All posts by Red

The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger: Part 2 – Okinawa Jef

Okinawa: The JEF Goya Burger
Okinawa: The JEF Goya Burger - How many stippies did it score?
This is part two of our series on Japan’s best burger. Here, you can see the first article, and the “stippy” rating system we use to tell you whether you need to get one of these burgers into you, or whether you should avoid them like a drunk oyaji on the shuden (last train).

Review #2 – Jef Burger, Okinawa:
For some reason whenever I visit Okinawa I find myself expecting to land in a mini-America and see American signs, restaurants, customs, etc all over the place. Then I arrive and remember that the locals have done a pretty good job since 1972 of reversing the American influence gained (if any) during the 27 years of occupation. Naha isn’t really that different from most other marginalized regional cities in Japan. I personally don’t find the beaches there to be all that attractive, so besides visiting the Aquarium, there is only one thing left to do: eat! And If there was one part of American culture that must still be alive and well, I figured it had to be the hamburger. Continue reading The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger: Part 2 – Okinawa Jef

Daddy-san (part 1): The adventures of a first-time Gaijin Dad in Japan

Bringing up a bi-cultural kid - it can be confusing
Bringing up a bi-cultural kid - it can be confusing
When I discovered that I (I guess I should say “my Japanese wife”) was pregnant, every day was an eye opener. Being the excited, first time Father that I was, I was keen to get everything right. Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I got confused. Why is that something as common as pregnancy could be so unscientific? Furthermore, why is that the “rules” surrounding pregnancy for human beings could be so different across our two countries? My belief that this must be a peculiar situation specific to pregnancy led me to write my pregnant Dad series (click here if you haven’t read it yet). Hah! How naïve was I. Just like Richard commented in series five of the pregnancy series, the fun had only just begun. Continue reading Daddy-san (part 1): The adventures of a first-time Gaijin Dad in Japan

Aso’s Hidden Wealth: How “disclosure” works in Japan

Aso: Just what is he worth? Stippy investigates how Japan's politicians legally hide their true wealth from us
Aso: Just what is he worth? Stippy investigates how Japan's politicians (legally) hide their true wealth from the public, and pay incredibly low taxes on their real estate in the process
Have you made a donation to your local LDP politician lately? I hope not. If you read the Nikkei on the weekend of the 26th October you might have noticed the two page spread (p6~7) detailing the assets of the senior (and not so senior) members of the new Aso cabinet. Given the amount of corruption in Japanese bureaucracy, it sounds like a good idea to force a certain amount of disclosure so that citizens can understand where vested interests might lie, but does this really help us to discover the financial worth of the politicians here?

For a start, in Japan there is no need to disclose any bank deposits that are on call. With Japanese interest rates as they are, something like 60% Continue reading Aso’s Hidden Wealth: How “disclosure” works in Japan

Getting Pregnant in Japan – Part Six: Finding a Baby-Friendly Hospital (BFH)

Breast feeding at a Baby Friendly Hospital in Japan
Breast feeding at a Baby-Friendly Hospital in Japan

Has your wife already chosen her Obstetrics & Gynecology (Ob/Gy) Doctor in Japan? Have you met him? (I use “him” as unfortunately the vast majority of Ob/Gy’s in Japan are males) Did you go along to help scrutinize him? Call me paranoid but we went and interviewed 4 different doctors before we decided on who we wanted to deliver our baby. It’s astounding how different one Doc’s perspective can be to the next.

This is the sixth installment in a series about my personal experience of being pregnant in Japan (or perhaps I should say, of my Japanese wife being pregnant). I decided to start writing this series when I realized that there must be a significantly large population of gaijin dad’s out there who are making all of the mistakes that I have and wished there was a bank of information somewhere to save them some of the pain. In that respect, this installment Continue reading Getting Pregnant in Japan – Part Six: Finding a Baby-Friendly Hospital (BFH)

“Kansahojin” – New NHK TV Drama Series

監査法人 NHK TV Drama Series Kansahojin
監査法人 – The exciting new NHK TV series

I’m really getting in to a particular mini-series (ドラマ, dorama) on air at the moment in Japan. It’s 監査法人 (Kansahojin, “Auditor”) on NHK at 9PM each Saturday night. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a mini-series that is solely focused on that very sexy profession of auditing! Judged by all of my friends who are accountants I wasn’t really expecting much spice from this one. Much to my surprise, after having just watched the first three episodes (Episode 4 of 6 in total is screening tonight, Sat 5th July at 9pm), I’m finding myself pulled right into the story. Clearly NHK has timed the airing to clash with the Continue reading “Kansahojin” – New NHK TV Drama Series

Getting Pregnant in Japan – Part Five: Something Fishy About Mercury Levels?

Eating Seafood While Pregnant - Western vs Japanese Guidelines
The “Mercury Food Chain” – From the ocean to your baby

Everyone knows that pregnant women should avoid fish and definitely shouldn’t eat raw fish… right? Or at least I thought that was “a given” until I started discussing what my wife and I might eat on our next date in the big smoke. Well, it turned out that we were to have sushi and that I had no say in the matter.

There is no better topic than pregnancy for old wives tales to prevail and the list of different foods that you can and can’t eat seems to be not only the longest, but the most contentious when it comes to the cross-border battle of who’s “common sense” was to prevail. While it is hard to prove most wives tales either right or wrong, but I assumed that something as important as food must have a “right” answer. Continue reading Getting Pregnant in Japan – Part Five: Something Fishy About Mercury Levels?

The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger: Part 1 – Awajishima!?

Awajishima Burger: The Best Burger in Japan
Awajishima Burger: Possibly the best in Japan

Update: We like hamburgers so much, that we are going to turn this article into a multi-part series called, “The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger”.

We will rank some of Japan’s less known, but more tasty (or not!) burger joints. We will rate each one using the following simple system. How good the burger is earns it between zero and three “stippies” as follows:

  • 0 stippies: We’ll never go back to these places, and we’ll let you know why you should avoid them.
  • 1 stippy: A hearty feast but nothing to write home about. You’d choose it over most other restaurants in the area but wouldn’t go out of your way to visit the area just to have a hamburger here.
  • 2 stippies: you can tell that the owner has spent time considering the balance of his hamburgers. Ingredients are procured directly from farms and other small scale suppliers who care about the taste of their product.
  • 3 stippies: ecstasy. You can’t get a 3 stippy ranking without at least one tear of joy being shed by the author.

Review # 1 – Awajishima Burger, Hyogo:
I don’t take my burgers lightly. As a big fan of hardcore burgers and an unforgiving critic of cheap imitations, I am on a seemingly endless search for Japan’s perfect burger for more than a decade. While I’m always hesitant to claim that I have found the Emperor of all burgers (because then I wouldn’t have an excuse to go out eating burgers every weekend!!), I think I have come pretty damn close.

Awajishima Burger SignMy chance discovery was on the way home from Shikoku the other day. As we were driving over the whirlpools of Naruto (鳴門の渦潮) the road sign to Awajishima (淡路島) triggered a memory Continue reading The Quest for Japan’s Best Hamburger: Part 1 – Awajishima!?

It’s Shooting Season on Japanese Dinner Tables

This is what a bamboo shoot really looks before it gets cookedTo make the most of the good weather that we’re enjoying this Spring, my family and I decided to tip toe amongst the Tulips that are in blossom at the moment at Expo Park (万博公園, banpaku koen). As we were walking around the Western side of the park, we decided to take a few photos outside the chikurin (竹林, bamboo forest). It was then that for the first time, I noticed a couple of Takenoko (たけのこ, baby bamboo shoots) sneaking up through the floor of the forest. Sure, I’ve seen fully grown bamboo trees many times and I’ve even enjoyed some noodles washed down the inner side of a bamboo trunk (流しそうめん, nagashisomen) before, but for some reason, I guess I’ve never walked by a bamboo forest in the Spring before. Being a big fan of bamboo shoots on the dinner table, I joked to my wife that we should sneak into the chikurin and take a few home. As you can guess, the idea didn’t get very much air time.

You’ll appreciate my surprise when I discovered Continue reading It’s Shooting Season on Japanese Dinner Tables

What would have happened if she was an American?

Kamiosawa: Filipina Murdered and Chopped Up in Tokyo
Kamiosawa: Murdered and Chopped Up in Tokyo

How many of you have been following the attempted suicide of Hiroshi Nozaki (野崎浩) on April 6? I’m guessing not that many of you, because for some reason it’s not really receiving that much air time on Japanese TV. Nozaki’s suicide is particularly controversial because after calling an ambulance he gave instructions to the doctor to search in a coin locker at the Hamamatsucho Station (浜松町駅) next to the World Trade Center Building. Inside the locker was a suitcase filled with 10 chopped up body parts of a 22 year old Filipina woman, Honiefaith Ratilla Kamiosawa (上大澤・ハニーフィット・ラティリア). As foreigners in Japan, there is more to this story than the Japanese media make out. How much different would this situation be if she were say, American? Or perhaps if she was a Japanese national, and the killer was an African American? Continue reading What would have happened if she was an American?

J-WOTD: お土産外交

おみやげがいこう (omiyage gaiko)
Omiyage - Maid in Japan

* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”

The beauty of the term Omiyage Gaiko is in its simplicity. Rather than being a complicated “4 character word” (四字熟語) it’s a neat little phrase that I saw for the first time being used on the television earlier this week. Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山 由紀夫) of the Democrats (not to be confused with his younger brother Kunio “a friend in my butterfly collecting club is from Al-Qaeda” Hatoyama (鳩山 邦夫) who is in the LDP coined this phrase a couple of weeks ago.

The two words that make up this phrase お土産 (omiyage, souvenir) and 外交 (gaiko, foreign policy) make an unusual combination. Hatoyama was using them to refer to Prime Minister Fukuda’s recent decision to force the refueling bill through the lower house without debate before his scheduled trip to America later this week. Continue reading J-WOTD: お土産外交