Plain Talk


If the Kids Are United by Jeremy Moorhead

Pity the poor millennials, they are the latest in a long, long line of much maligned youth. Before them, came the Generation known as X, who also were much tutted and ridiculed by their predecessors. Who really should have known better, coming from the Baby boomer era.

Wind back the clock to the birth of jazz, oft-described as the devil’s music, followed by the perceived immorality of rock and roll, the flower power generation, the raw scream of punk, the get down of hip hop and the alleged hedonism of house and techno. All seen as corrupting to the teens and young adults. All frightening and incomprehensible to their betters. Why do adults fear youth culture so much?

There is no end to mature commentators, harking back to the good old days, when things were much simpler and more uncomplicated. When the kids behaved and were tolerated, barely. The vitriol towards the young seems to stem from their own lost youth. What the commentariat are really saying is that they want their own glory days again. That their formative years were somehow more dignified and respectable than the latest bunch.

It’s wistful nonsense, of course. As far back as ancient Greece, according to more learned scholars, it was remarked on that “the children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise”.

We need to look beyond the unfair stereotypes of youth being disorganized with finite attention spans, fingers glued to their cellphones and no interest in politics. The truth is, young people are organized, savvy and have a healthy interest in politics and current affairs. All you have to do is engage with them. From the survivors of high school mass shootings in the USA to the clued-up kids in Northern Ireland post Good Friday Agreement (now in jeopardy post-Brexit) to demonstrators in Okinawa. Whether you agree with their stance or not, you can’t accuse them of being feckless or lazy.

You may not like or understand their music. It may sound like a racket, a drone and not what you grew up with. That’s the point. We’re not supposed to understand or like it. Every generation has their own soundtrack. But don’t take this old fogey’s word, talk to your kids. They may surprise you.


ジャズが生まれた時代まで戻ろう。悪魔の音楽と繰り返し表現されたが、その後、不品行なロックンロール、フラワーパワー(ヒッピー)世代、生の叫びのパンク, ダンスで楽しむヒップホップ、快楽主義的ハウス・テクノが続いた。すべてそれらは若者や青年を堕落させるものと見なされた。眉をひそめ、理解できず苦しんだ。なぜ大人は若者文化を怖がるのだろう。分別のある大人の解説者は後を絶たず、物事が単純で複雑でなかった昔のよい時代に話題を戻す。子供達が行儀よく、かろうじて大目に見られた頃の時代に。若者への批評は、大人である彼らの失われた青春時代が原因であるようだ。コメンテーターが本当に言いたい事は自分たちのよりよき時代に戻りたいことだ。彼らの人格形成期は、最近の連中よりなぜか堂々として威厳のある。




Plain Talk


Top Trends in Sustainable Living in Japan by Jennifer Mallet

There are four key steps Japan needs to take to achieve the sometimes elusive state of sustainability, according to environmental expert, Junko Edahiro. Of these key steps, one of the most important, is that of getting over the obsession for growth. The latter involves reducing our demand on resources and energy, a goal which should begin at home. Singapore is considered Asia’s most sustainable city in terms of water recycling and rainwater catchment, but why can’t Japan aim for something closer to home − sustainable housing − one which cities like Tokyo already have the know-how and materials to achieve? Indeed, many trend established in Japan are influencing sustainable life across the globe, where solar energy, sustainable materials, and downsizing are already seen as important steps to reduce the human carbon footprint.

Solar Energy in Tokyo
Builders and developers the world over are making solar energy a big priority and Tokyo is on the cutting edge of this movement. Japan is one of the top producers of photovoltaic energy in the world, and companies like solar panel startup Trende are also seeking to make it more affordable. The company offers Tokyo residents free installation and maintenance of solar panels, plus an up to 20% reduction on their energy bills, in an effort to make solar energy the norm in Tokyo homes. Solar energy companies can afford to attract customers with attractive terms thanks to their scale and the sale of excess solar power under a feed-in-tariff system.

Tatami as an Insulator
Tatami, often used for sleeping, is a magnificent, sustainable material that can be used for insulation, since it retains heat, can easily be used to insulate walls and roofs, and is completely sustainable. Made from rice straw, tatami takes just one season to produce and does not produce the waste caused by insulation batts made of plastic fibers. Tatami is just one sustainable material you can use as insulation. In countries like Sweden or Canada, newspapers are shredded to make cellulose insulation. The latter, which can also be made from recycled cardboard, straw, sawdust, hemp, and corn cobs, contains over 75% recycled content and is considered a fire retardant.

Yakisugi to Improve Fire Resistance
Yakisugi involves the blackening of wood via charring, in order to treat interior and exterior furnishings and make them more fire resistant. The technique brings beautiful textural depth to your furniture, but also eliminates the need for fire retardants, since it essential draws out cellulose during the burning process. While in other parts of the world, chemicals and petroleum-based paint continues to be used to battle fire, in Japan, the old adage ‘fight fire with fire’ continues to ring true.

Downsizing Saves Energy
In Tokyo, the average living space for one person is said to be around 19m2 and its penchant for small, energy saving homes is catching on in the rest of the world. In countries like the U.S., the size of single family home new builds has decreased, with millennials in particular choosing smaller homes that enable them to attain other lifestyle goals, including travel and saving for the future. Smaller homes require less energy to heat and call, and are more conducive to a sustainable, clutter, waste-free lifestyle in which available space is used wisely and mindfully.

Downsizing, relying on solar energy, and reducing the reliance on chemical retardants and materials are just a few ways in which Tokyo is shining on a world level. There are many more ways you can save on energy, by taking small steps such as establishing a recycling routine, and replacing energy guzzling bulbs with LED lighting. One big global trend is that of creating a ‘net-zero home’ - one in which you use exactly the same amount of energy as you renew. With many cities across the globe poised to embrace this challenge, what can you do to ensure Tokyo does the same?

Unfinished business


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.


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


Pikachu Outbreak! 2019

There's going to be another Pikachu Outbreak this year in the Yokohama Minato Mirai Area! Pikachu from Poke´mon is a cute chubby little yellow creature. One pikachu is cute enough, but how about 2,000 of them? If you love pikachu, you are in luck! now you have the opportunity to be surrounded and possibly smothered (!) by pikachus! A performance from Pikachu set against the Minato Mirai nightscape, boosted by technology! Have a blast with over 2,000 Pikachu, our highest number of Pikachu ever! What's more, we'll be hosting a ticketed Poke´mon GO event “Poke´mon GO Fest in Yokohama”(ticket raffle through advance application)! Details will be announced at a later date

8/6 (Tue) ~ 8/12 (Mon)@ Minato Mirai area of Yokohama
Sakuragicho Station Minato Mirai Station, Bashamichi Station & Nihon-Odori Station (Minato Mirai Line)


Poke´mon Cafe

For all the Poke´mon lovers. Have you ever wish to go a Poke´mon themed restaurant? Poke´mon Cafe offers a variety of Poke´mon themed food and drinks including Pikachu Macaroni and cheese, latte with Pikachu art and more! Every single dish is so cute and detailed making it hard to eat! Relish tasty food and relax with characters from Poke´mon. If you are looking for limited edition stuffed pikachu in a chef uniform, don't forget to get them here!

5F Nihombashi Takashimaya S.C. East Building, 2-11-2 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku
(Closest Sta: Nihonbashi Sta. B2 Exit (Metro), Nihonbashi Sta. (Asakusa line) & JR Tokyo Sta.)

For more details and concert schedules, please visit

What’s App With You?



Summer has come early this year, and if you are in need of wardrobe change quick, wish is here for you to get a great deal. Style doesn’t have to be expensive. Wish is a mobile shopping app that lets you shop over 100 million high-quality items at 60-90% off! How is that possible, you ma ask. Wish connects shoppers directly to over 100 million manufacturers, so shoppers can find affordable goods. There’s no middle man, so prices are lower and the quality is the same as what you’d get at the mall. Over 300 million people use Wish to shop affordable goods. So read through customer reviews, view photos, and watch videos of their purchases to find the best deals. If you are a good bargain hunter, you will be able to spot some nice stuffs using this app. Happy shopping!


Send & Receive Money! Venmo is the simple, fun money app for sending cash quickly between friends and shopping at your favorite online stores. Apply for the Venmo card, and you could be on your way to shopping everywhere Mastercard(R) is accepted in the U.S. Share your new buys, split purchases with Venmo friends to avoid awkward IOUs, and catch up on what your friends are doing on the feed. Also you can easily track your finances. Use the app to keep up with what you owe, what friends owe you, and what you’ve bought using your Venmo account. With Venmo, money transfer has never been easier!

Tokyo Voice Column


Are you Pollen allergic? by Shailaj

It’s that time for the year that people like me who have got pollen allergy feel dreadful. I am living in Japan for over 10 years and initially I didn’t have this allergy and felt intrigued why people are wearing masks around this time of the year. It’s only in recent years that I start sneezing and my eyes are irritated starting mid of February. It’s a pity that we cannot enjoy the spring season as much as others especially when the temperatures start to rise.

So what’s my advice on how to deal with this. Initially I was hesitant to go to the doctor. I used masks, chose to get over the counter medicine, sprays and what not from drug stores (they do sell plenty of it around this season). However it did not help much.

Recently I decided to go to a doctor and get an allergy test done. It’s important to know that there are different types of pollens and you might be allergic to only one of them (for e.g. sugi). Over the counter medicine are more of general medications that help with any sort of allergy and they might make you feel drowsy without helping with your symptoms a whole lot. The benefit of getting an allergy test done is that it will detect all sorts of factors that you are allergic to and the doctor can give you specific medications to treat your symptoms.

Although I realized it late but your best option is to visit a doctor and get an allergy test done before starting with medications.

Hope you all are able to get through the allergy season and enjoy the warmer days ahead. Truly one of the best times of the year once the cherry blossoms arrive.






Strange but True


How to spot a good restaurant

Kitchen staff, chefs and front of house staff know restaurants better than anyone. They spend hours each day preparing food and serving customers, so are well aware of how things should be done. So when they're off and decide to treat themselves to a nice meal out, it's hardly surprising that they end up keeping an eye on the restaurant staff. Hundreds of experts have shared the red flags they always look out for when dining out. There are also key questions they make sure they ask to see if they're going to get a good meal. The decode: Carpet. Vacuuming only goes so far in a restaurant and according to them, they never, ever shampoo it… The food itself: If a restaurant has a one-page menu that's usually a pretty good sign, it means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed, but If a restaurant has a HUGE menu.... Its all frozen. The staff: If people seem genuinely good with being there even if it's busy or if there's playful ragging going on, that's where you want to be. The better the staff gets along, the better everything in the place runs.

How to hold your pet's lead

Thousands of dog owners are suffering serious hand injuries because they're holding their pet's lead wrong. Doctors from the British Society for Surgery of the Hand are warning people about the dangers after a huge number of nasty fractures, dislocations and even cases of 'degloving' - when the skin is completely ripped off. Dog owners should refrain from wrapping the lead around their wrist, hand or fingers as sudden movement could cause a lot of damage. They should also avoid hooking their fingers under the collar. Hold your pet's lead right so you are able to carry on enjoying time with your dogs without risking damage to your hand and time in hospital!


50 Shades of Yikess