Plain Talk


Japanese Ghost Story by Chris Pooh

I went to rakugo, a form of Japanese storytelling performance on stage. Rakugo stories are usually comical with a punch line at the end, but it was a special, scary rakugo that I went to, or so I thought, all in English.

The first act was a story of “O-Kiku no sara (O-Kiku´s plates)” A maid, O-Kiku, was framed and killed by her master after she rejected his courtship.

This is how he framed her; He had a set of ten plates, pricelessly valuable, which O-Kiku looked after. He hid one of the ten and put the plate box back in place. Then he ordered her to take out the plates for him. She took the plates out of the box, counting one by one. She counted from one to nice, again and again, and found one plate was missing. She told the master what she found out and apologized. He flew into a rage and blamed her for neglecting her duty. Eventually he stubbed her with his sword to death and dumped the dead body of O-Kiku in the well. Since then, the ghost of O-Kiku appeared every night above the well, counted the plates up to nice and wailed. Her master became so distressed with it until he went mad and died…

That’s the plot of the ghost story. But the rakugo didn’t end there. Two flippant commoners walked to the now dilapidated mansion to see O-Kiku san. She still haunted the mansion and counted the plates. The rumor was spread that if you heard her count up to nice, you would drop dead. So the flippant meant to run away as soon as she reached eight. A big crowd was formed around the mansion when the pair arrived. The plate-counting had become O-Kiku’s nightly show, and she enjoyed the popularity. When the ghost appeared, the two got excited, along with the crowd, with fear and admiration for her beauty. When her counting reached eight, they were stuck in the crowd and couldn’t run. She counted nine. Then ten, then 11 and on, up to 18! The two commoners squeezed their way to the well and asked O-Kiku why she counted to 18. Puffing a cigarette languidly, she answered; “I doubled the count tonight so I can take a day off tomorrow!”

So, after all, it was a funny story. After two more acts, I left the venue, satisfied. When I was checking out information put up on the bulletin board in the entrance hall, a Japanese man asked me in English how I liked the story of O-Kiku. I vaguely answered it was interesting. He then said, “I think it was derogatory toward O-Kiku-san. The performer shouldn’t have made fun of her like that. O-Kiku-san’s deep-seated grudge may fall on all of us…” What!? I got goosebumps for the first time that evening.

Copyright (C) 2016 Chris Pooh. All rights reserved.






Plain Talk


Going to Mount Fuji! by Adriana Stoica

As the holiday seasons has just started, and maybe you be wondering what fun and interesting thing you could do, I would like to share with you some insights of my recent Mount Fuji ascension, which was a great adventure and experience. I would reccomend this trip to everyone, at least one time in a lifetime, especially now, when various improvements have been made to make the ascension easier and more confortable for people of different ages and fitness level. I would like to give my point of view on this trip, as well as some reccomendations, because there were still a lot of tourists unprepared for the mountain and weather conditions.

From the very beginning, I would reccomend a reasonable advance preparation like reading, watching pictures and blogs to get familiar with your route (there are several routes, pick one according to your fitness level) and with what you are going to experience, for example to realize that there are only rocks, stones, and volcanic red sand. Therefore, you need good mountain shoes, good mountain wear and gloves (sometimes you need to use your hands to climb the rocks). A trekking stick is very helpul and it can be purchased from the shops at the 5th station, where most of the travellers decide to start their journey from. Also, be aware that in order to be on the top around 4:45 at the sunrise time, you must climb all night, so the head lamp is required, as there is no other light on the trail. The all-night climbing, combined with the cold weather and the lack of oxygen, may be exhausting for some, so make sure to take enough time to rest and get accustomed to the high altitude. Oxygen tubes are helpful for altitude sickness cases. Staying hydrated is crucial, so make sure you carry enough sport drink/ energy gel/ vitamin water with you, but remember that you have to carrry the empty bottles back, so choose wisely. Drinks, refreshments, protein bars and several foods can be also bought on the way at different stations, but the prices are natually higher than in the city. A good mountain wear is EXTREMELLY important, since on the top the temperature might get below zero degrees, and I was shocked to see severeal completelly frozen people wearing only t-shirts, short trousers, and beach sandals! Furthermore, I have seen a part of a stone wall falling out of a sudden, so I would reccomend wearing a helmet.

Manners are important when travelling in a group and in some places it gets very crowded. Do not separate from your group, and do not miss any chance to use the toilets (200 yen per use-prepare cash coins in advance) as they are not so easy to find after a while. It is advisable to take any opportunity to take rest, enjoy the nature, the clear sky and the stars that look very shiny and so close (provided the weather is clear). For the ones who wish to get the best shots of the sunrise on the summit, a good camera is important (make sure the battery is charged!). For descending, be prepared with sun screen, hat, and sun glasses. For those who got really tired, there is an option to descend on horseback (around 10.000 yen).

With all this in mind, I wish everyone enjoys, learns, become familiar and thankful for the nature and experience of Mount Fuji!

What’s App With You?



Do you like sharing news, tips, gossips on SNS? If you have multiple social network accounts, don't you wish you could just share it all at once without logging into each one? Buffer is a neat tool that lets you easily post - or share pages you've found - to multiple social media accounts (although its only free for one account per social network, you can upgrade to the paid version to share on numerous accounts) at scheduled times. Any link, text, picture or video you want to share, just add it to your Buffer. Your updates will automatically be scheduled and spaced out throughout the day to post to your favorite social networks. Plus, you can custom schedule or "post now" right inside the app. It's fantastic for media and business types who've used analytics to find out the optimal time to send out tweets and articles. You can set up a series of strong posting times, and updates will automatically be queued up for the next window.


Explore the world through the eyes of somebody else. This is one of those super-hot ideas that threatens to upend an entire industry. It remains to be seen whether 2017 will see all news reports delivered via live Periscope broadcast, but either way, this app has made waves. Periscope lets you broadcast and explore the world through live video. See where news is breaking, visit a new place, or meet people and share interests - all in real-time. It's a little like Snapchat, but for live video: you start a broadcast, which any of your followers can view as it happens, and the video remains viewable for 24 hours after you finish - and then is erased from existence. Thrillingly immediate, utterly nerve-wracking for journalists who used to have the best part of a month between filing an article and seeing it on the shelves, and lots of fun to try out.

Tokyo Voice Column


Travel to a new America by Mardo

I am about to travel to a new America, and I am quite frankly a bit nervous. Since Trump became president Visa and immigration laws in the US have been looking very dodgy. I am not just talking about for refugees here, I am talking about for Australians!

In the last year the American Customs and immigration has stopped world renowned Children’s author, Mem Fox; Alternately accusing her of wrongdoing and asking for her autograph. The 70 year old who has visited America more than 100 times has sworn never to return. An Australian state parliamentarian on his way to meet US law enforcement officials to fight drug crime was turned away at the border despite having an invitation and travelling with other Australian Government officials.

In short, if invited celebrities and foreign officials are not being allowed in, what hope can a small town school teacher have? This is complicated further by the reason behind the visit is because my wife’s sister can’t visit us. She had a visa for here, but the US Govt wouldn’t give her a transit visa from The islands.

My only option Is to risk it, and buy good travel insurance. If I get kicked out, I will have to hope I get a refund and can fly to Canada later. Things I never had to worry about years ago. Let's hope this article isn’t published until after I leave!





Strange but True


Chop off your hair for a great cause!

We often talk about a new haircut being life changing but this time it really could be. Lots of charity places are teaming up with children's trusts to encourage ladies to go for the chop and donate their hair to children who have lost theirs through cancer and other illnesses. Many children's trusts have provided thousands of free real-hair wigs to young hair-loss sufferers. Anyone can get involved in "Chop your hair off" deeds by booking a cut at a participating salon who’ll package up your hair. The minimum donation is 7 inches, but you don't have to cut that much off all over - if you already have shorter layers you can just donate the longer part. Top tips. Be brave and go for it! Cutting your hair opens up the face, and looks fresh and modern. The end of summer is the perfect time to go for the chop, because you can take off all the sun-damaged ends and faded colour.

In 10 years, robots will take over schools?

Robots will take over from teachers in schools within 10 years, one of Britain’s top headmasters has predicted. "Teachers will effectively become classroom assistants, setting up equipment, helping pupils when needed and maintaining discipline", Sir Anthony Seldon said. "All educating will be done by artificially intelligent machines", said the ex-master of Wellington College in Berks. Sir Seldon said: “I’m expecting this to happen in the next 10 years. “Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised. However, old schoolers like us could only wonder about the ethics of it. Human teachers teach not only knowledge but more importantly human interactive skills, morals, communications, emotions and much more. Are we the only ones who feel that human teachers are irreplaceable for kids?


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