Spaced out!

When on tour, I often get questioned about my apartment and the housing condition in Japan. ‘Capsule hotels‘ and ‘Manga Cafés‘ have led westerners to believe that the Japanese live in shoe boxes. While it is true that, on the same income, Japanese workers settle for less space than their fellow westerners, decent living standards is still affordable. With this in mind, if you ever invite your Japanese friends over, please make them feel at home:

Like most Japanese, my wife and I went through a local real estate agency to seek for help on our quest for a love nest. At first, odd features endemic to Japanese houses lead me astray. For example, tatami mats are now seldom found in modern buildings; yet they are still commonly used as unit of measurement. So how big is a 3×6 tatami mats apartment? Hard to say when the size of a mat depends on the region you live in!

Mister Tanaka wears a tokyo-size 2 tatami mat tie.

Eventually, finding a place you enjoy living in is no different over here: it’s a very, very tedious task. Already accustomed to the country’s overall taste for efficiency, I was shocked when I realised how incompetent brokers are in Japan. The fundamental part of their job is to draw the floor plans but even this seems to be arduous work. There even is a book compiling all those plans made by staff half asleep from agencies around the country: ‘hen na madori‘.

Crazy floor plan

Central Tokyo. Charming studio with entrance in the loo and no access to the room.

Snack Bars Uncovered

Imagine a windowless 20 storey tower block packed with pubs the size of your living room all dimly lit and all open for business every night of the week until the early hours.  Imagine your favourite pub with your own personal cheery barmaid who is keen to engage in flirtatious small talk over a shared drink at the end of a long day at work.  A pub that doesn’t have a menu or a pricelist but has unlimited peanuts, crisps and individually wrapped chocolates on the bar and hot towels whenever you return from the toilet.  A pub with with a long list of karaoke classics with barmaids that encourage you to informally sing at the bar  ….  welcome to the underground world of Japanese snack bars. Continue reading

Draught Beer on ANA Japan Flights!

I know, I know; you are thinking about taking that trip to Japan, but are not quite 100% convinced it is the place for you. Sure there is the best sushi on the planet, the safest and cleanest travel environment on earth, some of the best sights to be seen anywhere, both ancient and modern, but there is just something missing…one last piece of the jigsaw I can’t quite put my finger on…

Something to go with those in-flight peanuts...

Draught beer on flights to Japan you say? That’s it; where do I sign?!

http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2010/07/15/2010-07-15_japans_ana_becomes_first_airline_to_offer_draft_beer_inflight.html

Kyoto Café Culture

Continue reading

Japan’s Beer Gardens

Wimbledon, World Cup, British Grand Prix…summer must finally be here. But in Japan they have another sign; the arrival of the rooftop beer ‘gardens’. The inverted commas reflect the fact that these so called gardens often consist of 90% concrete, 5% plastic tables, 4% all-you-drink beer and perhaps 1% greenery.

Kampai!

Despite the decidedly urban nature of these gardens, they certainly tick the box for a relaxing way to wind down after work and start you out on the road to not making it into work on time the next morning. Drinks choices are simple – beer. Food is a little more complex; generally a choice of grilled meat, edamame soy beans and perhaps a bowl of wasabi peanuts or the ever-popular kaki-pea (peanut and rice cracker combo). With food and drink in hand all that is left to do is to sit back, wipe the sweat from your hardworking (?) brow and enjoy the view – generally of other tall buildings and a few neon signs. But whatever you do, get there soon. No sooner do the beer gardens open up, they close down again, usually infuriatingly well before the end of summer, leaving you with no rooftop refreshment for another 11 months. Ah, the changing of the seasons

"Ah, sukkiri!"

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