Plain Talk


Ugly Betty is not just beautiful but healthy by Hiroko

Why Japanese, who are known for their keen sense for health and esthetics, do not treat their crooked teeth? It may have been a mystery for non-Japanese observers.

I was one of the ignorant. My teeth are slightly too big for my relatively small mouth, resulting in disorderly alignment of them. Typical of many kids, I used to have those two prominent front teeth and the ones on either side set back. My classmates called me Beaver. I quite liked the nickname.

But a human beaver has a weakness; there were always places that the toothbrush wouldn’t reach because of the uneven alignment, and I was prone to bad teeth. Every year at a dental checkup at school, the dentist would call out “C0, C1, C1!” as he peered into my open mouth, that metal tool with a small round mirror tapping against my teeth, and the nurse scribbling on the patient’s card. Later I received the card, which I was to take to a local dentist for treatment.

My older sister wore braces. Since someone told her that her crooked teeth looked ugly, she stopped laughing with her month wide open. She started orthodontics treatment at 12 or 13 and endured the pain silently until at last she was freed from the braces before starting college.

So my mother asked me too if I’d get orthodontics treatment. I said No. I probably felt that it was sort of cheating to fix one’s tooth alignment. You have to live with what you were given by nature. I never saw it as not just an esthetic issue but medical.

So there I was, all grown up and suddenly realized that I should take care of my beaver teeth. By then I had lost a tooth nerve in a bad cavity case. In order to save the other teeth, I bravely had as many as four teeth pulled out to make space and wore the “Ugly Betty” braces. That was three years and several months ago.

Now I wear transparent retainers molded for my new, straight alignment to keep them in place. The nurse told me to wear them at least as long as I wore the metal braces. I run my tongue over the straight line of my teeth, which gives me a thrill. I can now brush every corner of my teeth. My beaver teeth are still there, but not protruding.

For Japanese, orthodontics was just something uncommon. Those who missed the opportunity in their childhood now turn to it. I see more and more adults wearing braces at work and on the street. We can pay for ourselves as working adults now, though it’s still too costly.

Is orthodontics covered by the public health insurance in your country? It isn’t here. If it’s insurable, kids from households with lower income can afford it as well, which will raise the health standard of the nation. That should help reduce health care budget in a long run.
Copyright (C) 2015 Hiroko. All rights reserved.









Plain Talk


Introducing Funabori city ! by Adriana Stoica

As I have recently heard that many of my foreign friends have plans to move to different areas of Tokyo, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Funabori, the city where I moved several years back, one of the most convenient location I have found so far in Tokyo.

I came to Japan in 2006 as a student, and during the last 11 years I have been living in various area in Tokyo such as a lively foreign students dormitory Komaba-Todaimae, in a large, spacious and incredibly cheap apato in Ichikawa-Oono, Chiba, and currently in a mansion in Funabori, Edogawa-ku. Although each place has its own charm and benefits, so far, Funabori city has become our favorite place due to the great variety of attractions. One of the most exciting is Funabori Tower- which yyou can visit free of cost while entertaining your guests, or even have a lunch on a restaurant and enjoy the view. Another nice location situated just next to the station is Funabori Hall that organizes exhibition, various shows, performances, wedding ceremonies, and even movies in a small, but cozy cinema.

There is a great variety of restaurants that satisfy any taste, (at least five tasty Chinese restaurants, two delicious Korean, three spicy Indian restaurants plus their own particular food stores, not to mention Saizerya and well-known family restaurant such as Denny’s, Jonathan, Mr. Doughnuts, and the local Japanese Izakaya etc.. Recently for the beer lovers, a Kirin City nice beer shop has opened. Lots of options for a dinner out plan.
Funabori city has also abundant natural resources (parks, green healthy paths, ponds with colorful carps and friendly ducks) and a lot of fun options such as local onsen, spa center, and Community Center offering a wide range of activities at minimum rate, just to mention a few. There are also at least 3 sport and health centers (including one hot yoga center), all of them provided in a very convenient environment with more than 4 huge supermarkets and convenience stores at every corner.

In the summer, on the nearby Arakawa River banks there are fireworks festivals and the nearby station (Higashi-Ojima) has a large park with barbeque, jogging, walks and other recreational activities and a huge playground for kids.

I would like to introduce this city not only from the convenience point of view ( have I mentioned that the Rapid train stops here ? ), but also from the incredible potential in terms of making new foreign friends. Recently large groups of foreigners from all over the world can be seen socializing in the nearby park, and this makes this city look like a resort, where tourists from all over the world can meet and share their experiences, as world travellers. For those who are still thinking which place to move in, Funabori city may be a good option. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do!

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?


A Charlie Brown Christmas:

A must have app to experience an amazing Christmas. "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!" Help Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the entire Peanuts gang as they struggle to find the true meaning of Christmas. The original dialogue from the 1965 animated classic narrated by Peter Robbins- the real voice of Charlie Brown, wins you over with its magic. Play Schroeder's piano, finger paint with the gang, and go carolling with the Peanuts choir. Participate in the Spectacular Super-Colossal Neighborhood Christmas Lights and Display Contest to unlock decorations for your very own Charlie Brown Christmas Tree! With something to discover on every page, this is one interactive Peanuts adventure you won't want to miss this holiday season!!

PNP 2016 Portable North Pole:

Create FREE magical personalized video messages from Santa to your loved ones, both big and small! Phone calls from Santa, premium video messages from Santa − all totally customizable and cool: that's what PNP's highly-rated and popular iPhone app is all about. Tons of fun things like Santa's Radar, countdown, advent calendar (new surprise every day, throughout this month) make PNP a very exciting Christmas app this season. Portable North Pole's personalized video messages from Santa have been making Christmas unforgettable for families for 10 years! The popular Christmas app is back with magical new video scenarios and exciting features like Bedtime Stories with Santa and the popular Reaction Recorder―so you’ll never forget the look of surprise on your child's face when Santa speaks directly to them!.


Tokyo Voice Column


Glow in the Dark: Winter Illumination by Jennifer Nakajima

After we had experienced the beauty of Autumn season every year and capturing its magnificent colours of fall leaves. Then, finally " Winter Season" here it comes. Woah! just to think of it, sooo cold and frozen..! I hope you dont feeling blue that way because even winter there are so much fun to do.

Illumination is one kind of event held every year warmly entertaining people during freezing winter holidays season. Every town and cities has decorating spectacular thousands and millions of LEDs to transform it to a magical fantasy land. Here are one of the best festive options for lighting up your day during Winter Holiday Season this year 2017:

1. Tokyo Skytree Dream Christmas: (from Nov 9 to Dec 25)
Its two observation decks are lights illuminating both sides and also the Top of the Tower. You will be curious about its two lighting styles " Iki ", the spirit of edo, and " Miyabi " , its aesthetics.

2. Caretta Shiodome Illumination: ( from Nov 16 to Feb 14)
You could enjoy its theme Disney's Beauty and the Beast with Ballroom Dance Scene set which has covered Caretta Shiodome park with thousands of LEDs lit up like a fantasy world.

3. Roppongi hills Artelligent Christmas: (from Nov 25 to Dec 25)
The popular city of Tokyo will be lit up about 1,200,000 LEDs with a wonderful theme of " Snow and Blue " to " Candle and Red."

4. Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination: (from Nov 9 to Feb 18)
One of the Star of the Night and Top illumination event held from the rest in Tokyo. It has impressive illuminations beautifully decorated to experience and enjoy during Winter holidays that you can spend every night.

5. Omotesando Illumination: (from Nov 30 to Dec 25)
Tokyo's most popular street for illumination during the Christmas season.

Explore and admire the breathtaking illuminations of Tokyo by night. Towns and Cities are lit up emphasizing the magical atmosphere in the heart of Tokyo.

MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Brueghel: 150 years of an Artistic Dynasty

The spectacular and impressive history of one family of artists will be presented in a show featuring over 100 pieces. Over the span of 150yrs starting with Pieter Brueghel the Elder, this lineage provides a feast of fine painting and a glimpse into the life of Europeans in the up to 500yrs ago.
From the early 15th Century up to the mid 17th Century, Flemish painting was at the forefront of world art and indeed, many painters that came from or studied there, would often be appointed to royal courts all over Europe. Perhaps one of the pioneers of this period of success was Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525,30-1569) also known as the Peasant Brueghel to separate him from the many Brueghels that would also become know for their skill in this realm. His main focus was painting peasants along with landscapes.

Pieter Bruegel the younger,
"The Outdoor Dance"
ca. 1610, Private Collection

This exhibition will give you the chance to study these detailed colourful masterpieces by Pieter the Elder and his descendants including Pieter Bruegel the younger up close. Many of the paintings on display are rarely seen in public as most are from private collections. Few have been seen in Japan at all until now.
Be sure to enjoy this history of fine art from an amazing family in a peak age of painting.

Period: January 23 - April 1, 2018
Hours: 9:30 − 17:30, 9:30 − 20:00 on Fridays
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: Mondays, February 13 (Open the Mondays of February 12)
Admission: General: 1,600 / College students: 1,300 / High school students: 800/ Seniors 65+: 1,000
English Audio Guide Available

For more information, please visit

The Empire of Imagination and Science of Rudolf II

Nowadays a Businessperson can be on the board of many companies but back in the day of Rudolf II, if one had the right connections, he could be king of various countries. In your spare time, one could collect art and participate in the popular leading edge sciences of the day such as Astrology and Alchemy.
This exhibit will bring this prolific collector of fine arts taste to the fore with the opportunity to explore his world and endeavors at the same time. Rudolf II, the king at various times of: Hungary, Croatia & Bohemia, the Arch Duke of Austria and did I mention, the Emperor of Rome, was in a great position to be one of the all time greatest collectors of art. He particularly liked the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo who specialized in paintings using images of fruit, vegetables, flowers and other things to make up the portrayed face. A fine example of this will be on display. Vertumnus is a painting done after he retired from his service in Prague back to Milan and features the ruler himself, Rudolf II.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
"The Emperor Rudolf II as Vertumnus"
1591, oil on panel,
Skokloster Castle, Sweden

With more than 120 items: works from great masters at the time, his collections of astronomical tools and crafts, the display is sure to please and will take you into a time of kings and emperors, and of course, the finely tuned skills of famous artists.


Period: January 6 - March 11
Venue: The Bunkamura Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00 − 18:00, 10:00 − 21:00 on Fridays & Saturdays
(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)
Closed: 1/16 & 2/13
General: 1,600 / College & High school students: 1,000/
Junior high & elementary school students: 700

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Different Christmas customs in the world

Germany and Austria
The star of a new Hollywood horror film, the Krampus is Father Christmases' scary friend, a devilish creature who punishes naughty children throughout the festive period. The mythical beast, which stems from Austro-Bavarian German-speaking Alpine folklore, is hairy with hooves and large horns.
In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, revellers travel to early-morning church services on roller skates throughout the festive period. The roads are even closed off specially.
In Portugal, families set extra places at the dining table on Christmas morning for deceased relatives. The practice is called “consoda” and is thought to bring the family good luck.
Czech Republic
Over Christmas, Czech women use a clever trick to predict their love lives for the coming year. Unmarried women stand with their backs to their front doors and toss shoes over their shoulders. If a shoe lands with its toe pointing towards the door, the woman will get hitched within the next 12 months.
In Norway, it’s thought Christmas Eve coincides with the arrival of evil spirits and witches. To protect themselves, families hide all their brooms before they go to bed.
Ukrainian Christmas trees are traditionally decorated with a fake spider and web. The custom, which is said to bring good luck, stems from an old wives' tale about a poor woman who could not afford to decorate her tree. She woke up on Christmas morning to find a spider had covered it in a glittering web.
If you think sprouts are bad, you should try one of Greenland’s Christmas delicacies. Mattak - raw whale skin with blubber - is one. Another is kiviak, which is when an auk (a small bird) is wrapped in seal skin, buried for several months, and then eaten once decomposed.
Only about 2.3 per cent of the population of India are Christians, but that still works out as about 25 million people. The day is celebrated with midnight mass and present-giving, but in the absence of fir trees or pine trees, banana trees and mango tree are decorated instead.




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