Plain Talk


Different Seasons by Esteban Lopez

I grew up in a small town in Texas called McAllen and it sits right next to the Mexican border. I lived about 15 minutes away from Mexico by car. But, what always saddened me about my hometown was that this area of Texas only had two seasons, hot and cold. In reality, it was either very hot, about 100 degrees in summer and 50 degrees in winter. And I always felt that this was a reflection of my emotions there − everything was either black or white, there was no grey area. It was either happy or bleak, that was until I moved to Tokyo.

In Tokyo, there are four distinct seasons; spring, summer, fall and winter. Each season is marked distinctly by a special occasion.

In spring, the beautiful blossoming of the Sakura trees fill the streets, as petals fall from the branches and flutter across the sky. You cannot help but feel an immense happiness fill your being when seeing such beauty unfold before you and understand that life begins anew during this time.

In summer, the Matsuri festivals with their enticing food stalls, namely; Tako Yaki. Everytime I go to a Matsuri festival, the first thing I want to do is eat Tako Yaki and indulge into the steaming squid. During those first bites, another kind of happiness wells up inside of me, an immense sense of contentment as I understand it’s summer in Japan.

In fall, the changing of the leaves from green to rich colors of red and orange bring in me a quiet solitude as I come to realize that another year of my life comes to a close and I have grown a year older.

In winter, I always look forward to eating Osechi and Toshi-Koshi Soba and spending time with my Japanese family as we gather around the TV and watch Kohaku Uta Gassen together. The warmth and love that I feel at this very moment pales in comparison to the extreme emotions of my hometown and I as go into the new year with a warm heart, and the love of my Japanese family, I can think of no better way to experience the seasons in my life.







The Randy Reviewer


And interview with Hideo Furukawa by Randy Swank

Furukawa Hideo is a leading writer in the new trends of Japanese literature who often present in apocalyptic terms alternate visions of history, city life, and the human condition through a very eclectic body of work. He has been writing since 1998 even though only two of his novels (Belka, Why Don’t You Bark? and Horses, Horses, in the End the Light Remains Pure) have been published in the West so far.

How would you define yourself as a writer?
Basically I’m a novelist. Now, the Japanese word for “novel” is shosetsu, which originally means “small story about everyday life” and traditionally was considered less important than philosophical treaties and history books. I try to offer through my writing alternative choices to the official history that people are usually fed by the political and cultural establishment.

What inspires you?
Everything can become an inspiration to me: watching the news on TV, listening to music, travelling, or even just talking to people. I take elements from many different media even though I think it is not something I do consciously. In my 20s I was involved in theater as a director and playwright and this desire to speak through the body is something I try to transmit to my characters.

This physical approach to literature becomes clear during your book readings which have an element of performance.
In a sense you could say I like to read with my whole body. Reading is an eminently solitary experience, but when I read in front of 50 or 100 people, we all “live” the book together, at the same time. I find this a very powerful experience. And if you think about it, in the past literature was something that was meant to be read in public, so you could say that I’m reclaiming something that originally belongs to its tradition. I find that contemporary literature has become so sophisticated that it’s lost some of its power. I want to get back its primitive energy.

Your work seems to be rather genre-hopping. You have experimented with SF, mystery, and suspense. Yet, your stories are strongly rooted in history and reality, and you often comment on social issues in contemporary Japan. What do you think are the most urgent issues to address?
Obviously I want to see Tohoku rescued, its people helped for real, and then of course the government has to face the real danger posed by nuclear energy. One of the main consequences of 3/11 has been that before the disaster everybody was leading separate, individual lives, but the earthquake has brought all of us together and forced us to face the same reality. Unfortunately people tend to fall back into their old routine. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if we really want to solve these problems we can’t forget what we felt soon after 3/11. People may look away from a problem, but still, there are consequences to be faced. This is also part of my mission as a writer.

Before 3/11 you were just a writer, but after the earthquake you have become “a writer from Fukushima.” Do you feel that a label has been forcibly put on you?
Not really, even because even though I’m from Fukushima, I’ve been based in Tokyo for quite some time. So I’ve never felt any pressure. But to tell the truth I think this is a good thing. You could say I’m a privileged person because I do interviews and people actually listen to what I say. So I can use my privileged position to give voice to the people of Fukushima.

Who are Japan’s enemies, and how do you think people can fight them?
Japan’s enemies are the Japanese themselves. We are prone to delegate decisions to people in power, and to obey rules without questioning them. This is the kind of mentality we need to change.

Can literature − and art in general − change society?
Of course not, even because we are not politicians. We just express our vision of life. This said, the world is made of individuals, and books can change how people think, one person at a time, in a more intimate and direct way than a political speech can ever manage to do.

What do you think is Japanese literature’s unique position in the world?
It’s the fact that there isn’t only one main school or style. Each writer almost represents a genre in itself. This may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that there is a lot of variety. Young writers, in particular, are not afraid to experiment, especially in terms of language and style. They are not afraid to take risks.

What’s App With You?


Star Rover:

Do you love the starry night? Do you want to know everything thats in the sky above you? Star Rover is a fantastic planetarium for your iPhone and iPod touch. Just hold up your iPhone to the sky and Star Rover will tell you exactly what you are pointing at. Star Rover determines your location automatically and you’ll see the stars, moon, planets, constellations in their proper place from your current location. As you move your iPhone, the star map updates in real time. Star Rover makes the virtual sky a gorgeous view. You can see stars twinkling, beautiful nebulae, occasional meteors and even the sunset glow in the evening. Star Rover is very easy to use. You can simply change the sky view in settings and use Quick Find for everything you want to know in the night sky.

Night Sky:

From the creators of the original Night Sky app comes the advanced and beautiful stargazing app. Quickly identify Stars, Planets, Constellations and Satellites above by simply holding your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch to the night sky! This is all done magically, whether you are looking for a constellation or the International Space Station, let Night Sky direct you to it. Night Sky ventures into territories no stargazing app has ever gone before. Land on the surface of the moon and experience Moon Tours of the Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 landing sites. Night Sky is a beautiful and advanced stargazing app available now.

Tokyo Voice Column


What A Load of Rubbish! by Al Mac

I had the misfortune to open my gym bag the other day. I had snaffled on some bananas after a game of football and with no trash cans available, had put the trash in my bag. In summer. In the heat. And forgot about it. Disaster. Question: Where are the bins, trashcans, gomi boxes in Tokyo?

When the G-7 Ise-Shima Summit took place in Mie Prefecture, Tokyo Metro has removed trash cans from 170 subway stations in an bid to strengthen anti-terrorism measures. Although it was just the temporary measure until the summit ended on May 27, it was the final nail in the coffin for many Tokyoites sick of carrying around their trash like a bunch of homeless people. Tokyo is on the verge of becoming a city-nation of bin men, voluntary garbage collectors carrying garbage and trash for miles before it can be discarded responsibly i.e. home. What are we paying our taxes for? It is hard enough to deal with rubbish in Japan given the draconian military-style rules on garbage separation with an army of Sergeant-Major Oba-chan neighbours to (illegally) rummage through your unwanted personal effects..

Speak to any Tokyo residents, foreigner and Japanese, and they have all noticed over the last 25 years is the decline in public trash cans. Many believe the local governments want to shirk the responsibility of garbage collection and pocket the money. The responsibility seems to have been transferred to the local "conbini" convenience stores, which has become so chronic in some areas that people drive up to the "conbini" for the sole purpose of discarding their rubbish. Naturally, the "conbinis" have started fighting back as it must be hurting their financial pockets in local taxes. They have merely started to remove outdoor trash cans, which spells doom unless the Tokyo Government takes some urgent action.

If this continues, the inevitable outcome is that Tokyo will come to emulate New York, but in the worst possible way, a city famed not only for its bright lights and opportunities but as a city of rats. Not the best welcome for the millions expected for 2020.
Let's hope the new Tokyo Governor agrees.





Strange but True


Taste like candy!

ASDA, a British supermarket retailer, has brought back its range of “candy floss” flavour grapes. The Spanish-grown grapes are said to have a sweet, distinctive flavour and are the result of years of careful farming. ASDA shoppers have been loving the sweet-tasting grapes. Asda’s grape and stone fruit procurement manager Alberto Goldbacher says that the idea is to offer customers something different as well as getting kids to eat more fruit. One fan wrote: "The lushest grapes in the world... they taste like actual candyfloss." Another added: "Is it sad that candyfloss grapes are the highlight of my year...? Thank you Asda" If you have a chance to go to ASDA, this is one of things you must try!

Freezer Hacks!

Your freezer may actually offer you more than just a place to put the veggies. If you want to put your freezer to the test these are the hacks you just can’t ignore. 1) Jean Freeze: The most unusual thing you can do with your freezer is clean your jeans. Putting your denims in the freezer is said to kill the bacteria build-up with low temperatures. 2) Ice cream bags: By portioning your ice cream into separate sandwich bags you cut the thaw time in half. 3) Save the wine: Pour the leftovers into an ice cube tray ready to be used for cooking. 4) Storing Fresh Veg: If you have too many vegetables and want to save for later, blanch them in boiling water before storing them in the freezer. 5) Fill to the brim: Pack your freezer full. The freezer stays cooler for longer and will actually save energy and money!


Guesthouse Tokyo

10 minutes to Ikebukuro.


safe and accessible solution for your accommodation needs in Tokyo.

Sakura House

1830 monthly furnished rooms at 204 locations in Tokyo.


Private furnished rooms in Roppongi, Akasaka, Azabu-Juban etc.

J&F Plaza

Furnished & unfurnished guesthouses and apartments in Tokyo.

May Flower House

Tokyo furnished apartments. Ginza, Roppongi, Yotsuya and more.

TenTen Guesthouse

33,000yen/30 days for working holiday students.


Private furnished rooms in Tokyo with free internet. Call us first or call us last!

Hassle free moving starts from 6000yen.

Tokyo Helping Hands

Very flexible working hours to effectly help you with moving, deliveries, disposal, storage and more!

AirNet Travel

We'll cut you the best air ticket deals anywhere.

Fun Travel

Discount air travel & package tours 2min from Roppongi Stn.

No.1 Travel

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

JR Tokai Tours

Top-value travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya fron Tokyo by Shinkansen.

Matsuda Legal Office

All kinds of Visa, Immigration & Naturalization, International Marriage etc.

Futaba Visa Office

Licensed immigration lawyer & certified public tax consultant.

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

English speaking pharmacy since 1950.

Tokyo Skin Clinic

EU-licensed multi lingual doctors.

Takarada Electric

Visual equipment and home appliances.Overseas use and Tourist models.

Tokyo Speed Dating

1st & 3rd Sat. at Barin Roppongi.


The best way to meet single Japanese women. Parties held every week.


Japanese women & Western men.


Join us

50 Shades of Yikess