Plain Talk


Let’s lend foreign travelers a helping hand
by Jim Mulcahy

If you’ve been living in Tokyo for a few years, you may have noticed the dramatic increase in foreigners visiting from abroad. This trend will only intensify over the next several months and then climax with the arrival of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Many train station personnel are already overwhelmed by daily requests from confused, worn-out travelers who can’t speak Japanese. Of course, it’s easy to understand the bewilderment of foreign visitors. Even long-term residents of Tokyo sometimes feel lost when using the train system.

I used to receive warm smiles and greetings from train station attendants almost every time I walked by them. But nowadays many look at me with a wary eye, worrying that I’m another foreign traveler with questions in a foreign language.

It’s hard to blame attendants for their apprehension since lending assistance takes time away from their other important responsibilities. I likewise tend to avoid foreign travelers in need when I’m commuting or in a rush.

Perhaps the Japanese government’s campaign to increase inbound tourism has been way too successful. Tokyo’s transportation system can barely handle the needs of Japanese commuters now, and many will have to work at home during the Olympics to make room for the huge number of visitors attending the Games. Who is going to help all these people from abroad?

The government is calling for at least 80,000 volunteers to assist foreign travelers during the Olympics. It hopes these volunteers will each work about eight hours a day for a period of ten days, which is way too much time for most working people to spare.

If each of us independently lends foreign travelers a little assistance whenever we can, it will benefit everyone in Tokyo − including the train station attendants who feel so overwhelmed and the government that so badly wants to give the world a great impression.

As for me, I plan to lend foreign travelers a hand in thanks for the kindness many people showed me when I first arrived in Tokyo.









Plain Talk


Strawberry-picking in Tsukuihama by Rey Ventura

How many strawberries could you consume in thirty minutes? If you were given half an hour to eat-all-you-can at a strawberry farm in Tsukui, Yokosuka City, how much do you think you could manage to finish?

The other day, I joined a group of families on a strawberry-picking (ichigo-gari) outing at Tsukui-hama Kank? N?en (Tsukuihama Travellers’ Farm). From Yokohama Station, we boarded the express Keikyu Line bound for Misakiguchi. It took about 45 minutes to arrive at Tsukuihama Station. A shuttle bus was waiting in front of the station; it had several trips taking pickers to the farm and back. The ten-minute ride (about 25 minutes on foot) took us to a strawberry farm in the heart of a lush valley.

Natural-grown strawberries are rare these days. Commercial fruit grown under the sun and the blue sky are quickly disappearing. Thus, when we arrived at the farm, I was not surprised to see a row of 'green houses' or ‘vinyl houses.’ Farming these days has been taken indoors.

The system was: eat-all-you-can in thirty minutes; eat all the ripe ones; move forward; never go backwards; don't throw away any left-overs; once you leave the 'house' you're not allowed to return; most importantly, eat-all-you-can but take nothing outside the 'house'. This is funny, I said. You can eat everything but you can't take anything home.

Each of us was given a little plastic tray with a dollop of condensed milk.

'What's the milk for?' I asked the elderly lady at the reception.

'It's for you to dip the fruit in,' she explained.
'Really?' I said very much surprised.

In the Philippines, I thought, when you eat something sour like green mangoes, what you would need is some salt; not condensed milk. But in Japan, when something is sour, you need to make it sweeter.

Going fruit-picking, I thought, was mainly for children. But watching my fellow adults getting excited and overjoyed, made me realize the joy of harvesting fruit transcends age and social status. In fact, some adults were more eager than the kids.

In half an hour, I believe I did justice to twenty red and juicy April strawberries. Sparingly, I dipped them into the sweetened milk. They tasted heavenly. Others said they had thirty; a few had over forty.

On the way back to the station, I joined the group that opted to walk. It has always been my belief that exploring a place on foot is the most satisfying; it brings the most number of discoveries.

Harvesting strawberries and walking, I thought, was a good combination. I passed by fields of kabocha (pumpkins), rape blossoms, orange orchards, corns, and vegetable farms. Tsukui is a fertile valley blessed with the sun, the sea, and luxuriant hills.

The thirty-minute walk ended at the beach of Tsukuihama. The twenty strawberries that I had partaken, I felt, gave me the needed energy for the walk. Strawberries and sand was an unexpected combination that commenced my Spring break.

Tokyo Fab


Kawaru Haikyo (The Ever Changing Ruins) Exhibition

The timeless allure of ruins.
Mankind has always lived among its own ruins. Since our earliest history, we have explored ruined places, feared them and drawn inspiration from them, and we can trace that complex fascination in our art and writing.
This exhibition sheds lights on “beauty lies in ruins” with breathtaking photos and artworks. A beauty within the stillness of ruins ever changes through different eyes and perspectives. Listen to the untold stories whispered through its silence and take an endless adventure through these enigmatic arts of mystical ruins.

Date:Till 4/12 (Sun), 2020 11am - 7pm @ TODAYS GALLERY STUDIO.
Closest Sta.: Asakusabashi Sta.

For more information, visit



The word ‘Landscape’ means more than just the sight of nature folded in front of you. ‘Landscape’ encompasses artificial structures where people live and weave their lives.
Love for furniture design lead Shintaro Nakahara to Tokyo from Kagoshima, and through ‘Landscape Products’, a company he established, he has been expanding his range of works pursuing his curiosities. Although he has completed many projects, his main belief “to make better landscape” never changed.
In this exhibition, Shintaro Nakahara has curated designs, crafts and art works that captured his soul, and also works from crafters who he met through studying those art works. The exhibition, divided by 26 key words, will surely inspire people and give them a frisk moment with its unique and out of the box ideas to make better landscapes.
“Man Made Objects” - crafts that exert the brilliance of human nature by Shintaro Nakahara.

Date: Till 3/22 (Sun), 2020 11am - 7pm @ Hillside Terrace
Closest Sta.: Daikanyama Sta.

For more information, visit

What’s App With You?



Anime fans are spoilt for choice now when it comes to video streaming services. Crunchyroll is one of the best-known names in the space and for good reason. It offers over 1,200 series, many simulcast shows, and an ad-free tier. Note that Crunchyroll caters specifically to anime fans; if you want to watch cartoons or other animations, this is not the best service. Also, if you prefer dubs, rather than subs, you will be disappointed that the vast majority of Crunchyroll's library only has the latter. Plus, watching on Crunchyroll helps support the creators who work to bring you awesome anime every week (Show availability varies by region). Try Crunchyroll Premium FREE for 14 days or start watching your favorite anime now for free. Sign up in the Crunchyroll app and stream Japan's most popular anime!


A powerful, complete, and easy to use podcast player that will help you manage and listen to podcasts the way you want to. The Downcast iPhone app ($2.99) shines with excellent features, smart downloading options, and a great interface. The design is sleek and contemporary, and the app is jam-packed with features that are simple to find and use but don't clutter the screens. Compare to the other apps, this offers more features, more playlist creation tools, many more options in the global settings, and import/export OMPL option. The features and options in Downcast are simply excellent. As with any podcast app, downcast lets search and subscribe both audio and video podcasts.


Tokyo Voice Column


Tokyo Police Museum by Hamish Withers

One of the most interesting places that I have been to in Tokyo, is the Tokyo Police Museum. This museum is good for a number of reasons:1/ It’s free! 2/ It’s easy to find and 3/ It has some interesting exhibits.

The Tokyo Police Museum is located at 3-5-1 Kyobashi Chuo, 104-0031. It is close to Ginza and Yurakucho. So you can take the Ginza metro line and get off at exit two at Kyobashi station and walk to the museum in a few minutes. It is also open from 9:30-5:00pm six days of the week and is closed on Monday.

The exhibits at the museum which I liked were the police motorcycles, the police cars, and the police helicopter. Other people like the police uniforms and the movie about the police dog and the movie about how Japanese police respond to emergency calls.

Some visitors have complained on the internet that the museum needed more English information on the exhibits. They are right to a degree. However, we can see and understand what most things are and many people don’t read everything they see on exhibits in museums anyway. Also, if you are studying Japanese trying to read things in Japanese at this museum is another opportunity to practice and learn hopefully. Or you can try to ask the museum staff in Japanese about exhibits to practice your Japanese speaking skills.

Lastly, I hope you and I never need to call the police but if you do and can speak Japanese dial 110, or dial 03-3501-0010 which is a police consultation service in English.


警察博物館は、〒104-0031 東京都中央区京橋3丁目5−1にある。銀座や有楽町の近くだ。銀座線の京橋駅でおり、2番出口を上がり数分歩けば着く。開館時間は午前9時30分から午後5時まで、火曜日から日曜日の週6日開館しており、月曜日が休館日だ。





Strange but True


Party at a Lighthouse!

A new study has shed light on exactly how long the virus can survive on various hard surfaces. Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Montana analysed how long the COVID-19 virus can survive on cardboard, plastic and steel. Their analysis revealed that the virus can survive for up to four hours on copper and up to 24 hours on cardboard. However, the results indicate that the virus can survive for the longest time on plastic and stainless steel, surviving for up to three days. Meanwhile, the study also found that the virus could be detected in aerosols, up to three hours post aerosolisation. The researchers added: “Our results indicate that aerosol and fomite transmission of HCoV-19 are plausible, as the virus can remain viable in aerosols for multiple hours and on surfaces up to days.” Based on the findings, experts are urging the public to be vigilant about cleaning high-touch surfaces.

Clean your jewellery

An expert shared her advice on how to reduce the spread of the virus. She said: "My dirty outdoor clothes and bags don't touch the bed". What may seem like such a 'normal' thing to do, will actually contaminate your bed with all of the germs that your clothes or bag have picked up throughout the day. She also cleans any jewellery she's worn that day with disinfectant or antiseptic wipes before putting them back on. She said: "Who knows what's been jammed in those little creases?" "So, no matter how often you wash your hands - 20 seconds to the lyrics of the Happy Birthday song - you'll effectively be rolling around in all that grime you've been trying to avoid all day, or letting it build-up in all of your rings." She also wipes down public toilet seats with tissue and her hand sinitiser before using them. Other advice includes avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell is also advised.



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