi Shimbun and many other publications. This edition is currently out of print, but second-hand copies can be found on amazon.co.jp. Click here
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its July 2020 issue No. 42 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of my essay about Iwaichi Waimatsu, fisherman's son & foreign bank's chief clerk, a memorable former colleague of mine in the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Waimatsu, called "Big W" by the Dutch staff, was the first member of the Japanese staff I was introduced to when I arrived in November 1950 at the Kobe branch of a Dutch bank. I was 18 at the time, and learned much from Big W.
The chief editor of Atlas called the essay a "eulogy for Mr. Waimatsu." It will eventually appear in my collection of memorable people I have met in the course of my life.
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its January 2020 issue No. 41 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of Hans Brinckmann's essay about his old friend Janwillem van de Wetering, Zen student, policeman, and celebrated crime writer.
It is the lead article in this issue.
The essay will eventually appear in Brinckmann’s collection of memorable people he has met in the course of his life.
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its July 2019 issue No. 40 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of my essay "Cactus Soup and Divi-divi Trees." It is about reminiscences of life on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, from 1976 to 1979. What did Hans Brinckmann and his wife Toyoko discover on the island of healing?
The essay – including illustrations – covers 10 pages, and is the lead article in this issue.
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its January 2019 issue No. 39 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of my story, "Twice upon a Plum Tree," taken from my award-winning book "The Tomb in the Kyoto Hills and other stories" (Strategic,2011).
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its July 2018 issue No. 38 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of Hans Brinckmann's essay about a memorable visit he received shortly before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by Edmund ("Eddy") de Rothschild, a prominent London banker and horticulturist.
The Japanese literary magazine Atlas in its January 2018 issue No. 37 published Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of Hans Brinckmann's essay about his meeting in Washington D.C. in 1985 with Republican Senator Jake Garn, who had just returned from space as the first U.S. member of Congress to fly on a Space Shuttle.
Atlas No. 36 published in July 2017 features an essay by Hans Brinckmann, entitled No Barrier Between Us!: A chance meeting with Dr. W. F. Hilton, famous aeronautical and space scientist in Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation. Brinckmann writes about a talk he had with this fascinating scientist on a long flight from Sydney to London in 1995.
Atlas no. 35 published in January 2017 includes Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of Hans Brinckmann's short story, Pets in Marriage, an ironic treatment of the different affections for their pets between dog lovers and cat lovers. The story first appeared in The Tomb in the Kyoto Hills, an award-winning collection of five stories all set in Japan. For details about that book and Brinckmann's other publications and how to purchase them, see Hans's Amazon page
Atlas no. 34 published in July 2016 features another of Hans Brinckmann's essays in Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation. Its title is: The Lady on the Coin: my two memorable encounters with Beatrix of the Netherlands. The essay is a a report on Brinckmann’s two meetings with the remarkable Beatrix, the first in Tokyo in 1963, when she was still Crown Princess, the second in The Hague in 1987, as Queen Beatrix
Atlas No. 33 published in January 2016 features an essay by Hans Brinckmann, entitled Reischauer in Aburatsubo in Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation. Its subject is Edwin O. Reischauer, a famous Harvard Japanologist and John F. Kennedy’s ambassador to Japan from 1961 to 1966 who Brinckmann met on a few memorable occasions.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the Pacific War, Brinckmann has written an autobiographical essay, entitled Of Guns and Cutlery, based on his memories of wartime Holland and post-war Japan. Its Japanese translation by Hiromi Mizoguchi appeared in the July 2015 edition of Atlas.
Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of another essay by Hans Brinckmann was included in Atlas, Issue No. 31, published in January, 2015. The subject of the essay this time is the founder of Panasonic, and its title: A memorable evening with Konosuke Matsushita: his hidden acting talent. It is based on a home party in Tokyo Brinckmann attended in January 1967, where something extraordinary happened.
Hiromi Mizoguchi's translation of my seven-page essay, Tapestries for the Empress, appeared as the lead piece of Atlas July 2014 issue. It is the story of Stefan Lubienski, a Polish count I met in 1961 when he was already in his seventies. He had studied music in Vienna, but was interested in Eastern religions, and wanted to go to Japan. Having no financial means, he moved to Paris to learn how to weave tapestries, as he had been told he could make a living in Japan that way. Two years later he and his newfound wife moved to Japan by ship, where he managed to eke out a living weaving tapestries, some of which were even bought by the Empress!