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Archives:


Japan and Its People are Unique

At least that is what they tell me! I like Japan and have had some interesting, enjoyable and indeed unique experiences here, otherwise I would not have stayed in this country since 1987. But over the years, I've had an earful of people telling me directly or indirectly how unique Japan and its people are, and I've had to burst more than one person's bubble. Sometimes incorrectly. A couple examples
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"Gyaru-go" Girl Japanese

Mezamashi TV had a segment on the lastest gyaru language. If you're not familiar, gyaru are the sort of schoolgirls who hang out in Shibuya or Harajuku, dress in the latest fashion and speak in a sort of code. Here's the three I remember: ムカTK mukaTK - mukatsuku, to be pissed off. The original's just as easy, ladies. モレる moreru - um, to be dressed up, with your hair in a bun with cute
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"One Coin" Services All the Rage in Japan

Japan morning TV reported that "One Coin" (ワンコイン) services are all the rage these days in Japan, due to the down economy. What this phrase means is that you can buy a good or service with a single 500 yen coin, or about USD 5.00. Indeed, you can see them here and there: "Makudonarudo" McDonald's has a 500 yen value set. "One Coin" lunches at salary-man lunch joints. Short foot massages
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Tokyo Metro "Do It At Home" Manners Posters

Artist Bunpei Yorifuji (寄藤文平) is creating a series of manner posters for the Tokyo metro, around the theme of "Do It At Home". Yorifuji was born in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, in 1973, and founded Bunpei Ginza in 2000 to specialize in mainly Art Direction, Illustration and Book Design. Yorifuji's manners posters address the most common complaints heard by the Metro, such as people who apply
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Ray-Out's iPhone "Jacket" Case Review, DIY Fix for D-Ring Problem

I purchased Ray-Out's reasonably-priced leather "Jacket" case, model RT-P1LC4/B, perhaps three months ago from Yodobashi Camera. I was looking for a case that had a "strap loop" so that I could hang the iPhone around my neck for going to meetings or lunch, as I don't trust myself to put the iPhone in my pocket and have it survive even one day! The Ray-Out leather jacket was one option, and the other
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Drop - Enough to Scare the Crap Out of You

"Drop" is a horror story novella written by Koji Suzuki, the writer of best-selling horror stories such as "Ring" and "Rasen" (Spiral). Suzuki san was born in 1957 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, and his books have sold more than 8 million copies. Thing is, Drop's not your run-of-the-mill novella; it's printed on toilet paper. The Japanese summer is a time for telling horror stories around a campfire
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Street Jazz from Kano, Saito, Kawamoto

I've seen this good, energetic "Street Jazz" trio at JR Shinjuku before, but today I waited for a good moment and got some materials from them. The musicians were George Kano on drums, Chikara Saito on Alto Sax, and (probably) Sousuke Kawamoto on upright bass. The flyers I got were pretty clear on who the sax and drum players were, but I'm not so sure about the bass player. Either way, they are all
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Family Reunion Sad

Every year, we have a family reunion during the New Year holiday "oshogatsu". The photo in this post is of the 2009 edition. This is A Big Deal for the family here, and they do it without fail. Missing it is also A Big Deal, so I think we've missed it once in the past 15 years. I gather it's an Asian thing to have these big family gatherings, but I always feel like the odd man out, when the conversation
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Finally. OTC Drugs at 7-11

The Pharmaceutical Affairs Law "PAL" was revised to allow convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, Family Mart or others to sell most over-the-counter drugs, so long as they have a clerk who has registered and qualified with the local government. The fact that they no longer need a pharmacist is a big cost-saving difference from before, that also allows a big new income stream for the conbinis. Cloudy
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Salaryman Senryu "Sarasen" Winners

Dai-ichi Life Insurance has announced their latest Sarariiman Senryuu (Salaried Worker Senryuu, サラリーマン川柳) competition winners. It's the 22nd year for the competition, and people vote on the best humorous senryu that come from the daily life of salaried workers and the news. Senryu are like Haiku but are less about nature than about human life, and you may recall that haiku are the poems
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Saboten no Hana Lyrics - Kazuo Zaitsu

Kazuo Zaitsu (kanji: 財津和夫) of the Japanese band Tulip, is the singer of a favorite song of mine, "Saboten no Hana" or The Cactus Flower, which is a song about hope despite love lost. It was the theme song of an enormously popular 1993 drama called "Hitotsu Yane no Shita" or Under One Roof. Zaitsu san has a unique and pleasant voice that I like, and this song always brings a tear to my eye.
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Best Tokyo Subway Map: Vollmer Design

Vollmer Design's superior map of the Tokyo rail and subway system is a must for any visitor to or resident of Tokyo. The map is printed on A3 paper, but is folded small to the size of "3 x 1 2/3 matches" according to the nicely-designed Informa website where the map is available. Very affordable, even inexpensive, at JPY 270 yen online, it's less than the cost of a Starbucks latte, or maybe a typical
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How to Gargle (Ugai Garagara)

Now, this is serious. Today on "Mezamashi Terebi," a popular morning TV show, they had a fairly long, scientific-sounding introduction to "ugai" or gargling. They stated that it's only really popular here in Japan, where all kids are taught "ugai-tearai," or gargling and hand-washing, from when they are toddlers. They had mini-interviews with a bunch of foreigners asking if they had the culture of
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Salaryman Neo's "Salaryman Calisthenics"

This clip is from the TV comedy Salaryman Neo. It's a skit called "Salaryman Taiso" (Taiso = Calisthenics). It's based on the famous, known-by-every-Japanese NHK "rajio taiso", which started off as a calisthenics show on the radio, to piano music, which all Japanese learn. NHK is the epitome of conservative, so it's quite funny to see Japanese "taking the piss" in this irreverant way.
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RIP Kiyoshiro Imawano

Kiyoshiro Imawano, the hugely-popular lead singer of RC Succession died of lymphatic disease at the age of 59. He'll be dearly missed. One of their hits, "Ameagari no Yozora ni" is representative of his music, and you can hear it on YouTube. I thought I'd translate the lyrics to it. The original Japanese is followed by romanized Japanese, followed by my English approximation. It's full of double-meanings,
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English Bookstores in Japan

Here are some English bookstores in Japan, but mostly in Tokyo or Yokohama where I live, for the visitor or resident: Maruzen in the Oazo complex (pictured) in front of JR Tokyo station on the Marunouchi side. 1-6-4 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Tel - 03-5218-5100 Yaesu Book Center on the Yaesu side of JR Tokyo station. 2-5-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8456 Tel - 03-3281-1811 Kinokuniya Shinjuku
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Thierry de Baillon's Article on Social Media in Japan

Thierry de Baillon wrote an article about Japan and social media acceptance, which I thought I'd comment on. I agree that Social Networking Service acceptance, or lack thereof, is not a simple matter of Japanese being "shy". Just go to Shibuya, Harajuku, or Kabukicho to prove otherwise! I think SNS acceptance is driven by the marketing of the SNS, by whether it "feels right" and "fits right" for
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Kakaki Italian in Kugenuma Kaigan near Enoshima

During my 56 km bike ride today, I ate at this nice little Italian place called "Kakaki" in Kugenuma Kaigan near Enoshima, at Kugenuma-bashi, along Rt. 134 the coast road. Address: Kugenuma Kaigan 2-17-21, Fujisawa Tel: 0466-34-4483 Hours: 11:30 AM-14:30 PM, 17:30 PM-21:00 PM, Closed Mondays Nearest Station: Kugenuma Kaigan (5 min walk from there) Parking: 4 spaces The owner, presumably Mr. Kakaki
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Yamate Brass 21st Annual - 2009 - ABBA Medley

Daughter unit 1's school did their 21st annual concert at the Kamakura Center for the Performing Arts in early April. This is an Abba medley, probably because of the popularity of Mamma Mia in Japan this year.
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Conti et Mer - Great Tokyo Sandwiches

If you're longing for some great sandwiches in Tokyo, try Conti et Mer, who have a good range of "French-style", take-out sandwich boxes and sweets, and party platters. Conti et Mer has three shops, in Jingu-gaien, Shirokane and Ginza, covering most of Tokyo for delivery. Their minimum order is JPY 2000 within their delivery areas, and more for areas outside that. Sandwiches include Ham and Gruyere
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"Brasserie Bec" in Yoyogi Uehara

If you like French food but would like it at a more reasonable price than usual in Tokyo, give Brasserie Bec in Yoyogi-Uehara near Shinjuku, Tokyo a try. A project colleague and I went there last night (a Tuesday), and had an excellent meal, with a good French red. Brasserie Bec's impossible to miss, being right in front of the north exit of Yoyogi Uehara station on the Odakyu line, running from points
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Bribe Desserts are Just Sour

Since the Lockheed scandal brought Kakuei Tanaka down in the late 1970's, Japan has seen many and varied incidents, their occurrence only escalating in recent years. Even the Tanaka protege Ichiro Ozawa, who has been stressing a (rather two-faced) populist agenda of late, is now tainted by a bribe scandal via a top aide accused of taking corporate donations. Ozawa san, so much for that "for the people"
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Japan Virgin Adventures

A conversation the other day prompted me to recount some experiences of my first days in Japan, so I thought I would share. What? No NEX? When I was "fresh off the boat" at Narita way back in 1987, I gathered up my suitcases, met one of the daughters of my host family, and schlepped my too-heavy stuff onto the JR Yokosuka line, which was already full. Japan Rail had no Narita Express yet, so it was
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Doki-doki Camp's "Jack Bauer, Driving Instructor"

If you are a Jack Bauer or 24 fan, you might be surprised to know how popular Jack Bauer is in Japan. Kiefer Sutherland appears in TV commercials for an energy bar called Calorie Mate, and the manzai comedy group in this video, "Doki-doki Camp" (ドキドキキャンプ) does him in various scenes in ordinary Japanese life. In this one, Jack is an instructor at driving school and tells the learner
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iPhone in Japan - I am Satisfied

Despite sensationalist, hit-whoring and inane articles like this embarrassing one in Wired [1], as a long-term resident of Japan and Japanese cell-phone user, I think my iPhone is great in many ways. Unless you try to compare it feature-by-feature to Japanese cell phones, that is, but the iPhone is a paradigm shift, typical of many we see from Apple. It's just not the same sort of device, and should
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Niigata's Dubious Claim to "Fame" - The Shortest Skirts

Here's a screenshot of a couple images of the posters being used in Niigata prefecture's crusade to try to prevent girls' skirts from getting any shorter. That Niigata has the girls with the shortest skirts is a dubious claim to "fame" unless you're a lecher or a horny male high-school student. On the upper left in the screenshot, the "evidence" - a couple of female students from behind. These skirts
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Free Wifi from freespot.com

FreeSpot.com offers free WiFi in Japan, and here's a map of their WiFi access points. I can't vouch for the quality of this service, but I thought it might be worth a try for visitors to Japan who need WiFi. There are WiFi services via ISPs, but you need an account, which is not practical for a short visit. If you try it, please let me know how it worked, or not, in the comments.
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JR Stations in Tokyo Soon Smoke-Free

Good news for non-smokers in Tokyo. JR Stations are to be Smoke-free Zones as of April 1st 2009. This poster on the platform at Shinjuku station says: All Stations in Tokyo will be Completely Smoke Free from 1st April JR East has always had separate zones for smoking and non-smoking, but due to many customers requesting protection from second-hand smoke, and increased drives at companies to discourage
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Yuuri Waterless Urinal Helps Reduce Global Warming

Some places in Japan are very much concerned with the environment. I know we sure do a lot of trash separation, but I had to snap a picture of the sign above a special "ecological" urinal today. I am sure I got a few looks for that! The "Yuuri" urinal sign says: Non-Water System "Yuuri" Yuuri is an ecological toilet that does not use water. Because it does not use water, water is conserved **,
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Novartis Zaditen Allergy Medicine Available in Japan

"Zaditen", an allergy medicine from Novartis, is now available over-the-counter in Japan. Last year it was by prescription only, but I'm blogging about it because it works for me where little else did. It's about 1800 yen for a 20 capsule pack, which seems expensive but "welcome to Japan" eh? Its main ingredient seems to be Ketotifen, and I noticed it makes me a little sleepy, but at least I am not
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