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.

Top Ten Shows Only On Netflix | Time For A Netflix Party | Japan

There is a multitude of shows on Netflix, and finally deciding to pull the trigger and let one into your life can be daunting. “which one is the best?” “Will I like it?” “Will it be a waste of time?” “Should I really start another show when I have so much to do?” The answer is yes, but what to watch? There are so many shows both new and old to invest stock in, that you might not know where to begin? So in no particular order, let the Netflix party begin.

Tiger King


I watched it because I woke up one day and Realised that I didn’t understand 90% of the jokes and references on the internet. I could have made it a drinking game. Drink every time you finally understand a reference.

It’s a really good documentary and its edited masterfully. Just when you think you get the point of what’s going on, it drops a bombshell and you just have to keep watching. Even if you know the story of Joe Exotic, I’d still recommend giving it a watch.

Black Mirror

black mirror

Black Mirror is a representation of modern society in regards to new technology, and it is excellent! Suspense, comedy, sci-fi, horror, action. Each episode is a different genre of mini movie, but come together to give a more complete picture of the uses and misuses of potential technology throughout time.

san junapero

Everyone has their own theory of how each episode connects as it can be very subjective at times. Give the first season a go, you will not be disappointed!

black m


Altered Carbon


Altered Carbon is set in a neon Tokyo style future, where death is avoided by the rich.  Consciousness can be digitised, copied and “Re-sleeved” into different bodies provided you have the cash. It’s the story of an ex-elite soldier who is freed from his cyber prison to investigate the death of an extremely rich guy. But of course, not everything is as it appears.


I originally watched it because it looked alot like the game Deus Ex, and I love the neon Tokyo / Cyber-Renaissance / Corporate Brutalism style, but I ended up loving the storyline. Give it a go, if only to see Chris Conner as Poe. He’s one of my top ten favourite characters ever!


The Punisher


I used to love superhero movies and shows. However, I have an unpopular opinion. I happen to think that DC shows are just the worst kind of garbage on TV. The acting is terrible, the story lines are even worse and it’s all propped up by crappy special effects. I gave Arrow and flash a chance a few years ago and after watching our hero’s run around a building in power rangers style spandex, and overacting so much that even Jim Carrey would cringe I turned it off and vowed never to waste my time on them ever again. I catch my mum watching SuperGirl and The Flash every now and again and It’s just the worst thing I have ever seen. Why does “Flash” by Queen play whenever “The Flash” does literally anything? I’m cringing as I write this.


So I was a bit apprehensive when The Punisher (one of my favorite marvel characters) got his own show. I’m glad I gave it a chance though, because I was not disappointed! Pure, unadulterated, badass! From start to finish. It’s just too bad that it was cancelled. Turns out that an “armed to the Teeth vigilante” didn’t go down so well in America’s current climate of gun toting lunatics. Also, Because China basically dictates what Disney is allowed to produce, that was also another nail in The Punishers coffin. I have watched every episode and have not skipped the intro once. See why for yourself.

Don’t Fuck With Cats


Who doesn’t love a good serial killer documentary? Don’t fuck with cats follows a few regular people on the internet that turn detective after a video of a guy killing cats surfaces on Facebook. Things get a bit more complicated when he actually kills someone. Don’t really want to give too much away so just watch it!

Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina


Yes Sabrina is back, but its a lot darker. After watching what Netflix did to Teen Titan’s, I thought Sabrina was about to get the same treatment but I genuinely liked it! It’s well made and has a compelling spin on our favourite teenage witch.

sabrina w

I have been told it’s a lot like Riverdale so if you like that, you’ll probably like Sabrina. Also there is a video on youtube of the original cast reacting to the new Sabrina. Can we talk about the aunts not aging a day in over 20 years? Real witches maybe?

Better Call Saul 


Better Call Saul is the spiritual successor to Breaking Bad. It follows ex-con artist “slippin” Jimmy Mcgill as he transforms himself from a small time attorney in to morally challenged criminal defence lawyer, Saul Goodman.


It’s slow. I’m not going to lie. Better call Saul isn’t for everybody. If you didn’t like Breaking Bad, you’re probably not going to like Better call Saul. But! Michael Mando, arguably the most notorious “bad guy” in video games is in it and he is excellent.



Stranger Things 

Stranger things

Of course Stranger things was going to be on a list involving Netflix and Shows. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now but just in case you haven’t, whats wrong with you? Go and watch it now! It has monsters, the 80s, winona Ryder, Joe keery’s hair, everything you would need from a Netflix show!

stranger things 2

Haunting Of Hill House


The plot to Haunting of hill house plays out between two timelines. The First is the present day where five adult siblings go about their day to day lives haunted by something in their past. Which could be a haunting or a Shared genetic mental illness. The second timeline is of them as children where the story starts to reveal itself.


Even if horror isn’t your thing, you can’t deny that this show is written, and directed masterfully. Episode 106 is particularly spectacular! But you’re going to have to watch it to find out why.

Ghost at the back

That wraps up my top 10 shows only on Netflix! If you think something should/shouldn’t have been on this list, let me know!

If you need reasons to fear the outside feel free to check out  Stay the F*ck indoors movie list!

Recent news in Japan | 2020 |Mitsu Desu!

Japan news 2020. Japan has undergone some major changes in the last few weeks due to the Coronavirus outbreak. From Japanese eels and Manboo residents, to cut down tulips. Here are a few things in Japan today that show that times are changing.

Eviction of long term residents of Manboo

Manboo is an internet café / net room. It has many locations all over Japan including in Shinjuku and Shibuya. It allows people to have their own net room/cubicle to read Manga, browse the internet, play computer games, listen to music, and relax. I stayed in one when I first arrived in Japan and although my stay wasn’t exactly comfortable, I can definitely see the appeal.

Because the price of renting a room is so cheap, and the food from the vending machine costing next to nothing (with most drinks being free), many opt to rent full time and stay in Manboo as a sort of a permanent resident. However, the outbreak of Coronavirus means that Manboo, as well as several other internet cafes have had to close their doors as they are not officially a hotel. This means that the long term residents of these establishments were forced onto the streets.

Shy Eels

This week, Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium has sent out a cry for help. It seems that with no guests coming in to keep the animals company, they are starting to get used to a life without humans. It is really starting to affect the 300 spotted garden eels. Because of the lack of human interaction, the eels are starting to burrow into the sand and refuse to come out, even when the staff come to say hello.

This makes it extremely difficult for staff to monitor the health of the eels. So in order to combat this, Sumida Aquarium have organised a “face show festival” asking everyone to call in and FaceTime with the eels to get them used to social interaction again. You can FaceTime the Japanese eels right now by FaceTiming one of these five emails. I mean why not. You could probably do with some social interaction as well.

  • helpchin001@gmail.com
  • helpchin002@gmail.com
  • helpchin003@gmail.com
  • helpchin004@gmail.com
  • helpchin005@gmail.com


Pachinko brings in 2.87 trillion yen per year. That’s roughly £21,006,142,870.00 and is (although being ran by the more nefarious organisations) extremely important to the Japanese economy. However, despite this, the Pachinko industry is in freefall. It continues to lose players and revenue year on year and it’s far less popular than it used to be. The reason for this is a lack of interest from the younger generations and a fast shrinking older generation. The Japanese youth think that pachinko parlours are a “criminal hotspot”. A very damming article in “Japan Today” explains that pachinko players are not contributors, and of course Japan being a harmonious society, they collectively look down on pachinko. However, Pachinko’s reputation descent has hit hyper speed this month.

When Shinzo Abe announced that Japan was declaring a state of emergency, pachinko parlours made it very clear that they will not be closing or altering opening times in any way. When Prime Minister Abe announced that he will be calling for stricter measures on weekends to help with social distancing, prefectural governors had to consult Abe on pachinko parlours refusing to close. This resulted in Governor Koike stepping into the ring and giving them one final chance do the right thing. They declined. So Governor Koike (as well as other prefectural governors) threatened to do the one thing that can hurt a business in Japan, and that is to name and shame them. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect and instead gave them free advertising. There have been reports that many parlors across the country are still open, but at this point nobody is surprised. The Japanese public have called to complain and issue death threats over the phone and by mail. The reputation of pachinko (like Joe Exotics financial situation) will probably never recover from this.

Flower Destruction

Japan is a country of natural beauty lovers and it’s easy to see why. From the top of Mount Fuji to the bottom Iya Valley, Japan is undeniably beautiful. Unfortunately, the recent state of emergency and social distancing guidelines have made it difficult to view this seasons flower displays. The Japanese authorities have gone to great lengths to show that they are not messing around when it comes to respecting the state of emergency.

One example of this is the cutting down of 100,000 tulips in Sakura, East of Tokyo. Unfortunately, tourists during Golden Week refused to stay home and instead chose to gather in the gardens of Sakura, forcing authorities to raze the 7,000 square meter garden to the ground. Disappointed tourists have likened the once beautiful scenery to mud pits.

Japanese authorities have promised that the tulip gardens will be bigger and more beautiful next year.

Golden week

Golden Week is a series of national holidays that take place within one week at the end of April and the start of May.

Constitution Day (a day to celebrate the ratification of the Japanese constitution in 1947)

Showa Day (honoring Emperor Showa, who ruled over Japan during World war 2)

Green Day (a day for people to honor the environment)

Children’s Day (a celebration to wish young boys strength, and success in life)

It’s a time for celebration, travel, and if you are an international traveler, an extremely expensive stress filled nightmare. However, because of coronavirus, “Golden Week” has become Gaman Week”. Gaman is a term taken from Zen Buddhism, meaning “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.” Basically, what has been a week of celebration and travel for decades, is now a week of social distancing and isolation, and people aren’t taking it well. There have been constant warnings against travel and distrust amongst commuters and neighbours is at an all time high. Seeing a commuter with an overnight bag, or a neighbour loading a suitcase in to a car would suggest they are traveling to another prefecture. This is something that Japanese news is condemning with an iron fist and a disapproving glare.

Japans reliance on old technology

This month, Japan’s reliance on old technology is under a 300 jigawatt spotlight. Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet. Only in Japan can you be served a coffee by a robot, be checked in to a hotel room by a hologram, and get ice cream and hot drinks from the same vending machine. Unfortunately, it’s probably the only country left on planet Earth that sends hyper sensitive, super important business invoices by fax, and requires a 19th century “Hanko” stamp as a signature on official documents.

The internet officially came to life in October 1969. Companies and governments jumped at it when it became publicly available in 1991. It has been standard in businesses and governments for arguably the last twenty years (give or take three years). We now live in a world of on demand. A world where anything I want to watch or listen to (in virtual reality) is a few seconds away. Any piece of information I want is at my fingertips using a device that has four million times more memory than the first space shuttle’s guidance system. Yet Japan, is still using a method of sending information that dates back to 1947.

The handling of the coronavirus hasn’t been any different. The reporting of corona has to be hand written, hanko stamped, and faxed to public health centers. This is causing a massive backlash by the public after a doctor specialising in respiratory medicine tweeted “Come on, let’s stop this already. Reporting cases in handwriting. Even with corona, we’re handwriting and faxing.” The doctor likened it to the “Showa period”. Showa refers to 1926-1989.

The consequences of using old tech has revealed itself in full force. Breaking news today is that 111 people were left out of the official announcements of daily corona victims. Not only that, there were duplicate reports of 35 people. With nineteen fields on form to fill out for each patient, and a specific method of sending information, it’s not surprising that mistakes happened.

If I sound salty… It’s because I am. I have been forced to use one of these archaic fax beasts while being here. I’ve not had PayPal, I can’t pay for things contactlessly, move money between banks or change yen into pounds using nothing more than an app. But hey! At least my toilet can sing to me.

As of mid May, authorities have allowed the reporting of corona cases via online. Let’s hope this changes the way companies in Japan do business in the future for all of our sakes.


It’s not all doom and gloom. As an English person, one of the first things I noticed about Japan is that Japan doesn’t really have satire or take the piss out of its betters. In England, a Scottish mother can’t tell off her kids without it shooting to international fame, and a member of parliament can’t give an interview without a panel of comedians ripping them to shreds at the end of the week.

However, during her daily speech about social distancing and volunteered self isolation, Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike coined a phrase to explain the new rules. “Mitsu” meaning three, referring to the three “Cs” which are the three conditions of social distancing. “Closed spaces” Stay away from enclosed spaces, “circulation” stay out of places with poor circulation, “close contact” keep a distance from people. Unfortunately the warnings were not headed by a group of overzealous paparazzi who ran straight up to her after she had given her lecture.

Her response was to reprimand them by shouting “Mitsu desu!” Mitsu desu!” This sparked the international meme “mitsu desu”. Now, people who want some space can simply shout; mitsu desu! It has inspired countless “Mitsu Desu EDM Remixes” on Youtube. There has even been a computer game created in which Governor Koike is hounded by people and to get them away you have to strategically shout “mitsu desu.”

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.

How Japan Is Dealing With The Coronavirus|The Good And The Bad

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect when I arrived back in Japan (Tokyo specifically). We have all heard about the Diamond Princess. The ship that was quarantined at Yokohama Port. Seven people lost their lives as a result of catching the coronavirus. The news in the UK was that Japan had been hit hard! Apparently Hokkaido, the northernmost island was locked down, schools had been closed, and rumors of toilet paper being made in China sparked a toilet paper buying frenzy. It all gave the impression that Japan was burning, I mean, it is Asia after all. It wasn’t too hard to believe that Japan could be one of the hardest-hit countries. Was there going to be chaos? Were the streets going to be empty? Were the shops going to be barren? WAS THERE GOING TO BE TOILET PAPER?! Well, let’s just say I thought it was going to be worse than it is.


In fact, nothing had really changed. Streets were just as full as when I left. Bars, cafes, and coffee shops are still open with a small number of exceptions. The trains are still running, and the supermarket is full of food (although definitely lacking in the toilet paper department). Kids were back at school and the lockdown of Hokkaido was being lifted. There is one tell-tail sign that something’s not quite right, though . The sheer amount of people wearing face masks!

EVERYONE is wearing them, and if someone isn’t wearing one its probably because they can’t buy them as they have all sold out everywhere! Japanese people use face masks predominantly as an act of courtesy to not spread viruses when a person is sick and still has to go to work (because Japanese people don’t. Not. Work, EVER) Or to block allergens as many people in Japan suffer from allergies of some kind or another (sugi pollen is a severe hindrance to the Japanese). It even has a role in fashion and in some cases, people use them alongside headphones to not be bothered by over-friendly people that might want to talk to you. However, when an entire country wears them at the same time, it would appear that the public consensus is that they are seemingly effective at stopping the spread of the Coronavirus. Being ill on a train and coughing or sneezing without a mask is one of Japan’s biggest taboos. I invite anyone to come to Japan and sneeze on a train without a mask. You will be shot a look by a Japanese elder that can only be described as devastation. It can make even middle-aged, self-made, self-assured millionaires question their life choices. Recently, with the knowledge that there is a runaway virus on the loose, a man had the police called on him for coughing on the train without a mask on.

I have noticed that there is a bottle of hand sanitizer at the entrance of most shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. You are urged to use it, both entering and exiting the facility. It’s an amazing idea! I know that there is a big debate online about the effectiveness of hand sanitizer and that soap and water are and will always be better, (and I totally agree!) but hey, a country full of people using hand sanitizer every 20 mins couldn’t hurt the cause.

Hand sanitizer

I have lived in Japan for about a year and a half now and I will say this. It was very rare for me to see a man use the public bathroom, and then immediately sprint for the door without washing his hands like I have seen in the UK all too often. Now it seems that the men of Japan have gone into clean hands overdrive. The queue for the bathroom is no longer to use the stalls, it’s to use the sinks! Japan has also turned off all of the hand dryers because evidence suggests that it increases the risk of spreading the virus. In addition, enclosed spaces like most smoking booths have been closed as well.

When it comes to social distancing, (compared to the rest of the world) we cannot ignore the fact that this is something that is naturally ingrained within Japanese society. First of all, the Japanese people are not a “touchy-feely” kind of people. They do not shake hands, they do not kiss on the cheek once, twice or even three times (like some other heavily affected countries I could mention). The Japanese bow and they have been doing this since approximately 1603. Samurais would do it to one another as a sign of respect and that bled into popular culture. Social distancing has always been and is currently present. They are not space invaders. They typically don’t stand too close to one another and something I have seen plenty of times is when there is a perfectly good open seat on the train between two people, usually, most people would opt not to sit in that seat and stand instead (rush hour is a completely different story).

Japanese people have always practiced cleanliness. When you enter a house you take off your shoes (immediately)! The UK government had to issue a public service announcement reminding people to, and how to, wash their hands properly.

Japan is doing a great “passive” job at keeping the Coronavirus at bay. However, I am under no illusion that Japan is Corona-proof.

There is still a lot that has to prevent the spread further. Tokyo is a VERY crowded place. Shinjuku Station during rush hour, for example, is less like a commute and more like a polite, silent, sodomy party. No amount of hand sanitizer and face masks in the world is going to stop the spread on crowded trains. The trains aren’t sanitized with an industrial-sized, antibacterial shooting, two-handed, cannons at the end of the line either. Meaning that thousands of people that ride the train on one whole line have made it well and truly contaminated through holding the metal handrails/ handles, touching the windows, and everything else that one could do to spread a virus.

Hanami (the act of getting absolutely shitfaced and picnicking under blossoming cherry trees with all of your friends) is in full swing, and this year, so far, is no exception. Yoyogi Park this Sunday was packed to the proverbial rafters of pink tree and alcohol enthusiasts. Thing is, cancelling Hanami to the Japanese would be like canceling Christmas to a seven-year-old or a FOX news viewer. Everyone would remember where they were during the great Hanami cancelation of 2020. Two of the major Hanami areas have been “sort of” cancelled. They are the Meguro river & Ueno park. You can go take pictures, admire the blossoming cherry trees, and drink under them with friends and family for as long as you want, but there will be no Hanami themed food. So it’s like, 20% cancelled. It is a serious issue! Seriously it’s insane! The Coronavirus has an R0 score of 3 meaning that, provided no one has been vaccinated, previously had the virus, and has no way to control the spread of the virus, it can potentially spread on average to three other people. Meaning that it is incredibly infectious. Regular, good old 2009 Influenza by comparison, has an R0 of between 1.4 and 1.6. If I was a betting man I’d say at least a few hundred people walked away from that park with more than they came with. And I don’t mean a hangover.


I get the impression that the general public isn’t really that worried because they haven’t been given anything to worry about. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan hasn’t really stressed the importance of what this virus is capable of. Especially what it can do to an aging population such as Japan. All he has done so far is given suggestions that people should take more precautions. I, as someone coming from Europe (England specifically), am fully aware of what happens to a community when the person in charge doesn’t take charge, and so far he hasn’t done that.

Testing is apparently still extremely restricted and I don’t think the Japanese authorities are giving the correct number of new cases or deaths. I feel like Shinzo Abe was desperately trying to make sure the Olympics will happen on time. I’m sure with the amount of money it cost, I would also want to make sure it happened for the tourism windfall that would re-enrich my dwindling coffers. However, at the end of the day, needs must. Shinzo Abe finally made the right decision. I predict now that the Olympics have been postponed until 2021, Japan will no longer has to save face in order to keep the Olympics on track. Shinzo Abe will start upping the threat level and announcing stricter testing and quarantining measures. Hopefully, he does it gradually and in a calm manner…

…Unlike the UK. Who couldn’t have caused more panic if Boris Johnson had announced that the purge is commencing, activated an air raid siren, and started firing a shotgun into the crowd.


My Take On Coronavirus & The UK|We Messed Up

I promised my self I wouldn’t write about the Coronavirus. There is already an abundance of news articles, advice and hysteria out there to last a lifetime without me adding to it, but I do have a few things to say.

So I have just returned to Japan after spending a little while in England to recharge, and while I was there I watched the “Coronavirus” go from an unnamed thing said in passing, “oh,” “did you hear about that new mysterious illness that they found in some nowhere village in China?” To being a real-life pandemic that I can’t go one hour without hearing about. Be it friends, family, TV, internet, and news updates on my phone. Sky News might as well rename itself to Corona News at this point.

It has been really interesting watching how different countries are handling the situation, and what said counties are willing to do to inhibit the spread.

In China, several disappearing people after denying it had a virus, created stadium-sized pop-up hospitals, commenced spraying the streets with disinfectant, and began working on the cure. After initially suggesting that the virus didn’t come from them at all, they still probably had the strongest and most immediate response. China has carried out human trials in the cities of Wuhan and Shenzen. The mentioned “cure” or better put “treatment”, is Avigan (also known as Favipiravir), an anti-influenza drug created in Japan by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical. The trials have shown to be successful, however, the information surrounding the production, distribution, and administration of the drug to those affected with COVID-19 seems unclear (although Japan stated that they will donate Avigan to Iran).

Italy has shut down completely! Being caught outside by police too far from home without a provable reason carries a 206 Euro fine or a three months prison sentence. These are passionate, close, touchy-feely kind of people and not being able to eat with, drink coffee with or even see friends and loved ones must be torture.

Brussels has a warning system if caught outside in groups. The first time you get caught is a warning, the second time you could be charged a four thousand euro fine or a 3-month prison sentence. People are encouraged to call the police if you see any large groups outside.

The Middle East is banning religious ceremonies! Something I thought would never happen! They strike me as the type of people who fear “God” more than they fear a real invisible virus.

And then there’s England… Early last month I made a prediction, I said that if the Coronavirus ever comes to England the world is doomed! Because we will spread it like wildfire.


1. We don’t seek medical attention. My mother had Legionnaires disease for 3 months from a recent trip to Florida and instead of going to the doctor she said: “It’s fine, its just a cough.” This is more or less the norm for all Brits over a certain age. Lump? Weird rash? Unexplainable crippling pain leaving you in agony? Foot rotting off? “Meh, probably nothing,” “It’ll go away eventually.” In fact, because of the state of our healthcare system, even if you did decide to seek medical attention, you have to pre-book it weeks (if not months) in advance. Another way is calling on the day precisely at 8AM to see if there are any cancellations from the previous day. Even then, you have to be first in the queue of a thousand other people ringing to get an appointment. As soon as you say, “I have a bit of fever” you will be told over the phone to drink fluids and get bed rest. If you need an ambulance call an Uber (because the ambulance may take so long to arrive, you might actually die waiting for it). Many give up and hope the ailment will simply go away. This is not an attack on nurses or doctors or anyone else working tirelessly to heal people. They do brilliant work and are overworked and underappreciated. The NHS is greatly under strain, and there isn’t enough money or resources.

2. The English have a sort of cavalier attitude to everything. From top to the bottom, the government to the people, especially if you are wealthy. We just don’t care. For example, two days before returning to Japan with the Coronavirus PANDEMIC (as declared by WHO) in full swing I went to Liverpool city center (a place where the public has already tested positive for the Coronavirus) to pick up supplies. Medication, sorting out my phone contract, essential stuff for my trip that I couldn’t do online. I expected it to be a ghost town. The town was PACKED! People shopping, eating in restaurants, drinking in coffee shops and pubs, coughing, sneezing and touching everything. I went to a very popular pharmacy and in front of me, was a person coughing and rubbing her face saying to the pharmacist “Yea, I have a cough”. The pharmacist shrugged and gave her cough medicine.

No explanation of how she should be self-quarantining, no information about the virus, oh! After she was given cough medicine, instead of being told to leave the store immediately because she is a public health risk, she walked around the store picking stuff up off the shelves and talking to her friend over products, handing her friend things, rubbing her face, using testers, taking things to the counter, giving those things to the checkout lady and literally spreading it in front of me! In a week’s time, that checkout lady is going to wonder how the hell did she and her family contract coronavirus. Pharmacists are trained professionals yet in this case nothing was done to prevent the spread.

But that’s not the worst thing I saw. It’s the 13th of March, two days after the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Sporting events are canceled, and the UK confirmed more than 200 new cases in a single day. Dead center of town we have a bank called Metro Bank. On this particular day, they were having some sort of grand opening event with music, freebies (handing out bags), and serving popcorn that the people were straight-up open fisting, eating and going back in for seconds. Also, face painting!!!! This is just one man’s opinion but I just couldn’t help but think “What an utterly irresponsible thing for a BANK of all institutions to do at a time like this!” “Why on earth would I trust them with my finances!?” They even bragged about it on social media!

Image: The telegraph



I was watching “This Morning” two weeks ago and our wise and fearless leader Borris Johnson was discussing the Coronavirus on the couch with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. He said something to the tune of, “You know, there is the approach of just letting everyone get the virus so that we develop an immunity, just in a controlled way so that it doesn’t put a strain on the National Health Service”. I immediately thought “uh oh”, he isn’t going to put any money into this. He’s planning on announcing that we are all going to get the virus and he isn’t going to take any action that hinders the spread. A day or so later he announced that we will be taking the “HERD IMMUNITY” approach to the Coronavirus. Our National Health Service was at breaking point a long time ago and an introduction of a novel virus will cripple it. There is no controlled way here. Luckily the NHS brokered a deal with private hospitals and health care workers for more staff and beds. I only wonder what the NHS has lost in this deal.


I’m so thankful that I managed to get back to Japan in time! In the run-up to my flight, borders were closing, countries were getting locked down, flights were getting turned around mid-flight. I was starting to get a bit worried that I might get turned away at some point. The day of my flight arrived and I transferred to Germany and as soon as my flight from Germany took off for Japan, Germany banned all international flights and a few days after I landed in Japan, Shinzo Abe the prime minister of Japan asked that anyone from Europe arriving after Saturday to self-quarantine. My travel plans fall into the category of essential (in case you are wondering) as this would be an awful time to be taking a holiday.

What shocked and disgusted me the most, is that our prime minister, the leader of a developed country, a person that the UK public put in charge, said we’re going to let everyone catch the virus and that everyone should prepare for loved ones to die (seriously this happened-google it). He then shrugged his shoulders and stated that he was following the orders of the experts, thus absolving himself of any blame if and when this decision goes south. He let everyone know that he was essentially going to do nothing but tell us how to wash our hands properly.

How ironic is it, that the age range that is most at risk, are predominantly conservative voters and the leader of the conservative party has just told them that he will do nothing to help. Not test, not contain, in fact, they should prepare to not make it through this.

There is a town in Italy called Vo, that tested everyone and using the knowledge of who has the virus and why it’s being transmitted, managed to get its new cases of coronavirus down to zero. This is evidence that the only way to get through this is to test, test, test.

Here is a new prediction. The world is going to put the UK on a watch list. Our citizens will be most banned worldwide and we will be branded as a dangerous country to fly to for a long time. If Italy is anything to go by we have a lot of death ahead of us.

I feel like when all this blows over, Italians that want to travel will be recommended Syria as a holiday destination before the UK is.

Edit: as I am posting this Boris Johnson has finally issued a lockdown in an effort to contain the spread. Still, bars and clubs remained open for one more night (no killer virus is going to stop me from necking 8 pints and getting off with that complete stranger). Testing is still restricted, however. At some point, I think we will likely have an Italian style lockdown with military personnel upholding the rule.  I still can’t believe that the government hasn’t stepped in to sort out the stock issues in supermarkets yet! Come on Boris, put austerity on hold for a little bit and start helping your people ey?

How Japan is dealing with the Coronavirus

Japan has a serious plastic addiction

Being from the UK, it felt extremely weird being given about 5 plastic bags for my hand full of items at the grocery store. After 6 months of being here, it still feels just as weird.

When I arrived, I had no idea Japan was known to use so much plastic. On one occasion after I got home from the grocery store and emptied the contents of my plastic carrier bag onto my kitchen table, the realisation hit me.  I opened the little plastic baggy that the cashier had put my box of chocolates in. Then I proceeded to open the plastic that surrounded my box of chocolates…opened the cardboard box…removed the plastic segments which separated the recommended serving amount, (of which there were two)…then removed the plastic from each of the five individual pieces of chocolate. I turned to my housemate and said something to the tune of, THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

I’m no eco-warrior, but since then, I have noticed how much plastic is in Japan. If it can be wrapped in plastic, it will be. Individual onions, peppers, cucumbers, even bananas are individually wrapped in plastic.

Japan has a serious plastic addiction
Various fruit and veg wrapped in plastic

Plastic straws are individually wrapped in plastic and sold in plastic wrapping!

Sweets are individually wrapped in plastic and sold in a plastic bag.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most depressing, disturbing pieces of news I have heard all year was that a plastic shopping bag was discovered at the very bottom of the Marianas Trench (the deepest known point of our ocean). The discovery was made by a group of researchers studying images from deep-sea exploration projects, and the really bad thing about this is the fact that the footage was from 1998! Meaning that twenty-one years later it probably looks like Boxing day at my mum’s house down there.

Now the funny thing is, it was a Japanese research team that discovered the plastic. Japan is surrounded by ocean and relies on the ocean to feed its people. In fact, sixty-six percent of the fish consumed in Japan is domestically caught. Japan eats seven point five billion tonnes of fish a year, and of all the fish caught in the world, Japan consumes 10% of it by itself. So why is it, knowing that Japan is so reliant on the ocean is it still blatantly overusing plastic.

Now don’t get me wrong! I have never seen such an undying effort to recycle. The UK could learn a thing or two about recycling from Japan! But here’s the thing, not all plastic is recyclable. Plastic bottles that say PET on them, yeah sure they’re recyclable, but not plastic bags of any kind. After you finish your Starbucks and separate your plastic PET lid and paper cup and feel like you are doing your bit, the cup still has plastic in it that can’t be recycled. Also, mistakes happen.

When I moved into my new place the building manager made it abundantly clear (just like everywhere else in Japan) plastic in the plastic section, burnable trash in the burnable section, metal in the metal section. If there is contamination (a metal can in the plastic bag/plastic in the burnable trash bag/burnable trash in the metal bag) the bag is simply discarded as trash and not recycled. So if I have a giant bag full of plastic bottles but there is a banana peel in there, the whole bag is worthless and not recycled. It’s not really something you can hide either, considering the plastic bags look like this.


Maybe this is normal for the average person. Maybe Japan isn’t the only country that does this. But in the UK, plastic is a bit of a dirty word at the moment, and to be honest, probably always will be. I haven’t seen a plastic straw in about a year. I haven’t seen any in the supermarket and you have to ask for one in Nandos, and to be honest, the dirty looks you get for asking for one just aren’t worth it. Paper straws are all the rage at the moment and metal straws are going to be making their way into your cutlery draw at some point in the very near future.

Because plastic bags take about one thousand years to decompose (give or take), the UK understandably doesn’t want you to use them. So we put a price on them. 5p per bag (10p as of December apparently) and this has had an impact! More and more people have been bringing reusable bags, bags for life, and so on. Tote bags are a huge industry in Japan. So why isn’t Japan doing anything about this issue?

we bare bears tote life
We Bare Bears, Tote Life

I think the problem starts with overpackaging. If I go shopping in a 7 Eleven and I buy a bottled coffee, the cashier will put it in a little plastic bag before giving it to me in a big plastic bag. I can protest and say I don’t need a bag at all but other people won’t. So here is my idea…

I get between two hundred and four hundred readers from Japan per month. If everyone that reads my blog could turn down one bag a month that’s between two hundred and four hundred bags per month off the street. Let’s start there and hopefully, it will lead to a much bigger change.

The things I love and hate about Japan

John MiltonMoving to Japan was a dream come true, once in a lifetime experience. Definitely, the best thing I could have ever done. However, Japan is not without its issues. So not wanting to end on a negative note I’ll start with the things I hate.


Japanese train, insideImagine if you will, you’re standing in line at a checkout waiting for the person in front of you to finish fumbling about with their change and you cast your eyes downward to find that there is a pram. In that pram is a child about two to three years old, and they are staring at you. An undistracted, unwavering, relentless stare. “Heh, cute kid” you might think as you get back to putting your items on the conveyer belt. You glance back through the corner of your eye, she’s still watching. You turn your head to give her a proper look. No change, she’s still locked on. You make a face, poke your tongue out, flip her the bird, it doesn’t matter she’s still staring. I know the world around her is new and every new face is interesting. We know that she is not old enough to know that staring is rude so we find it funny or cute. We make jokes. “Oh got a new boyfriend have you?” “She’s such a flirt” haha very funny.

Now imagine four or five middle to old age men and women dotted about a train car, standing in a shop, or walking down a street doing the exact same thing to you. Now imagine that this is a daily occurrence and you’ll start to understand my frustration.

When I first arrived I thought “meh I must just be something they don’t see very often,” “let them look, not doing me any harm” and let it slide. A month in and not much had changed, despite the fact that I noticed Tokyo is FULL of foreigners and I’m nothing special. Two months in and I’m starting to get a bit annoyed by the one-man show with me as the star. I start giving those lingering stares the raised scrunched up brow and tilted head down “can I help you?” look. That stopped a few but not all. Another month and I had found that dead eye staring them down with my arms crossed until they looked away was, at first, very effective at deterring people from staring at me for the rest of the journey. However, none of these methods helped when dealing with a particular set of starers.

I was standing at the back of a train holding on to the rail. The time was about 2:30pm and I was in a foul mood. Can’t remember why. Not enough sleep, not enough food, a combination of both who knows. As I’m glaring out of the window I noticed two middle-aged men sat down on the opposite side of the car whispering and staring at me. I side-eyed them for a few seconds then looked away thinking this would let them know that they are making me uncomfortable. It did not. Another two minutes go by and they’re still doing it. Haven’t taken their eyes off me in that time. So I stare back. Nothing, no change, still staring at me. I cross my arms. Now I’m being outright defensive. My face, my eyes, and my body language are now screaming “stop staring at me!” They’re still doing it, in fact, the one sat on the right leans into the man on the left to whisper something (while still staring at me). Before he gets a chance, I very firmly say, “Nani!” (what!) Well to say these two shit themselves would be an understatement. Their faces hit the floor and they did not look at me for the entirety of the remaining journey. I got off at my stop about ten minutes later feeling like an asshole but seriously what would anyone else do in this situation? Its almost as if “it’s rude to stare” was never a popular saying in Japan. And I’m a guy! A 6’2, weight lifting, lots of food eating, broad-shouldered guy! Women have it so much worse than me. In fact, staring is just the tip of the iceberg for women on trains. Let’s just say there is a reason some of the busiest trains have women-only carriages.


Japanese bikeYou know, in a country that has over eighty million bicycles (that’s 1.5 Bikes for every person in Japan), ranked no.8 in the world for most bikes in a country. You would think that Japan would be built for bikes, or that the necessary training standards for riding a bike would be very high. Not so. I used to hate bikers in the UK. They take up too much room on the road for absolutely no reason, they are slow, they jump lights, they pull out into the middle of the road without looking, they have clipped my wing mirror three or four times while I’m sat at a set of lights and apparently that’s my fault, and drive past them a bit too close and they become the angriest people on earth. I could go on but at least there is order, at least there is a highway code, at least its illegal to ride on the sidewalk. In Japan its a free for all. Cutting in and out of pedestrians riding on the sidewalk, riding in the road until they get to a red light then they just think “screw it” and ride anywhere, and they fly at you! It’s not like they take care when riding around pedestrians either. So many times I’ve had to stop dead in my tracks because a bike was coming at me fifteen to twenty miles an hour, and I’m stuck in the, “am I going left?” “Am I going right?” Oh god, I’m going to die in a head-on collision with a peddle bike situation. And this isn’t a youth issue. In fact, the worst offenders is a tie between elderly ladies in a “they see me rolling” one hand on the handlebars and one hand swinging to the side lent back position and women with baby carriers fitted to the front and back of the bike. There are outlines on the road to indicate pedestrians and bike areas but no one pays attention to it.


Super SportsThe things I love about Japan far outweigh the things I hate about Japan. Here are just a few things I love about Japan and I will just keep adding more to the list as time goes on.

The Food

Vegan Ramen

The food is delicious. Even the cheap stuff you can buy in Seven Eleven can be stuck on a dish and served in restaurants and believe it or not the vast majority of food in Japan is healthy. Now, I think this could be a blog post by itself but the food here has so little calories in it that it makes me wonder what is in our western food that makes it so calorie dense. I could have a whole day of eating and I mean really pig out but the calories would only end up being about 2000cal as opposed to being 4000cal in the UK. When I first arrived I was hungry every day. I would wake up, eat breakfast, go out to meet one of my students, eat, teach a lesson, eat, go sightseeing, eat, more sightseeing, eat, go home, eat, watch Youtube, eat then go to sleep and I still woke up in the middle of the night to rip my fridge apart. I woke up so many times covered in food because I had started sleep eating but I wasn’t putting on any weight. In fact, I kept getting slimmer.

It wasn’t until a housemate pointed it out did I realize a full meal with all the trimmings was only working out around 150cals. Even the chocolate here has about a quarter of what a regular western chocolate bar has.


Japanese vending machineLet me give you a sentence never spoken by a Japanese person. “Gee I could really go for a hot coffee, a packet of cigarets and a fully cooked hot meal, but oh well its 3:30am and all the shops are closed.” You can pretty much get anything you want whenever you want. There are drinks machines on almost every corner (hot and cold drinks). Cigarette machines in cities. Not to mention Seven Eleven and Family Marts are everywhere and open 24/7 and they will cook you hot food if you want. Definitely a city to have jetlag in.


Japanese buildingsThe Japanese are the politest people on planet earth, sorry Canada. So many times have I asked for directions and the people in the store have taken me by the arm and lead me there. I have never been in a country that had people crossing the road to come and help me because I looked a little lost. The first time it happened I was thinking “get away from me” and fumbling around in my pockets to make sure my valuables were still there but, by the fifth time it happened, I realized they actually just want to help me and not rob me. The crime rate as well! It’s so low! If I was to walk down a street in the UK at 3:00am chances are I would be accosted by a gang of youths dressed head to toe in the finest fake Adidas money can buy, and probably not leave that alley in one piece. In Japan, at 3:00am you will just about catch the old ladies and the early birds getting a head start on their day. I live in an apparent “rough area”. When I tell people where I live there immediate reaction is “Omg!” “Are you ok?” “Why do you live there?” “That’s not a nice place!” But honestly, I can’t understand why. No attacks, no theft, no drugs, I can’t even find the slightest bit of graffiti. I sometimes wonder what a Japanese person would think of my home City of Liverpool, or Leeds, or London, or Newport!


Japanese shrineEverything works! If Apple or Honda ever created a country it would be called Japan. Trains run like clockwork, people cross the road when the green man tells them too, there is no smoking in the streets, no eating if you’re walking, you stand on the left side of the escalator and walk on the right (this is reversed if you’re in Kansai). I have yet to have anything break down on me. Not seen a single pothole in the road. In fact, if there are roadworks there will be about nine or ten workers, they will finish the works in half a day and when they are finished they will clean the road and wash the cars that are on the road. There are potholes in the UK that are older than I am! Now with dicks drawn on them! Two people will work on the road maximum! It will take them a week to finish, and when they are finished they will leave half of their stuff! Including the cones, yellow tape, and plastic bollards.

Overall, despite the downsides, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Japan is the cleanest, most organised country I have ever lived in and paints a stark contrast to my previous home in the UK.