Plain Talk


Japanese Ghost Story by Chris Pooh

I went to rakugo, a form of Japanese storytelling performance on stage. Rakugo stories are usually comical with a punch line at the end, but it was a special, scary rakugo that I went to, or so I thought, all in English.

The first act was a story of “O-Kiku no sara (O-Kiku´s plates)” A maid, O-Kiku, was framed and killed by her master after she rejected his courtship.

This is how he framed her; He had a set of ten plates, pricelessly valuable, which O-Kiku looked after. He hid one of the ten and put the plate box back in place. Then he ordered her to take out the plates for him. She took the plates out of the box, counting one by one. She counted from one to nice, again and again, and found one plate was missing. She told the master what she found out and apologized. He flew into a rage and blamed her for neglecting her duty. Eventually he stubbed her with his sword to death and dumped the dead body of O-Kiku in the well. Since then, the ghost of O-Kiku appeared every night above the well, counted the plates up to nice and wailed. Her master became so distressed with it until he went mad and died…

That’s the plot of the ghost story. But the rakugo didn’t end there. Two flippant commoners walked to the now dilapidated mansion to see O-Kiku san. She still haunted the mansion and counted the plates. The rumor was spread that if you heard her count up to nice, you would drop dead. So the flippant meant to run away as soon as she reached eight. A big crowd was formed around the mansion when the pair arrived. The plate-counting had become O-Kiku’s nightly show, and she enjoyed the popularity. When the ghost appeared, the two got excited, along with the crowd, with fear and admiration for her beauty. When her counting reached eight, they were stuck in the crowd and couldn’t run. She counted nine. Then ten, then 11 and on, up to 18! The two commoners squeezed their way to the well and asked O-Kiku why she counted to 18. Puffing a cigarette languidly, she answered; “I doubled the count tonight so I can take a day off tomorrow!”

So, after all, it was a funny story. After two more acts, I left the venue, satisfied. When I was checking out information put up on the bulletin board in the entrance hall, a Japanese man asked me in English how I liked the story of O-Kiku. I vaguely answered it was interesting. He then said, “I think it was derogatory toward O-Kiku-san. The performer shouldn’t have made fun of her like that. O-Kiku-san’s deep-seated grudge may fall on all of us…” What!? I got goosebumps for the first time that evening.

Copyright (C) 2016 Chris Pooh. All rights reserved.






Plain Talk


Going to Mount Fuji! by Adriana Stoica

As the holiday seasons has just started, and maybe you be wondering what fun and interesting thing you could do, I would like to share with you some insights of my recent Mount Fuji ascension, which was a great adventure and experience. I would reccomend this trip to everyone, at least one time in a lifetime, especially now, when various improvements have been made to make the ascension easier and more confortable for people of different ages and fitness level. I would like to give my point of view on this trip, as well as some reccomendations, because there were still a lot of tourists unprepared for the mountain and weather conditions.

From the very beginning, I would reccomend a reasonable advance preparation like reading, watching pictures and blogs to get familiar with your route (there are several routes, pick one according to your fitness level) and with what you are going to experience, for example to realize that there are only rocks, stones, and volcanic red sand. Therefore, you need good mountain shoes, good mountain wear and gloves (sometimes you need to use your hands to climb the rocks). A trekking stick is very helpul and it can be purchased from the shops at the 5th station, where most of the travellers decide to start their journey from. Also, be aware that in order to be on the top around 4:45 at the sunrise time, you must climb all night, so the head lamp is required, as there is no other light on the trail. The all-night climbing, combined with the cold weather and the lack of oxygen, may be exhausting for some, so make sure to take enough time to rest and get accustomed to the high altitude. Oxygen tubes are helpful for altitude sickness cases. Staying hydrated is crucial, so make sure you carry enough sport drink/ energy gel/ vitamin water with you, but remember that you have to carrry the empty bottles back, so choose wisely. Drinks, refreshments, protein bars and several foods can be also bought on the way at different stations, but the prices are natually higher than in the city. A good mountain wear is EXTREMELLY important, since on the top the temperature might get below zero degrees, and I was shocked to see severeal completelly frozen people wearing only t-shirts, short trousers, and beach sandals! Furthermore, I have seen a part of a stone wall falling out of a sudden, so I would reccomend wearing a helmet.

Manners are important when travelling in a group and in some places it gets very crowded. Do not separate from your group, and do not miss any chance to use the toilets (200 yen per use-prepare cash coins in advance) as they are not so easy to find after a while. It is advisable to take any opportunity to take rest, enjoy the nature, the clear sky and the stars that look very shiny and so close (provided the weather is clear). For the ones who wish to get the best shots of the sunrise on the summit, a good camera is important (make sure the battery is charged!). For descending, be prepared with sun screen, hat, and sun glasses. For those who got really tired, there is an option to descend on horseback (around 10.000 yen).

With all this in mind, I wish everyone enjoys, learns, become familiar and thankful for the nature and experience of Mount Fuji!

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?



Do you like sharing news, tips, gossips on SNS? If you have multiple social network accounts, don't you wish you could just share it all at once without logging into each one? Buffer is a neat tool that lets you easily post - or share pages you've found - to multiple social media accounts (although its only free for one account per social network, you can upgrade to the paid version to share on numerous accounts) at scheduled times. Any link, text, picture or video you want to share, just add it to your Buffer. Your updates will automatically be scheduled and spaced out throughout the day to post to your favorite social networks. Plus, you can custom schedule or "post now" right inside the app. It's fantastic for media and business types who've used analytics to find out the optimal time to send out tweets and articles. You can set up a series of strong posting times, and updates will automatically be queued up for the next window.


Explore the world through the eyes of somebody else. This is one of those super-hot ideas that threatens to upend an entire industry. It remains to be seen whether 2017 will see all news reports delivered via live Periscope broadcast, but either way, this app has made waves. Periscope lets you broadcast and explore the world through live video. See where news is breaking, visit a new place, or meet people and share interests - all in real-time. It's a little like Snapchat, but for live video: you start a broadcast, which any of your followers can view as it happens, and the video remains viewable for 24 hours after you finish - and then is erased from existence. Thrillingly immediate, utterly nerve-wracking for journalists who used to have the best part of a month between filing an article and seeing it on the shelves, and lots of fun to try out.

Tokyo Voice Column


Travel to a new America by Mardo

I am about to travel to a new America, and I am quite frankly a bit nervous. Since Trump became president Visa and immigration laws in the US have been looking very dodgy. I am not just talking about for refugees here, I am talking about for Australians!

In the last year the American Customs and immigration has stopped world renowned Children’s author, Mem Fox; Alternately accusing her of wrongdoing and asking for her autograph. The 70 year old who has visited America more than 100 times has sworn never to return. An Australian state parliamentarian on his way to meet US law enforcement officials to fight drug crime was turned away at the border despite having an invitation and travelling with other Australian Government officials.

In short, if invited celebrities and foreign officials are not being allowed in, what hope can a small town school teacher have? This is complicated further by the reason behind the visit is because my wife’s sister can’t visit us. She had a visa for here, but the US Govt wouldn’t give her a transit visa from The islands.

My only option Is to risk it, and buy good travel insurance. If I get kicked out, I will have to hope I get a refund and can fly to Canada later. Things I never had to worry about years ago. Let's hope this article isn’t published until after I leave!





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Fear in Painting

This colourful exhibition featuring 80 works of art including paintings and drawings, is inspired by the by the book series Kowai-e (Fear in Painting) by Kyoko Nakano, the established author and Scholar of German Literature. Drawing on her perspectives and knowledge, the collection includes pieces that reveal fear while also granting a sense of their times and culture amid historical references.
Perhaps the most famous featured painting was completed in Paris in 1883 by Paul Delaroche and is called ‘The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey’. It depicts the scene of this historical figure known as the ‘Nine Days Queen’ and her execution. The artist, three hundred years after the event, chose to recreate it in a dark room with white clothing and fresh straw on the ground to highlight the impending doom. The actual event happened in the Tower Green (grass space/park) and this has been put down to artistic license.

"The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
Paul Delaroche, 1833, oil on canvas
(C) The National Gallery, London. Bequeathed
by the Second Lord Cheylesmore, 1902

Such works show the journey of fear and the destruction it can cause. The young 16yr old being part of an attempt to maneuver religious powers of the day, was another pawn in another chess game? Explore the role of fear and art that reveals it. Perhaps it will inspire you to go beyond those old times.

Period: October 7 - December 17, 2017
Venue: The Ueno Royal Museum
Hours: 10:00 − 17:00 (Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Admission: Adults: 1,600 / College & High school students: 1,200 /
Junior High school and elementary school students: 600

For more information, please visit

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi "One Hundred Views of the Moon" by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Often considered the last Master of Ukiyo-e woodblock painting, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) lived through a time of transition in Japan from the Edo period to beyond the Meiji Restoration. This incredible exhibition displays his highly proclaimed collection of 100 pieces relating to the moon. They were created during a productive though challenging last seven years of his life.
Born in Shinbashi Edo (now Tokyo), the artist was innovative taking the art to new levels creativity and while interested in the new information coming in from the world he was also deeply concerned about the loss of the traditional Japanese arts. He pushed his expression to new levels while struggling with personal battles and also taking on involvement in teaching his art so that it could continue on with a high standard.

"Moon at Shinobugaoka: Gyokuensai"
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Including themes of beautiful women, deities, brave men and refinement, this well laid out and poetically beautiful sharing is a rare chance to see all 100 pieces of the collection in one place while also getting to know the artist himself during a monumental shift for this nation of Japan. The changing moods over time saw a growing respect and appreciation of his work and that of others since the 1970’s until now. Imagine the presence as the master creates.


Period: September 1 − September 24, 2017
Venue: Ota Memorial Museum of Art
Hours: 10:30-17:30 (Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: 9/4, 11, 19
Adults: 1,000 / University & High school students: 700 /
Junior High School Students and below FREE

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Chop off your hair for a great cause!

We often talk about a new haircut being life changing but this time it really could be. Lots of charity places are teaming up with children's trusts to encourage ladies to go for the chop and donate their hair to children who have lost theirs through cancer and other illnesses. Many children's trusts have provided thousands of free real-hair wigs to young hair-loss sufferers. Anyone can get involved in "Chop your hair off" deeds by booking a cut at a participating salon who’ll package up your hair. The minimum donation is 7 inches, but you don't have to cut that much off all over - if you already have shorter layers you can just donate the longer part. Top tips. Be brave and go for it! Cutting your hair opens up the face, and looks fresh and modern. The end of summer is the perfect time to go for the chop, because you can take off all the sun-damaged ends and faded colour.

In 10 years, robots will take over schools?

Robots will take over from teachers in schools within 10 years, one of Britain’s top headmasters has predicted. "Teachers will effectively become classroom assistants, setting up equipment, helping pupils when needed and maintaining discipline", Sir Anthony Seldon said. "All educating will be done by artificially intelligent machines", said the ex-master of Wellington College in Berks. Sir Seldon said: “I’m expecting this to happen in the next 10 years. “Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised. However, old schoolers like us could only wonder about the ethics of it. Human teachers teach not only knowledge but more importantly human interactive skills, morals, communications, emotions and much more. Are we the only ones who feel that human teachers are irreplaceable for kids?


Guesthouse Tokyo

10 minutes to Ikebukuro.


safe and accessible solution for your accommodation needs in Tokyo.

Sakura House

1830 monthly furnished rooms at 204 locations in Tokyo.


Private furnished rooms in Roppongi, Akasaka, Azabu-Juban etc.

J&F Plaza

Furnished & unfurnished guesthouses and apartments in Tokyo.

May Flower House

Tokyo furnished apartments. Ginza, Roppongi, Yotsuya and more.

TenTen Guesthouse

33,000yen/30 days for working holiday students.


Private furnished rooms in Tokyo with free internet. Call us first or call us last!

Hassle free moving starts from 6000yen.

Tokyo Helping Hands

Very flexible working hours to effectly help you with moving, deliveries, disposal, storage and more!

AirNet Travel

We'll cut you the best air ticket deals anywhere.

Fun Travel

Discount air travel & package tours 2min from Roppongi Stn.

No.1 Travel

We go the extra mile for you. International air tickets and hotels.

JR Tokai Tours

Top-value travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya fron Tokyo by Shinkansen.

Matsuda Legal Office

All kinds of Visa, Immigration & Naturalization, International Marriage etc.

Futaba Visa Office

Licensed immigration lawyer & certified public tax consultant.

Coto Language Academy

Group lessons from ¥1,700 & Private lessons from ¥2,800.

iPhone Doctor

Will fix your iPhone and other smartphone at reasonable cost.

American Pharmacy

English speaking pharmacy since 1950.

Tokyo Skin Clinic

EU-licensed multi lingual doctors.

Takarada Electric

Visual equipment and home appliances.Overseas use and Tourist models.

Tokyo Speed Dating

1st & 3rd Sat. at Barin Roppongi.


The best way to meet single Japanese women. Parties held every week.


Japanese women & Western men.


Join us

50 Shades of Yikess