Source: Gaijin Pot

UPDATED: April 23, 2021

On Jan. 31, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 or the coronavirus a global emergency.

After yet another surge in coronavirus cases due to the pandemics fourth wave, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo will enter a state of emergency from April 25, 2021, through May 11.

This follows the first nationwide state of emergency declared on April 16, 2020, which was lifted on May. 26, 2020, and the second state of emergency declared on Jan. 07, 2021, for Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and other prefectures which was lifted on Mar. 21, 2021.

JNTO, the Japan National Tourism Organization, has a multilingual coronavirus hotline for those who think they may be affected. Support is available in English, Chinese, and Korean 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The government has said it will procure enough COVID vaccines for all eligible residents (including foreign residents) by the end of September. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, says that 1.93 million shots have already been administered as of April 18, 2021.

If you’re living in Japan or planning to visit after the pandemic, you may be wondering how safe it is. What can you do to protect yourself? What events have been affected? Will the virus impact travel plans outside of Japan and greater Asia?

Here is the most up-to-date run-down we can give. It is worth noting, however, that because this is a new and fast-spreading virus, what we know now could change in the future.

What’s Japan’s infection rate?

As of April 23, 2021, <a target=_blank href="" target="_blank" …continue reading


But is there such a thing as too much confidence?

Something that’s not always clear until you actually try to do it is that communicating in a foreign language isn’t always a binary can-or-can’t situation. Sure, if you can’t speak a single word of whatever language you’re trying to converse in, the listener won’t understand you at all, but that doesn’t mean that anything less than perfect grammar and vocabulary will be completely unintelligible.

But again, until you build up some first-hand experience trying to talk to someone in a foreign language, it’s not uncommon to assume that if the words coming out of your mouth aren’t perfect, and thus not right, they must be totally wrong, and so no one will understand you. That can make the studying a new language intimidating and frustrating, and one Tokyo-based English conversation school has a clever advertisement that seeks to dispel that misconception and encourage Japanese people to give learning English a try.


— ことばと広告 (@kotobatoad) April 19, 2021

The Japanese text in the ad from Coper English, a copy of which was tweeted by @kotobatoad, starts with the statement “When you think about it, it’s not like we Japanese people always use perfect Japanese either”…and as proof, it purposely misspells the word for “perfect,” kampeki, as “kankipe,” which doesn’t actually mean anything.

▼ Top: “kampeki”
Bottom: “kankipe”

For that matter, writing kampeki as かんぺき, using the phonetic script called hiragana, isn’t the best choice either, since educated adults generally write it in kanji, like this:

It turns out that the ad’s message is peppered with errors. Tsukaettari / つかえったり (“use”) gets written …continue reading


Typically, students are encouraged to report bullying to the adults, but what do you do when the adult is the bully?

Extracurricular activities are common, if not sometimes mandatory, in Japan for middle school and high school students. Whether it’s getting some exercise or pursuing something one is personally interested in, club time should ideally be fun and engaging. However, for one kendo club, participating students were forced to cough up money for their coach’s birthday.

▼ No mercy on those who choose to pick on the elderly or the kids.

Supervising a kendo club in Ehime Prefecture’s Ozu city, the 61-year-old individual was recently caught by school authorities for making all 29 members pay 5,000 yen (US$48) each in tribute for his birthday. In total, he pocketed 145,000 yen from the poor students. And while this event itself is horrifying, the extortion didn’t end there.

Since 2009, the offending coach has demanded money from high school students to celebrate his birthday six times. Students who didn’t pay were excluded from participating in kendo competitions whereas students who paid more money than was demanded were treated favorably. and if the total amount of money collected was not to the coach’s liking, he would rebuke the club captain as a show of aggression.

Netizens quickly took to Twitter to express their shock and disgust at the man’s horrendous behavior:

“Wow, his heart must be strong… to not die from the shame of extorting students for money.”
“Soooo is he gonna get arrested or not?”
“Like a high school bully shaking down the pockets of …continue reading


Going to the Gynecologist in Japan

In a culture where Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi faces obscenity charges due to the public display of her vagina-inspired art, it’s hardly surprising that there is a lack of accessible female sexual health information in Japan.

But that doesn’t mean that the services aren’t out there. They are. For the first in our sexual health in Japan series; here’s a guide on what to expect when going to the gynecologist.

Finding a gynecologist

Last week, a few female colleagues and I stood in a lobby not discussing work politics but whispering on where to find a proficient English-speaking gynecologist in the city. In fact, the list is endless, but as with any doctor, a great recommendation can make all the difference.

So do not hesitate to ask that female neighbor in your sharehouse, a good friend or look through the many lists of recommended surgeries in the city, like our Savvy list below.

Making an appointment

The Ladies’ Clinic usually runs a practice of drop-in appointments at various points throughout the week, so call in advance, register on entry and take a seat in the waiting room filled with in an impressive array of pink furniture. On your first visit (初診, shoshin), if you are in possession of a Medical Insurance Card (保険証, hokensho), please ensure you bring it with you as it will enable you to pay only 30% of your total bill. Ensure you ask from the outset if you want to get any contraceptives, the contraceptive pill in particular (normally around ¥2,000 not included in insurance), as you will have to have a blood test.

Meeting your gynecologist

My Japanese gynecologist, although quite blunt, asked exactly what I wanted from the appointment and was comfortably direct in what was occurring throughout the whole procedure. Don’t worry about feeling embarrassed or awkward …continue reading


Top ten universities in the overall ranking are situated in nine different Japanese prefectures.

The World University Rankings is an annual publication by Times Higher Education (THE). The Japan-specific edition of the rankings was first released in March 2017, so this year marks its fifth iteration. In contrast to THE’s World University Rankings, which are largely focused on the research power of individual institutions of higher education, the Japan-specific rankings are more focused on the quality of education and growth potential for students–taking teaching practices and unique characteristics of each school into account as well.

Continuing from last year, the 2021 index ranks 278 Japanese universities based on a number of performance metrics grouped into four main pillars: Resources, Engagement, Outcomes, and Environment.

Let’s begin with the 2021 Overall Ranking. Numbers in parentheses denote each university’s ranking on the 2020 list.

Overall Ranking
10. Hiroshima University, Hiroshima Prefecture (12)
9. University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture (9)
8. Kyushu University, Fukuoka Prefecture (5)
7. Nagoya University, Aichi Prefecture (7)
6. Hokkaido University, Hokkaido Prefecture (6)
5. Osaka University, Osaka Prefecture (8)
4. Kyoto University, Kyoto Prefecture (2)
3. University of Tokyo, Tokyo (3–tie)
2. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo (3–tie)
1. Tohoku University, Miyagi Prefecture (1)

▼ Tohoku University consists of four main campuses spread around Sendai–the political, economic, and cultural heart of northeastern Japan.

Welcome to #spring!
Welcome to a new academic year at Tohoku University!

— Tohoku University (@TohokuUniPR) April 1, 2021

Next, let’s take a look at the top three universities according to each of the four pillars.


“Does the university have the capacity to deliver teaching effectively? The resources area represents 34 percent of the overall rankings.”

3. Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine, Kyoto Prefecture
2. Hyogo College of Medicine, Hyogo Prefecture
1. Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo

▼ TMDU is located in the heart of Tokyo …continue reading


Students driving you to drink is no excuse to open a cold one in the classroom.

Japanese schools are known for enforcing strict regulations, and one of the most common rules implemented by a large majority of schools is a no-drinking policy during class-times. It’s not just students who aren’t allowed to drink during class either, it’s a frowned-upon act for teachers too, given that they should be setting a good example for the children.

Sadly, not all teachers care about setting a good example, however, as evidenced by one elementary school teacher on the main island of Okinawa Prefecture recently. According to the prefectural board of education, the 51-year-old teacher wasn’t just sipping on water or juice while teaching — he was found to have been imbibing alcohol during class.

The incident occurred on two occasions, with the teacher drinking a 350-millilitre (12.3-ounce) can of chu-hai at the front of the classroom during class on 22 February, and then again on 26 February, while the students were working on individual tasks.

▼ A Chu-hai (often rendered as “Chu-Hi”) combines shochu, a distilled spirit, with carbonated water and a flavour like fruit juice, and can contain as much as 12-percent alcohol.


A wide variety of chu-hai brands exist on the market, and while it’s not known which one the teacher was drinking, a student in the class at the time recognised the can to be an alcoholic beverage and reported it to another teacher on 26 February.

When questioned by fellow staff, the teacher admitted to drinking alcohol in class, expressing remorse and saying he “drank it on impulse“.

On 15 April, the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education told the media that the teacher had been disciplined with a ten-percent reduction …continue reading


Outside-the-box thinking gets a thumbs-up from teacher.

Japanese Twitter user @gude_chichi has a seven-year-old daughter, and that daughter had a problem. She’s currently in the first grade, and the other day her teacher gave the class an assignment to write an essay about any kind of personal experience they’d recently had.

So the kids started writing…except for @gude_chichi’s daughter, who immediately ran into writer’s block, and a case so severe that she even titled her essay “What Should I Do?”

▼ Page 1 of her essay

But even if she wasn’t sure what to write, @gude_chichi’s daughter let that agitation flow straight onto the paper, starting off with:

Today at school we are writing essays. But I can’t think of anything to write about and don’t know what to do. Everyone else is writing. But me? I’m not. Please, teacher, help me out here. No luck? What should I do? I wonder if there’s anyone else in class who isn’t writing.

My brain isn’t thinking of anything, but it still feels like I’m spraining it. How does that happen? Third period is almost over. I don’t want to have to stay after to finish this during break. ‘What should I do?’ I don’t ever want to have to write an essay again…What should I do? Only five minutes left. Oh, wait, that’s it! I can write about this feeling for my essay! But there’s not enough time. What should I do?”

With just a few minutes left, the girl kicked her writing into high gear, filling a second page, and then most of a third, with her inner monologue.

She wraps things up with:

“The teacher just said …continue reading


Cosplayer conversation in junior high text features cameos by World Warriors.

One of the challenges in teaching English to kids in Japan is holding their attention. It’s a huge help if textbooks can add anything fun or interesting to keep kids’ eyes, and minds, on the lesson, and so it was a smart move by publisher Sanseido to reach out to Taro Minoboshi to do illustrations for its New Crown series of junior high English texts.

Minoboshi is best known for his work as character designer for the popular Love Plus video game series, and his art can also be seen in franchises such as God Wars, Root Letter, and Exist Archive.

▼ Some of Minoboshi’s illustration work for New Crown

NEW CROWNの見本誌を頂いたのでご紹介です。
1年生はイラストがデカイ!笑 こんな教科書だったら勉強も楽しかっただろうなーと羨ましく思います。

— 箕星 太朗 (@mino_taro) April 4, 2020

Another key point to keeping kids engaged is framing sample conversations around topics that they can relate to or are interested in. To that end, one of New Crown’s characters is a girl from China named Jing who likes anime and video games…and who in one lesson cosplays as Street Fighter’s Chun-Li!


— ???? (@runo64bit) April 7, 2021

In her dialogue about her summer vacation, Jing says she attended France’s Japan Expo pop culture celebration, where “Lots of people wore costumes of their favorite characters. I did, too.”

That’s not a suspiciously-close-but-for-copyright-reasons-not-really-Chun-Li, either, as the Minoboshi’s illustration, which also shows fellow fighters Ryu and Sakura, has the official approval of Street Fighter developer Capcom.

イラストは @mino_taro 先生?ありがとうございました?

— STREET FIGHTER (ストリートファイター公式) (@StreetFighterJA) April 7, 2021

It’s worth noting that Minoboshi has no previous professional connection to Capcom or the Street Fighter franchise. When New Crown’s authors …continue reading


Roads? Where this car is going, they don’t need roads…

For years large palm trees stood at the entrance to Tanabe Technical High School in Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture. However, in 2016 they suffered irreparable damage from pests and needed to be removed.

▼ Tanabe Tech in 2013

▼ Tanabe Tech in 2017

The principal of the school decided to replace these plants with something more permanent. For this he tasked the head of the mechanical department, Masato Takai, with erecting a monument that would greet visitors as a symbol of what Tanabe Tech was all about.

After consulting with his students, Takai and the kids decided to start with an automobile body and work from there. Shortly after, inspiration struck the department head. He figured; why just make any old car when they could make a vehicle that has stood for years as a symbol of both raw industrial arts and hope for the future?

And so, work began on the creation of a life-sized DeLorean time machine from scratch.

▼ A 2017 news report on the early stages of the time machine constructed from sheets of aluminum and steel

It was a heavy job, and required more work than a single school year could allow. So, the students passed on the work from year to year, each class picking up where their seniors left off. By the time the car was ready for installation some 500 students had put work into it.

In the meantime, Takai sought permission from Universal to use the likeness of the car as well as the unforgettable musical score to the Back to the Future movies. That’s because this monument was designed to not only stand in front of Tanabe Tech, but light up, rotate, and play music as well.

▼ A look at the progress the car made by 2019, after …continue reading


It all started with an apple in a Japanese class journal.

As we get older, the memories of our school years may begin to slowly fade, but our favourite teachers remain ingrained in our minds forever. In Japan, the lasting impact of one kind teacher recently made news after coloured pencil artist Yuichiro Abe shared this tweet online.



— 長靴をはいた描 (@erumo_0384) March 16, 2021

The image on the left above shows a sketch drawn by Abe in his class journal when he was a third-year junior high school student. The class journal, which is handed over to the homeroom teacher for periodical checks, has sections for writing notes and reminders, and in the section for messages, Abe wrote “らくがき”, which translates to “graffiti” or “scribble“.

▼ The image that appears here is far from a scribble, though–it’s a beautifully sketched, perfectly proportioned illustration of an apple.

The red circles around the apple are the markings of the teacher, and in Japan–where circles indicate good work, akin to a tick signifying a correct answer in the West–the more circles there are, the better the work, which means Abe’s self-described “scribble” received recognition equivalent to a gold star.

That’s not the only acknowledgement Abe received, though, as the teacher drew an arrow towards the image with this heartwarming note for the student:

“This is extremely skilful!! I want you to take good care of this talent as well.”

This touching message obviously meant a lot to Abe, who shared the image on Twitter, saying:

“Teacher, I’m still drawing!”

As proof, the now-19-year-old, who’s currently a first-year beauty school student, shared this more recent photo alongside his junior high school drawing.

<img …continue reading