December 1, 2008

What's in common between Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and H&M (in Japan)?

The answer is a waiting line. A long one.

Every time a foreign retail chain opens its first shop in Japan, it almost always becomes a social phenomenon. Mass media sensationally promote newly-arrived stores, using words such as "日本上陸 Nihon Joriku/Landing in Japan" or
"日本進出 Nihon Shinshutsu/Entering into Japan."

H&M, a Sweden-based clothing chain has launched its first shop in Ginza, Tokyo, on September 13. 5,000 people had been in line even before the shop opened, and many spent four hours just to get into the shop on the first day. Their second flagship store in Harajyuku has opened on November 8, targeting at younger customers. There are still waiting lines at these shops as long as 1-hour.

The following numbers indicate how popular foreign stores are in Japan
(check out the links for the pictures of long lines):

# of people in line before store opened
H&M Ginza-----------5,000
H&M Harajyuku-------2,000
Burger King------------700

# of customers on the 1st day
H&M Ginza----------------8,300
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts---2,700

Many Japanese are buying into something new AND imported from foreign countries. By "foreign countries," they mean North America and Europe when it comes to new retail stores and many other industries.

People wait in lines with patience, believing the product is worth spending time for. Or, maybe they simply like showing off and talking about what they have seen and bought at newly-opened stores. It's not just shopping but more like sightseeing, experiencing something that no one has seen yet OR everyone around you has seen yet.

The aspiration for the Western lifestyle among the Japanese can have its origin in the Meiji Restoration in the late nineteenth century. That was the national policy to emulate or borrow from West to "modernize" the country. Japan opened its door to the world after 350 years of national isolation, and started adopting technologies, systems and life styles from the "superior" world. This tendency still remains among many Japanese today.

Representing the curious Japanese, I love something new and Euro-American. However, I'm not patient enough to wait in long lines. When Krispy Kreme Doughnuts opened in 2006, it took 2 hours to get a doughnut. I decided not to rush. Two years later,when I stopped by a Krispy Kreme at around 6:00 p.m. on a weekend, the line was 40 minutes long. I gave up as soon as I saw the flock of people. Being desperate for an American doughnut, I tried again on an early Sunday morning at 9:30. Thankfully, I waited for only 10 minutes. The doughnut tasted so American, in other words, very sweet.

I've already been to H&M in San Francisco last year. I didn't buy anything, being unable to find something interesting (to me). I'm not buying into the huge promotion going on in Japan at this moment. However, I heard the product lineup varies from shop to shop, reflecting the demography of the area. To observe the differences and conduct hands-on research, I may go to H&M Ginza and Harajuku someday, maybe some time next year or so when the craze calms down.

September 21, 2008

SATC in Japan

I finally had a chance to go see SATC over the last weekend. It's been doing very well in Japan , and I heard that you may have to get to the theater earlier to get a ticket. So this time, I reserved a seat on-line for my first time because I really needed to see the movie on that day to refresh myself!

I was surprised to see too many women (98% of the audience were women, I think) flocking to the Roppongi Hills movie theater. It was like a popular clothing shop during Holiday season. Many of them seemed to be mature and fashionable working women in Tokyo. I felt a little out of place there, wearing an Abercrombie tank top, an American Eagle top, and a pair of Yanuk buggy pants.

Anyway, as a big fan of SATC, I really like the movie! Samantha is awesome as always. She is hell of funny! I laughed a lot while watching the movie and I even forgot about what I had been worried about these days. The Brooklyn bridge scene was so moving that I cried. I didn't relate myself to Carrie, who is too enthusiastic about her wedding plan. However, I admire Sarah's professionalism and commitment to this movie, in which she looks at herself in a mirror without make-up. That scene was quite effective to present the tough time that Carrie was going through.

I can't wait until the film is out on DVD. I heard it comes out on this Tuesday in the US. I'm jealous of you guys! It's available only at movie theaters here in Tokyo.

I found an interesting column on a newspaper about SATC. The drama's DVD box did well only in Tokyo, not in Osaka, which is in western part of Japan. According to the article, there are fewer workplaces for career-oriented women in the region than in Tokyo. He assumes that the dream life for women in the area may still be like "Get married with a man from a rich family," so that these women may be reluctant to watch the drama in which working women around 40 meet men and have sex a lot.

I don't know if his argument is right or not because I've never been there and I live in Tokyo, a Japanese equivalent of New York. I just can say I feel great to be in this exciting city, may be not as exciting as New York, though.

August 10, 2008

Late-summer Greetings from Very Muggy Tokyo

残暑お見舞い申し上げます zansho omimai moushiagemasu is a common greeting card message that Japanese use during this season. 残暑 Zansho or late-summer refers to around the period between August 8th through September 20th. I've just published a post wishing my readers good health on my Japanese blog.

If you are planning a trip to Japan, I urge you to avoid summer, especially August. It gets as hot as 94 degrees, was 96 degrees last Friday, and it's very muggy. When you walk outside, you sweat like you are in a steam bath. If you have been to Japan in summer, you know exactly what I mean. I miss the dry summer in California...

During this season, you should also expect evening showers and thunderstorms. Oh, this post sounds like a weather forecast!Speaking of weather, you may want to check out sites like this.

Since we use Celsius in Japan, I found it difficult to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius when I was living in the U.S. The calculation goes like, "98(℉)-30=68. 68÷2=34. 34+2=36(℃)."

To beat summer heat fatigue, eel is one of the best food choices because it's very nutritious, rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, and E. Many Japanese eat grilled eel on Doyou no Ushi no Hi or Midsummer Day(s) of the Ox during the hottest summer (July 24th and August 5th this year). We have eel throughout the year but the consumption of eel or うなぎ/鰻 unagi in Japanese reaches its peak on the day (s).

Do you still want to visit Japan during summer?
If so, you may want to eat eel to survive!

August 3, 2008

Airship Flying over Tokyo

You should always carry a camera because you don't know when you run across something amazing and/or bloggable.

I went to the library located on the 49th floor of Roppongi Hills the other day. When I was having some lemon and cranberry soda, something huge caught my eyes. It was flying close to the tower. "What the heck is that?"

It's an airship called the Zeppelin NT. It's sort of like a moving billboard, flying faster than I imagined so that it was a little difficult to capture it. (Sorry about the quality!) Don't you think it looks like a whale?

The airship is very rare.

At present, there are only three Zeppelin NTs in the entire world and only two of those can be used for commercial purposes. Nippon Airship Corporation's Zeppelin NT is the only one outside of Germany.
(Source: Nippon Airship Corporation website )

The price for a 90-minute-sightseeing flight over Tokyo is from 148,000 yen (≈$1,375.20). I heard that the flight tickets are often sent as anniversary gifts. If you are interested, please contact Nippon Airship Corporation and have an unforgettable flight!

July 27, 2008

Speed Racer + Sex and the City

As I mentioned in Tokyo Movie Experience Part 3, I went to see Speed Racer! I'm planning to go see it one more time at the movie theater. Yopiko, a huuuuge fan of Jin Akanishi and one of the most prominent fan blogger, went to see the movie twice! Some fans say they saw it three times! I admire their enthusiasm.

I fully enjoyed Jin's voice acting for Speed Racer and the movie itself, of course. My favorite line is, "What should I do with you?" Speed calmly talks to his car when it's stopped, trying to figure out what to do next with the gear. Speed's (Jin's) heavy breathing right after the race is incredibly sexy. Jin's voice is a gem!

I watched on TV that Jin and Emile Hirsch (aka Speed) chatted in English at the press conference in Tokyo. In the photo session, Jin helped Emile with interpretation because photographers gave instructions to them in Japanese. (Source: oricon style 7/21 issue, 2008) Among Japanese male celebrities, who else can communicate with Hollywood stars in English? All I can think of are Masi Oka and Ken Watanabe. Jin was so stunning on the stage that he looked like a Hollywood star to me. Check out this video. Other related videos were already deleted.

Sex and the City will finally open on August 23 in Japan. This is a flyer that I got at the movie theater. Flyers are available at theaters and we can get information on upcoming movies. It's a popular PR tool in Japan to get moviegoers back to the theater.

Have you seen the movie? How do you like it? Guess what, I love the series so much that I watched all of the episodes. I like not only its fashion but also the way it portrays women's friendship. I even have the SATC official guidebook, "Kiss and Tell." The book has a lot of funny pages, including who they "did" and "didn't."

I'm sorry to say this to Carrie's fan, but I often get annoyed by her for some reason. I love her shoes, though. :) I want to be a woman who is sort of half Miranda and half Charlotte. Smart and beautiful. Have a good balance of being logical and emotional. Who do you like most? I can't wait to see SATC the movie!

July 22, 2008

Happily Ever After Fantasy? White Man Cafe

I just watched CNN world news yesterday, which was about "Butlers Cafe" in Shibuya, Tokyo.
The cafe is full of white male "butlers." It's the male equivalent of Akiba's maid cafe for female customers.

Before I start talking about it, please check out the video first. The image is more powerful than text to explain what it's like at the cafe.

So, what do you think?

My first impression was, "Are they really wearing tiaras? Or is it just for TV?" I don't want to say bad things about these women, but the tiara thing was kind of silly...

The point is all the butlers are WHITE men. This shows how many Japanese women are into the image of Western men appearing in Hollywood movies and TV series--today's fairy tales. If Japanese men served tea as butlers, female customers would not get refreshed because Japanese men remind them of their daily lives. Talking to good-looking Westerners in ENGLISH is surreal for them. These women come to the cafe to free themselves from stress, according to the CNN report.

I'm surprised that there are women out there who are so stressed out that they end up going to places like this. Unfortunately, Japan is still male-dominated society so that a lot of females may be stressed out as CNN points out. However, are they really that tired? If so, I want to let them know my blog URL to share their thoughts with me and hopefully, to make them feel better. It's totally free! Or, are they just interested in white men and looking for opportunities to speak English?

To heal your mind is not simple. Of course, I'd love to talk to good-looking gentlemen. But not at the cafe at least for me. I'd rather find a more constructive way to make me happy, not an instant relief but a long-lasting solution. Maybe I'm not good at just having fun at ease with someone unknown.

For details, check out Butlers Cafe website and a female writer's report of her experience of being a "Princess" at the cafe. It's a fun reading with lots of photos (mostly in Japanese). The reporter looks cheerful in every picture, I don't understand what's good about some guy holding and lifting you up, though. Note that you have to pay extra for the lifting service.

Would you like to go to a cafe where good-looking Japanese men in samurai costumes serving you drinks?

July 14, 2008

Kanji of the Day

reading: hi, bi, jitsu, ka, nichi, ni,
meaning: day, everyday, the sun, Japan


*日焼けする hiyake suru/ get a sun tan

*日焼け止めを塗る hiyakedome wo nuru/
apply [put on] sunscreen [sunblock]

*日々 hibi/ everyday, daily, day-to-day, days=毎日 mainichi
e.g. 日々の生活 hibi no seikatsu/ everyday[daily] life
日々の食事/食生活 hibi no shokuji/ shokuseikatsu/ daily diet
幸せな日々を送る shiawase na hibi wo okuru/ spend happy days

*日曜日 (too much 日!) nichiyoubi/ Sunday

*休日 kyuujitsu/ holiday, day off

*本日 honjitsu/ today=今日 kyou(exceptional reading of the kanji)/ today 
Note that 本日Honjitu sounds more formal.  

*三日、3日 mikka/ the third day, three days

*日常会話 nichijo kaiwa/ daily [everyday] conversation

*日米関係 nichibei kankei/ Japan-U.S. relations/relationship

*日本 nihon, nippon/ Japan
e.g. 日本人と結婚したい nihonjin to kekkon sitai/ I want to marry a Japanese man/woman.

*日記 nikki/ diary, journal
e.g. 毎日、日本語で日記を書く (too much 日, again!) mainichi nihongo de nikki wo kaku/ keep a journal in Japanese every day

Please note that examples shown above are the major usage of the kanji. I might not have included all the meanings and readings.

July 7, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love USA: The Conversation Continues

Having spent 3 years in the U.S. may not be enough to fully understand its culture and society. Christy gave me new insights into what the U.S. looks like through her comment on 10 Reasons Why I Love USA. I'm probably into the U.S. too much to see the reality with an objective point of view. And I might have praised the U.S. TOO much. This post is a very long comment for Christy.

Here's my feedback:

1. I never thought about the "praise too much" tendency from your perspective. You gave me a fresh insight. As you point out, if people feel pressure to praise each other, it must be stressful. They can also get skeptical when they get compliments, wondering if people are saying the truth or lie. When I was living in the U.S., I would often get tired of saying "Oh, I love your shoes!" or whatever.

I agree with your saying that it's gotten to the point where even constructive criticism is seen as offensive. That's a very good point. We don't have to always praise but mention negative points as well to solve problems. If a criticism is not derived hatred feelings but is based on objectivity, that's fair and positive.

I just wanted to say that we Japanese are TOO humble. Luckily, I'm not. I changed a lot after having studied in the U.S. My family says I've become less humble and more selfish, but I feel much happier about being myself. Showing that you are proud of yourself/your achievement to a certain degree is often considered as "He/she is too proud of himself/herself. He/She gets big headed." That was the way older generations used to be in this society. People are changing now and start praising each other probably because the Japanese have realized they should focus more on building self-esteem.

8. About Hollywood, you are right, Christy. The quality depends on the show/movie. For example, I don't watch Japanese TV shows a lot, but I liked a drama series, "Last Friends." I was so into the drama that I even cried when Sosuke killed himself. On the other hand, American TV shows like "Temptation Island" are a waste of time for me. And movies like, "There's Something About Mary" and "Knocked Up" know, they suck. I don't understand why these movies were big hits in the U.S. (Knocked Up never came to Japan, btw.)

People are attracted to either something different from them or something similar to them. I'm interested in something different from my own culture. And so are you. You like Japanese TV shows better than American ones. This is very interesting.

By the way, did you know Aragaki Yui and Yama-P are appearing in a new drama, Code Blue?

10. About learning English, I totally agree with what you are saying. My college professors would tell me, "Karen, you'll be surprised if you read American students' papers. Their writing skills are terrible." Being a native English speaker doesn't always mean being a good writer/speaker. When I just entered the college, my listening skills were too poor to to be able to understand what my classmates were talking about and they all sounded smart to me. Turned out, I was wrong. As I got used to listening to native speakers' English, I came to realize that many of them were just BSing to increase their class participation.

I see what you are saying; however, being able to speak English means you are one step ahead of international communication and that gap is hard to catch up with. It really was for me, and I'm still struggling with it. It's a great advantage in terms of international communication, no matter how good or poor your English is, because you can reach a wider audience than Japanese speakers can ever have.

About college tuition, if a California resident goes to UC Berkeley, it costs $4,465.75 per semester. The tuition for nonresidents is $14,769.75. I'm not saying $4,465.75 is inexpensive. This tuition gap applies to American students those who come to Japan. But we don't have many students from your country. According to Institute of International Education Open Doors Report 2007, the number of American students was 4,411, while the U.S. hosted 35,282 Japanese students. People go to places where opportunities and worth learning courses are being offered.

I'd like to let you know that I'm aware of negative aspects of your country as well. For example, the U.S. is the world's biggest polluter with highest proportion of CO2 emission in the the world--22% as opposed to Japan's 4.7%. (Source: EDMC / Handbook of Energy and Economic Statistics, 2008 ) The U.S. has no national health care insurance system. Racism is still out there...and the list goes on. Sorry, I'm getting a bit sarcastic here.

Having said that, I still believe that being an American is a great advantage in the world. Japan is changing, but the speed is very slow...I often think about what I'm going to do to survive this society and live a happy and fulfilled life.Thank you again for reading my blog and leaving a profound comment, which reminds me of my college. It's really interesting that even if we see the same reality, the feelings we have about it turn out to be different, depending on the experiences and values that each has. I'm impressed by your deep knowledge of Japanese culture and society. I will try to write more entertaining posts on Japan. Please come back to my blog again and again!

July 4, 2008

10 Reasons Why I Love USA

I'm celebrating the Fourth of July here in Japan, writing this post and remembering the fireworks that I watched on San Francisco Bay. I can sing the Star-Spangled Burner without even listening to it. I wish I were American. When I was a child, I always wanted to go to the United States of America. That dream was realized and I'm still in love with you, USA.

This post is based on my own experiences and observations of people I met in the U.S. and Japan. Here are 10 reasons why I love the land of the free:

1. People praise each other a lot. They try to find positive aspects of people and things. In Japan, we are likely to criticize, focusing on downside and what's missing. Americans are less judgmental and more positive than Japanese.

2. People express their feelings with words. In Japan, many people tend to rely on nonverbal communication called "ishindenshin." I don't think that's enough. We have to say it out loud to let the other person know how we feel about him/her. We Japanese need to use more expressions like "Thank you," "Good job" and "I love you."

3. People are encouraged to try new things. What matters is to challenge yourself. Japanese tend to follow precedent, trying not to be new or different from the majority. In Japan, we feel pressure from the society to play expected roles, depending on our age and gender. You should not meet others' expectations but follow your heart because it's your life. In the U.S., I care less about my age, gender, and weight(oops!), which makes me happy.

4. People have their own opinions and are being specific. In Japan, when people are asked, "What do you think about it? " or "What do you want?" many of them simply answer, "I don't know." Being different means being original in the U.S., while many Japanese try to fit the the social norms. That is not exciting.

5. Americans strongly believe that they can make a difference to change the world. People, maybe not the government, have the power to solve problems, such as poverty and human rights violations. They discuss and work together to deal with the problems within and outside the U.S.

6. Houses are more spacious and streets are wider than those in Japan. Japan is overpopulated with a population of around 127 million in roughly the size of California. Almost everywhere is crowded in the cities. It's so stressful and I need more space!

7. I heard American business practices are 10 years ahead of Japan's. Japanese women still face glass ceiling and the situation is worse than in the U.S. According to The New York Times, "in 2005, women held 10.1 percent of managerial jobs, though Japan’s 27 million working women made up nearly half of its work force. By contrast, women held 42.5 percent of managerial jobs in the United States in 2005."

8. I love Hollywood. About 90% of movies and TV programs I currently watch are distributed from Hollywood. Japanese movies and TV shows are boring to me. Beverly Hills 90210 brought me to Los Angeles, seriously. I'm into HEROES now.

9. You guys have Abercrombie. Fortunately, I'm small as opposed to many Americans thanks to genes and healthy Japanese food. Abercrombie kids' XL is the just right size for me. Kids are less expensive and I can save $20 for a sweatshirt.

10. Americans don't have to spend a large amount of money and time for learning English. For an 1-hour-private lesson at an English conversation school, a Japanese student pays $80 or so. My college education and housing in the U.S. cost about a Mercedes and a Lexus. You are born to speak the world's standard language except those who immigrate to the U.S. and learn English as a second language.

No matter how difficult and frustrating it often gets when I speak English, to live in the U.S. is much happier for me than to live in my own country. Dear Americans, I just want to tell you that you are one of the most fortunate people in the world. You should be proud to be American. I'm so jealous of you guys!

June 27, 2008

Tokyo Movie Experience Part 3

About 50-60% of the movies here in Japan are Japanese, but I rarely see them. I've never seen any Kurosawa films. I'm so into Hollywood movies and TV series.

American movie titles are often renamed and become longer than the original titles when these are translated into Japanese. Take a look at Japan box office below to see the diffrences. The titles in boldface are the original ones. Japanese movies are written in purple.

Japan box office Weekend of June 21, 2008 - June 22, 2008

(Japanese->reading in Katakana->English translation->English original title)

1. インディ・ジョーンズ クリスタル・スカルの王国 Indy Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ---> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

2. ザ・マジック・アワー  The Magic Hour

3. 奇跡のシンフォニー Kiseki no shinfonii/The Miracle Symphony--->August Rush

4. ナルニア国物語 第2章:カスピアン王子の角笛 Naruniakoku monogatari dainishou: kasupian ouji no tunobue/The Chronicles of Narnia Chapter 2: The Horn of Prince Caspian --->The The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

5. 相棒 劇場版 絶体絶命 東京ビッグシティマラソン42.195km Aibou Gekijyoban Zettaizetsumei Tokyo Big City Marathon 42.195km /Partner the Movie: Catch-22 Tokyo Big City Marathon 42.195km

6. 西の魔女が死んだ Nishi no majo ga shinda/ The Witch of the West is Dead

7. 僕の彼女はサイボーグ  Boku no Kanojyo wa Saibougu/ My Girlfriend is a Cyborg

8. 築地魚河岸三代目  Tsukiji Uogashi Sandaime/The Third Generation of Tsukiji Riverside Fish Market

9. ラスベガスをぶっつぶせ Ras Begasu wo buttsubuse/Beat Las Vegas--->21

10. ダイブ!!  Daibu!!/Dive!!

Source: MovieWalker /Kogyo Tsushinsha

Click on movie names to get details. Some of these websites will automatically start with movie trailers.

Ta-da! Speed Racer will finally open on July 5. Have you seen it? Jin Akanishi is a voice actor in the movie. I can't wait to see (or listen to) it!

Related posts:
Tokyo Movie Experience Part 1
Tokyo Movie Experience Part 2

June 26, 2008

Tokyo Movie Experience Part 2

I've written previously on going to see movies in Japan in Tokyo Movie Experience Part 1. I must confess that I'm a huge chick flick fan. So I had already decided to see"27 Dresses" before I arrived at the multiplex.

In the first part of the movie, Jane (Katherine Heigl) goes back and forth between two wedding receptions. That is too much. One or two round trips are enough to describe Jane's personality. But overall, I like 27 Dresses. One of the funniest parts is the conversation between the nosy aunt and Jane at her sister's rehearsal dinner. I give it ★★★★ out of five stars.

Here are my "Lessons Learned from 27 Dresses":

1. Live your own life. Listen to yourself and focus on what you truly love.

2. Don't be too nice to people. Have the courage to say "No."

3. James Marsden (Kevin)has astonishingly beautiful eyes. He is cute, but not as sexy as Jin Akanishi (to me).

Whenever I go see a movie, I have caramel popcorn and coke. It's a must-buy to maximize my movie theater experience. The sizes are smaller than in the U.S., but they are huge for me. I feel like an American with these "stimulating substances." By the way, I drink coke only at movie theaters, which means I have about 10 cups of coke a year.

It's medium. The width of the popcorn container is as wide as my paper mate pen. I enjoyed my third or fourth cup of coke this year.

Do you have any idea what Japan box office is like? I'll talk about it in my next post. Till then, see you!

June 24, 2008

Tokyo Movie Experience Part 1

Do you know what it's like to go see a movie in Tokyo? It's pretty much the same as in the U.S. except for the ticket prices* and movie lineup.

Multiplex cinemas, シネマコンプレックス cinema complex or シネコン in Japanese, was launched in Japan in 1993. The number of multiplex cinemas increased rapidly like mushrooms after a rain, and by the end of 2006, 72% of the total movie theaters had become multiplex cinemas--a sort of American cultural invasion, which I welcome. (Source: TV )

TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills (shown above) is one of the most "Americanized" movie theaters in Tokyo. It's clean, large, and new, and I love it. The interior is suggestive of the near future. Click here to see great photos of the interior design.

As I explained in Golden Week and Movies, when it comes to movie release dates, there are the time lags between the U.S. and Japan. I've taken some photos of posters outside the movie theater. You will get some idea on the movie lineup in Japan at this moment. The Bucket List is still showing.

The movie that I chose be continued in my next post...

*A movie ticket costs 1800 yen (≈$16.68). We don't have matinees here in Japan. Do you want to save money? Special rate tickets are available at 1000 yen (≈$9.27) per ticket, such as "Ladies Day Tickets" on Wednesdays and "Movie Day Tickets" on the first day of each month.

June 19, 2008

iPhone: To Buy, or Not To Buy, That is the Question

I took the above picture at an Apple Store in San Francisco last summer. It was so crowded that we had to wait for about 10 minutes or so just to touch the phone. The iPhone is that popular in the U.S., and I've been hoping that it would make its way across the Pacific.

Now, Apple and its partner Softbank will finally launch the iPhone in Japan, as well as 21 other countries around the world, on July 11. Fortunately, it's a lot more affordable than the old model. I was amazed that Apple announced a partnership with Softbank because I assumed Apple would close a deal with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's leading carrier, not with Softbank, the third leading carrier.

Anyway, I can't wait to buy an iPhone. But the problem is that I'm a DoCoMo user. In fact my entire family uses DoCoMo. I'm wondering if I should switch to Softbank right away or wait and see. Sources say Apple might make a contract with DoCoMo as well. It's hard to tell when the right time to buy is and what the right cell phone is.

Another concern I have is the size of the phone. It's perfect for browsing the Internet, YouTube, and other media sites, but I can't imagine actually using it as a phone, which is supposed to be the main reason for getting an iPhone. I use my cell for emails, but I still need to make calls on it. That's what makes it a cell phone. The iPhone is incredibly large and it might look kind of silly if I use it as a phone. What do you think, iPhone users? Are you comfortable with making a call on your iPhone?

To buy an iPhone, or not to buy it, that is the question.

June 14, 2008

Jin Akanishi: Japan's Sexiest Male Celebrity

Are you living outside of Japan and are into Japanese hunks? If so, the list will definitely catch your eye!

Jin Akanishi tops the list as oricon's "10 Sexiest Male Celebrities" by an overwhelming margin. The Internet poll was conducted May 22 through 26 among 500 high school students who are registered as oricon monitor research members(250 males and 250 females).

According to the poll results, the reasons why they voted Jin Akanishi the sexiest include:

*All aspects of him, including his voice and dance, are sexy.

*His vocal style and gestures are erotic.
He gives off a sexy vibe.

*I love the way he casts a seductive side glance.

*His way of looking at the camera is so hot.

If you are getting interested in him and residing in the US, I have good news for you. Jin Akanishi, who studied English in Los Angeles and writes lyrics in English, says he hopes to launch a career in Hollywood. To American women: when he realizes his dream, please blog him to help Japanese girls keep up-to-date with his work. His fans will definitely flock to your blog. He was born on the 4th of July, sharing his birthday with the US, btw.

I've heard that Japanese male celebrities are getting popular in the US. Many American women find them attractive because they are androgynous looking and have good skin. These features may not be found in Americans and Europeans. It totally depends on the person, of course.

FYI. Here's the complete list of 10 Sexiest Male Celebrities:

1. Jin Akanishi
2. Masaharu Fukuyama
3. Takuya Kimura
4. hyde
5. Mocomichi Hayami
6. Hiro Mizushima
7. Hiroshi Tamaki
8. Gackt
9. Jun Matsumoto
9. Yu Shirota

June 10, 2008

Kanji of the Day

reading: wa, nago(-mu, -yaka), yawa(-ragu), kazu(used for personal names)
meaning: peace, harmony, calm, comforting, friendly, soften, relax, Japanese

*平和 heiwa/ peace

*調和 chouwa/ harmony

*和む nagomu/ calm, comforting, soothing, gentle
e.g. 心が和む曲をかけるkokoro ga nagomu kyoku wo kakeru/
play some soothing music 

*和やか nagoyaka/ friendly, peaceful
e.g. 和やかな雰囲気 nagoyaka na funiki/ friendly atmosphere 

*和らぐ yawaragu/ soften, ease, relax
e.g. 緊張が和らぐ香り kincho ga yawaragu kaori
=緊張を和らげる香り kincho wo yawarageru kaori/
fragrance which helps release tension

*和服 wafuku/ kimono

*和訳 wayaku/ Japanese translation

*和菓子wagashi/ Japanese cake/confectionery

Please note that examples shown above are the major usage of the kanji.
I might not have included all the meanings and readings.

June 9, 2008

Tragedy in Akihabara

All of my family couldn't sleep well last night. I even had a nightmare and woke up sweating in the middle of the night. Why didn't we sleep well?

I really don't want to use any negative words on my blog, but a man murdered 7 people in Akihabara, Tokyo, yesterday. A peaceful Sunday afternoon had become a horrifying chaos all of a sudden. Images on TV were too powerful to let us fall asleep. For more details, please check out AFP and BBC NEWS.

The victims include a 19-year old man and a 21-year-old woman. The assailant says, "I was tired of living. I came to Akihabara to kill people. It didn't matter whom I'd kill." What the heck are you talking about? No one can take someone else's life.

I guess the murderer has never been loved. If he ever had an experience of being loved or loving someone, he would know how devastating it is when someone you love loses his/her life. These victims didn't even have a chance to say good-bye to their families.

I feel indignant towards this type of selfish and hateful behavior. It's a shame to blog this incident happened in Akihabara, which is one of the Japanese pop culture icons. It should be a fun and safe place for people who enjoy shopping and hanging out with friends.

I pray for those who passed away in the incident.
May they rest in peace.
I wish those who were injured in the attack a speedy recovery.

May 31, 2008

Chabo!--Read a Book and Pledge Your Donation

Earthquakes, cyclones, poverty, political instability, and unfortunately, the list goes on...

There are so many issues all around the world that are impossible to ignore. The first step is to be aware of what is going on and be compassionate. The second move is to act in order to rescue these survivors and sufferers.
You can pledge your donation now by purchasing a book through Chabo!

Chabo! is a charity system which has been established based on the idea of Kazuyo Katsuma, a Japanese best-selling author, with efforts of other fellow authors.

The following is the English translation of "About Chabo!" from Chabo! website, translated by Karen.
We are delighted to introduce you to Chabo!, a new way of international cooperation.

Through Chabo!, Charity Book Program, authors will donate 20% of the royalties on their registered books to JEN,
a Japan-based non-governmental organization. The donation will be used to support people in need all around the world, including refugees and disaster victims. JEN also provides people in challenging situations with support programs toward self-reliance.

When you find the Chabo! mark at a bookstore, please take a few moments to browse through our books.
If you like it, simply go to the cashier!  
Chabo! brings you fresh and new charity opportunities.

For more details, please refer to this article from JapanTimes article or visit Chabo! website.
Thank you for your visiting my blog.
Have a great day!


May 25, 2008

Last Friends: Japan's Popular TV Drama

Domestic Violence(DV), Gender Identity Disorder(GID), sex phobias, child abuse and neglect, office romance and extramarital affair, AND love triangle of a DV victim woman and her best friend who suffers GID, and a man who is a child sexual abuse victim and a sufferer of sex phobias. All of these serious issues are being featured in a single TV drama called "Last Friends."

It's sort of like a mixture of Boys Don't Cry, Antwone Fisher, The O.C., ER(extramarital affair), and Beverly Hills, 90210(Remember Donna and Ray?) Moreover, these sufferers and the office romance couple share a house all together. To share a house with friends is not common in Japan, btw.

Last Friends is doing well and ranked No.3 most-watched drama of the season last week. I think it's a reflection of the current atmosphere in which we realize that we need to address these social issues. Pop culture always mirrors social phenomena and vise versa.

The theme song of the drama is "Prisoner of Love"by Hikaru Utada. The single has been downloaded 1.5 million times so far (source: Listen Japan). Utada writes music and lyrics that sound fresh and new. You can hear a little bit of the sentimental song at Listen Japan. People's comments are available on oricon style music.

Unlike American TV series, each season brings new dramas in Japan. As these programs are replaced quarterly, conversation topics and fashion trends shift accordingly. Or, current trends change so rapidly that the dramas need to follow them. No wonder it's hard to keep up with the trends even for locals in this fashion-conscious country.

May 22, 2008

Resources for aspiring architects

I got a comment from Bogota on Studying is In-Part 1 post. He/She is planning to pursue a post degree in architecture in Tokyo--sounds awesome.

I'm answering his/her questions by posting this article because it's easier for him/her to read and get information than commenting him/her back--links are not hyperlinked in the comment section.

If there's anybody out there working in the field or learning architecture in Japan, please help Bogota with his research on universities, staff, programs, etc.  

Hi, Bogota,

Thanks for your comment! I know a Todai graduate who has master's degree in Engineering, but his speciality is robot engineering, not architecture. Unfortunately, I don't know any architecture-oriented people among my friends and coworkers, so I did some research for you instead.

You may be interested in these universities:

Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music
You can email them at

Tokyo Institute of Technology
You can contact their International Office at

Waseda University

Nihon University

I also found a list of blogs of architects and students learning architecture. I'm not sure if they speak English well or not, but you may want to contact them.

Tadao Ando, Riken Yamamoto, and Kengo Kuma--as you probably know, they are one of the most famous Japanese architects (even I know).

Tadao Ando
His works include:
Fukutoshin line Shibuya station
Omotesando Hills
He used to teach at Todai, but it seems he no longer teaches there.
The University of Tokyo

Riken Yamamoto
His official site
Mr. Yamamoto teaches at Yokohama National University

Kengo Kuma
His official site
Mr. Kuma received Energy Performance+Architecture Award 2008, France.
He teaches at Keio University.

I've just written a post on my Japanese blog talking about your questions.
If anyone comments on that post, I will let you know.

Hope these will help you :)
Good luck with your research and post graduate degree program!


May 19, 2008

6 Reasons to Blog in Japanese

If you are learning Japanese, have you ever hoped to blog in Japanese? You can open your Japanese blog even today if you decide you should do so no matter how poor you think your skills are. Your Japanese blog will accelerate your learning, believe me. Here are the reasons why:

1. Have more opportunities to use Japanese
As you probably know, it is crucial to use Japanese to maintain and develop your skills. Are you learning from your teacher or language exchange partner? Of course, that's a good way to express yourself in Japanese. So, how many hours a week do you speak Japanese? I assume most of you attend 1-2 times a week and spend an hour or so for each lesson. Yes, having lessons with native Japanese-speaking teachers is simply fun.

However, I would like you to note that taking lessons is not the only way to use what you learned. And it is not enough unless you have a private teacher 24/7. To blog in Japanese, you don't have to buy textbooks, pay a large amount of money for school, or make a reservation for a lesson. Blogging provides you with virtually free and convenient lessons exclusively for you.

2. Get active
Blogging is active. You write about what you are passionate about. It's a lot more exciting than reading articles, highlighting new words. Reading is entertaining but somewhat passive. Learning Japanese tends to be filled with passive activities and it often gets boring. To keep motivated, you need to make your learning varied by doing many different kinds of practices. To increase hours to do something active, blogging is a must-try. What you need to do is just follow your heart, be real, and write about your own ideas that come from within.

3. Learn a lot by having your readers
Do you keep a journal in Japanese either in analog form or digital one? Then,who are the readers? Probably your are the only reader. I had been writing a journal in English for years, doing "fast-writing," that is what I learned from my college English professor. It's an innovative way in which you never use your dictionary without worrying about grammar or spelling. You just jot down ideas as they pop up in your mind. Although this is a great idea not to slow down your writing, there is a limit to how much you learn by fast-writing. You can't check if your writing is grammatically correct or not. You depend on words and phrases that you already know.

While keeping a journal is personal, blogging is public and you have your readers. So, you will have a little more pressure from them. This will impact you in a positive way. If you want to write quality posts, you may want to use your dictionary to avoid mistakes , check your sentences by google, and go on to Eijiro. This will enable you to expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar significantly.

4. Answer a pile of questions
It's a great opportunity for you to solve your "How do you say this in Japanese?" questions. These kinds of questions tend to pile up horrendously. You may even forget what your questions are. When you write a post in Japanese, you have to answer your questions. It takes longer than you expect. It is frustrating to realize that your Japanese skills are poorer than you imagined. This process may not sound pleasant for you, but it is a necessary step toward proficiency if you have a feeling that your vocabulary is limited and your grammar is weak. You can't be fluent in a language if you leave questions unsolved. You will consequently learn how great it feels when you tackle and solve these questions. You will feel refreshed and become wiser, too.

5. Learn Japanese on a regular basis
The more you blog, the more traffic to your blog you come to want to get. One of the tips to gain more readers is to post frequently. Writing more posts in Japanese means you will spend more time not only writing but also learning new words and phases as I explained in #3. By posting 2-3 times a week, you will probably spend at least 4-6 hours being focused on using Japanese, maybe thinking in Japanese.

6. Interact with Japanese (for free!)
Break the language barrier so that your blog will appeal to a large audience in Japan. You can gain current trends in Japan through your own media, your blog, by communicating with Japanese speakers. Thanks to the Internet, it's free to talk to them now. You don't have to buy an air ticket to share thoughts and information globally.

So, what do you think? Do you want to give it a try now?
Please let me know when you open your Japanese blog!

May 7, 2008

Studying is In-Part 2

I can't believe it's been about two weeks since I posted Studying is In-Part 1. Sorry for your waiting for Part2, in which I was going to explain the reasons behind the enthusiasm for study. I have been busy, studying.

So why do we study, anyway?

I've been thinking about the reasons why. Here's what I've come up with:

1. Study sells.
It's a kind of "hegemony" in which we buy into the ideas which mass media, publishers, and schools for working people promote through advertisements. These industries make us believe that we need to keep studying, otherwise we are going to get behind and have trouble. That's the way marketing is. Companies always want us to pay more, sending us messages that they will solve our "problems." Hence, we seem to have developed "we've got to do something about it" mentality.

2. Studying as a safety net
The industries are probably fueling demand for studying.
At the same time, we are convinced to do so because we actually face a lot of challenges. Younger generations, especially the second-generation of baby boomers in their late 20s and early 30s, or 団塊ジュニア(dankai junior), are called one of the most disadvantageous generations because they have been exposed to intense competition. They tend to be serious about improving their skills.

According to official stats, Japan's economy was booming in the last few years or so (I didn't even realize when it happened). However, it seems that those who receive benefit from the boom are newly hired employees and college graduate job-seekers. Not second-generation of baby boomers who struggled to survive "the glacial age," or 氷河期 (hyoga-ki), when jobs were so hard to come by. The survivors have become programmed to keep studying for an anticipated difficult situation. Studying is a solution to cope with anxieties and live through the seemingly uncertain society.

3. The Paradigm Shift
The uni-cultural society is finally getting diverse and once-unusual ways of life are now being widely-accepted. . Being a generalist used to be a norm for most of the Japanese company employees. However, we have seen a shift towards being a specialist in the last decade or so. Starting your your business is becoming common in this conservative country where people tend to rely on lifetime employment, rather than challenging yourself in a new field. Getting a certificate and/or achieving special skills is a plus (maybe a must) to be successful and stand out in your company, even if you choose to remain to be a company employee.

4. Instinct
Like appetite, we simply want to learn something new. We love it because it's entertaining. It's inherited through genes. Look at kids. Their eyes sparkle when they try or find something new. My curiosity about foreign countries has been the main drive of learning English. It makes my life more fulfilled.

5. Meditation
This is a very personal reason. Studying is a process in which I trust myself, believe in a better future, and gain confidence by listening to my inner voice and spending time by myself. (The photo shown above was taken at a place of quiet "meditation.")

The above list turned out be shorter and simpler than I expected. I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't come up with more. I have to improve my skills to analyze current social phenomena. Oh, I gotta go now to study...

April 25, 2008

Golden Week and Movies

Golden Week* has come! Often abbreviated as GW, Golden Week is the longest holiday season in Japan from the end of April through the beginning of May. For many Japanese, it's time to go out, do something fun, go back to their hometowns, and/or travel abroad. Tourist places get very very crowded and highways becomes "low(-speed) ways." Golden Week is like a combination of Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and maybe Thanksgiving in roughly the size of California with a population of around 127 million. Not so golden. Seriously.

I once went to Kamakura, Kanagawa, with my family during GW. We wanted to take a train to visit a temple to see the stature of Daibutsu, the Great Buddha. But the Enoden line Kamakura station was teeming with people. The two-car trains can't accommodate that many passengers. We were standing in line to get train tickets for about 30 minutes or so and ended up leaving there not being able to see Daibutsu...(The Enoden is a fun and scenic ride by the ocean, though. It's something you should try, but not during GW.)

Instead of going to chaotic sightseeing places, I'm planning to go to the middle of Tokyo this year, where streets and trains are much emptier than usual. One of the ideas that I come up with is to go see movies. A lot of movies will open during this holiday season, including "There Will Be Blood," "I'm Not There," and "The Bucket List."

When it comes to movies, the problem to live in Japan, a non-English speaking country, is the time lag. Although we have information on movies which already began showing in US, we have to wait for months until those will be released in Japan. (Many movies never come to Japan for some reasons like "Knocked Up".) For example, The Holiday opened on December 8, 2006 in US and UK. It finally arrived in Japan on March 24, 2007. It was kind of weird to see a snowy movie on a warm spring day.

I understand translation work takes so much time. There may be marketing strategies to release films according to Japanese holidays, which could cause the delay. However, on the Internet or TV, we can check out Top 10 movies in the same manner as Americans. So why not bridging the gap? Freshness matters.

Anyway, if I go see a movie in Tokyo, I can avoid the GW crowd at least.

*Golden Week is a Japanese term applied to the period containing the following public holidays:
April 29
Greenery Day, or Nature Day (みどりの日, Midori no hi?), until 2006
Shōwa Day (昭和の日, Shōwa no hi?), from 2007
May 3
Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日, Kenpō kinenbi?)
May 4
holiday† (国民の休日, Kokumin no kyūjitsu?), until 2006
Greenery Day, or Nature Day (みどりの日, Midori no hi?) (from 2007)
May 5
Children's Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no hi?), also known as Boys' Day (端午の節句, Tango no sekku?)

April 21, 2008

Studying is In-Part 1

Petunias are blooming, a crisp breeze is blowing, and I'm hoping to begin something new. Spring air makes me feel like learning. And I'm fortunate to live in Japan because studying(勉強benkyo) is in and helpful tips are everywhere.

New school term and fiscal year begin in April in this country. This is the season when young and old alike flock to bookstores, hoping to learn something new. Bookstore shelves are filled with titles, such as "Study Skills to Increase Income 10 Times", "Leverage Studying," "How to Study-Making the Most of Your Brain," and even "Study Hacks!(The title is in English. I didn't translate it)."

One of the new business trends is "study room." You may not believe this, but it's true. There are about 50 places offering charged study rooms in the Kanto region.* For a cubicle in Shinjyuku, Tokyo, it costs up to 23,000 yen per month(≈US$221 as of April 20, 2008). (Nihon Keizai Shimbun Newspaper*, evening edition, 4/19/2008) I myself go to a study room in Roppongi.

Any trend, including this study craze, experiences booms and busts. It seems studying is most popular ever throughout its history(at least to me). So why are many Japanese into studying now? In the next post, I will elaborate the story of why we are seeing the trend.

*The Kantō region (関東地方, Kantō-chihō) is a geographical area of Honshū, the largest island of Japan. The region encompasses seven prefectures which overlaps the Greater Tokyo Area: Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa. (

*Nihon Keizai Shimbun (日本経済新聞, lit. Japan Economic Times), or Nikkei (日経, Nikkei) is a leading economic newspaper. (

April 15, 2008

Dipping My Toes in the Blogging Ocean

(The photo shown above was taken at Chidorigafuchi, Tokyo on April, 4.)

I already have my Japanese blog which I started about a month ago. Establishing the new habit, I've come to realize that blogging only in Japanese means I'm closed off to the world in a way. How many people around the world speak Japanese? Not so many. So I decided to blog in English to share thoughts and information with readers from the rest of the world.

This blog is about my daily life in Tokyo, Japan. I am a US college graduate who loves reading, writing, and photography. I also love beautiful things and delicious food. I'm going to focus on the current trends in Tokyo, trying to provide you with fresh, up-to-date, interesting information, which mass media may not cover. Japan is not all about anime, manga, Kyoto, etc. (Kyoto is my favorite city, though.) Take a virtual trip to Tokyo!

If you are learning Japanese, I think you should be proud of yourself for choosing one of the most difficult languages in the world. Struggling? Please visit my Japanese/English bilingual blog. I hope that will help you. :)


P.S. Strawberries are my all time favorite fruit, btw.