Plain Talk


Kanda Myoujin by James Gombas

I was feeling exceedingly nervous. When I asked Kumakawa-san for an “off-the-record” meeting I could immediately tell he knew this was something “not normal”. And if there is anything about Japanese businessmen that I know for sure, it is that they don’t like anything that is “not normal.”

We were to meet after lunch, but Kumakawa-san was always exceedingly courteous. Therefore, he asked me to come to lunch with him. The lunch conversation was a bit awkward as I knew he wondered what we were to discuss that afternoon. True to form, he would not bring up the topic as we spoke of other trivialities: which hotel I was staying at, the weather, and how the yen rate did not favor my habit of drinking at the pub. Finishing lunch, we walked back to his office.

On the way, I saw a long staircase leading upwards with the distinctive torii symbol of a shrine at the top. Kumakawa-san noticed my glance and asked me if I wanted to see the shrine. He well knows about my side outings during my business trips that have taken me to many a temple or shrine across Japan. I eagerly accepted his invitation and climbed the stairs.

As we walked the around, Kumakawa-san told me of the Kanda Myoujin shrine. He explained how two of the gods enshrined there are from the Seven Gods of Fortune. One of the important gods enshrined there, Ebisu, is especially important to businessmen. Entrepreneurs and those starting their own business, Kumakawa-san informed me, should surely come here to pay respects. Then he asked me, would I like to pray at the shrine?

Upon hearing this, I paused, wondering if he may know the reason for our discussion in the afternoon. How could he? I thought as we approached the main shrine.

Side by side we performed the ritual: present our small offering, two bows, two claps, a fervent prayer, one more bow and then silent exit. Am I allowed to say what prayer I offered up? Well, it had to do with the success of my meeting that afternoon, and it seemed by mere accident to be the perfect place to make my prayer.

Back in Kumakawa-san’s office building, we settled in for the meeting. Although he wanted to ask me the reason for the meeting, he allowed me to come to the topic at my own pace. And then I informed him how I would be quitting my job, starting my own company and how I was looking forward to his help in that endeavor.

As he paused to consider, we both allowed our eyes to wander outside the window to where Kanda Myoujin was just visible through the surrounding buildings. Perhaps he was thinking the same thing that I was. Perhaps he guessed about my prayer at the temple for businessmen and entrepreneurs.





それを聞いて、僕は戸惑った。午後の僕の相談事について彼が知っているんじゃないかと不思議に思った。でもどうして? あれこれ考えながら本殿へと近づいた。並んで、儀式に従った。賽銭を挙げ、2回お辞儀をし、2回手をたたく、熱心にお祈りをささげ、もう一度お辞儀をし、静かに立ち去る。僕が何をお祈りをしたか言ってもいいのだろうか。さて、それは午後の僕の相談事がうまく言った事と関係があった。まさに偶然だったが、僕の願い事をかなえてもらうためにぴったりの場所だった。



Plain Talk


The memorial by Grant Piper

This is a roadside makeshift memorial for someone who's died. And this is the true story that explains it.

20 years ago, some young yakuza gang member committed a crime in Shinjuku's Red Light Kabukicho neighbourhood five or six km east of my Nakano-ku neighbourhood. Chased by police, he hijacked a taxi cab and for no particular reason hopped out at a public high school directly across the street from my apartment building. It was April 8th and there was a school Entrance Ceremony, or possibly an Opening Ceremony going on in the gymnasium building. The gym was full of students, teachers and parents.

The young fugitive went into the small picturesque garden beside the gym and killed himself with a gunshot while the ceremony was going on inside.

Now, every year on the date, someone leaves a small memorial like this at the school. It consists of flowers, beer and cigarettes. The beer is open and full, ready to drink. The pack of cigarettes also full, ready to smoke. It’s not always in the same location. This year it's here on a retaining wall on the south side of the school ground. Often it is at the gate of the gym parking lot - the site where the young man jumped out of the taxi and entered the grounds twenty years ago and crossed the threshold from this world to the next.

This memorial appeared on time, on Wednesday, April 8th, but I've never seen who does it. A single person, a couple or a group? The man's friends, yakuza brothers or family? I don't know.

20 years ago, I was working at a private high school in Ichikawamama on the Keisei Line in Chiba Prefecture east of Tokyo. I was at school in the morning for Opening or Entrance Ceremonies there and when I came home, I discovered all these television news vans parked on the street near my home. I thought maybe a celebrity had visited the school, or something. Maybe they'll stop me for a foreigner-on-the-street-viewpoint interview. That didn’t happen, and I only learned the full story the next day.

On Wednesday 8th I noticed the memorial when I was standing on the landing outside my door, giving my cat some sun. From my 3rd floor vantage point I watched a policeman come by on his bicycle, gently suggesting to the odd pedestrian that they should be self-isolating at home. He stopped and inspected these flowers and beer before cycling away without disturbing them.

At the time I knew what crime that guy was accused of, but I’ve long since forgotten. I think about him sometimes.

Tokyo Fab


2020 National Noh Theatre Showcase Performances and Kyogen in Sign Language

The National Noh Theatre will host showcase performances of Noh and Kyogen works for the enjoyment of domestic and international visitors to Tokyo around the time of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The program will include some of Japan's finest Noh and Kyogen plays, selected to resonate with the Japan Cultural Expo theme of Humanity and Nature in Japan. The comparatively short performances, lasting just around two hours each, are designed to appeal to newcomers as well as seasoned fans of Japanese theater, with subtitles available in multiple languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean). To coincide with the Paralympic Games, the National Noh Theatre will also stage its first ever Kyogen production in sign language. Latest ProgramsPerforming Arts.

Date: July 20−September 5, 2020
@ National Noh Theatre


Photography and Fashion Since the 1990s

The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is delighted to present Photography and Fashion Since the 1990s, an exhibition exploring the relationship between photography and fashion from the 1990s onward.
As the world of fashion has evolved, photography has played a pivotal part in conveying the appeal of garments by fashion designers. At times, images created by photography have appealed more than the garments themselves, and such iconic imagery has symbolized the age.
The 1990s saw the emergence of photographers who went beyond the conventional framework for communicating the appeal of fashion items to create images that appeal to people. Moreover, fashion magazines appeared that took an independent stance in transmitting information. Images created from new points of view influenced people’s thinking and lifestyles. Those images have been referred to repeatedly by subsequent generations.

Date: - 2020.7.19 @ Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

What’s App With You?



Other apps offer you a bird’s eye view of your calendar, but KRON takes you a step further. Zoom seamlessly from hour view all the way out to see your entire life’s events from a cosmological perspective. KRON’s stunning holistic view allows you to easily find the patterns and rhythms of your weeks, months, and even years, and its intuitive visual presentation will help you spot the times when you’re very busy, as well as the times you have more room to plan new things. Combine and view multiple calendars without the clutter and headache of a traditional desktop calendar, zoom in and out with a simple gesture, and see the threads of your life in an entirely new way!

Magic Fluids Free:

Touch the screen and experience this amazing, lifelike simulator of fluid physics that you can interact and play with. Gorgeous visual effects give a out of this world feel. Experiment with infinite configurations, find the perfect one, and - best of all - make it your live wallpaper! TOUCH THE SCREEN and enjoy hypnotizing motion of fluid swirls moving around, sometimes slow, quiet and elegant, other times dynamic, satisfying and trippy. CALM DOWN AND RELAX as you draw and watch peaceful flows evolve in space and eventually settle down into colorful patterns. Magic Fluids will help you sleep, meditate, restore balance, relieve stress and anxiety. GET CREATIVE and, with a touch of your finger, bring to life stylish patterns of paint and particles. If you like abstract digital art or acrylic pour painting, you'll love Magic Fluids! You can create impressive eye-catching designs that look like swirls, galaxies, liquid, fire, light, smoke, lava and much more!


Tokyo Voice Column


Tokyo Sumo Museum by Hamish Withers

If you are interested in sumo wrestling, or have some time to kill, you may want to visit the Tokyo Sumo Museum. The museum’s address is 1-3-28 Yoko ami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo, 130-0015. It is on the first floor of the Ryoguku Kokugikan Sumo Stadium and it is only a one-minute walk from the JR Sobu line at Ryoguku Station.

A lot of visitors were negative about the museum on the internet because it is small and doesn’t have English information for it’s exhibits. Also, because it is closed on weekends and holidays and when it’s exhibits are being changed. And because you aren’t supposed to take photos there! I agree those are all valid complaints and I hope that in time the museum’s management will pay heed to them. However, I would argue that a sumo museum is necessary for Tokyo and the museum is still quite interesting.

The museum is free so perhaps that tells us not to expect much. Yet, we can see photographs and drawings and paintings of sumo wrestlers (rikishi) there. As well as wrestler’s handprints and trophies and sumo aprons and other things related to sumo.

For some people the best aspect of the museum is that you can also get some silly photos of you and your friends or family pretending to be sumo by sticking your head through the head holes of the cardboard cut-outs of the fat wrestler’s bodies. Or that you can buy some unique souvenirs at the nearby giftshop. I still like my bath towel with various sumo wrestlers faces on it.

Lastly, I highly recommend this website for information about the museum and past and present wrestlers and sumo events .







Strange but True


Cap. America predicted Corona?!

Marvel fans will recall that at the end of the 2011 film, Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers wakes up 70 years in the future in present-day New York. In Times Square scene, where there are a number of adverts up on the billboards, as is pretty standard, one eagle-eyed movie fan took a look at exactly what was on the screens and came up with a wild conspiracy theory that links the superhero film to the coronavirus pandemic. On IG, posted is "From the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger. Behind his right shoulder, a Corona beer & on his left, the image of a 'coronavirus' in New York City. Let that sink in..." So movie experts did some digging and do you know what that supposed image of coronavirus was actually of ladies and gentlemen? SPAGHETTI. Yes, really. The image was from a Barilla pasta advert celebrating the New Year!

Flatmate Unknown…?

A member of a house share in London has claimed that they discovered their letting agent had secretly been living in their house for two days. The unnamed tenant said that their letting agent had come over unannounced earlier this week to "inspect" the property. They left him to get on with it and had assumed he exited the place a short while later. However they soon discovered a light had been left on in their spare room and the door was locked, so they messaged asking the letting agent to return and switch it off, as they didn't have a key. But this is where things get really odd. The tenants claim to have received a reply from the man, telling them he was still in the house. The landlords said they think he should leave and hand over his keys. Thankfully, he did. However, he’s locked the door to the spare room again and we suspect he has another set of keys...



Guesthouse Tokyo

10 minutes to Ikebukuro.


safe and accessible solution for your accommodation needs in Tokyo.

Sakura House

1830 monthly furnished rooms at 204 locations in Tokyo.


Private furnished rooms in Roppongi, Akasaka, Azabu-Juban etc.

J&F Plaza

Furnished & unfurnished guesthouses and apartments in Tokyo.

May Flower House

Tokyo furnished apartments. Ginza, Roppongi, Yotsuya and more.

TenTen Guesthouse

33,000yen/30 days for working holiday students.


Share room, Private room, under 50,000yen


Private furnished rooms in Tokyo with free internet. Call us first or call us last!

Hassle free moving starts from 6000yen.

Tokyo Helping Hands

Very flexible working hours to effectly help you with moving, deliveries, disposal, storage and more!

AirNet Travel

We'll cut you the best air ticket deals anywhere.

Fun Travel

Discount air travel & package tours 2min from Roppongi Stn.

No.1 Travel

We go the extra mile for you. International air tickets and hotels.

JR Tokai Tours

Top-value travel to Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya from Tokyo by Shinkansen.

Matsuda Legal Office

All kinds of Visa, Immigration & Naturalization, International Marriage etc.

Futaba Visa Office

Licensed immigration lawyer & certified public tax consultant.

American Pharmacy

English speaking pharmacy since 1950.

Tokyo Skin Clinic

EU-licensed multi lingual doctors.

Tax-free AKKY

Japanese Appliance, Watch, Souvenirs

Tokyo Speed Dating

1st Sat. & 3rd Sun. at Bari n Roppongi ETC.

Tokyo Spontaneous

Picnic, Parties, Language exchange


Japanese women & Western men.

50 Shades of Yikess