The Japanese Empress’ 80th Birthday

20 Oct

Here is a well-written article about the Japanese Empress’ 80th birthday today:

Two dozen years

17 Oct

Today is October 17th, 2014. I came to Japan on October 17th, 1990. Twenty-four years ago.

I was born and grew up in America. But I only lived there for twenty years. I’ve lived most of my life in Japan now.

I’m sure you can imagine, Japan was pretty different 24 years ago.
Even Japanese people in their twenties or younger can’t imagine if I tell them what Japan was like when I first came here!

One big change is that there was no internet or cell-phones when I came here.
Everyone, including me, had phone cards for pay-phones in their wallet. If it was announced that a train was running late, suddenly everyone on the platform would line up to use the payphones (that used to be on every train platform) to call their office to tell that they might be late.
Nowadays, people take out their cell-phone to either call or e-mail their employer if the train is late.

Also, train stations didn’t have escalators or elevators like they all do now.
If someone was in a wheelchair, the train station staff would carry his wheelchair up or down the stairs!
When my kids were babies, my wife and I had to carry their strollers up and down the train station stairs when we used the train.

Now, all train stations in Japan have automatic ticket gates and IC cards (I wrote a post here about them).
But when I first came to Japan, every train station…even the big major ones…had staff with hole punchers at the ticket gates.

To enter the train station, commuters would hand their ticket to one of these guys and get the ticket punched and handed back to them.
Then when they exited, these guys collected the tickets…and they’d tell you if you owed more money on your fare.
They were really fast! Especially at busy stations like Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station!

Punching a ticket

As I said, there were no cell-phones or email in 1990. Nowadays, if the person you’re meeting is running late, you can just call or email their cell-phone. Life wasn’t always like that.
When I first came to Japan, there were chalkboards at every train station that anyone could use to write a message to the person they were waiting for.
There were always messages on them such as “To ____, I went ahead. I’ll wait for you at the restaurant.” or “To_____, you were late so I went home.

These were commonly used in Japan before cell-phones.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Japan since 1990. I wonder what changes the next decades will bring!

Are these types of manner posters unique to Japan?

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I’ve written posts about these manner posters before…


Here :

and even A/C ones are kinda similar:

Originally posted on RocketNews24:

Tokyo Metro Manner Posters 1
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of big city life in Tokyo makes you forget your manners. Women who don’t have enough time in the morning apply makeup on bumpy train rides, people doze off on the shoulder of their neighboring passenger, and the occasional man will clip his finger nails. With most people commuting by train and working very long hours, sometimes there’s no time to do things at home. And sometimes, you’re just so tired and stressed that you don’t care that you are behaving badly.

As a result, back in 2008, the Tokyo Metro system launched a three-year-long campaign aimed at reminding subway passengers to mind their manners while riding the trains. It featured the slogan “Please do it at home” or “Please do it again” alongside an illustration of the featured manner or rule. All posters are written in Japanese and English, some featuring hilariously outrageous and…

View original 56 more words

Review & giveaway 9: Tokyo Travel Pack

13 Oct

Once again, Tuttle Books has given me a book to review on my blog.

This time I will be reviewing “Tokyo Travel Pack: Your Guide to Tokyo’s Best Sights for Every Budget (Travel Guide & Map)” by Rob Goss.


And, as before, Tuttle Books will be giving one free copy of this book to a random visitor to my blog!
(The details of the giveaway will be at the end of this review.)

This book is perfect for anyone who is planning for visit Tokyo, whether it’s their first visit here or they’ve been here a number of times. Also for anyone simply interested in Japan, particularly Tokyo.

The author, Rob Goss, has lived in Tokyo since 1999. He has written a number of books and magazine articles about Tokyo.

This guidebook offers many useful tips, including common phrases in Japanese, that would be very helpful to visitors in Tokyo.

It has a list of thirteen “Don’t Miss” sights in Tokyo with photos and an explanation of each. It also tells the opening hours, admission costs and directions to get to each one.

The next chapter of “Tokyo Travel Pack: Your Guide to Tokyo’s Best Sights for Every Budget (Travel Guide & Map)” gives a more detailed explanation of some popular areas in and around Tokyo.

And then, it also includes the book author’s recommendations for hotels, restaurants, nightspots, shopping, family-oriented attractions, museums, gardens, festivals and more!

There are maps of parts of this huge city throughout the book. But also includes a pull-out map of the heart of metropolitan Tokyo.

One small error I noticed is the list of Japan’s National Holidays. The dates of the holidays are no longer current since Japan adapted the “Happy Monday” system and now some holidays always fall on a Monday (for example, today (October 13th), coincidentally, is a holiday in Japan. Today (the day I’m writing this review) is 「体育の日」 (“Sports Day” (or “Fitness day”)). The book lists this holiday as October 10th. Until the year 2000, that was the date of this holiday…but it’s now the ‘second Monday of October‘.
This isn’t a big deal. Only four Japanese holidays have been affected by the “Happy Monday” system. And the rest of the information in the book is correct and current.

I recommend this book to anyone visiting, living in or interested in Tokyo.

Tokyo Travel Pack: Your Guide to Tokyo’s Best Sights for Every Budget (Travel Guide & Map)” can be purchased through Amazon at this link.

But, as I said above, Tuttle Publishers is going to give one free copy of this book to a random visitor to my blog!

To enter in the drawing, simply submit this form by 2014 October 25th:

** (Also, there is still time to enter the drawing for a free set of beautiful origami paper! Click here.)

Nine cats in a stroller draws crowds in Tokyo

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Originally posted on RocketNews24:


Japan is known for having a unique culture that perfectly balances two extreme worlds of tradition and fun. From cat cafes to cosplay-clad posers in Harajuku, it’s the light-hearted, anything-goes attitude on the streets of Tokyo that brightens the serious, traditional side of society which likes to rein in anything different and out of the norm.

It’s little surprise then, that people have been drawn to one of the newcomers to the street scene in Tokyo, a recently retired man who goes by the name “Kyushu Neko Ojisan” (lit. The Cat Man from Kyushu). Retirement for this gent means he’s now free to walk his nine adorable cats in a baby buggy around Tokyo. And his crowds of admirers are growing with every stroll he takes.

View original 340 more words

Review & giveaway 8: Geisha prints Origami Sets

11 Oct

Tuttle Publishers has given two more sets of origami papers to review.

(You can read all of the reviews on my blog by going to my ““Reviews & Giveaways” page).

This time it’s two sets of origami papers with Geisha prints.

The publishers have kindly agreed to give a set of each free to two random visitors to my blog (one set each)!

These sets, called “Origami Paper: Geisha Prints“, each have eight beautiful ukiyoe designs of geisha.
One set has origami that are 6¾ inches (square) and the other has 8 ¼ inches paper.



Both of these sets of origami are perfect for anyone interested in Japanese ukiyoe art or art in general, folding origami, or Japanese culture.

The artwork on each piece is gorgeous!

Both sets come with illustrated step-by-step instructions for folding a variety of origami animals, toys, kimono, etc.

You can buy “Origami Paper: Geisha Prints”(6¾ inches) here and (8 ¼ inches) here.

But, as I said above, Tuttle Publishers is going to give one free set of each of these origami papers to two random visitors to my blog (one set for each winner)!

To enter in the drawing, simply submit this form by 2014 October 25th:

Fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

10 Oct

Today (2014 October 10th) is the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Summer Olympics that were hosted by Tokyo.


This was the first time the Olympics was hosted by an Asian country.

The Tokyo government had new stadiums built (which are still in use today) and the world’s first 新幹線 (bullet train) was built by Japan Railways (called “Japan National Railways” back then). The bullet train connected Tokyo to Osaka, and it’s service commenced on October 1st, 1964…so, nine days ago was the 50th birthday of the world’s first bullet train.

Since Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics fifty years ago, Japan has hosted the Olympics two more times: the 1972 Winter Olympics were hosted by Sapporo, Japan and the 1998 Winter Olympics were hosted by Nagano, Japan.

A new bullet-train service was also started in 1998 to connect Tokyo to Nagano for the ’98 Games. My wife and I took that bullet train to see the Nagano Olympics atmosphere.

Tokyo put a bid in to host the 2016 Olympics, but lost. (I wrote a post about Tokyo’s 2016 bid and also my trip to Nagano in ’98…here).

Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics was successful though. In July 2020, Tokyo will not only be the first Asian city to host an Olympics Games…but also the first Asian city to host the Games twice!
(I wrote a post about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics here).

Both the 1964 Tokyo Olympics logo and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics logo.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics commenced on 1964 October 10th. October isn’t summer…it’s autumn. The reason that the Games were in October is because summer is extremely hot and humid in Tokyo. The weather in October (now) is much more comfortable.
After the 1964 Olympics, October 10th became a holiday in Japan: 体育の日 (“Fitness Day”). The date of the holiday was changed in the year 2000 to ‘the second Monday in October’. So, 体育の日 (Fitness Day) isn’t today…next Monday (October 13th, 2014) is the holiday.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) changed the rules and now the Summer Olympics must be played in July. So, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be in July. It’s gonna be hot!



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