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Trevor’s book The Story of Sushi contains surprising revelations about the history and culture of Japanese food, but less apparent are some of Trevor’s other interests in Japan.


Trevor met his first Buddhist priest in Japan when he was 16, while living with a Japanese family on a scholarhip homestay program in Tokyo sponsored by a Zen temple. Trevor went on to study and work in Japan for three years. Compared to Japan’s mainstream corporate culture of “salarymen,” the Buddhist priests and their families whom Trevor got to know turned out to be some of the most interesting people he’d ever met—and nothing like the staid Western stereotype.


In preparation for a graduate degree Trevor delved into research at Princeton University and then at Taisho University’s Institute of Buddhist Studies in Tokyo, on a Japanese Ministry of Education fellowship. Trevor focussed on a tantric tradition in Japanese Buddhism called Shingon, or “True Word,” more closely related to Tibetan Buddhism than to Japanese Zen. He lived among Shingon priests and their families, spending as much time sitting around their kitchen tables eating, drinking, and talking as he did in their temple halls observing ceremonies and meditations. Trevor wrote an in-depth academic study about the founder of the Shingon sect, a ninth-century magician-priest and imperial advisor named Kukai, worshipped throughout Japan yet mostly unknown in the West. Trevor’s treatise on Kukai was named by The Record of Bergen County, New Jersey, the most obscure “brain-twister” in the collection of Princeton's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.

 

SELECTED WRITINGS ON JAPAN

by Trevor Corson



Eating sushi can be a recipe for disaster. Especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Princeton Alumni Weekly, February 3, 2010


Limp seaweed, moldy fish shavings, and rotting soybeans. The result? Yum—Mother Nature’s MSG.

Serious Eats, September 17, 2008


The Telltale Heart

On the streets of Tokyo, accidents caused by Japanese “reckless driving gangs” are helping to push politicians and Buddhist priests into an international debate about just what, exactly, is death.

Transition Magazine, Fall 2000


The Magic of Buddhism

Japan’s most famous Buddhist was a political mastermind who created a secret arsenal of magic spells to heal disease, end drought, vanquish enemies—and make himself the right-hand man to the emperor.

Kyoto Journal, July 2000


Dreamcasting Japan

"Japan's economy is in a terrible recession," my friend Jun, a Buddhist priest, complained as he gunned his temple's Saab 9000 Turbo, bought during the bubble years, through the alleyways of old-town Tokyo.
"On the other hand, now we have the Head Mount Display." This, apparently, was something attached to his Sony Playstation.

Atlantic Online, March 17, 1999


The Calligraphy Path

It is a magic moment when a Westerner confronts a kanji—one of the convoluted characters used in the Japanese writing system—and makes it his own.

Yokohama Echo, September 1, 1993


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JAPAN

JAPANESE

LANGUAGE & CULTURE


Trevor is a graduate of Stanford University’s Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama, Japan, and has taught Japanese literature and history.


In this video, Trevor delivers a lecture at the Stanford Center in Japanese on the Buddhist sect Shingon, one of the most significant Buddhist traditions in Japan, though still little-known in the West (1993).

Learn more about the Stanford Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama, Japan.