Plain Talk


Summer Memories of Japan: Hanabi Matsuri by Patrick Hattman

I lived in Japan for much of the 1990s and 2000s. I think I enjoyed summer in Japan more than any other season of the year. And my favorite activity each summer there was to go to the best hanabi matsuri, or fireworks festivals, in the Tokyo area.

One steamy summer evening in the early 1990s, a Japanese friend took me to the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, held annually along the Sumida River in the heart of Tokyo.

Upon arriving, I was impressed by the throngs of people, with some of them attired in colorful yukata. With seemingly innumerable food offerings for dinner from the ubiquitous stalls that had been set up for the festivities, I chose unagi bento, or a boxed meal of eel over rice. It was my first time to have the dish. It was delicious and fortifying, especially on a hot, humid night.

Finally, the much-anticipated fireworks show began. A battle for the top displays was underway in earnest within minutes, as the pyrotechnics were sent skyward from multiple launchers. Two teams strove to outdo each other in terms of design and illumination. Each time I thought it was not possible to surpass one salvo, the next one invariably had a more scintillating effect. It was with much disappointment that the show eventually came to an end, but not until a fitting climax lit up the night sky.

Living again in the U.S. for a number of years, I certainly like our fireworks shows, particularly the grand displays held each July 4th to commemorate our Independence Day. However, from my experience, Japan is the best at putting on visually stunning fireworks displays, with the added bonus of a smorgasbord of food selections at each location to please even the most discerning palate. How I wish I could get back to Japan this summer and enjoy more fireworks festivals!






Plain Talk


Japanese Baseball Star Hideki Matsui: Career Retrospective by Patrick Hattman

On July 20, 2012, Hideki Matsui played his last game in Major League Baseball. It was his 10th season in the big leagues, after a decade in Nippon Professional Baseball. With so much time having passed since his career in NPB came to a close, this seems like a good time to remember his playing days in Japan.

Matsui first starred as a schoolboy slugger for the Seiryo High School team in Ishikawa Prefecture, hitting 60 home runs in four years. Most notable was his performance at the 1992 Summer Koshien national tournament. Matsui smacked three home runs to lead his team to victory in the semifinal, but was intentionally walked five times in the final and his team lost. In addition to his hitting prowess, Matsui's stoic demeanor during and after the defeat endeared him to the public.

The Yomiuri Giants made Matsui their #1 draft pick in 1993. In his first full season in 1994, Matsui played every game and went on to appear in 1250 consecutive games in NPB. He was also an All-Star pick, the first of nine straight selections. With Matsui's contributions, the Giants won the Japan Series in 1994, the first of three championships during his time with the club.

Matsui started to reach his full potential in 1996. A third baseman in high school, he was moved to the outfield as a pro and became adept at fielding the position. He hit 38 home runs in 1996, and earned the first of his three Central League MVP awards. Matsui's legend grew over the next several years as he led the Giants to Japan Series titles in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, Matsui belted an eye-popping 50 home runs and moved to MLB the next year.

Matsui hit 332 home runs in Japan. His combined NPB/MLB totals include 507 home runs and 1649 runs batted in. Accordingly, he deserves to be selected for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2018.

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?


WiFi Share:

Is your house always full of guests? Now, with one click you can securely share your WiFi login with your guests! The application idea was born when the creators got tired of giving out their Home WiFi password to every new guest. The network name and password had been written on the modem cover, and after the first 20 lookups it simply became a pain in the b!. With this app all you need to do is connect to your Home WiFi and store your WiFi password once. When the guests arrive, with a single click you will send them a message with your WiFi credentials. All major messengers, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and many others are supported. Your guest will only have to select the desired network and copy / paste your password.

Cellular Signal Booster:

Use this amazing app to easily pinpoint and identify all the carrier towers around you. Often these are in plain sight but other times, they’re disguised as trees or on top of roofs. This app will be priceless to you if you often find yourself in remote areas or enjoy hiking and camping. It’s hard to go a long time without communicating or sometimes there are emergencies. With this app you can see where your carrier towers are located so you can easily improve your cell phone reception. Also, you will be able to view additional details about the towers.

Tokyo Voice Column


Are you allergic to house dust and dust mites? by Olga Kaneda

Defining. It is very important to know your enemy. For years I had been thinking that I’m allergic to feather. Every time I used a feather pillow or a feather blanket I couldn’t stop coughing, sneezing and wheezing. Then in Japan things gradually got worse. Last summer my eyes suddenly got so red and itchy I practically ran to the eye doctor in my neighbourhood. At fist she didn’t say anything about allergies and just prescribed me some eye drops. But my second and third visit (2000 yen each) got us both thinking allergies. I went to a bigger clinic in Chofu City and took a blood test. My allergens, at least the ones that the test detected, are house dust and dust mites. I also suspect that I am allergic to chlorine though. I’m not sure how much exactly the test cost but it was covered by insurance and that day I paid 8000 yen. My advice: when it comes to allergies, don’t rely on smaller clinics with just one doctor. One of my friends did it and nearly died.

Prevention. OK, this is the phase when you need to splurge on deep cleaning of your A/C. Maybe this does not sound very economical, but in the long run you can save on electricity bills. Our A/C started working more effectively and we never set the temperature too high now. If it’s been about 10 years since you moved in and you haven’t had it cleaned by a professional team yet, it’s high time to do that.

If possible, buy an air cleaner, and don’t forget to take a surgical mask, especially on the subway, at libraries, some shops, and anywhere you feel is dusty. Also try wearing a mask while cleaning your apartment. But the most important part nobody tells you (because it is so obvious) is that you need to improve your immune system and do it quick.




MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Deep Ocean

Surrounded by deep ocean, Japan provides a feast of marine life and geology for scientists, researchers, enthusiasts and lovers of life. Join this wonderful exhibition that brings strange and almost mystical creatures from the deep into tangible experience while also providing entertaining experience of the rare and unimagined. Along with insights into the science and methodology involved in these vast explorations, get intimate knowledge of the discoveries made by dedicated teams and individuals through 4k super Hi-vision deep ocean theater and cyber chair of a drilling machines cockpit.

Macropinna microstoma (CG)

Gammaridea is a tiny shrimp-like crustacean and along with Macropinna Microstoma, are some of the unusual and fascinating life forms you will have the privilege of studying. The latter has been known to the science community since 1939 but was first photographed in 2004. It lives at 600-800m below the surface remaining mostly motionless gazing upwards. It has a fluid filled dome on its head which does not feature in old drawings due to the usual damage sustained when being brought to the surface and the lower pressures.
At up to 13m, giant squid hold a folklore status. The silent predator, known as the Sleeper shark, is lesser known though equally interesting swimming from the surface to incredible depths of 2000m with a stomach designed to tolerate the drastic pressure change.
Like this not-to-be-missed exhibition, the oceans of the world go to great depths. This exhibition also focuses on the Hadal Zone, which is deeper than 6000m below the surface. Come and explore!

Period: July 11 - October 1, 2017
Venue: National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00−17:00 Fridays & Saturdays: −20:00
8/13-8/20 9:00−18:00 (-20:00pm on 8/18 & 19)
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 7/18, 9/4, 11, 19
Admission: Adults & college students:1,600 /
High school, Junior high school & elementary school students: 600

For more information, please visit

The Giga Dinosaur Exhibition

There is nothing like a dinosaur exhibition to bring a more relaxed perspective to the time span of our life. With some incredible skeletal specimens and fossils being shown in Japan for the first time, this collection is sure to stimulate wide eyed wonder, new learning and also, play with the imagination of children and adults alike.

Tyrannosaurus (Y. Lex)
Environmental restoration image

The Mesozoic Era began some 230 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago. It was during this time that dinosaurs inhabited the earth according to current thinking. The earth was quite different in appearance back then and it is very interesting to explore that element in itself as we see the cyclical nature of climate and geological shifts. Within the periods that the Mesozoic Era is divided into (Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous), there were mass extinctions and new life forms evolving.
A highlight of this exhibition is the Ruyangosaurus (Yellow River Dinosaur), which was found in the Mangchuan Formation of China and is one of the largest Asia based dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous Period.
Through this exploration, experts attempt to explain how the dinosaurs survived almost 160 million years through earth changes, new life emergence and perhaps, even being the prey themselves.
Come and imagine these giants in a time of supercontinents and super animals.


Period: July 15 − September 3 2017
Venue: Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Hall 11
Hours: 9:30 am-5:00 pm (Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Admission: Adults & college and high school students: 2,200 / 4 years old to Junior high school students: 800

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Caution!! Fish and chips are in danger!

The fish in our fish and chips may be shrinking forever due to climate change, according to a marine biologist. Species such as cod, one of the most common components of the traditional British dish, could be a fifth smaller by 2050. Dr William Cheung, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, blamed the declining size on climate change, as this is reducing the level of oxygen in the ocean. Fish more easily become "out of breath" as they grow larger. We would be left with fish more commonly found off Spain and Portugal and our fish and chips could soon be made with sea bass or anchovies. But there is still time to preserve the UK's national dish, as Dr Cheung said that efforts to reduce the impact of climate change and conservation programmes could still make a big difference.

Don't you dare take food away from us!

Oh boy, killer whales are mad. Alaskan fisherman say they are being "chased out" of the Bering Sea by pods of killer whales which are stripping their lines of fish. In a number of cases fishing captains have reported losing tens of thousands of pounds of halibut and black cod after being followed by a number of miles by orcas. One described the pods as like a "motorcycle gang" which leave little more than the lips of the fish they snatch. While killer whales were previously an infrequent sighting for fishermen in the Bering Sea, the problem is now said to be "systemic". During his expedition to an area near the Russian border, fishing boat captain Robert Hanson said he tried to fish for two days before giving up after a pod of at least 50 whales appeared.


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

Futaba Visa Office

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Coto Language Academy

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

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