Plain Talk


Going Hiking to Mount Tsukuba by A. Stoica

Still wondering what to do on a hot Saturday? I would recommend get out of the crowded city and head to a hiking one-day-trip to Mount Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture! It is a great way to relax, exercise, to enjoy nature, meditate, do tree- hugging, release the stress and take superb photos of the summit view. Mount Tsukuba (877m) is not only one of the most abundant in greenery and nice landscapes, but it also offers several hiking courses you can choose from according to your physical level, comfort and available time. For an average person, I would suggest the 1.8 km course at Nyotai Side (the Female Side – I will come back to this a little later), that starts right behind the restaurant at the parking area and finishes at the cable car station nice restaurant and ice-cream available?) . Go past the temple and the statue featuring a giant frog, and start climbing almost vertically on a steep course. A little bit challenging for beginners but it worth every moment. The way back is at your choice. You can enjoy the descending at your own pace or get a cable car and admire the aerial view of the area.

On the way on the train to mount Tsukuba it is a great way idea to do some reading about mount Tsukuba and learn about the history and the legend. Did you know there are 2 peaks called Nyotai and Nantai? something like Female and Male peak? it is also called the Purple Mountain ? On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji from the top. It is a nice opportunity to learn about the legend of Mount Tsukuba, about a deity that descended from the skies thousands of years back and asked two mountains for shelter overnight. With his perfect cone, and straight summit, Mount Fuji proudly rejected the request. Mount Tsukuba, on the other side, humbly provided shelter, water and food. As a result, Mount Tsukuba has been blessed with abundant greenery and natural resources, while Mount Fuji remained cold and bare. And indeed, a little bit of more reading will reveal that Mount Tsukuba produces some very beautiful and sought-for granite and different kinds of rocks.

There are many other historic facts or local stories about Mount Tsukuba but I would like to let you discover it by yourself on you first trip to this wonderful place!




The Randy Reviewer


A conversation with Kenji Kamiyama by Randy Swank

Director Kenji Kamiyama is famous among SF anime fans for working on several Patlabor and Ghost in the Shell projects. This time, though, the creator of the hugely successful Eden of the East saga has come up with something quite different. His latest film, Ancien and the Magic Tablet (original title: Napping Princess: The Story of the Unknown Me) is a story that successfully mixes robots and traditional fantasy elements while exploring the enduring value of family ties. I caught up with the director some time ago to talk about this film.

“I wanted to do something different; a sort of family movie with a lighter, pop feeling,” Kamiyama says. “I have a 16-year-old daughter, and one of the producers proposed to make something that could be a message to her. For many years I made the sort of adult-oriented SF films she didn’t really like and was probably too young to understand. But while working on the new story I remembered when she was about three and I used to tell her a bedtime story every night. That memory inspired me to make Ancien… as a sort of modern fable.”

The story starts three days before the opening of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. “Everybody has very fond memories of the 1964 Olympics that highlighted Japan’s economic success, but things have changed,” Kamiyama explains. “Young people like Kokone, the film’s protagonist, have no particular expectations this time. Now we see conflicts between the young and old generations, and even technology, where Japan used to be number one, has been quite sluggish. The country is still negatively affected by the huge earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. I was looking for something that highlighted this difference between current Japanese society and the old times while at the same time injecting some energy and enthusiasm, and I found it in the Olympic Games.”

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 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



Sound from Shinjuku.
Red Bull Music's popular content "Lost in Karaoke": jacking the unique Japanese culture -karaoke box- and delivering live streaming performance of high-profile artists from each room will return! This time DJ & LIVE equipment, sound system etc will be set up in seven rooms of "Karaoke-kan Seibu Shinjuku Station mae" in the middle of Kabukicho in Shinjuku. From the Karaoke boxes, young artists responsible for the future of the Japanese music scene will deliver some unique and original performances & talks. With the waveform that flies like a kaleidoscope, the rhythm with a hypnotic effect, and sometimes with a powerful singing voice, they will remove the concept of a normal karaoke box.

Date:October 2nd 7pm ~ 10pm
No registration necessary as this is a live streaming event.

For more information, please visit


Dancing in the UNIVERSE
Countless stars twinkling in the night sky. Wondering what's further out there in the universe...?
Countless galaxies exist outside our galaxy. Sometimes the galaxies collide with one another and form a new galaxy. The universe continues to expand, repeating cycles beyond our imagination. This is an unprecedented entertainment with its "sensuous" scale and rhythm of the universe by fusing electronic music, 360 degree dome image, and space directing in a high dimension. What do we think of living on a small planet called Earth in front of the scale of this vast universe?

@ KONICA MINOLTA Planatarium
Closest Sta: Ikebukuro

For more information, please visit

What’s App With You?


PCalc Lite

PCalc is the powerful choice for scientists, engineers, students, programmers, or indeed anybody looking for a feature rich calculator. It includes an optional RPN mode and multi-line display, a choice of button layouts, an extensive set of unit conversions and constants, a paper tape, multiple undo and redo, engineering and scientific notation, as well as support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations. PCalc Lite is a fully functional and free taste of our very popular scientific calculator. It includes an optional RPN mode, multiple undo and redo, unit conversions and constants, as well as two stylish themes and our highly praised design. A great choice for your new iPad. If you like what you see, the full version has many more settings and themes, a paper tape, engineering and scientific notation, and full support for hexadecimal, octal, and binary calculations. You can also now purchase extra features directly from inside PCalc Lite. Buy them individually, or buy everything. Includes an Apple Watch app, so you can calculate on your wrist.

VisualMATH 4D:

VisualMATH 4D is a graphical calculator and lets you draw graphs of your mathematical functions in 2D, 3D and 4D with a time-variable (t). Features: draw graphs with one or two variables like f (x), f (x, y) - visualize your function in 4 dimensions with a time-variable - compute value tables - definite integral and derivative - functions - matrices, vectors, determinant, inverse, transpose, - trigonometrical functions like sin, cos, tan, sec - rounding-functions, floor, ceil, round, - sum and product-function - save your functions and make screenshots - modify your graph-range and set customized color options - rotate and zoom your graph in three dimensions - display multiple graphs The app is easy to use and helps students and engineers to visualize their mathematical functions and it can be used as a professional graphical calculator.

Tokyo Voice Column


Traditional Festivals: A Japanese Perspective With Ms. ‘S’
as interviewed by Paul Stewart

I like the traditional events of Japan. Recently, I went to the Sanja Festival at Asakusa and also, an Osumo Opening Ceremony (Dohyo Matsuri) at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

I watched Osumo often as a child on television. My family would watch all six of the annual tournaments either in the living room at home or, sometimes in the Department Stores in Nihombashi. You could watch Osumo on the T.V & Electronics floor, or in the waiting rooms of Men’s Fashion shops. I continued watching Osumo but my first live experience was actually the retirement event for the famous Yokozuna Kitanofuji (Fuji of the North). He comes from Hokkaido and is very handsome. I like him. But my older cousin was ‘crazy’ about him so we went in a group of four cousins together to celebrate his career. My favourite whom I loved was actually Kitanoumi (Lake of the North), who passed-away three years ago. We watched in Kuramae, as it was the home of Osumo for thirty years.

In recent years, I moved closer to Asakusa so I have been revisiting the Sanja Festival as I did regularly as a child. In those days, there were many fun things for children to do. Sadly, these days, it just seems to be food stalls. Back then; I particularly liked catching the fish with a net (Kingyo Sukui). In a similar game, beautifully painted water-filled balloons floated in another tank (Yo-yo Tsuri). We held hooks attached to fragile paper and we dangled it trying to catch it on the loop on top of the balloon. If the paper got slightly wet, it would break and that meant ‘game-over’, but if it didn't break, we could catch and keep many balloons. These wonderful balloons were in-fact Yo-Yo’s and I could play with them at home for about a week before they’d shrink. The beautiful energy and momentum of Omikoshi is powerful. The Omikoshi represents God, so people carry it with great respect. The procession is accompanied by music called Ohayashi consisting of Japanese drums, flute and rhythmic bell chiming using a metal dish. Even though I am not carrying the Omikoshi, I feel great excitement as I squeeze through the very large crowds of people to get closer.

Japans traditional events include both silence and momentum. I hope you also can enjoy the richness and depth of Japan.





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Munch: A Retrospective

In a rare chance to bathe in the works of a single artist, this exhibition is a retrospective of the famous Norwegian artist, best known for his iconic 1893 piece The Scream, Edvard Munch (1863-1944).
Considered one of the most famous paintings and best known pieces of art in the world, The Scream exists in four forms and is often said to depict the universal anxiety of modern man though, if you read quotes of the artist himself, it does also seem to indicate his personal anguish felt at the time of and in the years surrounding the creation of it.

Edvard Munch 《The Scream》 1910?.
Tempera and oil on unprinted cardboard
83.5 x 66cm, ©Munchmuseet

Munch had a challenging childhood losing his mother early in life and also, his favourite sister. His early artistic endeavors often featured the dull walls and surrounds of the budget apartments that they lived in as his father struggled to support the family. On reaching the age of nineteen, the artist was introduced to other artists and landscape painting through a newly formed Art Association. Though troubled through much of his life with mental distress, professional treatment and support helped him iron out some of those diturbances and his work went on to embody more colour and life and also, more acceptance in general.
An enjoyable feature of his paintings are the flowing lines and easy on the eyes use of colour.

Period: October 27, 2018 - January 20, 2019
Hours: 09:30 – 17:30, -20:00 on Fridays, 11/1, 3
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays, 12/25, 1/1, 15 (Open the Monday of 11/26, 12/10, 24, 1/14)
Admission: General: 1,600 / College students: 1,300 / High school students: 800 / Junior high school age or younger: FREE

For more information, please visit

Rubens and the Birth of the Baroque

A creator that greatly influenced the art world of the 17th Century was Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). The Flemish artist based in Antwerp which is now part of the Netherlands, is from the famed Baroque Period and spent several years in Italy evolving and exploring his work. This exhibition will pay particular attention to that Italian relationship and will include sculptures from that period and various masterpieces of note.

Peter Paul Rubens
The Discovery of the Infant Erichthonius
1615-16 243.5x345.5cm
Vaduz-Vienna, Liechtenstein,
The Princely Collections

The powerful Rubens, through his gift of intellect and diplomatic prowess, had the opportunity to visit many royal courts throughout Europe and these opportunities certainly made available to him some interesting subjects and circumstances. As was typical with the period, religion and royalty feature regularly with self-portraits as does common life and later, landscapes expressed through the brush.
As Rubens was himself a student of more than one teacher, he also had students. This exhibition is a great opportunity for students of art, part time painters, and indeed those simply looking for the inspiration that can be applied anywhere in their life. Join many others in a pleasant stroll through the works of a Baroque master and those of his peers in a time when Flemish art was a significant powerhouse and in regular communication with the also illuminated art of Italy.


Period: October 16, 2018 - January 20, 2019
Venue: The National Museum of Western Art
Hours: 09:30 – 17:30, -20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays except 11/17
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays (Except 12/24 & 1/14) and 12/28 ~ 1/1, 1/15)
Tickets: Adults: 1,600 / College students: 1,200 / High school students: 800 / Junior high school and younger: FREE

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


143,372,000yen for a Warehouse?!

From the outside, the run-down old warehouse doesn't look particularly interesting and most people would probably just walk straight past without giving it a second glance. But in the perfect example not to judge a book by its cover, this modest looking building hides an incredible little secret - and it's just sold for £1million (About 143,372,000yen as a result. What could be inside to create this much of value? The property, in Brisbane, Australia, is decorated like a hipster's dream with exposed ceilings, steel beams and concrete beams. The online advert states: "Inner-city living doesn't get any cooler than this. "You can search all of Brisbane but you won't find anything like this industrial-style warehouse conversion that perfectly captures the trendy street-style of Melbourne.

Tunnel for an attraction

If you're looking for an up and coming place to visit for your next holiday, then look no further than Bude. The seaside resort town is located in north Cornwall and is home to several attractions - including the Bude Tunnel. What's the Bude Tunnel you ask? Well... Currently ranked as the town's top attraction on TripAdvisor, the tunnel is said to be a sight to behold, with one reviewer describing it as "a modern Taj Mahal" and others comparing it to the Sistine Chapel and the ruins of Pompeii, reports CornwallLive. Made from plastic, the tunnel is actually nothing more than an undercover walkway for Sainsbury's customers to use in bad weather… People have praised the tunnel for it's "engineering excellence" and the "magnificent views" offered through the perspex roof. Now, can you find some artistic integrity in it, too?


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