Archive for category Japan

Apr
21

Previewing IKEA in Funabashi Japan

Posted by on Friday, 21 April, 2006

IKEA Funabashi
Last night was Pre-Opening night at the new IKEA which is set to open officially on Monday the 24th of April in Funabashi, slightly east of Tokyo. A select number of specially invited people (all IKEA employees were allowed to invite a few people each to this event) got the opportunity to browse through (and use) the store before the big crowds hit next week. I predict massive lines on opening day and it will probably continue to be crowded for at least two months. The store is located right next to Minami Funabashi station on the JR Keio/Musashino Line; so even for people going by train it’s very accessible (except that it’s a darn long walk at Tokyo station).

It was an interesting feeling to walk through IKEA last night; partly because it was near-empty, partly because it was in Japan! It felt like Sweden inside, but then there was just something different about it which is hard to put your finger on. All in all, the first IKEA here in Japan seems like a hit. It’s the world’s biggest IKEA as far as I’ve been told, with a huge restaurant with over 700 seats. Outside the main cash registers, they have a special Sweden store selling Swedish food and snacks!

We hit the restaurant first, to see if the quality of the food holds up against “Swedish” IKEA standards – which it did! The meatballs were excellent:
Yummie

Finally, a couple more pics I shot with my phone:

IKEA showroom
IKEA snakes!

Apr
14

Adventures in Tokyo rush hour

Posted by on Friday, 14 April, 2006

My fellow passengers
The last two mornings have been like a visit to commuter hell. Actually, yesterday was not that bad, but today’s train ride was every bit as fun as being dragged by wild horses and chased by an angry Irish mob (no offence to any Irish people) at the same time. When I came down to the platform all I could see was an endless sea of people. It was almost impossible to even reach the platform, because the lines reached up the stairs from the ticket gates. Apparently there had been some delays during the morning, and finally the trains started running again. People were cramming themselves into the stillstanding train like it was the train to everlasting happiness, but thankfully, finally people realized that there was another train coming in about three minutes so they stood back and waited. Let me tell you, there has to be a very very special reason for a Japanese person NOT to board a train in the morning rush hour. The minute or two gained from squeezing onto an earlier train rather than waiting for the next one is enough to make everyone try it. It’s ridiculous, because the train will be delayed because people are trying to squeeze onto the train. If people knew when to stop boarding, then the train would leave quicker. As it is now, people who start off cramming themselves onto a train to gain three minutes, end up gaining one minute at the most!

Anyway, back to this morning’s adventure. I had to let two trains pass without even considering boarding, because the whole platform and the oncoming train were full. When the third train came, I was hesitant to board even that one; but it was decided for me! I was pushed in by the sheer force of people trying to board the train from behind me! It was out of my control and I ended up stuck in an awkward sardine position in the middle of the train car. Let me tell you, if you are a latent claustrophobic, do not ever try to ride the trains or subways in Tokyo rush hour!

Well, after I had been pushed on to the train by my fellow passengers, the train took off at a veeeery slow pace. You see people were lining up so close to the edge of the platfrom that the train could not move nearly at top speed until all cars had passed the whole platform. Wonderful – it’s a vicious circle this extreme stress to get on the next train – the more people stress to get on, the more delays it causes, and the more people line up and the train gets more crowded, and delayed etc. Thankfully, I only have to ride this crowded train for two stops, then I can change trains to one that is (mostly) less crowded. But I have to get past one station first, and today I knew that was going to be quite a task as well. First the train slowed down to crawling speed again, and then stopped at the station. Then I almost fell out of the car as people further inside the train wanted to get out. The problem was that there was hardly any space on the platform for people in the train that were temporarily stepping out to let people pass, to stand on, because it was all taken up by people pressing to get on the train! The stop at this stop ended without serious incidents though, and the train took off again. Finally, after an agonizing 10 minutes in the train I reached my transit station and could leave the train line from hell behind me!

All in all, my trip to work this morning took about 30 minutes longer than usual, which in itself wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that I was as comfortable as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Apr
10

Ikebukuro is the new Akihabara

Posted by on Monday, 10 April, 2006

Otome Road
…at least,that is, in otaku-terms. The latest mecca for Manga/Anmie-geeks seem to be Ikebukuro. The special thing about it though, is that it has grown in popularity as sort of an opposite to Akihabara, in that it tailors mostly to girl fans. There’s especially one street, labelled “Otome Road” (乙女ロード) which means something like “Virgin Street” (on the west side of the station, close to the Sunshine Bldg area) which is the main place to go in Ikebukuro with lots of manga-shops and costume stores.

See map below (Otome Road is marked in pink):
otome street ikebukuro

Further, it seems that the latest “hot” thing in this area of town is women-only gay-themed restaurant/bars. Some of these places have only women staff, dressed up as men and they only allow women as guests. Then they talk dirty to the guests to cater to any inner lesbian fantasies they might harbor. Yes, I found it sort of strange when I saw a show about such places on TV, but it is the latest rage within the female otaku community.

Apr
02

Divorce Checklist for Japanese retirees

Posted by on Sunday, 2 April, 2006

Happiness after retirement
Today I offer to all you Japanese retirees out there, a checklist to see if your marriage is in jeoprady or not! This is an actual check list that was published in the Japanese magazine “Comfort Club”. Recently there has been a surge in divorces of elderly couples happening close after the husband retired from his job, which for the better part of his life used to BE his life. So retired husbands, if you answer YES to any (or all) of the below questions, you better shape up or get out!

  1. You were always busy with work and never concerned yourself with your family.
  2. After retirement you want to spend every waking moment with your wife.
  3. After retirement you basically just want to hang around the house taking it easy.
  4. You have never cooked a meal in your whole life.
  5. You have almost never cleaned, washed clothes or done household shopping.
  6. You call your wife ‘mother’ or by just yelling ‘Oi!’, basically never calling her by her own name.
  7. You want to know every detail of your wife’s whereabouts when she is out of the house alone.
  8. You have never complemented your wife on her cooking.
  9. You never utter the words ‘sorry’ or ‘thank you’ to your wife.
  10. You and your wife really have nothing to talk about.
  11. You have a hard time letting your wife go on trips with friends.
  12. You don’t really know where your own clothes are.
  13. It is always your wife who takes care of your own parents when needed.
  14. You leave all financial matters completely to your wife.
  15. You don’t care about your wife’s friends or interests.

You know what is scary about a list like this? That it even exists, and that there actually is a need for it! The generation of men who are retiring now are totally clueless when it comes to their own family, having neglected them for over 40 years, basically only caring about their job. Of course this has been a problem before too, but it is just recently that it become more socially acceptable with divorce. Earlier in Japan the wife just had to suffer silently until death came and give her solace….

Mar
27

Cherry blossoms are serious business

Posted by on Monday, 27 March, 2006

Cherry Blossom

The Cherry blossom (桜 Sakura) viewing season (花見 Hanami) has started here in Japan will all that it entails. First of all, you can be sure that the popular viewing spots are completely crowded for a week or so, so don’t even bother going there if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your viewing experience with tens of thousands of other people… No but seriously, this must be the most beautiful time of the year here in Japan, with the peak of Fall (with its multicolored leaves) being a close second. Temperatures are slowly but steadily rising in Tokyo (we have around 15-17 degrees daytime now) and it’s pretty darn nice to be outside. Personally I took a little stroll below the cherry blossoms at our local spot, a small street lined with Sakura trees. The usual stands selling everything from noodle to banana crepes were of course set up in a timely fashion, to make sure the local business gets the most out of this year’s Sakura season.

Speaking of big business. The business of predicting when the Sakura season starts is very serious. Last year, the Japan Meteorological Agency predicted that the cherry blossom viewing season would start four (4!) days earlier than it actually did. The outcry from the Japanese population equalled that of the criticism of the American government after last year’s tsunami Katrina. The Japanese take their cherry blossom viewing seriously!

Here is an article about a cherry blossom forecaster working for JMA. It’s an interesting read, and you will get an idea of just how important the timing of the blooming trees are here in Japan. In the article there is a reference to a site with real time cherry blossom information, and that you can find here: Weathernews Sakura 2006