Monthly Archives: August 2013

Where to shop in Tokyo? Here are our favourite places

Anyone who loves shopping knows that Tokyo is one of the most renowned shopping cities in the world. It should come as no surprise that Japanese people love style and fashion as designers from around the globe know that Tokyo is a hot spot for their label to be featured. It is here that well-established Japanese shops and famous brand names like Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, and others stand side by side on the various blocks that make up the center of the Ginza shopping area. Tokyo also serves as a hub of artistic ingenuity as art galleries and purely Japanese modern architecture are visible throughout the entire city.


While the history of this region dates back to the Edo period, recent modernization efforts have made Ginza an even more desirable shopping destination with its high end stores, boutiques, and cafes. Exclusive, sophisticated brands and restaurants featuring delicacies from all over the world can be seen throughout the area. Several fashion labels have commissioned their own personal restaurants in Ginza, with locales such as the Gucci Café and the Armani restaurant attracting visitors looking for a gourmet break from a day of shopping. During the weekends, Ginza employs the use of hokosha tengoku, or closed-off pedestrian streets, so that weekend shoppers have a chance to browse many stores of the renowned shopping region without having to worry about traffic congestion.


Harajuku and Omotesando
Harajuku’s high fashion boutiques and branded shops make this area a hot spot for pop culture and new, cutting edge styles. On “Omotesando Hills”, you’ll find about 100 famous-brand shops including “Anniversaire Omotesando” popular for its limited-edition champagne and chocolate, as well as Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior boutiques competing to express their individuality even through their architecture.


Roppongi has both aspects as an office town and an entertainment center that never sleeps. Since there are numerous embassies in the vicinity, many of the shops, bars and restaurants have international flavors and cater to people from other countries. Roppongi Hills, one of Japan’s newest commercial developments, has over 200 shops and restaurants making it a great place to spend the day exploring local Japanese culture.


This is one of the busiest towns in Japan, with its train station reportedly handling the largest number of passengers in the world. Department stores, electrical appliance megastores and huge book stores fan out around the station and are constantly filled with customers. In the underground mall, there are dozens of shops where you might find an unexpected bargain. The “Don Quixote” discount store is located along Yasukuni Dori (Ave.) at the east exit, and to the north of this store is the Kabuki-cho bright lights district, crowded with restaurants, adult entertainment spots, arcades and theaters. On the west exit side are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, super-high-rise buildings and first-class hotels. Enjoy the night view from the free observatory at the top of the Metropolitan Government building or from one of the skyscraper restaurants.


One of Japan’s busiest towns, Shibuya is extremely popular with young people. There are department stores, restaurants and specialty shops; casual fashion shops in particular have a high profile as typified by the “SHIBUYA 109” fashion building. Each street has its own characteristic look; for example, Koen Dori (Ave.) has the “Seibu Department Store” and “Parco”, Bunkamura Dori (Ave.) has the “Tokyu Department Store“, and Spain Zaka (Hill Road) has small clothing boutiques and miscellaneous goods shops. On “Center Gai or Center Street”, the street extending from the station, there is a constant stream of young people strolling past the fast food shops, shoe stores, and accessory and cosmetics shops. Fashion shops recently started opening up on Meiji Dori (Ave.), so you can enjoy window shopping while walking to Harajuku or Omotesando.


Tokyo Bay
This large shopping mall in the heart of Tokyo houses hundreds of stores and entertainment facilities perfect for all types of shoppers. Visitors can spend the day roaming the grounds and discovering new shops, movies, and several gourmet restaurants and cafés. Tokyo Bay is not to be missed for anyone looking for a day of fun for the whole family. For more information, please visit: Department Stores


Categories: Must see, Things to do, Where to shop | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Hot Springs (onsen) of Japan

As a volcanically active country, Japan boasts some of the best natural hot springs in the world. Referred to as “onsen”, these geothermally heated springs are scattered all across the country in both indoor and outdoor facilities. These waters are considered to have restorative properties with natural minerals that are thought to heal aches and pains, ease and prevent illnesses, and generally maintain a healthy body. To contribute to the Japanese appreciation for nature, hot springs are an integral part of maintaining a tranquil, Zen-like equilibrium. Many flock to one of hundreds of hot spring destinations as a peaceful getaway, to cleanse the body and soul, and to simply relax.

Dogo Onsen, Ehime
As one of the oldest and most famous noted spas in Japan, visitors enjoy relaxing in this Ehime Prefecture onsen, which is said to have opened 3,000 years ago. Visit for more information


Hakone Seventeen Spas, Kanagawa
Situated in the southwestern part of the Kanagawa Prefecture and easily accessible from Tokyo, Hakone’s active volcanoes have given birth to some of Japan’s best hot springs. Said to contain 20 different natural qualities, Hakone is a top destination for anyone looking for peace and tranquility.
For more information, visit


Yufuin, Oita
Over 3 million annual visitors flock to Yufuin in the Oita Prefecture to experience its secluded, relaxing environments. As a spa town, Yufuin is highly attractive for tourists looking to immerse themselves in serene natural landscapes and pure natural waters. View images and find out more about Yufuin here:


Nyuto Onsen, Akita
Nyuto, located in the Akita Prefecture, is known for its seven rustic yet luxurious ryokan that surround the beautiful and exclusive hot springs. The onsen’s milky, cloudy waters serve as a wonderful cleansing and relaxing experience, especially during the wintertime when visitors may indulge in an outdoor hot spring surrounded by beautiful white snow. More information about Nyuto can be found here:


Ibusuki, Kagoshima
Located on Kyushu Island, Ibusuki is a beautiful resort known for its hot sand bath. Visitors clad in kimono are covered up to their neck with warm, geothermally heated sand, which is widely believed to stimulate blood circulation while providing a unique, relaxing atmosphere. Learn more about the Ibusuki area here:


Jigokudani, Nagano
In the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park lies Jigokudani, or “Hell’s Valley”, named for its boiling water that bubbles out of the frozen ground. The real reason to visit Jigokudani, however, is for its large population of Japanese Macaques, or snow monkeys. The monkeys descend upon the park during the winter months to bathe in the onsen to warm up before retreating back to the forest at night. Learn more about the Jigokudani hot springs here:


Categories: Daytrips, Must see, Things to do | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some of Japan’s most exquisite ryokans

The Japanese have always celebrated the subtle minimalism present in their architecture for centuries. However, no type of Japanese building accentuates this more than the ryokan, or traditional inn. Ambassadors, celebrities, and tourists alike have flocked towards the ryokan in favor of a busy hotel for its seclusion, impeccable service, and zealous attention to detail. The revitalized notion of luxury inherent in all ryokan emphasizes experience and peace of mind over more traditional opulent proclivities like wealth, status and power. In essence, those who seek to maintain a peaceful mental equilibrium will undoubtedly appreciate the power of the ryokan.


Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto
Located in the heart of the Gion District in Kyoto, Gion Hatanaka is a secluded and peaceful ryokan that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature. An attentive staff on hand offers first class hospitality as you indulge in local hot springs, geisha tea ceremonies, and a luxurious kaiseki dinner.



Gorakadan, Kanagawa
This epitome of lavishness in the Kanagawa Prefecture accentuates the formal luxurious elements found in all ryokan, with the addition of a full service spa where visitors have the opportunity to pamper themselves with all the traditional extravagances that Japan has to offer. Travel outside of Gora Kadan to experience several other hot springs and see why Hakone has been nicknamed “The City of Seventeen Spas”.


Tawaraya, Kyoto
Renowned for its painstaking attention to detail in hospitality, design, food preparation, and service, Tawaraya is a three-centuries-old inn that is arguably the finest in Japan, if not the world. With only 18 rooms, Tawaraya requires booking long in advance to avoid capacity, although those who have experienced the ryokan have claimed that they are treated as if they are the only guests in the entire building. From the staff adorned in seasonally appropriate kimonos to the scrupulous slicing of sashimi, Tawaraya is one of those places everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.


Ibusuki Hakusuikan, Kagoshima
The spa at Ibusuki City in the Kagoshima Prefecture is a favorite among many travelers. Aside from its rustic yet luxurious accommodations, Ibusuki’s sand bath is what keeps visitors coming back. While burying yourself in hot sand may seem peculiar to some, the Japanese believe that increasing blood circulation through the heat and weight of the hot sand increases health and vitality.



Hoshinoya is a picturesque ryokan hidden away in Arashiyama in Kyoto. Blending the ancient traditions of the ryokan with modern elegance and amenities, Hoshinoya offers first class hospitality, activities, and beyond, becoming a choice locale for anyone looking for the true meaning of Japanese luxury.



Myojinkan, Nagano
Located in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Myojinkan is a lovely ryokan with a friendly staff and a wide range of amenities. Rooms with private gardens and onsen are available, and many say that the food served is among the best out of many ryokan.



Kayotei, Ishikawa
Guest rooms at Kayotei, located in Ishikawa, are arranged in the traditional tea ceremony pavilion style. With two indoor communal baths, this hot spring ryokan offers visitors spectacular views of forest sceneries.

Categories: Daytrips, Where to stay | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Masked Hero to the Rescue at a Tokyo Subway Station


Tokyo's super subway hero

Tokyo‘s super subway hero

In a green outfit with silver trim and matching mask, a superhero waits by the stairs of a Tokyo subway station, lending his strength to the elderly, passengers lugging heavy packages and mothers with baby strollers.

Japanese people find it hard to accept help, they feel obligated to the other person, so the mask really helps me out,” said Tadahiro Kanemasu.

The slender 27-year-old has spent three months being a good Samaritan at the station on Tokyo’s western side. Like many in the city, it has neither elevators nor escalators and a long flight of dimly lit stairs.

Inspiration came from the children he met at his job at an organic grocery store, which also prompted the color of his costume. He picked up the green Power Rangers suit and two spares at a discount store for $41 each.

Since Kanemasu can set aside only a couple of hours each day for his good deeds, he hopes to recruit others in different colored suits. Already he has inquiries about pink and red.


Categories: For kids, Must see, News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese; a dying race? Japan’s population faces largest yearly decline since records kept

Japan’s downward demographic spiral has recorded its largest ever yearly decline since the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications started taking population statistics in 1968.

The number of Japanese citizens based on the resident registration system, which differentiates the ministry survey from other national population statistics, fell to 126,393,679 as of the end of March, down 266,004 from a year earlier, the ministry said Aug. 28.

It was the fourth consecutive year of decline.

Steep decline in the Japanese population since recorded history

Steep decline in the Japanese population since recorded history

By age bracket, the working age population, aged between 15 and 64, fell below the 80-million mark for the first time to 78.95 million, which accounted for a record low 62.47 percent of the total population. The working age population has been shrinking steadily since the ministry began tracking that particular demographic in 1994.

Those aged 65 or older accounted for 24.4 percent of the total–a record high.

The number of births in fiscal 2012, which ended in March, was 1,029,433, down 20,120 from a year earlier and the smallest ever. The same period saw 1,255,551 deaths, down 574 from the previous fiscal year but still the second largest since the ministry added those statistics to its survey in 1979.

In 2013, each elderly person was supported, on average, by 2.56 working-age individuals, a sharp fall from 3.56 in 2003.

These figures are testimony that the current trend in falling birthrates, aging population and depopulation is becoming more and more precipitous. The new data is likely to revitalize and bolster discussion on the growing burden of social security expenses and on the difficulties of securing the nation’s work force.

Households are also continuing to become smaller. The average number of individuals per household fell to a record low of 2.32, down 0.02 from a year earlier, whereas the total number of households grew to 54,594,744, the largest ever.

By prefecture, population gains were only recorded in eight of the nation’s 47 jurisdictions: Tokyo, Okinawa, Aichi, Miyagi, Saitama, Fukuoka, Kanagawa and Shiga, most of them urbanized compared with the rest of the country.

The depopulation rate exceeded 1 percent in three prefectures: Akita (1.23 percent), Aomori (1.07 percent) and Fukushima (1.04 percent).


Categories: News about Japan, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to the future: take a 500 kph ride on the new Maglev Shinkansen (bullet train)

Now you will never have an excuse to be late ever again! Not yet travelling by the speed of light, but we’re getting there!

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has begun test runs of a magnetically levitated train that can reach speeds of up to 500 kph with an eye toward commercial operations beginning in 2027.

The test runs got under way on Aug. 29 on an extended Yamanashi Maglev Test Line over a distance of 42.8 kilometers using the latest prototype L0 train cars.

The test runs will initially involve five linked L0 cars and reach speeds of 500 kph.

The Yamanashi Maglev Test Line was extended from its previous length of 18.4 kilometers. The longer test line will allow JR Tokai to conduct test runs at 500 kph using a long link of train cars, as well as through long tunnels.

To prepare for actual train operations, the company will also assess the environmental impact on the ground and examine ways to reduce maintenance costs. When put into commercial operation, the maglev train will run on the yet-to-be-constructed Chuo Shinkansen Line, which would link Tokyo and Osaka.

An additional nine train cars will be constructed by fiscal 2015, with eventual test runs involving up to 12 train cars that would extend to a total length of 299 meters.

Among the participants at a ceremony on Aug. 29 to mark the start of the test runs were Yoshiyuki Kasai, JR Tokai chairman, Akihiro Ota, the transport minister, and Yamanashi Governor Shomei Yokouchi.

“We want to export technology completed in Japan to the United States so that it becomes the international standard,” Kasai said during a speech at the ceremony.

Ota said: “This provides pride and hope as a technology power, and it will also be important in dealing with natural disasters. We want to provide support for the realization of this technology.”

Ota and others also took a speedy ride as part of a test run.

“I experienced the ride at 505 kph,” Ota told reporters. “My body felt the sense of speed, but it was not at all uncomfortable and conversation was possible as usual. There was not much vibrating.”

Research started on the “linear motor” propulsion floating system in 1962. Cumulative test runs have exceeded 800,000 kilometers.

A preparatory environmental impact report will be released this autumn as part of plans to begin construction on the Chuo Shinkansen Line in fiscal 2014.

JR Tokai is planning to begin operations between Tokyo’s Shinagawa and Nagoya in 2027. It has plans to eventually extend the line to Shin-Osaka by 2045.

Plans call for linking Shinagawa and Nagoya in 40 minutes and Shinagawa and Shin-Osaka in 67 minutes.




Categories: Japanese technology, Must see, News about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t feel like driving? Just take this self-driving car from Nissan out for a spin

Nissan Motor Co., which grabbed a global lead in electric car sales with its Leaf hatchback, wants to do the same thing with self-driving vehicle technology and plans to offer such models by 2020.

“We will be able to bring multiple, affordable fully autonomous vehicles to the market by 2020,” Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president, told reporters Tuesday at a briefing in Irvine, Calif.

Such systems mean “frustrating and unproductive commutes could become a thing of the past,” he said.

Just as the Yokohama-based carmaker set a goal of becoming the world’s biggest seller of battery-powered autos, Nissan wants to be a leader in the move to make cars safer by adding electronic systems capable of preventing accidents and injuries. The systems also can reduce traffic jams by rerouting vehicles, which helps curb emissions of carbon dioxide.

Nissan has sold more than 75,000 Leaf electric vehicles worldwide since late 2010. Including alliance partner Renault SA of France, they have delivered about 100,000 electric cars.

The company showed off self-driving Leaf models at a former U.S. military base in Irvine on Tuesday with the robotic cars ferrying passengers in simulated urban driving conditions.

Technology underpinning autonomous autos, including adaptive cruise control, electronic steering and throttle controls, is already available, and added sensors and road-monitoring capabilities are being refined, Palmer said.

“The technology to create self-driving cars is already here,” said Karl Brauer, senior industry analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “As sci-fi as it sounds, self-driving cars that don’t ever crash, reduce traffic congestion and make valet attendants obsolete are coming.”

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, is developing its system in-house, though it is willing to work with companies, including Google Inc., which has been promoting driverless car systems in recent years.


“I don’t preclude the possibility of working with Google, or anyone else for that matter,” Palmer, who leads vehicle development, told reporters.

Nissan has contacts with Google on various matters, he said, without elaborating.

A difference in approach between Nissan and Google is that Nissan’s system does not need to be linked to an Internet-based data system, said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, the company’s executive vice president for research and development.

“We don’t count on infrastructure so much. All the technology is in the cars,” Yamashita said Tuesday. “We are trying to get to crash-free, fatality-free vehicles.”

Nissan’s North American operations are based in Franklin, Tenn., near Nashville.


Over 2 mil. cars in Americas

Nissan Motor Co., pushing to make more vehicles at plants in the Americas, said it will have the ability to build more than 2 million autos annually in the region by early next year.

The carmaker is spending more than $5 billion to expand capacity in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, the company said Monday in a statement. Expansion in the United States will help Nissan almost double exports from plants in Tennessee and Mississippi, the company said in a separate release.

Nissan began a push to build up production capacity in North America following Japan’s earthquake and tsunami that caused some supplier disruptions, and after the yen surged to a record high against the dollar, making imports to the United States less profitable. The automaker has not pulled back on the expansion even as the yen has weakened in the past year.


Categories: Japanese technology, Must see, News about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things to do in Tokyo with kids: Himonya Dobutsu Hiroba

Himonya Dobutsu Hiroba is a great little place for families with young ‘uns. Aimed at children below junior high school age, the kids get the chance to bother guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs and even ponies. The latter come with a nominal price tag (150 yen per ride), but the others are subject to a real live free-for-all. Renting a rowing boat on the nearby lake is so cheap it’s almost free, too, costing a mere 100 yen per 30 minutes for a boat.



Himonya Park, Himonya 6-9-31, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Transport Gakugeidaigaku Station (Tokyu Toyoko line)

Telephone 03 3714 1548

Open 10am-11.30am, 1.30pm-3pm

Admission Free


Categories: For kids, Must see, Things to do | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What to read: Autobiography of a geisha by Sayo Masuda

Autobiography of a Geisha (芸者,苦闘の半生涯 Geisha, kutō no hanshōgai literally Geisha, Half a Lifetime of Pain and Struggle), is a book by Sayo Masuda (ますだ • さよ Masuda Sayo,kanji 増田 小夜). It was first published in Japan in 1957, and the English translation by G. G. Rowley was published in 2003. Masuda wrote her autobiography between the years of 1956 and 1957 in response to a magazine ad for a non-fiction women’s writing competition. She had never learned to read more than hiragana, and wrote her entire book in it. Her editors carefully worked to convert her work into the standard kanji while preserving the feeling of her original writing.

Early life

As a child Masuda lived as a nurse-maid in a large farming household near Shiojiri, where she got little to eat, no education, poor sleeping quarters, and was frequently punished. She initially spent most of her time looking after the owners’ young children, but after being caught taking extra melons from the field to feed herself she was forced to do manual labor. During these years other children gave her the derisive nickname “Crane”, as in the winter she was never allowed to wear socks and would lift one leg up and warm her foot on the thigh of the other leg. This nickname was used even when she started as a novice geisha, and Masuda did not learn her own real name until she was hospitalized at the age of 12 and the doctors called her Ms. Masuda.

Life as a geisha

When Masuda was twelve, her mother needed money to pay for her husband’s medical treatment. Her uncle retrieved her from the landowners and sold her to an okiya (geisha house) called Takenoya in Suwa. There, due to her illiteracy and the geisha gave her another nickname, “Low”, which was short for low intelligence, and she was frequently made fun of for her dark, sunburned skin, as a pale complexion was highly valued among geisha. However, Elder Sister Karuta, the second oldest geisha in the okiya, worked with Masuda to help her through her training, starting a lifelong friendship between the two. Soon after Masuda’s arrival, one of the other geisha in the okiya, Takemi, died of peritonitis caused by gonorrhea, and her refusal to seek medical treatment in the hopes of hastening her death greatly influenced Masuda’s perception of living as hell and dying as paradise. Takemi’s death also caused Karuta to drink very heavily, leading to confrontations with the head of the okiya. During one such confrontation, Masuda intervened on Karuta’s behalf; for this, she was thrown down the stairs and her right leg was broken. It was this injury which landed her in the hospital, where she learned her real name.

While Masuda was still recovering the hospital, she and Karuta decided to commit suicide together by throwing themselves in front of a train; however, after Karuta had carried Masuda out on her back to the tracks, they backed out right before it hit them. Karuta stumbled as she fell off the tracks, landing on on Masuda’s broken leg, and the next day an infection set in. It took several days to heal, nearly requiring amputation and ultimately leaving her with a large scar that she was self-conscious of for the rest of her life. Masuda’s real mother came to visit her, but only stayed for four days, leaving Masuda alone in the hospital again. She eventually recovered and returned to the okiya, where she debuted as an apprentice. As she got closer to becoming a full-fledged geisha, her work became increasingly sexual in nature, and she began to get connected with a danna, or patron.

Upon debuting, Masuda underwent mizuage with a man nicknamed Cockeye. After her first time, she was sold four more times under the pretense of having never undergone it, as this made a huge profit for the okiya since many men wanted to be the partner for a geisha’s mizuage. A year later, Cockeye bought out her contract as a geisha and she went to live with him and his mistress. Masuda despised Cockeye, so she convinced him to let her get a job at a factory. There, she caught the eye of a man named Motoyama and they quickly fell in love; however, she was unable to keep their relationship from Cockeye and had to stop seeing Motoyama. Upon receiving a letter stating that he was leaving, that same night she again attempted suicide by trying to drown herself; however, she was pulled out by someone who happened to be fishing nearby.

Seeking a living

After Masuda was released from the hospital, she ran from Cockeye, eventually having to return to Shiojiri to look for family. She managed to locate her aunt and one of her younger brothers. She convinced her aunt to get her a job at the sawmill she worked at, but quickly decided to find a job that could pay better, so she decided to go to Chiba to find Karuta. When she realized she needed to get money for the train fare, the only person she could get it from was Hii, who made her dance naked in return. When she arrived in Chiba, the house she and Karuta were staying in was destroyed in a firebomb raid, She worked several jobs until she was able to get a job at a restaurant. While she was there, she received two marriage proposals, and the second, from the son of the restaurant’s owner, caused Masuda to leave the restaurant, because although she was only 21 at the time she already had a long history as a geisha and felt that she could not risk ruining his reputation by marrying him.

She and her brother joined a group of people foraging for food in the countryside to resell in the city, and there she met a Korean man who gave her another job selling soap. She did this for two and a half years, when in the summer of 1952 her brother contracted intestinal tuberculosis and was hospitalized. His penicillin shots were 600 yen each, and Masuda soon realized that the only way to make enough money for them was to start prostituting. Although she kept her prostitution hidden from her brother, he felt he was placing an undue burden on her and committed suicide. She decided to bury him next to their father, so she decided to return to Shiojiri.

When Masuda returned, she caught a cold and was bedridden with a high fever. Her old lover, Motoyama, had returned to nearby Suwa and was a city councilor; when he heard that she had returned, he sought her out and found her a place to live. Despite the fact that Motoyama had married and had a child, they began regularly seeing each other. Around this time Masuda decided to learn how to read hiragana, and kept a diary of their encounters. However, when elections for city council came near, at the urging of Motoyama’s wife Masuda decided to leave him to improve his chances of being reelected.

She moved to Toyoshina, where Karuta had opened a restaurant, but her longing for Motoyama caused her to start uncontrollably drinking. She became bloated and jaundiced, but continued to drink even after her doctor warned her she would soon die of liver failure if she continued. Despite the urgings of her doctor and Karuta, Masuda decided that she would attempt suicide a third time, and after visiting her brother’s grave, she tried to freeze herself to death, and had almost succeeded when an elderly man found her and rescued her. He convinced her to make one more attempt at having a good living, and she returned to Toyoshina.


Upon returning to Toyoshina, Masuda got a job as a waitress, and discovered her love for children. She frequently told stories to groups of children in town. Paradoxically, she also played numerous tricks on people around town, trying to humble geisha or anyone she saw holding their status over others. Eventually, she heard that farmers in the area were desperate for people to work the rice fields, and over their protestations she decided to go to work there. When the rice was planted, she was asked by a family to look after their children, where her autobiography ends

In the English version of the book, G. G. Rowley wrote an afterword detailing her attempts to meet Masuda in person. Masuda almost exclusively communicated through her publishers, and at the time of the English translation’s publication in 2003 they had declined Rowley’s request, saying that Masuda wished to keep as low a profile as possible. However, in 2004 Masuda made a personal request for Rowley to visit her in Nagano, making Rowley one of the only people who she agreed to meet with, and afterwards they remained in touch for the rest of Masuda’s life.


Later life

After being a caretaker for several years, Masuda was able to open her own restaurant, and ran it for several decades. She and Karuta, who herself opened and ran a restaurant until three years before her death, remained friends. However, Karuta, who had fought to save Masuda from alcoholism, herself became an alcoholic, and her death in the mid-1990s was a huge blow to Masuda. On June 8th, 2008, Masuda found out she had liver cancer, and she died a few weeks later on June 26th, 2008.


Throughout her autobiography, Masuda continually projects the idea that parents should be responsible for their children and should not bear children they are not prepared to support. When she found an abandoned six month old baby, she felt the desire to quickly kill it so it would not have to suffer either a slow death or the ignominy of growing up without parents. Though Masuda never got married and never had children, caring for the children of others was always her favorite way to spend her time.

She also vehemently argued against the prohibition of prostitution in Japan. She stated that although no one became a prostitute to enjoy it, it was merely human instinct to find a way to make a living when no other venues were open. Although she agreed it was probably well intentioned, she also stated that she could not have possibly survived if she hadn’t prostituted herself. Furthermore, she argued that simply banning prostitution would not stop people from engaging in it, as people who felt the need to engage in it would inevitably find ways to work around it.


Although Masuda finished second in the writing competition, after writing Autobiography of a Geisha she was harshly criticized by her community, and eventually had to move to another town.Largely because of this, she almost always communicated with people through her publisher, emphasizing that her goal was only to tell her story and never to become famous, and refused to meet with most people interested in discussing her book. Upon its translation into English, the book received positive reviews from Liza Dalby and Arthur Golden as well as several book reviewers.

Despite several academic reviews, the book has been strangely ignored in many publications about geisha. In her autobiography Geisha, a Life (also known as Geisha of Gion), published in 2002, Mineko Iwasaki claims to be the first geisha to come forward to tell her story. Many scholars echo this claim despite the fact that Masuda’s work was published 45 years before Iwasaki’s.


Categories: Japanese customs, Must read, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things to do this week in Tokyo August 29th-September 1st

Angel Project: Hatsune Appearance

Until Thu Aug 29, 2013 Belle Salle Akihabara
Everyone’s favourite humanoid musician, Hatsune Miku, will be showing her cartoon face at this dedicated summer festival, held one year on from her Hakkeijima concert. Head to Akihabara to hear her synthesized warblings, as the lady herself (or at least her hologram projection) performs live.


Open Aug 21-29

Time Mon-Fri noon, 2.30pm, 5pm, 7.30pm; Sat-Sun 10.30am, 1pm, 3.30pm, 6pm, 8.30pm

Casts ¥4,410

Venue Belle Salle Akihabara

Address B1F-2F Sumitomo Fudosan Akihabara Bldg, 3-12-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Transport Akihabara Station (Keihin-Tohoku, Yamanote, Chuo-Sobu, Hibiya lines)


Asahi Beer Oktoberfest in Hibiya 2013

Thu Aug 29 – Sun Sep 1, 2013 Hibiya Park
Sure, we’ve managed to extract some mild amusement from the spate of Oktoberfests that have cropped up around Tokyo over the summer – but if they showed scant regard for seasonality, at least they had the decency to serve the right beer. With the real Oktoberfest starting in Munich in a few weeks’ time, Tokyoites can mark the occasion with foaming pints of that most prized Teutonic tipple, Asahi Super Dry. Er… what? In a grudging concession to authenticity, Löwenbräu – which Asahi produces under license in Japan – will also be sold, and there’ll be the requisite yodeling and oompah music. But really: who, other than the thousands of sloshed office workers who’ll doubtless head to the event, are they trying to kid?


Open August 29-September 1

Time 11.30am-10pm

Admission Free

Venue Hibiya Park

Address 1-6 Hibiya Koen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Transport Hibiya Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi/Chiyoda Lines, Kasumigaseki Station; Toei Subway Hibiya Line)


Marcel Fengler: Fokus Release Party

Fri Aug 30, 2013 Air
Marcel Fengler, resident DJ at Berlin’s famed club Berghain, will be making his Air debut tonight to mark the release of his first album, Fokus. Expect perfectly blended techno beats, with support from DJs Gonno and So.


Open Aug 30

Time Doors 10pm

Admission ¥3,000

Telephone 03 5784 3386

Venue Air

Address Hikawa Bldg B1F-B2F, 2-11 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Daikanyama station (Tokyu Toyoko line).



Fri Aug 30, 2013 Liquidroom
Akiko Yano has continued to bring Yanokami’s synthesized tunes to loyal fans in memory of bandmate Rei Harakami, who passed away in 2011. This indoor festival will feature live music from Yanokami, plus special guests U-zhaan, Yoshinori Sunahara, Illreme, and Maki Morishita.


Open Aug 30

Time Doors 6pm

Admission ¥4,000

Venue Liquidroom

Address 3-16-6 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ebisu station (Yamanote, Hibiya lines), west exit.


Asakusa Samba Carnival 2013

Sat Aug 31, 2013 Central Asakusa
Teams of elaborately attired dancers flood the streets of Asakusa for Japan’s largest samba carnival, shaking their tail feathers to the Brazilian beat as they work their way from Sensoji Temple to Tawaramachi Station. First held in 1981 in an attempt to revitalise the neighbourhood, the carnival is now one of Tokyo’s more popular summer events, drawing half a million spectators. Seeing that this is the first time in a while that it hasn’t clashed with rival dance festivals like the Koenji Awaodori and Super Yosakoi, you can expect an even fuller turnout than usual in 2013.


Open August 31

Time 1.30pm-6pm

Venue Central Asakusa


Kitsuné Club Night

Sat Aug 31, 2013 AgeHa
Electro, house and indie rock combine when this touring club night makes its Tokyo stop at Ageha. The globetrotting lineup will feature Kitsuné founder Gildas, French decksmith DJ Falcon, Brit trio Is Tropical and New York band HeartsRevolution, so one of them’s bound to get you dancing.


Open Aug 31

Time Doors 11pm

Admission ¥3,500 adv, ¥3,500 on the door

Telephone 03 5534 2525

Venue AgeHa

Address 2-2-10 Shinkiba, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shinkiba station (Rinkai, Yurakucho lines).


Fujiko F Fujio Anniversary Exhibition

Until Sun Sep 1, 2013 Kitte
An exhibition to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the birth of celebrated manga artist Fujiko F Fujio (the pseudonym of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one half of the duo Fujiko Fujio). His works include the likes of ‘Doraemon’ – Japan’s favourite earless feline – and ‘Perman’, among others. Characters, quotes and drawings will be on display for fans to enjoy.


Open Aug 12-Sep 1

Time 6pm-8pm

Venue Kitte

Address 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Transport Tokyo Station (Yamanote, Chuo, Marunouchi, Sobu lines), Nijubashi Station (Chiyoda line)


Bacardi Midpark Cafe (2013)

Until Sun Sep 1, 2013 Tokyo Midtown
If beer gardens aren’t your thing, head to the lawns outside Tokyo Midtown to sip mojitos instead, at this summer-only outdoor cafe sponsored by Bacardi. There’s seating for 150 people, and a menu of drinks including frozen mojitos and Japan originals that change every week – plus a selection of food to soak up all that alcohol.


Open July 19-September 1

Time Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm (Aug 12-16 from 3pm), Sat, Sun & hols 3pm-10pm

Venue Tokyo Midtown

Address 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Roppongi Station (Oedo line), exit 8/(Hibiya Line), exit 8 via underground passageway near exit 4a; Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda line), exit 3



Categories: Must see, Things to do | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at