Plain Talk


Gaijin mom wants friends! by Anne Corinne

Being a full-time mother can sometimes be a lonely experience for a foreigner in Japan. Your family and friends live far away, your husband is working many hours a day, you don’t have colleagues to socialize with, and it’s complicated to join a sports club or go out at night when you look after a baby.

If this is also your case, there is a special circle of friends for you. ‘Mama Tomo’ networks are quite specific to Japan, due to the importance of belonging to a community group. It is an abbreviation for ‘Mama Tomodachi’, which means ‘Mother Friends’. Mothers get to know each other, meet and talk regularly about children’s education through local activities.

The great thing about raising children in Japan is that there are playground houses designed for babies and toddlers almost anywhere (unfortunately, such structures don’t exist in France, as full-time moms are a tiny minority). Your city hall can provide you some useful information about these places.

Most of the community centers even organize group consultations where parents can exchange information about specific topics related to small children.

There are often ‘Mama Tomo cafes’ with free space and toys available for children while their moms can talk during advice meetings, sometimes organized in several languages.

A lot of local libraries also have 手遊び歌 (‘Te Asobi Uta’) sessions. A lecturer usually reads 絵本(‘Ehon’, image books) and sings Japanese children songs while moving her fingers. These activities are fun for children and enable them to learn new words. As image books are usually written in ひらがな(Hiragana), it will be easy for you to read them to your child, even if you have a basic level in Japanese. Going regularly to your local library can become a good opportunity for your child to learn Japanese words, and for you to meet other mothers.

Have a lot of fun with your Mama Tomo friends!


あなたも似たような境遇なら、特別な友達のサークルに参加するといい。日本では『ママ・トモ』があり、地域に繋がるうえでは大切なネットワークだ。『ママ トモダチ』の略語で意味は母親友達だ。母親同士で知り合いになり、地域活動を通して定期的に会い、子供の教育について相談しあったりする。






Plain Talk


The Wolf: Remembering Sumo Grand Champion Chiyonofuji by Patrick Hattman

Japan's national pastime of sumo, a sport steeped in ancient customs and traditions, lost one of its greatest performers of the post World War II era on July 31 of this year with the passing of Chiyonofuji, a yokozuna or grand champion from 1981-91.

Chiyonofuji, nicknamed "The Wolf" for his intimidating, penetrating stare at opponents, ruled the sumo ring in the 1980s. While he was somewhat small for a sumo wrestler at about 280 pounds, Chiyonofuji had a chiseled, rock-solid physique developed from countless hours of rigorous training. His combination of power and agility was unsurpassed at the time, and he used both to defeat his opponents, rather than just bulk and brute force like so many other sumo wrestlers.

Chiyonofuji's preferred technique for achieving sudden victory was to utilize his explosive strength for an overarm throw known as uwatenage. His many wins by this method of tossing his opponents to the surface of the ring thrilled his fans in attendance and millions more watching on TV. Japan was in its economic heyday during Chiyonofuji's illustrious career, and he was without a doubt one of its biggest sports stars.

However, it is important to note that Chiyonofuji attained the status of sports icon only after overcoming numerous setbacks early in his career related to injuries and subsequent demotions. But he persevered and was elevated to yokozuna in 1981 at the age of 26. He won 31 tournaments in the top makuuchi division, which placed him second all time at his retirement. As further testament to his consistency, skill and work ethic, he captured the majority of his titles from age 30, and also put his name in the record books by emerging victorious from 53 consecutive bouts in 1988. Finally, he accumulated 1045 victories overall and established a record in that category that stood for two decades from his last win in 1991.

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Tokyo Voice Column


Gaijin Buys Socks For Party--Film At 11:00 by John Gribble

The other day, in preparation for a wedding celebration, my wife Miwako and I went to a sock boutique in Kichijoji to buy navy blue dress socks to go with my navy blue marrying-and-burying suit.

As I completed the purchase a woman with a clipboard came up. She asked if we would allow ourselves to be interviewed for a TV spot on the store and the surrounding shopping district.

We agreed, and soon answered on camera
where I was from (California),
why we had come to this particular store (I needed socks),
were we happy with the shopping experience (Yes, indeed!),
were the socks comfortable (How the heck would I know? I hadn’t worn them yet!), and would we come back (we certainly would).

Our interview ended with me dangling the socks like four dark dead fish, the day's catch, in front of the camera for some future TV audience to enjoy. I love Japan.





Strange but True


Curry Takeaways in Bronze age?!

Indians have been tucking into curries , dhals and rice dishes since the Bronze Age, according to new research, and probably even had takeaways . Archaeologists have discovered that rice was cultivated in India at the same time farming techniques were developed in China, around 2800BC, and 400 years earlier than previously thought. Research discovered that the ancient Indus Civilisation, which streched across what is now Pakistan and northwest India during the Bronze Age, had massive cities of up to 40,000 people because their advanced farming techniques meant they could grow surplus food and spices that would be traded at central hubs. The new information confirms that the Indus people were the world’s earliest farmers, after they were previously thought to have learned rice farming techniques from the Chinese. The variety of crops may have been transported to the cities, which would suggest that there was some sort of bartering system in place for people to trade services for food - like modern-day takeaways.

The Mannequin Challenge with 1,658 People!

The Mannequin Challenge craze just got super-sized. Some 11,658 people stood deadly still inside the Perth Arena in western Australia on Sunday as a camera panned around the motionless scene. As basketball players from the Perth Wildcats and the New Zealand Breakers took a halftime breather, almost everyone else inside the venue posed for the spooky stunt. Some viewers have also noted how the video is actually edited together from different clips, which is not strictly in keeping with the concept that it should be the result of one uninterrupted shot. However, if there were a world record for the largest mannequin challenge attempt, then this would surely take the title. What began in U.S. high schools last month has quickly spread across the world!


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