Plain Talk


How to divorce as an expat by Hero Lomas

Any marriage breakdown is stressful and this can be compounded if you are living away from your home country. What is certain is that divorce does not have to be so destructive that those involved are left emotionally shattered. There are several non-contentious routes for an amicable divorce that parties can adopt to minimise the impact of marriage breakdown. Provided both parties agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they are happy that the divorce takes place in the chosen country, then the divorce itself can usually be a straightforward paper application.

The issue that can often cause difficulty and hostility is negotiating the matrimonial finances. Following an amicable divorce, to ensure that the associated financial issues are resolved swiftly, it is essential that both parties are reasonable and open within financial negotiations. They need to be willing to reach a settlement which is fair and meets everyone’s needs, especially those of the children. Both parties are entitled to request full and frank financial disclosure from each other and it is imperative that they are cooperative and fully engaged in the process. It is particularly important where there are children involved as parties must remember that they will have to co-parent together until their youngest child is at least 18 years old, therefore a bitter financial dispute will only cause tension at handovers which the children will inevitably pick up on.

Where to divorce as an expat

As an expatriate living overseas there are usually multiple options open to you in terms of where you can divorce. An interesting case in Singapore highlights the importance of carefully considering the appropriate place to divorce as an expat. The case heard in the Australian courts involved an expat couple living in Singapore; the husband was British and the wife Australian. The husband, who earned $1m a year, wished to divorce in Singapore whilst the wife wished to divorce in Australia. The couple lived in Singapore as expats, and had three children.

The Australian Judge determined that that it would be more advantageous for the wife to divorce in Australia, than in Singapore. In Australia, the court would take in to account assets that accrued during the time the couple lived together before the marriage, whereas in Singapore, the court would not. The Judge also considered that Australia would award the wife litigation funding to support her during the divorce whereas this would not happen in Singapore.

What to ask your family lawyer

This case highlights the importance for expats of taking clear and full advice, not only in the country in which they reside, but also their home country and that of their spouse. It is vital to research in detail the pros and cons of each jurisdiction open to you in order that you make an informed decision on where to proceed.

Important questions to consider with your lawyer are:
1. How are assets divided on divorce?
2. What assets are included? e.g. Are
business or inherited assets excluded?
3. Does length of marriage make a
difference to outcome and are periods
of cohabitation included?
4. Can I obtain interim financial support
during the divorce?
5. Can I obtain help with my legal fees
from my spouse?
6. How long is child and spousal
maintenance likely to be awarded for?
7. Are the awards needs based?
8. What is the disclosure process?
9. How can orders be enforced? Can
oreign orders be enforced?

Wherever you are in the world, if both parties adopt a realistic approach and are transparent and open about their finances, divorce with dignity is certainly possible.

Hero Lomas is a solicitor and mediator (England and Wales) with Expatriate Law Hero lived as expat for more than a decade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Plain Talk


Trump and Kim Jong-un Finally Meet: What Does It Mean For Japan?
by Patrick Hattman

In November of last year, I expressed my concerns in a Tokyo Notice Board article about the intractable situation surrounding North Korea's nuclear weapons program. At the time, no progress was being made by the U.S., Japan and other concerned nations in convincing the Kim Jong-un regime to step back from the brink of war and come to the bargaining table. The goal for the U.S., Japan and others is the elimination of North Korea's nascent nuclear weapons stockpile.

Fast forward a half year, though, and the hard-line stance taken by U.S. President Donald Trump in dealing with North Korea has paid off. A summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un happened on June 12 in Singapore. The leaders made various promises and signed an agreement between their two countries.

But so far, the promises are vague and there are reportedly no specifics detailing how to verify the denuclearization of North Korea. Kim Jong-un's real intentions in opening negotiations with the U.S. are very simple: he wants to ensure his personal survival and the indefinite continuation of his regime. Economic sanctions led by the U.S. have further crippled North Korea's economy and brought about a thawing of relations. However, the proceedings in Singapore represented just a tiny step forward in a process that will probably take many years to complete.

So what does this mean for Japan? First, Japan must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. in unwavering application of economic sanctions until a verified process to destroy all of North Korea's nuclear arsenal is well underway.

Next, Japan must be unrelenting in demonstrating its defense capabilities and continue to work tirelessly with its American ally in a combined show of strength. A weak-kneed approach in dealing with North Korea - economically or militarily - will not suffice.

Finally, Japan needs to prepare for its part in eventually providing financial and material aid to North Korea, something that will not be popular at home. A way for Japan's leaders to make it palatable for the public would be to first make any offer of assistance contingent on a complete and verifiable accounting of all Japanese abducted by North Korea decades ago.

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



Starting few years back, Japan started to embrace 'Black Friday' and yes, we like it! For millions of people Black Friday is the time to do some serious Christmas shopping --even before the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone! Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving, and it's one of the major shopping days of the year in the United States, falling anywhere between November 23 and 29.
It was originally called Black Friday because so many people went out to shop that it caused traffic accidents and sometimes even violence. The Philadelphia Police Department coined the phrase to describe the mayhem surrounding the congestion of pedestrian and auto traffic in the downtown area.
The term “Black Friday” (in the retail sense) was coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. “Black” refers to stores moving from the “red” to the “black,” back when accounting records were kept by hand, and red ink indicated a loss, and black a profit. Ever since the start of the modern Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been known as the unofficial start to a bustling holiday shopping season.
Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The term "Cyber Monday" was created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online. It has become the online equivalent to Black Friday and offers a way for smaller retail websites to compete with larger chains. Since its inception, it has become an international marketing term used by online retailers across the world including Japan. However, Cyber Monday is set in early December in Japan rather than right after thanksgiving as Japan doesn't celebrate thanksgiving and perhaps something to do with your bonus? Have a great shopping! Good luck!

11/23 (Fri), 24 (Sat), 25 (Sun) *Date varies depending on the store
Costco, ToysRus, AEON, GAP, H&M, FOREVER 21, KALDI, ABC MART, Nojima and more
*Sale items vary depending on the store.



What’s App With You?



Browse, search, save and organize more than 17,000 recipes from The New York Times, featuring beautiful photography, easy-to-follow instructions and editorially-curated collections from NYT trusted cooks. Browse The Times’s archive of recipes, with new recipes added each week Search more than 17,000 recipes by diet, cuisine type, preparation method, meal type and more. Discover recipes recommended just for you. Save your favorite recipes into a personal recipe box to organize your recipes into customizable collections, so you can share your favorite recipes with friends and family via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and email. Watch videos to show you how to make recipes and learn to cook with instructional technique videos. You can also rate the recipes you cook, too!

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Tokyo Voice Column


I-link Town Observatory in Ichikawa by Olivia

Looking for a quiet, uncrowded place for a romantic date that doesn’t cost a ton? Or maybe you just want to take breathtaking photos of Tokyo with Mount Fuji and Sky Tree in the dusk?
While it sounds just a bit unrealistic (however, not completely impossible) in Tokyo, it is very possible if you go to to I-Link Town Observatory in Ichikawa.

Ichikawa Station is located in Chiba Prefecture, but it is approximately 18 minutes by rapid train from Tokyo Station. Basically, it feels like the suburbs of Tokyo, because if you cross the Edogawa river, you are already in Koiwa. You will understand that why it is important when you arrive at the floors 45 and 46 of a residential building The Towers West. Chiba, Saitama, Edogawa River, and Tokyo will appear in front of your eyes!

If the weather is clear, in the daytime you can see Mount Fuji that looks very close but actually is 115 km from the observation deck.
4-meter high glass window panes at the observatory lobby on 45th floor prevent from accidental falling and offer a spectacular atmosphere; but at the Observatory Deck on the rooftop (46th floor) you can enjoy a 360-degrees scenic view and bask in the sun that comes through the open roof!

If you visit in the evening, you will see the beautifully lit-up Sky Tree and night cityscape of Tokyo. The night view from I-Link Town Observatory is listed in “100 Best Views” and “Japan Night View Collection”.

Sweets made in Ichikawa and drinks at the cafeteria with the view are very reasonably priced (for example, drinks cost only 200 yen).

Where: Chiba Prefecture, Ichikawa City.
How to get there: by Sobu Line, 3 minutes walk from the South Exit of Ichikawa Station. Go to The Towers West and take the elevator.
Opening hours: from 9am to 10 pm (cafeteria from 11am to 6pm).
Closed: first Monday of the month (in case of a national holiday, it is closed the next day).
Parking: not available.
How much: free.


千葉県の市川市にあるが、東京駅から快速電車でおおよそ18分で行ける。基本的には、東京の郊外だが、江戸川を渡ればそこは小岩だ。ザ タワーズ ウエストの45階46階にある展望施設に昇れば、その重要さがわかるだろう。千葉、埼玉、江戸川、そして東京が眼前に広がる!




MUSEUM -What's Going on?-



The idea that brilliant art is created from suffering has long been debated in our culture. Do all great art works come from pain? Is art the ray of light when tragic events and devastating circumstances hit us?
From 9.11 to Japan’s 3/11 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, these modern times have seen a stream of catastrophes around the world. These tragic events triggered many artists to create art works in order to memorialize such devastating times.

Yoko Ono Add Color Painting
(Refugee Boat) 1960 / 2016
Mixed media installation Dimensions variable Installation view: "Yoko Ono: Installations and Performances," Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece, 2016

"Catastrophe and the Power of Art”, with its two main sections, showcases how art coincides with major catastrophes that strike communities, and the role art can play in their recovery. In section 1, displayed are the art works showing natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and man-made disasters such as accidents and war, as well as personal tragedies. Section 1 will focus on "how art has portrayed catastrophe.” Section 2 will close in on the "power of art” to generate creation from destruction. Catastrophe and tragedy can plunge us into despondency, yet disasters can also undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for artists to make art.
Art is a reflection of humanity, and humanity’s greatest virtue is its ability to overcome adversity. Celebrated artists chose not to recoil in passive suffering. Instead, they turned their sorrow into something the world would cherish.

Period: October 6, 2018 - January 20, 2019
Venue: Mori Art Museum
Hours: 10:00 - 22:00, -17:00 on Tuesdays, -22:00 1/1
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 12/13
Admission: General: 1,800 / University / Highschool students: 1,200 / Child (Age 4 up to Junior highschool student): 600 / Senior (Ages 65 & over): 1,500

For more information, please visit

Kimono in the Taisho and Showa Era

The Bunka Gakuen Educational Foundation has been a leader and center of Japan’s fashion education. Affiliated with the renowned school, the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum was established with the purpose to create an apparel museum for research, collect and pass down exquisite items.
This exhibition focuses on Kimono in the Taisho and Showa Era. From the Taisho era to the early Showa era, the social structure changed drastically with the development of capitalism, and the influx of Western culture as well as the introduction of new technology changed people's lives into rich and modern ones. Until then, rich kimono with colorful patterns were expensive and were not the things that common people could afford. However, since the Taisho era, it has become possible to mass produce rich kimono with colorful patterns by using chemical dyes and improved dyeing techniques. In addition, with department stores and women’s fashion magazines, more people started to be able to enjoy fashion.


The unique pattern of kimono of this era is that of the traditional Japanese motif expressed in Western-style paintings, such as western flowers were painted in bold and vivid style, and thus holding a modern flavor to it. In addition, Meisen silk kimonos, that were extremely popular from the end of Taisho era to the early Showa era, fascinated people with bold patterns and innovative color schemes. Enjoy a wide variety of kimonos that gorgeously colored the women from the Taisho era to the early Showa era and indulge yourself in the good old retro atmosphere of Taisho.


Period: December 20, 2018 - February 16, 2019
Hours: 10:00 – 16:30
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Sundays, National Holidays, 12/29 - 1/6 Tickets: Adults: 500 / University, College & High School Students: 300 / Elementary & Junior High School Students: 200

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Some just love being lazy

Admit it. Once in a while we just have one of those days when you don't want to do absolutely nothing and just vegetate. In one of those days, eating pizza in bed is a luxury (often reserved for hungover people and students - but we all enjoy doing it from time to time). Lying as horizontally as possible, you slowly tear each hot cheesy slice away, trying to get it into your mouth without making a horrible greasy mess in the place where you sleep. Well no more worries. Boston Pizza has created a clever invention that will help make the experience a whole lot easier. It's a pizza box that turns into a handy cardboard food tray for you to eat your slices off in bed. It's cleverly designed to hold up the pizza, allowing room for your legs to fit through the middle. Brilliant.

And some ain't playing

A customer and her family held a sit-in protest, as their food arrived more than an hour after they ordered it - and 40 minutes from when it was marked out for delivery. The whole order was stone cold and they only live eight minutes away. When they tried to tell the driver, he just walked off. They then spent the next 45 minutes chasing up a replacement to be told by the manager they were too busy and it would be three hours. After upsetting treatment from the manager, they went back to the store with their order next day and stayed there for a whole day waiting for a manager to speak to them only to find out the manager pressed the panic button… So cops were called, but the cops determined not to get involved as it transpired to be a civil dispute. They got 50% refund and a voucher at the end.


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