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Firsthand account reveals there are pros and cons to catching the virus in a communal living environment.

Rents can be expensive for people wanting to live in the middle of a big metropolis like Tokyo. That’s why a lot of young people decide to move into “share houses“, which offer private, single-room accommodations with shared facilities at much more reasonable prices.

Strangers under one roof enjoying the perks of communal living sounds like the perfect setting for a hip TV drama, but it’s not always as great as it may seem. Especially now with the pandemic, it’s not an ideal time to be living with a group of strangers, and we spoke to one 30-year-old man currently living at a share house in Tokyo who had to deal with the worst-case scenario, when someone in his building caught, and spread the virus.

Thankfully, there were only two other men living in the share house at the time, so it wasn’t a large cluster, and while the challenges they faced proved to be difficult, they actually found there were silver linings to their situation as well.

Let’s take a look at his account below.

First of all, please tell us about your share house history.

“It’s a little confusing, but before the pandemic, I lived in a share house with about 60 people. However, when the company I work for bought an office and a share house, myself and two men from work started living at the share house, in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward.”

I see.

“Because it’s both an office and a share house, there are two other employees who come and go in addition to the three of us. All up, including my previous accommodation, I’ve been living in share houses for about two-and-a-half years.”

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Source: Tokyo Times
The silence and decay of an abandoned Japanese mountain village

Over the last few years I’ve had the good fortune to photograph several abandoned mountain settlements not that far from Tokyo. There was this surprisingly large collection of houses and buildings, some remarkably intact homes of former forestry workers, and the crumbling structures of a long-empty hamlet.

This latest find doesn’t contain quite as many personal items as the others, but what it lacks in old photos and possessions, it makes up for in atmosphere. The late August heat and humidity meant there was no shortage of greenery, but at the same time the foliage blocked out a lot of the summer sun to create a suitably fitting half-light of sorts.

There are also enough houses and decay to offer intriguing hints about the lives once lived there, and indeed how long it has been since the last resident left. A slowly disappearing time capsule that is very much of a particular period and place, and yet there’s also a distinctly universal element at play as well, evoking as it does those ever-present human preoccupations of impermanence and the relentless passage of time.

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My first encounter with the ‘yakuza’ or the crooks and gangsters of Japan’s underworld, happened when I was 14 years old, on my way home from cram school. It was around 10 PM and having no friends who lived my way, I found myself walking alone through a deserted back street when a man in a loud red shirt and loose trousers seemingly materialized out of nowhere and stood blocking my way. In vain I tried to pass, and then brought my book bag up to my chest, probably to protect myself. “You’re out late,” he sniggered, edging closer. “Do you want to make some money? It will be so easy. Let’s go somewhere and we’ll talk about it.”

Could this really be happening? I felt the blood pounding behind my ears and my vision go black around the edges as I stood there paralyzed. After what felt like an hour but couldn’t have been more than a second or two, another voice came out of the dark. “What are you doing? Don’t waste time, we got things to do.” An older man drawing on a cigarette joined us. “What the hell are you playing at? Let’s go,” he said to the shirt and then to me, “sorry. Were you scared? You must have been. Be safe going home, your parents will be worried about you.”

Without a word, I fled and didn’t look over my shoulder until I was safely in front of my apartment building.

I learned later that this was an old yakuza tactic. There was always the younger guy who came on strong, and the older man who stepped in, seemingly to admonish him and then rescue you. But if you showed signs of hesitation at leaving, or showed up at the same spot the next evening, they …continue reading

    

Since ancient times, Japanese women have considered that a white complexion is synonymous with beauty, to the point that there is a saying that this color serves to cover any imperfection. As of today, although Western trends have a strong presence in Japan, the ancient canon of beauty associated with a white complexion has not lost its importance.

Here are some of the reasons why the Japanese like white skin.

Social status

The ideal of white skin has been widespread in Japan since the Nara period (710 – 733). During this time, Japanese women began to make up their faces in white color using face powders. This practice became part of the country’s beauty canon with the arrival of the Heian period (794-1185). This is attested by classics such as “The Diary of Lady Murasaki” and “The Tale of Genji”, which alludes to how beautiful it is to have a white complexion. It is during this period when this type of makeup also became a way of expressing belonging to the highest classes of society. They believed that a whiter complexion indicated an individual’s level of education and availability of economic and social class. In contrast, darker skin alluded to a life of working outdoors, during which it was easier for skin to darken due to continuous sun exposure.

During the Edo period (1603 – 1868), the taste for white skin also spread among the popular classes, and a more natural appearance began to be given greater importance. In the work “Miyako fūzokukewaiden” it is explained how women of that time spent a large part of their time achieving a natural appearance. They repeatedly applied make-up and removal, and only wiped their cheeks with a cloth. They did all this process with the aim of making their face appear transparent.

Asian woman …continue reading

    

Sometimes the simplest reaction can feel like the hardest.

Despite having a huge number of social media followers, Utada Hikaru doesn’t post all that frequently on Twitter. Utada did have something to say recently, though, sharing a conversation with the J-pop megastar’s five-year-old son.

息子が急に「Handsome(ハンサム)って言われるのすきじゃないよ」って言うから「恥ずかしいの?そういう時はね、ありがとう、って言えばいいんだよ」って返したら「なんだ〜!なんでもっと早く教えてくれなかったの!」って怒られたので、褒められるのが苦手っていう人みんなに教えたい。

— 宇多田ヒカル (@utadahikaru) August 31, 2021

“My son suddenly said to me ‘I don’t like being called ‘handsome,” so I told him ‘Does it make you feel embarrassed? If someone says that to you, all you have to do is say thank you.’

‘What? Why didn’t anyone tell me that earlier?’ he angrily responded, so now I want to tell everyone who doesn’t enjoy being complimented.”

Saying thank you when someone pays you a compliment might sound like something so obvious it shouldn’t require any explanation. In Japanese culture, though, classical manners dictate that when praise is given, the recipient should always deflect, if not outright deny, it.

▼ Video for Utada Hikaru’s “One Last Kiss”

With Utada’s son being raised in the U.K. by a parent with an internationalized lifestyle, he’s not bound by quite the same conventions as someone growing up in Japan, and even in Japan not everyone in modern times agrees that it’s bad form to accept a compliment.

Still, feeling flustered by praise because you feel like it’d be impolite to just accept the positive observation about you as a fact isn’t something that’s exclusive to people living in Japan, and it’s nice to see Utada teaching her son that he’s not under any obligation to try to change someone’s favorable impression of him. Hopefully it’ll come in handy the next time someone says he’s handsome, or that he’s done a great job filming a music video.

Source: Twitter/@utadahikaru via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Hikaru Utada
● Want to …continue reading

    

More details of the crime emerge, but the question of “why” remains.

On 24 August, residents of the upscale area around Shirokane-takanawa Station were shocked when a sudden attack involving a substance believed to be sulfuric acid occurred at the station’s exit. The victim, a 22-year-old male, was splashed in the face with the highly corrosive chemical, some of which also came into contact with the leg of a 34-year-old female bystander.

The suddenness of the crime allowed the suspect to slip away unnoticed, except by the surveillance cameras posted at the exit. The assailant was later identified as 25-year-old Hirotaka Hanamori of neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture.

▼ News report showing the scene of the crime and surveillance images of Hanamori.

Media swarmed to his home and interviewed neighbors, many of whom gave the usual “he was a polite boy, who mostly kept to himself” description. It was reported that both his parents were medical workers who succumbed to diseases in the past ten years, during which time Hanamori also grew increasingly distant from other friends and family.

It was also revealed that Hanamori was his victim’s senpai in the same extra-curricular film club while they both attended a university in Okinawa Prefecture. However, no details on their exact relationship have been revealed yet.

This surprised many readers of the news, who had initially thought the attack was professional hit given the speed in which it was done and ritzy area it was done in.

“So it wasn’t a yakuza hitman?”
“I wonder if this was over a woman, or maybe they were in a relationship together.”
“Everyone jumped from ‘yakuza assassin’ theories to ‘gay lover’ theories really fast.”
“I should have known, a pro would never just wear one glove.”
“If this was a personal grudge, then why did he do it in such a public place and where everyone …continue reading

    

That’s not sweat in that bottle….

During the hot summer, Japan’s wide variety of drinks from vending machines is a godsend. They have everything, whether you’re craving a can of dashi fish broth, or drinking something out of a mayonnaise jar.

One drink that you will not find in Japan’s vending machines, however, is urine.

Unfortunately that’s what nearly happened to one woman in Hyogo Prefecture’s Kobe City on July 28 and August 2, when she opened the office refrigerator to find that her drink bottle had been tampered with by someone putting pee into it.

The woman regularly kept her drinks in the fridge, so when she went to get the bottle, she noticed that something was off about its color and smell. After reporting it to her company, and a having an inner office investigation carried out, it was found out that a man had been seen carrying around her bottle earlier.

When questioned, the man confessed, saying that he did it because he “liked her.”

The suspect in question was a 24-year-old unemployed man who had done temp work at the same company as the woman. His affections were one sided, and after he was arrested under charges of stalking on August 27, he was fired from his position.

▼ What he expected to happen vs. what actually happened.

According to police, the suspect admitted to the charges, saying, “I definitely put urine in her drink bottle.” However he also claims that he “has no memory of August 2nd.”

Why he would admit to the crime on day but not the other is not clear, but the one thing that we’re thankful …continue reading

    

The authorities probably know who he is, but now the question becomes what to do with him.

About a week ago news broke about a mysterious man claiming to be a Russian who swam to the eastern Hokkaido town of Shibetsu in hopes of seeking asylum. Although the Sapporo Regional Immigration Services Bureau who are handling the case still haven’t revealed any details, Russian media believe they have identified the man as 38-year-old Vaas Feniks Nokard.

According to The Moscow Times, Nokard was previously deported from Japan in 2011 because he violated the conditions of his visa. He apparently was ejected from Thailand and Bali for similar reasons.

Before making this year’s fateful journey, Nokard lived in the Russian controlled disputed island of Kunashir for three years, having moved there from the Izhevsk, a city about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) east of Moscow. He had taken part in a Russian government program offering a hectare of free land to anyone willing to move the far east and help develop the sparsely populated area. However, upon arriving in the village of Golovino, Nokard reportedly did very little, adopting a drifter lifestyle of sleeping in tents and homes of anyone willing to take him in. As time went by, he seemed to have tired of this and made his run for the border that lies in the middle of a 20-kilometer (12 mile) stretch of ocean.

▼ The south-western-most tip of Kunashir would provide the shortest swim

It still hasn’t been confirmed that Nokard actually made the entire swim by himself, but as more details emerge it’s beginning to seem like he did. The Moscow Times also reported that he contacted a friend of his on Kunashir, asking them to pick up a motorcycle he left on the coast so they could sell it and send …continue reading

    


A story on the lighter side of crime.

With guns being extremely hard to come by in Japan, armed robbers here usually resort to large kitchen knives for intimidating store staff into handing over money. But for some reason, some of them apparently can’t even get their hands on one of those and have to get really creative with “weapons” such as nose hair clippers.

Tomoharu Nakamura of Sapporo, Hokkaido, however, may have taken the cake for most absurd robbery weapon. The 41 year-old was arrested on multiple charges in addition to attempted robbery with a lighter.

The incident occurred at about 3:30 p.m. on 21 August at a convenience store in Kiyota Ward. Nakamura allegedly entered the store, clicked on his lighter, and pointed it at the manager, saying: “Out with the money or I’ll light you up!”

Since the manager was not a scarecrow, he took the calculated risk of not giving in to Nakamura’s demands and instead ran into the back room and called police. Also, since it was the middle of the afternoon there were several customers inside the store at the time, but they too quickly fled the scene despite the risk of getting mildly singed in the process.

▼ As a general rule, it would seem that people pose more of a threat to lighters than vice versa

Police quickly arrived on the scene, causing Nakamura to turn his lighter on them instead. Luckily, the officers too had faith in their own non-flammability and overcame the assailant to make the arrest. In custody, Nakamura reportedly admitted to trying to rob the store, but he was also charged with assaulting a police officer, obstructing police business, and possibly damage to property as the store’s walls got banged …continue reading