The end of fast lanes in train stations in Tokyo

People in Tokyo stand on the left side of escalators leaving a passing lane on the right for those in a rush. People in Osaka do the opposite, they stand on the right side and let people rush on the left side. It’s been this way for a few decades, so pretty much everyone is familiar with this practice. When I first arrived in Japan, I was surprised in a very nice way because I thought this habit showed a high level of organization or order that characterizes the Japanese people. This custom also applies to walking on the street, but to a slightly lesser degree. However, JR East has recently placed stickers in every station asking commuters not to walk on the escalators, just stand. Have people changed this habit already?

So, what triggered this sudden change? People are so used to the current system that it doesn’t make sense to alter it, right? Nevertheless, a steady increase of accidents (on average, there was one accident each working day) in recent years and a further analysis led to one conclusion: many accidents happened because of people rushing like crazy on the escalators not to miss the next train.

I am a bit skeptical about their theory, since I was quite sure that most accidents occurred because of people talking/checking their phones or being drunk, but I do remember accidents such as this one, last April, in which a 60 year old woman died after being hit by a man falling down the stairs. It wasn’t a escalator that time, but a a normal staircase.

Although I can understand where JR East stands, what they are requesting will take too long to be accomplished. It’s basically an everyday habit what they’re trying to change. I haven’t seen any differences as of now.

Source: Wanted: better escalator manners (The Japan Times 2013)

Eduardo H.

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Suicides and Japan

Today, one of the writers here at Ryugakusei Town was a few minutes late to the office because of a depressingly-common Japanese problem: suicide. His morning train was delayed since someone jumped in front of it. I suppose that person simply couldn’t face another day at work; that, or he decided to take a final snub at society by making everyone late for work.

traindeath
Unfortunately, Japan has historically been very tolerant of suicide, so much so that it has become a cultural issue. Back in the days of the samurai, suicide was seen as an honorable way out. As recently as WW2, soldiers were expected to commit suicide rather than surrender; and let’s not forget the organization of kamikaze plane raids, where the pilots were expected to die from the very beginning. Even relatively famous public figures commit suicide: following a financial scandal, cabinet minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka did just that; later, the then Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara lauded him as a “true samurai” for “preserving his honour” in such a manner. Suicide is also a major theme in various anime and movies (e.g. Evangelion).

NGE - Death and Rebirth
Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for there to be instances of suicide around your everyday life in Japan. For example, Japanese trains are known for exceptional punctuality; if they are late it’s usually because of a jumper. Japanese friends and acquaintances usually know of at least one person who has committed suicide. As a co-worker explained, pressure to get into a good university, near-constant (unpaid) overtime, financial problems (loan sharks are another big issue here), bullying—Japanese people that suffer from these problems usually repress their anger and stress, leading what seem to be normal lives, until it is too late.
Still, Japan is a wonderful place to live in. Like any other place, it has positives and negatives. If you wish to live here, you’ll just have to learn to deal with both!

Softbank curry, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, The Return of Summer Heat and more

Good afternoon! Eduardo here!

There were a few happenings the past week in Japan that got international attention, but also a few things that called my attention. This time I would like to sum them up in a single post in a mix of both cute and serious news.

 

1. Softbank Curry

Recently, Softbank was on the news since they beat NTT DoCoMo as the Mobile Phone company with the highest profit. Even though it is unlikely there is any connection with their last campaign, I am absolutely in love with it and maybe I won’t be able to eat it since it’s too cute. Just by going to any Softbank store, showing your cellphone and answering a simple questionnaire (took me 1 minute), you’ll get one box of this limited edition curry. I saw many people getting it. You know, Japanese curry is one of the most beloved dishes here. Some articles report that an average person eats it 68 times a year. 2 months of curry everyday if you wanna see it that way!

Cutest curry ever

Cutest curry ever

 

2. Successful fireworks, at last

After many days of sudden, strong rainstorms that even cancelled some firework festivals, as I wrote in a previous post (The worst fireworks season in years?), firework festivals scheduled for last weekend could be held without any drawbacks since there was no rain. Itabashi, Edogawa and Tachikawa fireworks in the Tokyo metropolis area gathered lots, lots of people. If you tried to take a train that day I’m sure you noticed many children, men and women wearing yukatas.

I saw the Tachikawa fireworks and they were amazingly good. Never had I seen fireworks from that close! As I was paying attention to them, I didn’t really take any good pics.

Tachikawa fireworks

Tachikawa fireworks

 

3. Scorching hot summer is back

So now that the rain and very cloudy days are gone, intense heat has spread all over Japan again. Temperatures of over 32 degrees are expected everywhere in Tokyo and similar and even higher ones elsewhere in the country. Be sure to drink plenty of water, avoid going outside for long period between 10 am and 3 pm and all the usual advice.

Weather forecast for Setagaya, Tokyo

Weather forecast for the upcoming days in Setagaya, Tokyo

Source: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130807p2g00m0dm075000c.html

 

4. 68th anniversary of the first Atomic bombing in world history

If you are reading this blog, I am absolutely sure you are familiar with the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only two cases of nuclear weapons in war. The Atomic bombing of Hiroshima occurred on August 6th, 1945, followed by the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9th the same year. This bombings marked the end of WWII and the start of a new, “peaceful” era in Japan.

Every year, a ceremony takes place in Hiroshima. White doves are released into the air, float paper lanterns are floated down the river and many survivors (currently most of them were children or teenagers at the time of the bombing) talk about what their saw, leaders ask for an end to nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, the latter because of the still recent Fukushima nuclear plants issues and more. It is a very touching moment for people everywhere in Japan.

Source: http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130806p2a00m0na003000c.html

 

5. The largest Japanese warship since WWII

Very ironic and contradictory for most foreign press, Japan’s largest warship was unveiled the same week of the Atomic bombing anniversary. While I understand that due to the recent territorial and basically military tensions with China and Korea the unveiling of strong self-defense ways is important, they could have waited a couple weeks, right?

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/izumo-warship-japan-largest-since-world-war-ii_n_3712405.html

 

That’s it for this week!

 

Eduardo H.

Fake HUGE earthquake alarm freaks people out

Today, at about 5 pm earthquake alarms alerted people from Hiroshima to Tokyo about an incoming earthquake with epicenter in Nara prefecture, very close to the huge Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolis (the second largest in Japan). The alert had it that a huge 5+ in the Japanese scale, whereas others report receiving an alert for a 7 in the Japanese scale (the Tohoku earthquake was a 6+; 7 is the highest possible magnitude), so many people, including people in Tokyo, got out of the buildings they were in just in case. A few minutes later, it was reported that apparently it was an error from the Japan Meteorological Agency and that its system had collapsed.

 

Apparent epicenter of the earthquake

Apparent epicenter of the earthquake

Details

Details

We’re still waiting for an official announcement about why this error occurred.

 

Eduardo H.

The worst fireworks season in years?

We were complaining about the rain a few weeks ago, then we started complaining about how quickly it got hot since the official rainy season came to an end earlier than usual, but over the past 10 days people have been complaining about how unstable the weather is. What’s the big deal about it?

Well, first of all, from late July to late August, dozens of festivals 祭り (matsuri) and firework festivals 花火大会(hanabi taikai) take place. While matsuris can usually be held even if it’s raining, fireworks are absolutely ruined by rain as thick rainy clouds get on the way and the audience can’t really see anything, some of them don’t explode at all and also most people watch these beautiful shows outdoor, so they and their beautiful 浴衣 (yukata), a summer kimono get all wet.

Some beautiful yukatas from a catalog

Some beautiful yukatas from a catalog

Last weekend, 3 very important firework festivals were supposed to take place, including the Sumida River Fireworks, which attracts a crowd of about 1 million people according to some sources. However, a large number of people had to go home disappointed because a so-called ゲリラ豪雨 (gerira gouu)  literally “guerilla rainstorm”, a kind of very heavy rain that occurs suddenly, a quite unfortunate analogy to a guerrilla raiding somewhere, started all over the capital area, forcing organizers to cancel the events. It really makes me wonder who coined this term first?

Today there’s also a big firework festival in Yokohama, but the weather forecast has it that long hours of rain are to be expected. Maybe it will have to be postponed one more time?

Wanna go to a firework festival soon? Can you read Japanese? If so, check this amazing firework “finder” website http://hanabi.walkerplus.com/list/ar0313/

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/07/27/national/sumida-river-fireworks-canceled-by-storm/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+japantimes+%28The+Japan+Times%3A+All+Stories%29#.UfX6em0UVOU

 

Eduardo H.

Hooters Japan

Beautiful, talkative girls wearing tiny shorts and tank tops while waiting tables, a laid-back atmosphere with junk food and plenty of alcoholic beverages available are a few of the things one can expect for sure in any Hooters worldwide. This American restaurant chain plays up sex-appeal, a casual sports-bar like atmosphere and lots of interaction between the waiting staff and customers to make a successful business. Although Japan has plenty of hostess bars, bars where customers buy drinks for themselves and the attractive “hostesses” working there while engaging in conversation, the concept of an ordinary restaurant offering similar service was non-existent. So, what is Hooters Japan like?

First of all, Hooters Japan opened merely two years ago in the fancy district of Ginza. A second branch in Akasaka followed last year. So, I dare to say it is still in a trial phase. Its menu is pretty much standard for an American chain restaurant: plenty of sandwiches, chicken wings, Tex-Mex food, free refill beverages, lots of cocktails and of course, everything comes in big sizes. However, rice sides are included for almost every meal set, as opposed to fries in their US stores and other locations.

The Original One and Only Hooters

The Original One and Only Hooters

But, just as I said before, Hooters best selling point is their girls! Hooter girls not only have to look good, feminine and flirtatious, they also have to make sure you have a good time talking to them, so as soon as they come to get your order, they’ll be asking you all kind of questions. Needless to say, this is quite shocking under the Japanese service industry standards. Both my friend and I were surprised when the waitress asked us if we were students, if we had been in Japan for a long time, if it was our first time in Hooters and more since waitresses usually stick to a common series of polite words. But it doesn’t stop there, exactly at 5 pm, they started to play some loud, catchy tunes and all the girls danced a silly, but really fun choreography. Entertainment is assured here!

Hooters girl in a special stand in Odaiba

Hooters girl in a special stand in Odaiba. Picture from Hooters Japan official Facebook account

As for customers, most of them were naturally men in pairs or by themselves, but some women-only groups were also there. As an interesting note, there were even two middle aged ladies having lunch there and they were complementing the staff. I’m not sure if you get to see middle aged women in other locations, but you know how diverse Japanese customers and audiences can be. It wasn’t crowded at all when I got there (about 2:30 pm), but the place was getting busy when by the time we were leaving (5 pm). I suppose they’re the busiest during after-office hours.

After-lunch atmosphere

After-lunch atmosphere

Their lunch menu was fairly priced for an American style restaurant, with sets ranging from 1000 yen to 1500 yen, big serving of rice available for free. The 1000 yen sets change every week. It was “week C” when I went there so my options were Orange pork, Tandoori Chicken or Fried fish burger. I chose the Orange Pork set. It was actually very delicious.

Orange pork lunch set

Orange pork lunch set

I highly recommend going there for an unusual non-Japanese experience if you live in Japan. However, if you are just visiting here maybe it’s better to skip this and do something more essentially Japanese. Not that there’s something wrong about Hooters, but Izakayas, for instance, might be more interesting for short-term visitors.

Thanks to my friend John for the pics!

Eduardo H.