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Posted in: Monday will be 13 years since the March 11, 2011 disaster. If you were in Japan, what are your memories of that day? See in context

We were at a meeting at the newly completed but not yet open Tokyo American Club when everything started shaking. All were evacuated out on to the very narrow street behind the club when the first aftershock hit knocking a few people down. lots of swaying cranes from construction sites above us (slightly nerve-wracking). a kuroneko yamato driver weaving through all of us to deliver a package to the club's security which was actually kind of darkly funny all things considered. that was also when we noticed people with this new smartphone thing could actually get messages through but those of us on the older style phones were out of luck (switched to an iphone soon after). also when I learned public payphones are free to use in the event of an emergency like that. We stopped at Tokyo Midtown to rest while walking back to our office so that was when we saw the first footage of the tsunami which just rendered everyone speechless.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Posted in: Anger over Messi's absence in Hong Kong game spreads: Argentina friendly in mainland China canceled See in context

Argentina should just come here and play Japan instead. higher quality opposition for them, no ridiculous paper-thin egos of the CCP to placate, win-win.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Posted in: Have you ever been stopped by Japanese police, and if so, what for? See in context

25+ years, several times

mostly as part of training for new officers. the more senior officer would stop me, ask if I had time (what are you going to say, no and brush past?) and then the newbie would go through the whole ID / bag check routine. Usually, it was all very polite and courteous if slightly annoying.

twice I got rushed at and surrounded because I "fit the description" which was pretty alarming knowing how the legal system here works.

what always bothered me, aside from the obvious, is the optics. this would invariably happen either going to or coming home from work which means co-workers, neighbours, etc. can see you interacting with the police like this which isn't really a good look.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan's tallest skyscraper, at 330 meters, completed in Tokyo See in context

I live near this area. It's just tower after tower after tower for the last few years with the odd patch of green or a tree or two to check whichever SDG box the corporation has on their websites. What little local character there once was is fast disappearing. Yet another one or two Hills or whatever on the way near Tokyo station, whoo and indeed hoo.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

Posted in: 'Don't blame women': Japan birth rate drive sparks online debate See in context

at this moment in time, what’s in it for women in this country to get married and start a family?  

you lose:

-any free time activities you may have once enjoyed (sorry, you are now required to be 24/7 focused on your family). but family fun time travel! umm...how does the in-laws every Obon and New Year sound?

-career aspirations. if the company you work at hadn’t already been quietly planning for you to leave, once you get married, the countdown starts

-money, equal pay for equal work, see above. you probably outperform or at least match your male coworkers but…y’know

-career advancement, see above

-agency, you are no longer a person you are “mom” or maybe Mrs. ___ . Enjoy the PTA ! (oh, that’s your job too). 

-your name. see above. as an aside, a friend of mine (NJ) got married to a local. spouse’s family name was one of the most common in Japan so they went with hers as it was more unique. the flak they took for “forcing” him to change his name and her being “selfish” was something to see. funny it’s never the other way around

-time, everything is on you even if you still keep working. housework? - you, cooking? - you, kids homework? - you, which means you are the hook for anything that goes wrong - kids/husband too fat/thin? - you, grades not good enough? - you, house not clean enough? - you, etc., etc. You DO get a bunch of flowers every Mother’s Day though. Oh, housing/education is pricey so you need to keep working, too.  

It’s no picnic for young men either but given they seem to prioritize someone to “take care of them” as it’s a bit weird to be living at home with mom after some point, sympathy is a bit on the short side. young women grow up watching their mother running on empty constantly. it’s no wonder, no matter how much they may want to start a family they’re weighing things up and opting out.

Years ago I remember an anecdote, European guy asks Japanese guy to explain “ikeman”, Japanese guy explains it's a special word that describes a man who helps out at home, with childcare, takes care of his family, etc. European guy takes a beat then says “you mean a father?”

Get the balance closer to 50-50, reduce education and cost of living and maybe there’ll be a slight change but I wouldn’t hold my breath, feels like far too little, far too late.

*to forestall the “enjoy dying alone” crowd, if you’re having kids so they can take care of you when you’re old (a) who’s being selfish? (b) get ready for a shock.

14 ( +24 / -10 )

Posted in: How has Japan changed for the better since you have been here and how has it changed for the worse? See in context

There have been some improvements at the surface level (in the cities) like some posters have already mentioned (food, services, online/cashless options) and as a 20+ year resident, the steady decrease in smoking areas has been very welcome.

But go deeper. Cities increasingly look like each other- and not in a good way, lots of concrete and towers, the decline of the countryside has only picked up in pace, people are more tense, more stressed out, more worried. People's buying power continues to drop and disconnected, incompetent legacy politicians continue to get re-elected. I remember a friend once saying (about Tokyo) "you don't live in this city, you endure it". Unfortunately, it feels like other major cities are following the Tokyo model. Every opportunity to improve or reform education, governance, work culture, women's position in society, etc. etc. has been wasted. Working with young people at universities gives hope- they are not nearly as vacuous or unambitious as the press / grumpy old types like to say but the system they need to challenge is a pretty big obstacle.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

Posted in: Countries and municipalities that are home to World Heritage sites have a lot of responsibility to preserve their nature. They need to make more efforts to address the issues facing them. See in context

poaching is basically vandalism of the natural world and should be condemned and poachers punished.

so is destroying intact coastlines for money...


0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Education ministry hosts Twitter campaign to recruit teachers, but it backfires right away See in context

have a friend whose daughter and SIL were both teachers at the same public JHS. his daughter had to go on mental health leave after a few years working those insane hours (for no additional pay of course) and then just didn't return, she didn't think it was worth it and went to work in their family business. SIL stuck to it. so now first train every morning, one of the last trains at night, every day including weekends, a few days off a year. listening to him, that is pretty much the norm for everyone at that particular school. yet another example of policies by MEXT types who haven't been in a classroom since they graduated from whichever university mom and dad bought their entrance into...

22 ( +22 / -0 )

Posted in: Thursday will be 10 years since the March 11, 2011 disaster. What are your memories of that day? See in context

At a meeting in Tokyo. Remember everything shaking, not violently but for what felt like ages, being evacuated outside onto a narrow hill behind the building and looking nervously at the cranes around us (new mansion buildings because, of course). The first aftershock knocking some people off their feet. I remember everyone with that new type of phone from Apple could find out what was going on while those of us with the flip phones were unable to make any calls. Drained my phone battery out twice over trying to call my partner. We both switched to smartphones not long after.

Like Strangerland said, the streets were just full of people walking...somewhere...I think alot of people wound up walking home in the end. Cars and buses just stopped in a massive traffic jam. I can remember it was actually a pretty cold day but conbinis were giving away ice cream in some places- along with water. The full magnitude of it didn't hit until reaching Tokyo Midtown about an hour after the first shake and seeing the tsunami footage on that big screen they have. Managed to eventually get home in West Tokyo and then it was just about trying to get supplies and near-constant channel hopping between NHK and BBC, though much more BBC after watching Fukushima blow-up live on camera and NHK trying to downplay it.

One moment from the day that always stuck with me: we're all evacuated outside after the initial tremor on that little side street, everything shaking, everyone is getting increasingly agitated and this Kuroneko Takubin driver pulls up, unloads a package, gets the completely bemused security staff to sign for it, hops back in the truck and drives off routine as you like.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Posted in: Is Japan really a nation of nature lovers? See in context

the fact that Mt. Fuji was inscribed on the UNESCO list as a cultural rather than natural World Heritage Site says a lot about appearance vs reality which is where all these kinds of articles come from. it's never been explicitly confirmed but the sheer amount of garbage dumped in and around Fuji-san's surroundings may have had something to do with it. (garbage as in cars, refrigerators, appliances, etc. before the "it's the foreigners" crowd get started).





4 ( +4 / -0 )

Posted in: Tokyo experiences drop in population for 7th consecutive month See in context

"Tokyo Best city of the world !!.."

It's not even the best city in Kanto (Yokohama, take a bow).

Anyways, slightly less than 1,500 people leaving the city isn't really anything to get overexcited about.

21 ( +24 / -3 )

Posted in: What is the best thing about Kyoto, in one sentence? See in context

It's close by to Nara.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020 See in context

sorry, there is no edit function.

that last bit should read "stop any further new promotions".

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Posted in: Abe vows further efforts to attract 40 mil foreign visitors by 2020 See in context

As someone who works in this industry allow me to say Abe and co... 'stop'. carrying capacity in places like Osaka, parts of Okinawa, Hiroshima, Tokyo and especially Kyoto are well beyond what the community can handle/reasonably be expected to put up with.

Japan's "tourism model", such as it is, is based on short 1 or 2 night visits somewhere. You may have noticed the lack of clothes hangers and luggage space in that hotel you recently stayed in and the ramen shop and shopping area the visitors guide recommended.

In most cases, foreign visitors are working from a completely different model and thanks to instagram, etc. are 10 steps ahead of any domestic tourism authority/DMO (read: government). I was working in Nara last week on a project and the frustration and exasperation from both locals and visitors is noticeable and also completely understandable.

So, I'd humbly suggest stop any further promotions. Tourists are going to keep coming regardless. Consolidate and actually help local markets by funding training and expansion of visitor services. Spread things out. Give visitors incentives to go off the beaten track (Golden Route) more with discounts, etc. and give main markets a chance to breathe and re-group a bit.

Or, just plunge on and keep packing them in like the Chuo line at rush hour. Let's see how well that works out.

27 ( +28 / -1 )

Posted in: Have you ever experienced discrimination when trying to rent an apartment in Japan? If yes, what were the circumstances? See in context

(1) as a caveat this was about 20 years ago. (2) to forestall the apologists, I am well aware of discrimination against potential renters that exists in (fill in the blank) country. I'm also aware that you have a friend who has had, or you have personal experience with, a foreigner behaving not ideally. Those people should rightly be called out and subject to the full extent of the laws in place.

Anyways, I assume that things have improved 20 years on? most of the trouble was with estate agents rather than landlords (in my experience). This was pre- Suumo or At Home so some of you will remember the routine: visit agent, make and receive fake smile, you select a place, agent calls and after the usual pleasantries drops the word "gaijin" or "gaikokujin" into the conversation, phone call ends and you get the batsu arm cross.

You ask why and the agent explains that he (landlord) or one of his friends had "trouble" with foreigners before so... (curious how Japanese trouble tenants never seem to be given the same treatment).

Then on to the next place in the mountain of paper on the agent's desk. This process, along with the extremely invasive questions asked during the application process were a real eye opener to my wife who had never seen that side of her homeland before. She was not best pleased to say the least.

Anyways, the very place we wound up renting for quite awhile I had 3 local agents look me straight in the eye and give me the "no gaijin" pantomime. The 4th knew the landlord, took me to meet him and we had the apartment that same day. Still, glad to have bought a place we like and not have to go through that anymore.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Posted in: One cause may be the growing proportion of foreign climbers who don't know about the admission fee. See in context

a few questions about this. how are climbers, both Japanese and "foreign" informed of the fee? how is it collected? a quick web search brought up Japan based news sources (JT, JNTO, etc.) but the other travel guides like Lonely Planet, etc. didn't seem to mention a climbing fee.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Posted in: Don't get stuck on a shinkansen See in context

"So why don't the trains have luggage racks? Every passenger is a traveler, kinda makes sense, no?"

Completely agree. It's always baffled me, especially the north running trains where people are hauling hiking or golf gear (or skis and snowboards in the winter). JR even sells packages around these activities.

For business travellers, if you have a small suitcase they fit fine in the overhead shelf- if you can find space!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Posted in: Changing tastes brew bitter times for Japan's beer makers See in context

zero sympathy. all the big brewers have been producing the same variation on lager for decades (no matter what Suntory or Ebisu want put on their labels). increasing numbers of consumers demand quality, choice and want a variety of taste/beer styles and Asahi's response is ... Johnny Depp?! at least Sasaki-san at Kirin seems to kind of get it.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Posted in: Do you think some passengers bring too many (or too big) carry-on bags with them when they board planes? See in context

Most definitely "Yes"! I stick to a regulation size carry on or a small pack that fits under my seat but I seem to be increasingly in the minority. The biggest issue is often not oversized suitcases but the ridiculous amount of omiyage bags my fellow passengers insist on hauling onboard.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Posted in: What is the best way to hold company meetings so that they are not time-wasting and actually get something done? See in context

Easy. Everybody stands up at meetings. Happened at a previous company here in Japan. Meetings were 20 minutes long tops.

I remember hearing about another company (Gurunavi?) who held walking meetings around the Imperial Palace or Hibiya Park when the weather allowed. Not sure how effective the actual meeting was but something different at least.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Posted in: Tokyo ranked as most livable city in the world in Monocle annual survey See in context

As ever these things need to be taken with a large grain of salt. These surveyors drop in for a few days, stay at one of the 5 star hotels, interview a few people who share their ideas about (destination) and make their lists.

Having said that, Tokyo's transport system is still one of the best in the world, it is still one of the safest cities (relatively speaking) I have ever been in and it is certainly true if there is something you want to do or try, Tokyo probably has it.

But the Tokyo I have lived in for the last 20 years is the one of packed commutes, tight living conditions and little leisure time (or budget!) to enjoy those "world class" museums, nice mountains/beaches or amazing restaurants. Basically Tokyo is a concrete-slathered stress inducement machine.

Other cities, like Sapporo or Fukuoka, get the balance better in my humble opinion.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Posted in: Tourism is an effective way for Japan to pull in the purchasing power of growing Asian markets. Domestic demand is unlikely to gather momentum in the long run as the population declines. See in context

jerseyboy.... you have heard of Angkor Wat Archaeological Park, Chiang Mai, etc.? those are pretty ancient in terms of tourism sites and draw 100,000s if not millions every year.

Thailand and Vietnam have diversified into resort tourism, ecotourism and even medical tourism to be fair (Cambodia is beginning to take steps in this direction as well).

Speaking as someone who works in the industry here, Japan does have a lot going for it in terms of cultural tourism as well as retail or package tours not to mention. Add in a very good infrastructure and you can see the attraction.

The major issue - in my opinion- is probably more to do with the reluctance in some parts of the industry (and government!) to fully embrace foreign inbound tourism as a target market.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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