Plain Talk


Fighting with plastic garbage in Japan: The Never-ending story by Olivia

You keep throwing it away. But no matter how hard you are trying, it keeps coming back every day. It haunts you in your worst nightmares. You don’t know where to hide from it…
No, it is not a scary story. It is a story of throwing away the plastic garbage in Japan.

The other day I bought some kawaii stationery. The staff at the store asked me if it was for home use. I nodded, hoping to get as little wrapping as possible. However, it wasn’t the case. For some inexplicable reason, I got my purchase wrapped in 2 (!) layers of plastic and received a plastic bag with it. And, ironically, the local authorities keep asking us to reduce the garbage! How on Earth are we supposed to do it if we end up with all that plastic wrapping?

For many housewives like me, the problem of kitchen garbage (nama gomi) is much more bearable than the overwhelming amount of plastic. Although kitchen garbage is collected twice or three times a week, you can get rid of plastic only once a week. For those who are also struggling with plastic garbage, here are several tips for reducing it:

1. As much as I like how everything in Japan is carefully measured and separately wrapped, it is a potential enemy if you are trying to be eco-friendly. For example, each cookie in a box wrapped separately! Then goes natto in 3 separate packs and wrapping, mekabu seaweed (same story). The list goes on and on. To avoid it, my advice is to buy in bulk and repack it in smaller, reusable containers. The downside is that this way the expiry date is considerably reduced. Some foods like cheese can be bought at Costco and frozen, but some can’t.

2. Some supermarkets like AEON, Maruetsu Petit have recycling bins. There you can get rid of some of the plastic containers. Just be sure to wash them before that. There are also recycling bins for milk cartons and beer cans. The downside: takes some time and effort to wash the plastic and bring it to the supermarket, but it is not a problem if you are doing the shopping after.

3. Bringing your own shopping bag just doesn’t work anymore. Learn from the local grannies and try not to bring unnecessary plastic wrapping home. They rearrange the foods into bags and throw away the containers just after they paid for their groceries. I don’t know if that plastic gets recycled or not, though.

4. Don’t eat store-bought obento at home. Try to eat it at the eat-in area and throw it away there.

Nevertheless, plastic garbage keeps creeping into our lives every day. There’s just too much of it.




1. 日本でのきっちりサイズのあった個別包装を私はとても気にっているのだが、環境に優しい人にとっては、仮想敵だ。例えば、箱に入ったクッキーがひとつづつ包装されている!納豆は3つのパックになって包装されている。メカブもそうだ。そうやって挙げていくときりがない。避けるためには、大量買いして使い切る量に容器に小分けするしかない。マイナス面として賞味期限が下がる。チーズのような食品はコストコで買って冷凍保存しておけるが、できないものもある。

2. イオン、マルエツ・プチのようなスーパーでは、リサイクル用の回収箱がある。プラスチックゴミはそこに捨てられる。捨てる前に流し洗いしておこう。牛乳容器やビール瓶の回収箱もある。マイナス面は、それらを洗ってスーパーまで持っていく時間と努力がいるが、買い物ついでであれば、あまり気にならない。

3. エコバッグを持っていってもあまり効果ない。近所のおばあさんのやり方を見て不必要なプラスチック包装を家に持ち帰らないようにしよう。おばあさん達はレジを通った後、食品を包み直しプラスチック容器はその場で捨てている。そうした物が再利用されるのか私にはわからないが…。

4. 家でスーパーで買ったお弁当は食べない。イートインエリアで食べてそこでゴミは捨てよう。


Plain Talk


Girl Power! Japan's Women Flex Their Muscles At The 2018 Winter Olympics by Patrick Hattman

At the recently concluded Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, Japan's athletes won four gold medals and 13 medals overall, with the 13 total medals representing the country's best-ever performance at a Winter Games. Japan's final medal tally also was a significant improvement on the eight medals earned by the nation's competitors at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Interestingly, the dazzling display by men's figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu aside, it was the many medal-winning performances of Japan's female contingent at the PyeongChang Games that led to a record-setting medal haul. In fact, the women won eight medals to the men's five podium finishes, and took home three of the four golds.

Ski jumper Sara Takanashi got Japan off to a flying start with a bronze medal in Women's normal hill individual. The diminutive fan favorite is also the most decorated female ski jumper in the history of the sport with her dozens of World Cup wins and World Championships victories.

Next, speed skater Miho Takagi captured silver in the 1500 meters, followed by bronze in the 1000 meters a couple days later. She was bested in the 1000 meters by compatriot Nao Kodaira, who garnered the silver. Kodaira later took gold in the 500 meters, becoming the first Japanese to be known as the world's fastest female skater.

Also, the talents of Japan's top female speed skaters were on display in the Women's team pursuit as Miho Takagi, her sister Nana, Ayaka Kikuchi and Ayano Sato became Olympic champions, winning a thrilling final versus the Netherlands. And on the penultimate day of the PyeongChang Games, Nana Takagi earned another speed skating gold for Japan in the mass start event.

Finally, Japan's women's curling squad triumphed over Great Britain in the bronze medal match. Led by skip Satsuki Fujisawa, and featuring Yumi Suzuki, Mari Motohashi and the Yoshida sisters Chinami and Yurika, they showed great skill and sportsmanship, as was the case with Japan's women throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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



Inhale and exhale the evening breeze. Relax and listen to your body.
Enjoying Yoga during the day is great, but changing scenery and trying Yoga at night could give you a different perspective. These yoga classes held at Jingu stadium will feature different teachers everytime and also offer an area in for bilingual classes. So before going out, perhaps you can try out these yoga classes to refresh yourself!

Date: 5/24 (Thu), 6/2 (Sat), 7/15 (Sun), 7/26 (Thu), 8/3 (Fri), 8/29 (wed), 9/18 (Tue)
7:30 PM − 8:30 PM
@ Jingu Stadium
Reservation NOT required.
Schedules may change, so please check the website for updated schedules. When event will be cancelled
due to bad weather, notice will be posted on facebook on the day at about 4pm or 5pm.

For more information, please visit


Charity Park Yoga 2018

Do you like yoga? So why not do yoga for charity? Three inspiring yogainstructors will teach bhakti flow yoga at Shinjuku Gyoen Park. Asidefrom the entrance fee of ¥200 to the park, you can set your ownadmission fee (minimum ¥500) and it will be donated tokids in India. (You can check the last charity result from this linkインド-ヨガ-チャリティ/) Try out bhakti flowyoga and help kinds in India where yoga originated.
Bhakti flow Yoga is a slow and mindful practice that centers around your direct experience of the tools and themes of yoga chanting and meditation before, during and after asana practice.

Date: 5/26 (Sat) 10:00am - 11:30am
@ Shinjuku Gyoen Park (location details will be informed when reservation is completed) When event will be cancelled due to bad weather, notice will be posted on facebook on the day at about 7am.
Admission: your donation (¥500~) + ¥200 for Shnjuku Gyoen Park entrance fee

For more information, please visitチャリティパークヨガ2018新宿御苑/?instance_id=116172

What’s App With You?



Letterboxd is a social app for people who love films. Sign in and you can see what friends have been watching, bellyache about the latest Hollywood blockbuster that totally offended your viewing sensibilities, and comment on other people’s reviews. Or if that fills you with horror, you can ignore the social bit entirely, and just use Letterboxd as a really savvy movie tracker. Search for films and add them to your watch list; once you’ve seen one, give it a rating. That way, you won’t end up 30 minutes into a cinematic disaster before realizing you’d already suffered through it before.


JigSpace is an education app that reasons we learn things better in 3D, on the basis that this is how we experience the real world. And that’s a good point. It’s all very well to learn how a car’s transmission works by reading about it, or even pore over an exploded illustration in a book. But being able to fiddle around with a real engine is much more helpful. This app isn’t quite that level of magical, but it does use iOS’s augmented reality smarts to project various objects onto a flat surface. These can then be explored and fiddled around with, in a manner that hints at the future of anything from repair manuals to textbooks. And even though you’ll perhaps exhaust the items on offer fairly quickly, JigSpace is a nicely immersive educational experience while it lasts.

Tokyo Voice Column


Big Man, Small Car By Mardo

I have finally been converted to small cars. I may be 6 foot tall and almost as wide, but my wife was right, and I am now borrowing her car all the time. Not just because of the cost of fuel, but because it is so much easier! Don’t get me wrong, I love my large cars for the long haul drive, but I just don’t drive for referee games of football 80km away every weekend, or go to the capital as often as I used to, large engines for short drives don’t make sense, but still this is not why I like my wife’s small car. It’s just so easy to park!

In Japan I hated the Kei cars, my friends who lived in apartments had them, and if I tried to drive my knees would hit the gear stick, or my head would hit the roof, they were not fun. I have always had big cars. So my head wouldn’t hit the roof. This made me popular in college, and parking was easy! since in the rural area I went to college there was plenty of parking. Nowadays though, everywhere is trying to squeeze more cars into less space.

The small toyota my wife loves has enough head and legroom for me, a major factor, but when I need to go buy something quickly I don’t have to search around for a wide space, or even reverse park, it’s short enough I can drive straight into any space! At festivals where parking is cramped, I can fit anywhere. Why did I have a large car for so long? I always needed to plan my shopping trips by who had the best parking not the cheapest prices. I could never park outside a restaurant if picking up food and now I can do all this easily… My wife complains I drive her car more than mine!

Japan, you were right all along. Compact is practical. And as my wife also says, quite cute.


日本では、僕は軽自動車を嫌っていた。アパートに住む友人が軽に乗っていたので、僕が運転しようとしたら、膝をギアスティックに、頭を天井にぶつけてしまった。軽は楽しくなかった。これまでずっと大型車に乗ってきた。従って頭を天井にぶつけてこなかった。これにより大学では僕はみんなに知られた存在だった。駐車は簡単だった! 郊外にあったので、駐車スペースは十分にあった。現在はというと、どこへ行っても車が多くぎゅうぎゅう詰めで駐車しないといけない。

妻の大好きなトヨタの小型車は僕でも頭や足をぶつける事なく十分なスペースがある。もちろん重要だ。しかし素早く何かを買いたい時には、十分な駐車スペースがないか、後ろ向きで並列駐車ができないかまわりを探さないといけないが、簡単に言えば、どこでも駐車できる! 駐車する車で込みあうお祭りに行っても、どこでも車を停められる。なぜこれまで長い間大型車にこだわっていたんだろう。買い物に行く時はいつだって、値段が安い所ではなく、駐車がしやすい所をあらかじめ探しておく必要があった。食べ物を取りにいくのにレストランの外には駐車しなかった。でも今では簡単だ。妻は僕が自分の車よりも妻の車にばかり乗っているので不満を言っている。


MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


JOMON - 10,000 Years of Prehistoric Art in Japan

Japans oldest known art and indeed, some of the oldest forms of pottery in the world, will be on display in this breath-taking exhibition.
With tools dating up to 13,000 years ago, total discoveries from the very elongated Jomon Era number 90,000 with a mere six of these named as designated national treasures. For the first time, you can view all six together in one location. (Two of them will be displayed from July 31st)
The Jomon Era spanned close to 14,000 years and is defined by six ages within. They are: Incipient, Initial, Early, Middle, Late and Final and came about due to the changes in the art showing cultural advancements. The pieces feature a rope method where chords are pressed against the wet clay for artistic impressions. The culture partly recognized as hunter/gatherers, also seemed to evolve agriculture too. They show diversity and complexity with their art being compared to that of pre-Columbian South America.

Important Cultural Properties
Dogu (clay figurine)
with goggle-shaped eyes
From kamegaoka, Kizukuri
Tsugaru-shi, Aomori
Tokyo National Museum,
Late Jomon period, 1000 ~ 400 BC

Prolific Japanese artist Taro Okamoto discovered the Jomon works while visiting this very same museum and was impressed and influenced by the designs and mysteries the nation.
View this vast collection with pieces from across Japan including from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Be in wonder and consider, some researchers believe that the culture dates even further back.

Period: July 3 - September 2, 2018
Venue: Tokyo National Museum
Hours: 9:30 -17:00, -21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, -18:00 on Sundays & 7/16
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Monday (except 7/16, 8/13) and 7/17
Admission: General: 1,600 / University students: 1,200 / High school students: 900

For more information, please visit

Michelangelo and the Ideal Body

The fine art and mastery of Michelangelo stops the mind in its tracks with its precision and beauty. Considered the greatest artist of his era, one of the greatest of all time and also, the most documented creator of the 16th century, his works stand alone at the top of Inspiration Mountain.
Il Divino or ‘The Divine One’ left a legacy which you can share in with this wonderful exhibition which features two of his works in a rare journey from their regular homes in Europe.
‘David-Apollo’ is an unfinished marble sculpture somewhat resembling the famous ‘David’ and also, the mystical figure of Apollo. Experts have not agreed hence the name which gives the best representation. The fact that it is partially incomplete gives the viewer a chance to imagine and sense the creative process of the Maestro. The second piece, ‘The Young St. John the Baptist’ is beautiful to see and like all great art, moves a person who is fortunate enough to gaze upon it. The collection on display also includes the approximately 70 works from the great masters that depicting their own sense of ‘the perfect body’.

Michelangelo Buonarroti
1530, 147cm, marble sculpture
Firenze, Museo Nazionale del Bargello /
On concession of the Ministry of cultural heritage and tourism activities.

The atmosphere of ancient Greek culture and the elegance of the
Renaissance is represented here at the highest level and you are sure to
walk away on a cloud.


Period: June 19 − September 24 2018
Venue: The National Museum of Western Art
Hours: 9:30am-5:30pm, -9:00pm on Fridays & Saturdays
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays (except 7/16, 8/13, 9/17 & 9/24) and 7/17
General: Adults: 1,600 / University students: 1,200 / High school students: 800
*Saturdays: Junior high and elementary school students’ entrance for free

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Got milk?...

From almond to soy, hemp to hazelnut, milk isn't just about cows anymore. Cow's milk remains by far the biggest in the business but as the global population grows and sustainability increasingly questioned, some are looking elsewhere for traditional food sources. After all, cows − all 1.5 billion of them − are the most damaging thing on the planet right now. More than cars, planes or nuclear testing. Which is why people are milking cockroaches. They're cheap, rice in nutrition, and take up hardly any room. Some people are really drinking cockroach milk as a dairy alternative now. The milk is derived from 'cockroach crystals', a part of the insect found in its gut. According to scientists, these crystals are 'like a complete food', rich in essential amino acids and protein. A researcher from the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India claims the nutritional value of the cockroach product is much higher than other milks. What's more, apparently it tastes no different from cow's milk...

Special Delivery

Demi Sweeney, a 22-year-old criminology student at Bournemouth University, spotted a huge spider outside her room last week. She felt trapped in her room as the spider might drop onto her if she passed by. She decided to get KFC. Twenty minutes later, her fried chicken arrived and Demi ran downstairs to her saviour. Unfortunately, the driver was also scared of spiders, but eventually captured it although there was a moment of panic when the spider dropped onto the floor and started running away. The driver flushed the spider down the toilet, which left Demi too afraid to sit on it for much of the day. If you are scared of spiders or cockroaches, ordering the take out should save you…?


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