Hanamaki City in Iwate Prefecture will be demolishing an 86-year old traditional house and former restaurant this year. Several attempts have been made at finding a suitable use for the existing building, but to no avail.

The two-story wooden building was built in 1935 as a combined shop and residence. It operated as the Manpuku restaurant until 2010. In 2013, the city agreed to buy the 3,840 sqm lot of land for 58 million Yen, with the seller donating the 1,324 sqm house for free. The city had to spend a further 30.8 million Yen in repairs. However, bringing it up to code to make it open for public use would require an exorbitant amount spent on earthquake retrofitting, installing fire-fighting equipment and so on. Those upgrades would cost the city anywhere between 100 ~ 200 million Yen (approx. US$940,000 ~ 1.87 million).

In 2019 the city sought bids from private companies interested in operating out of the building. Only one bid was received, but failed to meet the proposal requirements. By demolishing the building, the city hopes the vacant land will be of more interest for a new project. Demolition and tree removal is expected to cost around 40 million Yen (approx. US$375,000).


12-2 Futsuparicho, Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture

Source: The Iwate Nichinichi Shimbun, February 26, 2021.

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Source: Tokyo Times
photographs from Tohoku after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in 2011

From the distance of Tokyo, the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown now feel like a long time ago. Similarly, tomorrow’s 10 year anniversary seems especially significant. Massive rebuilding has been undertaken, train services are running again and more of the former exclusion zone is being re-opened.

But again, that’s looking at it from the distance of Tokyo, where for most people, the only real problems during the horrors of that disaster were occasional power cuts and a shortage of certain foodstuffs. Of course there were falsehoods galore, unsubstantiated rumours spread about the danger of radiation, plus some disgracefully sensationalist headlines — a depressingly familiar pattern that we’ve once again been subjected to during the current pandemic. None of that, however, was life-threatening, or indeed especially life-changing.

The people directly affected by those events a decade ago, on the other hand, must feel very differently. I have no idea how one gets over such a thing, or indeed if it’s even possible to do so. Hopefully time really is the great healer, and in that respect, maybe, just maybe, 10 years down the line it is a little easier. I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is that visiting the nuclear power plant check point and then the city of Kesennuma a full 8 months after the earthquake and tsunami hit was overwhelming to say the least. I thought I was prepared for what I would see, but I wasn’t. The sheer scale and staggering levels of destruction were simply beyond comprehension. And that was after seeing countless photos and many hours of footage. A clear indication of how impossible it really is to imagine how those caught up in it felt, and indeed still feel today.

Yet despite all that, what was almost as striking as the wreckage was …continue reading



Reuters: Japan has decided to stage this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to public concern about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter… Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying…

Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed. The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18% in favour. Some 48% said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45% were in favour.

COMMENT: One assumes that means that Non-Japanese Residents of Japan are allowed to get tickets and spectate. But how will authorities enforce that, given the “Japanese Only” reflexes that historically have barred entry anyone who doesn’t “look Japanese”? (Including within Japanese sports; see for example here, here, here, and here.) My educated guess is that in practice, this ban will apply to any Non-Japanese, not just NJ tourists, and that anyone with a foreign-sounding name online will be denied a ticket, and a foreign-looking face denied entry at the door. But what completely astonishes me is the poor science. Authorities have once again missed the point is the fact that ANY gathering is potentially a super-spreader event. The virus is already in Japan, and Japanese spectators will infect each other. So why aren’t they barring ALL spectators?

Why zero in on foreigners? Well, partly because the Wajin spectators are already doing it. According to opinion polls substantiating “public concerns” cited …continue reading


Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo adds classical tea culture equipment so that it can make matcha the old-fashioned way.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo is a massive, multi-story shrine to coffee located in the city’s Nakameguro neighborhood. But while its marque attraction is coffee made with beans roasted on-site, if you make your way up to the second floor you’ll find a tea bar, where Starbucks is giving matcha green tea the same respect and car that it does java.

Part of what makes matcha special among green teas is that the leaves are ground to fine powder before brewing. Nowadays, this is usually done by machine, but connoisseurs will tell you that the best results come from the traditional method first used centuries ago: hand-grinding the tea leaves with a stone mill, so that’s exactly the piece of equipment the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Tokyo has added.

The hand-picked, stone-ground matcha is being used in three new beverages, starting with the Hot Stone-Ground (Ishiusu) Matcha Latte, which is further seasoned with wasanbon, Japanese cane sugar produced under classical methods on the island of Shikoku.

While a cup of hot tea is a great way to warm yourself up on a cold winter day, as we get further into spring green tea fans may want to instead opt for the Ice Stone-Ground Matche Latte, a chilled and less frothy version of the drink.

And last, there’s the Stone-Ground Matcha Freddo, a frozen green tea spin on the iced coffee drink that features wasanbon, milk, and ice cream.

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Manbagi talking to Komi, Komi Can't Communicate
Komi taking initiative in making friends with Manbagi
Komi asks Manbagi to be her 1st friend

Source: VIZ Media

This is one of my favorite sequences in Komi Can’t Communicate from what I’ve read so far.

Someone said to me a long time ago that you can’t love anyone unless you love yourself. I used to believe those words years ago, but the reality is that it takes people in a supportive and safe environment that teach you how to appreciate yourself.

Friends are a huge part of that environment and I hate how the older you get, the more friendship gets thrown into the wayside. I think perhaps many of us are still like Manbagi sometimes. I know I am. Getting thrust into new environments and having no clue on how to get to know new people does get harrowing.

And like Komi, there was someone in my life who took steps to be friends with me despite my self-hatred at the time and I’m trying to do the same for others because life is so damn hard to get through by yourself.

What we really want right now is someone to share whatever’s on our mind with – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and for them to just listen. Friendships are what makes life meaningful and having that kind of communication will always find a way to prevent disorder in your life.

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Dark details you won’t find in travel guides to Japan.

Did you know there are sites in and around Tokyo where people are forbidden to enter, lest they be spirited away by vengeful spirits and cursed forever?

These sites, and the dark histories hidden behind them, are often overlooked by travel guides, but we’re on a mission to introduce them to you firsthand. So this week, we sent our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa out to Tokyo’s Ota Ward to investigate Nitta Shrine, a sacred site with “seven mysteries” and a forbidden patch of fenced-off ground.

Nitta Shrine has a history that stretches back 650 years to the Nanboku-cho Period (“South and North Courts Period”), that spanned the years from 1336 to 1392, when the country was divided between north and south, with intense conflict between the two factions. In the south, a powerful samurai named Nitta Yoshioki earned acclaim for being one of the best fighters and strategists of the era, but he met his demise in a cowardly attack at the Yaguchi Ferry, when clan members from the north who posed as his friends ended up double-crossing him, boring holes in the bottom of the boat and firing arrows at him and his servants.

▼ Nitta’s death, depicted by ukiyoe artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)

Image: Wikipedia

The samurai involved in Nitta’s death were said to have been cursed, dying after being sent crazy with hauntings by his spirit. The area was also ravaged by thunderstorms and lightning bolts after Nitta’s death, prompting locals to construct Nitta Shrine on the site where he was killed, in order to appease …continue reading


“Sanitary products are a necessity” says chain.

Convenience stores in Japan serve a slightly different purpose than they do in other countries. Sure, they’re ready to satisfy customers’ snack and sudsy cravings with rows of candy and cooler cases of beer, but because so many people in Japan do their shopping on foot, convenience stores offer a wide range of non-edible must-buys too, like dry goods and toiletries.

Stocking such daily essentials means they also have the monthly essentials of feminine hygiene products, and this week Japanese convenience store chain Family Mart said that it will be reducing the price of more than two dozen sanitary products for the entire year.

▼ Some of the items whose prices Family Mart is reducing

The decision comes as part of Family Mart’s 40th anniversary initiative, as the company looks for ways to evolve and improve as it enters its fifth decade in existence. With International Women’s Day taking place on March 8, the company felt the time was right to kick off the discount, which reduces the price by two percent for 25 items, covering sanitary pads, tampons, and sanitary shorts from makers Unicharm (Sofy, Charm Nap, and Center-In lines), Kao (Laurier) and Sloggi. The discount went into effect on March 9, and will continue until December 31 at all Family Mart locations except those within Okinawa Prefecture.

While two percent isn’t a monumental difference for a one-time purchase, added up over the course of the year it should work out to some welcome savings, and with sales tax in Japan having recently …continue reading


The popular Japanese lingerie maker teams up with Barbie to promote body positivity and comfort with stylish designs.

“Visuals, functionality, comfort.” These are the hallmark traits of a new line of Peach John lingerie known as the “Noble Breasts Project” that was released on February 17 in tandem with a forward-thinking Japanese comedian and Peach John’s “Real-Sized Model” campaign.

This is actually the second Peach John collaborative collection based on designs provided by 37-year-old Japanese comedian Barbie (one-half of the comedy duo Fall in Love) and developed with the input of countless other women. “Your breasts are for no one but yourself,” says Barbie of her inspiration for the project. “We are sending these bras so that your noble breasts can spend each day in splendid comfort.”

▼ A behind-the-scenes, making-of video of the development process and photoshoot behind the Noble Breasts Project

There are a total of three new bra sets. Each set comes with the choice of two color schemes and matching panties to boot. Let’s now take a look at each of them in more detail.

1. Queen Bra ~ Blown by the Sicilian Wind set

The vivid colors and flower-themed lace of this first set is inspired by the bright colors of the Sicilian coast. In addition to the matching panties, this set also offers you the choice of matching thongs.

2. Ultra Soft Cotton Strapless Bra set

Removable straps mean that you can customize this second set to fit your needs for stability. A lace-up in the center of the bust area also forms a chic accent and is fully functional, allowing you to adjust your cleavage as well.

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Boy, if I had a nickel for every time that happened.

Singer-songwriter Aimyon is among the musical elite of Japan’s pop scene. Her hit “Marigold” earned her a spot on the prestigious year-end Kohaku song battle, and with such fame comes the ability to be a trendsetter.

For example, you know those cigarettes made out of candy they came up with back when people drove cars as big as boats and men wore suits to McDonald’s? Even in Japan where widespread public smoking continued into the 21st century, these not-so-subtle gateway snacks have somewhat fallen out of fashion in recent years.

So, if I were to post a picture of myself enjoying one of those things on the Internet, people would probably tell me to give myself a Chinese PCR test with them. However, when Aimyon does it, it becomes just the greatest thing in the world.

Okinawa Convention & Vistors Bureau logo

As we dream about our post-pandemic travels, personal health and safety remains a top priority. No matter what time of year travel does resume, Okinawa’s subtropical climate makes it an ideal place to take a peaceful and low-risk vacation.

Take an undisturbed ‘workation’ in a private villa

For a safe and productive working retreat, Okinawa has a wide range of private accommodations in secluded locations where you can set up an office while remaining close to nature. On the Motobu Peninsula, you can rent an entire villa with its own private garden surrounded by trees from Shinminka Villa.

Shinminka Villa has fully furnished lodgings based on traditional Okinawa folk houses.

Shinminka Villa has fully furnished lodgings based on traditional Okinawa folk houses.

Each villa is fully furnished with a deluxe kitchen and an outdoor barbecue, so you can shop for fresh produce at local food markets and cook to your heart’s content. Enjoy sharing the slow life with the local village community.

The newly built wooden buildings are modeled after traditional Okinawan minka (folk houses). These have been redesigned with contemporary architecture — the outer walls are completely transparent to give you a 360° view of your immediate surroundings, and by extension, an intimate connection with the natural environment.

Explore deep Ryukyu culture in Nakijin

The site of the late 13th century Nakijin Castle is one of the nine Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu, which are collectively designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, representing 500 years of Ryukyuan culture and history.

Nakijin Castle site.

Nakijin Castle site.

The sprawling fortress of Nakijin Castle is a …continue reading