Plain Talk


Fuji-Q Highland Discovery by Jacqueline C. Sarmiento

Since exploration is my cup of tea, I have discovered the most incredible, legendary and well-known amusement park in Japan situated at Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture and that is "Fuji-Q Highland". The park is near at the foot of wondrous and spectacular Mount Fuji. It has numerous rides from extreme to mild and moderate roller coasters. In addition to this, family friendly attractions can be enjoyed here as well. The park operates continually throughout the year.

Several attractions can be spotted and enjoyed in the theme park, one of them is Fujiyama otherwise known as "King of Coasters", a world-class attraction. Once you rode it, you'll feel out-of-this-world. Height and age restrictions are implemented on this ride.
Another attraction is Eejanaika, the roller coaster ride with the highest total number of spins in the world. It has three different kinds of spins that you must not miss.
You'll get drenched on Cool Jappaan so remember to have extra clothes with you if you plan to ride on it.
You must be courageous enough to enjoy Tondemina, a pizza-like ride that tosses you into the air.
You'll experience to spin round and round, up and down on Tekkotsubanchou ride and a mind-blowing and heart-pounding experience on Takabisha ride.
A ride for adventurous people is Dododonpa, the fastest roller coaster in Japan.
You will experience soaring high above the ground and spin yourself round and round on Tentekomai ride.
You'll scream your heart out as you fall to the ground with the Red Tower ride.
Other rides to explore with height and age restrictions are Wave Swinger, Shining Flower, Nagashimasuka, Mad Mouse, Panic Clock, and Fuji Airways.
Kids and kid at heart can also enjoy the Merry-Go-Round and Tea Cups.
Scary attraction can also be seen and that is the Labyrinth of Fear and Mizuki Shigeru's Ge-Ge-Ge Haunted Mansion.
Another attraction for kids to explore and enjoy are Thomas Land and Gaspard and Lisa kids theme park.


テーマパークではさまざまなアトラクションがあって楽しめる。『キング・オブ・コースター』として大人気の FUJIYAMA は世界最高クラスのアトラクションだ。動き出すと、この世のものとは思えない素晴らしい気分が味わえる。身長と年齢制限がある。

子供向けアトラクションは「 トーマスランド」や「リサとガスパール タウン」で楽しめる。

Plain Talk


In Da Club by Dean Mejia

I used to work in a bar/nightclub in the Roppongi section of Tokyo, Japan. I'm not going to mention the name of the place, and from what I understand the place no longer exists, but still I would like to preserve the names of the innocent (and guilty). I worked 3 days a week from 12 am to 7 am and I was tasked with being a server/bar back. My Japanese was poor (yet actually better than it is now), but we had menus, flashlights, body language and smiles so it wasn't too difficult to carry the consumer’s request over to the bartender.

The hours were late and I would get tired sometimes, but the loud music and the different consumers flirting with me (both male and female) kept me alert. My biggest surprise was how the Japanese folks, some who I had known prior to working in the club, would really let loose/let their hair down and party hard away from the judgmental eyes of every day society. I saw some of the seemingly most uptight men and women, really transform into wild vessels of energy whenever their favorite hip-hop song will come on. Sure they didn't understand most of the words, but that wasn't the point. Sure they were not the best dancers in comparison with Western Hip-Hop club-goers, but that was also not the point. They let the beat carry them to a land of fun, and often naughty, adventure.

The club-goers were about 60% natives and 40% foreigners. It was a great place to go to if you were a Japanese person interested in foreigners. It also worked well if you were a foreigner interested in Japanese people that are interested in foreigners. Many people considered the place shady and somewhat of a meat market. Others went in already knowing what to expect, and like clockwork they were present every weekend.

The most interesting thing that ever happened during my tenure there (of the money crazy nights) was when a random Japanese guy started dancing atop a platform where only girls were allowed to dance. There was a raised platform in the club where the bravest ladies would climb up and strut their stuff for all to see (but usually just to impress their shy friends). On this night a random drunk middle-aged Japanese man jumped up on the platform and started dancing. There were no girls up at the time, so the spotlight was all his. Security told him 2-3 times that he needed to step down, but he just ignored them and kept dancing the night away. Right as security was about to more forcefully persuade him to hop down, he removed his shirt and he was covered with mafia tattoos. The club decided that they didn't want any kind of trouble so they just left him up there dancing up a storm, until he got tired and went home. Ahh...I miss that club sometimes.

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 Review


Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014,
291 pp, USD34.00

Reviewed by Randy Swank

video maker and scriptwriter Rey Ventura won the 2015 National Book Award for his third collection of essays, Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami, but for some strange twist of fate you will find very little information on this book. You can’t even buy it on Amazon. This is a shame because Cherry Blossoms... is a beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking book.

These 11 essays, some of them autobiographical, see Ventura travelling back and forth between the Philippines and Japan, his adopted country, often portraying the many ways Filipino lives have been shaped and affected by their rich quasi-neighbor. Like in "A Suitable Donor," where the young men who live in the Manila slum of Banseco tell of how they came to "donate" a kidney or another organ to help a rich person in need − often from Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami
by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014, 291 pp, USD34.00

In "Miniskirts and Stilettos" we meet Ginto, a young lady who comes to Japan dreaming of making it big as a singer and entertainer but has to deal instead with a much darker reality; while "Mr. Suzuki Tries Again" and "Into the Snow Country" are tragicomic tales of arranged marriages where the dreams and expectations of bride-starved farmers from Japan's Deep North clash with those of young Filipino women who want to escape their poverty and go into marriage "as a girl goes into a convent." Ventura tells these stories with a great eye for detail and manages to find a ray of light even in the darkest corners, or poetry in the midst of a nuclear disaster.

The book's first essay is called "The Slow Boat to Manila" and indeed, slowness is the first word that comes to mind when considering Ventura's approach to writing. Everything Ventura does is slow. He is no magazine reporter after all, and will spend days or even months getting to know a person he wants to write about. That's the kind of personal commitment and deep connection with his subject that one feels when reading his essays.


Tokyo Fab


Asakusa Touro Nagashi

Toro nagashi is a Japanese ceremony, as people float paper lanterns down a river; Toro means "lantern," while nagashi means "let it flow." Toro nagashi is traditionally performed on the final evening of the Bon Festival in the belief that it will help to guide the souls of the departed to the spirit world. Lit paper lanterns glittering and floating down the Sumida River is beautiful and enchanting. Let yourself drift into this magical night in Sumida park and feel the tranquil calmness within the urban jungle.

Date:August 11th (Sat) 6:45pm @ Sumida Park, Mukoujima, Sumida-ku
Closest Sta: Asakusa Sta. on Ginza line

For more information, please visit


Pikachu Outbreak! Science is Amazing!
Pikachu from Pokémon is a cute chubby little yellow creature. One pikachu is cute enough, but how about 1500 of them? If you love pikachu, you are in luck! now you have the opportunity to be surrounded and possibly smothered (!) by pikachus! With this year's 'Science is Amazing' theme, you can expect some serious special digital effects. So, dear parents, let the kids stay late so they wouldn't miss the night parade with spellbinding flashy illuminations! Also, don't miss the ‘Pikachu Parade on the Sea’, a 'Pokémon Synchronicity' themed show in which the latest digital technology is utilized!

Date:8/10 (Fri) ~16 (Thu) @ Minato Mirai area of Yokohama & Rinko Park
Closest Sta: Sakiragicho, Minatomirai Sta. on Minatomirai line

For more information, please visit

What’s App With You?



Not satisfied with the emoji that comes with your phone? Do you want to make the exact avatar that looks like just like you? Or stickers that are more expressive and can express how you are exactly feeling without putting them into words? Bitmoji allows you to customize everything from your cartoon avatar’s hair and eye color to its outfits and accessories. With a huge library of stickers that include your Bitmoji, you can send dozens of different personal emojis through iMessage and any other apps that support the copy/paste feature. You can also link the app to Snapchat, to make your Snaps and Snap stories even more fun.

Kitchen Stories:

There are loads of cooking apps on iOS, but Kitchen Stories goes a step further than most with features like video guides, step-by-step photo instructions, and compatibility with Apple’s tvOS, as well as WatchOS for syncing shopping lists. Loved by millions of users, Kitchen Stories adds the whole world of cooking to your pocket. Find delicious recipes with beautiful pictures, easy to follow step-by-step photo instructions, recipe videos, and clever how-to videos – completely free of charge! Learn how to cook with executive chefs and expand your cooking wisdom by trying out new, mouth-watering dishes every week. You can also create custom cookbooks to save your favorite recipes, read informative articles designed to inspire your next meal, and take advantage of a handy built-in measurement converter. Better yet, Kitchen Stories is available in 12 languages.

Tokyo Voice Column


What to do in Mizumoto Park and around it by Olivia

A bird sanctuary, many canals for fishing, a dog run, an area where parents and kids can relax and play, have a picnic or a BBQ, fly kites, a Green Advice Center, and almost a hundred walking trails… You won’t believe how many things can fit into a park that is technically still in Tokyo, but borders and actually shares some space with Saitama Prefecture!

The Mizumoto park was created and opened in 1965 in Katsushika Ward to address the problem of air pollution. Some people say that Mizumoto Park reminds them of Holland. There is water practically everywhere: a river, numerous canals, and a pond. Also, the park is full of foreign tree species like Italian or Lombardy Poplar, Metasequoia, Bald cypress, Sweetgum etc., which makes it stand out among other parks. However, there are also interesting trees native to Japan, one of them having a funny name Nanja Monja (other name - Hitotsubatago).

In summer, you will see a great variety of Japanese irises hana-shobu here, while in sakura season you can enjoy hanami. In winter, when the flowers had already withered and many trees had lost their leaves, you can still en-joy birdwatching at the sanctuary near the pond. There are about 100 types of water-loving wild birds that live or winter in Mizumoto Park. In the fall, Metasequoia trees become orange and red, and their majestic look seems to me even better than the Japanese maples.

In the Green Advice Centre you can imagine that you are in South America or at least in Okinawa, especially when looking at bougainvillea and orchids. Just outside of it there is a beautiful rose garden. Among other outstanding trees is a Port Wine magnolia tree (it is written カラタネオガタマ on the nameplate). Its yellow flowers have a distinct… banana smell!

After (or before) all day out you will need to recharge your batteries, so why not visit one of the famous restaurants next to Mizumoto Park? The budget recommendation is tonkatsu restaurant Hayashiya (林や). The middle-price range recommendation is unagi restaurant Kawauo Nemoto (川魚根元), which literally sits next door.






MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Satoshi Kako’s Secret Exhibition - With Daruma chan

Let the inspired creative contribution of this Japanese icon infiltrate your mind in this wonderful exhibition including all the life’s work of Satoshi Kako.
The Fukui Native born in 1926 set this collection in motion but passed away to leave a retrospective that touches the heart and mind simultaneously. With a successful career in Chemical engineering, experience in theater as a student at Tokyo University and, early work in his favourite from of Kamishibai (play cards), the prolific creator was passionate about child studies, childrens' welfare, traditional games and drawing practices. His work is educational, entertaining and empowering.

Satoshi Kako,
Daruma-chan to Kaminari-chan

(Little Daruma and Little Kaminari)
Published from Fukuinkan shoten publishers, Inc.
Illustrations ©Kako Research Institute Ltd.

This collection will share such gems as: ‘Daruma And Little Tengu.’ A story of two close friends, one of whom always wanted to have items which mirrored that of his friend from a fan, to shoes and hats. His illustrations of the story ‘Mr Crows Bakery’ where the crows had different breads made from different grains. (Perhaps this will inspire our current crop of bakers and convenience store owners?) ‘The Story Of Your Teeth’ was inspired by the high rate of 9 decayed teeth per person in the 1970’s and perhaps contributed to the drop to the current 2 decayed teeth per person in Japan. The message encouraged personal responsibility even for the child.
With well over 600 publications, Satoshi Kako is a national treasure and this exhibition is not to be missed.

Period: July 07 - September 09, 2018
Venue: The Kawasaki City Museum
Hours: 9: 30 ~ 17: 00 / ~19:00 Saturdays during the summer holiday (8/11,18)
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays
Admission: Adults: 600 / College& High school students, Age 65 and over: 450 / Under junior High school students: FREE

For more information, please visit

Cray-Pas Art by the masters

A claim to fame for Japan and its history of intriguing artistry is the creation of Cray-Pas. The revolutionary development of the 1920’s has stood the test of time and this exhibition will bring together works of 100 masters as evidence of how the medium progressed from a child’s tool to an accepted medium for an established artist.
Included in the display, are works by Kanae Yamamoto who authored the book on Jiyu-ga (drawing without a master). The Taisho Period artist and great thinker help take the idea of children learning by copying to a new vision where children would learn and their creativity would be stimulated through colour and drawing experimentation.

Kanae Yamamoto
Landscape of Enoura
1934 50.0×60.1cm Sakura Art Museum

Yamamoto teamed up with Rinzo Satake (private school owner) and Shoukou Sasaki of Tokyo and worked on creating the ideal combination of attributes. Many others were working on such innovations. The pair relocated to Osaka a year after the Great Kanto Quake of 1923 establishing the then named Sakura Crayon Company.
This colourful exhibition with its many contributors is a celebration of a universal creation that emerged from Japan itself. Come and enjoy these many items from the Sakura Art Museum and see how this vibrant and easy to use invention liberated the children of the Taisho and Showa Periods as well as the plethora of mature artists as presented.


Period: June 14 – September 09 2018
Venue: Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00-18:00
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays (except 7/16, 9/10, 17 & Free Conversation vewing days: 7/30, 8/27)Tickets: Adults: 1,000 / University and High school students: 700 / Ages 65 and over: 800 / Under Junior high school students: FREE

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Face Sclupting?!

We all know that make-up can make a big difference to the way a person looks. Some people prefer to go natural, some keep it simple, and then there's the next level make-up pros, the ones that can wield a foundation brush like a magic wand, sculpt their brows into weapons and contour like a boss. Face sculpting has become a popular beauty trend in China, with many beauty bloggers sharing drastic transformation videos. This woman has reached new make-up heights, completely transforming her face in a video. The techniques include stamping on thick, dark brows, applying eyeshadow and false lashes on her inner eye (?!) sliming her jaw by taping down her chin, adding prosthetic make-up to her nose and more. The difference is so drastic that she probably could get away with murder…

Who knew toothpaste can be so handy!

It's no secret that there are pretty high standards some women feel pressured to meet. Over the years people have come up with bizarre hacks in attempt to change the way they look cheaply and the latest beauty trend sweeping the internet isn't any less weird. Some women are under the impression that rubbing toothpaste onto their boobs will make them look bigger and help reduce sagging. YouTuber NaturalBeauty556 shared a video titled 'Tighten Sagging Breasts in 6 Days Using Toothpaste No Jokes 100% Working Result In Live Demo'. The video shows viewers how to make a paste containing toothpaste, cucumber, yoghurt, flour and egg whites, which the blogger spreads on her chest. She claims the ingredients will tighten the skin on the breasts. Toothpaste has long been known as a remedy for spots, as it dries out the skin, but can it really make you look like you've had a boob job without actually going under the knife?


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