Xmas Starts to Pop Up

In the mid-80s in the U.S., this was how things worked: Stores had their Christmas decorations and merchandise for sale the day after Thanksgiving. In the late 80s, Christmas-related items started to pop up after Halloween, moving one month ahead before Thanksgiving. Shortly thereafter, in the early 90s, Christmas items ridiculously showed up in July in a major department store in San Francisco, which is not too bad Continue reading

The Disappearing Acts

Finally the humidity in Tokyo subsided, giving way to the Fall weather. Since my return from Indonesia, I have not been savagely attacked by the darned mosquitoes, although I had stocked up on the repellants. It is quite pleasant to ride the bike in the evening.

Another thing that has been missing from my neighborhood here is the sound of the cicadas. In the summer, like clockwork, the cicadas will make their noise from dawn until Continue reading

I’d Like a Champagne with that Popcorn, Please.

All cinemas in Tokyo offer a ¥1000 admission price on the first day of the month. Without this discount, a ticket could be close to ¥2000 (bearing in mind US$1 roughly equals JP¥109). For the first time since my arrival I took advantage of this deal. Mind you, there is not much of a choice here with regard to the movies because of my language limitation. My European languages ability cannot carry me through an entire movie on one viewing only. American –mainly Hollywood– movies are indeed available, but they do not play at about the same time the American cinemas are playing them. According to a Japanese friend of mine, the theatres in Tokyo wait until a big holiday to launch a première for select American movies to ensure a big turn out and a sizable box office gain. Some movies play six months Continue reading

Pointo Cardo, Anyone?

Customer loyalty is very important to any company. I know this. I have been a frequent flyer member since my university days back in the mid 80s; then came the other ones, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; the AMC Theatres; a Sausalito T-shirt design store; Macy’s (they calculate the amount you ever spend in the store card, and one day when you least expect it, they send you a gift.) But no city has ever inundated me with so many loyalty programs as Tokyo has. In the short time that I had lived here since February 2004, I had accumulated many more of these cards than I ever had while living for almost two decades in the United States. It is unbelievable the amount of cards that had taken residence inside Continue reading

Lost and Found

It has been a while since I had any “Lost and Found” item; not just any item at home, but losing something in public and going somewhere to retrieve it. In Indonesia, 99.9% of the time if I lost it, I would never find it again. In the U.S., the percentage was slightly lower; I really had to depend on a Good Samaritan to submit that lost item to the Lost and Found department somewhere. Well, recently, yours truly, in his excited state of having swum in the clearest indoor pool water and best visibility pool ever, left the area without bringing his goggles. I realized it much later at home when I could not find the item in my gym bag. Two days later, I decided to go Continue reading

The Asakusa Samba Festival

Asakusa Samba by bloompy
Asakusa Samba, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

About six weeks ago in one of the subway stations I spotted a poster of a Brazilian carnival but with a non-Brazilian dancers. It turns out that the Asakusa area of Tokyo holds a Samba Festival every year in late August since 1981, and this year, it falls on August 28. I have been looking forward to seeing this festival, but unfortunately on the day of the parade (yesterday) it was grey, gloomy, and drizzly. I ended up not going, but boy, did I Continue reading

How Blue is My Pool

Sendagaya Swimming Pool by bloompy
Sendagaya Swimming Pool, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

Goodness, I have been rendered speechless in the first week of swimming in a Japanese public pool. First, the coordinates: the main swimming pool, measuring 50m X 20m, is located in Sendagaya, adjacent to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Game Stadium. It is called the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium Indoor Pool. Sendagaya is an area next to Shinjuku, the better-known area of contemporary Tokyo. A second pool is located in a level below and adjacent to the main one, and it is only half as big, 25m x 13m. Opening hours are from 9am to 9pm, all year round; this being an indoor pool, the weather outside has no bearing. The Sendagaya swimming pool does close one or two days a month. Usually one can see Continue reading

Mosquitoes: Japanese vs. Indonesian

I grew up in Indonesia, then moved to the U.S. (Louisiana, Tennessee, and California) and now am living in Japan. Those years of living in the U.S. were great; if not for anything else, then for the one reason that I did not ever have to deal with mosquitoes. Maybe it was the climate of where I used to live, or maybe it was the fact that I never lived in a lower level apartment, but my summers in the U.S. were pest-free (safe for those telemarketing calls.)

In Indonesia, there are only two seasons: the wet and the dry seasons, but mosquitoes thrive on both weathers. All year long, they are always around and doing their job. On the other hand,my many trips to Tokyo were never punctuated by any visit from a mosquito. Before my move here, times were passed in the hotels and those visits were hardly during Continue reading

Bicycle Happy

Bikes in Tokyo by bloompy
Bikes in Tokyo, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

Tokyo is not exactly Beijing, where countless number of cyclists could be found wandering around town during rush hours. Nor is Tokyo like San Francisco, where on certain Fridays, hundreds of cyclists take over the downtown area in hope of raising consciousness in a city that could certainly afford to cycle more; but I do remember that once my city exploring left the confine of Shinjuku and into the other neighborhoods, I started seeing something I really enjoyed: mothers taking their children in a bike built for two; a girl giving his boyfriend Continue reading

The Golden Week

What a difference from yesterday: today is the start of the Golden Week, a cluster of Japanese holidays put into one week (albeit not necessarily starting from a weekend and ending on the next weekend). As an example, today is a day off for everybody, but tomorrow (Friday) is a work day. Then people are off again for few days in the next week. To me, this is like a mark into the summer season, much like the American Memorial Day is.

It is amazing how the usually busy Shinjuku falls silent around this time of the year. Make no mistake, there are still many people travelling in and out of the station, one of the major Continue reading