Plain Talk


Rugby World Cup Japan! by Kaguaki Yamauch

It’s Official, Some games for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are SOLD OUT! You can still get some tickets to smaller games but if you want any of the the top ten nations, TOO LATE! I tried to get Wales v Australia, but that sold out quickly, luckily I also wanted to visit Kumagaya and the games there are not so popular, or expensive. I have been waiting for this for over a decade! Japan, the country that has not missed a single Rugby World cup, which bankrolled the first world cup, and has the most clubs per capita of any nation in the world, has finally wrestled the Web-Ellis Cup away from the “Traditional rugby powers” to have it played in Asia. ABOUT TIME!

This should be good for Rugby, proving its a world-wide game, Good for rugby in Japan, and if we are lucky, Good for Rugby in all asia, (though thanks to short sightedness from the IRB, Japan is the only asian team guaranteed a spot, breaking with previous RWC where Asia had an automatic qualifier, along with the host nation). What’s more, Japan will host this easily!

Despite a headache over the stadium for the closing game, Japan has the grounds, the public transport and tourist infrastructure that bests any other nation in the world! Getting from your clean, business hotel by train to the well staffed venues will be easy for any foreign tourist. And Rugby tourism is big money! More money than an Olympics or Soccer world cup, any restaurant or shop that can get the English signs up will make a killing!

I remember the Soccer world cup, the atmosphere and volunteers amazing. So I am trying to find a weekend I can go to Tokyo and see two games back to back. Any games, I don’t care if it is Namibia V Uruguay, any game is good at the RWC. I shall find a nice Ryokan somewhere in Tokyo, and then head off to Mito for a day to visit my old bar, the Drunken Duck, maybe over to Gunma to see my old Rugby team, and will find any diner that sells proper Japanese Curry Rice! I won't’ be alone, there will be a lot of us, so get ready for a party.




サッカーワールドカップについて思い出すが、雰囲気やボランティアはすばらしかった。そこで僕は東京に行ける週末を探して、連続2試合を観戦しようと思う。どこの試合でも、ナミビア対ウルグアイでも構わない。ラグビーワールド━カップならどこの国の試合でも楽しめる。東京でいい旅館を予約して、水戸にある馴染みのDrunken Duckに行こう。おそらく群馬まで足を延ばして昔のラクビーチームに会いに行って、そしたら日本式正当カレーライスを食べに行こう。ひとりじゃない。仲間がいるんだから、おおいに盛り上がろう。

Plain Talk


Tokyo Nightlife by Angus Watson

I had heard wonderful tales of the nightlife in Tokyo. The images that sprung to mind were neon lights of Katakana script with fashionably dressed crowds milling around beneath. Ever since alighting at Haneda on Tuesday, I was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to dive into this washing up bowl of music and art.

Friday came and the opportunity presented itself. VENT was the venue. Located in western Minato-ku, it was a short walk from Shibuya station. Walking through the streets, my preconceived idea of Tokyo nightlife seemed to be confirmed. A skate-boarder dressed in baggy mauve corduroys and a BAPE hoodie of the same tone swirled by. I looked up and sure enough saw Katakana cascading down. The assault on the senses was from all around.

The entry to VENT is anonymous. After climbing some steps, you move forwards into a dark alley. This is not a path you would take on a whim. Suddenly, the bright lights of Tokyo are only a memory.

The bouncer, standing in shadow, asks for ID. He places a yellow sticker on the camera of your phone. You then plunge down a concrete passageway into Tokyo’s subterranean.

At first, I questioned the relatively high entry fee of ¥3,500. However, the bar itself is justification for the price.

The counter sits on the left: a Star Trek-esque slit in a giant face of concrete. The ceilings reach eight metres high; again, the solid grey of concrete looms over you. Turning to your right, the centre-piece of the room takes your breath away. A large tree, its branches brushing the ceiling, stands proud on a raised platform. Waist high pillars surround it acting as tables for smokers. A carefully placed light illuminates the small green leaves whilst the remainder of the room is in shadow.

To reach Room 1, you walk between two tall concrete columns and are plunged into darkness. The DJ stands on a platform with the crowd in front of him. Sparse lasers tastefully glide across the dancefloor.

Another small bar/dance area on the left as you first enter the club serves as a decent break from the main dancefloor but is otherwise not a key part of the night.

Importantly, VENT is the antithesis of what I believed Tokyo nightlife to be. Shadows take priority here with little regard for neon colours. The sound quality matched the design with no area of the main room leaving you feeling let down. The crowd was respectful and friendly. Coming from London nightlife that notoriously attracts ‘punters’ it felt extremely refreshing.

Let's go out after confirming the schedule .

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


shiseido art egg 13

The world that surrounds us today faces instability as never before, with many issues ahead. What role can art play in such a world? This year, Shiseido set its new corporate mission, “BEAUTY INNOVATIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD.” Beautiful encounters and experiences through art may serve as a guide for our lifestyle or manner of thinking which, if only a small part of everyday life, can lead to innovations that change our actions. Is it not our actions that make today’s world better and more beautiful?

@ Shiseido Gallery
Fumi Imamura Exhibition July 5 (Fri) - 28 (Sun)
Kiyono Kobayashi Exhibition August 2 (Fri) - 25 (Sun)
Kaori Endo Exhibition August 30 (Fri) - September 22 (Sun)


The Care Bears Exhibition

Who couldn’t use more sharing and caring? Care Bears™ are always about providing that extra caring hug. Each Care Bear™ is a different color and has a special "belly badge" that represents its personality. The Care Bears™ are cute, colorful and have taught an entire generation about the powers of kindness and caring. In this exhibition, about 200 original pictures from the birth of Care Bears™ to the present are exhibited. The colorful and euphoric Care Bears™ world will remind fans of all ages to show the way they care for friends, family and others in big and small ways.

Date:August 8th (Thu) - 26th (Mon) @ Matsuya Ginza
Closest Sta.: Ginza Sta. on Ginza, Yurakucho, Asakusa lines

For more details and concert schedules, please visit

What’s App With You?


Google Photos:

Luckily, there are lots of easy ways to back up your digital or analogue snaps, and one of the best is using Google Photos. If you’re looking to make a cloud-based archive of your digital or analogue snaps, this could be it. Google Photos is a cloud-based archive for photos and video that can you access either via a web browser or your smartphone via an Android or iOS app. Sounds like Google Drive or Dropbox, right? While there are similarities, Photos is less a folder-based filing cabinet and more a giant photo album with basic editing tools and clever machine learning. It’s this machine learning that gives Photos its eerily good search abilities – and a slight edge over the likes


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Tokyo Voice Column


What’s in a name! by Peter Empson

One of the unusual things about Japanese is that they like to be called something, an example of this is the term “Announcer” which is used on TV, one presenter will introduce a fellow “Announcer” as for example "Kobayashi Announcer", it does not take many brain cells to realise that his or her job is an for example an NHK announcer, so why do they need to put the tag on.

In the work place we have such terms a Bucho, Shachou, Kakaricho, translated as General Manager, President and Section Chief, in a Japanese company the staff will call them their business title and not their family name even in a social environment, for me as a foreigner when I was going into clients works or meetings, they would call me Empson-san, but I always insisted on the informal, being call Peter-san was more comfortable.

The one Japanese title that really gets me is the term “Senshu” which translated means “player” or “team member”, this word applies to all aspects of sport, during a TV commentary they will always refer to the player as say Osaka-senshu, the now new Australian Open Tennis Champion, WHY!, it is obvious to the viewer that these athletes are “playing” their sport, be it Football, Tennis, Athletics etc, but what’s in a name, the title gives them status and the one thing Japanese like is status, or as a Japanese friend said, they like the feeling of “power” and by giving a title name it set’s them above normal people, this also applies to wearing lapel badges such as Lawyers and Lawmakers wear, it set’s them apart.

But nothing will change as it is part of the culture in Japan and has been for hundreds of years, so we foreigners must accept it and probably like me wonder why it ever came about.





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made in Japan

'Jean-Michel Basquiat = Enigma' 
Jean-Michel Basquiat was an extraordinary artist, an art star and a darling of that time. An extraordinary painterly soul with sensitivity expressed itself in the person of a young African American male, the locus of confusion and misgiving in a racist society.
Born in Brooklyn, Basquiat started making his mark as SAMO© — the same old shit — on the skin of New York City from1977 claiming his presence in particular the high art zone of Soho and the Lower East Side. His statements were so poised that the art dealer Annina Nosei later described, “had a quality you don’t find on the walls of the street, a quality of poetry and a universal message of the sign. It was a bit immature, but very beautiful.” Soon after receiving critical acclaim, everyone became obsessed with his art and was fascinated by his compelling life, bewitching personality and his canvases impossible to turn away from. His works, some are complicated and some are with elegant simplicity encoded with complexed messages, created with his twisted and unexpected observations stir something raw and this spontaneously articulating feelings that cannot be fully expressed by words.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled, 1982
Oilstick, acrylic, spray paint on canvas
183 x 173 cm
Yusaku Maezawa Collection, Chiba
Artwork © Estate of
Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Licensed by Artestar, New York

This exhibition will bring approximately 130 masterpieces from all over the world and will unveil his relations with Japan. His time coinciding with the Japanese asset price bubble, he also left works with motifs such as 'MADE IN JAPAN' and 'Yen', also using hiragana in his work to reflect that phase of Japan.
Perhaps his ultimate authenticity yet perpetually uncertainty will always make us wonder if he would have become the modern Leonardo da Vinci / Picasso / Van Gogh, as we would never know since he lived his life vividly and left this planet within the short brisk of time like a beautiful comet.
“I think I make it (his art) for myself, but ultimately for the world you know,”
by Jean-Michel Basquiat 

Period: September 21 - November 17, 2019
Hours: 10:00am -8:00pm
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Closed: 9/24
Admission: Adults: ¥2,100 / University & High School Students: ¥1,600 / Junior High School & Elementary School Students: ¥1,100

For more information, please visit


The Magic of Alice in Wonderland Exhibition

"the little Girl just could not sleep because her thoughts were way to deep her mind had gone out for a stroll and fallen down the rabbit hole"
Alice in Wonderland is a story surrounding a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole chasing a rabbit with a pocket watch, and ends up discovering a world made up of her wildest imagination. She meets irrational, mad characters who encounter her throughout the adventure to find the white rabbit, and she goes through multiple experiences that test her patience and sanity. However, what is it about Alice in Wonderland that grabs our hearts again and again and attracts diverse and vast audiences for decades?

Lewis Carroll,
The Wonderland postage stamp case, 1890.
The Rosenbach,

While this is a rather simplistic storyline (with ridiculous amounts of creativity, a LOT of art and art styles of course), when the plot is analyzed it is proven to have a deeper meaning. We live in a rather sane world, and the insanity of Wonderland attracts us, sparking our curiosity (just like Alice). Although how insane the creatures and people Carroll embedded in his story are, you can still relate to them as they are unique twists on things we see in our world, yet we never dreamed that they could be expressed as such.
What people are most drawn to from Alice in Wonderland is that It’s not just the characters, nor the place itself. It’s how we can put our life experience and assimilate and project our own thoughts to this amazing wonderland among all of it. What a regular person such as ourselves would do in such a land, given the chance. And Alice is our way into it. As she enters the mysterious land and has a life changing experience, we also have life changing experience through Alice.
These fascinating stories about Alice by Lewis Carroll influenced a lot more than people, art and philosophies. In this exhibition, you can witness how strongly many artists are drawn to "Alice in wonderland" and have been inspired to recreate their own "wonderland" it self.


Period: September 21 - November 17, 2019
Venue: SOGO Museum of Art - the 6th floor of the Sogo Department Store in Yokohama. (3minutes walk from east exit of Yokohama Station.)
Hours: 10:00 am – 8:00 p, - 5:00 pm on 11/17
*Last admission: 30 minutes before closing
Admission: Adults: ¥1,500 / University & High School Students: ¥800 / Junior High School Students and Younger: FREE

For more information, please visit

Strange but True


Having a bit of fun?

It's not everyday you see a flight attendant inside a plane’s overhead luggage compartment - but stunned passengers on a US flight witnessed exactly that. Bizarre footage shows a female flight attendant inside the plane’s overhead compartment on a Southwest Airlines flight from Nashville to Philadelphia in the US. She's seen resting on her side and stomach, with her feet hanging out of the compartment. When passengers board the plane the flight attendant starts to talk before the video cuts off. But Southwest say she was just 'having a bit of fun' with the passengers. Wonder what else they do to 'have a bit of fun' when passengers are not there…

How far would you go?

Having a decent snooze while on a flight is notoriously difficult. Unless, of course, you're living your best life in First Class… This photo on an Instagram account shows how far people would go to get some sleep on a flight. In the image, one of the fliers lying across a row of three seats. As for his travelling companion, one is seen lying on the floor below him, trying to catch some 'zzzs'. Followers of the account were horrified, especially as some believed it was a woman lying in the footwell. "What's more obvious for me here is the fact the guy is on the comfier seats and the girl is on the floor!" But mostly it was the cleanliness aspect which horrified people the most. How far would you go?


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