Plain Talk


Ready or Not… by Dean Mejia

I have met many people that dream of coming to Japan their whole lives. They watch hours of anime with subtitles and hit the study books hard in hopes of soaking up enough of the culture so that they’ll be ready for when the moment arrives. They make lists of places they want to see, photos they have to take, and souvenirs they are planning to buy. They obsess over things that their friends back home who are not into Japanese culture couldn’t possibly understand; like the importance of being kawaii. And they don’t mind living in a small room or apartment when they are starting out, because they are just so happy to finally be in Nihon.

Some experience culture shock because things are not as stereotypical as what they would have imagined, but for the most part I tend to find that most have a highly favorable impression of the place. Many I know make repeat visits, and some never return to their homeland.

What do you do if you didn’t prepare at all though? Let’s say if your University told you that you have to study abroad for one semester, and you just randomly threw a dart at a map, and it happened to land on Japan? What do you do if you are a person that can't speak the Japanese language, can't tolerate the traditional food, and then all of a sudden you get invited for dinner at a traditional Japanese home?

Well, as the noodle-slurping aficionados would say: "suck it up". Look at it as the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture. Find common ground with your hosts. Anything you can build on together, or activities that you can take part in, is better than pure silence. Partake in some alcohol and watch how quickly your tongue will loosen up. Don't overdo it with the alcohol though, as you don't want to be banned from the home with no recollection of what drunken offenses you committed. Use your girlfriend (or boyfriend) for all of their translating capabilities. If their English isn't too great though, and you find trouble even communicating with them then you should just bust out some photos. Have fun and hopefully your joy will spread to everyone in the family. You will be forever remembered as that cool foreigner that Michiko brought home for dinner.

Things should get better from then on.



何も準備していなかったらどうするんだい? 例えば、大学から前期だけ海外で勉強するよう指導され、地図にダーツを投げて当たった場所が日本だったらどうすればいい?日本語がまったくできないとか、日本の食べ物が口にあわないのに、突然日本人の家庭に夕食を誘われたらどうすればいい?



Plain Talk


Tears over Tea by Jeremy Moorhead

This country and its amazing output has always fascinated me. As a kid, it was the colourful, bright and fast-moving anime of Marine Boy and Battle of the Planets or the anarchic chaos of Monkey. The subtleties of this Chinese classic were somewhat lost in the frantic Japanese 70s adaptation. Still, to a young boy reared on the usual Western cartoon fair, these exceptional entertainments triggered an interest in all things emanating from this land. Especially the devouring of indigenous novels and then the inevitable devouring of the many, many culinary delights.

Nowadays, whilst still in thrall to various inked and cooked output, it’s the antiquity of the country and the often-unfathomable customs that I am more eager to explore. After many years of visiting and finally moving to Japan, I recently found myself partaking in the tea ceremony. A thousand years after it was first introduced in this country, it continues to delight and enchant in equal measure. Or at least, it did for this correspondent. I won’t pretend to be an expert after just one experience, but it’s seemingly rooted in spirituality, simplicity and the seasons.

We sat, or rather, kneeled in painful positions as the host explained in Japanese the basics of this complicated ceremony. Tea was then delivered to us, one by one, by students at a university cultural festival. A lot of bowing takes place and a serenity pervades the room, apart from my legs refusing to adopt the correct kneel on the tatami mats. I had to adopt the lotus position instead, hoping any offence caused was minimal.

As the tea-bearer approached, I watched her interact with the guests and studied how deep to bow in response to her bow and what way to handle the incoming tea bowl. I felt an odd and momentary sense of anxiety as it came to my serving, but I think I got it right. She and my companions were too polite to let on if I made a major faux pas.

The tea itself was a revelatory affair. A veritable storm in a tea cup, sensation-wise. A deep green matcha exuding freshness and a subtle aftertaste. The texture was full and a world away from the quick café cuppas of yesteryear. Every last delicious drop was drunk. I reversed the tea bowl to its original setting and gingerly placed it on the mat.

There it was, ten calming minutes in a modest tea room on campus. The students acquitted themselves with a quiet expertise, even if I didn’t. In clarification, there’s no actual courses at the university concerning the tea ceremony. Rather, it’s more an after-class activity like book or chess club. It left me overwhelmed with a new-found appreciation of the concept of tea. So overwhelmed, that my wife now refers to it as the “tear ceremony”. Whereas I pompously counter with the belief that Japan is where joy and tears co-exist in the beauty of observing the everyday mundane - right up to the extraordinary.

Tokyo Fab


What’s you favorite stationery?

Nu Board by Obun Printing Co., Inc.
The notebook-style whiteboard you can use anywhere NUboard is a spiral notebook of rewritable sheets: four rigid “whiteboard” sheets (8 writable sides), each sandwiched between one or two clear sheet(s). You can write directly on the rigid sheets, or you can use the clear sheets to harmlessly write and rewrite annotations over your own printed documents placed inside.

Nu Board by Obun Printing Co., Inc.
The notebook-style whiteboard you can use anywhere NUboard is a spiral notebook of rewritable sheets: four rigid “whiteboard” sheets (8 writable sides), each sandwiched between one or two clear sheet(s). You can write directly on the rigid sheets, or you can use the clear sheets to harmlessly write and rewrite annotations over your own printed documents placed inside.

SAKURA craft_lab 001 by SAKURA craft_lab
With its vintage design, this pen adds elegance to your daily life. A beautiful triangle line towards the axis reminds you of the form of "copy" pencil which is also a famous products from this company. Shaft is a combination of brass and acrylic, giving an outstanding appearance and strength. The color lineup is five colors, "delicately different black" is produced with accordance with the acrylic color of the axes. Great for gift as it looks much more high quality than the actual price!

CLIP coco Fusen (sticky note) by Kanmido
Kanmido offers easy-to-use and convenient line-ups of "sticky" series. This CLIP coco Fusen is no exception. With this clip it made it "convenient to carry" sticky notes within personal belongings (notebooks, books, magazines, etc.) The clip is made of stainless steel and adds style to standard sticky notes, so it is a useful item to use in the business scene. You can refill it with S or M size sticky notes.

KOKUYO Masking Cutter Karucut by KOKUYO
With all the craze for masking tape decorations, this is a must item for heavy masking tape users. "Calcut (clip type)" can easily cut multiple masking tapes. Kokuyo's "Calcut" series uses special-made blades, which give a clean cut to any masking type of tape.

What’s App With You?



Designing your own stationery has never been easier before! With the PurpleTrail app you can access thousands of fresh, beautiful designs and easily customize them with your own photos and personalized text, along with your choice of fonts, colors and backgrounds. When you’re ready, hit order and we’ll print, package, and ship your cards directly to your door. The PurpleTrail Content Planners are specially designed with bloggers, entrepreneurs and content writers in mind. These planners will help you plan your content strategies throughout the year and help you reach your social media and business goals. Also, with designer review, a team of designers will check and correct small errors in your design such as alignment, spelling or grammatical typos!

Blue Mountain:

Easily create your very own gorgeous stationery and effortlessly add elegance and the perfect personal touch to your letters! Yes, letters. Do you remember the time people used to send letters to each other using the post office? Help bring back the lost art of letter-writing by making and sending realistic digital letters to friends or family via email. Start by choosing from ten classic base stationery designs. You can add photos, embellishments, and your signature for a totally tailored experience. Save your own personal touches and turn your creation into a template so it’s there anytime you feel like writing a letter to someone you care about! For someone who absolutely misses writing letters (and the letter-writing-lifestyle), this is a dream-come-true tool for personal correspondence.


Tokyo Voice Column


Green Marketing in Tokyo, by Jennifer Perez

Navigating any foreign country presents itself with its unique set of challenges; but trying to sort through the layers of cultural cues, history, and contributions from globalization that surround green marketing in the said foreign country is a whole other challenge.

Loan words adapted from other languages are removed from their original context and imbued with new meaning and signification to form a unique landscape that is distinctly reminiscent of some postmodernist nostalgic idea.

Green marketing in Japan, (and worldwide) with its alluring aesthetic qualities and labels that give some indication of doing good for yourself and contributing to something bigger, is littered with language that work our subconscious mind to action.

Whether that is an 'authentic' experience or a simulation of a created aesthetic image may not be worth worrying about.

Maybe the first step to understanding a foreign landscape is to throw yourself into threads of the now experience regardless of what the former context of whatever it may be because how people read and understand culture as it relates to them now may be the truest expression of what something is.






Strange but True


The hidden message?!

The discovery of a hidden number in a playing card is the latest viral sensation to take the internet by storm. The hidden number eight on the eight of diamonds card has been blowing minds across the Twittersphere after one user shared a picture of the playing card. The Twitter user, who goes by the name PlinketyPlink, wrote: "What age were you when you first saw the 8 in the middle of the 8 of diamonds?" On first glance, the card just shows eight small red diamond shapes. But, when looking closer at the white shape between the diamonds, a number eight becomes clearly visible. It is pretty mesmerizing, and once you see it, you can't stop seeing it again! The revelation about the eight of diamonds has also become an opportunity for people to share other hidden images in well known logos. How many hidden message do you know?

Does magic really exist?

Magic is something enchanting and many of us wish to possess such wonderful power. Well, magicians that spend their lives practicing come pretty close. We know that "magic" often has tricks , but because we don't exactly know how they do the things they do, we can allow a part of ourselves to simply be enchanted and amazed by it. And that's exactly how people are feeling about a recent trick from close-up magician Eric Chien. In the six-minute video, Eric takes a ribbon and some playing cards out of a box and people watch as he somehow manages to change the colour of the cards from red to blue, before making cards vanish into thin air and reappear. If that wasn't enough he also changes the colour of his vest and seemingly cuts a card in half, before putting it back together again and transforming them into silver coins. Maybe watching this video might make you think there is a thing called magic.