Sunday, October 25, 2009


We went to a beautiful onsen in Tochigi prefecture north of Tokyo called Kita Onsen. It had an amazing rotenburo (outside onsen) with a slide and inflatable rubber rings. Lots of fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fly my pretties, fly

This is apparently the most viewed youtube video in Japan:

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New direction...

Dear reader. You probably noticed I stopped posting on this site awhile ago. The reason being I got super busy with other work which includes writing a blog for Japan Times called Japan Pulse. I was thinking of quitting writing this blog but since then have realized that I've got a ton of material that I can't use on the JT blog that I'd like to post here instead. With this in mind, please enjoy this picture of a snoozing cat I took in Shimokitazawa this weekend.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kirin and Suntory merge

Kirin and Suntory, two of Japan's biggest beverage players are going to merge giving the companies a whopping 50 per cent share in the Japanese drinks market. Read more here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mad cycling skills

The Japanese are tops when it comes to multi-tasking be it sleeping and standing on trains or texting and walking. Nowhere is this facility more advanced than when riding a bicycle, I have seen girls holding umbrellas and talking on their mobile phones while nonchalantly pedalling down the street. But nothing beats the casual insouciance of this gent who cruised down a busy road near my house completely engrossed in a book with a contented smile on his face.

Monday, July 6, 2009

'Manner' madness

Train manner posters have reached newer even more dizzying heights of weird on board etiquette. This one instructs passengers not to show off their shopping while on a train. I've never been bothered by people doing this, quite the opposite, I'm nosey to find out what they bought.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tilt shift calendar

Check this link out to view's Uniqlo's amazing tilt shift videos which enhance the toy town quality of Japanese life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Medicom Toy Exhibition

I'm a huge Bearbrick fan which is why I'm totally gutted that I'm going to miss the Medicom Toy Exhibition at Parco from 20 June to 29 June. It's only 300 yen to get in, bargain.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Akira Uno at Parco

I recently went to Parco's 1969 art exhibition and was really blown away by the design of Akira Uno, see above. His work really reminds me of Aubrey Beardsley but unfortunately I couldn't find more of it online. If you want to check it out the show ends 15 June.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Racist march Shibuya

While enjoying a lovely meal outside with my friend yesterday in Shibuya this 'orrible bunch walked past destroying our peaceful Sunday with megaphones screaming out hysterical anti-Chinese messages. Their message was for "bad Chinese get out of Japan", specifically Chinese mafia. But we don't think they were too picky with who they wanted out of Japan. Many customers at the cafe were foreigners like me and one guy faced us screaming "foreigners get out of Japan" through his megaphone. Though this kind of thing is depressing I was heartened to see that there weren't many people in the demo (only about 70 or so) and passersby were ignoring them. We have the national front in the UK who are equally vile but usually anti-racist groups stage demos on the same day. However this often leads to violence so one wonders if the Japanese reaction of pretending they're not there isn't better after all.

Space management

No parking space for your car? Just use your shop front like this business in Ningyocho, Nihonbashi.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Umbrella vending machine in Roppongi

What a nifty idea and only 300 yen. Now we just have to find the fabled panty vending machine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Haruhi season two

Haruhi Suzumiya, possibly the best anime ever, is back unexpectedly for season two. Can't believe I forgot to post this before because I watched it on Sunday just after it came out. I won't give anything away but I will say it didn't dissapoint.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fujitsu FLEPia: first colour ebook reader

I'm gagging to get my hands on an ebook reader but don't think I'll be able to afford this latest snazzy product from Fujitsu. It costs 99,750yen but is the first ebook reader to boast a colour screen. It also has WiFi, 4Gb storage and supports Windows. It's soo lovely though and can be bought here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Don't treat us like cattle,' protest Japanese men

A cell phone website called 'boy's ranch' has had Japanese men up in arms. Once women register men on the site, the chaps become livestock with ratings for wealth, looks and whether or not they are herbivorous (see previous post) or carnivorous. In this way female friends can check guys out. It's common in Japan for women to introduce male friends as prospective dating prospects to their female friends, so this service is a natural progression of a traditional practise.
Due to a huge amount of protest via email from beleaguered blokes, the service has shut down. Men clearly don't like being treated like pieces of meat
, hopefully in future they'll keep this in mind when they sit about assessing women over a beer. Via Watashi to Tokyo.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I found this silly add via 3Yen News apparently it's out in the UK.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Japanese sweet making

This is Ms Matsuki and she very kindly demonstrated how to make sakura sweets for me the other day.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Robot senbe

Been a bit lazy with posting of late due to Golden Week holidays. So here is some groovy robot senbe bought in Akihabara recently.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Loincloths make a comeback

This via Reuters. An underwear making is calling this the latest in 'liberation for women' due to the light feel of this cotton garment that doesn't need elastic to stay in place. Personally I'm not sure whether a nappy of cotton bunched up around my privates would feel particularly liberating. Besides, we all know it's not elastic that oppresses Japanese women but the very conspicuous glass ceiling in the workplace.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SMAP in naked shame

Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, long-standing member of boy band SMAP, has been arrested for cavorting around a park in central Tokyo totally nude. For anyone who doesn't know, SMAP are huge in Japan, they've been famous forever and constantly appear on TV. Apparently as Kusanagi is now in custody, many TV shows are scrabbling to fill his slot.
When arrested Kusanagi called out "What's wrong with being naked?". What indeed. Personally I think this will blow over in six months or so. Anyone taking a train at night can see drunken businessmen behaving badly and for the most part they don't face serious repercussions. Plus the Japanese are not really that uptight about nudity. He'll apologise on TV, keep a low profile for awhile and then be accepted back no questions asked. The Japanese entertainment industry would implode without SMAP. From The Times.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Giant spider terrifies Yokohama

French art group 'La Machine' have made a monster spider which patrolled the bay front at Yokohama yesterday. These French performance art groups are really amazing. Back in 2006 another group made a giant puppet elephant that marched through the streets of London. Check out the link. This story was via pink tentacle.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poken the digi business card

It's a pain writing down people's phone numbers or carrying around business cards that fill up your wallet. A new gizmo launched recently in Japan is the poken that is basically a USB stick that can communicate its own personal information by exchanging info with other USB sticks. Pocken merely touch hands to transfer social networking info. But will it catch on, to be worth carrying it around the thing really needs to become a craze. It costs about 2, 480yen on their online shop so it may yet infest the nations pockets. Poken comes in a number of cute designs and I am seriously tempted by the geisha pocken above. Via What Japan Thinks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Awesome new Harajuku store

Hanjiro clothes store just opened in Harajuku last month. I stumbled on it yesterday when I went clothes shopping and bought a t-shirt dress, skirt and top for 6,000 yen in total. As you can see from the dress above (4,900 yen), the fashions are really stylish. The clothes fall under 3 main categories: cheap and cheerful, second hand and well designed reasonable items (above). Hanjiro is for girls and boys. I also popped by H&M which is a huge sensation but have to say Hanjiro won hands down for value, style and range. Plus there aren't huge queues for the changing rooms.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dangerous voting habits

The above poster which has appeared on trains recently reads "Are you a dangerous young person". My reading skills being rather poor I assumed it was berating young people for looking scary to older people but actually it is a campaign to encourage people to vote. Pointing out that while 76 per cent of 60 year olds vote, only 36 per cent of 20 year olds bother. Overall only 58 per cent of the population vote. "Don't you think this figure is a little dangerous?" the advert adds. As Aso's outdated and incompetent government shows, it's really time for young people in Japan to get interested in politics.

Asahi Shimbun employee in discriminatory comment shame

The Daily Yomiuri reports that an Asahi Shimbun employee has been posting discriminatory remarks on an internet bulletin board about marginalized communities and mentally ill people. Japan Probe interprets marginalized communities to mean the Burakumin who traditionally held 'impure' jobs (executioners, undertakers, leather workers) that made them outcasts. I was unaware of the existence of Burakumin until I went on an anti-war march (before the Iraq invasion) where a group of them attended. Sick of being dumped on by most of Japanese society, they've become pretty militant and are often speak out against political injustice.
The other group the employee slagged off were the mentally ill who also get a rough deal in Japanese society. A recent feature in Metropolis painted a pretty grim picture of how these groups are treated. The stigma is huge. The feature was about a documentary film on the subject that has been made by director Kazuhiro Soda, since the making of the film three of the participants had committed suicide.
It's unclear whether this employee will face any disciplinary punishment but at least it's good his behaviour came to light and was not seen as acceptable.Jiichiro Matsumoto 'the father of Buraku liberation'

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Best places for hanami

Kirainet has put up this great little map of the best places for hanami in Tokyo. I'd also like to add that the palace moat and Yasakuni shrine by Kudanshita is also an exceptionally beautiful spot and Kinuta park in Setagaya ward is reputedly fantastic. The blossoms are now at their peak but I had my cherry blossom picnic a little early last Saturday in yoyogi. It was still beautiful though:Me, Kimi and Sergio

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hukuho surpases Asashoryu

Last autumn I saw Hakuho take the sumo title in Ryogoku. It appears this Mongolian's star is on the rise, according to Japan Times. The above pic is of defending champion Asashoryu on the left fending off Kotomitsuki. Can't wait till the Tokyo tournament in May.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A little too slick?

Spotted today in Daikanyama.
I know the wet-look is back but isn't this taking it too far?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bizarre detection methods

It's now been two years since Lyndsay Ann Hawker's murder and police have yet to catch the main suspect Tatsuya Ichihashi. A new officer is now in charge of the case and has decided to put five life-size cardboard cut outs of Ichihashi out on the streets around Chiba. If you press the button on his chest, you can even hear his voice. It's good they're trying to do something but I think the killer will be far from Chiba by now. This guy looks seriously scary and I think he's going to freak quite a few people out. Of course if the police hadn't allowed him to give them the slip in the first place... via Japan Probe.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Manner mode pen

Tokyo Mango posted this awesome interview with consultant Morinosuke Kawaguchi who explains the function of the manner mode pen. Manner mode is when you turn the volume down on something so it doesn't disturb other people. The pen was created by a female pen designer who was driven mad by the noise of engineers clicking their pens in meetings. Kawaguchi thinks the creation of the pen is a sign of Japanese society maturing. Personally I think everyone has gone manner mad lately in Japan. Manner as a Japanised English word means social etiquette and the campaign for better manners on public transport has intensified lately. I guess the picture below means 'don't dive into the train' but it's a pretty random way of putting the message across. As an inveterate pen clicker myself I must say that the noise is part of the satisfaction. Don't take it away!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fashion bot's clenched catwalk strut

Pink Tentacle reports on the debut of this gorgeous fashion robot. Designed to model clothes, the robot has a face capable of showing a wide range of expressions from anger to surprise. Though I thought her arm movements were very graceful, her odd walking style is rather reminiscent of somebody trying to hold in a big poop.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fun ski toilet

This from Colorbus: Georgia coffee have decorated toilets in ski resorts to look like the top of a ski run. Only the loo paper displays an advertising message: "Seriously kick-ass intensely sweet for the real coffee super zinging unstoppable Max! Taste-explosion!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hurry up cherry blossoms!

I can't wait to get pissed under the cherry trees at the end of this month. This lovely tinted picture by turn of the (previous) century photographer Enami is part of a lovely collection up on Flicker by Okinawa Soba. This shot is of the Edogawa river before its banks were smothered in concrete.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hayfever spreads to snow monkeys

About 60 percent of the people I know are suffering pretty badly from hay fever caused by pollen from cedar trees. In order to protect themselves they are forced to wear surgical masks (some even sport goggles) in public and take anti hay fever medicine which can make you really drowsy. According to the Times, the problem now appears to have spread to snow monkeys who are also suffering from runny eyes and sneezing fits. A huge program of planting cedars was undertaken after world war two in order to build up a supply of timber that was never harvested. According to the Times the number of hay fever suffers in Japan is at one in four but I'd say that was higher in Tokyo as the problem is exacerbated by traffic pollution. I've also heard it's a cumulative problem and foreigners I've know who've been out here awhile suddenly find themselves suffering from it.
A new trend I spotted recently was people wearing colourful surgical masks like the ones above instead of the normal plain ones. These are made by Pico.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Large sizes for ladies

I've got fairly big feet and I really suffer when it comes to buying shoes in Japan. If you're looking for large size shoes in Tokyo you could try Ten shoe store in Shinjuku. They do shoe sizes up to 27 cm when normal stores stop at 25cm. The prices are quite high (around 15,000 - 20,000 yen a pair) but I found these boots on their website in the discount section for 8,000 yen. In a similar price range is Washington in Ginza. And finally the cheaper option is Covely in Sunshine City shopping mall Ikebukuro, they do large size women's clothes and have a small selection of shoes.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blink and you'll miss it

This via AFP. It's SUCH a bother having to operate the remote, wouldn't it be great if your i-pod could respond to to a wink? The "mimi (ear) switch" invented by Kazuhiro Taniguchi of Osaka University allows you to do just that: wink to skip a track, stick out your tongue to stop and start play. The piece responds to movements in the ear caused by facial expressions. Taniguchi adds that the switch can be used for more serious applications like monitoring whether an elderly relative is eating or not.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Carnivorous women eat up herbivorous men

Wanting to find out more about the rumoured rise of the herbivorous man in Japan I did a quick search and came up with this article from Mainichi. Basically Japanese men have been said to become less aggressive in the dating game while women looking to snag a husband have stepped up to the plate. Apparently if you adopt the Ebi-chan look (see above) of girly curls and cutesy smiles, you'll be much more likely to hunt down your piece of man meat successfully. According to the article men are now less aggressive in dating, have many female friends that they don't try to sleep with, drive non-flashy environmentally friendly cars and don't attend go cons (organised dating parties). In short, they are rather passive when it comes to dating. It's no wonder that women are carnivorous when you think that if they catch their prey, they'll say goodbye to an underpaid career and hello to sitting at home in a cosy apartment while the man goes out to work for them. Traditionally men give all of their salaries to their wives who then dish them out some pocket money so they can go drinking with their pals. Good hunting girls!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Find your way round Tokyo

It's really easy to get lost in Tokyo which is why I always look up where I'm going on a diddlefinger map before I leave the house. It's great because you can input the address in English and get a map with landmarks in English. To save ink I usually take a shot of the screen on my camera but diddlefinger have just launched their mobile app so you can look up Japanese addresses in English on your phone. The only drawback is that it links to a Japanese map so all station names and landmarks will be in kanji.
Another great tool for finding routes around Tokyo is this website which plots your train route and tells you how long it will take, when the train arrives and how much it will cost.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happoshu sales rise

This via Japan Probe, CNN reports that Happoshu (synthetic beer) sales have risen strongly despite or rather because of the poor economy. Happoshu is taxed at a lower rate than normal beers because it contains less than 25 percent malt and is classed as a liquor. CNN's take is that it's almost the same as beer. Did they actually taste this stuff? It tastes really watery and synthetic and gives you one hell of an evil hangover. At a party I went to recently someone nabbed my can of lovely Sapporo beer and tried to give me Happoshu in exchange, the cheek of it! I went straight to the convenience store to buy myself real beer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beat Crusaders video

I'm really loving this video for the song Phantom Planet that I found on Jean Snow's blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

'Oldest hotel in the world'

This in via Kirainet, Houshi hot springs hotel in Hokuriku has a history that dates back to the year 718 (how can they be so precise?). It's worth taking a peep at their website for a more detailed history. Ah, I'm yearning for a dip in a hot spring myself as I sit here in my freezing Tokyo apartment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tokoton ramen

Tokoton Ramen in Ningyocho is so far the best ramen I've ever eaten. The soup is really rich and creamy and they give you a lovely runny egg if you ask for it with your normal ramen (you have to pay extra). Normal ramen costs 600 yen, other good ones to check out are stamina ramen which is full of garlic and tako ramen which has huge fatty chunks of pork on top (700 yen). To find it click here on diddlefinger. Address: Tokyo, Chuo-ku, Ningyocho 2-6-2 Tel: 03 5641 6036

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Soundproof room

This story from Trends in Japan. For people who want to belt out karaoke classics or rawwwk out at home Yamaha have brought out the second model of My Room, a teeny soundproof room that fits inside your home. People are extremely courteous to neighbours about noise in Japan and musicians often practise by hiring studio time or sitting by the nearest river. The first option is really pricey and the second can be a bit chilly at this time of year. Mind you, My Room is not cheap at 1,039,500 yen and definitely not an option for claustrophobics.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tell me a story Jackanory

Tokyo Walker reports that a growing number of young people are starting to attend rakugo nights. Rakugo is an old form of storytelling where the teller tells a long and complicated story using only a fan and a piece of cloth as props. The entire time he sits in the seiza or kneeling position, ouch! I guess in these troubled times it's comforting to have someone tell you a bedtime story.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentines choco

Valentine's day in Japan usually involves women giving men chocolate but this year the choco companies have introduced a twist: reverse chocolates. The gimmick is that the lettering on the box is in reverse indicating that men can give women choices this year. Nice idea from marketing companies. Men are supposed to give women chocs on white day next month but usually don't bother. Other kinds of choco featured are choco ramen and choco facial. Via Japan Probe

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sake with a sugared pill

Trends in Japan blog report that a new flavoured sake will be in stores from Feb 24. Made to appeal to the majority of young people who don't drink nihonshu, it will come with a funky bottle flavored in lime. Personally I like nihonshu and want to try more, masking the taste seems a shame.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Live Park in Akiba

Otaku frenzy! It appears that 'live' performances have been banned from outside Akihabara station so an alternative, albeit temporary, venue has been set up in a building on Chuo Dori. Visitors can enjoy free live shows like the one above for 100 days from 1 February to 10 May. When we went in on day one the room was filled with rotund guys in specs rawking out to the high-pitch vocal stylings of a trio of super cute girls. Check out the listings.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pedal powered rollercoaster

Okay this story is a bit old but I just spotted it via reddit. Apparently in Washuzan Highland Park, Okayama there is a roller coaster called the Skycycle. I don't know when it was built but judging by the rust on these pictures, it's not a very recent invention. Though no doubt eco-friendly this looks way too hairy for me to try, I'm a weed at the best of times on roller coasters. Check the Treehugger website for more information.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Early Showa-era children's book exhibition

During a stroll today in Ueno park, I came across the International Library of Children's literature. They were running an exhibition of children's annuals from the 1920s to the 30s. The illustrations to these books were at once weird and fabulous, some more than others. An illustration by an artist named Tanosuke was fractured and adorned with Miro-like abstract diagrams. They illustrate the feeling of the age brilliantly, little girls have bobbed haircuts that are almost identical to the boys and most children were depicted in modern dress with adults by contrast still in kimono. Modern machinery is celebrated in glorious technicolor center spreads one of which, dated 1939, shows a huge German zeppelin with cheerful Nazis waving flags in the background. It was sad to think that the generation of children who read these annuals probably suffered terribly afterwards when the war broke out. The exhibition ends November 9 2009.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goodbye Mr Despair

My faith in anime has been restored since I started watching Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (Goodbye Mr Despair). Adapated from a manga by Koji Kumeta, it tells the story of a junior high school teacher who sees everything in a negative light and is constantly trying to top himself. The first scene is an inspired piss-take of the classic high school anime. The sappy girl skipping off to school through a storm of cherry blossoms and whiffling on about hope and love suddenly comes across her new teacher dangling from a tree. I actually met a real manga editor last night and he agreed that this show is totally awesome.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fluffy okonomiyaki

I'm really crazy for okonomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and recently discovered on a trip to Hokkaido a place that does a special kind called fuwa fuwa okonomiyaki (fluffy okonomiyaki) made by adding potato to the pancake mix. It's really yummy and the restaurant called Masaya in Furano is run by a lovely friendly guy who keeps up a stream of entertaining banter in English to guests as he cooks amazingly gorgeous food on the hotplate in front of you. Click on this link for more information (in Japanese).

Wine in Japan

My article on the history of winemaking in Japan was just published in Japan Times today and I'm really pleased that it is the first story on their webpage. The guy in the picture is Kunio Naito who manages Cave de Relax in Shimbashi, if you want to find a good bottle of domestic wine, seek him out!

Fami-mode event

Calling all retro-electro-heads get yourselves down to Star Pine's Cafe in Kichijoji on the 24th of January where alongside seeing lots of incredible 8-bit acts you'll have the opportunity to participate in an old-school gaming tournament and buy vintage Super Mario tat. I'll be down there grooving to YMCK and Sexy-Synthesizer, come along!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Electronic waiter takes your order

A recent trip to an izakaiya (Japanese inn) had me puzzling over this nifty invention. Basically instead of the waiter taking your order, you punch in what you want. The best thing about this was that it calculates the running total for your food and if you want to split the bill will calculate that too and allow you to pay separately at the end. Neat. I found this place using Hot Pepper which I highly recommend if you're looking for a bargain meal deal. The online version is easy to run through google translate. Just phone for reservations and print out your coupon. The other day I managed to get drink all you can and a huge feast for only 3,600 yen per person.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy moo Year

According to the Chinese calender, it's now the year of the ox. The Japanese interpret this as being the year of the black and white cow because they are just cuter than that plain old brown ox. Tons of kawaii cow characters have been manufactured to celebrate. Above is a New Year's greeting card that I bought to send to friends, a hand-knitted cow that was given to me as a present and a plastic disco bath cow (when placed in water he starts flashing with groovy lights). The ox is a very grounded creature and, according to Wikipedia: "is not extravagant, and the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous". Very little change happens in the year of the ox but it's also a time for stability which is comforting for those of us who are reeling from the financial shocks of last year.