Plain Talk


Many Things Disappear, but Not All by H.S.

I was born and grew up in Tokyo and attended schools and university in Tokyo. But tracing back what I left behind is not so easy. The old house I grew up in was torn down right after I moved out with my family at the age of 18. The town has changed since so much, I heard, so that it might be difficult to find the way from the train station to where the house used to stand. The primary school, junior-high school and senior-high school that I attended are still where they were, but the school buildings have been all rebuilt. The university has long moved to the west in Tokyo and the old university site is now partially a park and partially an old people’s home, I learned. It felt to me almost as if things I was familiar with disappeared as soon as I left them.

When I met three of my old friends from high school after a long interval, someone suggested that we walk through the area around the school in Ueno. The Ueno Park looked about the same as I biked through it on the way to and from school. Non-descript old shopping streets I remember only vaguely are now considered sort of posh retrospectively and attract tourists. My friends found or didn’t find particular shops that they remembered respectively.

We came out on the school building. The school looked totally unfamiliar. The front gate is on a different side now, so the curved approach I used to bike along to the entrance has disappeared. I liked that approach.

One of us said; “I wonder if the coffee house behind the school still operates.” We would go there only on special occasions such as when an exam week was over or on the last day before summer vacation, because a cup of coffee costed as much as 550yen.

We walked downhill toward the coffee shop. “There it is!” One of us let out a cry joyfully. The sign stood in the same spot as before. We sat at a table and looked around. The shop manager looked not much older than I remembered her. We ordered coffee or tea and chose a cup from the wall-to-wall shelf. I pointed at one, almost randomly. “That’s the cup you always chose,” one of the three said. It was blueish porcelain cup imported from England. Did I like this in particular? I didn’t remember at all, but she said she was sure.

The manager was pleased when we told her that we’d occasionally come for the “expensive” coffee when we were young. I finally found something that didn’t disappear after I left.







Plain Talk


Japanese and Garbage by Tetsuya Morisaki

One of the tipical compliments I hear from people from overseas is that Japanese streets are generally free of litters, despite the obvious absence of trash boxes. That is true, probably. As a native Japanese, these comments comes like a music to my ears. So, Japanese are generally eco-friendly people, is it so?

I am afraid that it leaves a lot to be desired. For example, many residents put out their trash at a designated point several hours before the collection hours which lures a bunch of crows scattering a around the leftover food...maring the beauty of public scenery.

Another example that let me down is that restaurants here do not seem to take it serious about reducing garbage. Although nationwide family restaurant chains proudly announced that they no longer offer straws due to the recent repots of ocean contamination by micro plastics,, they close their eyes to other plastics like Oshibori ( disposable wet towels), other disposable super-mini syrup and sugar containers.. Well, their clients also can be blamed partly, because almost every Time, Dick and Harry in those establishments seem to take it for granted that softdrinks shall be consumed through straws even though they can just hold the glasses and sip directly from the edge.

I wonder they are not updated about plastics pollution in the seas...

It is really hard to bring a game changer to those current situations above-mentioned? Well, I don't think so. For example, regarding the placement of garbage during uncivilized hours, we could take advantage of ubiquitous security cameras, which our compatriots nowadays take it for granted it or grudgingly accept it's existence. Local governments or community groups can crack down those offense of putting out garbage during the uncivilized hours.

The restaurant chains can also declare "near zero trash policy" in public, if they do so they can offer sugars in one single can near the so-called "drink bar", and customer s will graduallyget accustomed to using tea spoons to serve sugar and powdered milk to themselves. I can say this with confidence because diners at these economical nationwide eateries do not bother to go to other places for such things, of course they might become grumpy at first. The proof is that major chains already have set "all no smoking policy" but I see very few smokers complain.

We have the mentality of "following suit", so to speak, like it or not.

Another disposable front I think it is important is we have too much cheap umbrellas that will be thrown away since it can break easily in the typhoon season"before you say Jack Robinson".

On this front, I dared to fork out a hefty 5,000 yen for an high end umbrella to show myself eco friendly. 50 greenbacks... Ouch! But it is really sturdy and durable in addition to make me a wee bit better.


What’s App With You?



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Zepeto is an app that lets you create a 3D animated version of yourself to use in in-app chatrooms. You take a picture of yourself and it will create a personalized character for you (that you can also edit). Users create their own little versions of themselves or whoever they want to be. You can ‘meet’ other Zepeto characters on the ‘Zepeto street’, play games and take pictures with other Zepeto characters. You can then take pictures or video of your character hanging out in its room, chilling with other player creations or even try to create an escape room. It's a simple social media app that's meant to keep your attention and engage as much possible. The app is owned by Naver Corporation, the South Korean internet search giant. The company also owns SNOW, which is Asia’s version of Snapchat. Zepeto has been very popular in Asia.

Tokyo Voice Column


Spam snail mail by Mardo

Nigerian eMail scammers must be doing it tough. The 419 scammers (you know, the Nigerian prince who will give you a million dollars if you give him $1000 first) are obviously struggling. You will recall if you read a recent article here of mine, that I wished my real life was as interesting as my junk email, well now I am getting junk snail mail, real, envelope and letters with Nigerian Scams!

My interest was first piqued when I saw a London return address but Nigerian stamps. Quite pretty stamps too I must say. The envelope had the logo of an English Graduate school, when I opened it I found this school had ties with a university in Central America and another in Africa. If I went to a business conference in Singapore, for a mere $2000 USD, I would not only enjoy the presenters but get an Honorary Doctorate as well! Now believe me, I would love another Honourary Doctorate, and a trip to Singapore to boot, unfortunately I was busy that weekend (and doubt my wife would approve wasting $2000 on a scam), so I had to decline, But I did want to know more.

The universities were unaccredited, the return address looked like someone’s suburban house and there were a few misspellings as well. We are all so used now to getting scams from email that con artists are having return to old school methods to make an impact? Fortunately they are still easy to catch out if you are suspicious, but I look forward to a few things going back to a simpler times. E.g. when we got our news from papers or reporters, paid for it and expected accuracy, rather than believing what we see on facebook, or, actually going to a concert and NOT taking photos or videos the whole time. I mean if confidence tricksters have given up on technology, maybe we should to. Anyway, I hope you are reading this Tokyo Voice in a magazine you picked up at a pub, and not online, but if you are, please check my spelling, and then send me a cheque for $1000, I know a guy in Nigeria.


ナイジェリアの切手が貼られたロンドンの返信住所を見た時、最初は立腹した。切手は素敵だったと言っておこう。封筒にはイギリスの大学院のロゴが印刷してあり、開けたところ、その大学院は、中央アメリカとアフリカのふたつの大学と提携していることを知った。僕がシンガポールのビジネス会議に、2000米ドルぽっちを払って出席したら、会議が楽しめるだけでなく名誉博士号がもらえると言う!! 名誉博士号とシンガポール観光を楽しみたいのはやまやまだが、その週末は忙しい(それに妻が迷惑メールに2000米ドル払うなんて許してくれない)ので、却下した。でも詳細を知りたいと思った。

その大学は公式に承認されておらず、返信先住所は誰かの郊外の家のようだった。しかもミススペルもあった。僕が迷惑メールに慣れてしまったので、詐欺師はどうやら古いけど魅力的な方法に切り替えてインパクトを与えようとしたのだろうか? 幸運にも疑い深い人なら簡単に見破ることができる。しかしより単純だった時代にいくつかの事が戻ればいいなと期待する。そのいくつかの事とは、Facebookを見て信じるのでなく、新聞やテレビで情報を得るため、対価を払って正確さを求めた事とか、コンサートに行ってその場にいる間じゅう、写真やビデオを一切撮らなかった事とかだ。取込み詐欺師がネットに見切りをつけたのなら、僕らもそうすべきだろう。とにかく、この記事をネットでなく、パブで読んでいるなら、僕の名前のスペルを間違わずに記入した1000ドルのチェッックを送ってください。僕はナイジェリアの詐欺師を知っている、


Strange but True


How to beat cold and flu

It's that time of year when we all start to get bunged up and try to remember what it felt like to be able to breathe through our nose. The warning signs before a cold are very recognisable and as they set in, we run out to stockpile soup and medication before hibernating into our duvets to feel sorry for ourselves. However, experts say that treating the symptoms early enough can banish the cold before it takes a grip of our sinuses. Morning: take a hot shower and dose up on vitamin C. Afternoon: Keep warm especially your nose (!!) and stay well hydrated. Evening: Eat some curry! as hot spices can irritate the lining of your nose, making it easier to clear and helping us feel 'instantly' better. That's our kind of medical advice!! Good Luck!!

Greatest Diet Tip?

Pretty much all of us have made an effort to lose weight or eat healthier at some point or another, but it very rarely lasts as long as we would have liked. Those delicious treats or easy takeaways always seem to win, defeating out battle against the cravings and ruining our diet completely. But according to a neuroscientist, the reason you edge back towards your old favourites isn't really your fault, and it's actually all to do with our brains. The brain expert believes the key is to get rid of the foods that 'handicap' our brains by following four rules which she calls Bright Lines. 1. Cut out sugar: "Only by taking sugar our of the equation can the brain and body heal". 2. Cut out flour 3. Stick to three meals a day: have a routine when it comes to eating 4. Weigh everything you eat: so you know exactly what you're putting into your body. Meaning there is no easy way!!



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