Final Fantasy 7 Remake Tokyo Skytree Event | Japan

I loved Final Fantasy 7. It was the second game I had ever played after Crash Bandicoot for the PS1. I have downloaded and finished it on PS, PC, and mobile on both IOS by jailbreaking, and Android by using an emulator. When Square Enix officially released it for Android, I bought, downloaded, and beat that as well. It’s just one of those timeless games that everyone looks back at fondly. I wouldn’t call myself a super fan by any means, but there was no way I would miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to go to the Final Fantasy Remake event at Tokyo Skytree.

Ascending the 450 meters of Tokyo Skytree is an experience in itself. I love fast elevators, It’s not as fast as the elevator in Yokohama Landmark Tower but it was still fast enough for me to need to get my bearings after reaching the summit. There’s also a half glass ceiling so if you look up you can see the inner workings of the elevator.

The elevator itself is big enough for 40 people and is apparently the largest 40 man capacity elevator able to reach 600m per minute. There are videos online that show how busy Skytree can get. People are crammed into the elevator like sardines. Luckily, the day that we visited was after Japan had lifted it’s state of emergency and it was completely empty.

The view from the observation deck was unbelievable. Unless you have surveyed a city from 450-500 meters up, it’s really hard to wrap your head around the scale of things. I’m not scared of heights but looking down from the slightly over hanged ledge was like being inside a permanent vertigo episode. If I could give one piece of advice it would be this, download the Official Tokyo Skytree observation tower app. It’s an 360º augmented reality map that shows the location of Japanese landmarks that can be seen on clear days.

There were so many FF7 booths and cafes to visit. We stopped at the FF7 café to get our exclusive Final Fantasy drinks and coasters and take in the sights overlooking Sumida city.

Every 30 minutes the observation deck turns into a 360° projector light show displaying an extra long trailer of Final Fantasy Remake.

After the video we took another elevator to go another 50 meters up to the top deck where there was a hallway full of Final Fantasy memorabilia, artwork, and a store full of (extortionately priced) Final Fantasy merch.

There was a sour note to this great experience however. Once you are on the top floor you cannot return to the top floor after you leave. You get one chance to have a look around and buy what you need to buy because if you want to return to the top deck, you have to pay again. So you pay ¥3,100 (about £22-24) per person and you can only go to the top deck once. If you want to go again that will cost you another ¥1,000 (around £7). Also, these are weekday prices. Weekend prices are more expensive. I just think that considering the price, you should have free reign over whatever floor you want to visit. Bit of a sneaky money making tactic if you ask me.

All in all it was a great experience and has just made me hyped to play the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I mean, even more hyped than I was before.

Uniquely Japan


Japan karaoke

Japan loves karaoke! Too be honest, I think it’s because they do it correctly. In the UK, karaoke is when you stand in front of an entire bar and sing to everyone in the room. So unless you’re an extrovert with something to prove, or, sound exactly like Michael Buble, you’re probably going to be a little apprehensive.

In Japan you are given a private sound proof room with your select group of friends (or on your own) where you can order drinks & food and sing to your heart’s content. It’s more like private dining in a restaurant than a very public spectacle in a bar. Two years ago you would have never caught me dead at karaoke, now you can’t tear me away.



There is a bit of a love hate thing going on in Japan at the moment surrounding Pachinko, especially recently. According to a study 1 in 4 are regulars at Pachinko parlors. It accounts for nearly a third of Japan’s entertainment and leisure market and makes more money per year than New Zealand’s total annual GDP.

“According to the Japan Productivity Center’s White Paper on Leisure, the number of pachinko players was 9.5 million in 2018.”

Gambling in Japan is illegal, but utilising certain loopholes Pachinko parlors can get away with it. Pachinko works like this: you go to the kiosk at the back of the parlor, exchange money for little balls, use the balls in the pinball style machines, which, (hopefully) will pay out more balls. You then take those balls outside and (usually) around the back of the parlor to a dodgy alley and exchange the balls for money. And the cycle continues. It would appear however, that the industry is rapidly decreasing due to a lack of new players, and a disappearing older generation.


The appreciation for natural beauty


Of course appreciating natural beauty is not unique to Japan, however, Japanese people do have an unquestionable connection to the natural beauty of Japan. There have been countless books, movies, and music written about the subject, but I have also witnessed it myself.

beauty sakura

I was walking to the shops for my weekly avocado squeezing sesh and coming the opposite way were a group of teenage boys doing what teenage boys do best, look like they are about to murder someone. They all had black hoodies on covering their school uniform. Some were on bikes, some were smoking, all were a public nuisance. However, as soon as they came across a particularly vibrant array of flowers blossoming out of a bush at the side of the road, they totally broke character. “Amazing!” They all said and jumped off their bikes and started taking pictures. It’s a running joke between me and Marianna Vlogs that Japanese people just can’t help but take pictures of beautiful scenery.



tradition Japanese traditions

I don’t know about you but as an Englishman, I can’t picture myself putting on a powdered wig, whitening my skin, rouging up my cheeks, and bouncing down fleet street with a cane in one hand and a busty “wagtail” in the other. However dressing in a Kimono, enjoying a tea ceremony on tatami mats, and making mochi by hand using 1000 year old tools is totally normal here.

I was on a day trip to hike to the top of a mountain where a very old Inari shrine is located (Inari is a kami that grants prosperity). I was feeling positive about the hike as I was making good time, and out of nowhere a Japanese businessman in full business attire shot passed me in a semi-sprint. It was totally odd because everyone was dressed for climbing a mountain in winter except this guy. By the time I got to the top, the businessman was rushing back down. “Must be going to a job interview” Marianna Vlogs says. It’s crazy (and impressive) to me that Japanese people still hold those traditions.

Onsen and Sento

onsen nak

Onsens and sento are all over Japan and they come in all shapes and sizes. They range from private small ones to huge public ones. From open space, scenic mountainscapes to built up indoor inner-city’s there are thousands of them.

Japan’s intensive volcanic activity has a huge positive, it creates the perfect hot spring water. A Japanese onsen is a natural hot spring that is used for bathing. Many traditional Japanese accommodations such as ryokans use this hot spring water in either private or public bathing facilities. Aside from pure relaxation, there are many benefits to using an onsen. Onsen water is revered for the medicinal and therapeutic properties and is believed to benefit everything from blood circulation to relief from skin conditions. 


Although similar to the onsen in some aspects, a sento is a public, communal bathhouse. The difference between a sento and an onsen is that unlike the onsen, a sento does not use the hot spring water for its bathing facilities. Instead, the water comes from a man made source and therefore lacks some of the therapeutic benefits of the hot spring water. Both the sento and the onsen however, are highly popular and found all over Japan.

I have never been to an onsen because I have a tattoo. Most onsen owners / most Japanese people in general, have a problem with tattoos. It doesn’t really bother me however, because the idea of sitting in a hot public bath doesn’t really appeal to me anyway. I mean I could just have a bath at home without naked people I don’t know walking around. Yes, I get that there are all sorts of salts and minerals in the onsen water but I’m not really bothered.


When I first arrived I thought I’d have to check in to a super 5 star hotel with electronic sliding curtains and smart mirrors that display the news before I saw my first smart toilet, but no! The airport, the train station, the restaurant, and my cheap share house all had one! Four smart toilets on my first day in Japan! Maybe I’m wrong, maybe England is the only place on planet earth without this smart technology built in to its toilet seats but Japan’s “smart toilets” are pretty much the standard here. You could go into almost any public restroom and you will be greeted by one of two situations. A squat toilet, or a smart toilet. I have googled the price of them in the UK and the cost of them is ridiculous! Here they are so cheap in comparison!

Apparently it’s down to the wiring. In the UK there is some sort of law that requires bathrooms to not have standard electrical plugs in them (maybe an electrician can comment and help me on this one). Instead you have to have stupid shaving plugs that no one has used in the last 30 years. So basically, having a smart toilet in the UK is illegal. If I ever have to live in the UK, I’m 100% breaking the law and having a standard socket put into my bathroom to get a smart toilet put in.

100s of flavours of KitKat

In the UK we have one flavor, regular. Sure we have KitKat Chunky, but that’s just a bigger version of KitKat. In Japan there are literally hundreds of flavors! They bring a new limited edition one out every month. I have actually just finished a bag of lemon shortcake KitKat (delicious, obviously) but I just can’t understand why we don’t get the same treatment! I’d love a lemon sugar, or a salted caramel, or a rum and raisin version of KitKat.

Come on Nestlé, have we not been good to you!? Isn’t our obesity level a testament to how much we spend on chocolate? There are no fat Japanese people! How much could they possibly be spending on chocolate!?


Japan is the most trusting place on earth. There have been so many occasions that I have witnessed a degree of trust that my English brain just can’t comprehend. There is a motorbike repair shop next to where I live that just leaves all their bike parts outside after they close. Seats, engine parts, wheels, exhausts, things that even I know have value to the right people. There are vegetable stalls in various parts of Japan (including Tokyo) where farmers leave their vegetables on an unmanned stall and come back at the end of the day to pick up their earnings.

In the UK, if it isn’t bolted to the floor it will get stolen. It’s why we don’t have drinks, food, or cigarette vending machines littering our streets. Even bolted to the floor ATM’s get stolen from time to time. In Liverpool a few years ago they implemented a sort of community push bike rental thing. Basically you put your card details into an app, it generates some sort of code, you unlock the bike for a price and then you put the bike back when you have finished. Can you guess what happened to most of the bikes?

I had bought myself a ridiculously expensive umbrella last year. It was massive, it was specifically a storm umbrella. It was incapable of turning inside out during windy conditions and it was made of this expensive feeling waterproof material. On my way to work one day I left it in the communal umbrella holder outside of my local 7/11 and totally forgot about it. The doors of the train closed on me and I thought, CRAP! I left my umbrella! But it was too late. I worked all day and at one point, confided in a colleague about how gutted I was that my ridiculous umbrella is lost forever and he said, “don’t worry, this is Japan, it will still be there when you get back.” It totally was! It was after 12 o’clock (midnight) by the time I got back to the 7/11 and it was the only umbrella left in the stand.

That would never happen in the UK! In the UK that umbrella would have been gone in two minutes. In fact, we don’t have umbrella stands outside our shops.

Japanese Supermarkets Are The Best!

I have found myself “adulting” more and more since Japan’s state of emergency, and I’ve realized that I take so many things for granted. For example, supermarkets. There are loads of supermarkets in Tokyo! Life, Summit, Aeon, Star, San Pei and about a hundred more. I was in my local Aeon in Tokyo squeezing avocados (as you do) and I noticed this old lady surrounded by an army of checkout staff, all bowing in unison profusely apologizing. Obviously, she had asked them if they had a particular item in stock and after the seven or so staff members couldn’t find it they all came and apologized to her. I couldn’t help but think: “that would never happen in the UK.” Here are a few other things you wouldn’t see in UK supermarkets.

Size Of Shopping Trolleys


In a UK supermarket, we typically have three sizes: A basket for those last-minute essentials like milk, eggs, a bottle of Frosty Jacks, bread, cheese. A trolley that is big enough to provide a professional couple for a weekend. And finally (my personal favorite), a trolley big enough to supply a family of six doomsday preppers for 3 months in the bunker, complete with a child seat and a hook on the back for that one bag that for some reason, can’t fit in the trolley. This is despite the trolley having no issue accommodating all the chosen products prior to checkout.

Well, in Japan you typically have one size: basket. If you struggle to carry your days worth of shopping by hand, you can put the tiny basket in the tiny trolley basket holder. If you struggle to pack your basket with enough food for your family, then your family is too large, and it is time for you to leave them and start again.

Japanese Shopping basket

Seriously, Japanese people couldn’t panic buy if they wanted to. One multipack of toilet paper and their basket is full. I’m sure that there is a supermarket that provides bigger baskets but for the life of me, I can’t find it. I genuinely think that one of the reasons Japanese supermarkets are still bursting with food during a global crisis is because of the size of the baskets.

Dry Ice Machine


When I was about ten years old we had a TV show called Brainiac. It was hosted by Richard Hammond (or “hamster” from Top Gear for anyone living outside of the UK). It was basically a science show crossed with a “Nuts” magazine and it was great!

They would do “pub science” experiments, and they usually involved something with dry ice. So naturally, I wanted dry ice to cause havoc. Unfortunately/fortunately you can’t buy it in the UK. At least not in shops anyway. You have to order it online via a specialist, and even then it’s super expensive.

But in Japan, they give you it for free! If you buy frozen goods like… ice, for example, they will ask if you want dry ice. You say, yes of course I do, and they give you a token. Take that token to the dry ice machine next to the bagging section and put the token in. Boom, dry ice for free. It really does keep all your frozen stuff frozen all the way home!

Dry ice maker

Naturally, as soon as I got home the first thing I do is dump the whole bag in the toilet and turn my flat into Heston Blumenthal’s kitchen.


King Of The Fruit


To be honest, I have lived here for two years and I still don’t know what it’s called. I have noticed that on each fruit stand there will be a perfect version of that fruit on the top shelf. When I say perfect, I mean perfect. Larger than average size, one vibrant colour all over, not a seed out of place. Sometimes, they have their own boxes. The prices of these fruits are ridiculous!

Apparently, people give them as gifts for things like anniversaries or graduations. “Cheers grandma, but next time gimme the cash yea? I could have bought a game… and a bloody fitted kitchen for what you paid for that cantaloupe!”

We don’t have this in the UK, any variant of the standard fruit or veg is called “wonky”. But then again, there’s always a market for cheaper fruit and veg in the UK. I don’t think the UK’s most out of touch billionaire would spend £120 quid on a “perfect” melon, even if it came in a pretty box. Plus, with food banks on the rise, shops selling exclusive £20 single red apples would probably kick-off that riot that’s on the horizon.


Salesmen are taught a myriad of techniques on how to sell things to you. One of these things is how to add value to a product. Regardless of the item or its value, you treat it like its a long lost Da Vinci. Handling it with two hands, talking about it like it’s going to change your life, but most importantly, it’s about the presentation. This curry isle looks like a bookshelf!


UK supermarkets aren’t really about the presentation. They’re more like warehouses. Stuff is just stacked on shelves, prices don’t match up some of the time, there’s a random bag of carrots on the cake shelf. They’re cold, unclean, and don’t even get me started on the supermarket café. Serious question to my readers from the UK, have you ever eaten in one? Seriously? Whenever I walk past one, either the lights are off or they’re on and there is just one old guy sat there with an empty pram, counting the ceiling tiles looking like he’s wondering what the meaning of life is. I’m sure they are a front for something else.


Not all supermarkets are like this, though. Marks & Spencer and Waitrose are a cut above, but even they can’t touch a standard Japanese supermarket. Japanese supermarkets are very clean, items are where they should be at all times, and my favorite thing is the fresh food kitchens. The UK has meat, fish, and bread counters, and so does Japan, but they are so much bigger and better. In most supermarkets, the bread counter is actually a sit-in bakery!


I actually look forward to my trip to a Japanese supermarket whereas I dread having to go to a supermarket in the UK. Look at this premium banana! I’m not sure what’s so premium about it though.



Every so often a supermarket staff member will don his or her orange vest, and arm themselves with a scanner/label maker. They will wander around the bread/meat aisle scanning items, printing barcodes, and putting things that are going off that day on sale. when this happens people seem to turn into bloodthirsty wolves and will do anything to get that packet of sausages that have been sitting on the shelf for five days and are about the expire. People will flock to that guy and stand in a crowd waiting for him to scan the next item, eager to bag themselves a cheeky bargain. Japan does it a little differently.

Unless something is branded and packaged, it is made in house that day. The sushi, the croquettes, the baked goods, the deli counter, the pasta, salad, all of it is made fresh throughout the day. At around eight pm any food that was yet to be put out is re-priced in the back and is put out with discounts on them. The items that are already on the shelves are also re-priced at the same time. So instead of a giant mob of people all clambering over one another to save a few pennies, people can leisurely pick up the items they want without having to dropkick poor old Alfred. It’s so much more dignified.


Yes, even the checkout is different. there are no conveyor belts in Japanese supermarkets. You take your tiny basket to the counter. The checkout assistant scans your items and places them into another basket (sometimes a different colour to show that you have paid). Then, they will either take the money from you, or put plastic bags in your basket for packing and move you to the second checkout assistant. They will then ask you if you have a points card (you will say no because nobody does) and take payment. You will then take your basket to the bagging table and pack your bags.

I feel so awkward standing there and watching them do all the work. I much prefer the good old conveyor belt method. They scan, I bag. Its like teamwork.

Are You Stuck In Japan?|Useful Links And Contacts

So, my plan was to take a somewhat extended three-week holiday from work and fly back to the UK for some much-needed R&R and a long-overdue Sunday roast. Unfortunately, the virus that shall not be named had other plans and my flight was cancelled. This ensured that my holiday consisted of eating ramen in my undies and watching Big Bang Theory and it occurred to me, I’m one of the lucky ones.


It could be worse, I could be here on holiday unable to get home. Stuck in one of the most expensive places to live on earth according to GQ and forced to pay for accommodation and food way outside my initial budget. So I thought I’d jot down some things that you should do if you find yourself in this situation.

First of all, you need to call your airline to find out what the situation is in regards to rescheduled flights and refunds. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to call them first. However, prior to calling your travel agent, read up on the updated policies of the airline you are booked with. Lufthansa and several other airlines have added flexibility to their terms should your flight be affected by the pandemic. Make sure you know your rights when it comes to refunds, and don’t let the broker dick you about.


Because you are not sure how long you could be stuck here, it would be a good idea to jump on the phone to your creditors and sort out any recurring bills. Check if they will allow you to postpone or pause your bills for the time being. Many companies are more than happy to help you if you have fallen on financial hardship (unless the company in question is EE, in which case, be prepared to get in touch with a horrid woman named Tracy who will talk over you, disingenuously give you incorrect information, and tell you they are unprepared to do anything to help).

For the most up to date information about Japan that I can find, I use It is an extremely useful resource that gives you up to date information, the government’s guidelines, emergency contact info, and live foot-fall figures to let you know how busy your area is. If hanging out in crowds during a pandemic isn’t your thing (understandable) just jump on the website to find out how busy an area is and avoid it if it’s looking a bit “moshpitty”. Another great website for up to date info is The Mainichi. The Mainichi is sort of like The Telegraph in the UK. Every Friday on the Tokyo YouTube channel, Governor Koike of Tokyo addresses the prefecture with new information in English. It is worth paying attention to this as the situation is constantly changing.

If you are in Japan and suspect that you may have symptoms, need help finding a doctor, don’t understand Japanese, or have concerns about your wellbeing, you can contact this English speaking (and other languages) AMDA Medical hotline: 03-6233-9266.  Monday to Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They are able to find medical institutions for you and provide vital “information on healthcare and welfare systems in Japan”.

mobile phone

Although it is recommended to contact your embassy, in my experience, the British embassy in Japan have not been particularly helpful. A quick look at the UK’s embassy website reveals that (at this point in time) all they will do is give you advice and maybe tell you that you should have bought insurance. Embassies are typically helpful if you find yourself a prisoner in a war-torn/undeveloped country. Japan, however, is a very developed country and typically if you find yourself incarcerated or in trouble with the law here, chances are it’s your own fault. This is true for the UK. If dealing with the Russian, German or American embassy though, be prepared to be Fulton extracted immediately if you run into any trouble. Apparently, these countries have been amazing in helping people with travel issues.

In terms of accommodation, I recommend Airbnb. Due to the current tourism fall in Japan, a lot of prices have been somewhat reduced. This means that smaller apartments equipped with kitchen facilities (not a share house environment) have become slightly more affordable. Although Japan has a wealth of incredible restaurants, during this time, it is safer (and cheaper) to buy the basics in a local supermarket and cook at home.

If your tourist Sim card has run out of data, I highly recommend Mobal. They are on the pricier side but they can deliver a new Sim card to your temporary residence. Some of the plans they offer include minutes and text messages meaning that you are able to call Japan-based hotlines should you need to.

A lot of these tips are not necessarily Corona specific and can be useful in many situations. There is always one piece of advice that I will always give and that is to get travel insurance before you embark! For me, traveling without some kind of insurance is like hitting the motorway on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R without clothes on. It may sound expensive, but it can save your life in more ways than one. I have relied on it countless times from flight cancelations to lost luggage (thanks a lot Air France). If you think paying that extra £50 isn’t necessary, imagine two weeks without your suitcase and a broken leg in a country with no NHS. Seriously it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Japan’s State Of Emergency

Well, that’s it. Japan has finally declared a month-long state of emergency on the 7th of April 2020 (will probably be extended). However, it doesn’t really change anything.

Due to abuses of power by the Japanese government in the past, it was written into the constitution that the government of Japan cannot overstep their grounds in regards to telling people what they can, and cannot do. Turns out Japan is a super free country! That aside, we have had a few weekend lockdowns. Well ok, maybe lockdown is a bit of a strong phrase. Maybe more like a “somewhat strongly suggested weekend stay-in.” Social distancing is being encouraged, particularly by Governor Koike of Tokyo. The aim is to reduce social contact with others by 60-80% (although recently the emphasis has been drawn to 80%). This is incredibly difficult for those who still have to go to work as many businesses remain operational.

The government’s official stance is this…

If your place of business is over 100 square meters you are urged to close (but you don’t have to). If your place of business is under 100 square meters you are urged to close (but you don’t have to). Yes, you read that right. This is the official stance.

The amount of people on the street has decreased but it would appear that a lot of people still haven’t heeded the weak warnings that Abe has put out. This is judging by the number of people I have seen in my local park while on my way to a supermarket. However, judging by Apple’s mobility trends in Tokyo, all forms of transport took a significant hit.  


You can’t really blame the individuals who have jobs to get to, and people whining about those that are still packing the trains at 8 in the morning are either unemployed, working from home, or living in an already locked-down country. The responsibility has been shifted onto businesses to do the right thing. A state of emergency and self-isolation won’t work unless there is a strong lockdown on travel, jobs, gyms, and all non-essential shops. Which, won’t happen because like I said, even if Prime Minister Abe wanted to, he couldn’t legally issue a “lockdown”.

Two things worry me the most at the moment. One, Japan isn’t testing enough and whenever they do test, funny enough, they find more cases. It is fast becoming too late for testing to be an effective tool. And two, a lockdown or at the very least, severe social distancing measures are really the only way to stop the virus from spreading. If you don’t halt operations fast enough it will spread uncontrollably!

The unemployment rate in Japan as of 2019 is 2.41%. Telling people to stay in is a bit redundant because everyone works. I understand when it’s a weekend and Prime Minister Abe just wants people to stop having hanami parties on their day off, but, if there are people outside then why can’t I go outside? One more person on a train of a thousand other people isn’t going to make a difference, right? This will be the mentality of everyone unless there is a much stronger action than a polite suggestion.

Not acting fast enough and trying to look after the currency seems to be everyone’s Kryptonite. From ignoring it to outright denying its existence. It could be worse though, Japan could have taken the UK’s (“scientifically valid, given the current evidence”) *cheap* method, of letting everyone get it and to hell with you and your family.

Earthquakes in Japan and what I feel experiencing them as a foreigner

The first earthquake I have ever experienced wasn’t in Tokyo or in Japan at all. It was actually in the UK. It was roughly eleven years ago and to be honest it just kind of shook my room a little bit. If you had said to me that a really big truck had just driven past I would have believed you. It wasn’t until a few friends texted me asking “did I feel it”, that I actually believed it was a real earthquake.

Fast forward to living in Japan. It was about the fourth or fifth day still suffering from jet-lag that can only be described as terminal. I was lying in bed just waking up at about 3pm and felt the bed suddenly moving beneath me! The fridge knocked against the wall, the door to the room kept banging and a few of my things fell off my desk. I thought, “Wow, that was a real earthquake!” Still, nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ll get used to it.

I felt several more over the next few months and, sounds weird to say, but I loved it! It’s so strange having the earth shake underneath you and feeling powerless to your surroundings. I have always been fascinated by extreme weather and natural disasters, and being part of a natural occurrence that could very easily become a natural disaster is really scary but really interesting at the same time. I used to snowboard and rock climb and would love to base jump or parachute one day but I never really considered myself an “adrenaline junkie”. I thought “If I lived in Dallas or Oklahoma I would probably be a tornado chaser”. That was until…

I was in a bar called Amber9. It’s a cool, moody kind of bar/grill. It’s located at the top of a narrow building on the 9th floor in Shinjuku. I was telling a story to a group of Japanese colleagues when suddenly the lady sat to my right grabbed my leg with a slap and squeezed. Hard.

Totally taken aback with what’s just happened I stopped what I was talking about and turned to her, and just before I could say “what?” I felt it. The biggest earthquake I had felt so far and it was only just getting started! At its maximum bottles were clanging together, plates were falling on the floor and smashing, it really did feel like the building was going to come down! I noticed a giant air conditioning unit above one of the crew and it looked like it was going to fall I immediately pulled her seat from underneath the giant industrial-sized unit. The fight or flight part of my brain was working overtime! Under a table? Under a door frame? Who do I save first!? Then after a few seconds, it subsided.

Things just went on as normal. Waiters continued serving drinks, restaurant staff handed food out, (food that they were holding throughout the quake). Everyone just looked at each other and shrugged and then looked at me as if to say, “Sorry about that, what were you saying?” I was still clutching the table! Heart going 100mph! Apparently, my Japanese friends could tell that the inexperienced foreigner in me was a little bit unnerved. Probably the look of horror on my face. “Don’t worry that was just a little one.”

“A LITTLE ONE!?” The thing is, Japanese people experience it all the time and everyone remembers “the big one.”

They all took turns to explain to me what they were doing on the 11th of March 2011. Some were at work and had to walk home for hours because trains and taxis weren’t running for the rest of the day. Some were driving when the roads opened up in front of them, leaving them to abandon their cars. They told me that with no way to get home they had to either rent or buy a bike and apparently there were no bikes left to buy for weeks after. My favorite story, however, was that (at the time) one of my colleagues was only 13 years old and he was having lunch in school. When the earthquake hit, he grabbed his freshly made bowl of ramen and ran outside protecting it at all costs! When the earthquake subsided he returned to the chaos of the cafeteria and just sat there quietly eating.

Needless to say, since this ordeal, I have spent the majority of my time in Japan on the ground floor or close to. Maybe I’ll put my Tornado Chasing career on hold for a little while longer!

Are you earthquake ready? Here’s the definitive guide to earthquake preparation.

Trying Karate in Tokyo: Karate Dojo waKu

I recently had the opportunity to visit a real-life Karate Dojo in Tokyo and there was no way I was going to miss out!

My earliest memories growing up was going to kickboxing on Saturdays and then going to stay over my best friends house to binge watch martial arts movies. No Retreat No Surrender, Enter the Dragon, Iron Monkey, and just about every Jackie Chan movie ever made. This fascination with martial arts continued up until my late teens where I would practice Kuk Sool Won and Muay Thai throughout the week, and watch the new generation of martial arts movies featuring Tony Jaa, Jet Lee, and Scott Adkins.

Of course, the discovery of games, new friends, and nights out have put a stop to all of that, but I have always wanted to get back into it. Don’t get me wrong I still love a good martial arts film but it just doesn’t inspire me like it used to.

Fast forward eleven years, MariannaVlogs asks me if I would like to go to a karate dojo in Tokyo and learn from an authentic black belt, taught by a real Japanese Sensei from Japan where Karate originated, in a real Japanese temple, and I could almost hear ten-year-old John hitting the floor from fainting. Not to mention, this is an opportunity not granted to even the most hardcore martial arts fanboys.

We arrived at Ojikamiya station and met up with Yusuke. Yusuke is black belt master of The Japanese Karate Federation and is the most super chill guy I have ever met.

Karate Dojo waKu Tokyo Japan


He went through a series of warm-ups stretches, punches, kicks, forms, and Katas. By the end of the session, we were all pretty worn out but we had one last thing to do. We had to use what we had learned and break the 9mm thick boards with ether our kicks or punches.

Needless to say, the boards didn’t stand a chance against our newly acquired “particular set of skills”.

Karate Dojo waKu Tokyo Japan

I highly recommend everyone who visits Japan to pay Yusuke a visit, it really is a once in a lifetime experience! From people that aren’t really interested in martial arts to people that are already involved in a form of fighting or self-defense. How many people can actually say they were taught karate in Japan?!

Check out Karate Dojo waKu’s website and book a private session. Whether you are an absolute beginner or an expert, they have different lessons to suit everyone. They also have an Instagram, where the Karate_in_tokyo team break down all the moves in different Katas, warm-ups, stretches, so that you can follow, learn, and improve.

Also, check out Marianna’s Amanda’s and Gretchen’s videos. Youtube/Gretchen Youtube/MariannaVlogs  Youtube/T0keeyo






I have finally moved out of my Tokyo sharehouse in Japan!

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I finally moved out of the nightmare share house I was living in!

Carrying on from my last few posts, I was sat on my bed minding my own business and started hearing the familiar humming of a particular tone deff, high pitched man and his even higher pitched eleven year old anime girlfriend. Only this time he seemed to be back with a vengeance.

He was humming so loud! I even cleared my throat really loudly and obnoxiously a few times to let him know how paper thin the walls were but to no avail. He just kept going. I thought they had broken up? I mean, how could he cheat on his Japanese anime bae with Chinese porn and get away with it? Eventually, enough was enough. Two weeks with this nutcase was all I needed. I packed my stuff and headed for the door!

The new place is amazing! So much better than the last place! The space is so much bigger! I can actually roll out of bed and not have my nose be touching the wall. The area around the apartment block has four shopping malls, two train stations, a cinema, and an international supermarket!


The complex actually has its own gym! I mean it’s not much, a few free weights, a pull-up bar, and this weird horses saddle type thing but still, it’s a space to work out!20190314_171655 (5)

It even has a cinema room with musical instruments to mess about with.

It makes me wonder why I didn’t look to move out sooner! This place is so much better.

The move was a little bit hellish. The new place happens to be about two hours away from where I was currently staying. So dragging my whole life between two suitcases, four trains, for two hours, TWICE was a nightmare. The disapproving looks from all other passengers were palpable. Funny enough, Japanese people don’t tend to enjoy it when you block the isles of the train with suitcases. In fact, it downright irks them! I don’t really like taking public transport in Japan at the best of times but now I might as well have a giant sign above me saying “look at me, I’m ruining your day!”

The downsides are few and far between but I have run into a few issues while I have been here.

Issue number one. Dominos pizza is faaaar too close for comfort, like stone’s throw away. And I know what your thinking! …But John!… That’s a good thing. No. No, it isn’t! I have to walk past it every day! The smell of fresh pizza, seeing it come out of the oven. It’s like someone trying to quit smoking around a group of smokers.

The second problem is that I live a thousand miles away from all my students. So now I have the lovely task of asking for more money to travel or find new students. P.S If you are Japanese and live in the Kanagawa area and want to learn English email me.

Never the less it’s taken about two weeks to fully move in but I can honestly say I’m so much happier here. If you ever look to move to Japan, don’t settle for the cheapest place!  Remember, it’s cheap for a reason.

Bad housemates, a Japanese sharehouse in Tokyo: The worst tenants

I finally moved out of my Japanese share house.

Checkout part1  Part2   Part 3


So I have had a few bad housemates in Japan up to this point but it gets worse. Living in a share house anywhere in the world, not just Tokyo is pot luck. You never know who you are going to have to put up with.

The worst tenants.

I’m relaxing on my bed watching something on Netflix and I hear the all too familiar rumbling of suitcases being rolled on the laminate flooring down the corridor. Living in shared accommodation for a few months has made me very familiar with the sound. Coming, going, shape, size, I’m sure that if I tried hard enough I could even guess the brand of suitcase at this point.      part3

I like to guess what room they’ll be moving into by listening to the sound of footsteps and noise coming from the suitcase. But this noise is getting louder, and louder, and closer. By the sounds of it, it’s my new next-door neighbor. “Well, there goes my peace and quiet,” I think to myself.

On my way out to teach a class the next day, I check the mail as I always do and I notice there is a new picture up on the notice board. Sure enough, right next to my picture there are two new people in the same room, two Chinese guys holding hands. oh my god! That’s amazing! I think to myself.

Don’t get me wrong as far as Asian countries go, Japan’s views on LGBT rights are fairly progressive, as their religions have never specified nor deemed it to be immoral like western countries had. However, your housing company can still refuse to house or rent to you because (at the time of writing) there is no national civil rights law to protect you if you are gay. Same-sex marriage is illegal and if you leave Japan to marry in a country that does allow it, Japan still won’t recognize the marriage. So it makes me feel relieved to see that the company I rent with is pro LGBT.

I catch them on the way out of the house that night and they seem like great guys! However, the fact that two people had moved in right next door to me became evident pretty quickly. It started with the arguing. really loud arguing! Unlike The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and his helium-filled Anime girlfriend from the first story, these two were fully grown men with really fully grown angry voices screaming at each other in Chinese.

The second issue came when I started smelling cigarette smoke in my room when I left my window open. After a few days, the hallway smelled like an ashtray. The rules of living here are pretty harsh but fair. No drinking, no loud noises, no parties, no plants, no leaving stuff in the shower or on the kitchen work surfaces, no un-vetted guests, nothing in your room that can cause a fire or damage property, no pets, no sleeping in the kitchen (there is definitely a story behind that one) but most of all! Rule no.1! Kicked out immediately if found doing! Not inside, not outside, not anywhere in the vicinity of the building. Absolutely NO SMOKING!

“Well, they’ve smashed that rule” chuckling to myself. I’m not gonna rat them out though. Their arguing and smoking are annoying, but I wouldn’t feel right sneakily getting them kicked out over it.

The third issue was a strange one. They would keep cooked/raw food in their pantry. This needs a bit of explaining. In the kitchen, there is a giant shelving unit that spans the width of the wall. The shelving unit has wooden doors with glass centers and each shelf is labeled by room number. For example, door one contains shelves for room 101,102,103 and room 104. The next-door contains shelves for room 105,106,107 and 108, and it goes like that for the number of rooms there are in the building.

Well, it just so happens that their shelf is directly above my shelf. So when I opened the cupboard to grab a cup and was hit with the smell of three-day-old cooked broccoli, an unidentifiable open can of wet meaty looking food, half an Avocado and what looked like a half-eaten plate of curry, I was mortified. I knew it was three days old because I had seen it there three days ago. What shook me more was that ten minutes into my afternoon coffee they came in and ate it in front of me! Well I left, The smell was contained in the cupboard but after they took it out there was no protection.

Their bad taste in food would come back to haunt me. I arrived home late one frosty day, desperately trying to keep warm as I had stupidly only packed t-shirts for my year long stay. I remember walking up the step to the front door, typed the code into the keypad and expected to be embraced by the warmth. Instead, I was blown away by the absolute stench of death!

Allow me to give you a brief history lesson of the things that I have smelled in my life.

Between the age of eight and fourteen, my parents owned a farm. Every so often my dad would boil a giant vat of offal to feed to the dogs. That’s where you would take the parts of animals that most people would be too stupid or daring enough to eat. Lungs, intestines, brain, bones, the list goes on. It would be boiled all day until you got a thick gelatinous soup. The smell to this day still hits me out of nowhere. As if my brain likes to go “hey! Remember this smell!?”

I went home to Liverpool for the whole of December one year and left my flat in Leeds in a relatively good condition for when I returned. Little did I know, the trip switch for the plugs in the apartment went off and left my fridge and freezer out of commission. Obviously, the fruit and veg rotting in a warm fridge was bad enough but to top it off, the fruit juice, the milk carton, and the veggie smoothie bottle had exploded all over the fridge leaving layer upon layer of different colored mold, fungi, and rot. If you have ever dripped your Mcdonalds milkshake on the carpet of your car and let it bake in the sun for a week you’re about three percent there.

I have cats, three of them. and one day one of the cats decided that the litter tray wasn’t good enough for them anymore and started pissing on the wooden floor behind the litter tray. Well, not to be outdone by said cat (which will remain anonymous) the other two cats get in on the action. So every time I look at the three litter trays and see that they’re more or less empty, I leave them. Until a week later. Sat on my couch, I catch the scent. I follow the scent. Realize it’s coming from under the cat litter, pick up the cat litter, to find piss soaked wood and I’m submerged in a smell that made me think I had just been hit in the face with a can of mace. It made my nose burn, my eyes water, it even made me cough! Not because it made me feel sick but because it felt like I had inhaled mustard gas, and my lung’s response was to cough it up.

None of those things, however, came anywhere near the smell that I walked into that day. It was a powerful overwhelming scent. Put it this way, smells don’t make me sick, but this smell had me gagging from the moment I opened the door and unsuspectingly took my first breath. I thought for sure there had been an accident! Surely a sewage truck had overturned and flattened a colony of ants and the worlds blue cheese supply had caught fire, causing thousands of skunks to spray out the flames. I covered my mouth and nose to make sure nothing got in and walked cautiously to the kitchen to see what had happened. I catch my two neighbors just eating quietly with something cooking on the hob.

It just seemed so unnatural to watch them silently eat while this noise of smell was punching holes in my understanding of physics. I just stood there looking at them looking at me with my hand over my mouth and nose. I just walked away. It must have appeared rude that I was basically signaling to them that the food they were eating absolutely stank but at the time I honestly couldn’t care less. How dare they ruin the atmosphere of the entire house! I was genuinely the angriest I have ever been! I had almost talked myself into confronting them twice but decided against it. They probably wouldn’t understand me anyway.

They had two really nasty habits that really did get to me though. They would spit constantly! All-day and all-night, the soundtrack to my life was retching and spitting. The other thing was, I don’t think they were trained how to use a toilet. Every time I went to the bathroom there would be shit all over the toilet seat. There would be a little white board with “clean the toilet after yourself” written on it as a message to all of us but I knew it was them. This wasn’t an issue before they arrived so it must be them!

A few days later, my appetite for blood long subsided. I keep getting this garbage smell coming from their room. Not a horrible food smell but a generic wet garbage smell. Every day I walked past I would just hold my breath until I reached the safety of the other end of the hall where the front door is. Until one day I had had enough.

It was late and I’m walking around the room listening to music and cleaning like I do pretty much every other day, and a gigantic cockroach runs right under my door and straight under my bed right in front of me. I screamed like a child and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Unfortunately, my bed can’t be moved. It is a heavy wooden bed with draws underneath to put clothes in. Its where my clothes were! I got dressed and left. I walked straight to my closest convenience store and bought every kind and roach killer available. I kicked my door open like a cop raiding a drug den and I sprayed every inch of my bed with roach killer, clothes and all. The fumes were making me choke but eventually, it ran from under my bed straight back out of my room and shot straight under… My neighbor’s door.

THAT is IT!!! IV’E HAD IT! I march straight into the bathroom where the “House Mother” was (she is sort of like an unpaid tenant that makes sure we follow the rules and ensures we have supplies) who was washing her face at the time, and I am so angry that I can only really blurt out nonsense and point at their door. “COCKROACH! SPITTING! SHITTING! SMELLY FOOD!” She’s looking at me like I have lost my god damn mind until I say “they are smoking,” she says “ahhhhh I was wondering where that smell was coming from, I’ll sort it” and just like that, they were gone the next day.

I was “fortunate” enough to be walking past when the cleanup operation was happening and it was disgusting! Their room was trashed! Empty cans, half eaten pizza on the floor, pizza boxes stacked high, bowls with food in them, clothes all over the place, boot prints on the bedding, it was a hoarders dream. I was shocked at the amount of crap they had accumulated in such a short amount of time. It was like they hadn’t used a bin in the entire time they were here.

“Well, at least they are gone!” I can finally get some sleep without shouting and spitting every five minutes. The next few weeks were bliss. Quiet nights and even quieter mornings. Until one day I awoke to the sound of someone humming… NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I finally moved out of my Japanese share house.

Bad housemates, A Japanese sharehouse in Tokyo: Something isn’t right


Following on from my last post about bad housemates in a Japanese sharehouse in Tokyo, I spoke about my next door neighbor with no concept of tonality, privacy or modesty.

While listening to him shriek about how much he loves his girlfriend and the PTSD I still suffer from, I still found that having him as a neighbor was more funny and entertaining than anything else. The next neighbors however, were not.

Something isn’t right.

On the wall just as you enter my share house there is a notice board with the rules of the house. There is a whiteboard to write notes like “keep the kitchen clean” or “going out Friday if anyone wants to come”, and a segment where all the housemates put their picture up so that we can see who lives here. One day I get home from teaching English and there is a new couple that had just moved in upstairs. The picture wasn’t great just like everyone else’s but these two looked… “off”.

He was balding but with long hair. Think Paul Kaye in Game Of Thrones but maybe a bit thicker with a really thick long unkept beard. She had crazy wavy unkept hair, skin that looked a lot older than it should be and just had a general “I scream at pigeons in the park” kind of look. They both had the same sickly pale skin with huge bags under their eyes and both had the same intense yet expressionless stare. Like an “I’m going to get you later” look that you might shoot a friend for saying something embarrassing about you to a group of people, but a lot more sinister. Almost as if they hated the camera that was taking the picture of them.

Anyway, I get on with my day. I go back to my room, I spruce the place up, write a little, and eat some food. Later that day I go to the toilet and on my way, I catch a few people in the hall quietly and nervously talking amongst themselves looking very concerned. I ask them, what’s up? Well apparently there are two new people sitting in the kitchen and they’re “not right”. They are debating who should go and speak to them, almost daring each other. “Ahh no problem! I’ll go talk to them! Let’s have a chat shall we” and I storm in.

As I approached I heard her speak a language that I was completely unfamiliar with. It was very slow! And deep! Like a rough old Italian woman that smokes fifty cigarettes a day. When I say slow I mean heavy opiate user slow, like saying a word but taking 10 seconds to say it. Anyway, I walk in and I’m like hey! Hows it going!? Their little noise battle ends and they slowly turn to face me. Nothing was said, both of them just staring at me with completely blank faces.

Their eyes reminded me of a sharks eyes, just black with nothing behind them. They were looking in my direction but it didn’t feel like they were looking at me, more like through me. “Maybe they don’t understand English,” I think to myself. So I say, “English?” Still, no acknowledgment. It was like talking to two people that had just had a fix. So un-deterred I say, still with a smile on my face (a little more forced this time). “first time in Japan?” My eyes darting back and forth between them. Nothing, not a word. They just kept the same expression and the same blank stare. So I slowly backed away. “Well” “ok then” “enjoy your stay” “welcome to Japan”.

I rounded the corner and my already long stride quickened as I hurried past the guys waiting for me in the hallway giving them a “good luck” expression as I passed. Apparently, another housemate went to speak to them and described the exact same thing to me later on.

Over the next few days, I would accidentally encounter them in the bathroom, in the kitchen, outside on my way out, and each time they would turn to face me slowly but not acknowledge me. Like a gust of wind had just blown into the room and they were cautiously checking to see where it was coming from with a slight look of worry on their faces. Absolutely no acknowledgment of another human life though.

The one time I did get acknowledgment was when I was heading into the kitchen to heat up some rice for dinner. It was about 1AM and the lights were off. As I walked in, thinking no one was there I caught a glimpse of a silhouette at the table in the moonlight. Startled, I turned the light on and caught the guy slouched over a bowl of food. He was spooning it into his mouth like he hadn’t eaten in days with his right hand and covering his food with his left arm as if he was protecting it from predators or something.

I thought a homeless man had broken in because I didn’t recognize him straight away. If he was disheveled before, tonight he looked like he had just escaped a brutal interrogation from Guantanamo. Trying my best not to let on that he had just scared the absolute crap out of me I said, “hey! hows it going?”  Putting my rice in the microwave. “Not bad” he managed in between spoonfuls. Then, nothing. I just cooked my rice quietly to the sound of him chewing and slurping. “Good talk,” I said as I grabbed my rice and left leaving him with the light on. Returning the same way to go the bathroom not thirty seconds after leaving the kitchen, saw that he had turned the light back off and was still slurping away.

A housemate tells me that she went out for a drink and a cigarette one night at about 3am. On the way back from the vending machine she caught the guy just standing in the middle of the street with something that looked like “a big phone”. Doing something that looked like, “scanning the street and bushes” with it. Apparently, she just stopped and stared for a good five minutes before he looked up from what he was doing, noticed she was just standing there watching him, slid the device into his pocket and walked inside. Something was telling me that I needed to keep my door and windows locked at all times.

One day, just like that, they were gone. Their picture was gone, all evidence that they were ever there was gone. nobody even heard them leave. Usually, when someone leaves, they leave stuff that they didn’t eat/use or at least leave rubbish, but no, absolutely nothing.

Needless to say, they were two people I’m glad I’ll never have to deal with again.

But they weren’t the last of my nightmarish neighbors, the worst was yet to come.