Plain Talk


What do you like most about Japan? by Adriana Stoica

What do you like most about Japan? This is the most common question I get whenever I travel outside Japan. Usually, I get this question in crowded pubs or in a noisy hotel lobby and I have very little time to answer, so I had to find a short and satisfying answer, easy to explain with limited vocabulary in English and other languages I know and clear enough to make myself understood.

"Well, if I am supposed to name it in 3 words I would call it mindfulness to others."

If the other person is not a native speaker, or he is not familiar with the word mindfulness, I would add quickly caring for the other people, so that they get the idea I am trying to convey. Then, I would shortly give some brief examples, from the real life situations, that they easily understand. For example:
- While commuting by trains, people are quiet, keep their cell phones on silent mode so that they don’t disturb others and do not carry heavy backpacks during the rush hours.
- People patiently wait for the others to get off the train first, before they could enter the train.
- Generally, the lost items are returned to a Lost and Found Office, and I could find my camera forgotten in a crowded station.
- You can park the bicycle outside a shop and find it there when you come back, even if you forget to lock it ?.
- People do their best to keep the streets and cities clean.
- In shops, shop assistants hand over the products with a smile and a bow, no matter how tired they are or how late it is.

As these things do not usually happen in all the countries, many people I talk to are very surprised and impressed. They get a nice image of Japan and wish to visit and experience by themselves these things, and even apply then in their own countries. I am happy that people understand that some simple caring habits which are very common in Japan could create a calmer environment for everybody, regardless the nationality.

日本の何が一番好き? 日本から離れた旅先の国々で、よくこの質問を受ける。たいてい、人で込み合うパブや大勢の人が行き来するホテルのロビーにいて、十分な時間がないまま、手短かで満足のいく返答を見つけなければならない。それも英語か自分の知る他言語の限られた単語で簡単に説明し、自分でも納得のいくものでなければならない。




Plain Talk


Itsukushima shrine and the island of Miyajima by Shahnawaz Bhutto

The island of Miyajima is located in Hiroshima prefecture, which is home to Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, a world heritage site since 1996. In order to reach Itsukushima shrine one has to cross Island’s gateway “Miyajime-guchi” to reach Miyajima wharf on the other side and it takes 10 minutes on ferry to reach the dock. On the way towards the shrine it is usual to encounter the wild deers. This part of island is reverted as a god since long ago.

The shrine’s architecture work is a style depicting 850 years old construction which was constructed under the orders of Taira no Kiyomori, a military person who held political powers in Japan. This island was extremely important maritime route for this military person who developed economic influence through trade with China in those days and he believed that this island was a place for god protecting the navigation. The inner shrine which was reconstructed in 16th century is believed to possess the style of Kiyomori’s time.

At high tide the shrine buildings seem to float on water and this truly represents the amazing and heart touching view of shrine. Up above the shrine is a highest point of Miyajima known as Mount Misen which has natural lush virgin forests on the way. In autumn the leaves add color and beauty at Momijidani Park, and near there is the base for a ropeway system. It will take you up into the air and to the final station at the top, in about 20 minutes. Near there is the Shishi-iwa Lookout, offering a fine view of islands in the inland sea. After coming down from Mount Misen and strolling to the Omotesando walkway leading to the shrine, visitor would be delighted to see the shops selling souvenirs and small restaurants. A forever-favorite souvenir from Miyajima is momiji manju, small sponge cakes in the shape of momiji maple leaves with a sweet bean paste or some other ingredient stuffed in the dough before baking. Many shops along the walkway bake the cakes right there, giving you an opportunity you will not want to miss. Another popular souvenir is Miyajima shamoji rice scoops, said to bring good luck. Specialty shops on the walkway have scoops for everyday use, of course, but also a lineup with a wish inscribed on them, like Shobai Hanjo (“success in business”) and Kanai Anzen (“safety in the home”). After sunset the look of the island changes and between sunset and 11pm it is illuminated with lighting system which adds the beauty of the island and makes it spectacular.

What’s App With You?


Mind Games Pro:

Do you feel like your brain has been mashed due to too much heat exposure in the summer? Well, time to exercise your brain! This is the unlimited, ad-free, version of the hit brain training app. Mind Games is a great collection of games based in part on principles derived from cognitive tasks to help you practice different mental skills. This app includes all of Mindware’s brain exercising games. All games include your score history and graphs of your progress. The main app shows a summary of your best games and today’s scores on all games. Using some principles of standardized testing, your scores are also converted to a comparison scale so that you can see where you need work and excel. The Training Center selects games for you to play in order to maximize your progress and enjoyment.

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Tokyo Voice Column


The Art of Noise in Tokyo by Jeremy Moorhead

When The Art of Noise finally took the stage in Roppongi, early September, it was the culmination of a dream come true for this correspondent. I’d waited over 30 years to see them, not having the chance to enjoy their pioneering synth pop live before now. Incidentally, it was the band’s first date in Japan since 1986. They seemed happy to be back and one could hardly blame them, given the opulent surroundings of Billboard Live Tokyo.

The venue is celebrating10 years of bringing Tokyoites the best in music, including such greats as Steely Dan, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu. It’s a far cry from London’s Shepherds Bush Empire or Dublin’s SFX Hall. No mosh pits here or plastic pint glasses. For the audience, used to Japanese comfort that doesn’t appear to be a problem. They’re all here to experience the show, which is a greatest hits package mostly culled from their first 2 albums Who’s Afraid of The Art of Noise and In Visible Silence, the latter of which has been re-released in a new deluxe format. Some new samples pepper the pieces; Donald Trump appears on Instruments of Darkness, the track originally written about apartheid era South Africa.

JJ Jeczalik, Gary Langan and Anne Dudley are enjoying the moment. All 3 have been involved in classic pop over the years; Queen, ABC, Yes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood included. Dudley, who is a composer in her own right, was recently awarded the Ivor Novello award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.

There’s something glorious about revisiting your favourite artists from yesteryear and The Art of Noise do not disappoint. It’s reassuring to know that no matter how far away from home you find yourself; there’s a great tradition of live music in Japan and you’re usually spoilt for choice. Not just the outdoor festivals and bigger bands but just a great night out, be it a jazz session hidden away in a basement in Aoyama or an up and coming rock band raising the roof in Ebisu. Here’s to many more.


ビルボードライブ東京は、スティーリーダン、チャカカーン、エリカ・バドゥ等の大御所の最高の演奏を東京のファンに提供し続けて10年になる。ロンドンのシェパーズ・ブッシュ・エンパイアやダブリンのSFXホールとは比べ物にならない。ここでは、モッシュピッツ(押しくらまんじゅう)しないし、プラステック製パイント・グラスを持っている人もいない。日本的な居心地の良さでステージ鑑賞するのはなんら問題ない。デビューアルバム「「Who's Afraid Of The Art of Noise」とニューデラックス版としてリブートされたセカンドアルバム「In Visible Silence」から抜粋された名だたるヒット曲をつめこんだ演奏を楽しむためにみんな、ここにいるんだ。南アフリカのアパルト政策について書かれた曲、「Instruments of Darkness」にはドナルト・トランプ氏も現れ、新しいサンプリング曲も披露してくれた。



Strange but True


Scariest doll goes on sale for Halloween

A Halloween doll has been dubbed the 'most terrifying and grotesque thing' ever after a video of it moving went viral. Footage of the must-have decoration has been watched more than seven million times online. The nightmarish toy is made up of a pale doll with black hair bunches and blue light-up eyes cycling on a wire trike. But its the noise the petrifying puppet makes that seems to have people truly creeped out. It slowly peddles around to a ghostly child giggling soundtrack. More than 35,000 people have commented on the video, most saying how terror-struck they would be if they ever saw it. "Now I can't sleep, for fear I will wake up and she will be in my house! I hate dolls," said a viewer. But, the petrifying puppet does not come cheap. On eBay the 'haunted house animatronic tricycle doll' costs $173 or around £135. Still, if you want to spook people, maybe it's worth it?

Haunted or Not Haunted?

If you have a spare £795,000 knocking about and fancy living down the road from vegetable-shunning Tory politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, here's an old house you might fancy buying. The Old Court is a 150-year-old Grade II Listed property with seven bedrooms. And the Victorian home has kept its majestic period features, including vaulted ceilings, lavish stonework... and a magistrates' court. Ah yes. There it is. The 800 sq/ft house, not far from Bristol in Temple Cloud in the Somerset countryside, used to be a working court house. The grand hall, now used as a dining room, saw many trials. Below it, the original jail cells have been kept − and turned into bedrooms. Even the hatches remain, which staff once used to pass food to prisoners awaiting trial. In the main house, there are five bedrooms, a lounge, dining room, study, second reception room, a gym, and a sauna. The three 'jail cell' bedrooms have been made comfortable. No rats. Although, as the Bristol Post points out, it was his ancestors who probably funded the house's construction, so we should be thankful for that at least. Anyone interested?


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