Plain Talk


April 8th is Hachiko Day by Rhian Yoshikawa

“MEET YOU in front of Hachiko!” How many times have you used that phrase? Ask anyone who’s lived in Japan to name the most popular spot for meeting friends and 9 times out of 10 they’ll come up with “Hachiko”, the bronze statue of a faithful hound situated in front of Shibuya Station.

The story of Hachiko and how he waited faithfully for his deceased master (Professor Hidesaburo Ueno of Tokyo University) outside Shibuya Station every day for nine years until his own death is well documented, but did you know that a memorial ceremony is held for him every year on April 8th?

The practice started the following year after Hachi’s death in 1935. At the 80th anniversary in 2015 the Mayor of Shibuya Ward and Professor Ueno’s grandson were in attendance. Each year the statue is blessed by a priest and purified with sake and sacred evergreen sakaki leaves with a flower wreath placed around Hachi’s neck. A similar ceremony is held on the same day in front of Odate Station in Akita Prefecture, Hachi’s birthplace.

Some interesting facts about Hachiko:

- His original name was Hachi. Hachi meaning "eight" and ko is an honorific term meaning “affection” and was bestowed upon him by the people around Shibuya Station.

- At first, Hachi was treated as a nuisance by the station staff. His loyalty to the Professor was recognized after an article written about him by Saito Hirokichi, founder of the Nihon Ken Hozonkai (Society for the Preservation of the Japanese Dog, aka Nippo) appeared in th Tokyo Asahi Newspaper in 1932.

- Hachi did not eat for three days following the death of his master.

- His left ear was bitten by a dog and since then it has been hanging from his head.

- The statue was melted down for ammunitions during the Pacific War and a new statue, created by the son of the original artist, was installed in 1948.

- Hachi died on March 8th but Hachiko Day was set a month later due to warmer weather and the higher possibility of cherry blossoms being in full bloom.

- Hachi has been stuffed and is on display at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno.

- His grave is situated next to his master’s in Aoyama Graveyard, Minato Ward.

- In 2015 a statue was unveiled within the grounds of Tokyo University which depicts Hachi being reunited with the Professor.




* 名前は『ハチ』。「公」は「愛情を込めて用いる接尾語」で渋谷駅の人々から親しみをこめて呼ばれた。
* 最初、ハチは駅で働く人たちにとってやっかい者だった。ハチの教授への忠犬ぶりが評判になるのは、1932年に日本犬保存会初代会長・斎藤弘吉が東京朝日新聞にハチのことを投稿してからである。
* ハチは主人の死後3日間食事をとらなかった。
* ハチの左耳は、野犬に咬みつかれ、垂れてしまった。
* 戦時中の金属供出によって失われたハチ公像は、終戦後の1948年、初代ハチ公像の制作者の息子によって建立された。
* ハチの命日は3月8日だが、慰霊祭は桜の時期に合わせて毎年4月8日に行われている。
* ハチの剥製は、上野の国立科学博物館で展示されている。
* ハチは青山霊園に葬られた主人の墓の隣で眠る。
* 2015年に東京大学キャンパス内にて、ハチ公と上野博士像の除幕式が行われた。

Plain Talk


National traumas by Anne Corinne

Receiving friends and relatives from our home country is always a pleasure. We have so many things to tell each other. And they also make us re-discover Japan with new eyes, asking about small details we don’t notice anymore after having been living in the country for a while.

For instance, several guests coming from France and Spain once asked me why the neighboring buildings in Tokyo are always separated by a few centimeters and never adjoining each other, as in most European cities.
They were surprised to learn that this is required by Japanese law, as a measure to prevent potential fires to spread to other buildings. Fire has indeed become a national trauma in Japan. 96 fires have been registered during the Edo period, with an average of 1 major fire every 2.5 years. Although European cities have also suffered big fires throughout history, the situation was not as recurrent as in Japan. The fact that Japanese houses were built with wood, bamboo and paper walls (as opposed to stones traditionally used for Western houses) may be one of the reasons. The fact that major earthquakes often cause fires could be another explanation.

However, the reason why my family noticed this aspect about Japanese buildings was also linked to a national trauma: recurrent epidemics of black plague (carried by rat lice) that ravaged Europe and even killed more than half of the continent population in the 14th century. Unlike Japan, a lot of European countries make it forbidden by law to separate buildings by a few centimeters, as a measure to prevent garbage, insects and rats to spread in between. Each area has its own policy, but it is often required either to adjoin buildings to each other (in the downtown districts) or to keep a minimum distance of 1.90 meters between 2 separated properties (mostly houses with gardens).

As opposite as Japanese and European laws seem to be at first, they are in fact perfectly adapted to their local environment and are actually the right measures against their most dangerous threats. Really, urbanism policies still tell a lot about a city local history and traumas.





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


Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras
By Leza Lowitz
Stone Bridge Press, 2015, 264 pp., \2251 (Paperback) /\1489 (Kindle)

Reviewed by Allan Cook

“Here Comes the Sun” is the autobiography of Japan based American writer Leza Lowitz. Born in San Francisco, Leza now lives in Tokyo with her Husband Shogo and their adopted son. Published on June 6th and printed by her home-state publishers Stone Bridge Press the novel is the journey of a woman in a foreign land in search of love, motherhood and ultimately of finding herself.

Hailing from one of the world’s most Asian and Japan-centric communities with about a half-million Japanese and over 5.5 million Asians, Leza, as all Californians, grew up in a deeply multicultural society with a deep Asian influence. With such deep connection to Asia and especially Japan it was no surprise that 1989 saw her first stint at life in Japan when she lived here in Tokyo until 1994.

Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras
By Leza Lowitz
Stone Bridge Press, 2015, 264 pp., \2251 (Paperback) /\1489 (Kindle)

In that time, Leza worked as a writer and literary translator utilising her knowledge, experiences and passion for Japan, by writing for the Japan Times in addition to lecturing on American literature at Japans most prestigious university, Tokyo University. Lowitz's translations included haiku and tanka a task that ultimately led her to writing her own books of poetry while in America. Published in 2001 “Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By”, saw Lowitz connect her other passion, discovered in her childhood, of Yoga and her desire to write.

It was that passion for Yoga that much of her life has been devoted, and which, in 2004 led her to return to Tokyo after a decade of absence. Opening a Yoga studio in Shinagawa, Lowitz finally began to see her life fall into place as the many seemingly disconnected pieces of her life finally connected, revealing their ultimate meaning. A road that would eventually lead her and her husband to revealing their greatest gift, Shinji the child they would eventually adopt.

It is from the Sanskrit teachings that each chapter of “Here Comes the Sun” is identified through its 8 Chakra titles. In Hindu according to the tantric yoga traditions, a chakra is a location on the subtle body! That is, the psycho-spiritual body! They are points of energy, points that channel our life force. Chakra also means “to move”, and is where the words origin can be found. As with all our lives, movement, change and adaptation are constant. Ultimately “Here Comes the Sun” is the Chakra of one woman's life and the connections that lead her through it to the understanding and wisdom that comes with that movement.

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?


AR Synth Music:

AR Synth Music is a unique blend of performance music and augmented reality. To make it work all you need is a dollar. Simply look through your iPhone screen and the dollar transforms into a full potential synthesizer. Place your fingers over the orange virtual buttons to use them. The synth has seven sounds, three effect sliders, a looper, and a full octave of keys. The programmed sounds are: piano, harp, panpipe, gamelan, sinebeep, sawbeep, and bass. The effect sliders are echo/loop time, reverb and chorus. Play for your friends or an audience or just hook in your headphones and play for yourself. No one will believe you when you say that you can play music with a dollar bill let alone a synthesizer!


Songbot is a powerful tool that can search every radio station in the world for the song you want to hear. Just type in the song name or artist you want and start listening immediately. Or choose from a list of currently playing songs from your favorite genre. No subscription fees. No ads between stations. No hidden fees or trial periods. Songbot makes tens of thousands of radio stations into one mega searchable jukebox with none of the stuff you dislike from other music apps. It even shows you the song history of your favorite FM/AM radio stations, so you can find out what you just heard.

Tokyo Voice Column


Four seasons at Kyu Furukawa Garden by Olga Kaneda

When it comes to visiting tourist attractions in Japan, timing is everything. Just imagine your disappointment when you finally arrive at the garden or park of your dreams but there is nothing except green trees and shrubbery.

That is not the case if you decide to stop by Kyu Furukawa Garden in Kita-ku, Tokyo. All year round you can appreciate the beauty of roses, peonies, blooming apricot trees, weeping sakura, azalea, irises. The garden is not too big, but it is packed with possibilities to relax and embrace the calm atmosphere of the ancient Somei-mura Village. It exhibits an eclectic mix of Japanese and Western cultures. You can have a tea break at least in two different places within the garden. The first one is an old western-style building built by the famous British architect Josiah Conder. However, drinking a cup of tea or coffee with cake while looking at the rose garden will be possible only in autumn and spring. A guided tour inside the building is offered three times a day but you need to apply in advance, so it is almost impossible for non-Japanese speakers. The second place is a Japanese tea house.

Perhaps the most romantic time to visit it is Spring Rose Festival in May, especially when the light-up is on. A slightly intoxicating aroma of roses and irises is especially strong when the weather is sunny. At the festival you will be able to buy several kinds of rose-flavored treats. Last year’s most popular specialty was delicious Chou a` la cre`me with rose ice-cream. The Autumn Rose Festival is held in October and the visiting time is not extended.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is also a must-see if you are into azaleas. If you choose the date wisely, you will be able to catch up both azaleas and roses (but not the light-up).





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Old Masters from
the State Hermitage Museum

A rare and wonderful chance to see 85 paintings of the Old Masters brought to you from the State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Mid last year, a third collaboration was agreed to between the Hermitage management and NTV Corporation, Japan to ensure the collections will tour Japan with Mori Arts Center Gallery Tokyo, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art Nagoya and Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art Kobe, expecting to see some half a million visitors come through the doors. A number much higher than would see it at the Hermitage. A pleasing fact for those wishing to share the masterpieces for educational and inspirational reasons.

The Stolen Kiss
Jean-Honore´ Fragonard and
Marguerite Ge´rard
Late 1780's, oil on canvas
(C)the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, 2017-18

The Hermitage is one of the Great art museums of the world owning nearly 4million works. When Catherine the Great was married, she moved to the Winter Palace (later called The Hermitage) with her Husband Peter III, the Emperor. She began a personal collection of art. The collection now fills the entire palace. The collection also contributed to significantly by Alexander I and Nicholas I.
Gaze at paintings by Catherine’s favorites Titian, Cranach, Rubens, Rembrandt and Fragonard and enjoy many others such as Reni, LeNain, Poussin, Chardin, Boucher and Kaufman with Italy, Holland, Spain, France, Germany and the UK all represented.
With the foremost Masters of the 16th to 19th Century on display, the collection is
sure to leave a lasting impression and awaken your own creative energy.

Period: March 18 - June 18, 2017
Venue: Mori Arts Center Gallery
Hours: Sunday, Monday and Thursday - Saturday: 10:00-20:00
Tuesday 10:00-17:00 (except for May 2: 10:00-20:00)
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Monday, May 15
Admission: 1,600 / University & College students: 1,300 / High school & Junior high: 800

For more information, please visit

TREASURES of the Natural World

Usually housed in the Natural History Museum of South Kensington London, this extraordinary array of specimens, scientific explorations and personal accounts will set your mind on fire and reveal the histories and the mysteries of our planet, its species and our shared diversity.
With 80million specimens to choose from, the Natural History Museum (NHM) has carefully selected 370 to show here in Tokyo. They will be accompanied by studies of other significant finds, adventures and personalities.
View Archaeopteryx, possibly the oldest known bird of the planet from the late Jurassic period 150million years ago. The London sample when scanned revealed a brain larger than that of the dinosaurs. See the original Draft Page of Darwins ‘Origin of Species’. Of course, Darwins theory was not sound and was harshly criticized by scientific peer Richard Owen (discovery of the New Zealand Moa) who will also feature in the exhibit.

(C)The Trustees of
the Natural History Museum, London

Owen was the Scientist who coined the term 'Dinosaur' and was also a key instigator in the formation of the NHM. He viewed the Human being as a unique species while also showing that apes could not stand or potentially stand erect. He stated that living matter had an “organizing energy”, a life force that directed growth…
Other fascinating stories include Mary Annings work as a Fossil gatherer. Her contribution acknowledged 160yrs later when she was named as one of the ten most influential woman in science.. With approx. 69000 nautical miles of sea exploration and 4700 new species discovered, learn about the original Challenger (1872-76). Also, the Terra Nova expedition (1910-13) featuring the explorer R.F. Scott. Enjoy the spice of the Piltdown Man Hoax which mislead science for 45 years but stimulated our curiosity in evolution at the same time and see William Smiths early and relevant geological map technology using faunal succession and including fossilization.
A very stimulating exploration of your own awaits you.


Period: March 18 − June 11 2017
Venue: National Museum of Nature and Science
Hours: 09:00〜17:00 / 〜20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays /
~18:00 April 30 (Sun) ~ May 4th (Thu) ※Admission ends 30 mins. before closing time.
Closed: 3/21, 4/10, 17, 24, 5/8, 15, 22, 29
Admission: 1,600 / University: 1,600 / High school, Junior high school & Elementary school students: 500

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Mashed potato 101

Mashed potato 101 Mashed potato is the best friend of the best comfort food. Most people would agree, mashed potato is undeniably simple to make. Yet, we've not been making it correctly, committing one crucial mistake in our preparation. How hard could it be? Boil the potatoes , drain them and then add butter/milk/cheese before mashing it all together, right? Wrong! When you boil them in the water and pour that water down the drain, you've extracted all the flavor of the potato. Instead, start cooking them in the cream, milk and butter to get more flavors out of them!

Which one is your favorite?

You're either a Coke devotee or you're a Pepsi fan, but you're never both. Each and every one of us prefers one of over the other and remains faithful to that choice. Discerning soft drink enthusiasts state there IS a difference in taste between two of the world's biggest food brands' most famous product. But, apart from wildly divergent marketing campaigns and different packaging, are the two really so dissimilar, taste-wise? As it turns out, yes. And it's down to one thing. Drum roll please! While Coke has a vanilla flavour, its arch-nemesis tastes more citrusy. Going in to more detail in his book, Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell explained: "Pepsi is sweeter than Coke, so right away it had a big advantage in a sip test. "Pepsi is also characterised by a citrusy flavour burst, unlike the more raisiny-vanilla taste of Coke.


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