Plain Talk


Musings on the increasing popularity of Japanese cuisine in the UK
by Georgina Miller

Unfortunately, I’ve not made it back to Japan in the past couple of years, but with the number of emails I receive on an almost weekly basis announcing this new Izakaya style establishment and that new ramen restaurant opening in London, at least the sense of longing has been lessened a bit, if only in the culinary department.

I’m not sure what’s sparked the sudden spike in interest in Japanese cuisine, (2020 will of course be playing a part, although most of the people I speak with are still clueless as to where the Olympics will be held after Rio this year), but I’ve seen enough to realise that the flood gates have now well and truly opened.

Just a few years ago I remember reading an article online announcing that one of the UK’s major supermarkets had begun stocking Yuzu juice (in a bottle small enough to make you weep, considering its price), but now I can’t seem to shop or visit a restaurant without being confronted by mention of miso, katsu, ramen or dashi.

Whilst I’ve only had the pleasure of eating in a handful of higher-priced establishments here in the UK, (and can happily say that each bite took me back to the fantastic times I enjoyed in Japan), on a commercial scale there are still so many things we’re getting wrong. Every once in a while I’ll buy a chicken katsu curry from a major supermarket, only to put the spoon down after my first mouthful and think ‘No, that’s really not it’. On the subject of the majority of sushi available for purchase outside of restaurants, I have few words.

As well as flavour, price can also be an issue. With a bowl of ramen easily costing £10+ or even £15+ depending on the restaurant, my mind’s eye wistfully floats back to the number of much more reasonably priced bowls I devoured whilst on holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely happy that Japanese cuisine is becoming more and more commonplace in the UK, but whilst there are still people boiling miso to death or suspiciously flicking shisho leaves to the side of their plate, thinking them nothing but an exotic garnish, I won’t be able to resist rolling my eyes just a little. The day that I’m able to buy good quality tofu at a reasonable price, easily find pickles such as Fukujinzuke in the chilled aisle, and use raw egg to dip my Sukiyaki in without fear of an upset stomach, I’ll be a very happy woman indeed.








Plain Talk


Live on the Radio by Blodwen by Rhian Yoshikawa

"Hi, it’s Radio Cymru here, wondering if you could give us an idea of how the Japanese view President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima".

Having been a regular contributor for the main radio station in my home country of Wales for several years now, the abrupt telephone call did not take me by surprise. Over the years I have come to expect requests for comments whenever anything remotely connected with Japan occurs on the international stage and so far have held forth on a variety of topics, ranging from nuclear power plants to natural disasters and sushi to Sumo wrestling.

Flattering though it may be to be regarded as an authority on all things Japanese, it isn’t always easy to live up to expectations, especially if the call comes at an unearthly hour of the morning or just as I’m about to get into the bath. However, knowing that I may well be called upon at any time to give an opinion pushes me to dig deeper into stories that might normally only merit a quick glance, enriching my own basic knowledge and opening up new areas of interest. Commenting on Japan’s defeat of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup for instance made me more aware of the team’s tactics, which made watching subsequent games all the more enjoyable.

Radio stations are always on the lookout for fresh ideas. Contacting your local station and offering your services can lead to broader horizons, frequent opportunities to connect with the folks at home and even, in some cases, financial compensation. In terms of immediacy and intimacy it beats a blog or Facebook post hands down. After all what can be more thrilling than imagining your voice suddenly coming on the air and surprising your friends while they are driving to work or doing the ironing?

You don’t need to be an experienced broadcaster. Most of the time, all the station is looking for is the local reaction to a certain piece of news. With the Skype app on your smartphone, you can do it from your office or your living room. I’ve even done it from my bed with my husband snoring beside me!

The first few times can be a little unnerving, especially if you are going out live, but the reactions of family and friends definitely make it worthwhile. I love being a link between Japan and my home country in this way. Have I convinced you to give it a go?

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Tokyo Voice Column


Love Story of the Digital Age by Cat Schuitemaker

Are you single, outgoing and open-minded? Ever heard of Happn; the popular new dating app? Even in Japan, this technology has proven to found love. Well, at least in my case.

It was Saturday afternoon, sunny and crispy cold outside. I had only just arrived in Tokyo 2 days earlier, and was still getting used to the jetlag, the culture shock and the ‘lost in translation’ feeling. My first Happn date was supposed to meet me in Asakusa, where we would do some sightseeing and check out the Sensoji Temple. Google maps was not on our side, and it eventually took us over an hour to find one another in a coffee shop. His bright green eyes were one of the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen and his kind smile got me instantly regretting to being dressed so casually and only wearing little make-up.

We spend the afternoon walking around Sensoji Temple, trying out foods, taking pictures and getting to know each another. We then decided to walk over to the Skytree Tower and managed to arrive at the perfect timing of a sundowner. It was the most romantic date with an unknown man I had ever had. He had plans for the evening, but I was overly excited when he suggested to meet the very next day again. I obviously did not hesitate in saying yes.

Sunday consisted of long walks in and around the Imperial Palace and gardens, followed by cold beers and hot ramen. We let our young and competitive side come out by entering the oh so popular gaming centers, and had our asses beaten by Japanese men who seemed professionals compared to us. That night I slept in his arms, and every single night since then. He has had to leave, being only a short-term tourist when I met him. But his tickets are booked, his VISA in process, and very soon he will be moving here for us to be together.

I never expected sushi and sake to be that romantic, nor the futon or the karaoke bars. But just like any other corny and cheesy love story, I could be placed anywhere in the world with this man and still be the happiest girl in the world. Luckily, we will be staying in Tokyo!



土曜日の午後、晴れていたが外は寒い日だった。2日前に東京に着いたばかりで時差ぼけは直っておらす、カルチャーショックと『lost in translation』状態だった。私にとっての初めてのハップン・デイトの相手とは浅草で出会うはずだった。そこを観光し浅草寺に行くつもりだった。グーグルマップで場所がわからなかったので、コーヒーショップで一時間以上もお互いを探すはめになった。彼のグリーン・アイはこれまで私が出会った人の中でもっともすてきな目だった。彼の笑顔を見た瞬間、あまり化粧もせず、カジュアルな格好で来たことを後悔した。





Strange but True


Invasion of New Flying Cockroaches?!

Apparently, a delightful side effect of New York City in the summertime is that it's the perfect weather for inspiring American Cockroaches to take flight, experts say. “In hot steam tunnels, somehow the temperature and humidity encourages the cockroaches to fly. When it's warm and steamy that seems to be what triggers them to fly.” This "DNAinfo" article published on Friday has the whole city panicking about flying cockroaches. Cockroaches are nasty as they are, but flying cockroaches would bring their nastiness to a whole new level! Would New York City be invaded by flying Cockroaches?! But a closer look reveals New Yorkers can probably calm down a little. First of all, not all cockroaches are able to go airborne. And secondly, they aren’t “flying” so much as using their wings to glide between short distances, like from a higher place to a lower place. Not that we’re exactly psyched about “gliding” cockroaches, but it does seem slightly less gross?

Where am I?

A man who fell asleep in a massage chair when he was at a department store had a shock when he woke up to find he was LOCKED IN. The man, identified only by his Twitter name was in the Japanese electronics shop Ks when he got a little bit too relaxed. In order to escape, he took to Twitter to ask his followers for help on August 15. “Oh man, I’m locked in!” read one tweet, posted alongside snapshots of the store's security gates. Luckily, he contacted the police who let the shop owners know and he was soon freed, but not before the police made sure he hadn't removed any goods from the shop, he posted online. The manager apologised that no one had woken him up and he, in turn, said he was sorry for dozing off in the relaxing chair.



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