Plain Talk


Bilingual babies by Anne Corinne

Bilingualism is increasing in Japan: more foreign expats and national returnees live here, international marriages are expanding, but also gaijin baby-sitter agencies, nursery schools and kindergartens are providing English classes to Japanese toddlers to give them a chance to reach a native level.

If many parents think that bilingualism is an undeniable advantage and should be encouraged as early as possible, others notice that their children are late with the ability to speak and fear that teaching several languages may confuse them.

So what is the best strategy? Should we speak the father’s language or the mother’s language at home? Should we talk to our child in the language of the country where we live?

Specialists recommend mixed parents to speak to their child in their own language (without competing with the second language) and choose which language they will use in common when the whole family is together.

If it is often true that a baby born in a multicultural family will start speaking later than the average age, he or she will then talk both languages fluently without mixing them. Parents are sometimes worried about the fact that their children are ‘late’, but experts in bilingualism assure us that this delay is absolutely normal. Children are silent but actually analyze the different sounds they can hear. This step can take extra months before they start expressing themselves. They may not master the two languages at the same level, though. It mostly depends on who is talking to them and for how long. Contact and interaction are essential. Patience and a regular practice for several years are keys. Children need to feel that we believe in them, without putting too much pressure on their mistakes.

If there were only one advice to remember, it would be this one: keep talking naturally in your language to your children, and sooner or later they will speak it. Their bilingualism will just happen in its own time.



さて一番いいアプローチは何だろう?家庭では父親の話す言葉、それとも母親の言葉で話すできなのだろうか? 親が自分の母国語で子供に話すのがいいのだろうか?




Plain Talk


Lesser known places to go in Tokyo

Libraries in Tokyo by Simon Duncan

As the largest city in a country where it is not uncommon to see people reading in public, you would expect Tokyo to have some decent libraries. And it does! Firstly there are 'ward'(区) libraries. ** The quality of the ward libraries varies widely: some may have modern buildings with plenty of foreign books, others offer very little.

There are also two main libraries in Tokyo: Tokyo Metropolitan Library (which has a main branch in Hiroo and a smaller one in Tama) and National Diet Library in Nagatacho. For most people Tokyo Metropolitan Library will be of more interest with the National Diet Library appealing more to researchers or students.

The Hiroo branch of the Metropolitan Library boasts close to 2 million books in its collection along with numerous newspapers, magazines and materials related to the city of Tokyo. It is less than ten minutes walk from Hiroo subway station, a pleasant stroll through a park. The scheduled closing days are a little random, but they are marked on an online calendar along with the opening times. For those that cannot read Japanese they have a number of newspapers and magazines in Chinese, English, French, German and Korean. They have around 150,000 books in western languages (mainly English) and a number in Chinese and Korean as well. The library is easy to use and free, you don't even need to register. Lockers are also available free of charge. A few minor points: the library is rarely open before 10 a.m., you cannot take the books out, most staff only speak Japanese, it is not big enough for a city of 13 million people, there is no wifi and the cafeteria closes quite early.

National Diet Library has nothing to do with losing weight, and neither is it a place purely for members of Parliament-also known as the Diet- to use. For this library you will need to become a member which is a relatively quick and easy process. If you cannot speak Japanese at a decent level I would not recommend coming here alone. Unlike Tokyo Metropolitan Library this is not really a place to relax and read a book on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. It does have a huge repository of books and archival material which the staff can retrieve for you. There are also a limited number of books on the shelves, some in foreign languages. This library is the place to come if you want to research say the average size of houses in Ueno from 1900-1920 by looking at archival materials. For most 'normal' people, especially foreigners this library offers little more than a quiet place to sit for free. The cafeteria on the top floor offers views towards Asasaka.

For more information please see: (Tokyo Metropolitan Library) (National Diet Library).

** although sometimes in Tokyo 区 is translated incorrectly as 'city'.

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


Can't Read My... by Joshua Lepage

Regardless of your gender, age, or subculture, I'm going to use this week's column to suggest one small addition to your wardrobe: A good poker face. No, really. A nice, steely look (and decent posture) will allow you to pull off the most extravagant outfits with your dignity intact. Just square your jaw, look straight ahead, and stop fidgeting. It works the other way, too: Ever seen someone on the train wearing nice clothes but constantly fiddling with them, shoulders hunched and eyes darting around or fixed on the ground? There's nothing worse than someone being outshone by their clothes instead of working with them to put up a united front of awesome.
So maybe this is just a lot of personal conjecture, and it's hard to objectively quantify the ways a good poker face could influence people's first impression of you or make you look better. But! There is one measurable way in which it's come in handy for me. You see, human beings will check other people's eyes to determine where they're going. We all look in the direction we're going while we're walking, right? (Except for the troglodytes who walk around with their noses stuck to their phones, and if you're one of them, you should probably stop reading this column before I channel my blazing hate for you into discovering a way to smack people upside the head through a magazine page.)
Anyway, I'm sure you've gotten stuck in a ridiculous little left-right-left dance with a stranger as you try to sidestep each other. Well, this doesn't happen to me anymore.
The trick, when you're walking around a crowded spot, is to look into the far, far distance over people's shoulders. A literal thousand-yard stare. As your path crosses that of other pedestrians, they'll look at your eyes and simply move out of the way. It's clear where you're going, and you won't confuse anyone's lizard brain by making eye contact with them and muddling the signals. They won't even realize they're doing it, but it works like magic. I was skeptical of this technique when I first read about the logic behind it, but nowadays it's what gets me through Shinjuku's East Exit with my sanity intact.
Try it sometime.

What’s App With You?



Ever felt annoyed forgetting your notepad to an important meeting or forgetting where you placed your notepad that you wrote something important on? Evernote is essentially a virtual notebook you have with you everywhere -- perfect for scribbling whatever is bouncing around in your brain. You can make notes directly in the app, save images and articles from the web, upload pages from physical notebooks, and track tasks. Evernote can even handle audio files. The best part is everything you add to Evernote is searchable, so you can find it next week (or even five years from now) quickly and easily.


Need to save money for an upcoming trip, pay down a loan, or figure out how you overspent so much in the last couple of months? Christmas and new year’s celebrations is over, and many of us are finding our wallets lighter. Time to save up for that holiday this year? This app Mint, a much loved app that pulls all your accounts (credit cards, loans, banks, investments, and more) into one place. It gives you insight into how you're spending, giving you tools to set budgets, lets you break down spending by category, and offers reminders for upcoming bills. It is almost like having your own little accountant in you phone!

Tokyo Voice Column


Exchanges with Children by Paul Stewart

Moving around day to day, it’s quite common to meet with children in Tokyo. These meetings are often a joy and entertaining too.

Jumping onto a train, I was welcomed by the warm hearted smile of a 4 year old boy sitting close to his Mother. He seemed to welcome me with his feeling so naturally I sat next to him. He looked up at me with big eyes. He allowed me to start greeting him and we shook hands in fun. It was hard to know if we were either adults or both children at that moment. We played doing high fives with the typical ‘move the hand away’ trick. Then we invented a game where we pretended to pull each others fingers off including facial expressions of agony and gasps of fake pain. This one he really liked and I saw an elderly woman across the aisle, also deriving pleasure from the lovely fun being had. I noted the openness of the boys’ mother who was quite happy with it all. Isn’t that openness such a valuable thing.

There was another train ride that stood out to me. A young Japanese family had boarded a busy train with one child being particularly alive as he announced his arrival onboard. He sat and began sharing smiles with me. His older brother saw the fun and began to join in a little too. But the younger had mastered fun and we were making faces and silently having a jovial time without the awareness of his parents or the large number of ‘cell phone zombies’ that seem to frequent the trains and buses of the world these days.

As the family left, the Father acknowledged me kindly but the big surprise came when the toddler called out “Bye Byeee!!” I’m sure my jaw dropped not expecting English from this Japanese child. It seemed like he could feel who or what I was and the right words just flowed out at the right time. Now there’s a talent worth having!




その家族が電車を降りる際、父親が僕に気づき会釈すると、男の子が「バイ バーイ」と言ってくれた。僕はとてもお泥いた。この日本人の男の子から英語が聞けるとは思ってもみなかったからだ。彼は僕が何者で誰であるかを感じて、正しい言葉が適切に口から発せられたのだろう。それが天性の能力というものなのだろう!

Strange but True


Two men arrested stealing nappy rash cream worth £14,000

Kent Hendrix, a bishop for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a martial arts enthusiast, got to put his skills to use in his hometown of Millcreek, Utah, by defending a neighbor from a man who had been attacking her.
Early in the morning, Hendrix was woken up by his teenage son, who told him that their neighbor was being attacked outside. He grabbed the weapon closest to him -- a carbon steel samurai sword -- before heading outside, brandishing the sword at the attacker.
"His eyes got as big as saucers and he kind of gasped and jumped back," stated Hendrix. "He was staring down 29 inches of razor."
Hendrix was successful in scaring away the attacker, who turned himself in to police an hour later.

Not so elegant swans disturbing locals

Aggressive mating swans have locals afraid to leave their homes in Thrupp, Gloucestershire UK. The birds chase the postman every day, scare off cyclists and motorists, attacked a toddler last year and have left some people afraid to leave home. Although the mute swans are part of the area's charm, it is Britain's largest bird with adults weighing up to 15kgs (2st 5lbs). The birds have attacked cyclists, motorists, OAPs, children and even the postman with locals now using water pistols and garden hoses to fend them off. There are many senior residents in the area and some old people being witnessed fighting swans off with their walking sticks. Toddlers being scared to half death by being attacked by the swans as big as they are. Not being scared by humans, they land on their gardens, peck on the window. It is getting to become people’s nightmare. The swans live on the River Frome near a residential park and protected birds. For 10 months of the year, they are perfectly ok, but only during these two months the residents will have to put up with their non elegant manners...



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