Archive for June, 2007

Matsuri Games


In my first article as a guest blogger in Tokyo I want to write about one of the most enjoyable things here in Japan: O-matsuri! When I arrived end of May I was told I am just in time for matsuri season – yay, many festivals that offer a fun glimpse on Japanese culture!
Matsuri offer the opportunity to relax, to celebrate, to have a lot of fun – even when you are just watching and eating (like I did) and not actively taking part in carrying a mikoshi. At the shrine-festivals you won’t see any earnest salary men in black suits, no: here people are enjoying themselves and many are dressed in yukata and special matsuri gear. That can look very pretty and sometimes.. uuhm.. quite exciting ;)
What amazes me the most is the array of games for children never seen before somewhere else in that form. Those distinctly Japanese (correct me if I am wrong) kid’s entertainments include many water games, which are thought to be refreshing during hot summerdays. For example fishing rubberballs or other toys out of a swiftly moving water stream, which is enjoyed mostly by the little ones.
Although the animal rights activist in me had to keep both eyes shut, it is great fun for schoolkids to try to catch real goldfish (and I read sometimes even tiny turtles – aaw) with round paper-covered frames. This demands a lot of skill because the paper soaks and rips easily, especially when the victim flounders and struggles not to get caught and the little fisherman keeps his scoop underwater for too long. But some way or the other the kids seem to become experts pretty fast and you can see many of them walking around proudly with their prey in small plastic bags.

Kanji Flashcards

I am a big fan of learning kanji, the writing system that Japanese have adopted and mastered. It is not easy for an ordinary student to suddenly be exposed to some 2000 Japanese kanji, and go through the process of learning them all.

Kanji.jpgI once knew a friend in Tokyo who collected subways tickets, because they had the names of stations that he knew, and the squiggles printed on the tickets were helpful in memorizing the kanji. 目黒 was “eye black”, or Me-guro. Easy to read, but you also need to learn how to write it.

Much better: White Rabbit Press has Kanji Flashcards that you can bring with you anywhere, and keep learning and remembering the kanji. Max Hodges and Tomoko Okazaki have done a great job to include memory aides and diagrams that I find particularly useful. A+++

Party for Peace

Tonight June 26 in Shibuya and next Sunday July 1 in Ebisu, there will be dance parties for people who like music and Article 9 of Japan’s peace constitution. Read more on the website.


Shibuya River

I walked past Shibuya River last night, it was glittering under the stars, yet it is but a miserable drain embanked in concrete. You will find it just south of Shibuya station on the west side along Meiji Dori ( Highway 305). Some NGOs are making an effort to revitalize this river, hoping to making it “green” again by 2012. One group is Toziba, and, starting in 2001, many groups created Earth Day Money as a local currency, to support clean-up campaigns and maybe get Tokyo City to start considering a major project…


Time for harvesting onions!!


Onions, onions, onions!!!
All around my town and the town next to mine, there are onions all out from the ground, ready to be sending to market!!

As onions being harvested, it is now the time for people to grow rice. A lot of rain pouring today, Japanese fields is changing the color. I will be updating the changes in the fields.

Internationalization in karaoke!!


I was out with my best friend on Friday going to karaoke. The place is our favorite, because the price is reasonable and clean. During the weekdays, you only need to pay 750 yen for as much you want between the hours of 10.00a.m. ~18.00p.m.

I had lunch at my friend before going to karaoke, so we started sometime before 2.00p.m., so we ended up singing for four and twenty minutes and paid only 750 yen!!! People in the States are more familiar with karaoke bars, but in Japan we have private rooms for everyone, even for a single person. Singing four hours and twenty minutes between two of us was pretty good work out, but my friend told me that her friends went to karaoke 12 hours straight!! I have done seven hours, so 12 hours singing is just crazy!!

Another thing I realize about karaoke in these days is that karaoke is becoming more international. Couple of years ago, there were only songs of Japanese and some English, but lately there are songs in Korean, Chinese and Filipino in addition. Unfortunately I can only sing in Japanese and English, but this is a good indicator of how Japan is slowly opening up for international people, or it can just be the karaoke market finds that this is a good field that they can invest including more songs with different languages. I wonder what will be the next language to be added to the karaoke books… I feel it could be Russian as there are quite few Russian people coming to Japan, or maybe French?

What do you think the next language to be added? Or what do you want to be added??

Chikan: Molesting school girls on the train

Another employee of public broadcaster NHK has been arrested for molesting a high school girl on a train. A director of children’s TV programs is accused of indecent assault after he put his hand up the victim’s skirt and fondled her buttocks on a Tokyu Denen-Toshi Line train in Tokyo Friday morning, investigators said. He admitted to the allegations during questioning.

The incident follows the arrests of a chief producer at an affiliate and another NHK director earlier this month for molesting women. In May, an NHK presenter was also arrested for indecent assault.

No wonder many Japanese people (and most foreigners living here) refuse to pay the NHK fee. The lack of management skills is appalling, not only as reflected in content but also in Dilbert-style refusal to adopt a modern approach to leadership.

Mainichi: Kids TV director becomes 3rd NHK employee arrested for molestation in 1 month

Learn a useful Japanese word: Chikan

Baker Bounce


Miss American-style diners with their relaxed atmospheres and huge dinner portions? Well, you’re in luck because Tokyo has just what you’ve been longing for. Baker Bounce, located in Sangejaya with a new branch just opened in Roppongi’s Midtown, offers huge sandwiches and real char-grilled burgers–not to mention the ever elusive, Swiss cheese topping. I could go on about it’s value and taste but I think their website does a good enough job of doing that on its own. Check it out.

Baker Bounce

I will walk around Yamanote line

YamanoteI will walk the Yamanote line tomorrow. We will update where we are walking in real time by GPS. You can see it in this “yamanote” site(tomorrow open) and hopefuly you will drop me a line, "Go, Mari, go." Thanks!

Web camera live from Shibuya

Click here for a Web camera with live feed from Koen Dori in Shibuya. This street, Koen Dori, or “Park Avenue” is one of the main shopping streets in Tokyo.


(Screen shot taken tonight)

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