Japanese advertising: the need to google

When advertising in Japan, don’t worry about the website, worry about gooogle

Japanese has a non-latin based writing system which is unique, even though there are borrowed elements within. This did not pose a problem originally but this changed with the computer age.

Most websites use a Latin based Web address to search (exploringlanguages.org is a brilliant example) rather than a Arabic, Japanese, cyralic or other root based language. One reason for this is the adaptability the Latin based system, as it can spell out the phonics of other language systems.

This has effected Japanese in a particular way. While English language learning is heavily emphasised at schools here, not everyone understands the need; either globally or within Japan. This has left many people without the ability to read non-Japanese scripts–which brings us back google.

As any polygot knows, you can Google in other languages, without exception. Therefore what often happens in Japan is that advertisers don’t include their website address (due to the Latin based system ) but they instead include the information one is to Google to get to the website.

While it is a strange system, its the Japanese way and not likely to change any time soon.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Kintetsu limited express trains

The first class experience without the usual first class cost

There is also an additional treat coming next year, the debut of a new limited express train but what’s all the type about?

If you are travelling from Nagoya to Osaka, there are several options for you to choose from. There is the classic choice- the shinkansen on the JR line. While it is an experience I recommend doing at least once, there is a rarer choice (at least for visitors to Japan) the Kintetsu line.

The Kintetsu railway is a more local service that services trains in the Tokai region specifically everywhere from Nagoya, Osaka and Mie-prefecture to Nara, Kyoto with further destinations as well.

On this service there are local trains (sometimes ワンマン電車 or one-man trains) that stop at every station, express trains that skip smaller stop, semi-express that skips further and finally the crème de la crème the limited express. Limited express trains can skip up to 20 stations in between trips and it is mostly used for trips and foe getting to place in style.

As highlighted in the photo above, there is a base train fare that everyone pays- 2360 JPY (going from Nagoya to Osaka) and an additional limited express fair which is 1900 JPY which is normally 4260 JPY one way. Furthermore, there is the Ise-liner ( a different model of limited express trains) that offers seats for an additional 300 JPY, the luxury car.

The question remains, why do so many people take limited express trains if there is an additional cost when Japanese trains are so fast anyways?

One reason is convenience. The Kintetsu line from Ise-Nakagawa (one of the main connection/ transfer points) is skipped completely on longer distance trains from Nagoya. Additionally, trains to Kyoto usually require a transfer in Yamato-Yagi (another connection hub) which is again skipped.

Furthermore, all limited express trains have reserved seating (which you must follow) so you have a granted comfortable seat that will take you to your destination at a quicker pace than the express trains.

Finally, there are the ammonites. All limited express trains have outlets to charge your laptop or mobile device, all have toilets (western style), places to wash your hands, vending machines and for the smokers a place to smoke all while watching the world rush past some beautiful landscapes.

While I spend my life on trains and I enjoy catching all types of trains, the limited express is a special treat that always feels like the start of an adventure- I can’t ride it everyday but I’ll always enjoy riding them when I can.

There is one last temptation offered, Kintetsu railways usually offer discounts if purchased online with the added benefit of collection points to use in the future and even get free rides. But there is a dark side to point collection, more to come on this later.

I hope you enjoyed reading and happy exploring.

For more information or booking, please check out the site below (not sponsored)

https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/about/limited_express/

Consumption tax increase

Panic panic beer will be more expensive

If you are in Japan, you cannot escape the news of the consumer tax increase and I hate to say it but it’s nothing to worry about.

Countdown to the tax increase

The tax is increasing from 8% to 10% but not everything will increase. Daily necessities will stay at 8% and so will food to go. On the increase is sit-in meals, alcohol, tobacco, taxis etc.

Notification of tax increase on the Iga-tetsu line

Firstly advice, if an extra 2% is something that you are worried about, complete all transactions at restaurants, train stations, qwith taxi companies by 23:59:59 on September 30th because at 00:00:00 October 1st the tax rate goes into effect–or see the dual tax rate on your reciet at a convince store.

Now in reality, it’s nothing to worry about, it may affect your budget at fist but the changed will soon go unnoticed.

Personally, I think there is more worry about than a slight tax increase.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Review: Vie de France

A little bit of a treat, at a good price

Like any good coffee addict, I need my coffee to pretend I can act like a normal human. Luckily, Vie de France has by back.

Vie de France is the quintessential Japanese French bakery- that is to say a cherry-picked French cuisine for the Japanese market. They offer a good range of baked goods, all of which are delicious, and I have yet to find a bad product.

But, I have yet to see traditional French bread here- despite its name. But it does have one advantage, they’re always by a train station so there’s always time for a treat on the go.

The bread in the picture is a cheese and apple filled bun- which is my favourite thing to get and very sweet (it goes very well with pure black coffee)- please ignore the milk coffee- DEFINITELY not mine.

If you have the time, or just need your fix, please check it out.

As always, happy exploring and enjoy that coffee.

Typhoon 101

What to do when there’s a typhoon coming your way

So you have just found out that there is a typhoon heading your way while in Japan. What do you do? Panic? Scream? Wait…why is no-one else around you panicking?

IF you are in Japan for either the rugby world cup or the Olympics, welcome to a very diverse and beautiful country. This is a what if guild, so if here, please note.

Firstly advice, it’s mostly likely nothing to worry about- I’m happy to say that the monstrous devistation you see in movies is usually played up- that’s not to say they can’t happen the same way. You need to be prepared.

Firstly, what type of typhoon is it? On the Japanese meteorological agency website (in English) there are the following categories for typhoons:

  • TY: Typhoon
  • STS: Severe Tropical Storm
  • TS: Tropical Storm
  • TD: Tropical Depression
  • LOW: Extra-tropical Low

My advice is be careful about anything over TS, the others are more than likely not to be cause for concern (they can become stronger).

Additionally, have you ever heard of “PPPPPPP”? It means:

Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performace

There’s a disaster coming so what have you done about it? Do you know where the local refuge areas are? Have you prepaired anything in case it becomes a level 5 emergency? No, well let’s make a start.

The where- Refuge areas

There are different types to be aware of. The most basic is a temporary evacuation site- which is often organised by the local community. It is a good place to meet up for ‘smaller’ disasters in order to assess the situation.

Open evacuation sites are designated places by the ward or city that people will go to if the temporary one is either dangerous or inaccessible. There is often help available here and they are either in Tsumani or earthquake resistant buildings- expect to be here for around a day.

Finally, evacuation shelters- this is for the longer stay. This is used if a persons’ home is unsafe or non-existent.

Please note, in coastal areas there are more specialised Tsunami evacuation areas, please take note of what disaster is heading your way (if for some reason you do not know).

One last thing on the where, mate sure you know where the where is or in other words where is your nearest refuge area and how far do you have to travel on foot/ bike. There is no carparking at emergency facilities and there is a possibility that the roads would be unusable anyways.

The what- belongings

I would recommend preparing a bug out bag and keep it in a safe place. Inside should be 3 days of emergency food and water (think calorie mate for food) and at least 6 l of water per person (which is a lot I know). Additionally, there should be a change of clothes, toiletries , important papers (passport and residence card), a flash light, batteries, a wind up radio, mobile/cell phone charger, a knife, and money at a minimum!

More could be packed (and should be if you have a real need for it) but remember space at a shelter is at a premium and you may have to run while carrying everything you need.

The time- what to do when leaving

So, all the warning signs have proven true- DO NOT PANIC. What to do when leaving?

  • Collect emergency info from JMA/ TV/ radio to see what has been recommended (caution, standby, evacuation etc)

If leaving, please note the following

  • Turn off all gas
  • Protect yourself from falling objects internally and externally
  • Keep away from large objects that may fall on top of you.
  • Gather everyone one in one place with the bug-out bag
  • calmly go to the refuge centre (if needed)

If evacuation has not been recommended

  • fill the bathtub with water
  • have an emergency light source to had
  • keep everyone safe
  • prepare in case of evacuation

The type of warning

Finally, the type of wanrning. You may have noticed that I refer to warnings in English and not Japanese, alas in Japanese it is sightly different. But at the base level, there are: advisory, warnings, and emergency warnings. If there is an emergency warning, there will be a broadcast over the emergency warning system, updates on that ward/cities website declaring an emeergency and usually warning messages sent out by text.

No matter the level, be cautious- they are NOT sent out for the fun of it.

No matter what, please be safe and happy exploring.

For further reading, please check out the JMA website in English at:

https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Global views on being eco-friendly

A quick summary of some countries positions on being green

At a macro level, what importance do different countries and cultures put on being eco-friendly and what does the media in those countries report on this topic?

As there are visible changes to global weather patterns, increased plastic waste (or at least increased visibility) and a visible consequence of human actions on the wider environment, the question as to how much do different countries care about the environment must be asked.

I know the introduction sounds very report like and official; but the main focus of this article is to get you to ask the question which is simply: does my country care? What is my country doing? and perhaps mostly importantly, do I care?

Let’s start with the powerhouse of Energiewende- Germany. Germany is one of the more advanced countries in trying to be eco-friendly. They are getting rid of nuclear power and placing more emphasis on being green. They have signed the 2015 climate pack and are committed to reduce their CO2 emissions. So very forward facing.

However, one third ofbtheir power is still reliant on coal and there is still a preference for fast cars (they do have the Autobahns). But the umweltwelle is affecting this as well, with promises by 2030 that there’ll be over 10 million electric cars on the roads (Spiegel Online).

Now for a culture and country change- the USA. In recent times, the USA has had image of not caring for the environment and being almost environmentally callous. One reason for this could be cultural. In the USA, bigger is always better- bigger cars, homes, availability of technology etc, but each process does generate CO2– and when so many Americans also follow this policy, it creates problems.

But we must also consider the actions of the government as to a culture’s stance on the environment. For America, under the current administration, the environment is no longer a priority. The EPA has been scaled back and there is more emphasis on economic growth, while not a bad thing, it comes at the cost of the environment- which will cost a lot more to alleviate later. Also, every international policy that the USA was a part of, is now seen to be a burden to industry and is to be scrapped.

It seems as if the dollar, not the environment is king in America and as the saying goes “In God we trust, all others must pay”, but what will be the final price?

While there are more countries, and more cultures to explore, it is important to highlight the two extremes in the western world- the country riding the wave and the country trying to ignore the problem. Finally, the country where I reside: Japan.

There is a certain meticulous way of soring rubbish/trash in Japan which differs from city to city and is always complex and mistakes are commonly made. According to the council for PET bottle recycling (I wonder is there is any bias here???), in 2014, about 94% of PET bottles were recycled. But the Japanese relationship with plastic is slight ridiculous.

When buying a bento (弁当), there is usually a small piece of plastic grass contained within for decoration in addition to the plastic box, the plastic seal, and the plastic bag that it comes with. Multiply this across many other items in Japan and you can understand why it  was highlighted at the G20, various international media sources and on daytime TV in Japan. Even with this attention, it has been (mostly) ignored by the Japanese.

Looking at the 3 countries, Germany is winning the eco race, Japan is half way, and the US comes last. Looking at all of this, if scientists are wrong and we do nothing, all we have done is reduce go global pollution and help many endangered species survive. But if scientists are correct and things continue the way they have been going, at the very least many people will die either due to extreme weather patterns, low lying countries being flooded, and food becoming a scarce resource. So perhaps doing you part (even just a little bit) will make a difference.

I will write more on being ecologically friendly in other countries in the future- it is vital to explore this as the effects will affect everyone.

Thank you for reading and please consider what I have written. As always, happy exploring.

Want to do something? Don’t know where to start?  please check out the link below to sign a petition

http://chng.it/HCyMWMvQ7X

Japanese Halloween

Happy Halloween…wait what?

It is always amazing to see the different culture another country adapts. For the UK, like Japan, we adopted Halloween but at the same time, the US template was not Japanese enough.

Interest in Halloween in Japan has exploded in recent years and so has the commercial aspect! What many people use to experience was nothing. No costumes, no cosplaying, no decoration, nothing. But that has changed.

There are more people dressing up, more people trick or treating and more hype surrounding this once purely American holiday.

Please note, I said more people ‘rick or treating’ but not many more. One important part of Japanese culture is 迷惑をかける (めいわけをかける   or annoying/ being a bother to others) and it is that feeling that will stop most.

But times are changing (as I hear the older generations complaining at the gym), and what once was taboo, may not be much more- more about that to come.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Opinion: milk bags are fine but yoghurt bags….

When shopping takes a weird turn

When going to a supermarket, you generally know every product in a store and where it’s located. In addition to this, you know the best day and times to buy the products. For me, I have this down to an art.

But occasionally, out of nowhere a weird product comes your way. Introducing the yoghurt bag….

I will say that I did not buy it- the eagle eyed among you would have already seen the price 797 JPY (or 7 USD for 800 g) which is day light robbery.

In addition to this, its in a bag- if dropped the resulting explosion would mean I don’t have to repaint my walls. With this, I personally had 2 problems: a. I travel by bike (trying to beep this in one piece wouldn’t have been fun) and b. I know the Japanese are not keen on reducing plastic waste but having additional plastic to strengthen the product seems like over kill.

Perhaps this is commonplace, and I simply need to get out more.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.  

Ninja 101

What’s in a name?

Ninja have not always been known as ninjas- it has differed due to time and place. But first what makes up the name Ninja?

Ninja or 忍者 is the on-yomi or Chinese reading of two kanji- 忍 meaning to hide, steal, endure, self-restraint and 者 meaning person or practiser. The name dates back to the 6th century with the kun-yomi 志能便-the original kanji for Shinobi, another name for a ninja written today using the following kanji: 忍び. But Shinobi was a shorting of the phrase 忍びの者, which when is reduced to the kanji reads 忍者 or Ninja.

But what about place (are you ready for the Japanese?) The following table lists all the different places that have either used a different name or have used the same names but with different kanji

京都・奈良  水破(すっぱ)・ 伺見(うかみ)・ 奪口(だっこう)・ 志乃比(しのび)
Kyoto/Nara Suppa, Ukami, Dakkou, shinobi
青森県   早道の者(はやみちのもの)・ 陰術(しのび)
Aomori Prefecture Hayamichinomono, Shinobi
宮城県   黒はばき(くろはばき)
Miyagi Prefecture Kurohabaki
神奈川県   草(くさ)・ かまり 物見(ものみ)・ 乱破(らっぱ)・ 突破(とっぱ)
Kanagawa Prefecture Kusa, Kamari, Monomi, Rappa, Toppa
東京   隠密(おんみつ)・ 御庭番(おにわばん)・ お庭番(おにわばん)
Tokyo Onmitsu, Oniwaban, Oniwaban
山梨県   透破(すっぱ)・透波(すっぱ)・三ツ者・出抜(すっぱ)
Yamanashi Prefecture Suppa, Suppa, Mitsumono, Suppa
愛知県   饗談 (きょうだん)
Aichi Prefecture Kyoudan
福井県   隠忍術(しのび)
Fukui Prefecture Shinobi
新潟県・富山県   軒猿(のきぎる)・郷導(きょうどう)・郷談(きょうだん)・間士(かんし)・聞物役(ききものやく)
Niigata Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture Nokigiru, Kyoudou, Kyoudan, Kanshi, Kikimonoyaku

In addition to this, different names appeared at different times and changed at different times. From the Asuka period (飛鳥時代) where Shinobi and Shyoutokutaishi (聖徳太子 the list above was not exhaustive), to the Nara Period (奈良時代) where Ukami was predominately used, to the Sengoku period where most other ones were used and finally to Edo period- the twilight of the ninja- where Oniwaban was introduced.

So, what’s in a name, as it turns out rather a lot. Each of the reading given (and there are further ones!) could be analysed, but not everyone would be interested in that so I’ll stop here.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The plague of Japan: Tobacco

The old cool pastime is an outdated one- everywhere but Japan?

As an ex-smoker, I do struggle with my old daemon- tobacco. I have parted ways, no longer stay in contact and yet it still bugs me.

My fight had been made easier with most train stations on the Kintetsu lines and the Iga-tetsudo lines now being smoke free but there is but one place that does still haunt me- convenience stores.

In Japan, tobacco is sold out in the open- with even special offers and prices at times- showing you just how cheap it is- the cheapest one being just 350 JPY ( around 3 USD)- which never mind being cheap for Japan, it is cheap full stop. Even with the UN tobacco recommendations, Japan still mostly ignores them.

There are smoking areas inside restaurants (separated from non-smoking areas), smoking areas in train cars, in the street, outside convenience stores, outside clinics and hospitals and inside so many businesses- it hard to escape them and it is still socially acceptable but nor as much as drinking (to be looked into later).

However, there have been more laws brought in especially in Tokyo in the run up to the Olympics next year to become more anti-smoking, but this seems to be confined to places a tourist may see.

So, for those who are anti-smoking or have given up, be vigilant- Japan seems like a smoker’s paradise and is still tempting for those who have quit. For smokers, please respect Japan and be aware of other’s opinions.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring


Smoking in Japan

I do not condone smoking, but if you visit and would like to smoke please note the following:

  • You may only smoke in designated areas or face a fine
  • Not all convenience stores have smoking ash trays
  • Some major cities- Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya etc have districts where smoking is prohibited. If you want to smoke, you need to either exit the district or find an indoor one.
  • There are smoking rooms on limited express trains and on the Shinkansen- all other trains are non-smoking.
  • A pocket ashtray is not a free licence to smoke
  • most tourist places including moutains are completely smoke free
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