Posts Tagged ‘Only in Japan’

The neck stretcher: Tokyo’s latest must-have accessory

Posted 28 Aug 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, Only in Japan, Shopping in Japan, Technology, Tokyo

Worried that your neck is too short? Have no fear, the neck stretcher is here:

Try using it for a few weeks. The results are astounding:

The joys of ordering food and drink in Japanese

Posted 29 Jul 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, Japanese Language, Only in Japan

A chain café in Japan. Lunchtime:

“Welcome! Customer, will you be eating in?”
“Very good. What would you like?”
“I’d like a medium-sized café latte, please.”
“A… sorry, what was that?”
“A café late, please. Medium size.”
“One café latte! What size?”
“Medium – ’Em’ size – please.”
“Okay! That’ll be ¥360. Please wait by the counter for your drink.”

Two minutes later, by the counter:

“Here you are. One small ice coffee.”

Former North Korean spy visits Japan; Japanese media says “How much?!”

Posted 24 Jul 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japanese Politics, News, Only in Japan

Last week former North Korean spy Kim Hyon Hi was flown into Japan for talks with government officials and the relatives of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang. It was believed that she might have information about the abductees, who were kidnapped some thirty years ago.

Though Mrs Kim was able to provide some details, mostly relating to the abductees’ private lives and hobbies, it’s unlikely that her visit will help Japan-North Korea relations, nor will it help Japanese officials gain a better understanding of the world’s most insular country. Her information will have been decades out of date: her links with North Korea were severed in 1987, when she was arrested in Bahrain for the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858. She has since spent her life living in confinement in South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Japanese media went bezerk over the amount of money that was being spent looking after Mrs Kim. Roads in Tokyo were closed and legions of police mobilized in order to ensure safe passage to her hotel. According to TBS, a Tokyo-based broadcaster, she was even taken on a 35-minute helicopter ride over the capital; a ride that could have cost as much as ¥1.4 million (about £10,400). Sakadazu Tanigaki, the leader of the opposition LDP, condemned the government’s lavish treatment of Mrs Kim as ‘nothing but performance’.

Mr Tanigaki is right to bring up the issue of cost – a lot of taxpayers’ money was spent on security. However, coming from a politician whose party while in government was renowned for pork-barrel dealings and a staggering lack of inertia, the phrase ‘pot calling the kettle black’ springs to mind.

Japanese super-monkeys catapult to freedom

Posted 11 Jul 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, News, Only in Japan

Last weekend saw me in Inuyama, Aichi prefecture, for my sister-in-law’s wedding. It also mysteriously coincided with the daring escape of a number of monkeys from Nagoya University’s research institute, which is just a few minutes’ drive from my parents-in-law’s house.

Although I can’t say that I was directly responsible for the simian breakout, I like to think that my presence spurred them into devising a plan that MacGyver would have been proud of, namely the use of tree branches to catapult themselves over an electrified fence. Unfortunately, none of the monkeys had given much thought as to what to do after that: they moped about immediate area like bored kids at a christening until researchers lured them back with peanuts.

It is believed that the recaptured monkeys are watching The Great Escape every day for tips. They also wish to make contact with some underworld types who can provide them with false identities, Swiss passports and tickets to Rio.

Read more:

Japan-related Links of the Week: 22 May 2010

Posted 22 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, Links of the Week, News, Only in Japan, Tokyo

A roundup of some of the best Japan-related links from this week.

The [Yokohama branch of the Japan Teachers’ Union] said the textbooks made by right-wing groups contain many inaccuracies, including the Japanese government’s attempt to legitimize the country’s past aggression in Asia.

Japanese Teachers’ Union Boycotts Right-wing Textbook
The Dong-a Ilbo


A Japanese man has been detained by police after scattering tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of banknotes across a busy highway in Japan.

Japanese man arrested for throwing £20,000 onto highway
The Daily Telegraph (Danielle Demetriou)


Hiromu Nonaka, a former chief cabinet secretary, revealed last month that from 1998-99 he spent up to ¥70m ($600,000 at the exchange rate of the time) a month from his secret little piggy bank.

A slush fund is revealed in Japan: See no evil
The Economist (Banyan’s column)


“The amount of money a Chinese person is spending [in Japanese department stores] is incomparable to that of a Japanese customer.”

Chinese invasion offers a ray of hope to tourist trade
The Asahi Shimbun


The Japanese economy grew at a healthy clip of 1.2 percent in the first quarter, the government said on Thursday, hinting that Japan’s recovery from a crippling recession was finally gathering momentum.

Figures Suggest Japan’s Recovery Is Gaining Strength
The New York Times (Hiroko Tabuchi)

Pre-packed supermarket prawns: alive and kicking (literally) in Japan

Posted 21 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Entertainment, Food, Japan, Only in Japan, Shopping in Japan, Tokyo, Video

Fresh seafood is, as you would expect, easy to come by in Japan. In fact, pre-packed prawns are sometimes so fresh that you might end up debating whether to put them in a frying pan or an aquarium:

(Postscript: Unfortunately Terry et al didn’t live long, happy lives. They were simply too delish for their own good.)

Fishing in Chiyoda

Posted 18 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, Only in Japan, Photography, Tokyo

Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward is not renowned for fishing, but this particular pond is always popular. In fact, part of it has been specially kitted out for city-dwelling Ahabs.

The greenness of the water makes me wonder if any normal (ie, one-headed) fish can survive. Perhaps a scuba diver occasionally hooks half-dead trout on the most forlorn-looking of fishermen’s hooks, just to keep their spirits up.

Japan + robots = a BBC news report!

Posted 18 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japanese Politics, News, Only in Japan, TV, Technology, Tokyo

For those of you who regularly watch BBC World News (come on, it can’t be just me!), you’ve probably noticed an eerily similarity between its Japan-related reports. It seems that no matter what the story, be it whaling, dolphin slaughtering or population decline, robots manage to get in there somehow. Take this story on immigration, for example.

Is there really any possibility that robots will replace human nurses? I’d say the chances are slim, to say the least. Considering that even the most advanced robots still have trouble mastering the simple act of walking down a flight of stairs, I can’t envisage them pottering around nursing homes changing soiled bedsheets and helping old chaps put on their pyjamas. And of course robots don’t pay taxes or buy goods, and they most definitely don’t have babies.

Nevertheless, a lot of BBC news reports seem to gloss over important issues in favour of portraying Japan as a nation of robot-mad, insular lunatics. I don’t know anyone who thinks the use of robots in frontline service/healthcare industry jobs is even remotely feasible, nor do I know anyone who seeks to preserve Japan’s “racial purity”. There may be a small, but vocal, minority of right-wing politicians and nutters who hold such views, but they should not be seen to represent the opinions of the majority of Japanese.

From a business standpoint there is little debate about whether or not Japan needs immigrants: the domestic car industry already relies on immigrant workers (especially Japanese-Brazilians), and the country’s most powerful business group, the Nippon Keidanren, is strongly in favour of granting more foreigners permanent resident status. When the Japanese government finally faces up to the Big Decision – increased immigration or a crippled economy – it will, I’m sure, choose the former.

Japan-related Links of the Week: 15 May 2010

Posted 14 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Entertainment, Japan, Japanese Politics, Links of the Week, News, Only in Japan, Tokyo

A roundup of some of the best Japan-related stories from this week:

Gross public debt has edged up to 200 per cent of GDP. Net debt, at 100 per cent of GDP, is still in acutely dangerous territory.

Japan in risky territory: Things could turn ugly fast
The Times (Leo Lewis)


Japanese driving schools are offering more than instruction behind the wheel, with Hawaiian massage and lessons in BMWs among the services available to compete for a dwindling number of potential students.

Japan driving schools rev up with BMWs, manicures
Reuters (Chris Gallagher)


Japanese companies have long had a reputation of being unfriendly to women, especially mothers. That image was reinforced recently by the World Economic Forum, which downgraded Japan in its Gender Gap Report from 98th of 130 countries in 2008 to 101st out of 134 countries in 2009.

Japan sinks (even) lower on gender discrimination report
The Christian Science Monitor (Gavin Blair)


“[Yukio Hatoyama’s] shirt comes from the ’80s or ’90s. His ideas and philosophy are old. Japan is facing a crisis and we can’t overcome it with a prime minister like this.”

Japan’s prime minister under fire for fashion choices
CNN (Kyung Lah)


“If you’re eating dolphin meat, you’re eating poison, and if you’re eating a lot of dolphin meat, you’re eating a lot of poison.”

Tests show residents in dolphin-hunting village in ‘The Cove’ have elevated mercury levels
The Los Angeles Times (Jay Alabaster)

Japan-related Links of the Week: 8 May 2010

Posted 07 May 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Tokyo

A run down of some of the best Japan-related stories from this week:

Japanese visitors will be invited by tour operators to contribute £5, a charge already nicknamed the “Peter Rabbit tax”.

The tale of Peter Rabbit and a £5 ‘tax’ on his Japanese friends
The Times (Robert Jenkins)


Okinawa’s status as home to one of the highest life expectancies in the world has been tied to a combination of healthy diets, exercise and self-sufficiency.

World’s oldest woman dies in Japan aged 114
The Daily Telegraph (Danielle Demetriou)


Japan has the lowest percentage of children among 27 countries with populations of more than 40 million, trailing Germany at 13.6 percent and Italy’s 14 percent.

Japan’s children population at new record low
BusinessWeek (Mari Yamaguchi)


Along with a flair for airy-fairy waffle, Mr Hatoyama has exhibited breathtaking indecision.

Things fall apart in Japan
The Economist (Banyan’s column)


If you get groped on a train, please tell the nearest police officer.

Crackdown nets 77 gropers on Tokyo trains
The Daily Yomiuri

Japan-related Links of the Week: 24 April 2010

Posted 24 Apr 2010 — by Andy in Tokyo
Category Japan, Japanese Politics, Links of the Week, News, Only in Japan, Tokyo

A run-down of some of the best Japan-related stories from this week:

After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people.

Japan Tries to Face Up to Growing Poverty Problem
The New York Times (Martin Fackler)


I was making the same amount of money as assembly line workers at auto factories.

Charm offensive: the hostess bites back
The Independent (David McNeill and Chie Matsumoto)


Now stripped of the interest groups that supported it for so long, the LDP has failed to reinvent itself for the age of floating voters and is rapidly becoming a loose alliance of koenkai. As more politicians leave the party, it becomes harder to imagine that the LDP will ever adapt.

A New Dawn?
Observing Japan (Tobias Harris)

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