Source: Grape

Workers in the service industry in Japan are often praised for their hospitality, often putting in what comes across like an extra effort to make sure the customer experience goes smoothly. This is particularly true of train conductors. Alongside safely running the train (and even making sure mascots with too big heads can board), a conductor has to make regular announcements not just about stops, but any changes in schedule due to various circumstances.

So Rika (@englishcafe225), who lives in Miyazaki prefecture, thought nothing of it when she heard the conductor’s voice crackling over the announce system of the train she was riding recently. However, from his very opening words, she found herself so pleasantly surprised at the usual protocol it broke that she had to share it, much to the sound of melting hearts on Twitter:

“This is regarding me, personally, however, but today marks the end of my 41 years in charge of this train. Thank you all very much for riding this train today.”

After the conductor said that, we arrived at the station and his family was waiting there with a bouquet of flowers and I was so touched. I’d love for them to share these sorts of personal matters more and more. Thank you so much for your hard work.






— Rika (@englishcafe225) July 31, 2022

The announcement and scene is touching in itself, but what surprised Rika and so many others online was the train conductor making mention of his personal life. While customer service may be highly regarded in Japan, workers often don’t stray from the manual of operations or open up about their personal matters on the job to ensure professional and convenient exchanges. That can be …continue reading


Can the Shonan summertime party place work as an office?

SoraNews24 has a regular office in downtown Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, but on any given day we’ve got a lot of people working remotely as well, whether in the field or telecommuting from home. So it wasn’t such a shock when we woke up and had an early-morning message from our coworker Seiji Nakazawa which said:

“Gonna be working from the house today.”

No, the surprise came a little later when Seiji sent us this working-from-the-house snapshot he took.

For a moment, we thought Seiji must be absolutely rolling in cash from his recent idol lyric-writing gig, because we don’t remember him owning beach-front property. But it turns out Seiji’s luxurious working-from-the-house environment isn’t a result of newfound wealth, but good old-fashioned wordplay.

See, when summer rolls around in Japan, they build temporary restaurants on the beaches. They serve food, but they’re especially popular as places to relax in the shade and have a drink, and some also offer locker and shower facilities. Basically, they’re like a little home-away-from-home for day trippers, and they’re called umi no ie, which means “beach houses,” and that’s the kind of house Seiji was working from this day.

Not every beach in Japan has umi no ie, but in the Tokyo area, you can find them every summer on the Shonan coast, as the southern-facing shore of Kanagawa Prefecture is called. In particular, there’s a long row of umi no ie near Katase Enoshima Station.

Katase Enoshima, as luck would have it, is on the …continue reading


Source: Grape

Shibuya Station gets a new giant “pet”

A giant Akita dog that recently appeared in Tokyo has been attracting attention online.

We’re not talking about a real dog, though. This is a giant 3D digital pup appearing on the eight digital billboards operated by Hit Inc. in the bustling Shibuya Station area.

The eight billboard screens include the “Synchro 7 Shibuya Hit Vision” installed in three buildings on the Miyamasuzaka Exit side of Shibuya Station and the “Shibuhachi Hit Vision” facing the world-famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing.

As soon as videos were posted on Twitter, many of them went viral. For example, this Tweet has over 147,000 likes at the time of writing:


— みまみ (@mi6onomu) July 31, 2022

You can get a clearer, closer look at the main screen in this video:

Why an Akita dog?

Shibuya is famous for the statue of the Akita dog, Hachikō, just outside Shibuya Station, a popular meeting spot. The dog, remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner, for whom he continued to wait for over nine years following his death, has inspired many dramatizations in Japanese TV and film, as well as the 2009 Hollywood film Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, starring Richard Gere.

Although Hit Inc. has not stated any clear connection with Hachikō in their press release, it is perhaps only fitting that the new 3D digital mascot to appear in Shibuya should also be an Akita dog.

Shinjuku has its Calico cat, Shibuya has its Akita dog

As we reported last year, Shinjuku Station was temporarily in the international spotlight when a giant Calico cat appeared on a new 3D digital billboard in early July 2021. It has now become a new landmark for the area.

Only time will tell, but just based on the popularity of his …continue reading


Source: Grape

Due to popular demand, Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart is bringing back a big savings campaign that was very popular when it was introduced last year.

From August 2nd, 2022, FamilyMart is rolling out its “Keep the Price the Same! 40% more volume” campaign at about 16,000 branches nationwide.

The concept of this campaign is to provide customers with “more delicious” and “enjoyable savings” by actually enlarging a wide range of products by 40% without raising their prices.

This year, the campaign has been extended to include prepared foods, omusubi rice balls, sandwiches, hot snacks, sweets, beverages, and desserts. A total of 20 different products will be available on a weekly basis (while supplies last).

Here are just a few example of what you’ll find:

Hot Snacks

From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Crispy Chicken (Plain)

クリスピーチキン(プレーン)kurisupī chikin purēn, 149 JPY plus tax.

Char-grilled yakitori: chicken thigh with tare sauce

炭火焼きとりももタレ sumibi yakitori momo tare, 100 JPY plus tax.

From August 9th to 15th, 2022

Spicy Chicken

スパイシーチキン supaishī chikin, 149 JPY plus tax

Fami Koro

ファミコロ famikoro (FamilyMart croquettes), 82 JPY plus tax.


From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Teriyaki Chicken & Egg Sandwich

テリヤキチキンとたまごのサンド teriyaki chikin to tamago sando, 258 JPY plus tax.

From August 16th to 22nd, 2022

Ham Cheese & Egg Sandwich

ハムチーズたまごサンド hamu chīzu tamago sando, 230 JPY plus tax.

Rice Balls

From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Mentaiko Mayonnaise

直巻 明太子マヨネーズ jikamaki mentaiko mayonēzu, 121 JPY plus tax.

Bento Lunches

From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Chicken Nanban with Tartar Sauce

タルタルチキン南蛮 tarutaru chikin nanban, 369 JPY plus tax.


From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Cheese Corn Puffs

サクサクか~るいチーズスナック sakusaku ka~rui chīzu sunakku, 100 JPY plus tax.


From August 2nd to 8th, 2022

Mega …continue reading


Traditional Dance Fiesta

Nakameguro Summer Matsuri

If you enjoy Japanese summer festivals, the Nakameguro Matsuri is one you shouldn’t miss. Featuring two of the most popular traditional Japanese dances, awaodori and yosakoi, this festival attracts over 20,000 people annually and is a fantastic downtown summer experience for everyone in the family. Wear your yukata and enjoy the loud drum sounds until late at night.

Treasure Hunt

Ariake Antique World

If you love antique, this is your weekend! The largest antique event in Japan, Ariake Antique World gathers over 500 vendors from all over the country, selling everything from Japanese and Western antiques to old toys, pottery, gadets and more. There is also a corner for repairing antique items, so if you have something hiding at home, bring it along! Enjoy the hunt!

Fri, Aug. 5-Sun, Aug. 7, 2022
10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Tokyo Big Sight East Exhibition Hall 1, 3-11-1 Ariake Koto-ku, Tokyo – Map
¥1,000 (ON THE DAY) ¥800 (ADVANCE)

More Info

Traditional Dance Fiesta

Nakameguro Summer Matsuri

If you enjoy Japanese summer festivals, the Nakameguro Matsuri is one you shouldn’t miss. Featuring two of the most popular traditional Japanese dances, awaodori and yosakoi, this festival attracts over 20,000 people annually and is a fantastic downtown summer experience for everyone in the family. Wear your yukata and enjoy the loud drum sounds until late at night.

SAT, AUG. 6 – SUN, AUG. 7, 2022
5:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.
2−17−14 Kamimeguro, Meguro City, Tokyo – Map

More Info

mt takao beer garden

Worth The Climb

Takao Beer Mount

Just a short walk from the end of the Mount Takao cable car station, the Mount Takao Beer Mount will open …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

English teaching in Japan typically requires a bachelor’s degree to obtain the proper work visa (excluding other means such as a spouse or student visa). In some cases, a transcript of records showing that you have completed at least 14 years of education using English as your primary language. While there are tons of English teaching jobs spread across Japan, it can be challenging to distinguish yourself from others.

Even if a master’s degree or Ph.D. are often considered the ultimate qualifications, there isn’t always the opportunity for practical experience, not to mention they are a significant financial investment. While it’s completely optional, looking into alternative teaching qualifications can set you apart from the crowd and possibly increase your chances of getting hired.

We’ve summarized some of the best teaching qualifications that don’t take too much time to complete, add value to your resume and aren’t as expensive.

The basics: TEFL/TESOL

Photo: iStock/west
TEFL is for teaching English in countries where English isn’t the primary language.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is normally the first qualification that comes to mind and is used to teach English in countries where English isn’t the primary language. A qualification often confused with TEFL is TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The TESOL qualification differs as it focuses on teaching non-native speakers in the native speaker’s home country. For example, in the UK, many teachers teach English to European immigrants using TESOL.
The problem with TEFL/TESOL is that virtually any educational institution can offer these qualifications. While this gives the learner a wide range of schools to enroll in, quality may be compromised.

To find good …continue reading


A member of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) raises the Japanese national flag in the morning, at JGSDF Miyako camp on Miyako Island, Okinawa prefecture, Japan, 21 April 2022 (Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato).

Author: Ryosuke Hanada, Macquarie University

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has promised to ‘substantially increase’ Japan’s defence budget in the ongoing process of revising key national security documents by the end of 2022. While some observers expect Japan to double defence spending over the next five years, the jury is still out — the ambitions of Japan’s defence spending hawks clash with certain fiscal realities.

Kishida has so far prudently avoided numerical targets, a ‘2 per cent of GDP’ target in his official remarks. During his meeting with US President Joe Biden and the keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Kishida only expressed his desire to ‘fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defence capabilities within the next five years and secure a substantial increase of Japan’s defence budget’.

In April 2022, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suggested the government increase the defence budget while ‘bearing NATO’s two per cent target in mind’. The LDP’s proposal was already ambiguous, but the 2022 Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management report released on 7 June receded from the LDP proposal, simply introducing the NATO members’ efforts of spending at least 2 per cent of GDP.

On the one hand, security realists advocate a 10 trillion yen increase in defence spending within five years to counter imminent security challenges, especially China. Former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was killed during a recent campaign speech, said that ‘Japan would become a laughing stock’ if it increased its defence budget by a negligible amount. He instead suggested increasing spending from 5.4 trillion yen to 6–7 trillion yen in the 2022 budget.

The National Institute for Defense Studies …continue reading


Fine was the highest in the football league’s history.

With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan is in a bit of an awkward situation. Reported infections are currently at an all-time high, but for the most part it seems as if Japanese society is moving towards a post-pandemic lifestyle. This can result in a lot of conflicting opinions about proper social behavior, as we can see in the current case of the Urawa Reds.

The Urawa Reds (formally Urawa Red Diamonds) are a first-division J-League football club based in Saitama Prefecture, having both a long history and very devoted fan-base. So devoted, in fact, that their exuberant support has landed the club in hot water in the form of a 20-million-yen (US$146,000) fine from the J-League for violating the league’s COVID-19 safety rules against loud cheering during games.

In issuing the fine, the J-League cited two separate incidents. On 21 May at a home match against the Kashima Antlers, a group of about 60 fans gathered by the north vehicle gate of Saitama Stadium 2002 and cheered for about 10 minutes while the team bus arrived. According to the J-League some members of the group were either unmasked or wearing a mask around their chin.

▼ Footage of the fans cheering on the team bus

めっちゃ声出してるし。#鹿島アントラーズ #kashimaantlers #埼玉スタジアム2002 #浦和レッズ戦

— ぷちボケ鹿おじさん (@sCsqY56xrJnJCbb) May 21, 2022

Then, on 2 July at Panasonic Stadium Suita, a group of some 100 Urawa Reds supporters were said to have been cheering loudly as a group for about five minutes in the final minutes of an away match against Gamba Osaka. Again, some among the group were not wearing masks, or wearing them incorrectly.

▼ Footage of the cheering during the Reds-Gamba match

Though it’s impossible for a football …continue reading


In Japan, joining a group or club can be fun or serious, and is a good way to meet people and practice Japanese. But it can be a daunting task joining a group that you don’t know much about, in another language no less. “Will it be welcoming?” and “Will my language skills be an issue?” are just some of the questions you might find yourself asking. Here we’ll answer some of the questions that might be on your mind.

What kind of clubs are there?

At most universities in Japan clubs are separated into two types: サークル (society) and 部活(ぶかつ) (club). Societies are more relaxed, and mainly for enjoyment, whereas clubs are more serious, and mainly for people who want to commit.

Sadly, in the adult world, the distinction is less obvious. It may be more difficult to figure out if a club you are trying to join is for serious members or just for a bit of fun. Here are some indicators to look out for if you want a laid-back club:

  • Pay-per-use membership
  • Open schedule (no need to visit X days per week)
  • Words associated with beginner level are used, such as 初心者(しょしんしゃ), 初級(しょきゅう), or ベギナー

As for the clubs themselves, you can find a huge variety of different fields and hobbies to choose from. From judo and tennis to calligraphy and cooking, there’s no shortage of things to try out.

How much do they cost?

Of course, this depends entirely on the activity and where you choose to do it, but we can give you a bit of an idea.

For a one-off class or a 体験(たいけん) “experience”, which is a bit like a trial lesson, you can expect to pay between ¥0 – ¥6,000.

For a regular activity or gym membership, you can expect to pay upwards of ¥8,000 per month. This is highly …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

I’d been working in Niseko for two months when my friend and housemate Ed bought a car. Niseko is a ski town with a huge second-hand market for almost anything, particularly in winter. So when a local farmer approached Ed with an offer for his almost prehistoric Toyota for only ¥50,000 (about $500), we jumped at the chance. The caveat was that the car was tiny, cramped, could only play CDs and didn’t have the best heating.

While a road trip is a classic method of exploring places like Hokkaido, you can undertake the same journey I did by using the JR line from Sapporo, the Furano line from Asahikawa or the highway buses that run out from both these cities.

Setting off

Photo: Fergus Gregg
The roads were winding and slippery, yet our scenic route proved well worth it.

A few hours after our 6 a.m. departure, we’d made it past the big smoke of Sapporo and were driving through open farmland. We climbed up from the plains and into the mountains as Sir Eric Clapton, the featured artist on the only CD the car was equipped with, serenaded our path forward. The roads were winding and slippery, yet as we rounded the next bend, our scenic route proved well worth it.

It’s impossible to say where the shore starts and Lake Katsurazawa ends as even the ice is blanketed under meters of snow. It gives the appearance of a perfectly flat plain that eventually rises to meet the half-engulfed trunks of the towering pine trees surrounding it.

As the sun flashed through the valley, catching on the icicles that hang from the branches, we knew that this natural beauty was what …continue reading