Plain Talk


Thanksgiving Labor Day: A Time to Remember Workers and to Give Thanks
by Patrick Hattman

For nearly seven decades, Japan has observed a national holiday each year on November 23 known as "Kinro Kansha No Hi" or Thanksgiving Labor Day. While relatively new in its present incarnation, Thanksgiving Labor Day has origins that extend far back into Japan's ancient past, drawing from traditions of common folk giving thanks after fall harvests of foodstuffs like rice, wheat, barley, millet, and bean. Also, Shinto rites to pay homage to various gods for the harvests were carried out by the Emperor from at least 1500 years ago, and certain rituals have been maintained to this day.

The current version of the holiday dates to 1948, just a few years after the conclusion of World War II. Japan was starting anew under a radically different Constitution. There was a strong movement underway at the time to recognize the efforts of all in a changing labor force and to ensure the fundamental rights of each and every worker. This was particularly important as large numbers of workers migrated each year from rural areas to a few burgeoning urban ones, and as technological advancements drastically altered the workplace for both men and women.

Nowadays, Labor Thanksgiving Day provides a brief respite for some from the daily grind of employment. But, more importantly, it gives workers a chance to appreciate their jobs and to thank those who work with them in a year-round effort to strive for their goals and achieve success. Also, it provides an opportunity for all to express gratitude for the hard work and dedication of public servants, such as police officers and firefighters.

And while some gift giving may be involved with the holiday, it is not as commercialized as so many others. It really exists as a special day to remember workers and to give thanks.

70年もの間、日本では、国民の祝日として『勤労謝の日(Thanksgiving Labor Dayの和訳)』が、毎年11月23日に祝われている。勤労感謝の祝日として祝われるようになったのは比較的新しいが、五穀、米、麦、粟、黍または稗、豆の収穫を祝う古代からの風習が基になっている。さらに1500年前の天皇の時代に始まった神々に感謝する神道の儀式、古くからの儀式的行事が今日まで守られている。




Plain Talk



One of the big cultural differences between us Europeans and the Japanese is how they handle a death either in the Family or Friends, so I am reminded that a few years ago my Wife’s parents departed this earth within 3 months of each other, both had as we say “had a good innings” but my father-in law did deteriorate over a period due to his chronic Alzheimer’s.

A Japanese reader will be surprised to learn that in the UK it takes about 10 days and more from the date of passing to the funeral, depending on the circumstances and the age the deceased will be given a send off befitting their age, in the case of my father, who passed aged 82 following a terminal cancer diagnosis, the cremation was held with family and friends, it took about 30min, I chose the music to be played going into the crematorium and the music out, the priest gave a very nice eulogy (brief life story) and we sent him on his way, after that all that went to my dad’s local pub and we toasted his life along with some food and that was that as we say, my fathers memory is held by all who wish to retain it, in my family especially myself, children and my wife and every year we raise a glass to his memory, as I also do for my Mother and Brother.

The Japanese have a very different approach to the whole process, on the passing of my Father-in law my wife went down to her home town following his body being moved from the hospital to his home, then to the Funeral “home”, I then went down the following night for the “wake” or night funeral.

This was my first Japanese wake, so I put on my “funeral suit” especially bought for such eventualities and went down to Ito in Shizuoka-Ken, finding the funeral home was no problem as their was a large sign outside the “home” with my father-in-laws name on it, as this was a family only funeral, there were not so many people attending only the immediate family (son, daughters and spouses) and a few close friends, we went through a ritual that lasted 40 min or so of bells being rung, drums being banged, gongs being sounded, throughout the process I did not understand one word of what was being said, the immediate family and other members then introduced themselves twice by approaching the “alter” and casket and sprinkling incense into small cauldrons, after the completion of the “ceremony” food was provided (sushi and susumame) plus beer and other drinks, I then went back to Yokohama as I had work the next day. Our son came down the following morning to accompany his mother for the “Funeral” and the story he told surprised me.

Again there was a ceremony, similar to the evening “wake” but this time my Father-in-law went to Atami for the cremation (about 30~40 min from Ito), following the cremation there was await and after a few hours the bones were then picked by family members and put inside the “urn”, the bones were then taken to the family “grave” in Ito for internment, all this I found quite bizarre until I experienced it myself a few months later.

My wife’s mother had not been in too good a health for some time and she slowly succumbed to cancer, this time however she was in the hospital where my wife works as a nurse in Totsuka, so we were called to the hospital at five in the morning and the old lady slowly slipped away peacefully and with some dignity, she was then taken home to Ito and the to the same funeral home as my Father-in-law, this time I attended the whole process, my wife went to Ito and I arrived in the early evening for the night funeral, to my surprise there was a room available for myself, my wife and son in the funeral home, just as there was for other members of the family, the funeral home also had an onsen which really surprised me, the night funeral as same as before but this time I stayed, to my surprise the younger members of the family then proceeded to “get stuck into the beer and spirits” as the all the drinks were included in the funeral home expenses this went on to the early hours of the morning.

Then the most bizarre episode in the whole proceedings occurred the following day at the “funeral”, again all the family was present and the priest chanted for about an hour, with the family members going up to the “alter” to introduce themselves, at the end of these proceedings a photographer then took pictures of us all around the casket, which was open, smiling and placing flowers, this was unreal!.

The funeral than followed what my son had described, off the crematorium followed by the family picking the bones and putting them into an urn and going back to the graveyard, with the urn on my son’s lap.

So ended my first experience and I hope the last of “Death Japanese Style”

Tokyo Fab



From Japanese Tea Party, live music by Tokyo Brass Academy, Planetarium, 3D map of Japan, lego, origami museum to more, Komaba Festival is packed with interesting events. This is one of the biggest school festivals in Tokyo with more than 100000 visitors every year. With a motif of Kaleidoscope which changes patterns, the festival hopes to offer many different perspectives and projects around the campus. Experience hours riding, babble soccer, origami and more or get educated with the lecture and exhibition by Tokyo University, the most prestigious universities in Japan. You may be able to find something you love to do through the festival!

Date:November 22nd (Fri) - 24th (Sun) @ Komaba Campus
Closest Sta.: Komaba-Todaimae Sta. on Inokashira Line



With the theme of ‘a tour around the world without the need for a passport’, you can experience many different cultures without hopping on a plane. Welcoming visitors of all ages, from babies to the elderly students at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Tokyo Gaigo Daigaku) offers events and exhibitions are focused on the theme of being all around the world. At Food Stalls serving cuisine from 30 countries and General Stores, not only can you taste gourmet from both Japan and other countries, but also enjoy live Samba, orchestra, and rock music performances! Sophomores will perform a play in their major languages. Enjoy watching Gogeki Theatre at Prometheus hall in the AGORA Global.

Date:November 20th (Wed) - 24th (Sun) @ Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Closest Sta.: Tama Sta. on Seibu Tamagawa Line

For more details and concert schedules, please visit

What’s App With You?



If you find yourself wasting a lot of time with repetitive Internet tasks, or if you just want to automate tasks on your phone, try IFTTT. The app allows users to create customized "applets" or tasks built around the structure "If this, then that" (from which the app takes its name). Over 600 apps work with IFTTT including Twitter, Telegram, Google Drive, Twitch, Weather Underground, Instagram, Gmail, and devices like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Nest, Philips Hue, and your iPhone. The IFTTT app also integrates with the Health app, so you can easily track and maintain your habits.


Discover quality content across all passions and interests. Personalized news, tech, sports, cooking, gaming, and more: Flipboard will make you feel like you’ve spent your time well so you can focus on investing in yourself, staying informed and getting involved. Trust the unique combination of editors and algorithms to deliver must-read stories, up-to-the-minute developments and undiscovered gems to give you the full perspective and let you easily share the best ideas with others. Pick your passions, and the app will create a Smart Magazine for each topic. The app will handpick articles, videos, and podcasts filled with expert voices, so you can sit back and flip through the latest and greatest stories of our time. MAKE THE BEST USE OF YOUR TIME!

Tokyo Voice Column


Salt in Hammam, a Japanese style by Shizue Tomoda

Going to onsen, or hot spring spa, is a favorite pastime for Japanese. Overnighting at a posh ryokan, offering sumptuous meals and attractive views, is a luxury. Being a volcanic archipelago, however, Japan can provide hot spring anywhere, if deep enough holes are dug up. Thus, onsen have sprung up even in crowded cities like Tokyo, and have become readily accessible. Today we can stop at a spa on the way home after work. In the past, only deep hot bath was available, but it is not rare today to find jacuzzi, sauna and hammam, or steam bath, as well.

What I like the most at the onsen I frequent in Tokyo is hammam as I enjoyed it in Western Europe while I was based in Geneva. A big difference between the one here and those I experienced over there is a large vaseful of salt placed at the entrance. We scoop a handful of it and rub it all over the body while sitting and sweating there.

I thought salt was being used for the same purpose as in preparing shimesaba, or salted, vinegar-marinated mackerel, as a topping for sushi. Salt rubbed around the fish would extract water from the flesh, making it firm. I thought it was a Japanese way to perspire more to turn flabby muscles into a firm physique while in a steam bath.

What I was told later was that by scrubbing the body with salt, we let tiny grains of salt do a good job of even cleaning pores of the skin to help us better perspire. By all means, we won’t come out like a Greek statue only after 30 minutes in it. Whatever its effect may be, I prefer to sit in hammam with salt.






Strange but True


"Zombie" Apps!

Android users are being warned about a malicious app that can reinstall itself after you delete it. Researchers from Symantec have warned that the app, called Xhelper, has already infected over 45,000 devices in just six months, and is continuing to spread. Worryingly, it remains unclear where the malicious app comes from, and how it infects smartphones. Once the app has been downloaded on a smartphone, it can download additional malicious apps and flood the device will irritating adverts. While most apps can be seen in the device’s application launcher, Xhelper is able to remain hidden, meaning it can’t be launched manually. While the researchers are unsure where Xhelper is coming from, they advice that consumers take precautions to protect their device!

Not fo a Grinch

If you're a Grinch who likes to moan when the shops start putting up Christmas displays and playing festive tunes long before December 25, we have some bad news for you. A radio station playing nothing but Christmas classics, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, went on air yesterday - a full 54 days before Santa visits. If, like us, you think Christmas can never start early enough then the jolly people at Heart radio are here to help get us into the spirit of the most wonderful time of the year. Heart extra Xmas won't waste time with presenters or news and will instead play back-to-back Christmas anthems to provide the 'perfect soundtrack to your personal winter wonderland'! The station will be available on digital radio.



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