ShibuyaJay2 comments

Posted in: Toyota takes 23% hit to profit on lower sales, yen See in context

I live in Henderson, NV, USA (next to Las Vegas). My wife, who is Japanese, drives a 2014 Blue Toyota Prius V. I believe it is called a Prius Alpha in Japan. She loves it because it averages 43MPG and is relatively quiet (until you want to drive on a slight uphill at 70MPH). Then the vehicle is as noisy as a chainsaw because the gasoline powered engine is revving so high. Anyways, I cannot speak about Toyota's worldwide sales, however, I would like to opine a bit about their US sales. My comments are based on my experience with Toyota and the opinions of friends and co-workers.

First and foremost what most people do not know is that when totaling worldwide sales, purchases by rental car companies are included in the total. As you can guess in the US these rental car company sales are HUGE to the automotive industries' bottom-line. For the US market winning or losing the rental car sales market is a tremendous boom or hit to their total sales numbers.

CAR ITSELF TECHNOLOGY: Toyota's insistence on using the Entune system for their car info/entertainment system is a big negative. Entune is so "clunky" and non-user friendly that my wife barely even uses it outside of connecting her cell phone via bluetooth and changing radio stations. For fun when we first purchased the vehicle, I used the Entune navigation feature which receives its' data from you cell phone (of course this eats up a lot of the data from your cell phone data plan if you use the navigation constantly). The display map via Entune was a disgrace when compared to our trusty Garmin. Also the Garmin comes with free lifetime maps and traffic updates.

ENGINE: In the US cars in the $25K - $38K (depending on options) most of the non-Japanese automotive companies have switched or will switch to some variant of a 2.0L turbo motor. Even Chevrolet is putting one in their 2018 Equinox SUV and it is available in several other competitors including Ford, Volkwagen, Hyundai, etc.. Toyota (along with Nissan, Suburu, and Honda) continue to use, although definitely proven and reliable, dinosaur technology in their engines. When you compare the specs of HP, torque, and MPG ratings, the Japanese car engines cannot compete with the many variants of the 2.0L turbo.

DESIGN: If you look at the new body designs of all of Toyota's vehicles comments from my friends and co-workers ranged from uninspired to ugly to disgraceful, especially the hood and grill designs. My best friend said, "Just look at a picture side by side of a RAV4 and a Hyundai Santa Fe or Tucson. There is no comparison. The RAV4 body is so ugly." Across the board with Toyota's products the body designs, accents, wheels, etc. seemed uninspired and boring.

PRICE-POINT: For whatever reasons Toyota (and Honda) vehicles in particular always seems to be $2K to $4K higher in price than its' competitors in the $25K-$38K market whether sedan or SUV or what the dollar to yen rate is. Nissan, Mazda, and Subaru have competitive prices when compared with non-Japanese car companies. This $2K-$4K increase is a big deal when considering people's finances and what they are willing to pay for an automobile. I sometimes wonder if Toyota and Honda suffer from the same old problem that plagues Sony which is "our product and quality is so much better than the competition that people will pay extra money for it." If this was still 2003 and earlier then Toyota, Honda, and Sony would have a point. However, in 2017 almost everyone else has caught up or surpassed the technology and quality that the Japanese companies produce.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Asian media decry isolationist Trump, fear economic, diplomatic turmoil See in context

Swami Vas, I couldn't have said it better myself. Great post!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Posted in: Anti-Trump rally in Tokyo See in context

Why people would take the time out to protest President Trump at Hibiya Koen is beyond me, but to each his or her own. Of all the infinitely more interesting and enriching things to do in Tokyo (shady or above board hahaha!) what they are doing would probably be the last thing to pop into my head. Protesting about an American election in a foreign capitol is kind of pointless, not to mention, strange. If they are really feeling so badly I recommend walking over under the Yamanote Sen tracks by Yurakucho ski, eating some yakitori, and imbibing in a few Grapefruit Sours or any other drink of choice to relieve their frustration.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Posted in: Half-Indian elephant trainer crowned Miss Japan See in context

Garthgoyle SEP. 06, 2016 - 08:19AM JST She's not hafu, she's Japanese. Japanese is not a race, it's a nationality.

I totally agree with you Garthgoyle. Japanese is a nationality, however, a large percentage of Japanese would tell you differently. The same Japanese who say, "Asia ikitai na" while planning their vacations. They don't even realize that Japan is part of Asia. These same Japanese treat the rest of the Asian population as another species. So, my whole point to this diatribe is that, yes indeed, a large percentage of Japanese use the term "Japanese" in racial terms, not nationality.

As for the term, "haafu or half," Everyone English-speaking person living in Japan knows that Japanese love to interject English words into their speech and as we all know some words or phrases are "lost in translation," or should I say, "COMPLETELY CHANGED IN TRANSLATION." Even though the term "haafu" comes across as derogatory to foreigners in our ever-increasing politically correct world I don't think the "Average Tanaka" means it as negative. They're just making a simple English mistake. I blame mass media more than anything for allowing this term to come into vogue. You would think the mass media would know better (especially with the Olympics coming and the never-ending Japanese obsession of how foreigners view Japanese abroad), but they are ran by the same oyaji (geezer)-based clique who would complain about this and last year's mixed-race pageant winners.

I GUESS THERE JUST ISN'T AN EASY WAY TO SAY, "PERSON OF MIXED RACE," IN JAPANESE. So, "Haafu" is just more convenient to say. Ha Ha Ha.

I have two mixed race children myself (asian and caucasian). Ha Ha Ha. I had to catch myself there. I almost typed Japanese and Caucasian. That's funny. While watching an American old Cowboys and Indians movie with my kids a few years back, the word "breed" came up in the storyline and I had to explain "breed" to my children in reference to the different Native American tribes. My son asked me, "Then Dad, what breed am I?" You know where I'm going with this, right? Ha Ha Ha. I told him, "Son, YOU ARE A HALF-BREED." Then I went into explaining mixed-race and dual-nationalities and how we shouldn't discriminate against another person based on their race, religion, gender, creed, etc.

Man, I typed way more than I should have.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Posted in: 7 things Japanese people in int'l marriages wish they’d known before tying the knot See in context

I know this might be a hard thing to do, but as an American male married to a Japanese female I recommend the following: If possible, live/work in both countries for a few years each before getting married. My wife and I were able to do this (met in Seattle lived/worked together in Seattle and San Francisco for 4 years lived/worked in Japan for 5 years) before we married. It helps that my wife has a university degree from the states and speaks English fluently. I speak Japanese at an intermediate level and that really helps with the in-laws and other relatives. Since we both lived in each others' countries there is almost no culture shock.

The hardest part about an international marriage is the children. The parents must have some type of agreement or understanding on sharing cultures, language, religion, etc. with the children. We live in work in Henderson, NV now. During the week both of my children attend normal American public school, but on Saturdays they attend a Japanese school sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Needless to say, they are both NOT HAPPY with having double homework loads (English and Japanese). We think that in the long run it is better (and that they are lucky) to have an opportunity to be able to function in both cultures. The truth is though that whichever country the children grow up in that country will dominate their perspective, cultural values, personality, and general outlook on life.

SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT TWIST: There are many Japanese adult married couples here in the Las Vegas area that either immigrated here (first generation), somehow obtained green cards/permanent resident status (working in the gaming industry/Japanese restaurants), or are here for 1/2/3 year contracts with Japanese companies (Konami, Aruze, etc.). 20% of these couples that have children have no problem living in the US and their children are given free reign to explore both cultures and ultimately decide for themselves which nationality they will become. Unfortunately, there are 80% who constantly struggle to maintain some kind of sanity (basically, they wish they were still in Japan) and who ultimately suffers? Their children do. At home the children are constantly bombarded with complaints about the US from their parents who can never quite come to grips about why they are here. It's really strange to watch. They maintain a 100% Japanese language speaking environment at home and do not try to assimilate themselves into US society at all. Their children are totally messed up because they attend US public schools, but receive almost no parental assistance with their school work in English. Furthermore the parents have almost no interaction with the schools because of their lack of English speaking ability. It's really sad to see. If you are a Japanese person who is assigned here to work for your company for 1-3 years then this situation can't be helped I guess, but for the Japanese married couples who are here voluntarily I can't see why they came here in the first place.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Posted in: Would you like to see Donald Trump become the next U.S. president? See in context

I am a registered Republican in the state of Nevada, Clark County, Henderson. Last week we had our Republican caucus here. The caucus hours were between 5pm and 9pm which was a bit of a drag since I worked night shift last week. I was worried about long lines and wanted to cast my ballot before leaving for work, so I showed up at the caucus station at 4:15pm. I couldn't believe it. I was about NO. 400 in line because so many people were showing up early. The demographics of the group were mostly over 50 years old, white, mixed male/female, and a fair amount of non-black minorities. While waiting in the line for the caucus place to open up everyone in my vicinity was talking politics. The overwhelming theme, regardless of the candidate, was that people are fed up with Washington DC; do-nothing Congress, Executive Orders making up/changing laws as they go, national debt, etc. The list was endless. People were really angry. Fortunately for me and work, I was able to enter the caucus polling place, cast my ballot, and leave. When I left at 5:20pm the line had quadrupled and I estimate there were at least 1,000 to 1,500 people in line. Amazing when you think about it.

There was a little old lady (think Grandma-type that baked cookies, warmed your milk, super sweet and nice) standing ahead of me in line. We had quite the conversation and I enjoyed my time speaking with her. Out of the blue a Rubio campaign supporter came up to her and asked, "Excuse me mam, may I have some of your time to speak to you about Marco Rubio?" It was so funny. That sweet little ole lady turned into a fire breathing dragon. Her reply was, "Get away I wouldn't vote for him if you paying me. TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP!" It was so funny how she changed that fast. I'm speaking about an at least 70something year old woman. It was like watching someone having a bi-polar fit.

The bottom line from me. 1. Democratic caucuses/primaries - low to medium turnout Republican caucuses/primaries - record turnout in each state so far This does not bode well for the Democrats in the general election. 2. Republican Establishment totally underestimates the average Republican voter's dissatisfaction with the party which in turn is causing the establishment to go on full panic mode over Trump's ascendency. 3. I predict there will be many Reagan-like Blue Dog Democrats crossing the line and voting Republican if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. Cruz and Rubio will never appeal to so many people as Trump does.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Posted in: Confident Trump says he could 'shoot people' and not lose voters See in context

I lived in Japan from 1995 to 2005 and reside in the US now. I'm not sure how many American posters on this site actually reside in Japan, but to those of you who do my comments are for you:

You can say what you want about Trump meteoric rise. You can be for him or against him. My comments are not about that. When you live in Japan to a certain degree you are living in a box. I know because I experienced it first hand. Your only news about what's going on back home comes from the tv, internet, magazines, emails/phone calls to friends and families back in the states, etc. I say this not as a bad thing, but because it is the truth. Now, I will try to convey to you what I am am experiencing at work and in everyday life in America. 60% (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) of the American people (and all political parties) are absolutely fed up with the direction of the country. Right-leaning people are angry because of the direction the country has taken under President Obama. Left-leaning people are either disappointed or downright angry because they believe President Obama hasn't taken the country even further to the left. NOBODY CAN BE SATISFIED! The other 40% of the American people are basically "out to lunch" and couldn't care about anything outside of their own lives.

Trump is equally hated by all of the establishment (Republican and Democrat). The Republican establishment, especially the elitist highly educated George Will-types, cannot believe that Trump has essentially "jumped the line" and is beating all of the other candidates. They are seething with rage and it is easy to see (hear) their frustrations by watching any of the establishment talk shows and publications (i.e. "The National Review"). My personal opinion is that the Republican establishment would be just as butt-hurt if Cruz was leading in the polls. The Democratic establishment thinks Donald Trump is a dangerous buffoon because of his political views. Either way both establishments are missing the whole point.

As I said before, 60% of the American people who more or less hold middle-right or middle-left political opinions are so damn frustrated with the direction of the country over the past twelve years (4 of Bush Jr. and 8 of Obama). They are frustrated over many things such as wage stagnation, political correctness, poor education for their children, rising health care costs (Affordable Health Care Act be damned), uncertain employment, terrorism, illegal immigration, the national debt, etc. Underlying all this is both parties are so beholden to special interest groups and lobbyists that almost nothing gets done for the sake of the American people. Both parties are to blame. The average American worker DOES gives a damn about the country. So many times over the past two or three years I have heard many fellow Americans say things like, "All these career politicians are screwing us over. It's like the politicians don't give a damn about doing the right thing. They're all crooks. And the most important thing.... I WISH SOMEONE COULD COME ALONG AND BLOW THIS THING UP. HOW ABOUT A RESET ON CONGRESS! WE NEED PEOPLE IN OFFICE WHO ARE MORE LIKE THE FOUNDING FATHERS WHO SERVED IN OFFICE FOR A TERM OR TWO AND WENT BACK TO THEIR FARMS OR BUSINESSES.." I hear these things in everyday life; work, waiting in line at the Post Office, waiting at the car wash, sitting in the doctor/dentist office waiting room, etc. I hear these things coming from young people fresh out of college, workers in their 30s, 40s, 50, seniors, Grandmas, Grampas, everyone. People are fed up with the status quo.

So, here comes along Trump. Whether you're for him or against Trump speaks his mind, is unscripted, definitely is not politically correct, and comes across as genuine (even if you don't believe in his views). Donald Trump is definitely not a politician (obviously) and does come across to a lot of American people as someone who will BLOW THINGS UP in Washington. Trump's style is refreshing to a lot of Americans. Just a small example of Trump's popularity. I live in Henderson, NV (few minutes to Las Vegas). This past Friday afternoon (maybe Thursday) Trump had a campaign rally at the South Point Arena (South Point Casino). The venue holds 4,600 permanent seats and probably another 1,000 if you place temporary seats in the arena floor. Anyways, the place was packed. The South Point had to turn away thousands of people because the place was packed to capacity to hear him speak. Now say what you will, "They're just Trump nuts or something similar." But, even Trumps hardest detractors have to admit the numbers of people he's pulling is amazing. No other candidate, Republican or Democrat, is even close.

In closing, I ask the American people living/working in Japan to consider the downright anger at both establishments. I mean even a Socialist borderline Communist, Bernie Sanders, is giving Hillary a scare in the Democratic nomination race. People are tired of the same old same old.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Posted in: Japan needs immigrants to boost population: minister See in context

The two basic premises are that to increase the population either 1. Japanese should procreate more 2. Increase immigration to provide an instantaneous population boost and further increase when these immigrants have children.

PREMISE 2. From my perspective and time living in Japan I have a very hard time believing premise 2. would ever be acceptable to the average Japanese. Think honestly. Would the average Japanese really accept or be comfortable with permanent foreign immigration regardless of scale or nationalities of the perspective immigrants not to mention said immigrants actually being granted Japanese citizenship? I think the answer to that would be a resounding, "NO!" There are just too many reasons (or should I say xenophobic reasons) for the average "Tanaka" to ever be comfortable with having a paradigm shift of the scale necessary to accommodate mass foreign immigration. I think the paradigm shift would just be too difficult to accomplish. However, I could be wrong. Consider in the greater Tokyo area (and to a lesser extent the rest of Japan) how fast the shift was made from smoking any time you desire wherever you desire to what the situation is now with designated smoking areas outside train stations, almost no people smoking and walking on the sidewalks, brave people actually challenging smokers who are smoking in unacceptable locations, etc. Japan, unlike any other place I've lived in, is very slow to change but when that change is made and becomes societal norm people accept it very rapidly (overnight in my opinion). For long term residents think about how much smoking there was everywhere just 5 years ago and how it is now. The change is remarkable. Perhaps the same change could be made regarding foreign immigrants, but I have a very very hard time believing it.

PREMISE 1. Increasing birth rates from everyday Japanese couples is so hard as to be laughable, especially in the urban areas. First of all, marriage rates are down. The average Japanese male simply does not earn as much and cannot afford to marry until much later in life. Second, and I believe rightly so, most couples marry because they love each other (arranged marriages aside). Their first thoughts are not, "We must marry and procreate or the Japanese race (notice I used the word race, not nationality) will disappear from the Earth." Third, infrastructure or lack there of prevents Japanese couples from having children. For example, there are not enough child care facilities even for the children that are alive now, moving to a larger residence for a family of 3 or more requires a lot of money which is not attainable for the average Japanese worker even if his/her spouse also works, and the mandatory overtime work-life balance killing existence that is the hell of the average Japanese citizen destroys almost any possibility of a normal family life (compared to world standards).

HERE IS MY PERSONAL EXAMPLE: My sister-in-law and her husband along with their THREE children (very rare in urban Japan) live with my mother-in-law in a normal Japanese single family home in western Tokyo. My sister-in-law is an elementary school teach. Her husband is a fireman. My mother-in-law is retired. Even though both spouses have excellent jobs they were only able to purchase their home after my mother-in-law sold her previous home and put the proceeds towards the new house. I'm not saying that they couldn't have eventually made a down-payment and qualified for the loan, but my mother-in-law's stake made it much easier for them to purchase the new home quickly after they were married. Of their three children all three of them were able to attend pre-school, two of them private the other public. I can't even begin to tell you how much the fees were. And these fees just keep continuing now that the children are in middle and elementary school. Also, both parents work extremely long hours. During the school year, my sister-in-law routinely did not return home until after 7PM because of club activities, grading papers, preparing for the next day's lessons, etc. Her husband worked such crazy shifts as a fireman that he often just slept at the station and didn't return home for days on end. I ask you, with both parents working these kind of hours how is possible to have a good family life and maintain a semblance of work-life balance? Simply, it is impossible. The only way that their situation works at all is GRANDMOTHER!!! My mother-in-law is in her 70s. She takes care of all three children after school, prepares everyone's dinner, runs around here and there picking the kids up, shopping, etc. What kind of life is that for a 70+ year old retiree to have? I love my mother-in-law and she tells my wife and I, "I don't mind taking care of my grandchildren. It's no inconvenience." But every year on my annual vacation to Japan she looks more and more run down. Having children in Japan (or anyplace else in the world for that matter) is really tough.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Should parents talk to children about the Paris attacks? See in context

This is a very good topic. I have two half-American half Japanese children; son age 12 and daughter age 9. Although most of the time here in the states I'm a Fox News watcher (I know that opens me up for a lot of heat. Ha Ha Ha!), during this horrific event over the weekend I let both my children watch the news from four sources; FOX NEWS, CNN INTERNATIONAL, SKY NEWS, AND BBC WORLD NEWS. My daughter who is quite perceptive for her age (woman in training... scary!) noticed that the coverage was very mixed. She noticed in her child-like way that FOX NEWS was quick to call out the terrorists, why weren't we prepared, what terrible things might befall us in the future, etc. She said, "CNN, SKY NEWS, and BBC WORLD NEWS seem to just tell the story of what happened and what is going on now." Also she said, "I like their accents on SKY NEWS and BBC WORLD NEWS." I thought that was funny. I do have to admit she was alarmed almost to the point of crying almost when the news suddenly caught me off-guard showing some of the graphic pictures of the victims. I quickly changed channels, however unfortunately, the damage was done.

The three of us had a frank discussion of the events. They both asked, "Why do these people do these things. Do they really believe they will enter Heaven if they die in this manner?" Needless to say, it was a fairly serious and heady conversation. I never imagined 12 years ago when I became a parent that I would have to be having these types of discussions so early in their lives. Sad when you think about it, don't you agree? My son's final comment was, "If these people want an Islamic planet Earth then there is to be no compromise, right Dad?" I had no answer except to say, "Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and if not, you had best prepare yourself for the future."

p.s. My daughter's parting comment was: "Dad, If things become to dangerous I can just go to Baba's (grandma) house in Tokyo and we can go to 7-11 for bento and candy. The innocence of a child's mind is wonderful.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Posted in: Indonesia defends rail project after Japan expresses anger See in context

Just my opinion and pure speculation: Probably the Japanese bidders are angry because either their bribes weren't good enough or they might have been good enough, but the Indonesian's took the Japanese and Chinese bribes and chose the Chinese anyways under threat. If Chinese bribed and then you backed out their might be violent consequences. Just speculating.

-8 ( +7 / -15 )

Posted in: Muslims in Japan observe Ramadan See in context

So, this man is exercising his religious freedom. Why is this even news?

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Posted in: Japanese should take heed of Greece's woes See in context

hampton, that's what I was speaking about. I guess since Japan's debt is being financed at home through the Postal Savings Accounts, etc. they are able to be both the highest creditor nation and have the worst debt to GDP ration. Am I wrong on this, over-simplified perhaps?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Japanese should take heed of Greece's woes See in context

Can any of you financial experts explain something to me. Please use the KISS principal (Keep it simple stupid), if possible. How can Japan simultaneously be the nation with the highest debt to GDP ration country while also maintaining their status as the top creditor nation in the world. Somehow the two sound incongruous.

Since I like to keep it simple, here's my street view of things. When I first moved to Japan in 1991 people in their 20s and above thought nothing of spending 20,000 to 40,000 yen on any given Friday/Saturday night for their entertainment. In the mid-1990s through mid 2000's I noticed this had fallen to a normal night's entertainment cost of 20,000 yen or less. During my time living in Japan from 1995-2005 I really enjoyed going out on any given evening to several places in Tokyo usually followed up by a late night to early morning binge at Club Harlem in Shibuya. I still try to keep up this pattern when I visit Japan on vacations. Anyways, on my most recent trip to Tokyo last summer I had several conversations with normal everyday people (ages ranging from 20-60). During the course of our conservations, especially with the 40+ crowd, the subject would always progress, or should I say revert, to the "good old days," meaning the bubble days of the 1980s and 1990s. Needless to say, those days are long long long gone. Here was the breakdown of the averages for a Friday/Saturday night out:

40+: 10,000 to 30,000 yen (not much difference from the old days. More if they're going to fuzoku) 30-40: 15,000 yen or less (usually much less) 25-30: 10,000 yen or less unless on they're a male on a date (of course 90%+ of all Japanese women expect the male to pay for everything) 20-25: Under 6,000 yen and if they're still in university even less than that.

From my simple perspective, things are not looking good for any part of the Japanese economy.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Posted in: Heartache for Japan's 40-year-old virgins See in context

Lasolitaria,

"Why don't women try? Why don't women approach and risk rejection? Where are the voices for equality complaining that, when it comes to approaching, women are still expected to leave all the work to men, and it's men and only who are laughed at when the approach fails?"

Women have a "vagina" and other desirable body parts. That's why they don't have to try at all usually. I may be totally wrong on this, but when I lived in Japan from 1995-2005 it was fairly common to have a gyaku-nanpa (girl picking up guy) experience in the Tokyo/Yokohama area. Can't say about the rest of Japan, though. For you men out there living in Japan please satisfy my curiosity. Is gyaku-nanpa still alive and strong?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Posted in: Heartache for Japan's 40-year-old virgins See in context

There are many good and salient points other bloggers have noted considering the social environment and characteristics of Japanese people that prevent what I l'd like to call normal interaction between genders. I'd like to add my small opinion. If anyone (other Japanese or foreigners) ask a Japanese person directly for something (physical thing, service, favor, etc.) it is rare to receive an outright, "no," for an answer. Most Japanese will suck air through their teeth and exclaim, "muzukashii," or something similar. That being said, there is almost a plague-like aversion to being outright rejected or receiving any negative criticism in Japan from anyone regardless of gender. In addition to the reasons previous bloggers have already stated, I believe that Japanese people (Japanese men in particular) are so fearful of having their romantic (or sexual) advances being outrightly rejected by the opposite sex that they would rather stay stay single forever rather than face the possibility of being rejected. The fear of having to say a direct "no" or being the receiver of a direct "no" is intolerable to the average Japanese regardless of gender. It is a borderline Japanese societal mental illness if you ask me. Fear of rejection is one of the biggest reasons these guys can't form any type of relationship with the opposite sex. (By the way, the women are just as fearful in their own way.)

The less sympathetic version of me says, "Man up. Stop living with your parents/parent past the age of 22. (I swear Japan is the only country on the face of the Earth where a person male or female can admit that they still live with their parents past the age of 22 and not be ashamed of it. In fact, I believe it is quite encouraged.) Do something to make yourself remotely attractive to the opposite sex. Stop masturbating to AV, pornographic books, and ero manga. Visit a prostitute if you must. Do something... anything... to overcome your fear."

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Posted in: Taco Bell opens its first restaurant in Japan in Tokyo's Shibuya district on Tuesday. How do you think they'll do? See in context

Some of the comments here are unbelievable. I lived in Tokyo from 1995 to 2005 and I visit annually for a couple of weeks every summer. Here is my humble perspective: I'm reading a lot of negative comments about Taco Bell and for sure it's not for everyone, however, stop with the hate. If you don't want to eat there for whatever reason then don't. Complaining that Taco Bell has "mystery ingredients," "it's not healthy," or "it causes cancer" is so silly. It's a fast food restaurant for Christ's sake, of course it's not healthy. If you want a healthy meal go eat some Kaiseki Ryori, Natto Maki, or something like that. I can remember the days in Japan when foreign food options were extremely limited (i.e. no Outback Steakhouse, no TGIF, no Krispy Kreme Donuts, etc., etc.). I realize all of my examples hold wait mostly from an American perspective only, but I'm sure other nationality long-term Japan residents can cite examples of their countries' restaurants and retail chains making inroads into Japan. Having more choices is usually a good thing and should be celebrated. I also remember the times when you could count the number of ATM(s) in Tokyo that accepted foreign bank cards could be counted on the digits of one or two hands. Now they are everywhere. My point of this diatribe is that Japan is changing little by little and any little slight change such as the harmless addition of a Taco Bell should not be hated, but rather, celebrated even if it doesn't directly change your daily life.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Posted in: Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination? See in context

My experience in Japan: 10 years living (1995-2005) + annual and semi-annual visits every year since. Japanese speaking level: Intermediate My comments are not all-inclusive and there are always exceptions on an individual's case by case experience. That being said, here I go.

THE NEGATIVES: First and foremost, as a tourist (or long term resident) you must realize that 97%+ of the common every day Japanese has no desire, possibly better described as having an outright fear, of having to interact with a foreigner. Also, the less white you are (meaning that the fear factor exponentially increases if you are not a 1st world western caucasian) the less you are actually tolerated or interacted with in a friendly positive manner. If you think I'm wrong or exaggerating then speak with a non-1st world caucasian person and ask about their experiences, especially long term residents. The Japanese government and domestic travel industry talk a big game about wanting foreign visitors to boost tourism and the economy, but the truth is they wish that they could thrive on a Japanese-only model where language and cultural difficulties are kept at a minimum, especially the old guard at the top making the decisions. It is all smoke and mirrors. For the most part the tourism industry providers love your money and would want you to have a pleasant stay, however, from their perspective wouldn't it be great if you could just speak and think like a Japanese then they wouldn't have to deal with all of YOUR cultural differences. Couldn't YOU be just a little bit less "mendokusai"? Instead of the Japanese being a slight bit more accommodating, they want the foreign visitor to do all of the conforming to a pre-conceived Japanese version of good service, fun things to do, etc. Also, as a tourist the higher you are willing to pay then the more international service standard-minded your experience will be and the more English/foreign language speaking staff will be present (This is true in any country). For example, will there be more cultural challenges and language barriers if you stay at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku or a ryokan in Shiga-ken who actually don't want to deal with a foreigner in the first place? You be the judge. Now, on to the cost of visiting Japan. I believe this comes down to the individual visitor's perspective. If you are coming from a first world nation, especially western European, then Japan is probably not such a bad deal. If you are visiting from a third world country then Japan is probably outrageously expensive in comparison. My best friend, Yutaka, who was a Japanese travel agent with 23-years experience before changing careers (quite late by Japanese standards) explained it to me best. He said, "Do you know how we best judge the popularity of a destination?" I replied, "No, please tell me." Yutaka said, "It's simple. We judge simply upon repeat visits. The more customers repeat visits to a certain destination the more we focus our business towards that place." From that perspective, I wonder what the statistics are for international tourists making that 2nd visit or more back to Japan.

THE POSITIVES: Japan can be an amazingly fun place and it doesn't have to break the bank either. The biggest factor I see other posters comment about is the cost. Well, from my perspective Japan has come down in cost considerably over the years. Yes, you can still pay through the nose for things if you are not careful. But, the overall cost of things has come down. If you are a tourist on a budget I challenge you to find more delicious, and dare I say, nutritious foods in the world than at any Japanese convenience store. If you are willing to put up with a fare amount of inconvenience than guest houses abound in the urban areas with downright cheap prices to lay your head down for a night. On the higher end scale I don't see that four star and 5 star hotels cost anymore in Japan than other places in the world. As far as transportation within Japan goes, if you plan right and have your Japan rail pass or an airline pass then costs can be kept down (BEWARE THOUGH, if you don't have those things then travel in Japan can be downright outrageous. There's a reason Japanese go abroad for vacations longer than 3 days more than travel within their own country!). Museums in Japan are very reasonably priced compared with first world averages and some places are totally free. For the more adventurous souls out there, one thing I will say with 100% certainty is that the cost of nightlife in Japan has drastically fallen (a result of the stagnated economy no doubt). I was in Tokyo last fall and I was astounded by the number of 500 yen (and even 300 yen) a drink bars around the train stations that have popped up. Some dance clubs that used to cost me 3,500 yen with 1 drink ticket are now 1,000 with 1 drink ticket if you arrive before midnight. How hard is that to do? Not much if you ask me. I read a few complaints in the other posts about ATMs (cash dispensing machines). Perhaps in the countryside there are fewer options, however in my humble opinion, Japan is an oasis of ATM options especially when compared with 1995 (Yes, I remember when the 1st Citibank ATMs started popping up. OH THE JOY!!!). Prior to the 2002 World Cup Japan recognized their deficiency in foreign ATMs, and amazingly, did something about it. Now you can use your foreign ATM card in any Post Office in Japan to withdraw money. Also, 7-11 ATMs in Japan provide 24-hour access to withdraw money. Now, I will speak about language barriers. As in any other country, the further you travel from said country's economic center the less foreign language speakers you will find generally. Japan is no different from any other country in that regard. If you have difficulty in Japan trying to get your point across regardless of the situation please try to apply a little bit of patience. In addition, there are several smart phone apps, computer programs, etc. that can translate for you to a reasonable degree. Of course don't expect them to be able to translate detailed brain surgery instructions, but for daily common use, those programs should be more than adequate. Japanese for most part tend to be very patient and gracious hosts (especially if the alcohol is flowing). Please remember that Japan is an extremely stressful place for the Japanese themselves, so patience and understanding goes a long ways. The following is true in any country, not just Japan. If you learn just a smidgin. I mean just a tiny tiny tiny amount of Japanese and use it it will go a LONG WAY to making your visit more pleasant.

Thank you for reading my diatribe.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

Posted in: New ad campaign features Japan in all its stunning glory See in context

Ridiculous pictures! They look like some crazy morph of Matrix + Tomb Raider + think of any another movie along the same genre + some anime manga geek's (who has never been to Japan) adolescent fantasies of Japan in their minds (For you long term residents: Think "Charisma Man" pre-arriving in Japan type male. I'm no artist or photographer that's for sure, but don't you think some of those pictures look like rank "Photoshop" work?

So, you may ask yourself what type of picture scene I would pick for Japan... Here I go:

A nice shot of 50+ people patiently waiting in line on the stairs of the 2F Shakey's Pizza in Omotesandou on any given Saturday or Sunday afternoon. (In my opinion one of the best deals in town if you don't mind yourself letting loose of an "onara" or two (or 100) afterwards, preferably while walking through crowded Takeshita Dori on your way back to Harajuku station and also letting loose of a few onara on the semi-crowded Yamanote-sen train.) I asked my 11-year old just now what he would pick for his Japan picture and he replied, "A beautiful picture of the 7-11 bento corner by oba-chan's house fully stocked and with no people in front to spoil the picture. Not a bad idea for a Japanese-culture picture, I think. And for a really negative, but very REAL picture of Japan, although I wouldn't recommend taking photographs there, a picture of the swarms of foreigners at Narita arriving flights passport control in lines (or queues for you English speakers out there) between 1500 and 1830 local Japan time when most of the inbound flights from North America, Asia, and God knows where else arrive.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Posted in: Are you old enough to remember a time when there were no cell phones, no email, no Internet and no way to keep you connected to the world 24 hours a day? If so, do you sometimes think back on that tim See in context

From 1991 through 1995 I sailed aboard the USS Midway CV-41 and USS Carl Vinson CVN-70. My now wife (girlfriend at the time) used to send me letters "VIA SNAIL MAIL" because it was the only communication option when my ships were at sea. She used to put the number of the letter in the bottom right hand corner starting with No. 1 at the beginning of a long cruise. It was so hilarious receiving, for example, letters 1 and 2 then a week later 5 and 6. What happened to 3 and 4??? Then a week later 3 and 4 would arrive with 7 and 8. Crazy, right? My wife is Japanese and we live in the states now. Our children are aged 8 and 11. Every summer my wife takes the kids to Tokyo and let's them attend Japanese public school. My children have Ipads and connect to their grandmother's WIFI in Japan and we use FACETIME to communicate almost daily. Technology has come so far so fast. When we FACETIME it's as if they're in the same room with me, not on the other side of the planet! When my wife and I explain to our children about life without IPADS, smart phones, email, internet, cable tv boxes without DVR(s), no NETFLIX, etc. they look at us as if we are neanderthals. Funny!

I have made one sad observation, though. I lived in Yokohama from 1995 to 2005 and now I usually visit Japan for two or three weeks annually. Every year I have observed Japanese (and almost every person around the world under age 35) become more and more obsessed to the point of oblivion by their keitai. It started out simply with texting (pre-smart phone era) back and forth followed by the 3G Japanese data services. Now with smart phones accessing the internet at incredible speeds people seem so withdrawn from each other now. This past May during my annual visit to Tokyo I observed on several occasions people at yakitoriya, izakaya, shot bars, etc. in groups of 3 or more friends and all of them were just sitting there typing and clicking away on their smart phones not even having a conservation with each other. It was kind of spooky. Of course this is not a Japan-only phenomenon, but I remember the good old days of Japan when people who didn't even know each other would have friendly animated conversations at street-side YATAI, izakaya, beer gardens, etc. I think I see a common theme here (alcohol.. HAHAHAHA!)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Posted in: Japanese restaurants in New York introduce ban on tipping See in context

Look at that receipt. EDAMAME $9 !!!!! Oh My Gosh !!! (Actually I was thinking of using a more colorful metaphor, but didn't want the censors to come after me.) Those better be the best damn Edamame in the history of mankind!

Tipping in Japan: I agree with fds about tipping at Ryokan and most of the time I'll tell a taxi driver to keep the change. Honestly though, I'll be damned if I'll tip the Pizza-La delivery guy after the outrageous prices they charge (even though the prices aren't his/her fault) !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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