Plain Talk


Summer Memories of Japan: Hanabi Matsuri by Patrick Hattman

I lived in Japan for much of the 1990s and 2000s. I think I enjoyed summer in Japan more than any other season of the year. And my favorite activity each summer there was to go to the best hanabi matsuri, or fireworks festivals, in the Tokyo area.

One steamy summer evening in the early 1990s, a Japanese friend took me to the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, held annually along the Sumida River in the heart of Tokyo.

Upon arriving, I was impressed by the throngs of people, with some of them attired in colorful yukata. With seemingly innumerable food offerings for dinner from the ubiquitous stalls that had been set up for the festivities, I chose unagi bento, or a boxed meal of eel over rice. It was my first time to have the dish. It was delicious and fortifying, especially on a hot, humid night.

Finally, the much-anticipated fireworks show began. A battle for the top displays was underway in earnest within minutes, as the pyrotechnics were sent skyward from multiple launchers. Two teams strove to outdo each other in terms of design and illumination. Each time I thought it was not possible to surpass one salvo, the next one invariably had a more scintillating effect. It was with much disappointment that the show eventually came to an end, but not until a fitting climax lit up the night sky.

Living again in the U.S. for a number of years, I certainly like our fireworks shows, particularly the grand displays held each July 4th to commemorate our Independence Day. However, from my experience, Japan is the best at putting on visually stunning fireworks displays, with the added bonus of a smorgasbord of food selections at each location to please even the most discerning palate. How I wish I could get back to Japan this summer and enjoy more fireworks festivals!






Book Revi]ew


The Spy Across the Table
(Book 4 in the Jim Brodie thriller series)
by Barry Lancet
Hardcover − 2017, 448pp, $17.10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 20, 2017)

Reviewed by Allan Cook

The Spy Across the Table is the much-anticipated fourth installment in Barry Lancet's award-winning Jim Brodie thriller series.

Sometimes-PI Brodie "is in top form" (Kirkus Reviews) in this latest outing, in which he finds himself called to the White House―by the First Lady herself―after a double-murder occurs at the Kennedy Center. It turns out the First Lady was the college roommate of one of the victims, and she enlists Brodie―off the record―to use his Japanese connections to track down the assassin. Homeland Security head Tom Swelley is furious that the White House is meddling and wants Brodie off the case. Why? For the same reason a master Chinese spy, one of the most dangerous men alive, appears on the scene: the murders were no random act of violence.

The Spy Across the Table
(Book 4 in the Jim Brodie thriller series)
by Barry Lancet
Hardcover − 2017, 448pp, $17.10
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 20, 2017)

Forced into a dangerous game of espionage, Brodie finds himself in the crosshairs of the Chinese, North Korean, and American governments. He flies to Tokyo to attend the second of two funerals where Anna, the daughter of one of the victims, is kidnapped during the ceremony. Immediately, Brodie realizes that the murders were simply bait to draw her out of hiding: Anna is the key architect of a top-secret NSA program that gathers the personal secrets of America's most influential leaders―secrets so damaging that North Korea and China will stop at nothing to get them, forcing Brodie to face off against the spy across the table.
The previous entry in the series, Pacific Burn, explores the tragic aftermath of the Fukushima quake-tsunami disaster and the real reasons behind the nuclear melt down. Japantown, the first Brodie adventure, won the Barry Award for Best First Novel, was initially optioned by J. J. Abrams, and is now under consideration at other studios. The second volume, Tokyo Kill, was a finalist for a Shamus Award for Best Novel of the Year and declared a must-read by Forbes magazine.

Lancet's connection with overseas travel, foreign lands, and Japan began more than thirty years ago with a short exploratory trip from his California home to Tokyo. Five years later, after visiting numerous other countries, his visit to Japan turned into a long-term stay in the Japanese capital, a thriving metropolis he found endlessly fascinating. Now, Lancet is based in Japan but makes frequent trips to the States.


What’s App With You?


WiFi Share:

Is your house always full of guests? Now, with one click you can securely share your WiFi login with your guests! The application idea was born when the creators got tired of giving out their Home WiFi password to every new guest. The network name and password had been written on the modem cover, and after the first 20 lookups it simply became a pain in the b!. With this app all you need to do is connect to your Home WiFi and store your WiFi password once. When the guests arrive, with a single click you will send them a message with your WiFi credentials. All major messengers, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber and many others are supported. Your guest will only have to select the desired network and copy / paste your password.

Cellular Signal Booster:

Use this amazing app to easily pinpoint and identify all the carrier towers around you. Often these are in plain sight but other times, they’re disguised as trees or on top of roofs. This app will be priceless to you if you often find yourself in remote areas or enjoy hiking and camping. It’s hard to go a long time without communicating or sometimes there are emergencies. With this app you can see where your carrier towers are located so you can easily improve your cell phone reception. Also, you will be able to view additional details about the towers.

Tokyo Voice Column


Are you allergic to house dust and dust mites? by Olga Kaneda

Defining. It is very important to know your enemy. For years I had been thinking that I’m allergic to feather. Every time I used a feather pillow or a feather blanket I couldn’t stop coughing, sneezing and wheezing. Then in Japan things gradually got worse. Last summer my eyes suddenly got so red and itchy I practically ran to the eye doctor in my neighbourhood. At fist she didn’t say anything about allergies and just prescribed me some eye drops. But my second and third visit (2000 yen each) got us both thinking allergies. I went to a bigger clinic in Chofu City and took a blood test. My allergens, at least the ones that the test detected, are house dust and dust mites. I also suspect that I am allergic to chlorine though. I’m not sure how much exactly the test cost but it was covered by insurance and that day I paid 8000 yen. My advice: when it comes to allergies, don’t rely on smaller clinics with just one doctor. One of my friends did it and nearly died.

Prevention. OK, this is the phase when you need to splurge on deep cleaning of your A/C. Maybe this does not sound very economical, but in the long run you can save on electricity bills. Our A/C started working more effectively and we never set the temperature too high now. If it’s been about 10 years since you moved in and you haven’t had it cleaned by a professional team yet, it’s high time to do that.

If possible, buy an air cleaner, and don’t forget to take a surgical mask, especially on the subway, at libraries, some shops, and anywhere you feel is dusty. Also try wearing a mask while cleaning your apartment. But the most important part nobody tells you (because it is so obvious) is that you need to improve your immune system and do it quick.




Strange but True


Caution!! Fish and chips are in danger!

The fish in our fish and chips may be shrinking forever due to climate change, according to a marine biologist. Species such as cod, one of the most common components of the traditional British dish, could be a fifth smaller by 2050. Dr William Cheung, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, blamed the declining size on climate change, as this is reducing the level of oxygen in the ocean. Fish more easily become "out of breath" as they grow larger. We would be left with fish more commonly found off Spain and Portugal and our fish and chips could soon be made with sea bass or anchovies. But there is still time to preserve the UK's national dish, as Dr Cheung said that efforts to reduce the impact of climate change and conservation programmes could still make a big difference.

Don't you dare take food away from us!

Oh boy, killer whales are mad. Alaskan fisherman say they are being "chased out" of the Bering Sea by pods of killer whales which are stripping their lines of fish. In a number of cases fishing captains have reported losing tens of thousands of pounds of halibut and black cod after being followed by a number of miles by orcas. One described the pods as like a "motorcycle gang" which leave little more than the lips of the fish they snatch. While killer whales were previously an infrequent sighting for fishermen in the Bering Sea, the problem is now said to be "systemic". During his expedition to an area near the Russian border, fishing boat captain Robert Hanson said he tried to fish for two days before giving up after a pod of at least 50 whales appeared.


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AirNet Travel

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Fun Travel

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No.1 Travel

We go the extra mile for you. International air tickets and hotels.

JR Tokai Tours

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Matsuda Legal Office

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Futaba Visa Office

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Coto Language Academy

Group lessons from ¥1,700 & Private lessons from ¥2,800.

iPhone Doctor

Will fix your iPhone and other smartphone at reasonable cost.

American Pharmacy

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Takarada Electric

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