Plain Talk


Jailer, Bring Me Water by Maris Piper

My best pal, Eggs, is worried again. Actually he is worried because his wife is worried about the price of cabbage. And we know what that means. It's not just cabbage, it is daikon and spinach all her favourite veggies. And rice don't even mention rice! Apparently prices are going to rocket (pun intended).

Well, fair enough. Prices plummeted last year.

Abenomics is hitting hard with all the sales taxes and weak yen, it has been a tough year or two already.
For once, Eggs grins, it has nothing to do with Abe. Its the water supply. Tokyo is on the verge of a drought.
But what about the rainy season? There have been floods in Honshu. Hiroshima and Kyusho - a months rain in a few days.

In southern Honshu, yes. But not in Kantou. It may not be enough to get us through summer, and on top of that the all-round effect means smaller harvests and less supply of his wife's favourite cabbage.

In May, total water levels in the eight dams on the Tone River system that supply the Tokyo region and five surrounding prefectures have dropped drastically, reaching record-low levels, according to the government.

The data reported by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Kanto Regional Development Bureau showed at the eight dams were at their lowest in 25 years, since the ministry began surveying water resources in 1992. Water levels at the eight reservoirs in total were only 58%. with the Sonohara Dam, in Gunma, was measured at 12 percent.
The development bureau said one of the largest factors contributing to the shortfall is a considerable lack of rain since the end of April.

Prospects for an increase in the water levels in the summer months are low, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), with rainfall in the Kanto-Koshin region expected to be lower than average through July,

The climate isn't the only problem. People all over Japan water streets out of habit, often for no reason, even when it is raining. You seen train cleaners hosing down trains in yards while it is pouring. Is the pollution that bad?

Without adequate water for the farmers on the Kanto plains, expect fruit and veggies to go up in prices later this year, ditto for rice.

The strengthening yen may offset some of these prices due to cheaper imports, but the water issue remains. Personally, I would begrudge sacrificing my beloved bath for a shower would be pointless if everyone else is ignoring the issue. Perhaps the Tokyo Government or JMA should put out an advisory warning.
Eggs has his own solution. He is going to cut down on his water intake, and merely drink more beer. Cheers!

Plain Talk


Dolls aren't for Sissies by Nathan Palmer

What makes a great Japanese souvenir? While some prefer kitsch modern toys and gadgets I think it's better to find objects which reflect Japan's long established tradition of crafting miniaturized works of art. This genius can be found in Japanese dolls, which come in a bewildering variety of styles. They include: hina (doll's festival) kintaro, and even musha (warrior) dolls. Some of these cost hundreds of thousands of yen but if you're prepared to trawl through recycle shops or antique markets such as Setagaya Ward's biannual boro ichi you can pick them up at a tiny fraction of their original cost.

One variety which is probably not practical as a souvenir is the real-life sized, ultra-realistic iki ningyo (living doll). Embarrassingly, mothers have been known to give them to their adult sons, who have no hope of marrying, as surrogate partners.

Still, whatever the variety, doll making is a serious business in Japan, and many of them are incredibly life like, to the extent that some of the antique dolls I’ve bought and decorated my house with are distinctly unnerving. The feeling I have that my dolls are alive and watching me has been accentuated by some of the Japanese ghost stories I’ve heard, which frequently involve dolls. The most famous is the true story of a young girl named Okiku, who was given a doll by her brother in 1918. She loved the doll with all her heart and named it after herself. Tragically, she died the following year, from complications brought about by a severe bout of influenza, so her family placed her namesake doll on the family altar. However, they soon became convinced that the spirit of their departed daughter now resided in Okiku, the doll, whose hair began to grow, even after they cut it. While Okiku didn't display malevolent tendencies they were spooked, but reluctant to destroy her, so they gave her to Mannenji Temple, where she remains today tended by monks who cut her hair. Like Okiku's family, doll owners in Japan often worry that throwing away their dolls will lead to divine retribution, so temples and shrines have special funeral ceremonies ensuring that the dolls' souls return to heaven.
In short, owning a Japanese doll is a heavy responsibility and it's a little scary, but it is still one I can recommend.

Unfinished business


I Did It! by David Gregory

She had been here before. But, those were tour-guided or hand-held visits. After living most of her life in white-bread suburban USA, driving everywhere, shopping in giant malls and supermarkets, and needing only one currency and one language, my mother ventured out on her own, within and beyond Chiba, during one trip to Japan. From her notes, here are Dorothy's...

Grocery Shopping in Neighborhood―Walk five only one bag...walk five blocks back. Survived it!

Shopping in City Center―Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus fifteen minutes. Arrive at stores. Walk around. Look. Decide: cookies.

Buying: “Ikura desu-ka how much?” Hmm. “Kakimasu kudasai write please.”

Paying options: give large bill, let clerk figure change, or open change purse, let clerk take out correct amount. Decide to just give some cash.

Clerk shakes her head (“NO! MORE!”), then counts out correct amount needed from register and shows me. I mimic her action from my change purse. Smiles! Deep bows with many, “Arigato gozaimasu thank you very much!”-es.
(My error: thought there was decimal point in Yen price....)

Open cookies, expecting pirouettes with chocolate centers. Instead, peanut butter waffle rolls, no chocolate. No wonder, now I see peanut sketch on package. “Shoganai can’t be changed,” I did it to myself. It could have been worse!
Travelling to Visit Friend’s Family on Other Side of Chiba―Walk ten blocks to train. Purchase ticket. Electronic lady on ticket machine screen says, “Arigato gozaimasu” and bows. Ride train twenty minutes, watching for correct stop, get off, walk seven blocks to house. I did it myself!

Visiting Hisae Overnight―My Japanese study partner in USA returned to Japan, now lives on other side of Tokyo Bay.

Take large purse and large tote bag with jacket, nightie, toothbrush, cosmetics. Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus to train station. Ride train eighty minutes to Yokohama. Find correct exit from station. EASY. Did not even look at note in pocket explaining route and Japanese signs. And, look! Hisae and three-year old Kei are waiting! “Hello!” they say! Many hugs!

I did it!

Then, still more travel: train together fifteen minutes, short taxi uphill to lovely apartment, sunny and bright.

Returning to Chiba, just reverse process. Next time, we can meet at a station halfway in between. I can do it.
I can do it!

Copyright (C) 2015 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Chiba, Japan

Book Review


Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014,
291 pp, USD34.00

Reviewed by Randy Swank

video maker and scriptwriter Rey Ventura won the 2015 National Book Award for his third collection of essays, Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami, but for some strange twist of fate you will find very little information on this book. You can’t even buy it on Amazon. This is a shame because Cherry Blossoms... is a beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking book.

These 11 essays, some of them autobiographical, see Ventura travelling back and forth between the Philippines and Japan, his adopted country, often portraying the many ways Filipino lives have been shaped and affected by their rich quasi-neighbor. Like in "A Suitable Donor," where the young men who live in the Manila slum of Banseco tell of how they came to "donate" a kidney or another organ to help a rich person in need − often from Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami
by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014, 291 pp, USD34.00

In "Miniskirts and Stilettos" we meet Ginto, a young lady who comes to Japan dreaming of making it big as a singer and entertainer but has to deal instead with a much darker reality; while "Mr. Suzuki Tries Again" and "Into the Snow Country" are tragicomic tales of arranged marriages where the dreams and expectations of bride-starved farmers from Japan's Deep North clash with those of young Filipino women who want to escape their poverty and go into marriage "as a girl goes into a convent." Ventura tells these stories with a great eye for detail and manages to find a ray of light even in the darkest corners, or poetry in the midst of a nuclear disaster.

The book's first essay is called "The Slow Boat to Manila" and indeed, slowness is the first word that comes to mind when considering Ventura's approach to writing. Everything Ventura does is slow. He is no magazine reporter after all, and will spend days or even months getting to know a person he wants to write about. That's the kind of personal commitment and deep connection with his subject that one feels when reading his essays.


Tokyo Fab



Inhale and exhale the evening breeze. Relax and listen to your body.
Enjoying Yoga during the day is great, but changing scenery and trying Yoga at night could give you a different perspective. These yoga classes held at Jingu stadium will feature different teachers everytime and also offer an area in for bilingual classes. So before going out, perhaps you can try out these yoga classes to refresh yourself!

Date: 5/24 (Thu), 6/2 (Sat), 7/15 (Sun), 7/26 (Thu), 8/3 (Fri), 8/29 (wed), 9/18 (Tue)
7:30 PM − 8:30 PM
@ Jingu Stadium
Reservation NOT required.
Schedules may change, so please check the website for updated schedules. When event will be cancelled
due to bad weather, notice will be posted on facebook on the day at about 4pm or 5pm.

For more information, please visit


Charity Park Yoga 2018

Do you like yoga? So why not do yoga for charity? Three inspiring yogainstructors will teach bhakti flow yoga at Shinjuku Gyoen Park. Asidefrom the entrance fee of ¥200 to the park, you can set your ownadmission fee (minimum ¥500) and it will be donated tokids in India. (You can check the last charity result from this linkインド-ヨガ-チャリティ/) Try out bhakti flowyoga and help kinds in India where yoga originated.
Bhakti flow Yoga is a slow and mindful practice that centers around your direct experience of the tools and themes of yoga chanting and meditation before, during and after asana practice.

Date: 5/26 (Sat) 10:00am - 11:30am
@ Shinjuku Gyoen Park (location details will be informed when reservation is completed) When event will be cancelled due to bad weather, notice will be posted on facebook on the day at about 7am.
Admission: your donation (¥500~) + ¥200 for Shnjuku Gyoen Park entrance fee

For more information, please visitチャリティパークヨガ2018新宿御苑/?instance_id=116172

What’s App With You?



Looking for an app to read business news during your stressful commute? No time to read the whole news but want to get digested versions? Look no further. Business news app Quartz doesn't inundate you with voluminous long reads that will wind up in the land of "TL;DR (too long; didn't read)." Instead, the app offers you bite-sized digests and summaries, almost in the form of text messages that you can react to, click through to more detailed writeups, or simply breeze past. Quartz's notifications can come withphotos, news digests, charts, GIFs, or even 3D augmented reality objectsthat you can play around with or learn more about.


Bear is a flexiblewriting and note-taking app that works great for jotting down quick notes, doodles, poetry and prose or even snippets of code. Focus mode lets you get right down to business, and a markup editor supports 20 different programming languages. Inline image and photo support combined with ApplePencil and hand sketching makes adding scribbles, doodles, andillustrations a simple task. Bear also includes cross-note links, and tagsupport for easy searching. A pro subscription ― $1.49 per month or $14.99annually ― includes note syncing, export options for multiple file typesand extra editing tools.

Tokyo Voice Column


A newcomer to Tokyo by Mohammed Sahir

First of all let me take you about myself then you would understand my situation here, I'm a British citizen and third generation from Bangladesh and Mongolian or somewhere in Asia, for some of the people who don't understand this, it means my parents were born in England but my grand parents came from Asia originally but not sure because we always speaking English at home also never talk about where they are from too.

Since my name is an unisex name in Arabic, some people automatically assume that I'm a girl then see my face! You can imagine what they were thinking, hahaha!

I look tanned like an Indian or Mexican, so many people in Japan and China would ask me " are you Indian?" I would say no I'm British some would be shocked or some would ask me again to confirm that what they hear was right or wrong, and some rare times some would not believe me at all even I show my passport.

One of the big reason why they have a hard time believing me is due to of my accent, I lost my accent 3 years ago when I was working in Shanghai, before I lost my accent I had a strong Manchester accent now I sound like mongrel with different accents I picked up from different countries I travelled in the past.

I were applying for a few jobs, but some of company told me directly that I need to be white if I want to do English speaking jobs, they don't care where you are from but your appearances matters the most.

It's okay, I have got use to it plus it doesn't bother me at all, I just need to keep positive and I'll find something to do soon or later.







MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Paddington Bear(TM)

The universally loved bear arrived at Paddington Station from ‘darkest’ Peru. Adopted by the Brown Family, this exhibition is his story and the story of his creators.
While stationed with the army in Cairo Egypt, Mr. Thomas Michael Bond (1926- 2017) began his first writing explorations which eventually evolved to a point that in 1958, he produced the first of his Paddington Bear Books. 35 million books translated into 40 different languages testify to the fact that this bear has touched the hearts of people of all ages and backgrounds and brought interest to Paddington Station and the greater city of London.

Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum
(C) Paddington and Company Ltd 2018

This wonderful collection includes rare items from the honoured writers workshop including his personal dictionary, letters and other tools. It also offers recorded interviews to be enjoyed. A much anticipated feature will be the collection of artwork from the various talented artists involved over the years including Ivor Wood, Peggy Fortnum and Fred Banbery who drew particularly detailed sketches for six picture books targeting a younger audience.
Celebrating Mr. Bond who lived a full 91 years and 60 years since the first Paddington Bear publication, taken an indepth look into this world of many
contributions that will leave you inspired regardless of age or mindset.

Period: April 28 - June 25, 2018
Venue: The Bunkamura Museum of Art
Hours: 10:00 -18:00, -21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays
*Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: May 8 & June 5
Admission: 1,400 / College & High school students: 900 / Junior High & Elementary school students: 600

For more information, please visit

Pippi Longstocking
and the World of Astrid Lindgren

"Tell me a story about Pippi Longstocking” her daughter called out from her bed. The mother, Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002) went on to do just that.
The childrens books and screenplay writer from Sweden is a shining star of this colourful exhibition that includes items and insights into the cultures of Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and others. Some 200 illustrations from Lindgren herself along with rare special footage will be shown. Enjoy viewing a large-scale model of Pippi Longstockings’ house ‘Villavillekulla’ while also learning about the Swedish lifestyle, co-living with nature concepts and also, ideas about parenting.

"Pippi and Mr. nilsson"
Original cover for advertising brochure
(during the late 1940s)
Illustration Ingrid Vang Nyman
(c) The Astrid Lindgren Company

The essence of the exhibition will be much appreciated by all-comers. Lindgren was a highly celebrated writer and it is said that Pippi did echo some character traits such as: friendly and kind without proper manners, takes care not to hurt anyone and, tells many tales but admits to ‘untruths’ when questioned. The greatly appreciated author and passionate childrens and animals rights advocate saw her books translated into 60 different languages. She was honoured with the highest of awards for writing, had a planet named after her and also, her funeral was attended by the Kind and Queen of Sweden among other dignitaries. In this celebration of 150 years of Sweden-Japan diplomatic relations, explore the region
and the cultures where Astrid Lindgren lived and dreamt up the character of Pippi Longstocking. The strongest girl in the world!


Period: July 28 − September 24 2018
Venue: Tokyo Fuji Art Museum
Hours: 10:00am-5:00pm *Last admission 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays (except on holidays, then closed on Tuesday)
General: Adults: 1,300 / University and High school students: 800 / Junior high and elementary school: 400
*Saturdays: Junior high and elementary school students’ entrance for free

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


ripped jeans effect

It is finally spring, and summer's on the way. Weather was glorious for theroyal wedding! The local council can urge the public to dress sensibly all it likes, but confident eccentricity will prevail. Still, you might consider stopping short at ripped jeans in the sun. Long trousers mean no need for sun cream, right? Fashion dictates otherwise. Think it's pertinent to bring up a past issue some women − and men too, probably − have encountered while dressing in ripped jeans. Yes. Trousers traditionally protect skin from the sun's UVrays, but gaps in the barrier mean people end up looking like a bit like a zebra-lobster type thing! So don't forget to put sun cream on your legs if you are going to wear some ripped jeans!

Painful misspelling... literally!

Choosing your baby's name isn't easy. So you can't really blame someone for wanting to commemorate their child's arrival (and name!) with a tattoo . Unfortunately, having done this, one mum has discovered her inking is actually wrong. 30-year-old Johanna Giselha¨ll Sandstro¨m had requested a tattoo of her children's names, Nova and Kevin. What she got was "Nova and Kelvin"!! Johanna had a few choices. She could either live with the typo. Or have the tattoo modified. Or go down the slightly more extreme route of changing her son's name. Which is exactly what she did! Of the moment she realised she'd got the wrong name imprinted on her, Johanna said: "My heart stopped and I thought I was going to faint. But instead of removing the tattoo, she decided to rename her boy. she says. And three years on, everyone is happy!


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