Abroad in Japan: “How Difficult is Traveling in Japan without Japanese”?

Some reactions to the comments Chris Broad makes in this informative video:

  1. I think every expat should learn the language that they live it and not rely on their (white) expatriate privilege all the time.
  2. You shouldn’t encounter language problems at train stations that often. Instead of buying train tickets like a Showa-era character, you should use travel around with an IC card, as Broad rightly recommends. Only train lines in the hicks (like Kanazawa) still require you to buy tickets.
  3. A “My Suica” that has your name written on it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you do need to supply JR East with a Japanese phone number, your full name, and date of birth (so they can re-issue your card if you lose it).
  4. Google Maps is great for traveling in Japan for first-timers. If you have a great grasp of figuring out place names in kanji and have a Japanese App Store account (and you can open one without a credit card or with an App Store gift card you can get at any convenience store in Japan), I would also recommend Yahoo Japan’s 乗換案内, which conveniently allows you to look up first and last train times (for when you’re out late), and alternative routes when certain lines are suspended or delayed (now a regular occurrence in Tokyo).
  5. Having no menus to point at in desperation is such a mood. But some of the best places I’ve been to in Tokyo (and elsewhere) have nothing but squiggly calligraphy on their illegible menu scrolls.
  6. オススメはなんですか。(What are your recommendations?) I’ve been asked this so many times by Japanese people in Hong Kong. Now you can turn the tables on them.
  7. Dribble coffee sounds amazing.

Unseen Japan: “Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! Gets it Right”

Noah Oskow reviews the latest instalment of the Netflix franchise:

A personal focus on one individual Tokyoite per episode, centered on their specific lives and issues, allows for a more natural, ground-up view of Japanese societal issues than the more wide-ranging visions shown elsewhere. Whether it be the idea of lost womanhood (episode 1); the pressure to hide one’s true self in Japanese culture (in the LGBT-focused 2nd episode); bullying and self-image (episode 3); or sexless, romance-less marriages (episode 4), the show allows major Japan-specific societal problems to be brought to life. Yet it’s the personal nature of how Queer Eye presents the problems to the viewer that truly sets this mini-series apart. The statement isn’t “look at these strange problems in Japanese society.” Rather, it’s “get to know these authentic people, whose real lives are affected by societal pressures.”

Here’s the tender trailer for the show:

Tokyo MX: Chocolates to treat yourself on Valentine’s Day

How have Ginza’s department stores been preparing for The Big Day this year? According to this report by Tokyo MX:


More and more women are now buying chocolate for themselves. It’s said that they are beginning to treat Valentine’s Day as a “Treat Yourself Day”. Products specifically designed to appeal with female customers, such as multicolored packages that look like gemstones and beauty care chocolates filled with acai and chia seeds, are the ones that stand out most this season.

Buzzfeed: “$1 Sushi Vs. $133 Sushi”

I had a good friend at Georgetown who would use Buzzfeed as her main source of news, and I used to make fun of her for doing so. But then Buzzfeed started to use the cash it earned from hosting quizzes on whether you were the mental age of a fat middle-aged man or a schoolgirl into paying writers (hopefully at a fair rate) for excellent opinion articles on Taylor Swift’s fake romantic drama and excellent reporting in general. And I stopped making fun of my friend and duly downloaded the Buzzfeed News app on my phone.

So you know your company has made it when, in the process of making a video comparing junk food sushi that will make Jiro Ono’s mentors turn in their grave and three Michelin-starred sushi from Kyubey in Ginza, that the PR representative from Kura Sushi comes out and explains how his company’s robots knead rice on a massive scale in their kitchens, and Mr. Yosuke Imada decides to open Kyubey up during the day just to explain to two American men and a Japanese woman his humble and fiery life philosophy.

The result is a very thoughtful but accessible video on the different ways of how sushi is consumed and produced in modern Japanese life, and I think it’s definitely worth the twenty minutes of your time.

Tokyo MX: how college students really feel about volunteering for the Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo MX did an unscientific survey of 100 people around college towns to find out whether anyone they met wanted to volunteer for the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, as this blog has mentioned, a majority of them do not.

It also asks whether Meiji University students understand why their school has already decided to change their 2020 examination schedules to accommodate the Olympics. Should a school prioritize studies and research, or should it bow down unapologetically to national demands? Or is should it follow, like most things, a nebulous standard?

This YouTube comment is also interesting:


Students from other prefectures will volunteer at the Olympics. There is no place for them to stay. They have no money. They know no one in Tokyo. How on earth will they volunteer at all?

You should ask the same question for everyone coming from outside Japan!

Vice Japan: Little Nepal in Tokyo

From Vice Japan, a documentary about Tokyo’s Nepalese community:


The area around JR Asagaya Station, 10 minutes west of Shinjuku on the Chuo Line, is now becoming home to Japan’s biggest Nepalese community. Everest International School, the first such Nepalese school in the world which opened in 2013, was the catalyst for the community to form. Through the lens of the children who attend that school, we search for their “Asagaya Life.”

Vice Japan: The People & Food of the Homi Projects

From Vice Japan, a documentary about Homi Danchi, a suburb in Aichi Prefecture (Japanese with English subtitles):


「The People & Food of the Homi Projects」では、この地で生活する自治会会長、ボランティアの方、1990年より団地に移り住んだ日系ブラジル人、そして、大学教授、市役所の方々に、外国人との生活で生じる問題、それに対する取り組みについて聞いた。1990年の入管法改正以降、ブラジル人人口が急増したために起こった変化を、どう受け入れ、対策を講じ、現在に至るのか。

Homi Danchi, which was constructed in stages from 1972, is a massive apartment complex with 67 blocks in Toyota, Nagoya [where Toyota cars are manufactured]. Around 3,000 of the 7,000 residents who live in this housing development are from South America. In other words, this is an extraordinary immigrant suburb where Brazilians and Peruvians live side-by-side with Japanese as neighbors.

In The People & Food of the Homi Projects, we asked the head of the neighborhood association, volunteers, Nikkei Brazilians who have lived in this development since 1990, university professors, and town hall staff about the problems that living with gaikokujin generates, as well as what the measures to tackle those problems were. What changes have occurred since the rapid rise in the Brazilian population since the amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in 1990? How were the Brazilians accepted into the community? What measures were taken? What is the community like now?

This documentary is a personal favorite.

One of the documentary’s interview subjects is Keisuke Nagoshi, who has produced a photo book called Familia 保見団地:


Brazilians are a lot more straighter in terms of their feelings compared to Japanese people, so they are always making out with one another. I’m a little jealous of that, because it’s a little difficult for me to be so straight with my own feelings.