Category Archives: SOCIETY

Travel Tales from Hokkaido Part 2: Discovering a New World

Source: Gaijin Pot

My journey west through Hokkaido continues as the bus snakes its way back and forth along the curving mountain road. We climb upwards, cresting over the peak to reveal an expansive, unspoiled stretch of gently rolling hills below. It’s sublime views like this that make Japan’s northernmost island such a joyful surprise for travelers. The landscape is unlike any other place in the country.

On my third day of travels, having flown up from Tokyo Haneda Airport courtesy of the Japan Airlines Japan Explorer Pass, we’re driving from the friendly town of Obihiro to the small village of Biei. You might not have heard of one, but you’ll probably recognize the other.

In search of a desktop background

With a population of around 10,000, Biei is disproportionately famous due to the many photographs of its scenic landscapes used regularly in nationwide advertising campaigns, and as default Apple display backgrounds.

Coming out of the mountains and returning to flatter terrain, the small traces of a town reveal themselves from beneath the freshly fallen snow. The bus passes a hot pink pachinko parlor quirkily posed amongst the postcard-perfect surroundings before coming to an unexpected halt. Apparently this is my stop.

A tiny village with a world-famous view

After a short rest at the hotel, my first destination is the Blue Pond. Arguably the most exceptional view in the region, famous worldwide as the mesmerizing stock background for Apple’s iOS 7, I’m looking forward to seeing it in real life.

When the neighboring volcano, Mount Tokachi, erupted in 1988, the townspeople created this pond as a cautionary measure to absorb volcanic flow and prevent it from destroying the residences at the mountain’s base. The incidental addition of aluminum hydroxide to the pond turned the water a …continue reading


Chocolate and Valentine's Day in Japan

It’s about that time of year again – Valentine’s Day in Japan.So the story goes, a while back, a western advertisement for chocolates was misunderstood and the tradition was started for women to give men chocolates for Valentine’s Day. (As we all know, that’s not exactly how it goes back home, but some of us don’t mind at all. )In the 70s, the holiday called White Day (March 14th) was started with the intention being for men to respond to the gifts women give by giving white chocolate (or flowers, etc.). It was more of a push from sweets companies for even more sales during this time of year. From what I have seen and heard, this return gift rarely happens.It brings to mind the elementary school Valentine’s Day tradition back home, exchanging small character cards and cheesy heart shaped candies. In Japan, it’s not at all uncommon for girls to give chocolates to male classmates, even at a young age, in addition to moms giving their sons chocolate. We can find cute chocolates targeted towards small kids in addition to the super fancy variety.These kinds of Valentine’s Day gifts would be considered “Giri-Choco,” meaning there is an obligation to give a gift to classmates or coworkers. This isn’t as easily translated as that – plenty of women choose to opt out of this ‘obligation.’ Sometimes opting out of giving giri chocolate to boys who aren’t so popular, students and employees give chocolates to only the classmates and coworkers who are more pushy (or have some power over their jobs). It’s more a matter of obligation to those who are… superior to you, I suppose. Men are supposed to return the favor on White Day, but I haven’t seen it happen in the workplace or in schools, and they …continue reading


Janken for Fried Shrimp? YES!

“Janken (rock,paper, scissors) with our staff. If you WIN, you get 4 extra fried shrimps for FREE!”I read that ad in the local magazine for this little seafood restaurant inside the fish wholesale market in Ageo city of Saitama and was instantly intrigued. Play rock, paper, scissors for free food? That idea itself is funny enough for me to make a visit.At this little shop with the most laid-back atmosphere I’ve ever entered, I presented the coupon to the staff and she smiled and said “Only one attempt, a draw is a loss. Are you ready?” At a 33.3% probability for victory, luck was on my side and my scissors beat her paper!”Here you are, you Champion of the Galaxy!” (She didn’t actually say that.)And wow, was I not prepared for this! I was so focused on winning the shrimp, I totally forgot to mention above that the meal itself included a negitoro (minced fatty tuna and green onion) rice bowl, a bowl of miso soup cooked with crab, and 4 very promising-looking fried shrimp. That’s before you win and net yourself the double shrimp bonus, and the meal was only 1300yen! What. A. Steal!That meal was definitely the most unique dining experience I’ve had alone in Japan, and the only one time that me winning at janken rewarded me with something delicious! (Note: I lost all the other times I revisited the shop. She must have seen through my technique.)—————————————–Follow for more everyday magic I encounter in Japan! …continue reading


Theories on Racial Profiling Discrepancies in Japan

Been getting so many comments on today’s #BlackEye article that I believe I’m going to have to do a follow-up. Perhaps even something investigative, either on my blog or on my column. haven’t decided yet.

Because these comments are ALL over the place!

(by the way, If you haven’t read the article, you can peep it HERE:

It seems these incidents just happen or don’t happen, case by case. Regardless of wardrobe or location or time of day or night, etc…

Perhaps even regardless of race. That is, as long as your race is non-Japanese.

I’ve got white commenters saying it happens all the time, and black commenters saying it never happens. I’ve got people in the countryside feeling targeted and people in the inner cities saying they’ve never felt targeted.

I learned from reading the comments on this story that one white gentleman learned that the police in his case were stopping foreigners just for training purposes!!! (see the comment section HERE for more info on this incident).

There seems no discernible pattern. So hard to put your finger on a definite profile.

I’m beginning to think that it happens in waves everywhere…you know?

My theory is, it’s not a standing profile or order. But periodically there are sweeps (for whatever reason – an incident, a training exercise, etc…) that target foreigners and last for weeks or months, in any given area, and then stop. So you’ll get people who get caught up in these sweeps feeling the impact of the profiling, but once it’s gone people in that very same area will say they experienced nothing of the sort because somehow the sweep missed them.

Anyway, just hypothesizing…trying to discern a reason for the discrepancies. I would love to hear your thoughts or theories. Perhaps we can get them translated into Japanese and …continue reading


This Weekend: Tokyo Area Events For Jan 28-29

A New Year Spectacle

Chinese New Year 2017

Held for the 31st time, Yokohama Chinatown’s Chinese New Year celebration is now a popular annual tourist destination. Starting this weekend, celebrate the new year in an authentic Chinese style, with the countdown taking place from 12 a.m. on Saturday. Expect much fun, loud sounds and spectacular performances. Happy New Year to everyone celebrating the Chinese style!

Sat, Jan. 28-Sat, Feb. 11, 2017
Varies depending on events
Around Yokohama Chinatown areas, Yamashitacho, Naka, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture

More Info

For Good Luck

Daruma Doll Fair

Daruma dolls are a symbol of good luck and prosperity and they are celebrated here at this event in all shapes and sizes. Bring your old ones and leave them at the temple for good luck, while you browse through the many stalls selling new ones. Visit this colorful temple for a great traditional Japanese experience at the company of good matsuri-style food, toys and games for children.

Saturday, January 28, 2017
All day
Takahata Fudoson Temple, Takahata 733, Hino-shi, Tokyo

More Info

Edo Period Laughs

Comical Edo People by Utagawa Hirokage

Sometimes true art is about parody and taking things not that seriously. Utagawa Hirokage’s famous work “Comical Views of Famous Places in Edo” comically depicts Edokko (slightly spoiled Edo people) having fun and goofing around in the late Edo period. With all 50 works in the series on display, this is a great chance to …continue reading