Richard Lloyd Parry

Richard Lloyd Parry is Asia editor at the Times. His latest book is Ghosts of the Tsunami, about the 2011 disaster in Japan.

Thereis nothing palatial about the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s a park, a shaggy forest of ponds and trees, with a handful of modestly elegant modern buildings, an administrative block and a few roads faintly visible in between. There used to be a nine-hole golf course, built in the 1920s by the then crown prince, Hirohito, who took to the game during a visit to Britain. But years...

Flight to the Forest: Bruno Manser Vanishes

Richard Lloyd Parry, 24 October 2019

Manser, intriguingly described as a ‘Swiss cowherd’, spent years in Sarawak living among the Penan, one of the last populations of genuine nomads in the world. For six years, he wore a loincloth, hunted with a blowpipe, lived off snake and monkey meat, and directed the Penan in their struggle against the logging companies that were stripping the rainforests where the nomads roamed. Armed police hunted him through the jungle; the Malaysian government, it was said, had put a bounty on his head. He was captured, and escaped. In the first months of the 21st century, Manser sneaked back into Sarawak. While trekking alone through the jungle, he vanished without a trace.

Diary: In Pyongyang

Richard Lloyd Parry, 24 January 2019

Fifteen​ years ago, on one of my early visits to Pyongyang, I was taken to the Tower of the Juche Idea, the vertiginous propaganda monument on the south bank of the Taedong River. Peering acrophobically over the railing at the ground 560 feet below, I asked one of the local guides if people ever came here to commit suicide. The young woman, who spoke flawless English, appeared baffled. I...

The man who came closest to persuading me of the virtue of toppling a democratically elected government was a former investment banker and English public schoolboy called Korn Chatikavanij. All the foreign journalists in Bangkok know Korn, and a conversation with him is one of the pleasures of any reporting trip to Thailand. You meet him in the lobby of one of the big hotels, or in his office above a coffee bar – a tall, self-deprecatingly dashing figure with high cheekbones and exquisite shirts. His presence works like air-conditioning on the perspiration and stench of Thai politics.

Ghosts of the Tsunami

Richard Lloyd Parry, 6 February 2014

I met a priest in the north of Japan who exorcised the spirits of people who had drowned in the tsunami. The ghosts did not appear in large numbers until later in the year, but Reverend Kaneda’s first case of possession came to him after less than a fortnight. He was chief priest at a Zen temple in the inland town of Kurihara. The earthquake on 11 March 2011 was the most violent that he, or anyone he knew, had ever experienced. The great wooden beams of the temple’s halls had flexed and groaned with the strain. Power, water and telephone lines were fractured for days.

Advantage Pyongyang

Richard Lloyd Parry, 9 May 2013

The Choco Pie is a mouth-drying, individually wrapped slab of cake, marshmallow and chocolate, and in South Korea it is as important a part of childhood as Britain’s Mars bar or the American Twinkie. It is manufactured by the Orion company of Seoul, exported across Asia, and consumed in an arc of countries from Japan to Uzbekistan. In 2004, South Korean manufacturers began to set up factories in the North Korean city of Kaesong, an unprecedented experiment in co-operation.

How confident should she be? Aung San Suu Kyi

Richard Lloyd Parry, 26 April 2012

With every week it becomes more and more difficult to hold on to a feeling which has become so instinctive as to be almost consoling: a contemptuous suspicion of the Burmese government, and a refusal to believe anything it claims, proposes or promises. A year ago, Burma’s new president, a former general called Thein Sein, could not have lured any respectable politician to his Ming the...

Smilingly Excluded: An Outsider in Tokyo

Richard Lloyd Parry, 17 August 2006

Foreign writers have been visiting Tokyo since the 1860s, but for such a vast, thrilling and important city it has proved barren as a place of literary exile. Among those who made Japan their home, as well as their subject, there are to be found only minor talents. The most interesting writing has been in sketches by those who have passed by and peered in without ever achieving intimacy with the culture: Angela Carter’s essays of the early 1970s collected in Nothing Sacred; Anthony Thwaite’s delicate and tentative poetry collection, Letter from Tokyo; and John Hersey’s great work of reportage, Hiroshima. When literary celebrities have alighted in Japan, the results have usually been disastrous.

Back to Isfahan

Richard Lloyd Parry, 27 April 2000

Early on in his new novel, James Buchan employs an image of which he is evidently fond: that of two mirrors placed face to face, and the unique and disconcerting effect which they produce, of reflections endlessly reflected in reflections. The same mirrors turned up in Frozen Desire, Buchan’s autobiographical meditation on the meaning of money, where they served as a symbol of financial...

Bratpackers: Alex Garland

Richard Lloyd Parry, 15 October 1998

Less than two years after the publication of Alex Garland’s first novel, The Beach, one of cinema’s most fashionable young directors (Danny Boyle) and its most adored male star (Leonardo Di Caprio) are about to make a film version of it, a remarkable achievement for an author of 28, but in other ways an inevitable one. Few novels are so influenced by film as this one, in its subject-matter, its narrative technique and the preoccupations of its characters. From the very beginning, The Beach announces itself as a book about cliché and fantasy, about the pleasures of life projected onto a mental cinema screen. This is made clear in a single page of italicised text which would (and perhaps will) work, virtually without alteration, as the pre-credit sequence in a film. It is delirious and intoxicated, a crescendo of filmic voices, beginning with a Saigon whore (‘All day, all night, me love you long time’), switching to a scene of jungle combat (‘this is Alpha patrol and we are taking fire’), and climaxing with a compendium of Vietnam movie moments: ‘Dropping acid on the Mekong Delta, smoking grass through a rifle barrel, flying on a helicopter with opera blasting out of loudspeakers, tracer-fire and paddy-field scenery, the smell of napalm in the morning.’‘

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