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MAY 2017

Japan’s number one English language magazine


PLUS: Inside Nara's Abandoned Theme Park, Q&A with Chef Bill Granger, Japan's Child Poverty Crisis, and Our Spring Education Special

Opening May 15, 2017 Oakwood Apartments Azabudai Brand New Studios & 1 Bedrooms with study 1 min. walk to Tokyo Tower and Shiba Park 5 min. walk to the Tokyo American Club 10 min. walk to Kamiyacho St. (Hibiya)/Akabanebashi St. (Oedo) 1 Stop (15 min. walk) away from Roppongi and Azabujyuban Fully serviced and brand new, Oakwood Apartments Azabudai boasts 27 Studios and 21 One-Bedroom apartments with a study, each unit is warm and welcoming with vibrant hues and a contemporary interior. Designed for convenient living, Oakwood Apartments Azabudai, Tokyo provides a base for keen travelers to immerse in the vitality of Tokyo.

Oakwood Apartments Azabudai・2-4-1 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0041 Japan Pre-Opening Office at Oakwood Premier Tokyo Midtown


20 Photo by Taro Irei


THIS MONTH’S HEAD TURNERS 8 AREA GUIDE: ODAIBA These artificial islands are an open playground amid Tokyo Bay.

10 STYLE Our lust list of exclusive items on offer at Tokyo's newest luxuy mall, Ginza Six.

14 THE CONCIERGE Editor's picks from our roundup of top restaurants, salons, and services in the city.

in-depth COFFEE-BREAK READS 17 COVER: JAPAN'S GOT TALENT Meet four artists and performers who are putting Japan on the global talent map.

20 INSIDE NARA DREAMLAND Why one couple chose the abandoned theme park to celebrate their engagement.


guide & education CULTURE ROUNDUP

26 THE HIDDEN POVERTY CRISIS Statistics show that one in six children in Japan are living in relative poverty. So why is the government in denial?

28 MUSICAL NOTES FROM THE JAPANESE UNDERGROUND New book Quit Your Band proves there's more to Japanese music than J-pop.

30 "FOOD IS LIKE FASHION" Bill Granger on being inspired by Japan's visual culture, and his favorite Bills branches including the latest opening in Ginza.

32 EXPLORE THE SPECIAL GARDENS OF YOKOHAMA With the Garden Necklace flower event.

34 ART & MUSIC And the winner of the best exhibition title goes to ... Masamichi Katayama for his installation show called "Life is Hard ... Let's Go Shopping."

36 AGENDA It's festival season from wild flowers to music, art, film, and even a traditional matsuri.

39 SPRING EDUCATION SPECIAL The latest news from some of Tokyo's best international schools, including a new middle school opening this September.

46 PEOPLE, PARTIES, PLACES Looking back on St Patrick's Day celebrations, and Rainbow Pride week.

M AY 2017



M AY 2 0 17 Publisher

ENGAWA Co., Ltd.


Takanobu Ushiyama

Executive Producers

Asi Rinestine Naoya Takahashi

Editor in Chief Senior Editors

Annemarie Luck Alec Jordan Lisa Wallin

Creative Director Features Writer Contributors

Liam Ramshaw Matthew Hernon Vivian Morelli Luca Eandi Bill Hersey Bunny Bissoux

Sales Director Sales Executives

Takaaki Murai Hirofumi Ohuchi Kahori Terakawa Nobu (Nick) Nakazawa Yu Suzuki

Media Strategist Media Consultant Media Producers

Mandy Lynn Mary Rudow Jessica "Yumi" Idomoto Claudia Sun

Cover art by Hikaru Cho, photo by Katuaki Sato EST. Corky Alexander, 1970 SSU Bld. 1F 4-12-8 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo, Japan 151-0051 (03) 6432-9948 / (03) 6438-9432 (fax) To subscribe to the Tokyo Weekender, please call (03) 6432-9948 or email: For ad sales inquiries, please call (03) 6432-9948 or email: 広告に関するお問い合わせ先 電話:(03) 6432-9948 メール Opinions expressed by Weekender contributors are not necessarily those of the publisher

Published by ENGAWA Co., Ltd.

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@mizrama: I’m often surprised by how a theme develops organically with each issue we put together. This month, we have a few featured people and subjects that seem to peer beyond the obvious, for example our cover artist Hikaru Cho [page 17] whose hyperreal body art really makes one look beneath the surface, and an investigation into Japan’s hidden poverty crisis [page 26]. And of course, the couple you interviewed for our Nara Dreamland feature [page 20] – that was such an unusual choice for an engagement celebration. @bapawn: It was. I think there’s something beautifully poetic about celebrating the beginning of a life together by visiting an amusement park whose rides have fallen into disrepair, and whose grounds need to be explored by climbing fences and dodging security patrols. There’s a Japanese phrase that goes 諸行無常 (shogyoumujou), and it basically means “all things must pass” – that’s the feeling I got from looking at their pictures. But in a sweet way, if that makes sense.

shopping centers like Ginza Six [page 10]. How did you like the building’s Noh theater when you visited? @bapawn: It’s certainly the most impressive theater I’ve ever seen in the basement of a shopping center. In seriousness, though, it’s gorgeous. A very intimate space, and it does a nice job of using modern materials to create a space that feels traditional. I’d love to see a performance there. @mizrama: Me too. That's another thing Japan does well – aesthetics. Actually, this is one of the things chef Bill Granger mentioned in our interview with him [page 30]. He spent a gap year here in the 90s and said how inspired he was by the visual culture. @bapawn: I think you can see it in a lot of the finer details at his restaurant. I even think his world-famous scrambled eggs might be a bit inspired by tamagoyaki. I gave his recipe a try, actually. @mizrama: And?

@mizrama: Oh, I love that sentiment. Japan does know how to appreciate the transitoriness of life. It also knows how to move on from the old and build shiny new


@bapawn: It’s a good thing they’re the ones making the eggs.




T OKYO WE E KE N DE R | MAY 2 0 1 7 | 5

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WH AT ’ S O N O U R RA DA R TH I S MONTH . . . Tokyo is like one big playground, but this month we've narrowed the fun down to two specific spots: Odaiba's amusements, and Ginza's newest shopper's paradise.

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FUN FOR ALL Much of Odaiba is centered around recreation, and no place embodies that concept more than Palette Town. This amusement complex is made up of several venues designed to suit a wide spectrum of tastes. Tokyo Leisureland is a supersized video arcade, bowling alley, karaoke parlor and pool hall. If that weren’t enough, the Daikanransha Ferris Wheel, one of the biggest of its kind, spins riders up to 115 meters into the air. Next door, the Toyota Mega Web showroom has the auto company’s past, present and future on display, including a test circuit on the ground floor. The connected History Garage shows off international vintage cars. Rounding out the complex are the plush Venus Fort mall and the Zepp Tokyo music venue.


While most of Tokyo’s coastline is reserved for shipyards and industrial warehouses, Odaiba has retained access to its shores and flaunts many open spaces. Public areas like Seaside Park and Toritsu Shiokaze Park are perfect spots for sightseeing, people-watching, or a springtime barbecue. Two major sights from these spots are Rainbow Bridge, connecting Odaiba to the center of Tokyo, and a copy of the Statue of Liberty, prominently on display here since the year 2000. Along the shore is the Museum of Maritime Science, which stands unmistakably in the shape of a six-story-high ocean liner. Also, many dinner cruises and sea buses depart from Odaiba’s shores to take visitors out into the harbor.

ROBOT OR NOT? One of the most popular cultural exhibits in town is The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, also known as the Miraikan, where the current and future social roles of technology are explored. With many interactive displays and creative activities, the museum offers guests the chance to take a true hands-on approach to science. Popular attractions include a dome theater for educational 3D films, daily science workshops and a giant globe-like display which floats above the large atrium. The true star of the museum, however, is ASIMO, a humanoid robot made by Honda that performs an impressive demo of its abilities, including running, dancing and doing sign language, at several times throughout the day.

TV PARTY Architecturally speaking, there are several unique buildings in Odaiba, like the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, the Museum of Maritime Science and the Telecom Center, but no building stands out quite like Fuji TV Studios. Designed by noted architect Kenzo Tange, the futuristic structure is festooned with a 30-meter wide, silver metallic ball that sits 120 meters off the ground. The sphere, known as Hachitama, houses an observation deck and a pricey restaurant. Fans of Fuji TV can take guided tours through the studios to see where programs like the longrunning morning show Mezamashi TV are made.

MALLRATS If shopping is your idea of fun, then Odaiba might just be the perfect place for you. There are several malls in the area, Diver City being the top destination. The mall features hundreds of retail stores and restaurants, the Zepp Diver City music venue and much more, but the real draw is the 18-meter Gundam statue that sits out front. And although the original statue was in the process of being dismantled at press time, a new, even bigger one will take its place later this year. If you think giant mechs are overkill, nearby Aqua City mall has a replica 50s American diner and a very real modern-day Taco Bell. If looking for a more scenic sit-down restaurant, Decks Tokyo Beach has several floors of eateries with dining rooms facing the sunset-favoring bay.


STYLE GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI JUNE SHOES These sky-high heels are truly a work of art: the 2017 Giuseppe Zanotti spring collection was indeed inspired by the paintings of Botticelli, as a modern representation of the female image. While the pink flower motif conveys cuteness and femininity, the fierce stiletto heel gives the shoe an edge. Wear them to stroll around Ginza, where they will be right at home, whether you pair them with jeans or with a sequined cocktail dress.


DISCORD BY YOHJI YAMAMOTO FLOWER SERIES This Ginza branch of Discord by Yohji Yamamoto is the first and only shop for the line in the world. Discord was launched in 2014 with this successful Flower series, which was reprinted especially for the opening of Ginza Six. The collection presents bags, wallets and scarves sporting the monotone cactus flower motifs. All the items are sleek and chic, with clean lines and flawless design – as we would expect from Mr. Yamamoto.

CITIZEN CAMPANOLA MECHANICAL KINRAN WATCH The design of this limited-edition Citizen watch depicts the streets of Ginza back in the early Meiji era, during which Japan opened up its trade and modernized. This watch blends the traditional Japanese craft of lacquer, which is used for the decoration of the dial, with contrasts of stunning black and 18k yellow gold. The mechanics are provided by Swiss horology master La Joux-Perret. Pair this unique piece with both everyday looks for the office and formal attire.

MAISON MARGIELA DRESS Every wardrobe needs the quintessential little black dress, and this embroidered tea dress from Maison Margiela is a fun twist on the classic item. This asymmetrical design features delicate silver embroidery on one shoulder and sleeve, and a front twist that makes the fabric fall and drape beautifully. Pair it with minimal accessories and simple flats to keep the spotlight on the exquisite details.

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS BOUTON D’OR RING To celebrate the opening of Ginza Six, French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels designed this statement piece, which skillfully combines some rose gold, white gold and diamonds. The ring is part of their brand-new Bouton d’Or collection, which is all about curved lines and a reinterpretation of a motif from their 1930s creations. The Bouton d’Or ring has been released in the Ginza branch before any of its other worldwide stores, so try to get your hand (literally) on this exclusive and classic piece.

JIMMY CHOO RUBEN SNEAKERS When in doubt, reach out for the Jimmy Choos. While the popular shoe and accessories brand is mostly known for women’s shoes and Sex and the City-style stilettos, they also make footwear for men, including these denim-blue kicks. Only available in Ginza, these Rock Spirit sneakers feature a whopping 174 hemispherical studs on each shoe (do the math!) – a fusion of luxury and punk rock.


SUMMER IN THE CITY Spending the sunny season in Tokyo? Here are five reasons why Grand Hyatt Tokyo is the best place to chill


hether you’re visiting the Big Mikan from afar, or you’re a local looking for shelter from the sweltering city heat, Grand Hyatt Tokyo provides five-star service whatever your needs may be. With a great location in the center of the city, plenty of restaurants, soothing spa treatments and exciting events all summer, you’ll find this dynamic lifestyle destination the ideal oasis from the sizzling streets.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Situated in the heart of Roppongi’s cultural and shopping hub, Grand Hyatt Tokyo is only a stone’s throw away from several art galleries and museums, movie theaters, upscale shopping venues and fine dining options. There are several inner-city garden spaces nearby with public art

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structures – perfect for a relaxing stroll. Summer festivals and other events are held in the area all season. For those seeking adventure further afield, the hotel is only three minutes’ away from the nearest metro station, which can spirit you away to major tourist destinations like the electronic heaven of Akihabara, the Ginza luxury shopping district, or the historic Tsukiji fish market.

INTIMATE AL FRESCO DINING OFFERS A VITAMIN D INJECTION Nothing says summer like eating outdoors, and whether you want to soak up some rays during the day or feel the cool breeze at night, Grand Hyatt Tokyo has four restaurants with terraces for open air dining. The French Kitchen, The Oak Door and Roku Roku offer a relaxing atmosphere up above the hustle and bustle of the busy city, while Fiorentina Italian Cafe allows diners to people watch, while shielded behind a protective line of trees. For guests staying at the hotel, glamorous Grand Club also has a private terrace for nightcaps in an exclusive setting.

YOU CAN SIP SPIRITS AT DECADENT SUMMER SOIREES The swanky Soiree Blanche party series is back by popular demand. Held at The French Kitchen's airy terrace and bar every Saturday from June 24 to September 2, these luxurious events recreate the glitz and glamor of celebrity summer parties in the south of France during the 1970s. Wear all white, imagine you're in a St. Tropez paradise, and enjoy the drinks that flow freely for a full three hours as well as food from the grill and homemade ice cream. For a different kind of nostalgia, look out for news on the upcoming Showa Era Beer Garden event, which features Showa-inspired snacks, drinks, and tunes from the era.

NAGOMI SPA AND FITNESS HELPS YOU PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD With summer just around the corner, it’s time to think about your wardrobe. As you switch from heavy boots to strappy sandals baring your feet, you may need to spruce up your nails to complete your summer look. Look no further than Nagomi Spa and Fitness, where manicures and pedicures are now among the many stellar services on offer. If touched up toes aren’t your priority, there is a pool and a fully equipped gym to get those gains for that perfect summer bod. Nagomi is only open to members and guests, but signing up is simple. Better yet, why not treat yourself to a staycation and book an overnight retreat along with your spa day?

THERE ARE (N)ICE NIBBLES TO KEEP YOU COOL Grand Hyatt Tokyo boasts no less than 10 bars and restaurants in its repertoire, serving everything from sumptuous sushi to palate-pleasing pastries. Each venue has polished up their menus fit for a sizzling summer dining experience. There are delectable dishes to cool you down while taking the culinary arts to new heights: Keyakizaka’s liquid nitrogen ice cream uses fresh mangoes from Okinawa and is made by chefs at your table as you watch on. The Oak Door’s ice cream burgers are an easy-to-eat treat, and Chinaroom has cold tsukemen noodles if you’re looking for something savory. With so many options to choose from, the Grand Hyatt Tokyo is your (chilled) oyster.

CONTACT Grand Hyatt Tokyo 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku | Tel: 03-4333-1234 Web:

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To coincide with the launch of our brand-new website, we've taken our monthly Concierge supplement online. Here, we share this month's editor's picks from the lineup, but for the full roundup of great restaurants, hotels, and other top venues around Tokyo – as well as reader discounts and special offers – simply head to

Elana Jade


ummer is just around the corner, and Elana Jade offers a range of deluxe beauty treatments that will have you looking beautiful from head to toe. Know someone in need of pampering? We also have gift vouchers for all occasions. Special offer: Get radiant, supple skin with the relaxing Conditioning Facial (includes cleanse, steam, exfoliation, massage, mask and moisturize), 60 minutes for ¥10,000 (normal price ¥13,000), valid until the end of May.

NUA Japan


urrently celebrating their eighth anniversary, NUA Japan offers a range of pampering treatments including manicures, pedicures, hair removal and facials. Take your facial a step further with the new IonActive Power Treatment, which combines Dermalogica’s most powerful products to treat acne, pigmentation and ageing skin. Competition: NUA Japan is offering one lucky winner a year’s worth of facials! To enter, simply book a facial at NUA’s Omotesando or Hiroo branches before August 31.

A B O U T T O W N | E D I T O RS C H O I C E 03-6804-5285 (Omotesando), 03-3444-3055 (Hiroo) 4F Muramatsu Building, 5-16-4 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku (Hiroo) #102 Lamial Jingumae, 4-8-17 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku (Omotesando)

A B O U T T O W N | E D I T O RS C H OI CE 03-6453-9319 4F NS Azabu Juban Building, 3-6-2 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku


Ruby Jack's Steakhouse & Bar


elcome to steakhouse heaven. Whether you’re looking for a succulent ribeye or a hefty tomahawk, Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse & Bar uses only the best meats from their suppliers in the US, Australia and Japan. If you’re in the mood for a splurge, go for their 50-day dry-aged, bone-in Hokkaido Holstein beef. Start off with a tempting array of appetizers and an expertly blended cocktail from the bar, and savor your meal with a bottle drawn from their wide-ranging wine list. Special Promotion: Visit Ruby Jack’s on the 29th of every month for “Meat Day” (Meat = Niku = 2 [Ni] 9 [ku]) and enjoy a la carte beef at a 50% discount!

Average Price: Lunch ¥3,000 Dinner ¥12,000 03-5544-8222 2F Ark Hills South Tower, 1-4-5 Roppongi, Minato-ku

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Fujimoto Dental Clinic


t this Ginza-based clinic, which was founded in 1981, you’ll not only receive world-class specialist restorative and periodontal dental care, but you’ll also be in the expert hands of Dr. Kohei Fujimoto. He is fluent in English, a graduate of the University of Washington’s Graduate Periodontics Program, and certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. Appointments can be made via phone.

Owl Café Search


apan is famed for its wide variety of animal cafés, with owl cafés being one of the latest to join the lineup. This new website provides all the information you need to help you locate one of these feathery creatures to pet while sipping on a cuppa. Launching their English site this month, Owl Café Search lets you search by area, and includes details such as price, opening hours, and contact info for each café listed.


A B O UT TO W N | ED I T O RS CH O I CE 03-5551-0051 4F Kami-Pulp Kaikan, 3-9-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku

WANT TO FEATURE YOUR ESTABLISHMENT IN THE CONCIERGE? For ad sales enquiries, please call 03-6432-9948 or email

T OKYO WE E KE N DE R | MAY 2 0 1 7 | 1 5


BEYO N D TH E OBV I OU S . . . A hyperreal body artist whose layered work makes you look thrice; a couple who chose an unlikely destination for their engagement photos; a new book that takes you into Japan's underground musical scene; and the country's hidden poverty crisis.

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ikaru Cho admits that her body art is not to everyone’s taste. Reactions vary greatly amongst those who see it, but that’s fine with her. Good or bad, the most important thing is that it leaves an impression. "Some people are amazed, others appreciate the technique, then there are those who are grossed out by it all," Cho says, laughing. "I don't think my work IT’S NOT THE NORM TO STAND OUT is grotesque at all so I find it quite interesting when I FROM THE CROWD HERE, BUT THESE hear that. But it's better than someone having no opinion at all." FOUR JAPANESE ARTISTS AND It was a lack of paper in the room where she was PERFORMERS GO TO THE studying one day that prompted the former Musashino EXTREME TO DO JUST THAT University student to take up a career in body art. With no other canvas around, she decided to draw an eye on Words by Matthew Hernon her friend's hand, and things took off from there. After posting her work online, Cho was given the opportunity to draw for Amnesty International's My Body My Rights campaign to coincide with International Women's Day in 2014. The collaboration – which featured in major global newspapers like The Independent and The Telegraph – attracted new audiences and raised her global profile. It led to an increased interest in her work and subsequently she's been kept busy over the past couple of years. Projects have included designs for CD covers and clothes, directing music videos and creating visuals for advertisements. She's currently working on a comic book that will be released this summer. "I draw inspiration from everyday things and my own general feelings," Cho says. "I think the realistic way I paint sets it apart from other body art out there. I try to convey messages to fight stereotypes and cast doubt on common sense. My dream is that people will look at the artwork and start thinking differently about things."

© Tomonori Muraoka



© Hik

two-time Extreme Martial Arts Japan champion, Tomonori Muraoka has been putting his body on the line for over a decade. It was the films of Jackie Chan that first piqued his interest in combat training when he was a high school student in Saitama. "I joined Japan Action Enterprise," Muraoka says. "It's a renowned establishment that was founded by Sonny Chiba (initially under the name Japan Action Club). We studied stunt performing, gymnastics, martial arts and jazz dance. I was the youngest in the class so it was quite intimidating early on.” Muraoka’s confidence and reputation soon grew. During his time with the agency he was chosen to perform in popular movies such as GeGeGe no Kitaro and 20th Century Boys as well as the theatrical extravaganza Takizawa Kabuki. At the age of 24 he decided to go it alone. “My ambitions had changed,” he says. “My goal was, and still is, to perform for Cirque du Soleil, which meant focusing more on acrobatic skills than stunts. I didn’t get through the auditions in the States last year, but I was invited backstage by the company director who praised my routine and told me to try out again soon, which was encouraging to hear.” Another of Muraoka’s long-term aspirations is to bring the Cirque du Monde – a circus program that reaches out to marginalized kids – to Japan. For now, though, he is focused on improving his technique and continuing to entertain audiences with his spellbinding skills. aru C

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fter a brief introduction, HARA passes me his business card through the screen of his cellphone. It's a trick he teaches businesspeople with the intention of lightening the mood at meetings. The Japanese illusionist, who's been wowing international audiences for many years, shot to fame in 2016 when he turned himself into a pigeon on America’s Got Talent. It mesmerized the judges, including Simon Cowell, who said, "For those two minutes it was like being in the happiest place.” “Knowing his reputation, I was delighted to hear that,” HARA tells Weekender. “Sometimes I’ll see skeptical eyes in the audience, particularly amongst men, but when I perform, their faces light up. That’s the power of magic.” HARA became intrigued by magic at the age of five when a clown handed him some crystal that he'd created from a bubble. Two years later the youngster started doing his own tricks. "My dream was to be a singer like my mum," he says. "I sang at a school talent show and got no reaction whatsoever. The following year I decided to buy a magic kit and perform what I'd learned. Everyone was amazed and I felt like a superstar.” Practicing every day, the self-taught magician from the mountains of Kumano soon started making a name for himself, and at 17 competed in a world teens' magic tournament in Las Vegas. "I didn't win," he says matter-of-factly. "Rather than trying to entertain, I showed off. After watching Cirque du Soleil, I changed my act, becoming more of an illusionist than a magician. Twelve months later I triumphed at the competition." That success led to offers from all over the world, and despite not taking home the top prize on AGT, his run to the quarter-finals further increased his popularity. He’s only 26, but we get the distinct feeling there's plenty more to come from the man known as HARA.



n a largely conformist society, Rika Maruyama has never been afraid to stand out from the crowd. While her friends were enrolling at college and taking on office jobs she decided to start a career in contortionism, despite not initially knowing what the word meant. “Having done rhythmic gymnastics throughout my youth I've always had a limber body, and someone suggested I'd make a good contortionist," Maruyama says. "I eventually Googled it – after racking my brain for three weeks trying to remember what the word was – and was immediately captivated. I'd never seen anything like that in Japan." Maruyama spent hours watching videos online and was particularly enthralled by the performances of Mongolians Ulziibuyan Mergen, OyunErdene Senge and Tsetseglen Odgerel. Feeling inspired, she decided to enroll at a nearby studio. In terms of flexibility, the then-18-year-old clearly had great potential, but what she lacked was physical strength. She's worked hard, building up her muscles with a strict fitness regime that includes handstand push-ups. Now in her fourth year as a contortionist, Maruyama is Japan's leading figure in the discipline. Admittedly she doesn't have much competition, but it's still been an impressive rise in a short time. "It's not exactly a stable profession," she says. "I teach regularly and there will be months when I'll have lots of commercials and shows booked; other times it's quiet. What I enjoy most is the freedom of being able to plan my own routines. Contortionism isn't well known here so I hope to raise its profile in Japan and perform all over the world. It probably won't be a lengthy career because of the physical demands so I have to make the most of it and continue striving to be the best." T OKYO WE E KE N DE R | MAY 2 0 1 7 | 1 9



hat better way to celebrate an engagement than spending a late afternoon taking "usfies" at an abandoned amusement park? This inspiration is what drew Anna and her fiancé Max to Nara Dreamland, a theme park that had gone to seed a decade earlier. The park was the brainchild of businessman Kunizo Matsuo, who visited Disneyland on a trip to the US in the 1950s. After witnessing the popularity of Disney's then-new creation, he hit upon the idea of bringing the Magic Kingdom to Japan – specifically, to Japan’s very first capital city, Nara. Matsuo got in touch with Walt Disney, the two parties appear to have struck a deal, and some of the engineers who had been involved in the original Disneyland were brought in to consult on what could have become the Happiest Place in Japan. But before work was completed on the new location, Disney and Matsuo came to a sticking

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point on licensing and franchising terms, and the deal fell through. In addition to paying for the help from Disney’s engineers, Matsuo Entertainment Company had to come up with their own original characters that would greet guests at the park that opened its gates in 1961. So, instead of Mickey and Minnie, it was say hello to Ranchan and Dori-chan, two forgettable little tykes dressed in soldier suits and bearskin caps. While the Disney crew was nowhere to be found, Dreamland did bear a striking resemblance to that Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, California. And it was pretty popular in Japan, drawing more than 1.5 million visitors a year when business was at its best. A second Dreamland, this one in Yokohama, was built in 1964. However, by the late 70s, the requiem for the Dreamland was being composed: the Oriental Land Company was in talks with Disney to create what would become Tokyo Disneyland, which finally opened in 1983. Tokyo Disneyland took a toll on Nara Dream-


land’s popularity, but about a million guests were still making it there every year in the 80s. It wasn’t until 2001, when Tokyo DisneySea launched and Universal Studios Japan began action in nearby Osaka, that the nightmare really began. Attendance dropped to 400,000 visitors a year, shops at the amusement park began to close, and rides started showing their age. Nara Dreamland was finally shuttered in 2006 (Yokohama Dreamland had closed four years before), the owners of the park stopped paying property taxes, and the ill-fated amusement park became the property of the municipal government. In the decade that followed, Nara Dreamland became a mecca for lovers of haikyo (abandoned buildings) who were willing to brave two layers of chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, security patrols, and stiff punishments that were handed out to trespassers (hefty fines, and potential visa "complications" for foreigners). A steady stream of daring shutterbugs made their way to the park, and the photos started making their way around the internet. Anna first heard of Nara Dreamland about five years back: "I saw one of those Buzzfeed-y style lists of 'the most interesting abandoned places in the world' and on the list were places you'd never want to go, like Chernobyl; places far enough away that I could never feasibly reach them, like the Wonderland in China's Chenzhuang Village; and places long destroyed, including Gulliver's Kingdom near Fujisawa. Then, finally, I saw 'Nara Dreamland.' To my delight, some Googling showed me that it was within Nara city limits, certainly not yet demolished, and, better yet, there was tons of information online about how to access it." Although she's not a haikyo hunter, Anna is a professional photographer who recognizes the allure of these left-behind places, in both rural areas and

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in the heart of the biggest city on Earth: "My friends and I have explored parts of Fukushima (not the regulated areas that are unsafe due to radiation), Gifu, Odawara, and even Sagamiko Lake, which all had buildings left behind, from bowling centers to ice cream shops and boat harbors. Even walking through Tokyo you can come across an alleyway that you can imagine was once a hideaway of little bars, but is all boarded up. Particularly in Japan, abandoned places are especially fascinating because of the care that we know people put into maintaining businesses while they were active; to see

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them left at a standstill, even while the rest of the city moves on, is always so interesting ... It feels like a lot of heart was left behind, in a gut-wrenching manner." Since reading about it, Anna continued to follow up on news about Nara Dreamland. She knew that there were plans to demolish the park, and she and Max had plans to return to the US. "I knew my window to safely get inside was opening up slowly, but would snap shut altogether very soon ... With weeks left on our visas, and enough money to cover us in case of emergency, I pored over maps and blogs for


tens of hours (my fiancé can vouch for that!) as I did not want to simply 'bust in' and treat it lightly. I still wanted to do it carefully." On a late afternoon last May, when the couple finally made it to Dreamland, there were plenty of nerves, which were – appropriately, perhaps – accompanied by a funhouse atmosphere: "[At first] we panicked over every small noise, and even ducked into a shed for nearly 20 minutes before we realized we were simply being paranoid. We also realized the voices we heard inside were not security at all, but at least two dozen other 'tourists' inside at the same time! We came across a family, another couple, some brave souls climbing the Matterhorn, people hiking up the roller coaster, and other wanderers – even a girl who had honestly walked right into the park, not even aware she wasn't supposed to be inside at all ... There were some sites we had wanted to see but never got the chance to, as we had gone in around sunset, and it was getting dark – fast. When the sun finally set, we took off sprinting like madmen, but couldn't stop laughing once we were out!" In the long run, Anna and Max got in – and out – just in time. "Not a month after we left did they bulldoze the huge wooden roller coaster that had once been the pinnacle of Japanese theme parks. We also couldn't help feeling a bit of pride, getting in during the final moments that it stood. We will certainly cherish the photos, which help us tell a great story! These photos are not nearly as glamorous or pristine as an average engagement shoot, but we are pretty proud of what we managed to capture, and feel that their rawness represents us: someplace new, someplace old, someplace we shouldn't be, hearts pounding, nervous smiles and all.” T OKYO WE E KE N DE R | MAY 2 0 1 7 | 2 5

Although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated there is "no way" Japan is in poverty, statistics show that 54% of single-parent families, and 16% of children, are living below the poverty line. Matthew Hernon investigates the country’s hidden crisis


hen Hiroko Kondo opened Japan's first children's café (kodomo shokudo) in 2012 she had no idea the impact it would have. Owner of a vegetable shop called Kimagure Yaoya Dandan, she decided to use the space to create an environment where children – either living in relative poverty or left alone in the evenings – could eat healthy dinners twice a month at heavily discounted prices. Five years on and there are now hundreds of stores like it throughout the country. “A friend working at an elementary school nearby told me one student wasn’t eating properly because of a sick mother,” Kondo says. “She wasn't able to cook so there were days when the child would eat school lunch and a banana, and that was it. You see so much food around, it shocked me that there were people not getting enough. I wanted to do something, but it took me two years to decide, and by the time I finally did, the child in question had left home to live in an institution. I regret wait-

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ing so long, yet at the same time I'm glad this café has inspired others to do something similar." Kondo estimates there are around 400 children’s cafeterias in Japan right now. Some offer meals for free, occasionally with the proviso that the children help out, others charge a small amount. At Dandan – located in Hasunuma, Tokyo – minors can enjoy an organic meal for the price of one coin; any coin. Initially bimonthly, the service is now open every Thursday from 5:30pm. During our visit, the shop, which seats around 20 people, filled up quickly. On other days, the place is often used as a classroom with lessons for adults and kids. In Tokyo's Toshima district, Chieko Kuribayashi's non-profit organization Wakuwaku has taken things further. "As well as the cafés and learning centers, we have a play park for children left alone after school because of parents' work commitments," she tells Weekender. "We'll soon be starting a service called Wakuwaku Home which will see volunteers visiting various houses simply to lend an ear."

Perspective drawing of The Nippon Foundation’s Onomichi facility for children, which is set to open in July

Outside of Toshima, Kuribayashi, who launched the NPO in 2014, networks with other volunteer organizations including Kondo's group, and both ladies are pleased with the recent work that's being done from the bottom up in Japan. When it comes to the government, though, they're not so positive. At a Diet committee session last January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that there was "no way" Japan was in poverty, and that by global standards the country was "definitely one of the wealthiest." The most recent survey on child poverty, however, appears to refute his claims. According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare roughly one in six children (16.3%) in Japan under the age of 18 were living in relative poverty in 2012. The measurement of relative poverty – defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as those with incomes at or below half the median national disposable income – has been dismissed by some politicians in the LDP, yet whichever way you look at it, Japan's current economic situation is not as rosy as the Prime Minister makes out. Figures for single-parent households are even more startling: 54.6% are reportedly living below the poverty line, the highest amongst the OECD member countries. Over the past four decades the number of single mothers in Japan has increased from an estimated 626,200 in 1973 to more than 1.2 million. Concerned about the growing numbers receiving dependent children's allowances, the government introduced reforms in 2003 that encouraged single mothers to work. The current employment rate for single mothers is around 80%, however less than 40% work full-time. Many require one or two part-time jobs with little pay and not enough time to spend with their kids. Last year, the children's allowance (which depends on income) for one-parent families increased slightly from ¥9,780¥41,420 per month to ¥9,990-¥42,330. (The

additional allowance for a second child increased from ¥5,000 to ¥10,000.) Shizuoka City resident Ruko Yamagata, whose son recently started elementary school, receives ¥42,320 while also working for a suit company. She earns enough to cover food and bills, but not much else. “I only work a few hours because it’s important to be there when my son comes home,” Yamagata says. “The money I get is barely enough to put food on the table. Days can be physically and mentally draining. Things have become easier since he graduated from kindergarten, but in the future, you have cram school and club activities to consider. It feels like a constant battle.” After Yamagata divorced her ex-husband, he began paying what she describes as “a small amount” to assist with their son's upbringing. The money was reduced after he had another baby with his second wife, and Yamagata is not sure if the payment will continue. Hayato Hanaoka, program director at The Nippon Foundation and author of the book Kodomo no Hinkon ga Nihon wo Horobosu (Child Poverty May Destroy Japan), says that this situation is common in Japan because of weak divorce laws. "After my father left he didn't pay any child allowance," Hanaoka tells us. "When couples agree to a kyogi rikon (divorce by mutual consent), noncustodial parents are usually obliged to pay something for the upbringing of their kids, but this isn't enforced. Many single parents will receive money initially, then it will stop and there's nothing they can legally do about it. The financial burden can be great because the government offers little support.” “It's a kind of poverty that's difficult to identify. Kids from poor backgrounds often have cellphones and computer games, so on the surface everything looks fine, yet dig deeper and you see families struggling with the cost of education. Some can't afford cram school, leaving their children at a serious disadvantage. Future prospects for stu-


dents from single-parent families are much bleaker because their grades are generally lower, and a significantly smaller percentage go to university. We estimate that the lifetime income of children currently aged 15 in Japan will be reduced by ¥2.9 trillion, and that will cost the government around ¥1.1 trillion.” Numerous Japanese NPOs have implemented initiatives attempting to break this chain of poverty, including Ashinaga, which provides interest-free loans for students who have lost a parent and are struggling financially. Last year, The Nippon Foundation opened a facility in Saitama called Third Place where up to 20 elementary school children can go five days a week between 2pm and 9pm to play, study and get a hot meal. The plan is to open 100 of them by 2020. "The substantial difference between our service and children's cafés or free cram schools is outreach," Hanaoka says. "Children aren't going to voluntarily raise their hands, so we knock on doors and visit schools to hear about potential problems. We assess their needs, then provide counselling and one-on-one tutorials. The target is children aged seven to 10 because that’s a very important time in terms of personal and educational development.” The main goal of the project is to investigate the long-term effects of academic programs for children in low-income families, research that Hanaoka feels is lacking in Japan. He believes it’s an issue the government cares little about, despite the ratification of the Law on Measures to Counter Child Poverty in 2014. “It was the Democratic Party that pushed for the new law,” Hanaoka says. “The LDP just jumped on the bandwagon as it makes it look as though they are doing something for kids in need when they don’t actually seem to care. With little investment and no specific monetary targets for this act, it feels like nothing has changed. What it has done is raise awareness about the issue and that’s something we need to keep pushing.”

TEAM UP AGAINST POVERTY WITH OXFAM Established in the UK in 1942, Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty. From June 3 to 5 this year, Oxfam Japan is holding the Trailwalker fundraising event in Fukushima, in which teams of four complete either a 50km or 100km mountain trail. Money raised through Oxfam Trailwalker Tohoku 2017 will be used to implement projects in many of the poorest regions of the world to help end poverty and provide vital relief following natural disasters and conflicts as well as to support reconstruction of the Tohoku region. For more information and to register your team, go to oxfam-mng. com/web/web_e.html



cross from a cluster of holein-the-wall bars and izakayas under the tracks leading to Koenji Station sits Bamii, a cozy bar littered – no, piled high – with literal towers of vinyl of every genre and artist imaginable. The owners will play whatever you request, if they have it … and it’s very likely they do. It was here Weekender met with Japan Times columnist, record label owner, and now book author Ian F. Martin for an interview about his recently released book, Quit Your Band: Musical Notes from the Japanese Underground. He knows Japanese music as a consumer and a record label owner, and while he admits he can be biased about his favorite bands, his wealth of knowledge on the topic is unrivaled. To the sweet sounds of David Bowie crooning in the background, we asked…

HOW DID THE BOOK COME ABOUT? The publisher, who is also a uni lecturer, suggested it four years ago. I said OK right away, but it took time to finish. The initial plan was to create a compilation of articles I’d written for the Japan Times and other publications, but I wasn’t really happy with the idea of disconnected ideas being lumped together. At the same time, the opportunity of a book was tempting, as it was a canvas I hadn’t had before. In the end, I’m still writing essays, but each of them is open ended with just enough of a thread to keep them together.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE PROCESS? Thinking about writing the book, and then once it was done, being able to say, “I wrote a book.” [laughs]


WHO SHOULD READ THIS BOOK? No one needs to read it. But it does give a context to Japanese music for foreign readers. I want them to understand that [Japanese music] isn’t just alien and weird – I want them to understand why it is the way it is. Japanese music isn’t an imitation, it’s not unknowable, and it’s on equal terms with Western music. Basically, the book sends two messages to different people. One is that people should simply get used to the system, while at the same

time understand why it is the way it is. Also, I’d like those in the Japanese music industry to read it as well, but I’m kind of scared if they do…

ANY FUTURE PROJECTS ON THE GO? Well, I spent five and a half months cycling around all 47 prefectures in Japan, so I will have to do a book about that I suppose, or my wife will get mad at me. She’ll wonder what the point of supporting me through that was, so I kind of have a responsibility to her if no-one else. I did that journey to learn about the local indie scenes in each prefecture. I suppose it’ll be a book about me, in the end, as all travel books are more about the traveler than about their travels.


Since live venues are using prime Tokyo real estate, they can be small and awkwardly shaped. Other than that, they tend to be pretty standard fare – dark, nondescript interiors. However, there are a handful worth visiting regardless of the band playing, says Martin…

Fuji Rock! It forces you to break down expectations when you’re cut off from the rest of the world. They deliberately make you choose between similar bands or genres and force you to discover new bands either along the way to the next gig, or while you’re waiting for your band to play. It’s the whole weekend or nothing. At the same time, Summer Sonic is close to Tokyo and you can ride the last train home every day. A friend describes the event as “an algorithm for the max number of audience; it’s efficiently soulless and dead.” It also doesn’t have a real camping ground, so it loses something in terms of festival credibility there. ___________________________________________




A warehouse-style concrete basement venue down a narrow, steep staircase, with a load of monstrous sculptures and imaginary Mad Max-style vehicles made out of car parts.

HATAGAYA FORESTLIMIT Another raw, chaotic-looking basement venue.

OCHIAI SOUP Similar to ForestLimit, with the twist that they project a live video feed of the band performing onto the band themselves.

KOENJI MURYOKU MUZENJI Mad place, decorated with all kinds of weird stuff, but mostly photos, paintings and drawings the owner has made of his cats.


Quit Your Band offers a unique insight into the Japanese music industry – from its history to its current scene, foibles, and issues, and its potential future. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to Japanese music, or if you don’t believe there’s anything besides sugary sweet J-pop and enka, then this book is a must-read. Martin takes us on a downthe-rabbit-hole adventure through the ins and outs of the Japanese indie world and beyond, explaining the history and the “scene” of Japanese music. Quit Your Band – Music Notes from the Underground is available at Tokyo bookstores and on Amazon. For more by Ian F. Martin, see his Japan Times columns, his travel blog:, his music blog: clearandrefreshing.wordpress. com, and his record label’s website:

M BEYOND J-POP Ian F. Martin recommends five albums to give you an intro to Japanese music “A LONG VACATION” BY EIICHI OHTAKI Immaculately produced, Beach Boys-influenced pop album by the former guitarist of Happy End. Spans the border between New Music and City Pop but manages to be something unique in itself.

“ROOMIC CUBE” BY TAKAKO MINEKAWA The Shibuya-kei scene placed huge importance on the aesthetics of the music, but Takako Minekawa’s music also had this intimate, introverted quality to it that gives it an affecting sort of fragile honesty. Her albums also just explode with ideas and tunes galore.

“IONIZATION” BY YOLZ IN THE SKY Starting out as a slightly off-kilter Osaka-based hardcore band, Yolz In The Sky morphed gradually into a sort of sparse, psychedelic techno duo. “Ionization” is the brutally minimal postpunk link between their hardcore and dance phases, and it’s magnificent.

“HIKASHU” BY HIKASHU A key album in the early development of new wave and technopop (it features a magnificent cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Model”), there’s also something dark and theatrical about it that puts it in the tradition of Shuji Terayama, J A Seazer and Tokyo Kid Brothers.

“THREE OUT CHANGE” BY SUPERCAR This is just an epic indie rock/shoegaze album and one of the all-time great Japanese rock albums that also stands proudly alongside almost any comparable music that came out of the UK or US in the 90s.

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Chef extraordinaire Bill Granger on being inspired by Japan’s visual culture, what he learnt from his butcher father and grandfather, and his favorite Bills branches including the latest opening in Ginza Interview by Catherine Ramshaw


oving away from a focus on laidback breakfasts, Bills recently opened a smart new branch in downtown Ginza, marking their seventh opening in Japan (fourth in Tokyo). Although you can still tuck into the signature creamy scrambled eggs and ricotta pancakes, there’s plenty more to look forward to here, including delights such as lobster linguine, yellow fish curry, wagyu burgers, and even a high tea menu. We met up with the man behind the brand, Bill Granger, in London to chat about his transition from artist to restaurateur, how his gap year in Japan influenced his style, and how he pushes people out of their food comfort zones.

ONE OF YOUR FIRST LOVES WAS ART. WHAT ROLE DOES VISUAL ART STILL PLAY IN HOW YOU PREPARE YOUR MENUS AND PLAN YOUR RESTAURANTS? I started life as an art student, first studying architecture, then I changed over to fine arts, and I think for me the creative vision is always the start of everything. I’m excited by the visual; so whether it’s the way that food looks or the interiors of the restaurant, it’s the whole presentation. Restaurants are such a visual experience, so it’s still really important to me.

© Anson Smart

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© Mikkel Vang


CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE TRANSITION YOU MADE FROM AN ARTIST WHO WAS WAITING TABLES TO OPENING YOUR FIRST RESTAURANT? WERE THERE ANY REALLY PIVOTAL MOMENTS? Working with art is a solitary pursuit. I started working in a restaurant part-time to get some money whilst I studied, and fell in love with the collaborative effort and the energy of it. My father and grandfather had owned butcher shops, and so that idea of shop keeping was really normal for me. When I was 22 my grandfather gave me some money, which he’d set aside for all of his grand kids to borrow a little bit from, so I thought what I’m going to do is open a restaurant, and it would almost be like my shop. That’s how it started.


You’ve got to love people. My father, having been a butcher was very good at talking to people. Both my father and grandfather loved customers and I think that’s the most important thing in the restaurant business too. It’s not about your ego or yourself; a lot of people misunderstand that when they start a restaurant. You’re creating an empty space that your customers are putting their lives into. You’ve got to be humble, you’ve got to like people, and like working with people, getting the best out of them and inspiring them to deliver the best possible results.

so that they’re comfortable. They’re not meant to be fine dining establishments, they’re meant to be pretty relaxed. Our dishes are based on food you want to eat all the time but also get excited about. Food is like fashion and you’re constantly getting new flavors that are coming through. In the past few years there have been so many more textures and different grains, nuts and seeds being used, so it’s always important for me to try new flavors and see what’s going on. I love going to other restaurants and seeing what people are using, and what’s happening. It’s fun. It’s very much like fashion in that way.


© Anson Smart

Absolutely. I’d grown up in the 80s when the Japanese influence and aesthetic was really big in terms of popular culture, music and style. Then when I went there in the early 90s I was totally blown away by the Japanese attitude to the visual – the craft in the way people dressed, interiors, objects; it’s an incredibly visual culture, which was really inspiring to me. I was also inspired by how people ate well all the time, not just in the really high end places, but in the simple udon or ramen shops. Even cheap places were still beautifully designed and thought out, and that really inspired me when I was first starting Bills.

© Anson Smart



There are different restaurants in different countries that feel a bit more emotional. The first Bills in Sydney is very important to me, because that’s where I learnt my trade. I think in Japan I love Shichirigahama, our first restaurant on the ocean – that’s beautiful. I love Omotesando because it’s right in the center and when I was on my gap year I used to live around there, so it reminds me of being a 20-year-old. Our new restaurant in Ginza is absolutely beautiful and I think London, Notting Hill which is close to my home is a favorite. It’s my local as well.

The interiors of my restaurants are everyday places – almost home. When people come in, the environment is created

For more information about Bills restaurants in Japan, visit

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vibrant and picturesque city known for its historic downtown port district, futuristic architecture and unique museums, Yokohama is arguably one of Japan’s most attractive sightseeing areas. It’s a place that’s worth visiting at any time of year, though we recommend taking a trip there sometime in the next couple of months to enjoy the Garden Necklace flower event that’s taking place until June 4. With over one million flowers on display at various destinations, it’s all part of the National Urban Greenery Fair, which helps cities promote their efforts and contributions to a greener society. Here’s a quick look at the different gardens and activities you can enjoy…

MINATO GARDENS Minato Gardens refers to a cluster of parks alongside Yokohama’s waterfront, including Yamashita Park and Harbor View Park. These are popular tourist spots and were a natural choice for the centerpiece of the Garden Necklace event. A delightful area for a gentle stroll, it’s especially alluring right now because of the sea of flowers on show. Highlights include thousands of tulips (30,000 in total in all of Yokohama) and three resplendent rose gardens. There’s also a chance to see a large statue of the Green Harbor View Park

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Satoyama Gardens

Necklace mascot, Garden Bear, who sports a mega perm of blooming flowers. Nearby is the Jacqueline Garden that was designed and supervised by renowned Dutch horticulturist Jacqueline van der Kloet. It features a wide range of bulb combinations with an emphasis on the color red.

SATOYAMA GARDENS Moving further away from the center of the city into the suburbs, the Satoyama Gardens are located next to Yokohama Zoo “Zoorasia.” Here, you can enjoy 10,000 square meters of flowers – the largest display in the city. With cherry trees in the background and a colorful mix of pansies, rape blossoms and tulips, it makes for quite a sight. From late April to early May onwards, the garden will have a different look with petunias, salvias and irises in full bloom. It is then just a short walk across Forest Lane to the Yato Japanese Iris Garden where you can enjoy the splendid contrast between the purple irises and Kerria japonica surrounded by luscious green trees. A little further along the outer garden path is the Yato Rape Flower Field with rape blossoms blooming beautifully and Hana no Satoyama with its assortment of colors. While in the vicinity, there is a chance to do some glamping (short for glamorous camping) and take on the challenge of the forest adventure course.


SANKEI-EN If you are not already flowered out by the Minato and Satoyama gardens then we highly recommend a visit to Sankei-en. Probably Yokohama’s most idyllic garden, it’s a delightful place to wander around throughout the four seasons; however, it is particularly enchanting in spring. As well as the cherry trees, you can see wisterias, water lilies and azaleas to name but a few. The area was designed and landscaped by silk trader Sankei Hara (real name Tomitaro Hara) in the early part of the 20th century. To make Sankei-en particularly special he decided to buy, dismantle and then reconstruct a number of historically significant structures from around the country to exhibit at the 175,000 squaremeter garden. Ten of them have been declared Important Cultural Properties, including the three-story pagoda relocated from Tomyoji Temple in Kyoto, and the old Yanohara House, the former private residence of the Yanohara family. You can learn more about Tomitaro Hara at the Sankei Memorial Hall, where there is also an opportunity to try some delicious matcha tea with some Japanese confectionery. For more information, go to TWgarden-necklace2017

N. S. Harsha, Sky Gazers, 2010 / 2017, Acrylic on plywood, 975.4 × 488 cm, Photo: Shiigi Shizune, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo

H AV E A LOOK A ROU ND Take a gander at the work of one of India's rising art stars, be enlightened by a 16th century Zen painter, and get out and enjoy the weather at this month's festivals.


N. S. Harsha, Punarapi Jananam Punarapi Maranam (Again Birth, Again Death), 2013, Acrylic on canvas, tarpaulin, 365.8 × 2407.9 cm, Photo: Shiigi Shizune, Photo courtesy: Mori Art Museum, Tokyo


N . S . H A RS H A : C H A R MI N G J OU R NE Y Harsha is an Indian artist whose reputation is on the rise. The wide variety of his work, which ranges from massive, detail-rich canvases filled with hundreds of characters to complex installation pieces and public art, invites viewers to think about everything from the relentlessly fast pace of global economies and the high-tech industry to the deep roots of ancient beliefs that still animate life in the world’s second most populous country. Mori Art Museum Until June 11


OU R PIC K O F T H E C I T Y’S B ES T EXHI B I T I ONS Sesson Shukei, Wind and Waves (Important Cultural Property), 22.1×31.4cm, Nomura Art Museum, Kyoto

Compiled by Alec Jordan

SE SSON : A SIN G U LAR PAIN T E R Not much is known about the Zen monk and painter Sesson Shukei: he was born in what is now Ibaraki Prefecture, and traveled between Kanto and Tohoku during his life. But from this limited biography sprang a striking oeuvre, featuring carefully rendered landscapes and human figures whose bold vibrancy may have inspired legendary Edo period artists such as Jakuchu. This exhibition includes about 100 of Sesson’s works, and some 30 pieces by artists who followed in his footsteps. (Some pieces will be replaced during the exhibition.) The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts Until May 21

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M US I C Three singles that will get your feet tapping to the tune of warmer weather (compiled by James Wong) CALVIN HARRIS FEAT. YOUNG THUG, PHARRELL WILLIAMS AND ARIANA GRANDE – “HEATSTROKE”

T HE EN CYCLO PED I A OF MASA MI C H I K ATAYA M A “LIF E I S H A RD … L E T’ S GO S H OP P I N G” The mind behind the interiors of UNIQLO flagship stores around the world, high-end fashion boutiques, and Tokyo’s INTERSECT BY LEXUS, Masamichi Katayama has made a name for himself as a design figure to follow. At his installation show at the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Katayama is returning to the punk aesthetic (“putting the boot in,” as he calls it) that inspired him from his early days, mixing and matching up surreal interiors from his personal collection that combine everything from fine art to taxidermy. Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery Until June 25 index_e.php

FOREST MEMORIES: YOSHIHIKO UEDA What can we learn by spending time among the trees? This collection of large format photographs – taken in the Pacific Northwestern US and on the island of Yakushima – offers a few answers: an appreciation of the flow that occurs among disparate objects in the environment, the influences that geological forces play on developing forests, and a very deep sense of time. A great opportunity to see the work of this thoughtful photographer, whose work often appears on the walls of this venue. Gallery 916 Until July 2

Summer isn’t really summer without a Calvin Harris anthem, and this year “Heatstroke” is certain to blaze through pool parties and festivals across the globe. Harris teams up with the man who is always in the moment, Pharrell Williams, and rounds off with Young Thug and Ariana Grande. This is 2017’s answer to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”

DUA LIPA – “HOTTER THAN HELL (MIIKE SNOW REMIX)” The lady on everyone’s lips, Dua Lipa has been hailed as the next big thing for months now and finally drops her debut album in Japan this June. “Hotter Than Hell” provides a strong indicator of what to expect and this remix by Swedish indiepop group Miike Snow propels the 21-year old Brit beyond the spectrum of cool.

JAMIROQUAI – “SOMETHING ABOUT YOU” It’s easy for 90s superstars to rely on “Greatest Hits” comebacks, but that’s not for Jamiroquai. The 47-year-old Jay Kay and co are celebrating their relevance among today’s generation with an album of new material that’s been hitting number one in over 30 countries. “Something About You” is a disco-funk, acid-jazz number that bridges the gap until Daft Punk’s next record.

©Yoshihiko Ueda, Quinault No.1, 1990-1991

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AGENDA: THE WEEKENDER ROUNDUP OF WHAT’S HAPPENING IN MAY 1 MAY 1-28 SHOWA KINEN PARK FLOWER FESTIVAL Now that sakura season is over, explore a selection of wild flowers, including poppies, baby’s breath, cornflowers and more. Where: Showa Kinen Park How much: ¥410 More info: TWshowakinen

5 MAY 20-21 GREENROOM FESTIVAL Music, art and film festival by the water inspired by beach and surf culture. Artists include Ray Barbee, The New Mastersounds and Jake Bugg. Where: Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse How much: ¥11,900-¥19,000 More info:

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2 MAY 11-17

3 MAY 20-21

4 MAY 1-30




One of the three great festivals of Edo, this traditional event goes on for six days and features about a hundred mikoshi parading through the streets. Where: Kanda Myojin Shrine How much: Free More info: kandamatsuri

This one's for lovers of all things Italian. Expect plenty of guests, a stylish showcase of top Italian brands, performances, concerts, talk sessions – and some tasty cuisine. Where: Roppongi Hills How much: Free More info:

Terrifying anime Titans appear in, on, and around Tokyo Skytree in this special collaboration event where visitors can enjoy original animations and Titan-themed food. Where: Tokyo Skytree How much: Free More info: event/special/shingeki2017

6 MAY 26 DR. SKETCHY'S ANTI-ART SCHOOL, TOKYO An international alternative art event where burlesque models pose for art stars and sketching newbies alike with drinks and arty socializing. Where: Studio & Space Ivva How much: ¥2,000, including 1 drink More info: www.

7 MAY 6, 27 & 31

8 MAY 1-16



A chance for children aged around two and their parents to create \art together. This event’s theme is The Earth. Where: Chiiku Lab How much: Parent & child pair ¥3,500; additional family member ¥1,000 More info: chiikulab/330835

An exploration of black dresses throughout history, from Rococo gowns to Dior’s most famous silhouette and to the modern version of the little black dress. Where: Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum How much: ¥500 More info:

「Glass」2017 oil on canvas 60.6cm × 50.0cm



Roppongi Dori

Nishi-Azabu Intersection

Roppongi Hills Mori Art Museum

Hiroo Station

Gaien East St.

The National Art Center, Tokyo

National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies To Shibuya

Shitsu Murayama / Kids know

Nogisaka Station

Saturday 13th May- Sunday 4th June, 2017

Gaien West St.


Aoyama Cemetary

Opening Hours: 12:00 - 19:00 | Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays Opening Reception: Friday May 12th from 18:00 onwards

Roppongi Station


〒 106-0031 Tokyo, Minato-ku, Nishi-Azabu 2-12-4 Ogura building 3F

Te l : 0 3 - 6 4 1 9 - 7 2 2 9 | We b : w w w. n a n a t a s u . j p

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MASTER THE FORMALITIES You may have your basic self-introduction in Japanese down, but are you ready to take things to another level? Here are a few tips to giving the kind of formal introductory speech that you’ll use with your coworkers in more “buttoned-up” situations. We’ll give you the phrases first in Japanese, then in romaji, and finally in English, followed by a bit of an explanation. 1


はじめまして、 Aと申します。


Hajimemashite, A to moushi masu.

Isshoukenmei ganbarimasu node

Nice to meet you, my name is A.

So, I will do my best.

The heart of the word “hajimemashite” means “begin,” and it’s the start of almost every introduction you’ll ever read.

Isshoukenmei literally means “I will do this thing with all my heart and all my life.” It sounds a little over the top but its basic meaning is “I'll do my best.”

今日からABCセクションに 配属されました。


Kyou kara ABC Section ni haizoku saremashita.

Douzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu. Word for word, this phrase means “please be kind to me,” but think of it more like “I’m looking forward to working with you.” To dial up the politeness level, replace douzo with nanitozo.

Starting from today, I have been assigned to the ABC Section. Haizoku means assignment. With the verb saremashita, the phrase becomes passive and takes on the meaning “was assigned to.”

3 わからないことばかりですが、 Wakaranai koto bakari desu ga… Although there are lots of things I don't know yet… Wakaranai = don't know, koto = things bakari = everything or all of the things, desu = is, ga = though, but

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I N S P I R I N G MI ND S Our spring Education Special brings you news from some of Tokyo's top international schools, including a brand-new middle school that's set to open this September.


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A Perfect Balance

As Camelot International School prepares to open a middle school this September, they continue to offer affordable quality education that’s more than just about high test scores


leven years ago, when Kayoko Sugawara founded Camelot as an international preschool, she would never have imagined that she would go on to open both an elementary and a middle school. But her unique teaching philosophies, combined with affordable fees, have made Camelot so popular that Sugawara has boldly continued to expand. We sat down with Camelot Director Sugawara, new Head of School Russell Bowley, and the new Head of Middle School Graeme Peel, to hear more about the school’s plans.

WHY DO YOU FEEL THERE’S A NEED FOR A NEW INTERNATIONAL MIDDLE SCHOOL IN TOKYO? Sugawara: Three years ago, I opened Camelot’s elementary school. Even though it was a risk and a challenge, we now have around 40 students and have recently moved to a bigger location in Kotake-Mukaihara to accommodate even more. Parents have always told me that they would keep their children at Camelot if they could, so I felt the next logical step was to

open a middle school. Our fees are in line with the international courses offered by Japanese schools [¥800,000 per year for pre-school; ¥1,150,000 per year for elementary school], so it’s a good option for returnees or foreign students who can’t afford more expensive international schools. Good quality international education should be more broadly available, which means it has to be more affordable. Peel: Although there are some Japanese schools offering international courses, I have found there is a conflict between what these schools are trying to strike as a traditional, private Japanese school and what you need to be learning to get into universities in, say, the US or England. At Camelot, we offer a high standard of education, but with international values and a reduced cost to the parents. Bowley: Absolutely. Our philosophy places emphasis on individuals and their needs. The more that students learn about themselves and the world they inhabit, the more they are able to make wise decisions about their own educational choices.

COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TEACHING STYLE? Sugawara: We have always had a very fluid system that allows each student to adapt their daily class schedule to suit their level. For example, if a student is in grade 3 but their math or English is at a lower level, then for those subjects they can join a class in a lower grade. They can also jump up to a more advanced class where necessary. Also, I believe that a good education isn’t just about getting good scores on tests; it’s also about developing as a human being and learning how to build relationships. Peel: What I’ve found is that the aspects of adolescence that people find negative are often a reaction to traditional teaching and education. When you create an environment in which students have a drive, and they’re independently wanting to learn,

they’re far more self-motivated. Bowley: It’s important that students feel they have ownership of the learning process. Everything they learn has to be relevant to them and their own paths. We want to create an environment that encourages enquiring minds.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE TRADITIONAL EDUCATION WITH THIS WAY OF THINKING? Peel: My approach has always been to do things in class around what the students are interested in, and following that they are motivated to go home and study for tests independently. I think that you can achieve the goals that traditional education sets out without ever doing it in a traditional way. Bowley: I agree. Student interest is the most important thing. The idea of study as a joy and a fascination supports and transcends the goals of traditional education.

HOW DO YOU STRUCTURE THE CURRICULUM? Sugawara: At our elementary school, our focus is IPC (International Primary Curriculum), but we use the American Core Standard for language art, and the Singapore and American Core Standard for Math. Peel: For the middle school, we’re still developing the curriculum but I think it’s important to have some accreditation such as the Cambridge or AP qualifications, and an external examination board. We want to reassure parents of the standards we’re reaching for. Applications for Camelot International Middle School are now open. For more information visit, call 03-5948-3993 or email



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5 REASONS TO CHOOSE THE BRITISH SCHOOL IN TOKYO How BST continues to lead in creating a well-rounded learning environment 2. HIGH STANDARDS


sked why they chose The British School in Tokyo (BST) for their sons and daughters, many of our parents say that the children here are cheerful, grounded, at ease with themselves and each other – and excited by the challenges set before them. They might add that the school succeeds in balancing high academic expectation with a wealth of extra-curricular opportunity, all founded on the highest standards of pastoral care and a deep commitment to the needs and enthusiasms of the individual. We take a deeper look at some of the top reasons why BST is becoming the first choice for many families.

1. NO STEREOTYPES From their early years in our Nursery and Reception classes, all children are valued for who they are and given the freedom to develop the independence and resilience that will enable them to take the next step in their education wherever it might take them, with confidence and a smile. In essence, BST is a school and a community where there will never be stereotypes.

The British School in Tokyo is an accredited member of the Council of British International Schools and one of only a small number of schools worldwide to have been independently inspected according to the UK standards for British Schools Overseas, and judged to be excellent in every category. Situated on two central sites at the heart of this vibrant city, this year for the first time in its history, the school is home to over 1,000 students. There are many reasons to explain the remarkable surge in student enrolment at BST in recent years but foremost among them is the widespread recognition that this is a school where young people of all abilities from the most diverse backgrounds can find their niche and fulfil their potential. Since 2012 we have seen the number of 15 to 18-year-old students on our IGCSE and A Level courses more than double to almost 250; examination results have progressed to the point where they match the gold standard set by the United Kingdom independent sector and our graduates are winning places at some of the most prestigious universities around the world.



highly qualified team who set themselves and their students the very highest standards.

4. NEW COURSES At the start of the 2017/18 academic year in September, we will be introducing significant new areas of study for our older students. These include university entry-level courses in Computer Science, Economics and – further strengthening our highly successful arts programme – Drama & Theatre Studies.

5. BROAD PERSPECTIVES BST is, of course, much more than an A Level school. All examinations are important, and many parents are impressed by the rigour and structured progression of our particular brand of British education from the age of three through to 18. That said, our young people here know that education is not simply about passing exams. Sport, music and drama are woven into the fabric of school life, and we see both community service and adventurous activity as significant strengths. For more information, visit

The very best schools, of course, are built on the talent, enthusiasm and experience of outstanding teachers. At BST we recruit staff with great care, almost exclusively from the UK and from select British-style international schools around the world. Every one of our teachers is a life-long learner, keen to maintain the highest level of subject knowledge and to keep abreast of the latest developments in pedagogical best practice. Our parents know that they can count on the commitment and dedication of a

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Expanding World Views

How Aoba-Japan’s successful Extension Program is growing, and what to look forward to at this year’s Summer Camp


ince 2013, Aoba-Japan’s innovative Extension Program has been adding to its lineup, and over the last year they’ve held spring, summer, autumn and winter camps, as well as two sports camps. As demand for their unique approach to community education programs grows, AJE is establishing a unique identity for itself, says director Greg Culos. “Aoba now has five different schools around Tokyo. This expansion has opened up opportunities for AJE to offer a wider variety of extension programs. For example, we have just added a Saturday program at our

Waseda location based on the same principles of applied learning that define our camp programs,” he says. “Aoba’s core primary and secondary programs run Monday to Friday, but there’s a demand for weekend, evening, and seasonal learning opportunities. So we’re creating a series of programs that can be delivered anywhere, in order to meet the needs of anyone seeking rewarding learning opportunities beyond the classroom – as the word ‘extension’ suggests, AJE is open to everyone, including students coming from abroad.” So how is the Extension Program set apart from the core education programs? AJE is described as offering “fun and inspiring experiential programs in an applied international learning context to enrich their formal education responsibilities.” Expressing this less formally, Culos says, “It’s about inspiring the kids by giving them opportunities beyond the ordinary to experiment a little, explore a little, adventure a little – essentially, giving them exposure to different things.” The group does this through seasonal camps, continuing programs, and annual events, all of which are fun, challenging, and rewarding. The programs focus on themes of communication, sports, culture, friendship and new experiences. The summer camp now attracts around 250 children. 10% of them come from abroad or from other parts of Japan. “There is a market for people wanting to come here to be immersed in things Japanese, but grow and even graduate within the kind of international context we offer,” says Culos. “It’s a fairly new notion, but I think this could catch on. In the meantime, our camps offer international students the chance to come to Japan for days or weeks, experience the culture, learn a bit of the language, and expand their world views.”


SIGN UP FOR AJE’S SUMMER CAMP 2017 Held over five weeks from July 17 to August 18, the summer camp’s theme is “Communication Unites the World.” Children can join for individual weeks, or stay for the full five weeks – those coming from abroad can be accommodated through Homestay Japan, which places foreign students with Japanese families. “The idea is to give kids as many different types of experiential opportunities to communicate with each other as possible,” says Culos. And as the camp’s jam-packed lineup shows, there’s never a dull moment. The weeks are themed on different continents, and each day begins with morning classes drawn from a curriculum based around a continent’s people, food, geography, language and so on. These topics are explored and expressed in many ways, including arts and crafts, drama performances, role playing, and guest visitors. “The learning is focused more on the reasons for and context of discussion, and problems we might be trying to solve. It’s not so much about grammar, reading and writing – it’s more about language in context,” says Culos. The afternoons are full of age-appropriate activities, including making model rockets, learning pottery skills, climbing mountains, river rafting, tree swinging, water sports, and more. “There’s also a Family Day once a week, and in the final week we have a big Olympiad where everyone is welcome to come back and join in – even if they only took part in one or two weeks of the camp.” For more information and to sign up for AJE’s Summer Camp 2017, visit

Bewitched by the Travel Gods …And those very early summer mornings! Words by Brian Christian

The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them.


nyone with even the faintest interest in Japanese literature will have recognised the famous opening to Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North, three short sentences that may have brought to the surface all manner of memories for those among you who remember having to learn them off by heart in senior high school. Now considered the most renowned literary figure of the Edo period, the hallowed haiku-master was a compulsive traveller who, despite being denied the opportunity to see the world beyond the confines of his own country, found much to satisfy his wander-lust along the mountain trails of his native islands.

When spring came and there was mist in the air… Everything about me was bewitched by the travel gods... The spirits of the roads beckoned. The pilgrimage that inspired his greatest work begins, so he tells us, in 1689 on the 27th day of the third month when he sets out from Tokyo while the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Given that the world shivered through a mini ice-age throughout the seventeenth century, the flowering sakura give us a clue that the date is not all it seems. Almost 200 years would pass before Japan would finally adopt the modern western calendar and, under the old lunar system, late March might well be the equivalent to a spring day closer to the end of April. Today there are few among us who grow old leading horses but I suspect that I won’t be alone in succumbing to the siren voices of the travel gods as the early-rising summer sun warms the morning air and the days begin to lengthen. To be fair, it’s hard not to feel restless when sunlight starts streaming relentlessly through your bedroom windows just a few short hours after you’ve taken to your bed. No wonder Basho felt compelled to head north! It’s true that in Japan we enjoy long summer days; the only problem is that the sun rises soon after four and sets at seven. What is it with this country and daylight-saving? For those of us fortunate enough to have lived in and travelled to some of the most visited cities in Europe – London, Paris, Rome – many of our fondest memories have been conceived in the sunlit shade of early summer evenings. There are few great cities of the world blessed with the endless blue skies of Tokyo’s winter so for most the long,


light evenings of May bring a welcome release from the dank, dark grip of earlier months. The result? The vibrant café culture of Copenhagen and the buzzing bars and restaurants of Barcelona. 2016 was a record year for the Japanese tourist industry with almost 24 million visitors spending a cool 33 billion dollars. Good news? Perhaps – but the rate of growth in both the number of tourists and the amount they spent here was significantly down on the previous 12 months, suggesting that the government’s target of 40 million visitors spending around 70 billion dollars by 2020 may be well out of reach. Might the allure of lighter summer evenings make a difference? When Basho walked the narrow road to the deep north, each of his days on foot ended with the twilight of early summer sunsets; will the next few years change all that? Moving the clocks forward by an hour – or even two – could provide just the boost Japan needs as it prepares to host the Rugby World Cup and the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. Why not make the most of this precious time in the global spotlight and bring the evening streets to life? Brian Christian is Principal of The British School in Tokyo.

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t's hard to believe that Easter has come and gone, and Golden Week’s pretty much had it by the time you read this. I like to quote my dear grandmother, who often said, “The older you get, the faster it goes.” She was right on about that. Anyway, hope you and yours are enjoying life here in Japan, were able to enjoy the beautiful sakura, and had a good late April/early May vacation. With so many diplomats changing, music and sports events, visitors, art exhibits, and cultural activities, it seemed like March, April and May were unusually busy for this time of the year. That’s the way I like it and I’m sure most of you are the same. Great people and good friends who have left recently include Italian Ambassador Domenico Giorgi and his wife Rita, Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Anesa Kurdurovic, Peruvian Ambassador Elard Escala, and his wife Cristina, and Pakistan Ambassador Farukh Amil. I mixed up the date of the Italian sayonara party, so I missed that one. I'm sorry about that, but am happy that I got to see Ambassador Domenico at the Peruvian sayonara event and speak to his wife Rita on the phone several times before they returned to Rome. They were really good friends who’ll be missed by all who know them. My thanks to them for the primo class book on their embassy and garden – one of Japan’s most beautiful. One of the highlights for me during this time was the visit of former Tokyoites Ron and Maria Anderson, who flew in from the Big Apple for ILBS’s Annual Ball, to do some cherry blossom viewing, and enjoy a full schedule of breakfasts, lunches and dinners their many friends hosted in their honor while they were here. Ron was a top man for AIU Insurance for many years in Tokyo and keeps busy in New York City with them as well. Maria also had a fast-paced life here and stays occupied in New York with many worthwhile projects. During their 10 years here, she was President of the International Ladies Benevolent Society for a year, and she helped me with charity projects in the Philippines. Believe me, this is a very special couple in every way – and they’re really cool, as you can see by the photo that I took of them on their way to the Ball.

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I’m a big fan of Broadway shows and Maria gave me a run-down on what’s happening in New York City. Hamilton is still on top if you want to see it – and can afford it. The Book of Mormon is still packing them in, and tickets are still expensive. I’ve seen many of the longer running shows and revivals including Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Kinky Boots and Miss Saigon. I would love to see Wicked, Sunset Blue, School of Rock, and On Your Feet! – the last one being about my good friend Gloria Estefan. I did a lot of parties for her and her band Miami Sound Machine, both here and in Seoul. Meanwhile, there’s some good stuff coming to Tokyo. One of my favorites, West Side Story, will be back with an international cast in July. It’s got to be one of the best shows ever – from the choreography, to the story, and the Bernstein tunes. What must be one of the greatest Japanese drumming shows, Drum Tao, just finished 15 performances at Zepp Blue Theater in Roppongi. The talented cast, the staging, and the costumes by Junko Koshino make their show a real must-see while you’re in Japan. Check it out online. If your kids are talented, TOKYO THROWBACK you should give Pro wrestlers Hulk Hogan (left) and Bobby Duncum Sr. (right), them the chance to Françoise Morechand, and Bill, do their thing. The in the early 80s Tokyo Theatre for Children can help you with this. The theater group, which started in 1974, produces musical theater in English. Shows they’ve put on include the Wizard of Oz, Treasure Island and most recently, Annie. They have all been fun and successful, from what I hear. I know there are a lot of stage mothers (and fathers) out there, so give them a ring at 03-3446-3478 or check out their website: Who knows, a star may be born.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY HAPPENINGS EVERYWHERE A big, sincere, and well-deserved kudos to Irish Ambassador Anne Barrington. She, along with the Irish community in Japan, and the many Japanese people who love Ireland went all out this year, making it St. Patrick’s Day a nationwide celebration. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Japan-Ireland diplomatic relations. Anne, who’s an excellent speaker, made a very warm and meaningful welcome speech.

SWAP MEET AT MIDTOWN OAKWOOD & TOKO SHINODA’S 104 TH 1. Sarah Furuya (organizer), Jennifer Shinkai, Midtown’s Amy Hanashiro 2. Sarah, Mary Fidler and Corin Kanazawa 3. Toko Shinoda being interviewed by the press on her 104th birthday.


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4. Indian Amb. Sujan Chinoy with Miss Japan Priyanka Yoshikawa and Miss Ireland Niamh Kennedy 5. Ikuku Collins and Father Donal Doyle 6. Miss Japan, politician Kazuyuki Hamada, Miss Ireland, and actor/model Hideyuki Kusakari 7. Min-On’s new president Kazuto Ito, Palestine’s Waleed Siam and Min-On PR man Tomiyaki Matsuo 8. Irish Amb. Barrington (left), Niamh Kennedy (far right), and fans of Ireland lead the parade on Omotesando 9. Ghanaian Head of Chancery Muhammad Adam, Kenyan Amb. and Mrs. S.K. Maina 10. Ed Miliano, his wife Annie, Irish Minister Paschal Donohoe, outgoing Pakistan Amb. Farukh Amil 11. Japanese Rugby Team at Yoyogi Park 12. Irish song and dance at Yoyogi Park

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BRUNEI NATIONAL DAY – NEW OTANI 1. Brunei’s driver Dante Ticzon and receptionist Elvira Menor 2. Nicaraguan Amb. Saul Aran, US’ First Sec. Visa Chief and Deputy Consul General Clay K. Adler 3. Ernesto Torres (Dominican Republic), Indonesian Third Sec. Gina Anggraini, Brunei Charge de Affaires’ Jessica Tiah, Clay K. Adler 4. Outgoing Pakistan Amb. Farukh Amil, Singapore Amb. and Mrs. Chin Siat Yoon 5. Grand Hyatt GM Steve Dewire and Park Hyatt GM Herve Mazella





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AMBASSADOR AND MRS. ELARD ESCALA BID ADIOS 6. Colombian businessman Eduardo Cardenas, Dewi Sukarno, and Mexican counsellor Armando Arriaga Ochoategui 7. Imperial Household’s Nobutake Odano, the host Peru Amb. Escala 8. Russian Amb. Evgeny Afanasiev, his wife Olga, outgoing Peruvian Amb. Elard Escala and his wife Cristina 9. UN University’s David Malone, outgoing Pakistani Amb. Farukh Amil 10. Cristina and good friends Kuwait Amb. and Mrs. AbdulRahman Al-Otaibi

I was a bit late, but I made it in time to enjoy the Irish, Japanese and EU anthems, which were played on Irish flutes, fiddles and bagpipes. In the Okura Hotel’s popular Ascot Room, Anne and her artist husband Ed Miliano introduced me to Irish Minister Paschal Donohoe, who was here for the celebration. I was also happy to meet two other special guests – Miss Japan, Priyanka Yoshikawa (who’s half Indian) and her new best friend, Miss Ireland, Niamh Kennedy. Fame hasn’t spoiled either of these beauties. They’re both super nice, and I was happy to hear Niamh may be back to Japan for a big rugby game later this year. Just about everyone I know loves Irish food. I do too, and the Okura, with the help of Ireland embassy staff, prepared an awesome buffet that featured Irish specialties like shepherd’s pie, farmhouse cheeses from Ireland, a delicious vegetable and cheese soup, wonderful Irish chocolates, and plenty of Japanese favorites, too. It was an enjoyable, laid-back evening, and perfect for the occasion. Yoyogi Park also pulled out all the stops for our Irish friends. There were many restaurants and pubs serving Irish food and drink, plenty of people there wearing green, and even a small “rugby field” where college players got spectators to try the rough and tumble sport that’s fast gaining popularity in Japan. I was also surprised by the number of people playing Irish music and participating in lively Irish dancing.

THE ESCALAS SAY SAYONARA There was a long line waiting outside the Peruvian embassy to say sayonara to the popular Peruvian Ambassador Elard Escala and his lovely wife Cristina. I didn’t mind waiting, as it gave me time to talk with the Kuwaiti Ambassador and Mrs. Al-Otaibi, and to get to know the Russian Ambassador and his wife better. The Peruvian embassy is not small, but it was packed with people all wanting their photo taken with the Ambassador couple. It was proof positive of the popularity of the Escalas who, after five years in Tokyo, have returned to Lima for a new assignment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Elard and Cristina did a lot of special things to promote Peru during their posting here. They arrived about a year before the beautiful new embassy opened, and used it for seminars, exhibitions, and special events to promote their country. The Peruvian food festivals were especially impressive and of course, very popular. A couple of years ago when a couple of top Peruvian restaurant owners were in Tokyo, I invited them to a club in Roppongi. Paris Hilton was there that night and she agreed to have her photo taken with them. One of the chefs was here recently to help with a Peruvian food festival at the Tokyo Hilton and I was happy to hear that the photo of him and Paris in his Lima restaurant still brings in customers. Here in Tokyo, Cristina helped with my and the Weekender’s Annual Christmas Party for orphans. She was great with the kids. The Escalas will really be missed and I thank them for many things while they were here.

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM’S NATIONAL DAY AT NEW OTANI I wish the new Bruneian ambassador Ms. Kamilah Hanifah and

Ferrari Senior Sales Manager Toshiatsu Abe and Marketing Director, Donato Romaniello

her husband all the best in Japan. Before they arrived, the embassy celebrated their National Day with a well-attended reception at the New Otani. My good friends, the previous ambassador and Mrs. Mahamud Ahmad had already returned home, so a young, beautiful, and very smart lady called Jessica Tiah hosted the special evening. For a cultural touch, the embassy set up an interesting exhibition of traditional Bruneian musical instruments. The buffet, especially the selection of Bruneian specialties, was excellent. The Hyatt was well represented by Grand Hyatt GM Steve Dewire and the Park Hyatt’s GM Herve Mazella, both of whom were kept busy preparing for the many guests coming to see the cherry blossoms.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOKO The Tolman Collection hosted the 104th birthday celebration of the world-famous painter and calligrapher Toko Shinoda at Musée Tomo in Toranomon. She is still painting and has a good sense of humor. The dynamic exhibition continues through May 28 and is really well worth seeing. The museum is closed on Mondays.

DEWI’S DINNER FOR HER VISITING DAUGHTER It was great having Dewi Sukarno’s daughter Karina in town for a few days. I watched Karina grow up and we had some good times with a lot of interesting people. Karina, who now lives in London, was here with her husband Frits Frederik Seegers, and 10-year-old son Kiran. I had a great evening at a cherry blossom dinner for Karina and assorted celebrities at the famous Shiba Tofu Ukai restaurant, hosted by Dewi, who had just come back from Vietnam. Photos to come later.

TO DO Earlier this month we checked out Tokyo’s colorful, fun, and growing-in-popularity Rainbow Pride week-long celebration. In addition to the three-kilometer parades, where some of the costumes get pretty wild, Yoyogi Park was buzzing with performances, parties, and booths run by both individuals and businesses that support the LGBTQ community. I hope you also took time to camp it up a bit.

HELP! I need a bit of community help: I was waiting for someone in the Tokyo American Club’s lobby when this nice guy came over and complimented me on my column. He looked familiar, but I just couldn’t remember his name. He gave me his card and it turned out that he was Greg Carley, the President of TAC several years ago. I thanked him for his comments and he asked me when I was going to write a book. He offered to send me a book by actor Roger Moore, whom you probably know as one of the most popular James Bonds. He kept his promise and sent me the book about the many people Moore met over the years, which I really enjoyed. I sent a thank you letter twice to the mailing address on his card – a PO box at the Shiba Koen post office – and both times it was returned. If you know Greg, please let him know – and thank him for me.

Showbiz star Steven Haynes, The Sunwolves rugby team’s Liaki Moli, and his girlfriend Yoko Nishizumi at Shibuya Segafredo

Former Tokyoites, now New Yorkers Ron and Maria Anderson – back for the ILBS Cherry Blossom Ball

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Tokyo Weekender - May 2017  

Meet the hyperreal body artist, the illusionist, the contortionist, and the acrobat who are all helping to put the country on the global tal...

Tokyo Weekender - May 2017  

Meet the hyperreal body artist, the illusionist, the contortionist, and the acrobat who are all helping to put the country on the global tal...