Category Archives: SOCIETY

News: All That Is Fit To Drink, Without Fear But With Flavor

“Take this whisky, please,” said the elderly Japanese man running a liquor store in a small town in Ibaragi Prefecture. He was cheerful and insistent. “It’s called News and you’re a journalist, so it’s the perfect blend. Please, I have two bottles and it’s just gathering dust.” And as I protested, he pulled it off the shelf, lightly dusted it, put it in a bag and handed it to me.

It is April 20th 2019. I’ve been in Ibaragi for two days working on four stories with a television crew. The four stories are:

1) The problems Japan’s traditional lacquerware artists (urushi/漆の職人) are facing as the artisans capable of harvesting the sap from the urushi trees die off.

2) The mild and refreshing green tea of the region (奥久慈茶) which has almost died out due to the Fukushima disaster.

3) The tradition of crafting ink-stones (硯/suzuri) which are essential for beautiful Japanese calligraphy (Shodo/書道・習字)

4) The history of konyaku (菎蒻) which is used to make Shirataki noodles, faux sashimi, and has become very popular because it’s filling and low in calories.

I was also considering a fifth story about the local delicacy: Shamo. Shamo (軍鶏) are free-range chickens that were originally fighting birds (喧嘩鳥) used in cock-fights and later domesticated. We had lunch at a place famous for it’s Shamo Oyako-don, which is chicken and egg over rice. Oyako means parent and child and if you think about it, eating a chicken with egg, is kind of horrifying. Don’t think about it.

The town we were visiting once had a population of over 40,000 people 20 years ago, but is down to a third of that number. The Game Center is shuttered and looks like it has been that way for many years. Many of the stores on the main …continue reading


Tweet of the Week #27

Source: Gaijin Pot

Cooking. It’s an art everyone has to master at one point or another. But on the road to cooking mastery, we’re all bound to have a few, erm, accidents along the way. That’s what we learned on Twitter last week when the hashtag #お料理(りょうり)ヘタクソ選手権(せんしゅけん) (“Competition for the worst cook”) made it to the top of the list.

Brace yourself, epic pics are coming

Japanese people are quite enthusiastic when it comes to making food look fun. But the scientific complexity of cooking can quickly turn what should have been kawaii (cute) into a monstrous creation.

“Pie No Mi” is a famous snack in Japan of mini pastries filled with chocolate. This person has made their own version in the shape of what we’re guessing was supposed to be Pikachu projectile vomiting.


— あー (@hanahina53) April 14, 2019

パイの実(み)みたいになる予定(よてい)だった = It was supposed to be something like Pie no Mi

Pie No Mi is a super popular Japanese snack that looks nothing like Pikachu.

Slime is the mascot of the Dragon Quest role-playing video game franchise. Here he is fresh out of the oven looking like he’s drunk six pints of sake.


— みーしゃ (@___schwarzmixa) April 14, 2019

スライムできt…!し、死(し)んでる… = I’ve made Slimes… D…Dying…*

OK. These cookies below actually looked pretty good before the passing of time ruined them.


— 天野名雪 (@7yuki_amano) April 13, 2019

次(つぎ)の日(ひ)ちゃんと成功(せいこう)しました… = The next day was successful…

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get away from these terrifying cupcakes.


— ぴよまる🐤凛ちゃん (@rinchanshika1) April 13, 2019

見本(みほん)通(とお)りにはいかない = Can’t make it like the model

We can’t even begin to fathom what this …continue reading


Vote in Your Home Country if You Live in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot

If there’s one thing I’m prone to now and again, it’s a good, long political rant. I have strong views on a number of today’s issues. You name it — Brexit, Trump, capitalism, socialism — I’ve got an opinion on them. However, if you don’t practice what you preach and exercise your right to vote, then ultimately all those free-flowing Facebook rants and long-form thoughts are meaningless.

But what if you currently live in Japan and still want to participate in the political decisions in your home country? Different nations have different rules, of course, and the extent to which you can participate in your democratic process — as a citizen who lives abroad — varies from country to country.

Oh Snap! Another Japan Election

There are too many different nationalities to list here, so I’ve decided today to concentrate on the five most common amongst our readership: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and the U.K. — all of which, most likely, have elections coming up in the next year or so. If you are from outside these countries, then your best option is to contact your country’s embassy or consulate here in Japan.

To that end, here’s how foreigners in Japan of these nationalities can have their say in their country’s elections (listed in order of upcoming election date).

1. Australia

The next Australian federal election will be held on May 18, 2019.

Quick question: What do North Korea and Australia have in common? Answer? Mandatory voting.

Yes, in Australia, everyone who is eligible to vote is legally required to do so. Of course, if you don’t you’ll be fined AU$20, …continue reading


My Japan Times JBC 115: “Know your rights when checking in at an Airbnb” (Apr 17, 2019)


JT: Last year, the government passed a law covering minpaku, which is when people rent out space on their properties to travelers (a la Airbnb). The law is part of an effort to regulate accommodations amid a tourism boom ahead of the 2020 Olympics. One issue for non-Japanese travelers, though, has been whether they must show ID such as a passports at check-in.

For hotels, which fall under the Hotel Business Law, the regulation has always been this: For any adult, Japanese or non-Japanese, who has an address in Japan, ID is not required. You just write your contact details in the guest registry. However, for guests who don’t reside in this country, displaying ID (i.e., your passport) is required.

Seems straightforward so far, right? But as has been reported several times over more than 10 years of this column, the police (and occasionally the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) have confused things. Some hotels have been instructed that all “foreign guests” must show ID, specifically their passports… Rest at …continue reading