editorial

Some words about cafe camping, a bully with a comb-over, and a man in a blue sweater vest

Back when I was still living in the UK, I would have never dreamed of spending an entire afternoon working on my laptop in a cafe. Places like Starbucks or homegrown coffee chain Costa are places to go, pay slightly too much for caffeinated beverages, leaf through a book or newspaper, then be on your way. They’re not for doing your homework or earning a living.

Thanks to the birth of WiFi and ultra-light laptop computers, however, the sight of people commandeering tables for hours on end is no longer such a rarity, and I, it has to be said, am one of them. Which is where I witnessed an unusual little episode involving a grumpy old man with a comb-over, his quiet, sweater vest-wearing friend, and a young woman who may or may not have been a matcha-drinking guardian angel.

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Some words about the evils of alcohol and the superhuman powers of drunk Japanese businessmen

After living here for the best part of eight years (five in the country, the rest in the capital) I’ve come to realise that for all the talk of Japan being kind of an oddball nation, it’s no weirder than anywhere else, and perhaps the only reason people here sometimes come across as so quirky is because the rest of the time they mind their own business and just get on with things quietly.

One thing that never fails to astound me when I go out at night in Tokyo, though, is the almost superhuman way in which some businessmen – despite looking like they’ve consumed more alcohol than I ever could without ending up in hospital or featured in the local news – still manage to remain upright and even have the wherewithal to navigate the city’s labyrinthine stations, board a train and get themselves home.

Here are some words about this. Read them if you want to.

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Nosebleeds, food, and fear: How a popular manga became the centre of a debate about Fukushima

In the West, comics are often considered predominantly for younger audiences, and adults who spend more time scrutinising the contents of speech bubbles than printed paragraphs might be looked down on by some. But in Japan, comics are considered a perfectly acceptable pastime whatever one’s age.

More often than not, comics, or manga to use the Japanese term, provide their readers with a break from reality, much like a TV drama or soap, and allow readers to peek into the kinds of worlds that they might not ordinarily be able. But there are times when fiction and reality come together, and real-world events become fodder for a writer’s imagination or in some case the main focus of a story. In the case of popular manga series Oishinbo (美味しんぼ), one particular plotline has raised not just eyebrows but objections on a national level, and what was once just a comic about food has become the centre of a debate about health, radiation, and whether the Japanese government is telling the truth about Fukushima.

Today, we delve a little deeper into the “Oishinbo Nosebleed Problem”, as it has become known, and consider whether, after the resulting backlash, this controversial topic is one that the manga’s writer perhaps ought to have left well alone.

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A Japanese Woman’s Guide for Getting a Date: The Omurice Trick Works Every Time!

What kind of person are you attracted to?  Good looking and intelligent may be at the top of many people’s list of attractive attributes, but not all of us are blessed with an abundance of physical beauty and/or high intelligence.  

Self sufficiency and outspokenness would normally be good characteristics to have but are also widely overlooked by the male species when searching for a female to spend time with.  ‘Ah she doesn’t need me’, would be a likely initial reaction.  This could be one of the great universal truths: cultural boundaries disappear in the need for us to be needed.

Alright, so something has to be done and since it takes time for someone to find your ‘inner beauty’, you may want to try these sure-fire tactics, courtesy of our female Japanese editorial staff, for getting someone you’re interested in to be interested in you.  Ladies, arm yourselves!

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The Top 25 Things In Japan Most Likely To Blow Foreigners’ Minds

The following is a list of things in Japan that have surprised, fascinated, and shocked the outside world.  Some of these things you’ll wish you had in your home country and a few you may never want to see in person.  So, without further ado, here are the top 25 Japanese things, from obscure to notorious, that leave foreigners mouths agape.

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The Tao of Toilet Cleaning: Beautiful Message of Humanity Or Ramblings of an Eccentric Anal-Retentive? You Decide

Many people probably aren’t aware of Mr. Hidesaburo Kagiyama.  Some people in Japan may know him as the President of Yellow Hat, an auto supply and parts retail chain in the country.  People outside of Japan may have heard of him for another reason as a founder of the now international Learning by Cleaning Association, and if you couldn’t tell by the name, this guy loves cleaning.

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Pop Star’s First Pitch Induces Laughter, Ignites Shameful Flame War

Korean pop group Girls’ Generation’s Jessica had everything going for her as she stepped to the mound last week at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. She went into a semi-accurate windup with her white glove, pink shoes, form-fitting jeans and perfect smile aaaaaaand . . . she spiked the ball into the ground three feet in front of her.

Big deal, right? Lieutenant Dan did basically the same thing in Texas a couple nights ago, proving to us that a ceremonial first pitch is like a box of chocolates – you never know what kind you’re gonna get.

And what’s better, throwing like a T-baller or collapsing in a heap a la Sadako last month in the Tokyo Dome?

None of it should come as a surprise; Jessica showed us the extent of her athletic prowess at 0:20 with that strong, convincing fist pump. What is surprising is the harsh criticism piled on poor Jessica by the peanut gallery.
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Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) has recently announced that they will offer weddings for same-sex couples, including the option to hold the ceremony at the iconic Cinderella’s castle. It seems that Disney really does make dreams come true, at least for one gay couple. Read More

Govt Website Gets 45 Million Yen Redesign, Righteous Anger of the Taxpayers

On the second of April, the official website for the Japanese prime minister and his cabinet underwent a major update and redesign. According to Chief Cabinet Minister Osamu Fujimura, the update will allow them to disseminate easily understandable information to the public by gathering together all policy explanations prepared by individual agencies in one place. They have also added a section of the website aimed at children, which includes some specially developed games. The cost of all this? About 45 million yen (about $547,000). And that’s what has Japanese taxpayers’ attention.
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Lovers’ Final Emails Moments Before Tsunami: “Don’t get yourself killed!”

Text messages sent from Arisa Miura, a city worker who died in the tsunami that struck Minami-Sanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, and her boyfriend were released to the press on March 5th. In the 5 texts, which were sent between the two lovers after the earthquake and before Miura was swept away, one can see the depth of their affection in their consideration for the other’s safety even in a hectic emergency situation. Read More

Welcome Home, Arisa: Missing Woman’s Body Found Nearly 11 Months After Tsunami

The corpse of a woman found in January in the ruble of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, has been determined by DNA testing to be that of 24-year-old Arisa Miura, an employee at the disaster preparedness office at the city hall, which was washed away in the March 11th tsunami last year. Following the results, her body is finally being sent home. Read More

Your iPhone Was Made by a 13-Year-Old Girl for 48 Yen/Hour

The Apple products we’ve grown used to seeing everyday, like the iPhone4S and iPad 2, were made by 13-year-old Chinese girls working 16-hours a day for just 48 yen (about $0.60 US) an hour.
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Tokyo Clinic to Test Internal Radiation Exposure

On January 16th, a clinic was opened in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward to check the levels of internal radiation exposure. The clinic, loosely translated as Radioactivity Premium Dock, offers a complete body scan for radiation levels, among other services, which the general public can access for a fee. The company hopes to reduce anxiety resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and to help the public manage their health.
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According to a book recently published by Tomohiko Suzuki, a freelance journalist who went undercover as a laborer at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant for two months this year, people who were unable to repay loans from yakuza gangs were forced to work at the site as a means of repaying their debts. Tokyo Electric issued a refutal, calling the claim that organized crime would be allowed to influence the recruitment process “groundless”.
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Five American Candies Guaranteed to Gum Up Your Gut

When I think of American candies, I think of sickening confections splashed with garish colors. I went to the United States and checked out a candy store, and I found exactly what I thought I’d see!

These are treats I would never even think of giving my kids (if I had them). Forget the lack of nutritional value; no matter how safe the candies are thought to be, those colors alone make me worry.

Here is my list of the Top Five American Candies Guaranteed to Gum Up Your Gut: Read More

Boy Drowns iPhone4S, Ginza Apple Store Rights Ship

The iPhone4S had been on the market nary a month when I got my hands on mine. I’d had my beloved 16 GB dream machine for nary a week when my three-year-old son got his hands on it and dunked it in the bathtub.

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Part of the fun of traveling on long-distance trains in East Asia is eating the lunch boxes that they sell within the train network, called ekiben in Japanese. Everyone knows how outstanding Japanese ekiben are, and Taiwanese ekiben are just as delicious. The other day, I hopped on a Chinese bullet train and prepared to find out where the Chinese version stacked up!

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An acquaintance of mine visited Ulleungdo Island, a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan over which Japan and Korea are locked in a territorial dispute. Three Japanese politicians aiming to visit Ulleungdo last month were denied entry into Korea, but Japanese are normally able to tour the island. There is even a tourist website for the island that targets Japanese.

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While passing by the Shinkansen ticket gates at Tokyo Station, I noticed a vending machine that didn’t seem to belong there. Strange in this land of vending machines, I know, but something about this machine was different.

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Do you have a guy friend who hasn’t had a girlfriend in ages? Some guys have no problem finding their next girlfriend after breaking up with the last one. On the other hand, some guys have never found themselves in a serious relationship of any kind.

Internet forums have buzzed with conversations between groups of Japanese women over what the differences are between men who can attract women and those who attract only scorn. After lengthy discussion, they narrowed the list down to 20 characteristics of guys to avoid: Read More