Category Archives: SOCIETY

The #KimOhNo Conversation: How Do Japanese People Feel About It Now?


Body Spandex #KimOhNoIn late June, reality television star, Kim Kardashian West, announced a new shapewear collection called “Kimono.” The backlash was instant. With Japanese people at its forefront, a #KimOhNo Twitter campaign was launched against West, as well as a petition via with as many as 120,000 signatures just days after her news. At first, the fashion mogul remained unwavering; she made an official statement in a New York Times article that said, “I understand and have a deep respect for the significance of the kimono in Japanese culture,” reaffirming the pride she has for her brand and its inclusivity.

My perception and image of kimono are not going to change at all…[I’m] sure people will keep using the word with what it has meant for thousands of years.

However, just a day after the mayor of Kyoto, Daisaku Kadokawa, penned an open letter to West asking her to reconsider. The celebrity backed down and agreed to re-release her product under a new name, Solutionwear. This shift took place less than a week after her initial kimono brand name reveal.

Intrigued by the heavy wave of protests and its fast turnaround success, I interviewed twelve Japanese people living inside and outside of Japan on how they felt about the recent news. Here’s what they had to say:

For the sake of privacy, some interviewees have used pseudonyms. Their responses have been condensed and edited, and some have been translated from Japanese.

Confusion and Eye Rolls

Words, Words, Words #KimOhNo

Some simply questioned Kardashian West’s latest move. It was difficult to place their finger on the exact …continue reading


Permanent Poop Museum Now Open in Tokyo

Source: Gaijin Pot

In March this year, Yokohama opened its doors to one of its most attention-grabbing attractions yet, a museum dedicated to poop.

Officially known as the Unko Museum (“unko” is poop in Japanese) this brightly colored feces-fascinated museum was meant to be a temporary attraction that would run until July. No major surprise here (in the land of magical toilets) but the museum was so poop-ular that its opening was extended until September 30.

Now given the attraction’s unprecedented success, the museum has followed through with its plans to establish an outpost in Odaiba, where it will become a permanent Tokyo attraction.

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Izakaya 「Daruma」in Monzen-Nakacho

My Tachinomiya research has been greatly influenced by Yoshida Rui and especially his Sakaba Hourouki TV show on the TBS networks. Yoshida calls himself a 「酒場ライタ」 or “Tavern writer.” In a typical 15 minute show he starts out at an easily accessible train station, explores local landmarks and/or rare shops in the area before arriving at an izakaya or “traditional Japanese pub.” Here he drinks, eats, interacts with the owner of the shop and regular customers, typically getting a little drunk in the process. While Japanese TV is full of food shows, Yoshida’s approach is interesting/entertaining and real. He then leaves the izakaya with some final comments and then presents a haiku about his adventures that day. Remember, this is all in a 15 minute show. He’s been doing it since 2003 and he is still popular. I have called his approach ethnographic, in the spirit of autoethnography and Gonzo Anthropology.

So, before my recent trip to Tokyo I researched the records of all the izakaya that Yoshida has visited in Tokyo. I have never had any luck finding a good place (in terms of good food, good drink, friendly atmosphere) in Tokyo as opposed to my many successes in Osaka. I remembered one episode in particular about a shop called Daruma in Monzen-Nakacho. It was featured on episode #226 first aired on December 3, 2007. It seemed to meet all of my criteria so I went to check it out.

And it was great! All that I wanted! Everyone was very nice and friendly. Lots of regulars were there. The place was packed on an early Monday evening. It was like a big family.

How to Make Small Talk in Japanese

Source: Gaijin Pot
How to make small talk in Japanese

One of the strangest things for me when I moved from Osaka to a part of town that, you know, didn’t look like a Blade Runner-esque, post-apocalyptic hellscape, was that people actually started greeting me and acknowledging my existence.

For the first time, I actually had to interact with normal people on a daily basis. However, these interactions revealed some weaknesses in my skillset. Even though I felt my Japanese vocab was up to the task, I often used it in an inappropriate way for the situation and made things more awkward than they already were!

One of the strangest examples of this is when Japanese people ask obvious questions simply to be polite. The lady who lives below you has a leash in her hand and a constantly fidgeting small dog clutched in the other? You might hear someone unironically ask 散歩(さんぽ)ですか? The schoolgirl who lives next door and has a bag covered in the meticulously coiffed faces of her favorite Korean pop idols? How about asking her, K-POPは好(す)きですか?

Luckily, if you are in doubt about what the person may be interested in, it is safe to go for meaningless talk about the weather in Japan too.

The ubiquitous 暑(あつ)いですね is a good example of this. As are other similar forms such as 寒(さむ)いですね etc.

Of course, this type of set phrase should not be taken literally (everyone, of course, knows it’s hot) and should instead be considered as meaning “I am trying to fill this silence with talk, please reciprocate.”

Other set phrases along these lines include:

  • 今日はいい天気(てんき)ですね = Today is good weather, isn’t it?
  • 今日、雨(あめ)は酷(ひど)いですね = Today, this rain is terrible, isn’t it?
  • 最近(さいきん)、暑(あつ)くなって暑(き)ましたね = Recently, it’s getting hotter, isn’t it?

…and one for those who want to make their Japanese sound better than it actually is:

  • めっきり寒(さむ)くなった = It’s got remarkably colder

So what happens if …continue reading


British widow fights to know the truth on 34th Anniversary of the Japan Airlines Flight 123 crash.

by Susanne Bayly-Yukawa

I am the British widow of Akihisa Yukawa who was one of the 520 victims who died in the Japan Airlines Boeing 747 flight 123 from Tokyo to Osaka crashed into Mount Osutaka – the world’s largest single aviation disaster.

I came to Japan to fight for justice – 34 years after his death. For the first time I have joined the Japanese bereaved to request a reinvestigation of the crash based on new evidence.

On 16th July I participated in a symposium at Waseda University which outlined the need for information disclosure of the Japan Airline flight 123 crash. The details of the symposium are here–please read for yourself.

I am aware the Japanese government announced in 2000 that the documents about the crash were copied onto microfilms and would never be destroyed. I am joining the bereaved in asking for these documents to be released now. We all know that part of the plane is still in Sugami Bay, I am campaigning to have it salvaged and re-investigated. There is considerable evidence that was not included in the original crash report – these significant new facts simply cannot be ignored. In accordance with international guidelines there is a necessity to re-open the crash investigation based on these facts. This is the worst single Boeing crash in history, the bereaved – and the world deserve to know what really happened. It is a human right to know the truth. Powerful corporations over the world over continue to escape accountability and victims have no route to remedy. I am calling for a new international law to protect everyone from the harm caused by the lack of truth and accountability. I am speaking with a number of Japanese journalists/documentary makers and have agreed to be interviewed on the …continue reading