Plain Talk


Are Japanese men special? by Olivia

To my surprise, when my old schoolmate found out I was living in Japan, she asked me right away: “Do women need to cover up their faces or bodies? After all, it is an Asian country”. In a way, she was right. Women in Japan don’t feel very comfortable showing off their cleavage, shoulders, most part of legs. Partly it is also inconvenient in crowded trains, and I also don’t wear just a tank top now, preferring layers. It is also convenient in summer because it protects skin from sunburns. But what strikes me the most is why my classmate anticipated that women are perceived as different creatures than men and I didn’t? Why did I come to Japan unaware that I will never be treated the same way as men are?

What strikes us Western women the most when we come to Japan is the gender inequality. After having lived here, we come to understand that men have better paid-jobs, never serve tea or coffee in a business setting, are never supposed to clean, or do any other “female” job. They are superior to women. But why? Except for the historical reasons, there must be something else. We all know that samurai were male. However, there were not only male but also female ninja, and spies etc. In the world history as well, there were times when Western women were treated as unimportant and less valuable than man. But times changed, and in the medieval times in Europe knights were known for chivalry, respect, and courtesy for women. Now in the world many women enjoy the gender equality.

There is much talk about “ladies first” レディーファースト attitude on TV and Internet, and I hope someday Japanese men will really become gallant. In the meanwhile, there are many examples of the opposite.

In a supermarket, if there is a confusion about whose turn is it at the cash register, men usually don’t let the lady go first.

On the train, healthy strong men from school boys to salaryman nap in their seats comfortably when there are women of all ages standing and looking at them. Some grannies even offer their seat to elementary school boys. I personally saw a scene where three grannies said that the boy is too cute so they sat him down and talked to him. For this, one of them had to stand up, and she did it with obvious pleasure. The boy took out his lunchbox and ate his lunch (on a crowded train!) Nobody said a word. I bet it would never happen with a schoolgirl!

Another day, an obvious high school student sat just in the only one available seat, leaving all the grannies standing. Nobody said a word either because it is mendokusai and starting a quarrel is not approved in Japanese culture.

I guess until something changes in our perception of men, nothing will change.


欧米の女性が来日して最も驚く事は男女不平等だ。日本で暮らすと、男性は給料のよい仕事を得るし、会議でお茶やコーヒーを出すことはないし、あと片付けやその他”女性的な”仕事をさせられない事に気づく。男性は女性より優っている。しかしなぜだろう? 歴史的理由を例外とすれば、なにか他の事情があるにちがいない。侍が男性だった事は誰でも知っている。忍者は男性だけでなく女性もいた。世界の歴史も同様に、欧米の女性が重要でない、あるいは男性より大切には扱われなかった時代もあった。しかし時は流れ、中世ヨーロッパでは、騎士道的精神で知られる騎士は、女性を敬い、礼儀正しく扱った。現在、世界の多くの女性が、男女平等に満足している。






Plain Talk


Winter Food In Japan: A Sampling Of Culinary Delights by Patrick Hattman

With winter's arrival in Japan comes the beginning of not only the season of cold and snow throughout much of the country, but also significant changes in what many people eat on a regular basis. Japan provides a plethora of gastronomic pleasures during the year's coldest season, and below is a sampling of those culinary delights.

Nikujaga: Perhaps best described as a Japanese comfort food, nikujaga consists largely of what the name implies: meat and potatoes. However, while thinly sliced beef or pork and potatoes make up the great bulk of the dish, the various vegetables added, and the sweetened soy sauce that it is stewed in, also give nikujaga a taste to relish.

Shabu-shabu: Good for gatherings of family and friends, shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish. The meat - generally beef - and generous helpings of many vegetables, are gradually dropped in the pot and boiled in water. Then the individual diners can select what they want and dip their selections in ponzu sauce or perhaps a sesame one. Shabu-shabu is one of numerous onomatopoeia that pepper the Japanese language, and comes from the sound of the food being swished back and forth through the water while cooking.
Oden: Sticking with nabemono hotpot dishes, oden is definitely one which will stick to your ribs in wintertime. Oden can be a feast for food lovers due to its many ingredients and how it satisfies just about any appetite. Utilizing a soy-flavored dashi broth, oden most often consists of fish cakes, konnyaku, daikon and boiled eggs, although there are distinct differences in its preparation based on geographical variations of the dish, like using a miso-flavored broth.

Yudofu: A hot tofu dish with origins in Kyoto, yudofu is simple to make and delightfully pleasant in its presentation and for the palate on a cold winter's day. For those not familiar with Japanese cuisine who think a tofu dish might be bland, yudofu is certainly not boring for the taste buds, particularly with just the right amount of kombu and daikon added during preparation.

Zosui: When someone becomes sick in Japan during winter with a cold or some sort of lingering illness requiring them to eat food that is easy to digest, zosui is often put on the menu to aid them on the road to recovery. Zosui can be likened to a rice-based vegetable soup. It is typically flavored with soy or miso and might be cooked with such vegetables and a bit of meat that add taste and do not hinder digestion.

Unfinished business


The Smallest Box by David Gregory

She came over to my table and asked if I remembered her.
“That’s my boyfriend over there.”
Their table hugged a pillar blocking the sunny Tokyo Bay view enjoyed by the other customers that afternoon in Chiba’s AquaRink ice skating facility café.
“Maybe we will marry next year.”

On my way out, I stopped to congratulate the potential groom to be. What I later heard happened with Hiromi and Hiroshi that night at another place also close to the bay sounded so too good to be true that I visited that place to confirm it really happened. It did.

Hiroshi had reserved for the course menu that night at OCEAN TABLE, next to Chiba Port, on the second floor, where tables sat by the huge windows facing Chiba Port Tower and Tokyo Bay. No view-blocking pillars there. And they had a wait, even with their reservation, because it was Christmas Eve, which in Japan matters much more than the following day; the Eve is the year’s couples’ night out, and single women without dates that night can feel their whole year was wasted.

Hiroshi had changed into a suit after skating, and had urged Hiromi, against her protests about overdressing, into a plaid one-piece, raising expectations. They had never come to a place this nice, one requiring reservations. Saizeriya was more their speed: fast faux-Italian, cheap, and everywhere.
The unexpected wait made Hiroshi antsy. He relaxed and all was perfect after they were seated.

They talked. They ate the Christmas Dinner courses. They ignored the soft Christmas background music. They admired the gleaming, golden Christmas Tree rising from the first-floor buffet area through the open center space across from their table. They could see outside the sparkling flashes and half the tree in Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination, and beyond, the lights from the ships on and facilities around Tokyo Bay, appearing almost twinkling. Perfect—but not for Hiromi.

She went to the toilet. Still he had not asked. The day was done. The reservation system only allowed them two hours there. They had been together all day. He had remembered her birthday-just by coincidence, also that day-with a necklace at AquaRink. Nice, but was that all? He had pestered her since early December about what Christmas present she wanted until she had finally exploded with, “Nothing! Don’t you know I just want a proposal?!” And had added she wanted it to be a surprise. Here he had the perfect chance, and he was wasting it.

She could try enjoying what was left of the evening. Dessert was next. At least here was better than Saizeriya….She was still stuck when she returned to the table, and had no chance to do or say anything, anyway. It was his toilet turn.

Their desserts came. Hiromi sat and waited and pondered the future. Outside, the tower stood alone against the dark sky and Tokyo Bay’s inky darkness.

Their desserts waited. Maybe his tooth was bothering him again. Maybe he was just tolerating it to make the night go well. Maybe for her. Maybe she should go to check on him. Wait-maybe she just heard his voice across the room.

No, only Santa Claus, posing for photographs with diners at the far table. He then started circling the room, giving a small present from his big sack at each table. She could check after he was done.

Hiroshi still had not returned to his seat when Santa reached their table. He handed Hiromi a big, red stocking, by far the room’s largest gift, accompanied by a squeaky, “Atari! You’re a lucky one!” Yeah. She set it aside and Santa moved on. What was he still doing in the toilet?

Santa finished his round, returned to Hiromi, and pointed at her unopened stocking with squeaky, “Un! Un!” grunts. The other diners had opened their presents. She forced a smile and said she was waiting for her boyfriend to return. “Un! Un!”

When Hiromi still resisted, Santa took the stocking in his white-gloved hands and opened it himself. Out first came a big, pink box, heart shaped. He opened that and pulled out another heart-shaped box, and then, from inside that, another heart-shaped box. Another smaller, heart-shaped box followed. He removed from that an even smaller heart-shaped box, and thrust it to Hiromi with one more squeaky, “Un!”

Still gone. Well, he’d miss it. Hiromi obeyed Santa this time and opened it, the smallest box in the room …and her mind and face went blank.

After that frozen moment passed, Hiromi looked at Santa. The second shock hit, and more followed. Santa Claus had ripped off his gloves, furry hat, sunglasses, and huge, flowing beard. He took the box from her?she was still speechless?dropped onto one knee, held the open box out and up to her in both stretching hands, and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Hiromi-san, boku-to kekkon shite kudasai! Hiromi, please marry me!”

Outside, to anybody looking, Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination still flashed, and the lights on and around Tokyo Bay still appeared almost twinkling. Inside OCEAN TABLE, on the second floor, everything was happening so fast that Hiromi just did not know which was more difficult to believe: Hiroshi and the ring he first tried slipping onto the finger on her right hand, the one he had taken in his before she held out her left hand, or the following PAN! and PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! and PAN! PAN! and PAN! explosions ripping and ribbons shooting around the room as diners at the floor’s other tables popped the party crackers they had found with the notes in their presents from Santa Claus.

Copyright © 2018 David L. Gregory All rights reserved.


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



JAPAN NINJA COUNCIL is the world’s only official organization composed of groups including municipalities, organized with the aim to spread the culture of the Japanese Ninja, something that has long been veiled in mystery. Looking ahead to the year 2020, various groups have come together to form the council under the nationwide network of local governments, universities, tourism associations, private organizations and business institutions. The council is designed to promote tourism, culture, and to contribute to the local economy through the Ninja, sparing no effort in researching, collecting and offering the information on Ninja to others.

Ninja is the one of the most famous trademarks in Japanese history and culture but has also been very popular overseas. Japan Ninja Council will be hosting special events and activities on Ninja day. Any ninja/ninjutsu-related companies are encouraged to use and promote this special event. Our goal is to gather all ninja fans around the world and make a worldwide trend day where everyone can celebrate Ninja!

Let’s take picture with ‘Fuma Ninja-kun’!
2/1 (Fri)~2/28 (Thu) In Odawara
Ninja visual ‘Fuma Ninja-kun’ is placed in 6 places in a city. Find him and take photos with him whilst enjoying the village of Ninja Odawara!

Let’s become Fuma Ninja and visit Odawara castle!
2/16 (Sat)~2/24 (Sun) In Odawara
For a limited time, you can dress as Fuma Ninja and enter Odawara castle! Rent a costume and receive ninja card. Show your ninja card after completing the ninja mission and receive a gift!
Adult: ¥500 / Child: ¥300

Win a Ninja Experience!
2/16 (Sat) 12:30~ In Odawara
If you are interested in Ninja and live in Japan, apply and win a ninja training! Train with ‘Hiroshi Jinkawa’ and learn about ninja spirit, sword skills, shuriken and ninja movement.
Apply to win

Trecking and Training with Ninja!
2/17 (Sun) 9:00~ In Odawara
Go trecking with ninja around the fortress built by Hojo clan in Sengoku period surrounding Odawara castle! Disguise yourself as a ninja to learn mind of ninja and techniques.
¥1,000/with 1 child

What’s App With You?


St. Valentine's Love Horoscope

How compatible are you with your favorites? Perfect lovers or just friends? Love horoscope will reveal all the secrets. What to expect in the future: a wedding, only casual or just friendship? All zodiac signs are divided into four elements: Fire (Leo , Sagittarius, Aries), Water (Pisces , Cancer, Scorpio) , Earth (Capricorn , Taurus, Virgo) and Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius). You will be able to create charts, that
help to draw conclusions about the nature of the relationship. You can learn whether there is love in your relationships, what are your prospects in family life, whether you are comfortable with each other or not, and what problems may lie ahead. It’s up to you if you believe it or not.

Happy Couple - love quiz:

There's Now a Dating App For...Couples? If Horoscope is not enough, here is another app to find out how comparable you are with your favorites. Happy Couple is a quiz style app for couples where you can have fun and find out more about what your partner thinks or feels. Unlike matchmaking, Happy Couple is an app for couples wishing to strengthen their already-existing relationships through friendly gaming. By answering just five short questions a day, you can find out everything you want to know about your partner. By guessing your partner's answers and answer for yourself each day, you will trigger surprising matches ... and mismatches! Is s/he the one?


Tokyo Voice Column



A very unique celebration of love and affection in Japan happens during the 14th day of March, a month after Valentine's Day, and it is called "White Day".

White Day is an answer day to Valentine's Day. During this occasion, boys or men are expected to return the favor by giving chocolate or other gifts to the girls and women who gave a honmei-choco which in English term means "chocolate of love".

Oftentimes, the color of the chocolate is white derive from the name of the day, White Day. Other gifts, non-edible and edible, such as flowers, jewelry, greeting cards, white clothing like lingerie, stuffed toys, cookies and candies are also popular.

On this special day, department stores and supermarket chains have numerous displays of heart-shaped chocolates and other goodies reminding men in advance to purchase gifts, boxes of chocolates or any other token of love for their romantic partners and loved ones.

Apparently, this culture and tradition is heartily and cheerfully embraced and observed by every person in Japan.

Love is still, indeed, in the air after Valentine's Day.

Have A Happy Valentine’s Day,
Have A Blissful White Day, everyone!








MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic

"A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside."
There's likely not an adult who doesn’t fondly remember the Winnie-the-Pooh books. This one of the world's most beloved and popular books covers tales of happiness and hardship and how a silly old bear copes and learns from them. Winnie-the-Pooh had many wonderful things to say about love, acceptance, and being kind to others. And who wouldn't like more of that?
Inspired by watching his son Christopher Robin play with his collection of stuffed toys, an English author A. A. Milne began to spin the stories of the magical world of Pooh. "Decorated" with E.H. Shepard’s illustrations that were deliberately simple and accessible, using just a few lines to create atmosphere and images conveying a sense of innocence and simplicity, both created a world that was uncomplicated and where problems were resolved in a humorous and heartfelt way in contrast to the "real world". The simplicity of the words and illustrations also heightened the beautiful and philosophical undertones, resonating and captivating peoples' hearts.

《For a long time they looked
at the river beneath them》,
House at Pooh Corner chapter 6,
pencil drawing by E. H. Shepard,
1928. Collection of James DuBose
(C) The Shepard Trust

From the UK’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), where the largest collection of Winnie-the-Pooh pencil drawings by E.H. Shepard are held, the “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” exhibition has come to Japan to take you to an enchanting world of Winnie-the-Pooh. Let the well-loved bear unleash your inner child and remember how simple and magical things were when you were little.

Period: February 9 - April 14, 2019
Venue: The Bunkamura Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00-18:00, 10:00-21:00 every Friday and Saturday
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 2/19 & 3/12
Admission: Adults: ¥1,500 / College & high school students: ¥900 / Junior high & elementary school students: ¥600

For more information, please visit

They were the rebels... The pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, embodied protest to reject the prevailing academic, which espoused a narrow range of idealized or moral subjects and conventional definitions of beauty drawn from the early Italian Renaissance and classical art forms of art, and to seek the truth in nature.
The Pre-Raphaelite Movement sprung out of several major developments tied to Romanticism in early-19th-century Britain, where industrialization expanded rapidly making Britain by far the most technologically and mechanically advanced nation. The great success came with great sacrifices however, and romantic critics sought ways to expose such struggles of poor and polluted environment by denying idealized and emphasized beauty and by depicting nature and the human body realistically. The rebels called themselves pre-Raphaelites defiantly, taking up the purist values of pre-renaissance art of the period immediately before Raphael, drawing on the past to make their own mid 19th-century artistic revolution.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
《Venus Verticordia》 C. 1863-68, Oil on canvas
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery
& Museum,Bournemouth
(C)Russell-Cotes Art Gallery &
Museum, Bournemouth

With about 150 works including paintings in oil and watercolor, as well as drawings, stained glass, tapestries and furniture, this exhibition unveils the exquisite natural world caught in moments of stillness. We also still struggle from
the same problems such as poverty and pollution, and witnessing their naturalism
could open our eyes.


Period: March 14 - June 9
Venue: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00-18:00,
-21:00 on Fridays, the second Wednesday of every month and 6/3 ~ 6/7
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays (except 3/25, 4/29, 5/6, 5/27, and 6/3)
Admission: Adults: ¥1,700 / College & high school students: ¥1,000 / Junior high school and younger: FREE

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Love Comes in all Shapes and Sizes Meaning

A woman has revealed her boyfriend is a plane she met at an airport five years ago. Michele Kobke, from Berlin, Germany, calls her partner - a 737-800 Boeing - 'Schatz' and says she was first attracted to his wings, winglets and thrusters. The 29-year-old claims to sleep with her "darling" every night, either with real components or a 1.6-meter model. And she says her family have reacted "quite pleasantly". Ms Kobke says she fell in love with the plane the first time she 'met him' at Berlin Tegel Airport and after nearly five years together, they plan to get married. "The last time I was in a relationship with a man was in 2011 but there was no love there," she explained. Despite receiving a positive reaction from her family about her unconventional relationship, Ms Kobke says that the long-distance element of her relationship has been difficult. But she uses components and models of the plane as a way to stay intimate with Schatz and she plans to marry him one day.

Ultimate Love...?

This man gives a whole new meaning to the words “love comes in all shapes and sizes meaning” after he confessed he dated a cockroach called Lisa for a year. Yuma Shinohara, 25, called the bug his “first love” and said though the relationship was platonic he fantasised about bedding her - either with himself insect-sized or with Lisa being human-sized. He also said that no human girl was as “hot” as Lisa and that they were “100 per cent serious” about each other. But events took an even more maccabee turn when Lisa died - and Yuma ate her. Yuma is an entomophagist, which means he advocates and practises eating insects as an alternative to meat for environmental reasons. He is well known for organising bug eating contest in his native Japan. "So now Lisa lives in my heart and continues living as part of my body."



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