Plain Talk


Six Pack Blues by Maris Piper

I met my friend, Eggs, in Shibuya last week. He has said he had a present for me. Excited I raced down there and was handed a T-shirt! I unfolded it saying "Six Pack Coming Soon". If you knew Eggs, you would know that "soon" was the wrong choice of words. It was hardly apt for me, either.
I tried to give it back obviously, but he said it merely reminded him of failure. The story was that he had tried join a gym for the first time in years, and done a few trials at a various trendy gyms in town, but declined them all.

- Oh come on you slob. Get back in there! - But Eggs said Japanese gyms "were not real gyms!". You're making excuses, I thought; but no, as always, he had his reasons....

First, he said it is hard to find a gym that is open 24 hours. Like everything else in Tokyo, they are also pretty small, which makes them crowded and not very well-equipped. Most of the gyms, just had machines and not many free weights, which meant the free weight area was too crowded.
- This is Tokyo. It is crowded. Go and live in the mountains then! -

Eggs had his own theory on another weird thing about Japanese gyms, that too many of the gyms he tried were substitute "host clubs"!
- What are you talking about? -

Eggs reckoned most of the members were housewives and single women and were pampered by the predominantly male instructors, and in return acted as fan club. The gym was more a "service industry" than about health and fitness or physical education. That was the real reason that most of the gyms exceed US$150 a month to use. Lots of fake instructors just chatting.
- Ahh, poor Eggs is jealous... -

Never be jealous of anyone, he said proudly. "The main reason was actually due to Japanese gym etiquette, or well, the lack of it!".

According to him, there was less gym etiquette than the US. Too many people hogged machines, put down towels while they wandered off, basically broke all the rules: " Apart from the trains, it is the only place, Japanese are impolite".

So it seems that the gym culture in Japan lacks the traditional Japanese norms of politeness, modesty, and respect for others. Maybe as a western import, natives think it doesn't warrant the full Japanese treatment.
I put it down to the rules only applying in public. We get none of that in my local oba-oji gym because it is a public space, where Japanese traditional rules applies. Western gyms have their problems too: steroidal men grunting and strutting; locker rooms that stink; hippy waffle from fake yogi wannabes. I simply recommend Eggs comes to the oba-oji gym with me.

He politely declines as we work on the six-pack - the one in the fridge! ... Cheers!












彼は丁寧に断った。腹筋を六つに割るトレーニングは。 じゃあ、冷蔵庫に半ダースあるビールは?乾杯!

Plain Talk


Mr. Obama by Dean Mejia

Well, it really happened. On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was finally sworn in as the 45th President of the United States (P.O.T.U.S.). Whether you love him, hate him, or are indifferent, he is now the official leader of one of the greatest countries in the world. Now it's his turn to see what he can do. We should respect him for the tough job that he is about to undertake. We shouldn't forget about President Obama so soon though.

Barack Hussein Obama was a very important president, simply for the fact that he was the first ever African American P.O.T.U.S. in history. This is something that many Americans thought would never happen in the U.S.A. considering the dark history of racial discrimination faced by African Americans. Despite the huge hurdle that he had to overcome, he inspired a lot of people from all walks of life and served in the White House for 8 years (2 Presidential terms).

Obama’s legacy includes: putting a stop to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ensuring the death of Osama Bin Laden, saving the American automobile industry from collapsing, creating millions of jobs, lowering the unemployment rate, improving relations between the USA and Cuba, introducing the Iran Nuclear Deal to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, being a champion for gay rights, and among other things, implementing ObamaCare (that, while controversial, did give millions of Americans access to healthcare).

In May 27, 2016, Obama was the first sitting American President to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan. He met with survivors of the nuclear bombing that pretty much ended World War 2. In return, on December 27, 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the first “official” visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He joined Obama in remembering those who died 75 years ago in the historic surprise attack by the Japanese military on the US Naval base. Obama had a nice and friendly relationship with Japan.

On a personal (and lighter) note, I was always popular in Japan when I would wear my suit because often times people would say I look like Obama (at least I would hear that from those that didn’t say I look like Lupin III). It never directly helped me to get any dates, or any increases in salary, but it was always a nice ice-breaker. Now my luck has run out because I don’t look ANYTHING like Donald Trump.

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.

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Tokyo Voice Column


Toki-o Valentines day by Mariko Ishida

Ladies! Especially to the newcomers and gaijin. It is the time of the year again to bring out your cookbooks and ready your eggbeaters.

While in the rest of the world, the females are traditionally the recipients during valentines day, Japan celebrate it in a rather peculiar fashion. The ladies get busy a day or two before the occasion preparing sweets for the men. Japanese women are said to be reserved and shy, hence this time they express their affection and send appreciation to their coworkers, friends and even bosses. There are two types: Romance associated chocolates are called Hon-mei choco. While Giri-choco, are given to colleagues and close male friends that comes with an obligation to be reciprocated after a month, March 14th labeled as the white day. This is based to the Japanese culture of returning a favor when one does something for you.

I remembered vividly how mine went last year. All my roommates took it so serious everyone claimed a corner in the kitchen. I was still in a foreign mentality and refused to join in the fad at the beginning. I saw how these ladies are having so much excitement so at the final hour, I realized why not regale my boyfriend with a unique experience? Albeit we both are foreigners, we are still in Japan after all. I ran to the shopping mall to order chocolates and have it delivered to my boyfriend's work as a surprise treat. Unfortunately, I was an hour late. I learned most shops accept only up to one at noon for same day delivery.

At the end, we simply indulged ourselves and just laughed off of my fiasco. It clearly served me a lesson. I also learned that laboring those sweetmeats yourself amount all the more special.





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Alfons Mucha

Alphonse Mucha was considered by many to be a leader of the Art Nouveau movement. His works covered many mediums from drawing (which he favoured as a child), to painting, book illustration, carpets, wallpapers, jewelry design, advertisements and more.
Incredibly, this exhibition celebrating 60 years of restored diplomatic ties between the Czech Republic and Japan, will show all 20 pieces of his masterwork, the Slav Epic. Dedicated to this from 1911 to 1928, his 'Slav Epic' consists of 10 paintings particularly about the Czech people and their history with another ten dedicated to that of other Slav countries. It is the first time in history that all 20 pieces of the famous series have been shown together outside the artists' home nation.

Alfons Mucha
"The Slav Epic
The Slavs in their Original Homeland
1912, oil and tempera on canvas
610 x 810cm, Prague City Gallery
(C)Prague City Gallery

The exhibition with these 20 giant canvases also includes another 80 wonderful works of the artist who established himself as an international star while in Paris from 1887. He studied at Academie Julian, Paris, and was at his peak when he featured at the World Fair in 1900 gaining even greater international fame. In 1918, the artist was invited to create the first stamps and banknotes for the newly created Czechoslovakia. Mucha was motivated to educate Slavic people and promote
their independence leading to some interrogation from the Nazi regime in 1939.
He became unwell and passed away shortly after.

Period: March 8 - June 5, 2017
Venue: The National Art Center
Hours: 10:00-18:00 *10:00-20:00 on Fridays and April 29 (Sat.) − May 7 (Sun.)
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: Tuesdays (except for May 2)
Admission: 1,600 / University students: 1,200 / High school students: 800 /

For more information, please visit

The´odore Chasse´riau Parfum Exotique

Featuring the genius talent of a French artist who lived to be only 37 years of age, this exhibition reveals the contrasting influencing styles of the students two main teachers combined with the natural ability of the artist himself.
Born in the Dominican Republic to an adventurous French father and Haitian Mulatto mother, The´odore Chasse´riau was discovered to be a highly talented artist shortly after his return with the family to Paris. Noting particularly his drawing ability, he was enrolled in the Jean-Auguste- Dominique Ingres Art School and fell under the guidance of the artist himself becoming his favourite student. He absorbed the classical style. Later, when that teacher moved on to greater things, Chasse´riau was exposed to the Romantic style of new teacher Euge´ne Delacroix. Both teachers styles being felt in this exhibition.

The´odore Chasse´riau
"A Cossack Girl Finds
Mazeppa Unconscious" 1851
Photo(C)Muse´es de Strasbourg,
Mathieu Bertola

Perhaps due to his sheer talent, his relatively short life and also, the amount of time dedicated to large projects such as church murals, the gifted artists works are quite rare, being housed in a few prestigious museums and with private collectors. The beautiful pieces on display, many of which have a soft eloquent radiance, are displayed in a room dedicated to the artist at Muse´e du Louvre, Paris, France.


Period: February 28 − May 28 2017
Venue: he National Museum of Western Art
Hours: 09:30〜17:30 / 〜20:00 on Fridays ※Last entry 30 minutes prior to closing time.
Closed: Mondays, except 20, 27 March 2017, 1 May 2017 and Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Admission: 1,600 / University students: 1,200 /High School students: 800

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Simple order "Coffee please" just wouldn't cut it any longer...

Coffee had became more complicated in this modern world. Step into any coffee shop and you'll be greeted with a wealth of choice. Some of which makes very little sense. In some places, you can even pay to have a nice, deconstructed cup of the stuff, should you ever feel like invalidating the whole point of buying it in the first place. This choice may seem like a good thing, but it can also be somewhat daunting (and annoying). So, the next time you need a caffeine injection, you can eliminate at least five of them, as these are the options, according to PureWow , no self-respecting barista would plump for.
1. Extra-Hot Americano.
There's only so much heat a person can take. There's also just the one fixed temperature at which water boils. So, with that in mind, what exactly is the point in having an extra-hot drink besides you might burn your tongue...
2. 'Bone-dry' cappuccino.
??? We don't know what this means. Do you know what this means? Anyway, in case - like us - you don't, a 'bone-dry' cappuccino is simply espresso with some added foam, with the steamed milk left out. I'll have bone-dry martini instead, thank you.
3. Skimmed soy latte.
Skimmed milk exists. Soy milk exists. Skimmed soy milk, alas, does not. This drink is a work of fiction.
4. Cappuccino with almond milk.
Almond milk is a sweet and delightful alternative to whole cow's milk. But while whole milk can be turned into a dense, proper froth, almond milk simply turns a little thicker when steamed.
5. And forget the secret menu...
True, many an eating establishment have created a secret menu , but if every coffee shop did have one, all of the best drinks would be on the regular menu anyway...


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