Plain Talk

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 22. 2017

Tokyo: Live or Leave? by Olga Kaneda

Imagine yourself waking up to the sound of birds singing in the morning, listening to the blissful silence in the afternoon, taking a slow walk or jogging along the beach in the evening, and looking at the starry sky at night. There’s plenty of time to smell the roses and enjoy your cup of tea or coffee which, by the way, does not cost a fortune.

No, I’m not talking about some kind of resort. All this is real when you move out of Tokyo. You just have to know where to go.

Living in Tokyo, especially in the central part, is a wonderful yet sometimes annoying experience. You have to deal with high prices, crowds of people, both locals and tourists, lack of greenery, noise and other kinds of pollution, and other unpleasant stuff. For me, the best thing about leaving Tokyo is that I practically never see and hear toy poodles in dog strollers anymore. They were starting to drive me crazy!

Of course, there are many pros of living in Tokyo. It is convenient to get everywhere, to meet up with your friends and hang out, to visit art galleries, newly opened trendy shops and cafes (after standing in a long, long line to enter them), festivals and other events. Tokyo is full of life and endless possibilities. With all its non-stop working and entertainment, it can also be indifferent and unwelcoming. Tokyo may be a perfect place when you live alone and have a stable job with a more or less decent salary. When you are tired and have no time or desire to cook, you end up buying the overpriced take-out food which is full of taste enhancers and preservatives, but who cares? When you don’t want to clean your apartment, you can always call the professionals. When you need a massage or a SPA, you stop by the salon on the way home. Everything is at your fingertips. But when the time comes and you start a family, most people find it too difficult to keep such lifestyle. They trade convenience for space, elegance for affordability, and they pay for it by taking a longer commute to work every day.

Is moving to quiet and boring town in the suburbs worth it? It is up to you to decide. I’ve already made my choice.

朝、鳥がさえずる声を聞きながら散歩したり、至福に満ちた午後の静寂を楽しんだり、夕暮れの浜辺をゆったり歩いたりジョギングしたり、星でいっぱいの夜空を見上げる自分を想像してみて。人生を楽しむ方法はいくらでもあり、しかも大金を払わなくていい。

私が語ったイメージは、リゾート地ではない。東京から出るとイメージは現実となる。どこへ向かえばいいかさえ知っておけばいい。

東京生活は、特に都心は、すばらしいけれど、うんざりする時もある。物価が高い、混雑している、東京人も観光客も多い、緑が少ない、騒音や公害もある、ほかにもうんざりする事は山ほどある。私が個人的に東京を離れた一番の理由は、ドッグ用ベビーカーに乗ったトイプードル。その光景を目にしたり耳にするといらいらした。

もちろん、東京での生活はいい面がたくさんある。どこに行くのも便利で、友達と待ち合わせして、美術館や開店したての流行の店やカフェ、それにお祭りやイベントにも行ける。東京は活気に満ちあふれており、いろんな事にチャレンジできる。休みもなく仕事と接待では、無頓着になるし魅力がなくなる。東京は、十分な給料が得られる職についている独身者には完璧な場所である。疲れて料理をつくる時間がなかったり、料理をつくりたくないなら、値段の高いテイクアウト食品が手に入る。食欲増進剤と防腐剤が入っているが、誰も気にしやしない。アパートの部屋の掃除をしたくないなら、掃除してくれるプロに電話すればいい。マッサージやスパに行きたければ、帰宅途中で立ち寄ればいい。何もかもがあなたの意のままにそろう。しかしやがて家族をもつと、たいていの人はそんな生活を続けるのはむずかしいと感じる。便利さよりも大きなスペースを、優雅さよりも手頃な値段を、そして毎日の通勤に時間をかける事で対価を支払う。

郊外にある喧噪のない退屈な町への引越ははたして価値があるのだろうか。決めるのはあなただ。私はとうに決めた。


The Randy Reviewer

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 22. 2017

Hakkaisan’s Jiro Nagumo by Randy Swank

When Jiro Nagumo was a little kid running around his family’s sakagura (sake brewery) in Niigata Prefecture, little he knew that one day he would succeed his father as the president of Hakkaisan, one of Japan’s most popular sake makers. “Our house and brewery were just one place, so I literally grew up there,” Nagumo says. “I used to play while the grown-ups were working, and was scolded more than once because of my pranks. For as long as I can remember the brewery has been part of my life.” Created by Nagumo’s grandfather Koichi in 1922, the brewery had a hard time breaking into the sake market as Niigata was outside Japan’s main production areas in Kyoto and Kobe.

Thanks to improved brewing techniques and a concerted effort to make Hakkaisan a popular brand name, today Niigata’s sake is recognized as one of the best in Japan. “Niigata is famous for its water and rice, which are the two main ingredients in sake-brewing,” explains Nagumo.

While Hakkaisan’s fortunes have been on the rise since the early 1980s, the sake industry has struggled to keep its share of the local booze market. “Between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 80s there was a national sake boom that was driven by the economic bubble,” he says. “Unfortunately after a while people’s interest began to drift towards more fashionable drinks like whisky and wine, or cheaper stuff like shochu.”

Learning from the industry’s mistakes, Hakkaisan has been able to adapt to the changing market. “We realized that instead of competing with shochu companies on their level (i.e. by lowering our price) we had to offer superior quality sake for the same price,” Nagumo says. As a consequence, while in the last 25 years national sake production has dropped from eight to three million koku (one koku is equal to 180 liters), Hakkaisan has increased its output from 10,000 to 33,000 (that’s about 3.3 million bottles).

“What’s really important is that more people get to know fine sake and understand how well it goes with food as it enhances its flavor. There’s nothing better than food and sake.”


What’s App With You?

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 22. 2017

Signal:

Signal, from Open Whisper Systems, is one of the most highly recommended apps when it comes to chat encryption and security. Privacy is possible and signal makes it easy. Using Signal, you can communicate instantly while avoiding SMS fees, create groups so that you can chat in real-time with all of your friends at once, and share media and other files with complete privacy. The server never has access to any of your communication and never stores any of your data!

Happy New Year Countdown Begins Free:

New Year is around the corner! Get ready to celebrate New Year with this New Year Countdown app. This app will always inform you exactly how many days, hours, minutes and seconds left until New Year. With it’s beautiful design and soothing tune this app will surely change your mood and fill in your heart with the festivities of New Year!

Tokyo Voice Column

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 22. 2017

Last Terry Pratchett by Mardo

I have long delayed buying the latest Terry Pratchett book, but it I had to sooner or later. The problem is, that the latest book from my favourite author, is also the last. Sir Terry passed away, and when I finish this book, I accept that there will never be another Pratchett book.

Sir Terry was one of the world’s biggest selling Sci-Fi/fantasy authors, up until Harry Potter came out, and then again when the Harry Potter series finished. The discworld series got me through a lot of good days and bad; I reread them often, but when I finish this one, that’s it, a 25 year long relationship is over, and only memories remain.

I am older and this ending of an era is something I am used to now, I was upset when my favourite Sumo wrestler retired; I knew my life was changing when I finished my last shift at Nova (by the station) and I know I will go on. I have new favourite Sumotori - (Ura or takayasu come to mind), a new job and a new favourite Author and series (Rivers of London, in case you were wondering).

Still this one will be hard, books are with you when you need them most. When you are sick in bed, stuck on a train, or relaxing in the sun. And the relationship with your favourite Author, is quite serious, even if you will never meet them. So, unless I can get my hands on some out of print early works, this is the end… apart from re-reading again.

And as Sir Terry Pratchett often wrote, no one is really gone until the last person who remembers them is wiped from history. So I will read his book, and say his name... I recommend his work. I hope you will remember his name too.

テリー・プラチェットの最新作を買いそびれていた。いずれは読む本だった。さて困った事になった。その大好きな作家の最新作が遺作となってしまったからだ。サー・テリーが亡き現在、最新作を読み終えたら、もう二度と彼の新たな作品にはお目にかかれない。

サー・テリーは、有名なSF・ファンタジー作家だ。ハリーポッターが世に出てからシリーズ作品が終了するまでの期間を除き、大きな売り上げを誇る。彼のディスクワールドシリーズは、若い頃の楽しくもあり苦しくもあった時代に読んだ。何度か読み返すこともよくあった。でもこの最新作を読んだら、これでおしまいだ。25年間の作家との交流が終わり、思い出だけが残る。

年をとり、こうしたある時代の終わりに、今の僕は慣れてきた。大好きな相撲力士が引退する時には悲しんだし、ノバでの最後の交代勤務を終えて自分の人生が変わるのを知った。それ以降も同様な経験をしている。新しい力士でお気に入り(宇良和輝や安 晃)もいるし、新しい職についている。大好きな作家やシリーズ物もある。(興味のある方に言っておこう、リバーズオブロンドンだ。)

でも非常に悲しい。本は自分に必要な時になくてはならない。病気で寝ていたり、電車で移動したり、日光浴をする時は、大好きな作家との関係はなくてはならない。たとえ作家と一度も会った事がないとしてもだ。初期の絶版となった作品を手にいれることができないなら、読み返す事がない限り、これが最後となる。

サー・テリーはよく、「亡くなってからも、覚えていてくれる人がまったくいなくなるまではこの世から消えない。」と書き記した。だから僕は彼の名前を呼びながら、彼の本を読み続ける....。彼の作品をお勧めする。そしてあなたも彼の名前を忘れないでいてくれるといいのだけど。



Strange but True

TOKYO NOTICE BOARD DECEMBER 22. 2017

Different New Year Traditions around the world

Spain's 12 grape challenge
Revellers seeing in the new year in Spain stuff their mouths with grapes in the final moments of the year - one grape, and one wish, for each chime of the clock at midnight.
Great balls of fire, Scotland
In Stonehaven, Scotland, it is a custom to parade through the streets on New Year's Eve while swinging blazing balls of fire around. Not for the faint hearted. The tradition is part of Scotland's Hogmanay celebrations, although its roots trace back to the Vikings.
Red underwear, Turkey
The tradition of donning scarlet pants on NYE dates back to the Middle Ages. Red garments were frowned upon because of the colour's association with all things evil, but on NYE, they brought good luck. The practice is especially popular in Turkey, where stalls selling red lingerie appear over the festive period and sell out fast.
Animal whispering, Romania
Farmers in Romania try to understand their animals in a New Year's ritual which, if successful, signifies not just a Doctor Dolittle-esque gift for communicating with our furry relatives but good luck for the coming year.
Mass kissing, Venice
St Mark's Square in Venice is known for holding not only a big firework display each NYE but something far more unusual - a mass "kissathon". Up to 70,000 revellers pucker up for the snogging session. Don't forget your Tic Tacs.
The suitcase walk, Ecuador
Been dreaming of a holiday but worried it might never happen? Take your empty suitcase for a stroll around the block - ignoring the curtain twitching from your neighbours - and make the dream a reality in the coming year. Or so goes the Ecuadorian tradition anyway.
Underwater tree planting, Siberia
There is a rather bizarre custom in Russia that involves cutting a hole in the ice covering Lake Baikal and diving to "plant" a tree. Note that only professional divers are allowed to participate.
Dinner for One, Germany
This British comedy sketch from 1963 about a lonely 90th birthday dinner has been inexplicably embraced by Germans, and is broadcast in many homes during new year festivities. It is up to the butler, James, to play the role of Miss Sophie's departed friends, getting more and more drunk as he does so.

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