Plain Talk


Eternal Chrysanthemums by ALMA REYES

The Chrysanthemum Throne, the name given to the throne of the Emperor of Japan, had become frequently visible this year since the abdication of Emperor Emeritus Akihito last April 30th. This autumn when the Chrysanthemum or Kiku Festival is celebrated, the floral symbol has, thus, taken on a more auspicious meaning due to the year’s historical significance, ushering in the new Reiwa era.

If you have visited any of the shrines around Tokyo to witness the Kiku Matsuri (Meiji-jingu Shrine, Takahata-fudoson Temple, Hibiya Park, Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, Asakusa Sensoji Temple, Shinjuku Gyoen Park, Kameido-tenjin Shrine, Jindai Botanical Gardens, and others), you may wonder how the chrysanthemum flower was chosen to represent the Imperial Monarchy. A close look at this robust flower would reveal a standard set of 16 petals in the front and 16 petals on the rear side―the perfection of its symmetry that rightfully belongs to the straightforward dictates of the Japanese culture. In fact, so uncompromising is the regulation that only the 16-petal chrysanthemum symbol can be used by the Emperor. Other members of the Imperial family must use other chrysanthemum versions, particularly with 14 petals, while Diet members use a version with only single 16 petals on one side. It was said that in 1333, the Emperor Go-Daigo used a 17-petal chrysanthemum symbol to deviate himself from the Imperial Court order of his predecessors.

The chrysanthemum is known to have been introduced to Japan from China around the 5th century when the country adopted numerous facets into its cultural tradition―calligraphy, Buddhism, writing, traditional dress and others. The popularity of the flower even penetrated literature, such as poetry during the Heian period that it became an unquestionable choice to represent the Imperial seal.

Over 350 varieties of chrysanthemums exist in Japan, from ?giku (large) about 18 centimeters wide, ch?giku (medium) about 9−18 centimeters wide, to kogiku (small) types usually seen in bonsai or flower beds. There are also two-colored petal types, Tomoenishiki, which are a classic variety from the Kaga region in northwestern Japan. Another variety is the itogiku, which depicts spider-like tubular petals. Due to the elegant flower’s symbol of longevity, vigor and nobility, the chrysanthemum appears on decorations and accessories, including the Japanese 50-yen coin, the Japanese passport, Japanese paintings, kimono obi, and more.

Although the chrysanthemum is regarded as an autumn bloom, the white variety is commonly designated to funerals and offerings of sympathy, owing to its meaning of eternity, while the red species connote love and romance. During the month of November, many shrines and temples around Japan display a huge array of colorful varieties, whether in flower boxes or as pruned sculptures, some shaped into towering trees. The expositions are quite rare and quite worth viewing to feel a more innate introspection of Japanese traditional culture.

Lesser known places to go in Tokyo


Politics In A World Of Personal Empowerment by Paul Stewart

Is it just Me or do you often wonder what politics is for? Well. We know it exists. Perhaps it was created as a deliberate attempt to organize societies and develop them in structured ways. One things for sure, as with every man made structure, it reflects the consciousness of those that created it.

The interesting thing, is that human consciousness is expanding. So how will our structures reflect that? How will they keep up with the inner changes that we are experiencing and inviting daily. With rigidity and resistance at their core, they probably wont. But with flexibility and responsiveness and a pure intention to support all, they will do very nicely indeed. We see it on a personal level don't we? When we are holding to a current belief or way of being that doesn't work in the present situation, we suffer. Yet, when we allow small changes and consider new vantage points, we expand gracefully and become more.
I recently met an International Representative and chatted about their work. They were helping people with improving working conditions and working with Govt Agencies and all Stakeholders to implement positive change. They told me they as people had evolved and their organization also had developed considerably. One thing they did was stop people drumming up past problems and focus on moving forward during meetings. This lead to better results, better feeling and also, changing personnel as positivity and creativeness was now the expectation.

So will we see changes in political structures in the near future?
It depends on our ability to deliberately create or will we just choose to go along with what is and react.
It is possible that we create systems that are clear in their intentions as it is in our own daily reality.
It is possible that well meaning people present wonderful ideas that make life easier for the community without interfering in personal freedom.
It is possible that the hand of friendship is extended to all nations regardless of the past while it is also possible to accept the response of others based on where they are at.
It is possible that all nations hold valuable keys to living life as a human family and they share that generously with all.
It is possible that we see the beauty of the things other nations do well and share with them gladly the things we do well.
It is true that, the diversity in the world is one of its greatest gifts and may we continue to celebrate such things in creative ways and peace.

We do not achieve what we want by fighting what we don't want. Through deliberate focus and clear intention, the best we can imagine is experienced.

Unfinished business


Farewell to a Japan Jazz Icon by David Gregory

The messages from all over Japan read aloud during the service helped us realize how widely Koyama-san touched lives and how many like us were feeling something newly missing from our worlds. But, although wonderful and sometimes saddening us, they did not trigger crying. That happened next.

Those first few notes of the "'Round About Midnight" Miles Davis version, the cut Koyama-san always used to open Jazz Tonight, performed by a live piano and trumpet duo up front near the coffin, did it: Instant recognition, recollections, sighs around the room, eyes closed, arms crossed, heads dropped back or down, and tears, at least for me. How many times had we heard, after Miles breathed his somber opening, Koyama-san's low, raspy voice welcoming us into the studio with, "Minna-san, gokigen ikaga desho-ka everybody, how are you feeling?"?and never thought that someday we would hear him ask about us no more?

Koyama-san's widow, whom, like him, had never known me, stood alone at the coffin head and bowed in silence to everyone in turn after they placed flowers around his body as the duo continued with another slow number, the trumpet sounding so strong and crisp and unusual in a memorial service hall. After we placed our flowers, she responded to my hand on her shoulder, a touch just meant to console her, by immediately turning and reaching for me?a total stranger?burying her head in my chest, and breaking down. She needed that hug that everybody sometimes needs. She let go after her respite when she was ready to face the coffin and everyone else again, and returned to her position. Going to Kashiwa in a snowstorm was worth it just for those few moments when I could do something for her.

So our Kashiwa day was both sad and good. But, why did I even want to go a funeral for a man whom I only knew by voice, and who, although linked to jazz, was not even a musician?

Koyama-san and his Jazz Tonight program I listened to since at least the early 2000s. For more than sixteen years, while my life in Japan has been filled with huge uncertainties, he has been here Saturday nights on the radio, reliable, keeping me connected to the world's music and opening my ears to music from Japan I would not know without him. Listening to him always made me feel good, no matter what had happened in my life during the week or what was coming up in the weeks ahead. Koyama-san and Jazz Tonight were my respite. How well can I replace that comfort?

Koyama-san, thank you for helping this foreigner feel good in Japan. Please rest well in jazz heaven.

NHK Radio, thank you for giving Koyama-san a way to connect with us. Please encourage other DJs to continue doing what he did so well.

To Koyama-san's surviving family members: Please care well for yourselves now, and thank you for supporting and sharing Kiyoshi with us.



The Smallest Box by David Gregory

She came over to my table and asked if I remembered her.
“That’s my boyfriend over there.”
Their table hugged a pillar blocking the sunny Tokyo Bay view enjoyed by the other customers that afternoon in Chiba’s AquaRink ice skating facility café.
“Maybe we will marry next year.”

On my way out, I stopped to congratulate the potential groom to be. What I later heard happened with Hiromi and Hiroshi that night at another place also close to the bay sounded so too good to be true that I visited that place to confirm it really happened. It did.

Hiroshi had reserved for the course menu that night at OCEAN TABLE, next to Chiba Port, on the second floor, where tables sat by the huge windows facing Chiba Port Tower and Tokyo Bay. No view-blocking pillars there. And they had a wait, even with their reservation, because it was Christmas Eve, which in Japan matters much more than the following day; the Eve is the year’s couples’ night out, and single women without dates that night can feel their whole year was wasted.

Hiroshi had changed into a suit after skating, and had urged Hiromi, against her protests about overdressing, into a plaid one-piece, raising expectations. They had never come to a place this nice, one requiring reservations. Saizeriya was more their speed: fast faux-Italian, cheap, and everywhere.
The unexpected wait made Hiroshi antsy. He relaxed and all was perfect after they were seated.

They talked. They ate the Christmas Dinner courses. They ignored the soft Christmas background music. They admired the gleaming, golden Christmas Tree rising from the first-floor buffet area through the open center space across from their table. They could see outside the sparkling flashes and half the tree in Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination, and beyond, the lights from the ships on and facilities around Tokyo Bay, appearing almost twinkling. Perfect—but not for Hiromi.

She went to the toilet. Still he had not asked. The day was done. The reservation system only allowed them two hours there. They had been together all day. He had remembered her birthday-just by coincidence, also that day-with a necklace at AquaRink. Nice, but was that all? He had pestered her since early December about what Christmas present she wanted until she had finally exploded with, “Nothing! Don’t you know I just want a proposal?!” And had added she wanted it to be a surprise. Here he had the perfect chance, and he was wasting it.

She could try enjoying what was left of the evening. Dessert was next. At least here was better than Saizeriya….She was still stuck when she returned to the table, and had no chance to do or say anything, anyway. It was his toilet turn.

Their desserts came. Hiromi sat and waited and pondered the future. Outside, the tower stood alone against the dark sky and Tokyo Bay’s inky darkness.

Their desserts waited. Maybe his tooth was bothering him again. Maybe he was just tolerating it to make the night go well. Maybe for her. Maybe she should go to check on him. Wait-maybe she just heard his voice across the room.

No, only Santa Claus, posing for photographs with diners at the far table. He then started circling the room, giving a small present from his big sack at each table. She could check after he was done.

Hiroshi still had not returned to his seat when Santa reached their table. He handed Hiromi a big, red stocking, by far the room’s largest gift, accompanied by a squeaky, “Atari! You’re a lucky one!” Yeah. She set it aside and Santa moved on. What was he still doing in the toilet?

Santa finished his round, returned to Hiromi, and pointed at her unopened stocking with squeaky, “Un! Un!” grunts. The other diners had opened their presents. She forced a smile and said she was waiting for her boyfriend to return. “Un! Un!”

When Hiromi still resisted, Santa took the stocking in his white-gloved hands and opened it himself. Out first came a big, pink box, heart shaped. He opened that and pulled out another heart-shaped box, and then, from inside that, another heart-shaped box. Another smaller, heart-shaped box followed. He removed from that an even smaller heart-shaped box, and thrust it to Hiromi with one more squeaky, “Un!”

Still gone. Well, he’d miss it. Hiromi obeyed Santa this time and opened it, the smallest box in the room …and her mind and face went blank.

After that frozen moment passed, Hiromi looked at Santa. The second shock hit, and more followed. Santa Claus had ripped off his gloves, furry hat, sunglasses, and huge, flowing beard. He took the box from her?she was still speechless?dropped onto one knee, held the open box out and up to her in both stretching hands, and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Hiromi-san, boku-to kekkon shite kudasai! Hiromi, please marry me!”

Outside, to anybody looking, Port Tower’s Christmas Illumination still flashed, and the lights on and around Tokyo Bay still appeared almost twinkling. Inside OCEAN TABLE, on the second floor, everything was happening so fast that Hiromi just did not know which was more difficult to believe: Hiroshi and the ring he first tried slipping onto the finger on her right hand, the one he had taken in his before she held out her left hand, or the following PAN! and PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! PAN! and PAN! PAN! and PAN! explosions ripping and ribbons shooting around the room as diners at the floor’s other tables popped the party crackers they had found with the notes in their presents from Santa Claus.

Copyright © 2018 David L. Gregory All rights reserved.


I Did It! by David Gregory

She had been here before. But, those were tour-guided or hand-held visits. After living most of her life in white-bread suburban USA, driving everywhere, shopping in giant malls and supermarkets, and needing only one currency and one language, my mother ventured out on her own, within and beyond Chiba, during one trip to Japan. From her notes, here are Dorothy's...

Grocery Shopping in Neighborhood―Walk five only one bag...walk five blocks back. Survived it!

Shopping in City Center―Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus fifteen minutes. Arrive at stores. Walk around. Look. Decide: cookies.

Buying: “Ikura desu-ka how much?” Hmm. “Kakimasu kudasai write please.”

Paying options: give large bill, let clerk figure change, or open change purse, let clerk take out correct amount. Decide to just give some cash.

Clerk shakes her head (“NO! MORE!”), then counts out correct amount needed from register and shows me. I mimic her action from my change purse. Smiles! Deep bows with many, “Arigato gozaimasu thank you very much!”-es.
(My error: thought there was decimal point in Yen price....)

Open cookies, expecting pirouettes with chocolate centers. Instead, peanut butter waffle rolls, no chocolate. No wonder, now I see peanut sketch on package. “Shoganai can’t be changed,” I did it to myself. It could have been worse!
Travelling to Visit Friend’s Family on Other Side of Chiba―Walk ten blocks to train. Purchase ticket. Electronic lady on ticket machine screen says, “Arigato gozaimasu” and bows. Ride train twenty minutes, watching for correct stop, get off, walk seven blocks to house. I did it myself!

Visiting Hisae Overnight―My Japanese study partner in USA returned to Japan, now lives on other side of Tokyo Bay.

Take large purse and large tote bag with jacket, nightie, toothbrush, cosmetics. Walk six blocks to bus stop. Ride bus to train station. Ride train eighty minutes to Yokohama. Find correct exit from station. EASY. Did not even look at note in pocket explaining route and Japanese signs. And, look! Hisae and three-year old Kei are waiting! “Hello!” they say! Many hugs!

I did it!

Then, still more travel: train together fifteen minutes, short taxi uphill to lovely apartment, sunny and bright.

Returning to Chiba, just reverse process. Next time, we can meet at a station halfway in between. I can do it.
I can do it!

Copyright (C) 2015 David Gregory. All rights reserved. Chiba, Japan

Book Review


Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014,
291 pp, USD34.00

Reviewed by Randy Swank

video maker and scriptwriter Rey Ventura won the 2015 National Book Award for his third collection of essays, Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami, but for some strange twist of fate you will find very little information on this book. You can’t even buy it on Amazon. This is a shame because Cherry Blossoms... is a beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking book.

These 11 essays, some of them autobiographical, see Ventura travelling back and forth between the Philippines and Japan, his adopted country, often portraying the many ways Filipino lives have been shaped and affected by their rich quasi-neighbor. Like in "A Suitable Donor," where the young men who live in the Manila slum of Banseco tell of how they came to "donate" a kidney or another organ to help a rich person in need − often from Japan.

Cherry Blossoms in the Time of Earthquakes and Tsunami
by Rey Ventura
Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014, 291 pp, USD34.00

In "Miniskirts and Stilettos" we meet Ginto, a young lady who comes to Japan dreaming of making it big as a singer and entertainer but has to deal instead with a much darker reality; while "Mr. Suzuki Tries Again" and "Into the Snow Country" are tragicomic tales of arranged marriages where the dreams and expectations of bride-starved farmers from Japan's Deep North clash with those of young Filipino women who want to escape their poverty and go into marriage "as a girl goes into a convent." Ventura tells these stories with a great eye for detail and manages to find a ray of light even in the darkest corners, or poetry in the midst of a nuclear disaster.

The book's first essay is called "The Slow Boat to Manila" and indeed, slowness is the first word that comes to mind when considering Ventura's approach to writing. Everything Ventura does is slow. He is no magazine reporter after all, and will spend days or even months getting to know a person he wants to write about. That's the kind of personal commitment and deep connection with his subject that one feels when reading his essays.


Tokyo Fab


billboard classics festival 2020 in Tokyo

'billboard classics festival 2020 in Tokyo', a charity festival aiming to show gratitude toward all the NHS staff and to support live entertainment performers, staff, and orchestras suffering from these situations with COVID-19, will be held. Since spring, the music industry has been forced to refrain from performing due to the COVID-19, and staff who have supported the concerts have lost their jobs and orchestras are in danger of continuing its activities not being able to perform.
In order to send gratitudes through the power of music and to keep the torch of live entertainment, many artists including NOKKO, ANRI, Yuki Koyanagiand more will be performing at the festival.
This festival will invite 1000 NHS staff where they can enjoy many performances for 24hours. Join the concert and support NHS as well as entertainment performers, staff, and orchestras!

Date: 10/17 (Sat)


Hakuba Yoo Hoo Festival

Hakuba Yoo Hoo Festival offers a wide range of contents: Live Music, outdoor movies, workshops, local delicacies, yoga, and more. With the circumstances with COVID-19, they are also offering an online live music festival as well.
If you wish to join the festival onsight, precautionary measures for COVID-19; VIP plan for liver performance (30m away from the stage with personal space with a table and BBQ meal plan) Yoga with social distance in the open-air, MTB cycling in open-air, outdoor movies and as such are taken, so you can join the festival without getting worried too much!

Date: 9/26 (Sat) - 10/4 (Sun).
@ Hakuba Village, Nagano Prefecture

What’s App With You?



Dubsmash believes in the power of representation through video. By empowering all creators and communities to thrive on the platform with algorithms designed to promote creativity and diversity, this app aims to celebrate each other’s differences. This social video app allows the users to create, lip-sync videos with their favorite songs, quotes or dialogues. The music video app allows users to share the dubs with their friends and families on other platforms and messengers. Unlike other apps, they don’t track your GPS location and they don’t collect usage data for anything other than making the app work better for you and your communities.


Having hard time controlling the schedule of your team? Do you feel working from home and trying to manage your team feels like impossible? Don’t get stressed! Hot schedule is another best trending app in business category to collaborate with the team members and schedule the tasks. Your team members can easily work-life balance with automatic time-off requests and pickups requests along with easy swap up and shift release. Your team members can update their manager-approved changes in the schedule by syncing their phone calendars and notifications with the HotSchedules app. if this app helps your things to get easier, why not they it out?


Tokyo Voice Column


Coffee, Tea, Me? by Mardo

Once a day, I like to have a cup of coffee. Not instant coffee, but proper coffee. It can be Drip filtered through a Vietnamese Phin/drip filter. It can be steam powered like an Italian Cappuccino, but it has to be good coffee.

I do this not just for the caffeine hit. I can get that anywhere really. But I like the Ritual of coffee; getting out, sitting down, reading a paper or chatting and drinking something you can’t make at home. Not being able to make a cappuccino or latte at home is a big thing for me. I don’t want to buy a coffee maker and milk steamer. They are a bother to clean.

The problem though, is that a lot of places make BAD coffee. Coffee is easy to mess up. Water too hot, machine not flushed properly when cleaning, wrong coarseness of been for the machine or pressure, anything. And bad coffee tastes bad.

Tea is a lot harder to ruin. Especially green or Chinese tea. Provided you do not leave the leaves in too long, or the water is not hot enough, you are likely to get a good cup of tea most times. Tea with milk is easier to ruin, especially if you are visiting America. But in Australia, China, England, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, I have to say, I have not had a really bad cup of tea.

Which leads me to a choice of risking a bad cup of coffee when I feel like a coffee, or taking what is probably going to be a decent cup of tea instead. This is tricky for me because I don’t like sending back food unless it is really, really bad. And often, coffee makers who are not well trained don’t think there is anything wrong with their coffee. I have taken the approach of visiting every coffee shop in my town, and choosing the ones I like. Some are good almost all the time, some only good in the morning ( I think they need to clean their machines more often) and some I only go if a specific Barista is on. I know I should be firmer, but I go for coffee to relax, not to start a fight.

But when things are bad, or I am stuck in a hotel and can’t find an ATM to get cash and its all they have, or I am just home and need a pick me up, I will have a cup of tea. White, one Sugar, any for you?






MUSEUM -What's Going on?-



Anime and manga have long been at the heart of Japanese culture and tradition, with a steady increase of popularity between the generations. Although anime and manga are most popular in Japan, over the last two decades, the popularity for anime and manga has also grown considerably in all around the world.
One of the major reasons why anime and manga have stood the test of time and became so popular all over the world is because of their unique ability to grow with their followers. One of the most famous anime experts analyzes that Japanese anime has become widely accepted due to its unconventional nature breaking the convention that anime is something that only kids would want to watch. Anime has been supported by its intensity and complexity of the anime story-lines with the endings being incredibly difficult to predict. The manga style provides an engine for various fans to depict their own stories and link to each other through this strange world.

Illustration by Yoh Yoshinari(C)Crypton Future Media, INC. (C) khara
(C) Naoko Takeuchi (C) Naoko Takeuchi/PNP, Toei
Animation (C) Osamu Akimoto, Atelier

The National Art Center, Tokyo has been putting a great deal of effort into introducing Japan’s distinctive culture, starting with “MANGA*ANIME*GAMES from JAPAN” (June 24 - August 31, 2015), followed by the same exhibit held in Thailand and Myanmar. In 2018, as part of “Japonismes 2018: les a^mes en resonance”, we held the MANGA⇔TOKYO exhibition (November 29 − December 30, 2018) in Paris, France, which attracted over 30 thousand highly appreciative visitors. This time, we will bring the renovated exhibition back to Japan.

Period: August 12 (Wed.) − November 3 (Tue.), 2020
Venue: The National Art, Center, Tokyo Special Exhibition Gallery 1E
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (last admission 30 minutes before? closing )
Closed: Tuesdays (Except 9/22, 11/3) and 9/23
Advanced booking required

For more information, please visit




DESIGNART is a new word that redefines the things that touch us and bring emotion to our everyday lives through function and beauty. It is also the name of the movement to spread and share this amazing concept. With the concept of “Emotions” we will gather and exhibit emotional design and art contents from all over the world, Through the recent years, the boundaries between design and art have been crossing over, and works surpassing such boundaries have been creating an international movement. However, to save the traditional industries around the world, we have noticed the need to clarify the identity of these movements through design or art, and send out this information to the people who are interested in an “Emotions”. Through our sustainable activities, we aim to enrich the qualities of lives, along with spreading the word DESIGNART, as a term to explain design and art on the same level, not just domestically but also internationally.


“DESIGNART TOKYO” is a festival held each fall as a platform for showcasing the project. It brings together items and experiences like art, architecture, interior design, product design, fashion, food, sports, and technology from around the globe to the stage of Tokyo, one of the world’s leading mixed culture cities, in a revolutionary assembly of presentations in galleries, shops, and all sorts of locations. This is an event that transforms all of Tokyo in a museum of design and art, allowing everyone to stroll the city taking in each display.


Period: Friday, October 23 − Tuesday & National Holiday, November 3, 2020
Venue: Shops, restaurants, cafes and event spaces nearby / around Omotesando・Gaienmae / Harajuku・Meiji-jingumae / Shibuya・Ebisu / Daikanyama・Nakameguro / Roppongi / Shinjuku / Ginza

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Hush Hush!

More quiet zones in high-risk indoor spaces, such as hospitals and restaurants, could help to cut coronavirus contagion risks, researchers have said, after a study showed that lowering speaking volume can reduce the spread of the disease. In efforts to rein in transmission, a reduction of 6 decibels in average speech levels can have the same effect as doubling a room's ventilation, scientists said. The World Health Organization changed its guidance in July to acknowledge the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as during choir practice, or when in restaurants or fitness classes. Microscopic droplets ejected while speaking evaporate to leave behind aerosol particles big enough to carry viable virus, the paper showed. An increase of about 35 decibels in loudness, or the difference between whispering and shouting, boosts the particle emission rate by 50 times. "The results suggest that public health authorities should consider implementing 'quiet zones' in high-risk indoor environments, such as hospital waiting rooms or dining facilities," wrote the six researchers from the University of California, Davis.

Tanning with your Smartphone?!

For many people, 10 minutes away from your smarpthone can feel like a lifetime. But a new warning by a dermatologist may urge you to spend less time with your smartphone in your hand. A Consultant Dermatologist has warned that blue light from your smartphone is as bad for your skin as the sun. Five working days in front of a digital device can have the same impact on the skin as 25 minutes in the sun, and It takes about seven minutes to actually get a tan. So that is significant. The simplest way to protect your skin is to limit the amount of time you spend on your devices. Alternatively, active smartphone users should consider using skincare products that contain antioxidants including Vitamin B3 or Vitamin C. Iron oxide is the best visible light blocker. So, a tinted sunscreen or a tinted make-up which has got some iron oxides would actually be better than the sunscreens that we have now.



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