Plain Talk


Vaccination campaign: Japanese Encephalitis by Anne Corinne

If you are living in Japan with young children, your city hall will most probably send them some free of charge coupons for Japanese encephalitis immunizations. You may be surprised about it, as most foreign countries don’t organize any vaccination against this disease. And, by the way, WHAT IS Japanese encephalitis?

This infection is said to have been reported for the first time in 1871 in Japan, hence the name “Japanese Encephalitis”, although it also exists in surrounding Asian countries.

The risk is especially high from May to October, mostly in Japanese agricultural areas with flooding irrigations (rice fields, etc.).

The virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, causes viral encephalitis. There is no efficient treatment to cure the infection, and permanent brain damage or even death can occur, especially among children.

At the moment, vaccines are the only available measures to keep protected from the disease. This is why Japan organizes massive immunization campaigns at an early age for all its young residents, as the disease has been recognized as a public health issue.

A 1st term vaccination will start when your child is around 3 years old, followed by another injection the following month and a 1st term booster 1 year later. Then, a 2nd term immunization will be done between the age of 9 and 12 years old.

Thanks to Japan’s vaccination campaign efforts, cases of Encephalitis are now rare, but the virus still remains among mosquitoes in the affected areas. This is why adult foreigners who are not immunized against the disease remain at risk. Ideally, we are recommended to get vaccinated too, especially if we spend a lot of time outdoors, or at least to take as many precautions as possible to avoid mosquito bites, by using long-sleeved clothes, repellents and insecticides.

Anyway, once we experience Japanese humid summer and its inevitable mosquitoes, trying to keep them away cannot make us any harm…




ウイルスを持つ蚊を介して感染し急性脳炎を起こす。ウイルスに直接効く抗生物質はないため、治療方法は対症療法のみだ。脳性麻痺等後遺症を残し、死に至ることも ある。





Plain Talk


What kind of Kawaii? by Dean Mejia

Recently I broke up with my long-time girlfriend. This led me to do what any other newly single guy that hasn’t dated in awhile would do. I created a profile on a dating app, and spent about 1 whole hour looking at different profiles of prospective date candidates.

I had a Japanese friend by my side and he was helping me to select which girls I would message. My communication with my Japanese friend never gets that deep because of our different upbringings. We don’t have much in common. So…with that in mind, all I kept asking him was the same kind of questions about each girl: “Do you think she’s kawaii?” “How kawaii is she?”, etc. He mostly gave me a non-verbal thumbs-up or thumbs down for each girl.

There were a few interesting responses from him though. I showed him a picture of a semi-cute girl with messy hair, disheveled clothing, and stains on her bed sheets He said she was “kimokawaii”. I had never heard the term before. I found out it means something that is both cute and a little disgusting at the same time. I don’t think that I’ll be contacting her.

I saw another slim woman with 5 ear piercings and a leather jacket. He referred to her as “kakookawaii.” This is supposedly when something is cute and cool at the same time, but leans more towards being cool. I thought about contacting her, but my confidence is not too high since I just broke up (a.k.a., she may be too cool for me right now).

The last date option that I showed him was my favorite. She was very alluring and sultry with her fashion sense, but had kind of a baby-face. He said this style is called “erokawaii”. It is supposed to combine the Japanese affinity for cute innocence, and a more Western sense of adult sexiness. I like it.

I never knew that there were all of these subcategories of kawaii. I researched a little afterwards and found out that there is also gurokawaii (creepy, with a twist of sadism), shibukawaii (more low-key or subdued cuteness) and busukawaii (something so ugly that it’s cute). I’m sure there are probably other categories being created right now as you’re reading this. I can’t research any more right now though. I need to message my top choice before another guy gets her first. Ganbarimasu.

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


So long, and thanks for all the sushi by Joshua Lepage

Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that TNB has been re-publishing old columns of mine for last few weeks. Every time I scroll through my dusty old articles folder, I'm surprised by just how much I've written since joining TNB. I've been with them for years now -- I've written about fashion school, movies, art, the Japanese language, shopping, and even my disastrous love life and drunken adventures. Since I moved back to Canada, though, it's been increasingly hard to write anything fun or at least relevant to you Tokyoites.

So yes, this is officially my last article. I'm stepping down. It pains me to do so, but I'm sure that in no time, TNB will have amassed a line-up of fresh-faced writers who actually live in Tokyo and can churn out much better biweekly articles than I can. My daily life in Montreal mostly involves working in a call center and moping over the snow, the cold weather, the gross sushi, and the lack of men's clothing that fits my narrow shoulders, so I promise you won't be missing out on anything exciting.

The good news, though, is that I'm still working on a way to move back to Japan. I refuse to give up, dear readers -- I just need to save up some money and get that JLPT 1 out of the way. If all goes well, you might run into me at a Nichome club in a year or two. In the meantime, please enjoy the hell out of that wonderful city on my behalf. Eat some basashi (my fave), visit your neighborhood watering hole to practice your Japanese on the locals, spend too much at Laforet, take long walks at 3am without fearing for your safety, visit a temple or two, and enjoy the cheap all-night karaoke.

Oh, and of course: if you have something interesting to write, drop TNB a line. They've treated me with exceptional kindness and generosity over the years, and they're terrific people to work with.

Thank you for reading about my silly opinions and adventures, guys. It's been a blast.

What’s App With You?



Are you scared of someone hacking into your messenger and stealing your personal information? Then this app might be for you! End-to-end encryption is what you should be looking for in any messenger you use. Although popular options like WhatsApp and Allo offer the feature, it's Signal from Open Whisper Systems that really gets the tech right. WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) and Allo (made by Google) are companies with an incentive to gather data on its users (they also store data), but Signal has no business model and exists just through donations and grants. If the government comes knocking for your information, Signal has absolutely nothing to give them, which is exactly the kind of chat protection you want.


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Tokyo Voice Column


Weekly headlines from an English School near you by Matthew Alexander

I am a Tokyo resident/English teacher/blogger.

The following is a pretty self explanatory `onion` style post about my observations as an eikaiwa teacher called "headlines from an English school near you". I figured many readers of TNB have experience of English teaching so it might resonate with them.

Local man, 32, confused by question "how are you doing today?": stares blankly at textbook for possible answers

CEO of mid-sized company responds to statement "nice weather today" with awkward silence, sweating: his thoughts on this matter still remain unclear at time of going to press

Open ended question given closed answer: "what are your plans for the weekend, Takeshi?" answered with "yes, thanks"

Japan officially designated a "very safety country" by female, 28: teacher refuses to correct: "if one more person says that phrase, I will scream", says Steven, 37

Shuichiro, 56, stubbornly fails to get better at English despite 2 lessons a week for 3 years: inadvertently upholds "you can`t teach an old dog new tricks" theory

"This is just a temporary job until I start my real career" says Michael, 37: 13 years as English teacher just a stop-gap until he "gets into writing, or something"









MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Masterpieces of French Landscape Paintings from The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

With spring in the air, what better time is there to plunge into the delights of the fine brushworks of the 17th- 20th Century masters and the sheer beauty of the French countryside?
This exhibition features 65 magnificent paintings from a Museum that boasts perhaps the greatest array of French art in the world. The Russian museum, established in 1912, holds 700,000 works and has approached the modern era with an attempt to blend the recent with the historic in displays in a form of dialogue between the ages and style evolutions.

Claude Monet
'Luncheon on the Grass'
1866 oil on canvas 130х181 cm
(C) The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts,

For the first time in Japan, Claude Monet’s ‘Luncheon on the Grass’ can be contemplated while you will be also be treated to the skills of other masters including Corot, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin and Rosseau. Enjoy a wide variety of scenes and settings in this exhibition with an aura. Spanning three centuries, the paintings here will take you in. They will inspire you. And you will leave the room with a new sense of aliveness and clarity.

Period: April 14 - July 8, 2018
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Hours: 09:30 -17:30, -20:00 on Fridays
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: Mondays (Except 30 April)
Admission: 1,600 / College students : 1,300 / High School students: 800
*Free admission for junior high school students and younger.

For more information, please visit

TURNER and the Poetics of Landscape

Perhaps Britain’s finest landscape watercolour painter and Marine artist will feature in this exhibition some120 works in oil, watercolour and print.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) is one of the Britain’s leading masters of the landscape paintings. With England being a maritime nation, some of his best works were in that arena including the captivating ‘fishermen upon a Lee-Shore, in squally weather) while other pieces such as landscapes from his time in Italy also impress. See ‘Rome from Monte Mario’.

Joseph Mallord William Turner
'Somer Hill, Tonbridge'
Exhibited 1811,
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
(C) Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland

The exhibit is sectioned into 4 themes: Topography, Seascapes, Landscapes of Antiquity and Mountains. The artist, often referred to as ‘the painter of light, seems to capture the natural spirit of the scene and transfer it onto the canvas for our delayed delight. With this rare opportunity to dive into the soft and natural world of skillful master, you will be thankful for your time and be inspired perhaps into your own creative adventures.


Period: April 24 − July 1 2018
Venue: Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00am-6:00pm / -7:00pm (5/9, 16, 6/26~6/30)
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: Mondays(Except for 30 April and 1 May)
General: General: 1,300 / College students and high school students: 900 /
Ages 65 and over: 1,100
*Free admission for junior high school students and younger.

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


The Selfie Effect

If you find yourself taking hundreds of selfies but still aren't happy with the image, then you may have fallen victim to the ‘selfie effect.’ A new study by researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School has revealed the distortive effects of selfie cameras, which are prompting many people to develop a skewed self image. Young adults are constantly taking selfies to post to social media and think those images are representative of how they really look, which can have an impact on their emotional state. It revealed that an average selfie - taken about 12 inches from the face - makes the nose appear 30 per cent bigger, compared to an image taken 1.5 metres (5 feet) away. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, 55 per cent of surgeons say people come to them seeking cosmetic procedures for better selfies.

Truth about plus sizes

Small fashion brands are often blasted for not making clothes above a size 16. They find it frustrating that people don’t realise that ‘you can’t just make bigger versions of smaller sizes’, and it’s not as easy as just making the pattern larger, due to differing weight distribution which is more apparent in larger sizes. So, is that really the case? Could that be why many brands don’t make plus sizes? A clothing manufacturer based in London confirmed that the process of designing plus size clothing is more difficult than with smaller clothing. As the body size increases, the body shape changes differently and also because a really well made comfortable and flattering product for a larger size may also need to rethink or tweak the design to ensure the end product still fundamentally works. However, while designing plus size versions of garments isn’t as easy as designing the smaller sizes, it is do-able. So should we be pressuring all mainstream brands to go larger? Or is it unfair to expect a business − especially smaller, independent ones − to channel money into a line that costs them more to produce, and may/may not bring them much in return?


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