Plain Talk


Kabuki Will Surely Mesmerize You by Mrs. S. interviewed by Paul Stewart

Recently at the theater, I saw a little girl of perhaps five years old with her mother and also a boy who was seven or eight with his father. It reminded me of my childhood when I went with my grandmother and my mother. At that time there were more children in the gallery. Recently, there aren’t so many children at the Kabuli Za or the National Theater. I feel a little sad about this.

Speaking of children, when my daughter was about two years old, I worked voluntarily at a community center in Tokyo. One day, the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited us. I was very happy but also a little sad. The reason for the sadness was that my daughter who I was holding was not interested in our prestigious guests. I had to stop her from crying. Whenever I sat down with her she started crying. I stood and moved back from the Emperor and Empress. She settled down as she felt more comfortable away from all the press and other guests.

When I was a child, I greatly admired many Kabuki actors due to their presence and powerful movements. Many of these actors were not famous.

If you are watching Kabuki for the first time, you should choose a famous story or one with wonderful scenes, beautiful kimonos and elaborate sets. The older stories are often more interesting than the newer ones. You can view in English, the Kabuki website below. Even if you don't understand the stories, the sounds of the experience are exquisite. The lighting is beautiful so the atmosphere is very comfortable. Because a Kabuki performance is very long, it is possible to get a ticket for one scene during which you will be seated high in the upper gallery.

From my childhood up to now, I have had the good fortune to watch four generations of Kabuki actors from one family. There are several famous families in Kabuki but it has been really wonderful to see this progression in a traditional way with this esteemed group of individuals.





子供時代から現在に至まで、好運にも私は、ある家元の4世代に渡る歌舞伎役者を鑑賞することができた。 歌舞伎には様々な家元があるが、この名門家系で伝統が受け継がれていく様を鑑賞出来た事は本当によかったと思う。

Plain Talk


Life Lessons from a Bicycle Ride by Weellee Domingo

If you are fortunate enough to be working in a place that is just a comfortable biking distance from your house, most likely you'd be riding your bicycle on a regular basis. Just as likely, you’ve already had those random thoughts, reflections, or maybe even “Aha!” moments during your commute. In my more than five years of living here in Japan, bicycle riding has given me the opportunity to reflect on who I have been and who I could be in my life. These reflections, while confronting and a bit scary at some points, are actually comforting, relaxing, and―believe it or not―empowering.

Allow me to share some of the reflections I’ve had, all while riding a bicycle:

1. In life, people will always give you advice (even if at times, unsolicited). However, what you make out of your life relies entirely upon you. And no matter how you steer it, it’s perfect for what it is and for what it’s not.

Just like in riding a bicycle. Anyone can teach you how to ride, and you may even learn just by reading a manual. However, nobody can teach you balance, because that is something you have to figure out for yourself.

2. Once you start pedaling, your bicycle moves. The harder you pedal, the faster you go. If you are going uphill, pedaling fast and hard will soon get you to the top. At any point, for as long as your feet are on the pedals, you are in control. Once you take your feet off the pedals, you slowly stop and/or you lose control.

Just like life. As long as you keep going, remain focused on your goals, and give your very best in every endeavor, you will continuously progress even if it doesn’t seem obvious, and you will remain in control of your life. Once you lose focus or lose sight of what motivates you in life, you start heading nowhere.

3. Finally, sometimes on your ride you may feel like you’re not pedaling fast enough - especially when a lot of cyclists overtake you on the road. So you tend to pedal faster than usual, giving you leg cramps as a result and worse, you were unable to enjoy the ride.

Just like in life. We often become so fixated on comparing our lives with others, thinking that we are not (yet) good enough or that they will always be much better than we are. As a result, we fail to see our own accomplishments and all the more fortunate aspects of our lives. Worse yet, we sometimes become so exhausted just surviving that we fail to really live. So perhaps it’s best that we stop comparing ourselves with others, take our time, learn what can be learned, and appreciate life! (now that is something I also have to remind myself from time to time)

Most likely, for as long as I live in this country, there will be more of these reflections to come. How about you? What are your thoughts? Enjoy the ride!

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


St. Patricks Day in Japan Guide 2019

St. Patrick’s Day in Japan: from Hokkaido to Okinawa, Irish in Japan and Japanese friends of Ireland join the celebration of all things Irish!
Planning for Saint Patrick’s Day 2019 celebrations in Japan is going full steam ahead. Events include 15 Parades and festivals around Japan, from Matsue and Fukuoka in western Japan to events in Tokyo and Yokohama. This year will also see new events in Sapporo and Fukuroi in Shizuoka.

Download the St Patricks Day Japan 2019 Events Brochure from HERE!


The Wild Rover

The Wild Rover will be holding their annual St. Patrick's Day party, featuring traditional Irish music. In fact, the party is commemorating its 15th anniversary nd has been growing bigger and bigger each year thanks to the support of sponsors, organizations, pubs, and customers. This year, the Wild Rover will present a variety of artists with an Irish theme. The Wild Rover, which is often considered to be a drinking song, provides a great opportunity to drink, dance and have a good time!

3/24 (Sun) @ O-West / O-Nest / VUENOS / Glad / 7th Floor
(Closest Sta. Shibuya)

What’s App With You?


Audible audiobooks & originals

Commuting everyday packed like a sardine on a train for a long time? You'd like to read some books but can't even manage a space to open books? Welcome to Audible, home of the world’s largest selection of audiobooks, audio shows, and original series. Hear A-list celebrities narrate their favorite stories, enjoy full-cast performances, discover Grammy® award-winning audiobooks, and more. Listen to your audiobooks anytime, anywhere—like when you are traveling on a packed train with this free app. Explore new releases, best-sellers, mysteries, sci-fi, romance, and memoirs – whatever your passion you're sure to find the perfect listen. Keep up to date on current trends, news, and events with Audible original audio shows and top stories from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others. Great escape from a packed train!!

Freemake Musicbox:

If you can't concentrate in a packed train to listen to some audio books, and rather wanting to save those books to read for relaxing weekends, you can choose this app and listen to your favorite songs. Discover & play free music for your iPhone in Freemake Musicbox application. Search any song from a 20 million tracks library. Listen to music without limits. Explore hashtags, create playlist with best tracks. Enjoy favorite MP3s on your iPhone endlessly. Freemake Musicbox lets you access to free YouTube songs - from old recordings to the latest hits. Over 20,000,000 tracks! Tap the “Search” tab and enter an artist or track name, then Musicbox will bring a list of songs for playback, so select a track and just hit the “Play” icon!


Tokyo Voice Column


Japanese indoor activities by Anne Corinne

Too cold or rainy to go out? Japan has a lot of interesting and unique traditional indoor activities suitable for the whole family. Here are a few ideas that will help us improve our knowledge of Japanese language, arts and culture while being entertained.

Igo (囲碁, Go game): this strategy game opposes two players using black and white pieces on a board (although we can also play alone with software programs nowadays). Unlike chess and draughts, the game begins with an empty board and consists in capturing pieces and occupying as much area as possible.

Karuta (カルタ): this poetry game is made of 100 cards with waka/haiku written on the front side and pictures on the back side. One participant reads each waka/haiku poem and the winner has to quickly collect as many corresponding cards as possible.

Riichi (リーチ): this Japanese modern Mahjong consists in 136 blocks with different symbols, which are mixed and faced-down into a square of four walls (East, South, West and North). Four players sit in front of each wall and will break the wall by taking blocks. Some blocks are acquired, others are discarded, depending on the sets. The winner is the one who has won most hands and accumulated most points.

Origami (折り紙): origami is an art that consists of folding square papers without using any other tool. The most famous origami character is probably the Japanese crane but most book stores sell origami sheets to learn creating all kinds of animals or things.

Shiritori (しりとり): this is a word chain game in which a participant has to say a word that starts with the final syllable of the previous word told by another player. A lot of fun is guaranteed!

What a nice way to learn about Japanese culture! Hope you will enjoy these interesting indoor activities.

寒い日や、雨の日は外出は嫌よね? 日本では、家族みんなで家の中でこんな遊びをして楽しんでいる。楽しみながら、日本語や日本の芸術文化を学ぶ一助となるのでいくつか挙げてみよう。







MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


The Burrell Collection
A Voyage to impressionism. Vision of a great shipowner-collector

Sir William Burrell was a shipping magnate, a highly successful business man and one of the greatest international art collectors. He built up one of the most important and impressive art collection of Chinese ceramics, tapestries, stained glass, silver, bronzes, Persian and Indian rugs and furniture, traveling widely in the process. In 1944, when Sir William Burrell and his wife Constance bequeathed their personal collection of art and antiques to his birthplace, Glasgow, the city received one of the world's leading single collections; consisting of vast numbers (Thousands) of artefacts, works that reflected his passion for art and his unique perspective. His great legacy contributed to transform Glasgow as a major cultural city in the world.

Edgar Degas, 'The Rehearsal',
about 1874
© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Sir William formally stipulated that nothing should be loaned overseas. Due to the reconstruction of the museum from 2015 to 2020, it gave us such a rare opportunity to see his remarkable collection in Japan. This exhibition features 73 works, mainly French paintings from the Burrell collection including 'The Rehearsal', a masterpiece by Degas, a treasure which was never allowed to be taken out of the museum. On top of the masterpieces from the Burrell Collection, 7 works from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow are also displayed as well. Do take advantage of this rare opportunity, otherwise you may never be able to see them unless you visit Glasgow!

Period: April 27 - June 30, 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: 5/7, 5/21 & 6/4
Admission: Adults: ¥1,500 / College & high school students: ¥1,000 / Junior high & elementary school students: ¥700

For more information, please visit




magine a world where no one is an outsider, where problems are solved peacefully after an amazing adventure seeking for answers, and overall, where tolerance, equality, democracy, loyalty and a friendly way of existing in society are the natural order.
Since the first Moomin book was published in 1945, it turned Finland’s Jansson into one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors. The Moomin series went on to sell in their millions, and translated into 44 languages. Coming from an artistic family, Tove Jansson always knew she’d be a painter. After studying in Stockholm, Helsinki, and also in Paris, Jansson began contributing cartoons for the Finnish satire magazine ‘GARM’. When war broke out, she found it hard to continue painting and felt an urge to create something that was to begin with 'Once upon a time’, and through them she escaped from the war and the harshness of the world. However, Moomin is by far not a conventional stories with princesses and princes, but instead with a strange, yet familiar, compelling creatures, that kept capturing hearts of many all over the world.

Tove Jansson,
Illustration from
Summer Stories from Moominvalley’,
1954, Ink on paper, Moomin Museum
©Moomin Characters ™

For this Moomin exhibition, her brilliant works will be coming to Tokyo from the world's only Moomin Museum in Finland, recreating the universe of Moominland. From Moomin’s original illustrations and sketches, cartoons for ‘GARM’ to rare collections — Moomin figures, easter cards, advent calendars, advertisement for banks and newspapers that Tove Jansson held as her personal collection — many of her amazing works will be featured. Come and meet the fascinating and extraordinary characters from Moominland.


Period: April 9 - June 16, 2019
Venue: Mori Arts Center Gallery
Hours: 10:00-20:00, -17:00 on Tuesdays
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Open everyday
Admission: Adults: ¥1,800 / High school & Junior high school students: ¥1,400 / Child (Age 4 up to Elementary school children): ¥800

For more information, please visit (Japanese Only)

Strange but True


Poker Face

Any gambler knows the importance of a good "game face". Lying convincingly isn't always easy, especially when there are so many subconscious "tells" that can give you away. Many people admit that they frequently tell "white lies" to acquaintances, colleagues and even their own partners. With the average person expected to hear between 10 and 200 lies per day, how can you tell when someone is being untruthful? You can always watch out for these five tell-tale signs. Micro‐expressions, eye movements, hand movements, blink rate, and leg and feet movement. Micro‐expressions are one of the best indicators that someone is lying, as they happen subconsciously and so we have no way to stop them. The eyes are a good place to look when trying to work out if someone’s telling the truth. When lying, someone’s hand movements will often become more animated, but out of sync with what they’re saying. Blink rate either increases or decreases when someone is lying. Leg and feet movements will often increase as the liar tries to release the negative energy and stress of telling a lie. Now do you think you can tell when people are lying to you?

No more Dash Buttons?

Amazon ’s physical Dash Buttons have been discontinued, in favour of digital alternatives. Dash Buttons are gadgets that users could physically press to re-order household items, including cleaning products and foods. The devices, which Amazon suggested could be stuck to cupboards or the fridge, were first launched back in 2015. But Amazon has revealed that in the four years since then, there’s been a shift in user behaviour towards virtual versions of the buttons. customers increasingly using programmes like Alexa Shopping, which provides a hands-free shopping experience, and Subscribe & Save, which lets customers automatically receive their favourite items every month. So from now on, it is going to be all about hands-free shopping! Can't even bother to push a button anymore!



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