So after all of that rhetoric about abolishing road tolls (高速道路無料化法案), Hatoyama has decided to rethink his plan and only allocate 1/6 of the original budget detailed in their manifesto. Until last week, I, like 65% of Japanese voters, actually wanted him to scrap the entire plan altogether. I happened across some insightful interviews with the academics who originally proposed the policy and have since gained some insight into where the concept came from. How does Hatoyama look at himself in the mirror after promising that Japan will cut green-house gas reductions by 25%? Continue reading When should Japan’s Highways be Freeways?
Unless you get claustrophobic, the highlight of any trip to Okinawa has got to be visiting the Churaumi Aquarium (美ら海水族館). How many places in the world are there where you can see two huge whale sharks swimming gracefully in front of you? And what about the manta rays, sting rays, shovel-nose rays and eagle rays that escort them? Or the evil looking schools of giant trevally that would probably taste alright on a hibachi? Every time I visit Okinawa I have to visit there. If my family would let me, I could sit for hours in front of that huge twenty metre wide window gazing into the Kuroshio Sea (黒潮の海). It almost feels like you’re watching a larger than life Sharp Aquos television.
Unfortunately, it is a long drive up to Churaumi and there isn’t a lot to do along the way. When I was visiting there last we decided to stop by the “American Village” in Chatan (北谷) to break up the trip. It’s just to the south of Camp Foster (キャンプ瑞慶覧) and Camp Lester (キャンプ桑江). Continue reading The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger: Part 4 – Pocke Farm
My family is currently looking for a house to buy in Tokyo. Originally I was just thinking about buying near a park and a supermarket that had a decent stock of cheese and wine. For the simple reason that most of my friends live centrally, I was predominantly looking in the South-Eastern corner of Tokyo. However, after talking with a few friends, I’ve recently wondered if I should be looking in the opposite corner of the big smoke. How many of you knew that in less than a year (mid 2010), Keisei Railway is going to start a new express line that will connect Tokyo and Narita in 36 minutes? Yes, 36 minutes. How cool would it be to move seamlessly to and from Narita every time you visit home? I don’t know about you but the whole prospect of travelling to and from Narita depresses me so much that it generally takes a day into my holiday to get over the fiscal and mental pain associated! Clearly I’d had my head in the sand because the lovely little Ueto Aya (上戸彩) Continue reading Narita Sky Access (New Skyliner): Tokyo to Narita Airport in 36 Minutes – JR Narita Express Killer?
I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about Japanese toilets for years (see our first Japanese Toilet article here). Now I’ve got Steve Jobs and his avid Japanese team of iPhone app developers to thank! Who else but the Japanese would think of designing an iPhone app that replicates the sound of a toilet flushing.
Now, thanks to the “eco-oto” (“エコ音”, which is short for “ecological sound”) iPhone app, you no longer have to feel embarrassed that someone is hearing you take a whiz in a public toilet. Do I hear you saying “Why on earth would I be embarrassed fulfilling a call of nature?” Well there are a few things that you need to know about Japan. Continue reading “Eco-Oto” iPhone Toilet Sound App: Virtually flushing your money away to save face
Ordinarily you wouldn’t assume that an article about travelling with babies has much of a Japan specific angle. Maybe it doesn’t. But the impression that I’ve received from friends and the on looking eyes of broader society as well is that it’s not that normal to travel with a young baby. Actually it’s not even that normal to take a young baby outside of your home for the first month (or more) in Japan. I have no idea what is “best for baby” but I’m more than happy to relay our experiences of baby travel and how much fun we were able to have without all of the stress that is apparently assumed when you’ve got a baby.
I figured that this is particularly relevant to other gaijin daddies out there who either want to take their child “home” to see their half of the family, or, if the child was born and lives outside of Japan, probably have a wife hoping to do the same. Continue reading Daddy-san (part 3): Travelling with your Baby
I don’t know about you but in my family it is a tradition to gather together with lots of friends on election night and follow the opening of votes. That’s right: “Election Party Night” and it is on again this Sunday. So just in case you are only a “social watcher” of politics, I decided to put together a few of my notes on the election so that a few more people can enjoy following what could be a historic election for Japan. If you know your Japanese politics pretty well then feel free to skip the first 2~3 paragraphs and get into the meat.
The LDP won the last lower house election (2005) after Koizumi dissolved parliament to win support for his key policy of privatizing the post office. Voter turnout was huge (for Japan) and the LDP won 296 out of the 480 seats in the lower house. (327 including Komeito) The Democrats didn’t even win a quarter of the seats (113/480).
This time around the tide has changed and the Democrats will be focusing on two magic numbers. Continue reading Everything you need to know about this Sunday’s lower house election
If this was any other country I think you’d assume that a political party named the “Happiness Realization Party” was a hoax (or a bunch of hippies). But this is Japan and if the amount of donations to fight the next election is any gauge, I think it is safe to say that this new party on the Japanese political scene is very serious.
It’s more than likely that you’ve heard their trucks driving around near you because the Happiness Realization Party (幸福実現党) are fielding a candidate in every one of the 300 single-seat electoral districts (小選挙区, shosenkyoku) and if that wasn’t enough they are also providing a list of a whopping 45 candidates for the proportional-representation constituency (比例区, hireiku).*1 While their “uguisujo” (鶯嬢, noisy hired help shouting out politicians names from vans) don’t mention it directly, the Happiness Realization Party are actually a close affiliate of the shinkoshukyu (新興宗教, slightly controversial religion) known as “Happy Science”. Continue reading Happiness through Japanese Politicians?
Did you sign your current rental agreement at the top of the market and wondering whether or not you should move houses at the end of your current contract? Would you be willing to stay where you are if you to didn’t have to pay an entire months rent (or sometimes two) to your landlord to thank them for renewing your contract? Or does it just really irritate you that it’s hard to compare one rental contract due to all of the unwritten customs in Japan? Either way, rental life is getting a little bit closer to being simpler thanks to a man from Kyoto.
Contrary to popular belief, I believe the best hamburgers are definitely a slow food. Just because McDonald’s made hamburgers into the archetypal fast food, it doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice the concept of a real high quality burger. While it’s rare to find a burger joint that is willing to keep their customers waiting 15 minutes or more after ordering, T’s★Diner (T’s Star Diner) is and is proud of it.
It really frustrates me the number of heart-ache stories that I hear from friends who’ve been totally convinced by the Japanese mass media that their breasts aren’t good enough for their babies. Just as depressing are the number of stories that I’ve heard where mothers in Japan who had previously believed that breast is best, have been convinced by their doctors (after only a few weeks of trying) that they’re not making enough milk and switched to formula or a mix of formula and breast milk. Whereas 90% of Japanese mothers when surveyed before giving birth suggest that they want to raise their child on breast-milk, only 3~40% of them are still exclusively feeding their babies breast milk by their three month check up. That is lower than most countries in Asia, and is extremely low when compared even with Continue reading Daddy-san (part 2): Breast is best and don’t let your Japanese OB/GYN tell you otherwise