Category Archives: SOCIETY

20 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving To Tokyo

Eccentric, outlandish, exaggeratedly conventional and yet completely unconventional, Tokyo is a wonderful mix of cultural overload, delight and discovery. With more places to eat than you’ll ever manage, a design scene second to none, festivals for everything, and so much to explore, your time here will be nothing short of fascinating.

But if you’ve just arrived, you will be overwhelmed. We were. We moved from Hong Kong to Tokyo just a year ago, and there are a few (okay, many) things I wish I had known.

1. Always carry enough cash

Make sure that you always have enough on you. For many things, Japan is still a cash society and you will be surprised to hear more often than not “crejitto ca-do tsukaemasen” (no credit cards.) Having enough cash means that, if you get stuck, you will be given the opportunity to nip out and refuel.

2. Convenience stores, not banks

Go to the convenience stores for cash – don’t spend time looking for the high street banks. Most mainstream convenience stores like Family Mart and Seven Eleven have ATMs and most of them have English options. Also, banks typically close at 3 p.m., so if you’re working late, regular ATMs or convenience stores are your best options.

3. Google Translate will be your BFF for a while

You will feel illiterate. Don’t leave home without the google translate app downloaded and guard it with your life. Even with it we have mistaken chicken stock powder for brown sugar, shampoo for conditioner, and couldn’t even run the bath in our service apartment.

4. Visas and residency cards are issued surprisingly fast

Whether it’s a …continue reading


We’re Stuck With ‘The Last Samurai’ While Everyone Else Gets Crazy Rich

In high school, the girls around me had one wish–to have a different nationality, preferably American, and to trash our drab school uniforms for the outfits in “Beverly Hills 90210.” Being Japanese was just no fun, though it did seem better than hailing from other Asian countries. After all, this was the 1980s and the Japanese economy was gearing up to enter the bubble era. The Equal Employment Law for women kicked in. Chiaki Mukai was training to be Japan’s first woman astronaut. Takako Doi was rumored to become the future Prime Minister. Things were happening here, albeit minus the fun, sophistication and glamour we so coveted.

Little did we know that one day, Singapore and China would trump (pun intended) the US in many things regarding money, or that Asian women would come to rank among the richest in the world. These women would book first class flights on the five-starred Singapore Airlines to chill in the gaze of the Mer-Lion, and immerse themselves in gossip, shopping and spas with unlimited supplies of yuzu-scented sheet masks.

For that’s what the ladies in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” do. On the occasions that they haul themselves off the mani-pedi bed or tear themselves away from the mahjong table, they reach for their phones to tap a few keys and murmur a few instructions, to put extra padding on their already bursting bank accounts. After that, they’re off to dinner parties where a billion orchid petals pave the paths and splendid fireworks explode in the background. Who do these people think they are, clones of Daisy Buchanan from “The Great Gatsby”?

Speaking of which, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the kind of insular, extravagant love story that would have made Scott Fitzgerald weep with envy. Director Jon M. Chu, who hails from Palo Alto and …continue reading


Cartier opens luxury Juste un Clou convenience store in Omotesando, Tokyo

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

They say everything in Omotesando is twice as expensive (if not more) than the rest of Tokyo. Here’s further proof if any was needed.

Luxury brand Cartier has opened a special pop-up convenience store in the backstreets just off the central Tokyo boulevard that is home to many flagship stores. The gold-themed Juste un Clou (named after the Cartier jewelry line) is open temporarily from September 21st to September 30th.

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

Advertised with the Juste un Clou tag line of “when the ordinary becomes precious,” shoppers can enjoy lavish drinks and snacks. Perhaps the most reasonable items are the croquettes that will only set you back around ¥600 each or the matcha and bergamot energy bars for ¥800. Special cup noodles from Sanmi and Kabi, on other hand, are available for the eye-watering price of, respectively, ¥10,800 and ¥5,400. If you have sweet tooth, there’s a mango cake on sale for ¥10,800.

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

juste un clou cartier convenience store tokyo omotesando japan luxury

In addition to the food and drink, there is an installation of work by the Argentine artist Leandro Erlich, who recently had a blockbuster exhibition at Mori Art Museum. A special “When the Ordinary Becomes Precious” magazine is also on sale featuring photography and articles about artists.

The convenience store is effectively a promotional space for a newly launched Juste un Cloud bracelet and ring, which went on sale on September 1st. The store can be found at 5-16-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku until the end of the …continue reading


Games on the Go: Quick and Easy Activities to Use in Your English Classroom

Source: Gaijin Pot

Over the course of my 12 years in teaching, I’ve noticed that in general there are two types of teacher in the English education game.

In the first group are those who plan everything out in intricate detail, producing a lesson plan that is mapped to the second.

As for the second type, they employ an overall approach that is more along the lines of “it’ll be alright on the night.” They dare the bare minimum in preparation, have little (if any) prior discussion with their colleagues and place an overwhelming emphasis on improvisation and ingenuity in the classroom.

Now, most teaching guide books — as well as on the job training programs and the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course I completed in 2006 — will tell you that the former is the way to go, while the latter should be frowned upon and demonstrates a serious lack of professionalism.

My experience, however, tells me that it isn’t as clear cut as that. To be a good all-round teacher, you need a balance of both planning skills and improvisation abilities. No matter how much you organize yourself or how nicely prepared your materials are, there will be times when it becomes necessary to throw all of that stuff out the window.

Maybe the printer doesn’t work. Maybe your colleague who has all the materials calls in sick that morning. Maybe you accidentally bring the wrong materials to the wrong class. In all of the above situations, the onus is on you to come up with a solution — and fast.

In today’s post, I want to offer some game ideas I’ve used down the years for those times when — through no fault of my own — my only option was to “wing it.”

Each of these activities will take up …continue reading