Plain Talk


Preparation for New Year by Nobuyo Honda

My relatives gathered at the house of my grandpa on my mother’s side in late December. When my family arrived, other relatives had started making rice cakes. Grandpa and my uncle were working in a good lively rhythm and keeping the pace with their voices using a mortar and a mallet in their garden.

Rice cake is one of the traditional foods for Japanese New Year. Nowadays, my family buys it at a store, but I made it with my relatives in my childhood. I really loved this event and wanted to take part from early morning when the process started. But my parents were always late bringing me and sometimes we arrived after the cakes were finished. My father was probably useless in those days or he didn’t like being bossed around by his father−in−law.

Glutinous rice is kept in water overnight so that it absorbs the water. Steamed rice is put into the mortar and pressed; then it becomes mochi which is really soft, smooth and sticky dough. I wanted to do it, but my uncle said it needed to be done right away, so I did it only a few times. A mass of mochi is spread flat with a rolling pin and becomes noshi mochi, or is rolled shaped by hand into a small dome called maru mochi. Both are dried after a day, and noshi moch needs to be cut into small pieces of rice cake before it hardens too much.

As a child, my favorite things was eating fresh rice cake. It is only possible to eat it shortly after making it before got too hard. We made small balls of it, and ate them with soybean flour and sugar, sweat bean paste, ground sesame and sugar or ground radish and soy sauce. While I made small balls of rice cake, a dozen sheets of noshi mochi and some maru mochi were placed on the tatami mat in a chilly room. It put me in a magnificent mood, and gave hoped for next year.

Time has passed; my relatives don’t make rice cake any more at the end of the year, although we do offer kagami mochi (placing a smaller maru mochi on top of another as an offering to God) eat zoni (rice cake soup) and celebrate the new year.






Plain Talk


Me and Meiji Shrine on One Day... by Monique Furuta Gomes de Barros

Do you like tourism? I love to get to know the world. I do enjoy travelling, but I'm still an amateur about it. Happily, I have visited a few places in Japan, hoping to get in touch with sacred temples, national decision making key office buildings and famous landscapes. By visiting Japan on myself, I hoped to improve my local integration possibilities, starting to participate of municipal worries, looking at a majority. Maybe, only wanted to be more sympathic to Japanese people. Consider a nice way to say “I've cared, I've seen, I've been”. But don't think such activities to be a first option to find intimacy with people who live here, whoever they are.

Realize how Japanese like to feel engaged with big important issues around the world. They love to be active in relevant discussions, to meet people on the rise, to read about thoughtful aspects of life. It's like they're forever university students who are always delighted by what they're learning in class of their “future after school”. Most of society, specially in Tokyo, hold this spirit of wild and free student life on top of mind. I wished to join them.

Somewhere I liked to visit was Meiji Shrine, also known as Kiyomasa's Well.

Meiji is a very interesting period in Japanese history. If you notice, there are plenty of material to remind us of that time, like chocolate brand with its name, for example. It's also mentioned in various animes, mangas, movies and TV dramas (please check Rurouni Kenshin series as one of them...).

The Meiji Shrine exists in honor of late Emperor Mutsuhito and his wife Empress Shoken. It was built during Meiji Restoration time, a great period of changes wich happened after the Edo era. Walking the Azzalea route (with my invited friend, Yohen from Germany), I could surprizely notice the before famous Tea House, or Kakuuntei. See the written sign on the front, read the description of what it used to be. There, people used to gather and drink, talk about revolution, national modernization, westernization of the country and, off course, to flert one another. It used to be like a Pub or Isakaya of the time.

The rooftop of it, looks just the same as the one above a residence I was raised during my teenage years in a country city of Sao Paulo, during the end of the 90's. And remebering this personnal similarity, I could still wonder about how the Kakuuntei was burnt down during the Second World War in 1945, before me and my friend headed further to the South Pond and step over river rocks to put some coins in the little lake christaline water. The Iris Gardens waited just after the pond, with plenty of purple flowers opened in May.

I choose the Kakuuntei as my favorite place to contemplate in Harajuku.

Virtual bibliography:

What’s App With You?


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New Year's Countdown wouldn't be the same without Rock'n'Roll and fireworks around Big Ben in London, The midnight ball drop in NYC, Champagne and Fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, Re´veillon in Rio, ringingbells at a temple in Asakusa. Of course you cannot be at all these places atonce, well at least you can now stream one of them with the Times Square OfficialNew Year’s Eve Ball App.Join millions from around theworld to celebrate New Year’s Eve Live from NYC. The Official Times Square BallApp gives you exclusive access to be part of the activities at TimesSquare as you watch the live co-hosted official show featuring the openingceremony, music performances, celebrity appearances, hourlycountdowns and the midnight Ball Drop! Now you can join the countdownwithout being freezing cold and squashed among the mass crows, and justcelebrate with your friends at home!


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Tokyo Voice Column


Streets of Tokyo by Katie Povee

As I stroll the streets of Tokyo, I have realized through a collected chaos that this city is not as scary as I had imagined. The nature of being overwhelmed with so many people in a tight area makes individuals notice that they are not alone. With every corner, there are more people and more opportunities for one to seek.

The city is divided by the juntas one is seeking, may it be an upscale establishment in Roppongi Hills, the parade of lights in Shinjuki, the shops in Ginza, or the business district of Shiodome. Each subdivision offers an array of a creative atmosphere, almost like a mural painted by various artists. As I sat and watched the Shibuya Scramble (Crossing), an appreciation grew inside for not only the love of the Japanese culture but, how magnificent they are under pressure. As an American, I can say I don’t think we handle the stress of traffic and the individual characteristics quite as well. If you compared this environment to that of New York or Los Angeles, you would hear words that pertain a foul character and see hand gestures that aren’t the nicest.

The love that grew from observing how one held themselves daily as they commuted by walking, running, train, or subway provided a new desire to further investigate the deeper meaning of this empowering and composed city much more than I had the opportunity to at the given moment. The calmness presented makes me want to leap in with an open heart having faith that I too, can be a part of this diverse community. The divine energy is radiant bringing peace because we all come together merging as one going through it all together. Tokyo has opened my eyes to see something I did not think was possible, a reality showing me it is possible to live in a ginormous city that yet feels like a small town. With every path that I had explored or subway/train ridden, I could inherently appreciate a world that in the future I too, can call home. Tokyo at times left me speechless with no words but just love. With that being said, I can only imagine what other hidden gems Japan has.




Strange but True


Hottest Christmas Gifts?!

We love weirdos, but we have to admit us weirdos have strange tastes in things which give us a uniqueness to ourselves. Weirdos are hard to shop for ― most of the stuff we desire can seem bizarre, wacky or downright kooky to normal people. Here are some bizarre gifts that are sure to please the kooks in your life no matter who they are. Trust us: When it comes to weirdos, we know what we’re talking about.

Beard Bib
Some weird gifts are actually weirdly useful, such as the Beard Bib. Hook it to a mirror with a suction cup and it will catch all the facial hair before it gets stuck on the sink. I assume it could also work for vomit, spittle, last night’s dinner and other things you don’t want in the sink, but that’s a little gross to think about.

Mini Flame Thrower
This Mini Flame Thrower is a wonderful gift for aspiring pyromaniacs. Don’t worry: the flash paper used in the device burns quickly ― it’s just for magic tricks, people. Don’t use it around the Christmas tree, or in the house, or at the gas station, or pretty much anywhere else.

Inflatable Darth Vader
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a guy named George Lucas decided to let his “Star Wars” characters be merchandised in any way possible. Nearly 40 years later, we have this 16-foot inflatable Darth Vader holding a candy cane. “Luke, I am your cash cow.”

Fortune Teller Tumbler
Some people look for happiness in the bottom of a glass. Now you can see the future. The Fortune Teller Tumbler uses the same “technology” of the Magic 8 Ball kids toy to answer life’s most pressing questions. “Am I going to get stupid drunk tonight trying to get a decent fortune out of this glass?” “All signs point to yes.”

Life Preserver Bottle Cover
Why a life preserver for a bottle of wine? If you have to ask why, you’ll never understand.

Well, hope it helped. Thank you for reading Strange but true for 2016, we will see you guys back in 2017! Merry Christmas and a happy new year!


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