Philip Kendall

Editor

Hailing from Liverpool in the UK, Philip Kendall made Japan his second home in the summer of 2006 after dolefully abandoning his childhood dream of becoming a ghost buster. Setting up camp in beautiful Fukushima prefecture, he brought joy to literally hundreds of junior high school children as ‘that tall, handsome teacher’ or more often ‘the one with the big nose,’ before relocating to Tokyo at the end of 2011.

Writer, foodie, gamer and eternal student of the Japanese language, Philip now works as a freelance writer and translator, submitting to Tokyo Weekender magazine and website and Learn Japanese Pod, as well as co-running Suds, Grub & Joe- a website dedicated to all things beer, food and coffee-related in Tokyo. Follow his ramblings on his personal blog or on twitter.

Posted by Philip Kendall

“Aaaaaaaaa!”  or “When Scribble Gets Out of Hand”

Remember how much fun it was practicing writing the alphabet when you were a kid? Every single letter; upper and lowercase; again and again; page after page after page. Good times, no?

Well, at least one Japanese NicoNico Douga user seems to think that there’s no better way to pass the time than filming herself writing a few Japanese characters on a sheet of paper. Sorry, did I say “a few” characters? How about just one character? 30,000 times… Read More

What’s Your Passport Worth? (Not That We’re Buying)

It turns out that not all passports are created equal…

International residence and citizenship experts Henley & Partners released a report earlier this month detailing for the first time the level of ease with which people of various countries are able to travel around the globe, and what restrictions they face during their time abroad.

The more fortunate among us are undoubtedly well aware that, with a valid passport, they are relatively free to travel wherever they like, and can in some cases remain in a foreign country for months at a time without acquiring any kind of paperwork or additional visa approval. But there are also many countries out there whose governments require citizens to jump through a series of hoops before allowing them to leave the country for so much as a weekend, and even then their entry to another country is not always guaranteed.

Henley & Partners’ Visa Restriction Index ranks countries based on how easy it is for their citizens to travel around the globe, essentially providing a numerical value to any given country’s passport. After comparing everything from socio-economic factors to political relations between countries, each country is awarded a score, reflecting just how free to travel and enter other countries its people are; in a word: passport power. Read More

“You’re Very Good at Using Chopsticks” and Other Obscenities

Earlier this week, website Netallica posted an interesting little article entitled “The Things That Foreigners in Japan Hate to Hear” for its predominantly Japanese readership. Naturally, classics like “wow, you’re so good at Japanese”, and “you’re very good with chopsticks” were flagged as the main offenders, which I’m sure many gaijin (a term I use intentionally and will come back to later) will no doubt empathise with and would be happy to hear a little less frequently, but overall there were few phrases that could not be reasonably perceived as stemming from either the speaker’s genuine desire to compliment the listener or simple naivety.

It’s difficult to broach this topic- especially as a cynical Brit who loves a good grumble- without it quickly turning into a cliché-ridden compendium of gripes about life in Japan as a foreigner or an ill-advised rant about how comments of this nature are, in fact, some kind of backhanded attempt to draw a line between foreigners and Japanese; and goodness knows there are plenty of those out there.

There are, nevertheless, a number of phrases that foreigners living in Japan have heard a thousand times and would definitely prefer Japanese people knew aren’t always received in the way that they are probably intended…

Read More

How Your Old Videogames, Books and CDs Could Help Educate a Child

Take a quick look around your home. See anything gathering dust? Any old books sitting on the shelf unloved? That AKB48 CD you bought last year but are too embarrassed to listen to? How about those Playstation2 games that you never got around to playing before your console died?

Well now’s your chance to have a good old clear-out. Grab a cardboard box and turn that stuff into an education for a less fortunate child.

Japanese recycling giant Book Off is working in conjunction with Shanti Volunteer Association (SVA) to provide books and learning materials for children who have found themselves homeless as a result of war or natural disasters. As well as donating the in-store buy-back value of any books, CDs, DVDs and videogames donated by regular folk like you and me, Book Off is pledging an extra 10% of that value to the charity.

In short, some less fortunate kids get an education; you make some space in your home and get to feel warm and fuzzy. Read More

Just 45 Minutes From Haneda Airport, And I’ve been Flying to Okinawa like a Chump! – Six Things That Make Hachijō-jima a Hidden Gem

Technically a ward of Tokyo, Hachijō-jima (Hachijō Island) is just 45 minutes away by plane, making it an incredibly accessible get-away destination. Despite being so close, few people have actually visited, or even heard of, the island, and whenever they’re asked to think of an “island holiday location”, most people living in Japan immediately respond with “Okinawa”. That’s only natural, of course, since Okinawa has a well-earned reputation for being an exotic island paradise (and for being the home of The Karate Kid’s Mr Miyagi…), but we hope that after reading this article our readers might also consider Hachijō-jima the next time they feel like jetting off for a break on the beach. Read More

When Goombas Just Won’t Die: East Indian Trade Expo Borrows Super Mario Bros.

You know when you have one of those dreams in which everything seems perfectly normal at first, but then you notice that something isn’t quite right? A tiny little hole in your otherwise immaculately woven subconscious tapestry opens up, and within seconds you realise that none of it is real. The image unravels like a fake Burberry cardigan thrown to a litter of kittens, and before you know it you’re wondering how you ever fell for it in the first place.

Techno-management festival Concetto’s Super Mario Bros. themed website had exactly the same effect on me the first time I saw it. As a man who, since the age of 7, has probably finished the original game about a hundred times, the effect of seeing much-loved videogame imagery used as a third party website is at once captivating and unsettling. Read More

“Breaking Up with a Social Network” or “When Computers Get Needy”

Breaking up is hard to do at the best of times, but when one half of the couple is still head-over-heels in love, it’s even harder. As much as we’d all like to think of ourselves as decent human beings who step up and address situations like these with the haste and sincerity they deserve, more-often-than-not we take the coward’s way out: we drop as many subtle hints as we can and draw the break-up out like an awkward teen melodrama. We call less often; we glaze over when the conversation turns to ‘us’; we switch from Corn Flakes to Alpha-Bits cereal and routinely leave phrases like ‘it’s over’ and ‘go away’ on the counter-top….

Thank goodness leaving social network services is so much less awkward. Click, click; done. Computers don’t have feelings, right?

Read More

Ballet Shoes- check, Sports Drink- check, Squid in a Bag- check

Summers in Japan are unbearably long, hot and humid affairs that many of us would happily trade in for a couple more weeks of winter. But, sweaty or not, life goes on, so we do what we can to stay cool. Some invest in portable fans; some buy high-tech, sweat-wicking underwear; some make the fatal error of freezing a can of soda and seriously injuring themselves in the process.

Throwing a damp towel or facecloth into the freezer to use later as a frosty pick-me-up is a common method of beating the heat here in Japan, which is exactly what one young lady decided to do before heading off to ballet practice. Or so she thought… Read More

Hamburger Review: We Sample Wendy’s New (¥1280!) Lobster-Based Burgers

Despite having once pulled out of the country, sorely missed hamburger chain Wendy’s returned Japan in 2011 with just a single location. In response to calls for additional restaurants, Wendy’s cut the tape on its new Roppongi store in August this year, bringing with it the special ‘Ocean Premium’ range, which includes two new ‘Japan Premium’ hamburgers. Read More

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