Plain Talk


"Do's and Don't's for the New Gaijin” by Curt Neilson

a. Learn Japanese! You’ll immediately feel less outside and you can practice day-by-day in different situations and writing Hiragana supposedly reduces stress.
b. Go to One-Coin Bars! Cheap and standing so it’s easier to chat with others standing next to you at the same table.
c. Accept Invitations from Students. A student of mine at Narita Airport invited me to his tea ceremony. It was painful sitting but an awesome cultural experience.
d. Visit Ueno! Zoo and several museums and lovely walk paths. Great date stuff.
e. Give the Benefit of the Doubt! Older Japanese people outside of Tokyo generally stare at you more. It can be annoying. Say, “Hi!” and smile. You’ll be surprised. They’ll usually smile in a shy way. Staring is not meant to be rude.
f. Help Women in Trains! If you see anyone treating a woman rudely, step up! Tell the man to stop his abuse. If you are not sure, then ask the woman if she is okay.
g. Tutor! It’s a good way to make some pocket change and also to learn more about Japanese people.
h. Get Discount Movie Tickets! Save 5USD by buying movie tickets at nearby stores.
i. Visit Yoyogi Park! Many different types of people and hobbies. Great cool clothes shopping and Ice Cream.
j. Join a Meet-Up Group. Find a Frisbee group or a dance group or a book-reading/writing group.
k. Be Aware of women sitting at the bar alone! Sometimes they are there for men to buy them drinks, positioned there by the bar boss: they are secret employees.
l. Be Aware of sudden friends in Ropongi who invite you to their “Friend’s bar” behind the other bars. These bars are usually empty and ask you to pay for your new friend and his friends in the bar.
m. Realize that repeated “eeeeeeh” or “muzagashi” (difficult) = “No!”
n. Fill-out forms very carefully! If you transpose your last and first name anywhere, you’ll probably have to fill-out a new form.

o. Ask for Directions at the JR! Unless you have patience ;) These employees will ask you to wait while they find maps to show you and while they draw directions for you.
p. Ask for Directions casually! Strangers will feel obligated to answer you and may run down the platform to find you an answer and come running back exhausted. If so, do act very grateful and thank them warmly.
q. Assume Women’s Stares = Romantic Interest! A adult student once told me that Japanese women looked at foreigners like looking at a new product that was interesting but didn’t mean to convey romantic interest.
r. Assume Dating is only Dating! Many Japanese women are romantic and desire marriage and kids even without a strong emotional/philosophical relationship with the husband, whom she’ll probably see one day a week on the weekend, leaving dinner on the table for him, and a bento in the refrigerator for the next day’s lunch. Notice all the statues with mothers and children but no father.
s. Get Drunk! Most of my regrets are the dumb things I did or didn’t do because I had drunk too much and was out of normal control.
f. Expect People to walk straight or look when they walk or exit stores! Imagine sidewalks like bumper car rides.
t. Be Annoyed with restaurant servers/hostesses who ignore you! They will look behind you to your Japanese friend to answer their questions and ask your friend to repeat your order after you (think) you ordered correctly in Japanese. Imagine a foreigner getting angry at a mistaken order. I think that is why servers ask a few times, just to be safe ;)

Plain Talk


Things arise and things fall away by Takehiro Hashimoto

“All things are impermanent” the Buddha said long time ago.

Then, what should we rely on?

The search for the ultimate has been around for thousands of years. But still, people feel insecure about life. The world is constantly changing; all living things are in the chain of rising and falling away. Then where is Nirvana? Is there a path to true liberation?

“There is” the Buddha said, with a smile on his face.

Understanding the impermanence of the world is as hard as believing there is no objectivity in human cognition.More often than not, we cling to this world strongly; we desire things around us to never change. However, and most importantly, this is not the way things are in the real world.

With Buddha’s wisdom, let’s try and open your eyes to the changing world. First, pay attention to your respiration. Observe your breathing activity as closely as you can. As you breathe in, feel that you are breathing in. As you breathe out, feel that you are breathing out. Awareness is the key.

“Is that all?” Philosophers always like arguments. They make things more complicated and fail to grasp the truth that is the simplest of all.

“That’s it” the Buddha said.

The sensation you feel is everything. The rest is nothing but the illusion you make. To understand this, simplicity is a long way to go. But I feel that this is the path I’ve been searching for, for a long long time.






仏陀の智 恵によって、世界の変化に目を向けてみよう。まず、呼吸に注意してみよう。できるかぎり綿密に、呼吸する身体を観察しよう。息を吸っているとき、息を吸っていると感じ、息を吐いているとき、息を吐いていると感じよう。気づいているということが肝心だ。




Unfinished business


I Did It! by David Gregory

She had been here before. But, those were tour-guided or hand-held visits. After living most of her life in white-bread suburban USA, driving everywhere, shopping in giant malls and supermarkets, and needing only one currency and one language, my mother ventured out on her own, within and beyond Chiba, during one trip to Japan. From her notes, here are Dorothy’s...

Grocery Shopping in Neighborhood―Walk five only one bag...walk five blocks back. Survived it!

Shopping in City Center―Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus fifteen minutes. Arrive at stores. Walk around. Look. Decide: cookies.

Buying: “Ikura desu-ka how much?” Hmm. “Kakimasu kudasai write please.”

Paying options: give large bill, let clerk figure change, or open change purse, let clerk take out correct amount. Decide to just give some cash.

Clerk shakes her head (“NO! MORE!”), then counts out correct amount needed from register and shows me. I mimic her action from my change purse. Smiles! Deep bows with many, “Arigato gozaimasu thank you very much!”-es.
(My error: thought there was decimal point in Yen price....)

Open cookies, expecting pirouettes with chocolate centers. Instead, peanut butter waffle rolls, no chocolate. No wonder, now I see peanut sketch on package. “Shoganai can’t be changed,” I did it to myself. It could have been worse!
Travelling to Visit Friend’s Family on Other Side of Chiba―Walk ten blocks to train. Purchase ticket. Electronic lady on ticket machine screen says, “Arigato gozaimasu” and bows. Ride train twenty minutes, watching for correct stop, get off, walk seven blocks to house. I did it myself!

Visiting Hisae Overnight―My Japanese study partner in USA returned to Japan, now lives on other side of Tokyo Bay.

Take large purse and large tote bag with jacket, nightie, toothbrush, cosmetics. Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus to train station. Ride train eighty minutes to Yokohama. Find correct exit from station. EASY. Did not even look at note in pocket explaining route and Japanese signs. And, look! Hisae and three-year old Kei are waiting! “Hello!” they say! Many hugs!

I did it!

Then, still more travel: train together fifteen minutes, short taxi uphill to lovely apartment, sunny and bright.

Returning to Chiba, just reverse process. Next time, we can meet at a station halfway in between. I can do it.
I can do it!

Copyright (C) 2015 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Chiba, Japan

Book Revi]ew


The Spy Across the Table
(Book 4 in the Jim Brodie thriller series)
by Barry Lancet
Hardcover − 2017, 448pp, $17.10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 20, 2017)

Reviewed by Allan Cook

The Spy Across the Table is the much-anticipated fourth installment in Barry Lancet's award-winning Jim Brodie thriller series.

Sometimes-PI Brodie "is in top form" (Kirkus Reviews) in this latest outing, in which he finds himself called to the White House―by the First Lady herself―after a double-murder occurs at the Kennedy Center. It turns out the First Lady was the college roommate of one of the victims, and she enlists Brodie―off the record―to use his Japanese connections to track down the assassin. Homeland Security head Tom Swelley is furious that the White House is meddling and wants Brodie off the case. Why? For the same reason a master Chinese spy, one of the most dangerous men alive, appears on the scene: the murders were no random act of violence.

The Spy Across the Table
(Book 4 in the Jim Brodie thriller series)
by Barry Lancet
Hardcover − 2017, 448pp, $17.10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 20, 2017)

Forced into a dangerous game of espionage, Brodie finds himself in the crosshairs of the Chinese, North Korean, and American governments. He flies to Tokyo to attend the second of two funerals where Anna, the daughter of one of the victims, is kidnapped during the ceremony. Immediately, Brodie realizes that the murders were simply bait to draw her out of hiding: Anna is the key architect of a top-secret NSA program that gathers the personal secrets of America's most influential leaders―secrets so damaging that North Korea and China will stop at nothing to get them, forcing Brodie to face off against the spy across the table.
The previous entry in the series, Pacific Burn, explores the tragic aftermath of the Fukushima quake-tsunami disaster and the real reasons behind the nuclear melt down. Japantown, the first Brodie adventure, won the Barry Award for Best First Novel, was initially optioned by J. J. Abrams, and is now under consideration at other studios. The second volume, Tokyo Kill, was a finalist for a Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year and declared a must-read by Forbes magazine.

Lancet's connection with overseas travel, foreign lands, and Japan began more than thirty years ago with a short exploratory trip from his California home to Tokyo. Five years later, after visiting numerous other countries, his visit to Japan turned into a long-term stay in the Japanese capital, a thriving metropolis he found endlessly fascinating. Now, Lancet is based in Japan but makes frequent trips to the States.


Tokyo Fab



Rainbow Week: April 28th (Sat) - May 6th (Sun)
Rainbow: Parade May 6th (Sun)
Rainbow Festa: May 5th (Sat)

Spring has finally come, and for many major cities all over the world, that means LGBT communities are gearing up for their annual parades and days of colorful celebration. Tokyo is no different, and this year promises to be a huge success, with thousands of participants, large floats and even a brass band making their way through Shibuya and Harajuku in a cheerful display filled with fun and music.
As with previous years, Yoyogi Park will be at the center of these celebrations, so if you'd like to join in, simply stop by the park's parade booth between 10:00 and 12:30 on May 6th to choose which float you'd like to walk with. There are plenty of awesome floats this year, ranging from LGBT wedding-themed to transgender-focused, so you'll be spoiled for choice! Only 200 people can sign up for each float, though -- make sure to show up early if you don't want to be beaten to the punch!
The floats and participants will line up at 12:30 and the parade kicks off at 13:00 from Yoyogi Park, so whether you're part of the LGBT community or simply a supporter, put on some rainbow beads and join the fun! The parade is just the tip of the iceberg, too, so if you'd like more information about the rest of the pride festivities, check out our other article on the topic.
Also don’t forget about the Rainbow Festa on May 5th (Sat), taking over Yoyogi Park with a huge number of booths and a large stage that will host a variety of shows!


What’s App With You?



Apple's new Clips video app is an all-in-one package for quickly taking video clips, editing them and sharing them with friends, family, or over your social media networks. Easy video controls let you make short videos without having to mess with timelines, tracks, or more complex editing tools, for better or worse. Live Titles make it easy to insert captions or subtitles to your videos using just your voice, and users can apply a variety of filters, effects, and extras like animated speech bubbles and emoji. Smart sharing features recommend people to share your creation with based on who's in the video, or you can send the video directly to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media services.


PhonoPaper is a deeply weird app. It records sounds and plays them back, but it is to Voice Memos what bonkers abstract art is to a traditional watercolor of a tree. The app starts by having you record a sound, which it converts into a kind of audio barcode. You then print this out on to paper and ‘scan’ it with the app, which plays back your sound. More or less. What you get is often akin to science fiction sounds − metallic echoes and strange noises − but with care, you can indeed hear what was recorded and start experimenting with ‘playing’ hand-drawn scribbles, or whatever else you fancy. In truth, PhonoPaper is the definition of a niche app, but it deserves a place on this list because there’s nothing else quite like it.

Tokyo Voice Column


The Distinct Beauty of SAKURA by Jacqueline C. Sarmiento

Once a year, during spring season in Japan, the sakura flower, generally known as "Japanese Cherry Blossom" blooms beautifully with white or pink flowers. Sakura trees bloom in parks, some along the river side, on the mountains and even on street roads at once. Undoubtedly, they can be seen in various places. Henceforth, people across the world highly respect, honor and admire the distinct beauty of the sakura.

During this time, thousands of tourists immediately travel to Japan to glimpse the blossoming of cherry blossom because of its relatively short blooming period. Full bloom of sakura flower is usually about one week depending on the weather. Rain and strong wind can shorten the blooming season.

People throughout Japan gather to enjoy the flowering of sakura trees. They go to city parks to celebrate the season and have fun with family, friends and even colleagues. They prepare and arrange a picnic party under the cherry blossom tree and brought along with them folding tables and chairs and a large mat for everyone to sit on.

Some parks are building small booths, lamps and lanterns for the occasion. They sell different kinds of food and drinks at the booths. Some booths offer several drinks such as shochu (a Japanese alcohol), sake, beer, wine, martini and champagne. Cold and hot beverage is being offered as well. Other sellers offer kebabs from Middle East, takoyaki (grilled octopus balls), yakitori (skewered and grilled chicken), yakisoba (fried buckwheat), okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), karaage (boneless bite-sized fried chicken), ebi-fry (breaded fried shrimp), gyoza (dumplings), onigiri (rice ball), tamagoyaki (Japanese-style omelette) and other local food.





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


LOUVRE The Art of Portraiture in the Louvre Collections

A masterful and rich collection that spans from ancient times to the late 19th Century awaits you.
From the prestigious collections of the Louvre in France, this exhibition features some of the finest examples of portrait painting including works from Botticelli, Rembrandt, Arcimboldo, Inges and especially, Veronese. The latters unparalleled piece ‘La Bella Nani’ featured in this article. The famous Italian renaissance painter was know for his large format works often with a theme of mythology or religion. His style developed to be colourful and radiant and this can be enjoyed and appreciated here in Tokyo with the mentioned painting back in Japan after its last visit 27 years ago.

Veronese (Paolo Caliari, known as),
Portrait of a Woman,
known as La Bella Nani, c. 1560 Photo
(C) RMN-Grand Palais (muse´e du Louvre) /Michel Urtado /distributed by AMF-DNPartcom

Some ancient artifacts will be beautifully presented including a rare Face from a coffin, Egypt. The history of Egypt and Mesopotamia will be shown through sculpture along with the journey art and artists have taken through portrait painting In the worlds most abundant centers of creativity of the time.
Enjoy a wonderful treat of variety and quality.

Period: May 30 - September 3, 2018
Venue: The National Art Center Tokyo
Hours: 10:00 -18:00, -20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, May to June, -21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, July to September
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Tuesdays (except August 14)
Admission: 1,600 / College students: 1,200 / High School students: 800 *Free admission for junior high school students and younger.

For more information, please visit

The Miracle of M.C. Escher: Prints from
The Israel Museum,Jerusalem

The highly mathematical and hugely popular creations of M.C. Escher come to town in this exhibition offering a chance to view and examine the skill and creations of someone who inspired not only artists, but also mathematicians and scientists alike.
Brought to you courtesy of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, this exhibition lets you share in the artists perspectives ranging from early inspirations to later success as the world warmed to his quality and unique style.
Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) was a child interested in drawing but did not experience much success in school life. Perhaps his most influential year was 1922 when he toured Italy and Spain getting inspiration from nature, people and in particular, the Moorish cultures impact on the cities of Southern Spain. His work includes a variety of forms: Portrait and self-portrait, woodblock print, scenery, advertisement art, mirror image and illusion.

M.C. Escher
1953 All M.C. Escher works copyright
(C) The M.C. Escher Company B.V. - Baarn-Holland.
All rights reserved.

He lived in Italy, Switzerland (where he created their stamp designs), Belgium and settled again in Netherlands with his work becoming widely popular in his later years.
A fascinating look into a very pioneering and observant artist.


Period: June 06 − July 29 2018
Venue: The Ueno Royal Museum
Hours: 10:00-5:00pm / -8:00pm on Fridays *Last admission 30 minutes before closing
General: Adults: 1,600 / College students and high school students: 1,200 / Junior high and elementary school students: 600

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Suspicious enough!

Police were called to an airport after panicked passengers noticed a bizarre note on the side of a suitcase. The black case was on the luggage carousel when people spotted the handwritten message and alerted security. The note, which was written below the passenger's name, said: 'Bomb to Brisbane'. Police were called to the scene and cordoned off the part of Brisbane Airport before asking people to leave the area. It is believed the owner of the bag, Venkata Lakshmi, 65, meant to write Bombay which is the old name of the Mumbai airport she was travelling from. She was pulled into a room and interviewed. "They asked her to open the bag and asked her why it says bomb and she said ― It's for Bombay." Police examined the bag before ruling it wasn't suspicious.

No more toilet tissue!

Parents are flushed with anger over a primary school’s decision to remove loo roll from -the children’s toilets. Pupils now have to put their hands up and request toilet tissue to take with them. One boy was allegedly reduced to tears after his teacher asked if he was “going for a poo or wee” before counting off a number of sheets for him. The new rule was brought in at Oldwinsford Primary School in Dudley, West Mids, after loos were flooded. Teachers blamed the spate of incident on toilet paper being stuffed down the pan by unruly youngsters. Parents branded the new rule “ridiculous” and said children were being humiliated in front of their friends. Acting head Jo Seker said there had been “disappointing behaviour in the bathrooms” which has caused flooding. She said the new policy is temporary until lockable dispensers are installed over Easter.


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50 Shades of Yikess