Plain Talk


Manzai with the Mrs. by Dean Mejia

Manzai makes it easy for me to connect with my Japanese girlfriend. She is from Osaka. Her English is limited and my Japanese is also not too grand. Sure, we get along well in the romantic department (must be my Latino blood), but when the passion needs to take a 15-minute break, and we need to find something else we have in common, sometimes we hit a wall. Luckily, here comes Manzai to the rescue.

Manzai, at its core, requires me to know very little, to no Japanese language skills in order to appreciate it. Sure, I am not getting 100% of what the many random comedy duos (and there are A LOT of them) are trying to convey to the audience during their stand-up routines, but I am absorbing enough to make me chuckle. Simultaneously, my girl is by my side doing either A or B.
(A.) She is watching the television screen and enjoying the performance herself, OR
(B.) She is watching me and seeing if I comprehend the slapstick comedy routines that I am watching.
If the answer is B, then she’ll usually pull out a laptop and type in the name of a video file that will show me the best of what manzai has to offer. Her choices are usually great, and this brings joy to the both of us. She is from Osaka after all, and most of the performers are either from Osaka themselves or are very influenced by it during their performances.

The essential elements of a manzai team are pretty simple to understand. There needs to be one serious character, and there needs to be one funny or foolish character. The funny character usually does foolish things, makes funny noises, repeats incorrect acts even after he’s been corrected, and just generally symbolizes stupidity. The serious character usually slaps the fool with a harisen (a giant paper fan) while correcting and reprimanding him. It kind of looks like the serious character is bullying the fool, but then you remember that we are watching a comedic situation and one element of the duo couldn’t work without the other one.

Manzai is really popular during the end-of-the-year holiday season and families gather around the television to watch Manzai specials. Being with a girl from Osaka though, it’s manzai-time all the time, and I’m fine with that.


A. テレビを見て漫才を楽しむ。
B. 彼女は僕が見ている漫才を理解できたかを見守る。



Plain Talk


Japanese Yards by Raulie W. Schnee

When I first came to Japan one of the first things I noticed was that Japanese yards were crowded with so many thick hedges and trees. They were hardly the aesthetically pleasing Japanese gardens that I was expecting to see.

Not only were they crammed with vegetation in every conceivable space, but the small trees required extensive and precise trimming to keep their shape. Back home in the suburban U.S. it is a standard practice to devote most of one’s free time in the summer to maintaining a large yard. Most homes have at least one riding lawn mower in the garage.

But while the American family enjoys the wide open space around their houses, the Japanese feel safe behind their walls of vegetation.

One could guess correctly that the hedges keep the walls of the house cool in the summer and lend a modicum of privacy where there is very little space between houses in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, especially around Tokyo.

But these hedge walls have a more important function. They serve as a first line of defense against the spread of fire. During the firestorms that swept Tokyo after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, residents who fled to parks surrounded by trees survived, and others who fled to other designated disaster refuges without vegetation around them died.

Controlled burn experiments have shown that sparks from as far away as 18 m can set fire to a traditional wood frame house with no hedges or trees around it. However, a shower of parks from a fire as close as 2 to 5 m to the same type of house (but surrounded by thick vegetation) will no set the house ablaze. The large amount of water in the vegetation may burst into steam but the hedges and trees will not flare up, burn, and then spread the fire to the house.

If you are living here you should know the location of the evacuation area nearest to your residence so you know where to go in case of an emergency. In your neighborhood there will be a sign with a map that shows you where to go in case of a disaster. An arrow on the map will show you your present location in front of the sign. One or more green patches on the map will indicate where you should go. In my neighborhood there are two such areas: an elementary school playground and a large golf course.

It is not by chance that the selected color for these safe havens is green. These areas are surrounded by trees and vegetation. And if you are ever caught out in a strange neighborhood after an earthquake, follow the local residents to the closest safe haven. You can bet it will be protected by trees and hedges as a first line of defense against spreading fire.

What’s App With You?



Have you ever wished you could be featured as a cartoon character? Well now you can! Create your own animated cartoon! Choose the characters, select the animations, record your voice, save it and share your video. You can choose 1 or 2 characters, each character has up to 6 animations that you can select and determine their chronology. Each animation is 5 seconds long and can be deleted by double tapping. You can also create different scenarios. Each character has one or more silent animations so you can set them as both characters. During the voice recording, a timer indicates the number of seconds passed for this animation, when it turns red the next animation starts. Unleash your creativity!

Funnyfy 2:

We all experienced having difficulties when editing videos. Funnyfy 2 could be your solution! Introducing simple and fast video editor ever! Add timed titles to your videos and export to camera roll super fast. Your videos are going to turn into hilarious stories within seconds and just tap anywhere in the video to add a title. You can point out idiots, geniuses, fails in your clips or add subtitles to what your cute pets are "saying" to the camera. The possibilities are endless! Just imagine and be creative, then maybe you can become the next YouTube star!

Tokyo Voice Column


Of Stings and Things by Jeremy Moorhead

You can tell the seasons by certain arrivals, the singing man comes to the neighbourhood, selling his stone baked sweet potatoes. Or a freshly waxed and customised bike, ready to rev into the wee small hours. A limited edition can of your favourite beverage, festooned with sakura. Suburban speakers announcing local fraudsters competing with crows for your attention. A wave of sunshine, rain and increasing humidity coupled with something sinister. Something in the air.

The hour of the mosquito is upon us. Citizens reach for their skin vapes, their incense coils, bracelets, plug in repellents − whatever it takes to drive back this non-partisan parasitical pest. I have temporarily reneged on my atheistic tendencies and implored any number of various deities to aid me in my battle against the winged beasties. This year’s plague have descended on my pale flesh to feast and they have found it to be good. So good, in fact that I have a dozen or so scars, welts and blemishes all in various stages of entropy to behold. To a local hospital I find myself with one wound that has swollen and caused me to walk with a painful stride. The doctors and nurses are very professional and helpful, allaying my fear of needles and hospitals in general with their competent care and advice. So what can you do to avoid the attentions of our nasty nemesis?

Apart from aforementioned repellents, it’s recommended to wear light colours. That’s my garish aloha shirts back in the wardrobe, then. Lay off the alcohol as this contributes to your body’s carbon dioxide production. Sayonara beloved biru, for now. It also helps immeasurably if you’re not blessed with blood of a type O. Apparently the little blighters are twice as likely to drink from you if that’s your vintage. You can also stand in a breeze or have a fan on in your immediate vicinity. Resist the urge to be about during the hours of dawn and dusk.

If bitten; do not, under any circumstances, scratch. No matter how tempting it is. This could result in bacterial infections or blood poisoning. Apply anti-inflammatory gels and cover the area with gauze. Let nature and its wicked ways take its course. Most importantly; check with your local GP and/or pharmacist to give you all the latest details on tackling the dread threat of insectoid/human interfaces. If all else fails, calm yourself in the knowledge that the season will end and their reign shall be over. For now.





Strange but True


Curly Curly

Due to most of the Japanese people's silky straight hair, it is really hard to find special hair products for curly hair. Curly hair can be a total b***ch to look after and not having curly hair products would make it even harder. Well here's some solutions that could help. In short, "Get rid of the dead stuff", "Don't touch it", "mousse it out and add some serum" and "defuse, defuse and more defuse". When you visit a Japanese salon, make sure to ask "to add more shapes and give some layers" instead of a straight cut. When at home, once you've washed your hair, do not touch it! The more you touch it and fiddle about with it, the more frizzy it becomes. And then comes the defusing. Apply a load of mousse (generic NON-hard hold mousse will do), and a bit of serum (oil-based but a light one) − giving the odd curl a twirl before diffusing with a diffuser hairdryer. Then defuse, defuse, defuse for about 15min till it gets dry. Then voila! You have lighter, defined and shiny curls!

Black ribbon is the new black

In the fashion world, you can officially call something a trend after seeing it three times in a very short period of time, whether that be on the runway, the red carpet, or even on coworkers around the office. "Three's a trend," is one of the most used phrases in the fashion lexicon. And so far this season, black ribbons used in the hair has been spotted way more than three times, making it 2017's top hair trend so far. Meticulously sprayed, combed, and folded into sleek loops and add small black bows right above for a look that is "sophisticated, very elegant, and a bit equestrian." Maybe we may start to see this trend around Tokyo soon or it could start from you!


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