Plain Talk


Countdown To Perdition: Trump VS Biden In November by Patrick Hattman

With the arrival of spring 2024, it appears a near certainty that the current President of the United States Joe Biden and his Republican rival former president Donald Trump, will square off in the November general election to determine the winner of the next presidential term starting January 20, 2025.

It is seemingly a foregone conclusion that each man will represent his political party on the ballot this fall as all of the other serious competitors have dropped out of the race. The only realistic way for either man to be replaced prior to the vote, in my opinion, would be because of health problems, with Biden turning 82 this year and Trump becoming 78.

It has been a contentious race so far, with erstwhile President Trump battling unprecedented legal issues which have hindered his campaign over the past year and put him in danger of possible prison time. Meanwhile, incumbent President Biden has been trying to defend his shaky record of the past few years, while also attempting to fend off increased criticism of his declining mental state.

Current polling data suggests that Trump is leading Biden this time in the race for the White House. And if I were a betting man, I would place money on Trump ultimately being victorious. Indeed, rampant inflation, reckless government spending at home and overseas, and out-of-control illegal immigration are some of the things which could derail Biden's candidacy and give a second term to Trump.

However, regardless of who wins, there will be extremists on either side unsatisfied with the outcome of the election. Some of them may resort to violence in order to overturn the results, or at least use them to cause all sorts of destructive acts and cause great harm to the nation. So maybe the countdown to perdition, another word for hell, has already commenced. Time will tell.





しかし、どちらが勝とうとも、選挙結果に不満な過激派はどちら側にも存在するだろう。彼らの中には、結果を覆すために暴力に訴える者もいるだろうし、少なくとも、その結果を利用してさまざまな破壊行為を引き起こし、国家に甚大な被害を与えるかもしれない。つまり、地獄を意味する "滅び "へのカウントダウンはすでに始まっているのだ。時が解決してくれるだろう。

Plain Talk


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



Japan's largest hip-hop festival "POP YOURS" is based on the theme of hip-hop as pop culture. Don't miss the chance to witness the major artists representing the Japanese hip-hop scene!
LEX / Bonbero / 鎮座DOPENESS / JJJ JP THE WAVY / JUMADIBA / KEIJU / Kvi Baba / LANA / Lunv Loyal / MFS OZworld / ピーナッツくん / Red Eye STUTS / Yvng Patra / Special Act: OZROSAURUS / NEW COMER SHOT LIVE / JAKEN Kohjiya / L.O.S.T
Tohji / Campanella / CreativeDrugStore / DADA / Daichi Yamamoto / Elle Teresa / guca owl / IO / Jin Dogg / Kaneee / kZm / 7 / ralph / SIRUP / tofubeats / Watson Yo-Sea / NEW COMER SHOT LIVE / CFN Malik / lil soft tennis / and more

May 18th (Sat) & 19th (Sun) @ Makuhari Messe


PARAMOUNT, "the best" in Latin, began its legacy in 2013 at a campground in Yamanashi, expanded to Shizuoka in 2018, and then to the Gunma Cycle Sports Center, a vast site in Minakami Town, Gunma Prefecture in 2019, is coming back!
Welcoming Anthony Linell, Danielle, Dresden, Woody92 from the world,
This year marks the first appearance in Japan of Dresden.
Let your spirit free in nature and dance till your heart contents being embraced by abundant lush greens!

Date: May 25 (Sat) & 26 (Sun) @ Gunma Cycle Sports Center in Gunma Pref.

Have You Benn To...


Zao's Okama [Zao, Miyagi]

Okama, meaning an honourable cauldron, iis a crater lake located at the highest elevation in the central part of the Zao mountain range on the border between Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures, is the symbol of Zao. The emerald green water of the lake changes its color depending on the way the sun's rays hit it, giving it the nickname "five-colored Pond".

Oirase Trail [Towada, Aomori]

Designated as a national natural monument, it is one of the most scenic spots in Tohoku. Along the 14-km-long mountain stream from the shore of Lake Towada, there are a number of waterfalls, fresh greenery and autumn leaves. Enjoy the different faces of the upper, middle, and lower streams. The green color of the trees and the white of the clear stream create a stunning contrast, creating a breathtaking view.


Hachimantai Dragon Eye [Semboku, Akita]

This mysterious and spectacular spot appears near the summit of Mount Hachimantai. It is a rare sight created by the clear blue surface of the water and pure white snow, and it can only be seen when the snow begins to melt, making it a precious sight to behold. This mysterious phenomenon occurs when the snow on Kagami-numa melts and the area of water and snow becomes perfectly balanced, making it look like the eye of a dragon.


Ryusendo Cave [Shimohei, Iwate]

Ryusendo Cave, one of the three largest limestone caves in Japan, boasts a high degree of transparency that is recognized around the world, and is designated as a national natural monument. People are constantly fascinated by the pure blue waters of the lake. The deeper you go, the more mysterious the blue world becomes, and the more beautiful is the "Moon Palace" illuminated by LED lights.


Tokyo Voice Column


Quirky subway announcers by Jim Mulcahy

The first time I heard an announcement over a subway speaker in Tokyo, I couldn’t believe my ears. The voice was so ridiculously high pitched and nasal that I was sure the announcer was playing a prank and would soon be cut off by his superior. But he kept on speaking the same way throughout my journey and I assumed he was an eccentric pampered by the subway company.

On my next several subway rides, some announcers spoke fairly naturally, while others seemed to be wearing clothes pins on their noses. So I concluded subway announcers have the freedom to speak as they like, but the more entertaining ones are probably modulating their voices to get their messages across more clearly in the noisy subway cars − perhaps in keeping with an old tradition established to compensate for tinny microphones and archaic speaker systems. As such, these subway announcers deserved my utmost respect for their efforts to prioritize message clarity at the risk of being ridiculed by coworkers and passengers.

Then came my experience with an almost perfect imitation of Lily Tomlin, the US comedian renowned for her nasal telephone switchboard operator voice. Smiling broadly with bulging eyes, I searched the faces of my fellow passengers for confirmation that they were hearing the same hilarious voice that I was hearing. It was a genuinely surreal experience, but nobody else seemed to be paying attention. The dramatically nasal and effeminate voice was so hysterically funny that a giggle escaped my lips before I could slap a hand over my mouth to prevent an eruption of laughter and further embarrassment.

I’ve since become accustomed to, and quite fond of, the quirky peculiarities of Tokyo subway announcers’ voices. The more entertaining ones bring personality and welcome relief to the sometimes tiresome Tokyo commuting experience.





MUSEUM -What's Going on?-


Giorgio De Chirico: Metaphysical Journey

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)―one of the great masters of the 20th century. The "metaphysical paintings" (works expressing a surreal world through enigmatic landscapes and still lifes) that de Chirico began to produce around 1910 exercised a profound influence on the artists and international art movements.
This is a major retrospective exhibition of more than 100 works from around the world, ranging from the self-portraits and portraits he painted from his early years, to the "metaphysical paintings" that made him famous, his return to the tradition of Western painting, and the "new metaphysical paintings" of his later years, to provide a complete picture of de Chirico's art.


Metaphysical painting" is synonymous with de Chirico. The exhibition also features works from the 1910s, which had a particularly strong impact on Salvador Dali, Rene´ Magritte, and many other painters.
The "metaphysical paintings" of this period are scattered all over the world, so this is a rare opportunity to see them all together.
Dividing de Chirico’s roughly 70-year painting career in some themes―such as “Piazza d'Italia (Italian Piazza),” “Metaphysical Interior” and “Mannequin”―this exhibition will cover the entire range of his artistic output, from early to late-period works. It will be the first large-scale exhibition to be held in Japan in a decade, in which the world that de Chirico created is fully explored.

Period: − August 29 (Thu), 2024
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Closed: Mondays (except 7/8 & 8/12) & 7/9-16
Hours: 09:30 − 17:30 / - 20:00 on Fridays (last admission 30 minutes before? closing)
Admission: General ¥2,200 / College students ¥1,300 / Seniors 65+ ¥1,500 (¥1,300)

For more information, please visit

Where My Words Belong

Where My Words Belong, a group exhibition about “words” that looks at the diversity of linguistic practices in Japan and language rights, is coming to the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
There are many different languages in the world, and each one contains a wealth of variations, such as different accents, or varieties in vocabulary and grammar according to one’s generation and experiences. Some people switch between different forms of language depending on the situation and whom they are speaking to: they might use vocabulary specific to a family or group of friends, or different languages altogether. Some thoughts can be conveyed without any words at all. These are all examples of personal use of language―what we mean by “My Words”― which are forever forming as part of communication . Just as we get a feel for the culture and history of a people by studying the language they have created, knowing someone surely begins by trying to accept their My Words as they are, without converting them into other words.


This exhibition presents the works of five artists: Yuni Hong Charpe, Mayunkiki, Mai Nagumo, Hideo ARAI and KIM Insook. Their works bring into sharp focus the differences that exist within a single language, as well as the practice of different languages, within a society that apparently speaks one and the same language. The idea behind this exhibition is to give each visitor the opportunity to embrace their own My Words, and those of others, whether through a work that portrays the difficulty of pronouncing words that don’t belong to one’s first language; or one that speaks of what it’s like when a person hasn’t had the opportunity to learn their heritage language; or one that involves gazing into the eyes of people on the other side of a language barrier; or through the experience of listening closely so as not to miss anything when another is speaking quietly.


Period: - July 7 [Sun], 2024
Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
Closed: Mondays
Hours: 10:00 - 18:00 (last admission 30 minutes before? closing)
Admission: Adults 1,400 Yen / University & College Students 1,000 Yen / High-school & Junior High-school Students 600 Yen / Elementary School Students & younger free

Strange but True


Watch Out for the Angry Cow

An escaped cow ran inside a hospital and attacked patients, knocked over chairs and caused general panic. CCTV from the waiting room shows how the animal got inside and started running around, like a bull in a china shop on February 13. A group of people inside ran to a corner for safety but were followed by the cow that then slammed into them. In the video, the cow falls several times allowing some patients to escape, but leaves an injured woman trapped on the floor as two men manage to grab the animal’s lead and pull it away. Local newspaper Vanguardia said nobody was seriously injured in the incident as the trampled woman was treated for minor contusions and pain while the rest of the patients did not seek treatment. The rogue cow also damaged two motorcycles at the hospital’s entrance and some chairs in the waiting room...

Bears on Swan Pedalos?

A doctor has shared a 'skin pinch' test that will tell you if you're dehydrated in seconds - adding that it is a recognised technique known as the Turgor Test. The trick is simple, all you have to do is pinch the skin on your finger and watch how long it takes to snap back to normal. "Dehydration check to see how dehydrated you are you have to squeeze your fingertip right here and if it goes back down you're hydrated. "If you squeeze it and it stays up like this you are dehydrated." And then the doctor takes over and says: "This is known as the skin pinch or skin turgor test. The more hydrated you are the more elastic your skin will be and it will bounce back immediately after pinching it. "If you're dehydrated the skin loses elasticity and it takes a while to return to normal and it's more likely to tent up."


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