Plain Talk


Fuji Goko Five Lakes, just two-hour drive from Tokyo 1 by Hiroko

This past Golden Week in May my husband and I went on a camping trip to Motosuko Lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture. I had never camped out except when we rented a small tent on Kozu Island in Tokyo for two nights. This time, we were equipped with a larger tent and screened shelter as well as folding chairs, and planned to stay there for four nights. Borrowing the camping gear and their car from my sister’s, off we drove heading west.

The weather was not perfect for camping, though. It was heavily clouded when we left Tokyo slightly after 4 am to avoid the expected heavy traffic. Later it started drizzling. Fuji-san was nowhere to be seen. By the time we got to Motosuko Campground, with a little excitement at the sight of the grey, quiet lake, it was raining steadily. But first we had to find space to pitch our tent. It was the biggest concern I had all the way if we could find space at all. Obon is the highest of the high season. We came to Motosuko Campground because it operates on first come, first served basis, without reservation. By the time I called some other campgrounds, they had been all booked out for obon. I was mentally prepared for what could take on the look of a “refugee camp” according to some blogs I had checked out.

We walked along the wet dirt path with puddles through treed area, colourful with pitched tents. It was still well before 7 am and campers seemed to be slow on the rainy morning. Luckily we found a spot off the track and against the forest. Neighbouring tents were spaced generously from one another. We decided to pitch our tent there, but first we took a nap in the parked car to wait the rain out. I hovered between wakefulness and slumber, listening to the rain drops on the car roof.

An hour or so later, the rain lightened and the sun came back occasionally. We found the spot lovely when the grassed ground dappled with pools of the sunlight through the trees. When we almost finished setting the place, two caretakers of the campground came to collect the charge, and we received cards with dates on strings.

On the first day, it drizzled off and on all day, and everything felt damp inside the tent. The lake was five minutes’ walk along the dirt track. It was interesting to see how people were well equipped with tables and benches, hammocks, lanterns, cooking stoves, volleyballs, dogs, even rabbits. They could live there perfectly comfortably, I thought.

We didn’t have anything like that; we didn’t, even a cooker. We had canned food, boiled eggs, fruits, some vegetables, breads, crackers, energy bars, jars of honey and jam, 2 liter bottles of water and some mugicha tea bags. We regretted a lot that we left cheese in the fridge at home. (To be continued)

Copyright (C) 2016 Hiroko. All rights reserved.

Copyright (C) 2016 Hiroko. All rights reserved.






私たちはそういったものを何も持っていなかった。炊事器具さえもだ。缶詰にゆで卵、果物、野菜少々、パンにクラッカー、エナジーバー、はちみつとジャムの瓶、2リットルの水のボトル、麦茶のティーバッグ。家の冷蔵庫にチーズを置いてきてしまったのは非常に悔やまれた。(2. へ続く)

Copyright (C) 2016 Hiroko. All rights reserved.

Plain Talk


Desperate housewife or needed Shufu? by Anne Corinne

In spite of the “womenomics” policy organized by Prime Minister Abe in order to make more women join the labor market, 70% of mothers in Japan completely resign from their jobs before having their first baby and become Shufu (主婦, “housewife”). Whether this is their choice or not, I realized myself it is very difficult to do it another way.

Nursery schools are too few, with long waiting lists and high rates. Having domestic employees (including baby sitters) doing the mother’s job is still a taboo and hence unusual. And due to the local working culture, it would be disapproved to leave the workplace on time to pick up the kids while the rest of the team is staying overtime until late at night (without mentioning the days when the children are sick and need their mom to stay with them). Eventually, most fathers are also very dedicated to their companies, which implies they cannot be much present at home to help their wives.

France, my home country, is on the opposite side. Maternity leaves are until 10 weeks after birth, and most mothers go back to work by this time. Many couples are worried about unemployment and need a second income to face the economic crisis. Others need to flourish in a career, and more flexible measures are available to do so.

Full time moms in France are now a minority and often receive some kind of pressure from their acquaintances. “You don’t work?! So what do you do, during all your spare time?” a young mother once told me, half surprised, half despising. “You should work at any cost, even if you earn less than the nursery school fees. Otherwise, you will never manage to find a job again” is the most common remark I can hear.

Does this mean that French working mothers are happier? Not sure. By the end of their maternity leave, a lot of them have to wean their infants, who will be looked after by a nanny or a nursery school. And they often feel guilty for not being able to spend more time with their babies (the average is 3 hours per day).

From this point of view, Japanese society has a lot of respect towards stay-at-home moms. Mothering is considered as a 100% career and as a social duty. It also implies more comfort and less stress for the baby.
Desperate housewife or needed Shufu? Independent working lady or desperate mother? Wherever we are and whatever we do, keeping a good balance between family and work is one of the biggest challenges women have to face.


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Tokyo Voice Column


Travel to Tokyo by Vera Krisnawati

Last week, I went to Tokyo with my cousin. We wanted to explore the city thoroughly, so we went to several places such as department store, restaurant, government building and subway station. Japanese Railways was so efficient and we could save a lot of time to travel everywhere.

First destination was Shibuya, a southwestern Tokyo area with many awesome places around. Stores, restaurants, tourists and entertainment places exist in Shibuya. I also took a picture at Hachiko statue and we visited Tokyu Hand department store. But the most amazing part about Shibuya that this is the most crowded crossing in the world, called Shibuya Scramble Crossing. It’s the most busiest and hectic crossing in the world. Then, after from Shibuya, we went to Harajuku using Yamanote Line. Harajuku is famous because of Takeshita street with lot of street vendors, we can purchase anything without need to enter the store. Harajuku station was also very authentic because the building looks like an ancient European style. The third destination for our journey was Shinjuku. Shinjuku filled with sky-scraper buildings makes Tokyo the modernist city ever. We went to the government building and lifted up to floor 45th to watched Tokyo from the highest point of the building. There was no ticket for entering the building, alias free. At the same time, there was an exhibition that introducing many kinds of cultures from each prefecture in Japan. It was very interesting because they offered so many traditional foods and lots of brochures given away to the visitor. The last destination was Akihabara and would be the climax of our adventure of the day. Akihabara presenting so many anime features started from the gift shops, theater, cafe´ and restaurant, electronic stores, and people who wore costume like character in Japanese comic book or Manga called Cosplay. Lucky for me that I was buying a digital camera for only ¥9000, compare to other places that sell above ¥10.000 for a new camera. It was absolutely affordable in my opinion.

Overall, my trip was amazing because I have the opportunity to visit Tokyo with the famous places inside. Hopefully it will not be my last trip ?






Strange but True


Too busy for getting robbed!

The owner of the Egyptian Kebab House in New Zealand has run his kebab shop for 15 years. This shop became famous on the internet after a video of the owner ignoring a would-be robber and continued to serve a customer went viral. He said it was simply a “lucky” reaction to ignore the masked man, who walked into his restaurant and demanded cash while holding what appeared to be a gun. He continued to bag up an order and handed it to a customer before walking away to call the police, leaving the attempted robber to exit empty handed. Sorry robber, he was too busy to serve you!

How did he do it?!

No windows were broken. The door handles weren’t the kind you lift up. And yet somehow this medium-sized bear managed to open a car door, crawl inside and close the door behind him, and just chilled inside. The sheriff's department in Colorado said “Deputies could tell by all the moisture on the windows that he’d clearly been inside for a while. Given the size of the bear, they also wondered if there was a momma bear nearby,” After some quick thinking, deputies opened the hatch of the vehicle and allowed the bear to run off into the forest. Unfortunately for the car owner, this bear seemed to have enjoy having a party in their car.



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