Plain Talk


Sweets and roses at Keisei Rose Garden by Olivia

Twice a year, in spring and in the fall, Japan becomes a rose-scented paradise. Rose Festivals are held in all gardens and parks that feature this queen of the flowers. In Tokyo, Kyu-Furukawa Gardens and Shinjuku-Gyoen are a must, but the festivals there are a bit low-key and the rose goods selection is rather small.

If you are willing to spend more time and money and enjoy roses with all your five senses, you should definitely consider visiting Keisei Rose Garden in Yachiyo City, Chiba Prefecture. Classic French style garden with more than 10,000 roses in 1,600 varieties, romantic arches and pergolas, live music, dance performances, special lunch menus (restaurant “La rose”), world-famous Bulgarian and Turkish rose jams, rose ice-cream (400 yen at cafe “Patio”) and many more await you there. It is also a popular place where many wedding magazines arrange photo shoots and many newlyweds want to take their wedding photos.

Red, yellow, pink, white and orange (honey-yellow to apricot) are not the only colors you can see around this time. Creamy, pastel colourings are enchanting and ethereal, too.

Cafe Latte, Limoncello, Cinnamon Chai, Honey Caramel, Lemon Fizz, Mint Tea, Apricot Candy, Vanilla Bonica, Shortcake… They sound delicious, but if fact they are all names of the roses.

Cafe Latte is a real one-of-a-kind rose that was bred in Holland. It has a unique brownish color and sweet, strong vanilla scent. Don’t miss your chance to see this premium rose at Keisei Rose Garden.

There are many kinds of roses blooming all year round, but my recommendation is to visit during the Rose Festival.

The best season to visit Keisei Rose Garden: mid-May to early June, October.

How to get there: 30 mins. bus ride from Yachiyodai St. (Keisei Line), bus stop “Keisei-Baraen”.

Best ticket price: 900 yen is available through Pass me! website (regular price is 1200 yen). Valid from May 10 to June 6, 2019.



赤、黄、ピンク、白、オレンジ(ハニーイエローからアプリコットまで)とこの時期に目にできる色はこれだけではない。クリーミー、パステルカラーは‎魅惑的でこの世の ものとは思えない。

カフェラテ、リモンチェッロ、シナモンチャイ、ハニーキャラメル、レモンフィズ、ミントティ、アプリコットキャンディ、バニラ ボニカ、ショートケーキ...。挙げていくとおいしそうな名前だけれど、すべてバラの名前だ。




京成バラ園は、京成線 八千代台駅から、「京成バラ園」下車で30分ほどだ。


Plain Talk


Farewell to a Japan Jazz Icon by David Gregory

The messages from all over Japan read aloud during the service helped us realize how widely Koyama-san touched lives and how many like us were feeling something newly missing from our worlds. But, although wonderful and sometimes saddening us, they did not trigger crying. That happened next.

Those first few notes of the "'Round About Midnight" Miles Davis version, the cut Koyama-san always used to open Jazz Tonight, performed by a live piano and trumpet duo up front near the coffin, did it: Instant recognition, recollections, sighs around the room, eyes closed, arms crossed, heads dropped back or down, and tears, at least for me. How many times had we heard, after Miles breathed his somber opening, Koyama-san's low, raspy voice welcoming us into the studio with, "Minna-san, gokigen ikaga desho-ka everybody, how are you feeling?"?and never thought that someday we would hear him ask about us no more?

Koyama-san's widow, whom, like him, had never known me, stood alone at the coffin head and bowed in silence to everyone in turn after they placed flowers around his body as the duo continued with another slow number, the trumpet sounding so strong and crisp and unusual in a memorial service hall. After we placed our flowers, she responded to my hand on her shoulder, a touch just meant to console her, by immediately turning and reaching for me?a total stranger?burying her head in my chest, and breaking down. She needed that hug that everybody sometimes needs. She let go after her respite when she was ready to face the coffin and everyone else again, and returned to her position. Going to Kashiwa in a snowstorm was worth it just for those few moments when I could do something for her.

So our Kashiwa day was both sad and good. But, why did I even want to go a funeral for a man whom I only knew by voice, and who, although linked to jazz, was not even a musician?

Koyama-san and his Jazz Tonight program I listened to since at least the early 2000s. For more than sixteen years, while my life in Japan has been filled with huge uncertainties, he has been here Saturday nights on the radio, reliable, keeping me connected to the world's music and opening my ears to music from Japan I would not know without him. Listening to him always made me feel good, no matter what had happened in my life during the week or what was coming up in the weeks ahead. Koyama-san and Jazz Tonight were my respite. How well can I replace that comfort?

Koyama-san, thank you for helping this foreigner feel good in Japan. Please rest well in jazz heaven.

NHK Radio, thank you for giving Koyama-san a way to connect with us. Please encourage other DJs to continue doing what he did so well.

To Koyama-san's surviving family members: Please care well for yourselves now, and thank you for supporting and sharing Kiyoshi with us.

Unfinished business


The Smallest Box by David Gregory

She came over to my table and asked if I remembered her.
“That’s my boyfriend over there.”
Their table hugged a pillar blocking the sunny Tokyo Bay view enjoyed by the other customers that afternoon in Chiba’s AquaRink ice skating facility café.
“Maybe we will marry next year.”

On my way out, I stopped to congratulate the potential groom to be. What I later heard happened with Hiromi and Hiroshi that night at another place also close to the bay sounded so too good to be true that I visited that place to confirm it really happened. It did.

Hiroshi had reserved for the course menu that night at OCEAN TABLE, next to Chiba Port, on the second floor, where tables sat by the huge windows facing Chiba Port Tower and Tokyo Bay. No view-blocking pillars there. And they had a wait, even with their reservation, because it was Christmas Eve, which in Japan matters much more than the following day; the Eve is the year’s couples’ night out, and single women without dates that night can feel their whole year was wasted.

Hiroshi had changed into a suit after skating, and had urged Hiromi, against her protests about overdressing, into a plaid one-piece, raising expectations. They had never come to a place this nice, one requiring reservations. Saizeriya was more their speed: fast faux-Italian, cheap, and everywhere.
The unexpected wait made Hiroshi antsy. He relaxed and all was perfect after they were seated.

They talked. They ate the Christmas Dinner courses. They ignored the soft Christmas background music. They admired the gleaming, golden Christmas Tree rising from the first-floor buffet area through the open center space across from their table. They could see outside the sparkling flashes and half the tree in Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination, and beyond, the lights from the ships on and facilities around Tokyo Bay, appearing almost twinkling. Perfect—but not for Hiromi.

She went to the toilet. Still he had not asked. The day was done. The reservation system only allowed them two hours there. They had been together all day. He had remembered her birthday-just by coincidence, also that day-with a necklace at AquaRink. Nice, but was that all? He had pestered her since early December about what Christmas present she wanted until she had finally exploded with, “Nothing! Don’t you know I just want a proposal?!” And had added she wanted it to be a surprise. Here he had the perfect chance, and he was wasting it.

She could try enjoying what was left of the evening. Dessert was next. At least here was better than Saizeriya….She was still stuck when she returned to the table, and had no chance to do or say anything, anyway. It was his toilet turn.

Their desserts came. Hiromi sat and waited and pondered the future. Outside, the tower stood alone against the dark sky and Tokyo Bay’s inky darkness.

Their desserts waited. Maybe his tooth was bothering him again. Maybe he was just tolerating it to make the night go well. Maybe for her. Maybe she should go to check on him. Wait-maybe she just heard his voice across the room.

No, only Santa Claus, posing for photographs with diners at the far table. He then started circling the room, giving a small present from his big sack at each table. She could check after he was done.

Hiroshi still had not returned to his seat when Santa reached their table. He handed Hiromi a big, red stocking, by far the room’s largest gift, accompanied by a squeaky, “Atari! You’re a lucky one!” Yeah. She set it aside and Santa moved on. What was he still doing in the toilet?

Santa finished his round, returned to Hiromi, and pointed at her unopened stocking with squeaky, “Un! Un!” grunts. The other diners had opened their presents. She forced a smile and said she was waiting for her boyfriend to return. “Un! Un!”

When Hiromi still resisted, Santa took the stocking in his white-gloved hands and opened it himself. Out first came a big, pink box, heart shaped. He opened that and pulled out another heart-shaped box, and then, from inside that, another heart-shaped box. Another smaller, heart-shaped box followed. He removed from that an even smaller heart-shaped box, and thrust it to Hiromi with one more squeaky, “Un!”

Still gone. Well, he’d miss it. Hiromi obeyed Santa this time and opened it, the smallest box in the room …and her mind and face went blank.

After that frozen moment passed, Hiromi looked at Santa. The second shock hit, and more followed. Santa Claus had ripped off his gloves, furry hat, sunglasses, and huge, flowing beard. He took the box from her?she was still speechless?dropped onto one knee, held the open box out and up to her in both stretching hands, and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Hiromi-san, boku-to kekkon shite kudasai! Hiromi, please marry me!”

Outside, to anybody looking, Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination still flashed, and the lights on and around Tokyo Bay still appeared almost twinkling. Inside OCEAN TABLE, on the second floor, everything was happening so fast that Hiromi just did not know which was more difficult to believe: Hiroshi and the ring he first tried slipping onto the finger on her right hand, the one he had taken in his before she held out her left hand, or the following PAN! and PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! and PAN! PAN! and PAN! explosions ripping and ribbons shooting around the room as diners at the floor’s other tables popped the party crackers they had found with the notes in their presents from Santa Claus.

Copyright © 2018 David L. Gregory All rights reserved.


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

Tokyo Fab



Yukata is a typical summary image of Japan. Even though people today are getting away from wearing kimonos, people wear yukata when they go out to summer festivals and other events. Yukata gained popularity in the Edo period as a comfortable article of clothing one could wear after taking a bath. Eventually, yukata took root as casual wear. This exhibition focuses on the design and technique of Yukata from the Edo period to the Sh?wa era displayed with pattern papers and Ukiyo-e depicting manners and customs at that time. (The content of this exhibition is subject to change)

May 28 (Tue.) - July 7 (Sun.) 2019 @ TOC GOTANDA MESSE
Closing days: Mondays Hours : 10 am - 5 pm (Last admission at 4:30 pm) Admission Fees - Adults: 1000 yen / University & High School Students with ID: 800 yen



Sankatsu Co.,Ltd. was founded in 1894 by Amano Hanshichi in Nihonbashi (Oedo). Since the beginning, the company was geared towards selling high quality yukata. During that period, Tokyo was the only area that produced the Chugata (Now known as Nagaita yukata). Shortly their commodities were highly demanded nationally. Branching off traditional designs of simple color and cloth like indigo and white cloth, Sankatsu has envisioned and renovated yukata with variety of colors into designs. By reservation only (one week advance)

3pm - 5pm Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, Year-end and New Year holidays
3-4-7, Nihonbashi Ningyocho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo(Closest Sta.: Ningyo-cho Sta.)

For more details and concert schedules, please visit

What’s App With You?


Handy Measure:

Handy Measure uses the distance of objects seen through your device camera. Simply aim your device at any object in your environment, and Handy Measure will display the distance to that object on top of the camera image. With its cool 3D camera overlay grid, using Handy Measure is very fun and intuitive! Find out how far it is towards that boat at the other side of the lake. Measure how tall buildings are. Use the app as a hunting or range-finder. Measure your friend's height. Measure how far it is to the other end of the field or how far away that 8-point buck is. Use Handy Measure for measuring golf shot distance, parking spaces, door openings in addition to using it for home and gardening. The possibilities are endless!


During the day, Thunderspace won't let you focus on all the noise around you. And at night it will make you very sleepy. Do not use while operating a machine, vehicle or star destroyer. We can't calm the storm, but the storm can calm us. Thunderspace's spectacular 3D audio sound field reproduction technology delivers a realistic, high-quality open space sonic ambience over regular stereo headphones. How so? Think 3D glasses for 3D film. Left eye, right eye. Your brain combines these two images into a 3D image. The same principle works for sound: Left ear, right ear. With interaural time and level differences, the storm rumbles high above you and the rain falls around you. Once you experience the transportive sonic ambience, you will never again want to go back to simple stereo.

Tokyo Voice Column


Beautiful harmony comes to Japan by Jim Mulcahy

I feel lucky to have witnessed the arrival of the Reiwa Era while living in Japan.

Everyone around me was on pins and needles for the last 15 minutes before the announcement, and many had live broadcasts running on their smartphones to receive the news without delay.

People wondered aloud what the era name would be and hoped it would be as auspicious as the name “Heisei” (peace everywhere) that was not only universally loved, but also matched the reality of 30 years of peace in Japan.

When the name “Reiwa” was finally announced, it was an exciting moment worth telling our grandchildren about – a milestone that would go down in history. But nobody was really sure what the word “Reiwa” meant. So we scratched our heads and checked our kanji dictionaries.

All around me there were guesses and vague explanations. Some worried about authoritarianism because the most common meaning of the first kanji in Reiwa is “order” or “command”. When Prime Minister Abe and various pundits provided very different interpretations, it only created further confusion in Japan and the foreign press.

Many sources have since assured us that the meaning of Reiwa is “beautiful harmony”. But the Japanese Foreign Ministry noted this translation is not official or legally binding. Perhaps, in the traditional Japanese way, it will take time before national consensus is fully reached.

Historians tell us that Japan modernized in the Meiji (enlightened rule) era, developed economically in the Showa (enlightened harmony) era and stayed peaceful in the Heisei (peace everywhere) era. What will the Reiwa (tentatively “beautiful harmony”) era bring?

In these days of growing multipolarization, trade and technology wars, tensions in Southeast Asia, chaos in Venezuela, increasing immigration and environmental issues… let’s hope the Reiwa Era genuinely brings “beautiful harmony” to Japan and the world.



新元号についてはみんなが話題にしており、『平成(Peace everywhere)』のように、万人に愛されるだけでなく、日本が30年間平和であったという現実とマッチするような縁起の良い年号を望んでいた。



その後、『令和(beautiful harmony)』というニュースが流れた。しかし日本の外務省によると、この翻訳は公式、あるいは法的拘束力を持つものではないという。おそらく伝統的な日本のやり方では、国民的合意にいたるまで時間がかかるということだろう。

歴史家によると、日本は『明治(enlightened rule)』で現代化して、『昭和(enlightened harmony)』で経済を発展させた。そして『平成(Peace everywhere)』で平和な時代を迎えた。


Strange but True


Princess looking for a job?

Many people have dreamed of donning a princess gown, like Belle's yellow dress or Cinderella's iconic blue number, and taking on the role of a Disney character at the happiest place on earth (Disneyland). But one family is offering a lucky lady the chance to channel their inner princess a little closer to home and they'll pay you £40,000 to do it. A couple from Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire are on the hunt for a Disney Princess nanny to take care of their five-year-old twin daughters. As part of the role, the nanny is asked to dress up as a different Disney Princess each month - including Merida, Rapunzel, Snow White and Moana. The ideal candidate for the role will need to be able to "commit to a character" and create a fun atmosphere in the home - but can't be afraid to discipline the children when they're being "little terrors". Mary Poppins eat your heart out...

Wizzard looking for a job?

Each week the internet seems to cough up a new weird and wonderful job vacancy. This week the bizarre job of choice is all to do with Harry Potter and tutoring. A couple from the UK are looking to employ a tutor for their 11-year-old son - but not just any old tutor, someone who can bring the magic of Hogwarts into their home. They added that the role will involve the tutor dressing up as a characters like Professor Snape and Professor Sprout and teaching chemistry, biology and physics under the guises of potions, herbology and flying lessons. As well as getting into costume, the tutor will need to have at least four years of experience tutoring or teaching science and a strong knowledge of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world. For the right candidate, the parents are willing to pay £75 an hour and they'll also cover expenses for wands, quills and other magical supplies.


50 Shades of Yikess