Plain Talk


Christmas present: something immaterial by H.S.

I’ve recently started practicing Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf on the piano. Why? It’s going to be a Christmas present for my husband’s two nieces.

The first time I joined my in-laws’ Christmas family get-together, I was stunned with the sheer volume of presents exchanged among them. I knew how it would be in advance, but still I was amazed at the sight. Books, food in baskets, clothing, knick-knacks, calendars with family photos and more changed hands.

However, more than anything, adults took so much pleasure showering the three little girls with gifts, especially the 6-year-old and 4-year-old because the youngest was still a baby. As far as I could keep track they received, among the two, a guitar, a bathrobe, a Barbie-like doll with her horse, a Hello Kitty t-shirt, a life-size plastic head model with hair to be brushed and braided, a large cushion with her name stitched on it. They should have received more. They were euphoric, I guess.

“How lucky these girls are,” I cannot help being reminded. Being loved so much and raised in a financially stable household, they will grow up trusting people, and they will learn the joy of giving. But I also wonder if giving them so much wouldn’t ruin the joy of receiving.

For this year’s Christmas, I made a suggestion to my husband; why don’t we give the girls something different? I meant something immaterial. They will receive more than enough again from others. Something intangible can be a gift too, if carefully prepared. We can practice music together and give it to them!

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf is meant for young children to be exposed to quality music. It comes with text to be read out loud, so kids can imagine a story through music. Each part represents a character: Peter the boy, his animal friends, his grandfather, the wolf and the hunter. The wolf is captured and sent to the zoo at the end. Well, I’m not really for the story, but it’s about the combination of music and story that important.

I’ll be able to play it all right on the piano if I practice it for a month. I persuaded my husband to do the text part. Performing in front of people is the last thing he’d enjoy doing. But I stressed that it could be “educational” for his nieces. Educational always have some weight on him. He agreed.

The family likes music, so I suppose it’ll work nicely. The nieces may feel they are cheated, receiving live music that they cannot keep, unlike toys. But it’s different for sure. We are also giving them our time practicing Peter and the Wolf. They may understand when they are older.

That said, maybe we’d better add some small material gift too, after all.








Fatherhood in Tokyo


Father of Two by Craig Atkinson

Being a father is a challenge in itself, we all know that. However, living away from your home country and not speaking the native tongue very well, can make it even more difficult, but not impossible.

I am a father of two boys and living in Tokyo, Japan. The eldest boy is six, and the youngest is just a few months old. The eldest was born in Melbourne, Australia, which is where I am from. He spent his first 3 years of his life there, then we moved to Tokyo as a family, then 3 years later my youngest was born, just this year.

My youngest, was actually unexpectedly 25 days premature. And labor pains to birth was under 2 hours, and unfortunately, it all happened while I was working. Like I said, unexpected.

The birth of the second child has changed a lot of the dynamics at home. The most obvious one being, the shared responsibility of bringing up our oldest one. Within the six years we'd formed a routine of how we cared for the eldest. There were times when we did things as a family, times where I would take him out for the day, or vice versa. Therefore, with my wife still needing to be the main care giver to our newborn, it has tightened the bond between me and my eldest.

Before I continue, I want to stress the fact that I am still heavily involved in caring for my newborn, but as we all know, there are some things that only a mother can produce. I help out with bath times, nappy changes and generally giving mum a break. These things help me create a new bond between me and him, that will strengthen throughout time.

There was one piece of advice that I got before the birth from a friend who is also a father of four, and that was, "Look after the needs of the eldest one first, before the newborn." This ended up being some great advice on how to manage the first few months of the eldest one adjusting to the new family member. Obviously, this doesn't mean neglect the newborn, but for the eldest to have a positive attitude towards the baby, this is a must. I've also find that the eldest one enjoys being involved with caring for the new family member, and when the time is right, or whenever possible, it is important to encourage this process.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to write about how my family has adjusted to now being a family of four, and my experiences being a father living in Japan. I will also write about how I've taught my son English and some general father hacks, so come along for the journey.


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.


Advent Calendar:

Want an updated version of the traditional Advent Calendar with chocolates? Download the Christmas Advent Calendar and get a surprise gift every day with a newfree app until Christmas day. Some of the greatest apps on the App Store become wonderful Christmas gifts and these 25 Christmas apps will get you into the Christmas spirit! You can also shake your iPhone to switch between different Christmas tunes. From the 1st of December, you’ll be able to treat yourself to a superb free app every day while you wait for Father Christmas to come down the chimney! So hang your stockings on the wall, bring out the Christmas candles and get ready for the holidays with the help of our finest Advent Calendar ever. Merry Christmas!

Letters to Santa Claus:

If your kids (or even you!) have always wanted to write to Santa, now is the time! With modern technology, we are sure that even Santa has updated his communication methods. So, here comes this app which lets you write to Santa and Santa will write you back! Tell Santa about how good you’ve been (or beg him to delete your name from his naughty lists) and what your wishlist looks like this year. Santa’s reply will appear an hour after he gets your letter, however, note that none of the responses promise your child (or you) that youwill get what you wished for on your Christmas list!


Tokyo Voice Column


Have a Happy ________ by Mardo

This is the time of year I tend to get and receive a lot of cards. But any time is good for cards, we all like to get a card. Even if it's only from a company we deal with. Between Christmas and Valentine’s day is peak card giving time. For me it not only includes New years but my Birthday. But there are always opportunities for cards; Fathers day, Mothers Day, engagements, babies, and my personal favourite, thank you cards.

My problem though is I am lazy, I prefer to give eCards. It is so convenient! No going out to a shop, no worrying about how messy my handwriting is, no having to go back to the post office, always busy in my town unless you can go in the middle of the day, during work hours. In the late 90s early Noughties I pretty much only sent eCards. They were still new, they were free, and it was kind of fun.

Now though, the internet gave me eCards, now the internet has taken them away. Not that they have stopped, companies like and Hallmark still do ecards, but the problem is, I don’t know anyone who opens them. Between Spam and the threat of viruses, I have not opened anything that looks like an eCard in years!

eCards still work, there is just no point sending one. No one will open the link even if they open the eMail. So I am reduced to birthday wishes on Facebook and thank you cards by eMail. It’s not quite the same. I guess I will have to go back to plain old fashioned cards sent via the mail. A Bit old school but I think the novelty of cards will only grow as everything goes online. And besides, thanks to the cost of stamps I have never had anyone crash my computer by post…. I wonder if I can order and send cards from online? I still like paper, but if I can still avoid having to use my messy handwriting I will!



インターネットは、Eカードを広めたが、今日ではインタネットはそのサービスを停止した。 や Hallmark は、まだサービスを続けているが、問題なのは、Eカードをもらって開ける人がいるかどうかだ。スパムやウィルスメールの脅威をふるう中、僕はここ数年、Eカードをもらっても開けない!

Eカードは送る事はできるが、送っても意味がなくなった。Eメールを開けることはあっても誰もリンクを開けない。だから僕は FACEBOOKで誕生日のメッセージを送りサンキュカードをEメールで送る。将来、郵便で昔ながらのカードを送るスタイルに戻るかもしれない。なんでもかんでもオンラインになると、カードのノベルティ価値が上がると思う。切手代を払ってカードを送っているおかげで、これまで誰にもPCを壊されずにすんでいる。しかし...、オンラインでカードを注文して送る事はできないだろうか? 僕は紙のカードは好きなんだが、達筆でない僕の字が人目に触れずに送れるなら、僕は、オンラインで注文したい!

MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul

A uniquely colourful and universal voice speaks through the artist Yayoi Kusama as demonstrated through this wonderful collection on display.
On show for the first time, the exhibition ‘My Eternal Soul’ echoes a thought that we all could benefit from contemplating. Featuring 130 items, the gallery is full of incredible colour, character and flamboyance.


Yayoi Kusama is a superstar of the art scene recognized as one of the ‘Top Ten’ living artists worldwide. Her incredibly adventurous life and her ability to produce repetitive patterns en-masse are fascinating to explore and inspirational in many ways.
At 10yrs of age, she began drawing Polka Dots and Nets based on visions she had. These became a trademark of her expression over her long career, which now enters its 9th decade. From opening her own boutique in New York, 1969, to becoming the most expensive living female artist by auction fetching a whopping 7.1million dollars for her piece from the ‘Infinity Nets’ series in 2014, the famed artists passion is undeniable. This passion was demonstrated in her well-known ‘Kusama Happenings’ (NYC, Amsterdam, Rome), which featured large crowds of often-nude participants painted with dots, as it was by her involvement with the anti-war movement of the sixties. Her work also expressed the political situations of the time.
Let the energy of the vibrant colour and soothing patterns inspire your best as you take in the incredible outpouring of a living art legend.
“I paint polka dots on the bodies of people and with those polka dots the people will obliterate
and return to the nature of the universe.” Yayoi Kusama- Infinity Nets, Autobiography

Period: February 22 - May 22, 2017
Venue: The National Art Center, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 [- 20:00 on Fridays and everyday between 4/29 (Sat) ~ 5/7 (Sun)]
Closed on every Tuesday *except May 2nd
Admission: 1,600 / University students: 1,200 / High school students: 800

For more information, please visit

Marimekko - Design, Fabric, Lifestyle

Marimekko, a renowned Finnish design house was founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia in Helsinki. Ratia was a textile artist herself, and had been earlier working in an advertising agency. She had connections to designers and artists, who came to work with her, and created the background for the success, which was followed in 1960’s, when Marimekko became world-famous brand. While some of the patterns were created with inspiration from the traditional motifs and nature, most of the bold and colorful fabrics were abstract and non-figurative. At the same time, simple cut clothes introduced the new waves for the fashion industry. The fabric designs were also adapted to household goods and wide range of products, and they are more popular than ever before also in Japan.

Siirtolapuutarha pattern
designed for Marimekko
by Maija Louekari in 2009

By bringing over 200objects (around 50 fabrics, around 60 vintage dresses and designer’s original sketches) from the Design Museum in Helsinki, this is the first large-scale exhibition in Japan to introduce over 60 years-history of Marimekko. The exhibition presents Marimekko designers’ unique work and contribution, including fabrics, sketches and various fashion pieces from different decades.


Period: December 17 − February 12 2017
Venue: The Bunkamura Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00 − 19:00 (Last admission: 18:30) Open until 21:00 every Friday and Saturday except 12/31 (Last admission: 20:30) Open every day during exhibition periods (excluding January 1)
Admission: 1,400 / University & High school students: 1,000 /Junior High School students: 700

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Beauty is PainLESS?

It's the season to be jolly - and also get done up to the nines. As much as putting on our finery is all fun and games, getting dressed up over the festive season comes with one large potential pitfall. Pretty as they are, high heels can be the gateway to world of agony and awkwardness. Yet perhaps now more than at any other time of year, we'll be jamming our weeping tootsies into a pair. All in the name of fashion. It's not just blisters we should be worried about, heels impact our health in the long term , damaging our nerves, muscles feet, knees, hips and back. But there are few things which mitigate against these adverse effects - and hopefully make heel wearing enjoyable, rather than an exercise in pain.
1. The thickness of the sole
More cushioning in the ball of the foot and platforms at the front of the shoe will decrease the pain your heels give you.
2. The size of the base of the heel
The wider your heel's base, the more support your body is given."
3. The depth and shape of the front of the shoe
While you want your shoes to stay on, it's also important they have room to breathe.

No More Brushing Your Hair!!

For those of us who aren't natural early birds, week day mornings can be a hellish blur. Still, at least you have your basic routine mastered - getting out of bed, washing, teeth brushing, make-up , hair brushing etc. Sadly, there's evidence to suggest many of us have been wide of mark with one of the most basic parts of this morning routine. Hair brushing!
Dragging a brush or comb through our locks is a quick way of instantly making ourselves look presentable and ready for whatever the day has to throw at us. However, according to a power hairdresser, we're actually shooting ourselves in the foot by brushing our hair. He explained his reasoning. "Never, ever brush in the morning. For one thing it leads to frizz, and secondly, there's always an element of mechanical damage.
"Use your fingers and you'll be able to feel out any tangles". His other top tip? Sleep with your hair in a bun at the nape of you neck, pinned to keep it secure. Then, when you take it out in the morning you should simply work a little oil through it and run a brush over it just the once. Anything that saves us time in the morning is all right by us.


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