All posts by Red

“Tokyo Underworld” – The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan Book Review: Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

The good thing about the mob (or the Yakuza) in Japan is that they rarely involve innocent bystanders in their sometimes violent dealings, so it’s easy to forget the fact that they are still active on nearly every street corner of major cities of Japan. Incidents like the “Yakuza” killing the other day certainly bring home the reality of their existence and offer a rare insight into the power struggles that are going on everyday. Given the high gaijin population in Azabu/Roppongi, these most recent broad daylight killings are sure to invoke at least a little bit of anxiety in readers. Are you afraid? Continue reading “Tokyo Underworld” – The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan

J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)

Kenjiやめけん (yameken)

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

The phrase “yameken” is an abbreviation of the words 検事 (kenji, member of the public prosecutor’s office (検察庁, kensatsucho)) and やめた (yameta, to quit). Quite literally it refers to someone who has quit their role as a public prosecutor. More specifically, it almost always refers to someone who has passed the bar exam after quiting and become a lawyer. I guess it is a little like an elite version of “datsusara” (脱サラ) except it is a lot less common.

The concept is novel as the majority of people who go to work for the kensatsucho are bound to silence and often work there until they retire. Continue reading J-WOTD: ヤメ検 (やめけん)

Who’s your Daddy? – a love call from Shikoku

closeupAfter eating what was potentially the worst cream puff of my life this afternoon at the local Willie Winki, I was motivated to write an article on Beard Papa. Having been relocated to the arse-end of Shikoku for the past month, I think you can safely assume that I’m missing a bunch of the things that Black is missing. To be sure, Beard Papa is definitely one of them.

As far as I’m concerned, Beard Papa is the crème de la crème of “choux a la crème” (シュークリーム). I’ve got not idea why the Japanese call cream puffs by a name that sounds like that black stuff I use to polish my shoes Continue reading Who’s your Daddy? – a love call from Shikoku

Road Test: Blackberry 8707g IN JAPAN!

8707g - so far the only Blackberry available in JapanAfter years of refusing to enable Blackberries to work in Japan, DoCoMo finally let the technology loose a couple of months ago. Although there is still only one model available, after reading Wasabi Green’s writeup on I couldn’t resist but giving one a test-drive. So what is the verdict? Is it really worth lashing out a couple of men (万円の複数形, plural of “万”) to buy a blackberry? The short answer is “not yet”. Read on for’s field review of Japan’s blackberry friendliness. Continue reading Road Test: Blackberry 8707g IN JAPAN!

Diving in the Heart of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

wrecksmallDespite being the founding member of the diving club, I have a confession to make: I’m a complete and absolute “resort diver.” Although in my younger, delinquent days I was silly enough to wander into the miso soup-esque waters of Izu, I now exclusively dive in tropical waters where it’s even warm in the rain and the visibility is great all year round. Yes, that means that I don’t dive in Japan. (If you think that I’m being a little shortsighted, feel free to suggest any “must dive” Japanese sites in the comment section below.)

Because most nice dive locations are hard to get to, the only real chances for me to getaway are Golden week and Oshogatsu. This Christmas was no exception and I’ve just come back from a relaxing two week break in Palau. I had never heard of Palau before I began diving, but it is a small republic (the youngest member of the UN) off the coast of the Philippines. Amongst divers, Palau is often referred to as one of Continue reading Diving in the Heart of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

Heartland – more than just a gaijin bar in Roppongi

Heartland Beer BottlesIchiro: “So where are we meeting the boys tonight in Roppers?”
Kenta: “Not sure, but I think the plan is to meet up at Heartland for a few warm up beers and take it from there.”


Every gaijin who has been to Roppongi Hills has been to Heartland. Meeting someone at Heartland is the Roppongi equivalent of Alta Studio (アルタ前) in Shinjuku, Big Man in Umeda or Grand Central Station in New York – only better: Heartland has beer. Continue reading Heartland – more than just a gaijin bar in Roppongi

Inflation in Japan? (Long live the affluent taxi driver)

Inflation in JapanAn old friend of mine, visiting Tokyo for the first time in 5 years, mentioned something interesting a few days ago that stirred dormant thoughts in my head about inflation in Japan. He mused:

“Sitting on the Narita Express, coming in to town, I started remembering the old Tokyo of five years ago and wondering how much prices had gone up since I was last in town. How much would a metro ticket cost? What would be the price of a beef bowl at Yoshinoya? But what surprised me was that everything was the same – as if Japan had been frozen in time for the last five years. How Strange. Back home, in Sydney, it’s taken for granted that the price of everything goes up at least once a year.”

But that’s what 12 consecutive years of deflation does to you. Continue reading Inflation in Japan? (Long live the affluent taxi driver)

Is Time doing another Newsweek?

How do Time chose Asian heroes?The way that Newsweek changes its front covers (and lead articles) to cater for its local audience is old news. It seems that Newsweek has particularly been sensitive to their US readership when it comes to the war on terrorism. You can read about the most recent editorialism here on this page detailing how the US English edition was different to other international English editions in September, this year. Our biking gaijin friend at ridingsun was also kind enough to point out a less known discrepancy between the Japanese language edition and the English language edition from May of last year. We were lucky that we noticed about these, but how regularly are the magazines that we read biased due to a US centric editorial policy in a more subtle way.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of publishing an Asian edition, Time Magazine has published a special feature called “60 Years of Asian Heroes” in it’s latest Continue reading Is Time doing another Newsweek?

Book Review: “Target China’s ‘New Rich’ With Your Net Shop (ネットショップで中国の富裕層(ニューリッチ)を狙え!)”

Yangs publicationsTarget China’s “New Rich” With Your Net Shop (click here to view the book on

The concept that Yang Mingyi (楊 鳴一) presents in this book is so amazingly simple that you’ll kick yourself for not thinking of it first. Everyone can think of a product that they’d like to sell to the Chinese, but very few of us have the linguistic ability, business acumen or experience (let alone the money) to set up shop in China. If Web 2.0 is all about targeting the long tail, then surely China must be the perfect candidate. Yang’s book is all about empowering the China-novice (you and me) to target it with minimum expense.

Yang is the CEO of United Cities Japan (UCJ, and recently took the time to explain his business model to He modestly refers to Continue reading Book Review: “Target China’s ‘New Rich’ With Your Net Shop (ネットショップで中国の富裕層(ニューリッチ)を狙え!)”

Female Shacho (CEO) in Focus: Emura Rika (江村林香)

Ms. EmuraEver since reading a recent article on about the under-representation of female CEOs in Japan, I’ve been racking my brains to find one. My first thoughts were of Tomoyo Nonaka of Sanyo Electric or Fumiko Hayashi of Daiei, but as Chairwomen, they both strike me more as figure heads than actual active, managing CEOs. During my search, I stumbled across the intriguing story of Emura Rika (江村林香), the 38 year old President of Air Transse, a small regional airline in Hokkaido. It did not take me long to discover that it is not the fact that Emura is a female that makes her a fascinating entrepreneur.

Emura’s talent as a manager flowered at a very young age. As the eldest daughter Continue reading Female Shacho (CEO) in Focus: Emura Rika (江村林香)