Posts Tagged With: Akihabara

Tokyo trend: Ear-cleaning parlors

When the Japanese government allowed ear cleaning salons to operate unlicensed, a new business model took off.

Having your ears thoroughly cleaned while relaxing on the lap of a beautiful Japanese lady can easily be achieved if you don't mind coughing up the cash.

Having your ears thoroughly cleaned while relaxing on the lap of a beautiful Japanese lady can easily be achieved if you don’t mind coughing up the cash.

The ancient Egyptians, who brought us paper, locks, clocks and eye makeup, were also ahead of the curve in earwax removal, creating concoctions that included Cypress tree oil, pig fat, cat blood or male bat’s head.

Several millennia later, Japan has made another evolutionary leap in ear care.

Five years ago, when the Japanese government announced that ear cleaning would no longer be considered a medical procedure, thus making medical licenses unnecessary for ear cleaners, a new type of business sprung up in Tokyo and other big cities: ear-cleaning parlors, which now number in the hundreds.

So why have Japanese been flocking to the new ear-cleaning businesses?

massage, relax Asia, Yamamoto Mimikaki-ten in Akihabara, Tokyo.

Comfortable enough to fall asleep

“They go to relax,” says Yoshimi Sasaki, manager of the Akihabara branch of Yamamoto Mimikaki-ten, one of the biggest ear-care chains.

Yamamoto Mimikaki-ten opened in 2006 and now boasts nine locations around Tokyo.

“It’s so relaxing that three out of four clients, who are mostly men, fall asleep during the session,” says Sasaki. “Because of all the stress people have and lack of real-world communication due to the Internet, they want to make a connection with someone and experience healing.”

The basic service at Yamamoto Mimikaki-ten lasts 30 minutes and costs ¥2,700 (about US$32). The customer is first introduced to a kimono-clad young woman who serves him tea and makes small talk.

She then places his head on her lap and covers his face with a handkerchief.

Using a “mimikaki,” an ear pick made of bamboo, metal or plastic with a small scoop at the end, she gently and lovingly scrapes excess wax out of his ears, as well as massaging them and then tapping the shoulders, followed by more tea.

massage, relax Asia, Ear massage at Yamamoto Mimikaki-ten in Akihabara, Tokyo.

The necessity of earwax

It takes one week of training to acquire proper ear-cleaning skills.

Sasaki explains that it’s important to learn the principles of optimal ear care, such as removing just the right amount of wax, which is vital to ear health.

“The ear canal has got fantastic protections,” according toAndrew Sceats, a British ear care expert and author of “Ear Candling & Other Treatments for Ear, Nose and Throat Problems.

“One of (these protections) is earwax, which we need because it is protective against things falling in, it lubricates the ear canal, and it’s also antibacterial and antiviral,” Sceats adds.

If all the wax is removed, Sceats explains, the brain is alerted and the body is immediately instructed to produce more.

“But if someone has a filthy ear, with excessive earwax or pieces of debris in it, it can reduce hearing and lead to infections,” Sceats says.

Though most Japanese ear-cleaning parlors cater more to men who may long for the maternal tenderness of their childhood, female-oriented salons have been appearing.

massage, relax Asia, JJapanese ear picks

Launching an ear-cleaning business

Working as a barber for more than 40 years, Hikaru Takahashi would usually end cuts by cleaning out and massaging her customers’ ears.

Some regulars, however, opted to skip the cut altogether, wanting only the ear treatment.

Five years ago, Takahashi decided to make ear cleaning the main attraction of her business, calling it “ear este.” Since then, Takahashi, who is also the head of the  Japan Ear Esthetique Association, has been promoting her brand through lectures, the media, a memoir and two shops.

In 2009, she introduced ear este at her Tokyo beauty salon, Beatific. Though geared toward women, 40 percent of the salon’s customers are men.

Takahashi has also opened two ear este schools: one teaches women how to care for their loved one’s ears, and another trains professional ear aestheticians with an 80-hour course, followed by a 10-day practicum.
massage, relax Asia, Ear cleaning at Beatific, in Tokyo.


Ear fortune telling

Beatific spokesperson Mami Takahashi explains that ear este not only reduces stress but can also enhance beauty and overall health.

“The ear has about 400 acupressure points, the most on the body,” she says. “By pushing these points, which correspond to different areas around the body, we can cure problems such as constipation, make the skin more clear and beautiful, and even help people lose weight.”

Beatific’s basic ear este service takes 70 minutes and costs ¥8,400 (about US$100). It begins with an ear wash, followed by massage of the ears, neck and shoulders. Then comes a meticulous ear cleaning, followed by more massage.

Other services include additional massage, facial, shave and “ear fortune telling,” in which, by looking at an ear’s unique characteristics, Takahashi claims to be able to divine a person’s past and personality in order to advise them about the future.


massage, relax Asia, Assorted mimikaki, or “ear picks,” custom designed by Beatific, in Tokyo.

A duty of Japanese housewives

Some Japanese are lucky enough to have their own in-house ear cleaner: among a Japanese mother’s many duties, keeping her children’s and husband’s ears clean is common.

Some unmarried women perform the task for their beaus, a few of whom may even return the favor.

Those seeking a professional, yet low-budget solution to the earwax dilemma often visit a local “jibika,” or ear, nose and throat doctor.

One I visited in Osaka told me 10 percent of his patients come for this procedure, which can take from five to 10 minutes.

The doctor placed a tiny camera in my ear and projected the image onto a monitor. He pointed out my eardrum as if he were a tour guide of some miniature world.

The left ear was clean, but the right one ear had a chunk of wax that he deftly plucked out with tweezers as I watched, amazed.

He told me I ought to abandon my primitive earwax removal device — the Q-tip. Though standard in the West, he said it actually pushes things deeper into the ear canal.

This may explain why Sceats, the ear expert, who has peered into thousands of ears, says that Asians are generally better at ear care than Westerners.

“The healthiest ears I’ve ever seen have belonged to Asian ladies,” Sceats says, “because they have this tradition of looking after their ears.”




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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



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Things to do: Go to Akihabara and enjoy some maid cafe madness. Here is my top 5

Maid cafés may seem like a fad from 2006 but they’re here to stay. We present you with a guide to the maid experience.

Maid cafés have become so embedded in Japanese media and fetish culture that it is hard to imagine a Tokyo without them. There are now about 217 maid cafes in Japan, but the good news is that increased competition is making them much, much crazier. (For those needing background, there’s more on the history of maid cafes here)

Here is a guide to the best maid cafes in Akihabara — to help you pick just the right place for your maid-ly needs.

Cure Maid Café: First maid café ever

Service offerings: The keyword here is “iyashi” — or “to be soothed.” Cure Maid offers the quintessential Victorian maid fantasy, though not in the sexualized sense of the anime and games featuring these characters. There is abundant greenery, classical music and respectfully distant maid service. The food is decent, and less conventional services may be offered during the café’s regular anime promotions.

Downside: Because maids do not break decorum and engage their masters in conversation, casual visitors might be a little bored.

Cure Maid Café: Gee Store 6F, Soto-Kanda 3-15-5, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3258 3161,

Schatz Kiste: ‘Akihabara Culture Café’

Service offerings: A place to relax, sharpen hobby skills and meet people with similar tastes. Otaku pay for time slots to build models, draw manga and generally geek out. Even the maids are in on it, and their homemade crafts decorate the bookshelves. Try some of the girls’ culinary creations, too.

Downside: With only 30 seats and dedicated regulars, it is not uncommon to be turned away.

Akihabara Culture Café Schatz Kiste: Hasegawa Building 1F, Soto-Kanda 6-5-11, Chiyoda-ku, tel. unlisted,

@home café: Moe maid heaven

Service offerings: The insanely friendly and cute maids are masters in conversation. They also chant “moe moe kyun” over your drinks to make them taste better. Certain foods, most famously the omelet rice, include the maid writing on your food with ketchup, as cute little addition.

Pictures and games are on the entertainment menu for just ¥500 a pop. The maids sing and dance too, and CDs and merchandise are available.

Downside: The line can be two hours or more on evenings and weekends. Inside, time is limited to an hour and the seating charge starts at ¥500. Being as saccharine sweet and kinetic as it is, some customers might leave with a headache.

@home café: Mitsuwa Building 4F-7F, Soto-Kanda 1-11-4, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 5846 1616,

Cos-cha: Back to school

Service offerings: Cos-cha is famous for its costumes, including variants such as “school swimsuit” day. Spoon-feeding service starting at ¥500, and for ¥2,500, customers can play a game where they have to drink a vile concoction the maid mixes. Those who fail at this task get a slap in the face in front of the room.

Downside: There is a table charge for everyone if anyone at a table orders alcohol. The menu is a bit pricey, and the crowd can get a little rambunctious at night.

Café & Kitchen Cos-cha: Soto-Kanda 3-7-12-2F, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3253 4560,

Nagomi: The ‘little sister’ café

Service offerings: The girls dress in frilly outfits and call you “big brother.” Depending on their mood, they can be kind and sweet or rude and bossy, or both — an icy-hot routine called “tsundere.” Sometimes they bully you for an hour and then cry when you leave. Score some conversation time with tabletop games for ¥500.

Downside: The old location has limited seating and smells sort of stale and smoky, but the new location on Chuo Dori is touristy.

Pash Café Nagomi: Zenitani 2F, Soto-Kanda 1-8-4, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 5256 8001,

Additional spots

Most foreign friendly: Popopure, which has several non-Japanese, English-speaking maids on site. Dub your own souvenir anime DVD with a maid for ¥1,500. (2F, Soto-Kanda 1-8-10, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3252 8599,

Weirdest service: Royal Milk offers “Soul Care” — 90 minutes of one-on-one talk with a maid for ¥9,000. This is more expensive than a private English lesson. (Nikka Sekiyuu Building, Soto-Kanda 3-10-12, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 3253 7858,

Strangest concept: St. Grace’s Court is a nun café where the staff offer miniature food for men dining with dolls and pray for the souls of all their guests. (Chiyoda K1 Building 1F-B1F, Kanda Sudacho 2-19-33, Chiyoda-ku, 03 5298 5947,

For the ladies: Queen Dolce, a “danso” café where girls dress up like beautiful boys and strut their stuff. They are better men than any man ever could be. (Akibako Tower 3F, Soto-Kanda 3-15-6, Chiyoda-ku. tel. 03 3252 2031,

Most overrated: Pinafore, which appeared in the Fuji TV primetime drama “Densha Otoko” in 2005 and put Akihabara maid cafés on the popular radar. They don’t actually offer the services seen on TV, and the place smells like cat urine. (Yamanaka Building 1F, Kanda Sakumacho 1-19, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 5295 0123,

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Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Written by Brian Ashcraft

Westerners often say Japanese TV is “odd.” It’s not, really—even less so once you understand what people are actually saying. That doesn’t mean that peculiar or unexpected things don’t sometimes happen.

The Japanese word “hapuningu” (ハプニング) uses the English loan word “happening” to refer to unexpected events. It could be the TV producers who don’t foresee these moments or it could even be the audience being surprised by the broadcast.

For example, the above TV news image shows a computerized rendering of a “cosplaying thief” who was decked out in a black mask, a woman’s bathing suit, and fishnet tights at the time of his arrest.

Allow me an aside: I would say that one of the big differences between Japanese television and, let’s say, American television is the sheer number of cooking shows or segments with people either going to restaurants or eating food. This has its roots in the country’s love of eating and could even be related to how, in the years during and after World War II, it knew what it’s like not to have food.

Okay, back on topic. Here’s a look back at some of the more interesting, amusing, and unforeseen televised moments from over the years. These unexpected scenes are not unique to Japan and occur wherever there are televisions and humans, but many of these have even turned into memes, earning their place in the Japanese internet Hall of Fame.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Just a sumo wrestler checkin’ the computer. Nothing else to see here. Move along.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Just don’t look behind you. M’kay?

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Are you an otaku? “No, I’m not an otaku.”

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

We’re looking for this man. He’s about 30 years old, around 180cm tall, and has underwear on his face.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

The ice cream was delicious, she said.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“This was certainly different from what we had predicted,” said the man who oversaw the earthquake test.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“When you go to daycare, what do you want to do?” “Poop.”

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“They’re selling lots of things people don’t need,” filmmaker Michael Moore said in Tokyo’s geek district, Akihabara.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

The sun icons spell out “エロ” (“ero”), which means “erotic” or “erotism” in Japanese. (I’m not entirely convinced this was broadcasted, but it’s become an iconic meme image in Japan.)

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

How to avoid urinal sensor detection. Good to know.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“You mean, seven times eight isn’t thirty-two?”

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“My father.” (The drawing reads “Papa and Mama.”)

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“Merry Christmas.” (In Japan, Christmas is a big “date night.”)

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

NHK news, folks.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun


Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“Which one is Puu-san*?”

*The above text reads “Puu-san” (プーさん), and “Winnie the Pooh” is called “Puu-san” in Japanese.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Be on the lookout for this criminal.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV FunSEXPAND

A mankini sure can cause havoc at the beach! The cop said, “Because he is covering himself, I can’t really call this a crime.”

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

And you thought chopsticks were just for eating. Ha! They’re also a well-known comedy prop in Japan.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Here’s a segment from a comedy show that often tests celebrities’ English. Four, five, sex, huh?

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

NHK is one harsh mistress.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Pokemon voice actress and popstar Shoko Nakagawa is wearing a bean-shaped hat. Apparently.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

FujiTV, it seems, could not find a better picture of 34 year-old suspect Naoko Nagashima.

Unexpected Chaos Makes Japanese TV Fun

“The end.”

Photos: 笑ちゃんの日々と愉快な仲間達 Dokiyo NewsZozoSnack画像モラトリアムLivedoor,Ruliwebログチャンネル今日もUnkarゴリナの檻EntaNHKTokNostalgicHakubun

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Things to do: Get your make-up done like a cute Japanese girl @ Gal Café 10sion in Shibuya

You’ve probably heard of costumed coffee shops like Maid cafés, which can predominantly be found in Akihabara. These unique establishments frequently feature wait staff dressed as French maids. Gal cafés, however, are something different. I’ve heard about one in Shibuya  and aparently it’s been an extraordinary experience, immersing yourself into this very special Japanese sub-culture called Gal.


Gal (also gyaru in Japanese) refers to young Japanese girls, who are very fashion-conscious, famous for their dyed hair, excessively decorated long nails and edgy make-up to create those extremely big anime-like eyes. It’s a very exaggerated girly style, often understood as a sign of wanting to be different, of breaking away from traditional Japanese standards. You can often see these girls strolling around Shibuya, especially on the Center Gai Street, which starts right opposite of Shibuya station.

If you are interested in Japanese sub-culture or if you just would like to know more about Gal, Gal Café 10sion is a great place to go. As the name says, it’s a café, a very relaxed place where you can hang out with your friends and meet some Gal in person.

There are 7 active Gal working in this café, all being extremely nice and friendly. If you like you are taught some makeup techniques and you can hear about their fashion trends, their idols etc. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for fashion is incredible and talking to the girls working at this cafe is really an experience on its own.


The inside of the café is pretty small and cozy, maybe 20 seats or so. Using keigo (honorific Japanese language) is banned here, so again, it’s a very casual atmosphere. Gal even use their own unique vocabulary and it’s called Gal-go (Gal language). However, even if you don’t speak any Japanese, there’s no problem at all. One of the Gal speaks English very well and the others are all very sociable, so that the language doesn’t really matter. They usually use their own Gal language anyway, which other Japanese people can hardly understand.

A true highlight of this café is the “Gal’s eye makeup experience” (3,500 yen including artificial eyelashes). Naturally it’s a service for women only. It is really fun to give it a try.  One of the Gal will do your makeup, using her own special technique, and wow, your eyes will look twice as big as before; you will virtually change into a Gal before your eyes!

Some other services include taking pictures with Gal (1,000 yen) or playing games. There is for example a game called shinken-shirahadori: a Gal brings a sword down towards the guest’s head and the guest has to try to catch it between their palms. If you catch it, you will get a free drink.

By the way, this place is not exclusively for women. Men can certainly enjoy the café, too, although they have to pay an extra fee of 1,000 yen per hour. I understood this is to keep them from staying too long. Anyway, visiting this café is a truly unique experience and lets you take a closer look at one of the real and active sub-cultures in Tokyo.


13-9 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0042

Homepage: (in Japanese)

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Things to do in Tokyo: The best places to do purikura

In another blog posting I wrote about the phenomenon of purikura. A photobooth where you can have your picture taken and decorate them with lots of fun stamps and texts. Also at some purikura places they offer free clothes rental so you can dress as an anime character or like a maid and some places even offer curling irons so you can make sure your hair looks perfect for your photo shoot!

Here I will tell you what the best places are to do purikura.

Purikura no Mecca

After doing a bit of research I stumbled upon Purikura Mecca (プリクラのメッカ) Game Las Vegas on Shibuya’s well-known Center-gai street. Mind you, I have not yet been here myself, but the reviews I read were pretty good so I would definitely recommend it. This unassuming arcade has only one activity on the docket: purikura. Purikura is the shortened form of purintokurabu or Print Club and they are the tackiest, flashiest photo booths to exist on planet Earth. Popular among schoolgirls and young twentysomethings, these photo sticker machines launch the classic black and white strip pictures to a completely different level. Girls love these photo booths because they create the ideal image of feminine cuteness and beauty with the touch of a pen. There are many varieties of purikura booths, with more elaborate and technologically advanced versions emerging every year. The first machines emerged in 1995 and have since evolved to machines with the power to ensure maximum beauty in your images. The booths are equipped with digital cameras, typically Canon, and high-capacity flash lamps to illuminate the entire mini photo studio in a wash of perfectly balanced white light.

Gather your willing friends and head for Game Las Vegas. Note that some purikura centers do not allow men to visit on their own and women must accompany them. This rule is in place to ensure the safety of the young demographic using the machines. With your all-female or mixed gender group assembled, walk out of Shibuya Station’s Hachiko Exit; walk across the famous scramble crossing and up Center-gai and the arcade will be on the left side of the street. Purikura is an activity suited for any time of day and fortunately this arcade is open until midnight. The more popular machines featured in magazines will surely have a gaggle of girls waiting in line to take their turn. The machine you use doesn’t really matter, they all outfitted with similar programs to create the same beautifying effects.

Now insert your money and get ready for the fun to begin. The machines are usually just 400 yen per use. First you will have the option to click on which type of complexion filter for your photos. Each machine will have different options, so just pick whichever filter you think looks best. Remember to choose quickly, each step of the process only lasts about ten seconds so the decisions have to be quick. You will then have the choice of which backgrounds and frames to select for your photos. Click around on the screen and pick the ones that suit your group.

After posing it out in your photo shoot, everyone moves to the other side of the booth where you will then decorate the pictures on the monitor using the two stylus pens. Decorating elements include stickers, colorful writing and of course, more cosmetic enhancement. Some machines serve as beauty laboratories with the ability to create the illusion of longer eyelashes, lankier legs, slimmer faces, bigger eyes or colored hair. The options seem endless. Once everyone is satisfied with their editing or if time is up, select how the pictures should be arranged and separated among the group. After that, everything is finished; just wait a few minutes for the sticker sheets to print. While waiting, some machines have mini games or options to send the images digitally to your cell phone by simply inputting your Japanese cell phone email address.

Purikura are a staple in Japanese cute culture and are here to stay. Spare a couple hundred yen and visit an arcade with friends. The frantic picking and choosing of decorative options is really addicting and the resulting pictures are so saccharine sweet; it’s easy to see why this is a popular pastime among young women.


The address is:Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 1-23-10


Another great place to go to for purikura is in Akihabara. This place I did actually go to. We dressed up in cute cosplay outfits before we had our picture taken in one of the many booths.

Club Sega
Club Sega is not actually solely dedicated to Purikura. The building has 6 floors and you can also play lots of arcade games or try to catch a stuffed toy in one of the many crane machines, but of course we were only interested in the purikura.

CLUB SEGA: Akihabara

Nearest Station Akihabara
Address 1-10-9 Soto-kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Telephone 03-5256-8123
Home Page (In Japanese)
Business Hours 10:00am-1:00am


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Itasha; “Japanese painful cars”, fast and the furious, eat your heart out!

Itasha (痛車), literally “painful car”, is a Japanese term for an otaku fad of individuals decorating the bodies of their cars with fictional characters of animemanga, or video games (especiallybishōjo game or eroge). These characters are predominately “cute” female. The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. Automobiles are called itasha, while similar motorcyclesand bicycles are called itansha (痛単車) and itachari (痛チャリ), respectively.

The cars are seen prominently in places such as Akihibara (Tokyo), Nipponbashi (Osaka), or Ōsu (Nagoya).

In 1980s, when Japan was at the zenith of its economic might, Tokyo’s streets were a parade of luxury import cars. Among them, the “itasha”—originally Japanese slang meaning an imported Italian car—was the most desired. However, in 1990s, the term “itai” was adopted to describe intense, cultish otaku associated with serial killer Miyazaki Tsutomu. Since then, itasha (as the decorated vehicle) was derived from combining the Japanese words for itai (痛い, painful) and sha (, vehicle). Itai here means “painful”, which can be interpreted as “painfully embarrassing” or “painful for the wallet” due to the high costs involved. The name is also a pun for Italian cars (イタリア車 Itaria-sha), truncated in Japanese slang as Itasha (イタ車).

The decoration was started in 1980s with character plushies and stickers, but only became a phenomenon in the 21st century, when otaku culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earliest known report of the decoration vehicle in convention began in 2005-08, in Comic Market 68.


In 2007, the first Autosalone (あうとさろーね Autosarōne), an itasha oriented convention, was held in Ariake, near the site of Comiket.

Involvement in motorsports

Nowadays, the involvement of itasha in real motorsport events has been one of the unique features in Japan’s motorsport industry. Race cars in itasha decals can be seen from regional club event to international-level races (including events under FIA). Participant are also not bounded by privateers amateurs. Many professional teams, or even manufacturer-backed teams would not mind to turn their race cars into itashas: This not only act as a alternative of sponsorship decals (if the character or design is provided by the sponsor), it is widely considered as one of the many ways of expanding their team’s fanbase or promoting the event they participating.

Similar involvement of itashas can be seen in motorcycle or even open-wheeler events.

International movement

Similarly decorated vehicles have been found in Taiwan, Philippines, (whose designs also influenced designs placed on jeepneys), Malaysia, and the United States.

Vehicles owned by character rights owner

ACID Co., Ltd. (âge games developer)’s executive director Hirohiko Yoshida was reported to own Muv-Luv-themed Lamborghini GallardoLancia StratosBMW M5. The cars were unveiled in 2008 âge×Nitro+ in Akibahara UDX Gallery.

An official Macross Frontier–themed Suzuki Wagon R was unveiled in Macross Galaxy Tour Final. It was later redesigned for the Macross Super-Dimensional Space Launch Ceremony.

Categories: history of Japan, Japanese customs, Japanese technology, Stories about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six great rainy day deals in and around Tokyo

Summer in Japan also means plenty of rainy days, as humidity levels are at their highest across the country. Thankfully, it’s not all bad news on rainy days, and as long as you’re willing to take an umbrella with you when you go out, you can score some great deals in the Tokyo area.

1. Koichian (Matsuya Asakusa department store, Taito Ward, Hanakwado 1-4-1)

Rain or shine, you’ve got to eat, right? Well the sushi goes half-price on rainy days at take-out counter Koichian’s branch in the basement of the Matsuya department store in Asakusa. Whether you want to use these savings to treat a friend or simply order twice as much for yourself is, of course, up to you. The Asakusa Matsuya is also within strolling distance of Sensoji, Tokyo’s liveliest Buddhist temple which is approached by paved walkways that are easy traverse on a rainy day.

Bar Del Sole: Akasaka

2. Del Sole (Akasaka 3-19-10, Minato Ward)

Head to the Del Sole café in Akasaka, which offers free refills on selected drinks on rainy days. Even better, they also offer free refills of their award-winning gelato, just the thing to cool down with during a sticky Tokyo summer squall. Lucky diners might even get a 50% discount to their bill by winning one of the games of bingo the staff organizes when it rains.

3. Narita Yume Ranch (Chiba Prefecture, Narita City, Nagi 730, open 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.)

While a visit to a farm on a rainy day might seem like a strange choice, Yume Ranch sweetens the deal by discounting their tickets by the same amount as the chance of rain, meaning that tickets are half-off even if there’s only a 50% probability of showers. Aside from barnyard animals and flower fields, for an additional fee, Yume Ranch also offers indoor classes in making ice cream, butter, bread, jam, and even sausages. Admission is 1,200 yen for visitors junior high school-age and up, 700 yen for children over three.


4. Akihabara Parking Garages

UDX Parking (Soto Kanda 4-14-1)
Akihabara Dai Building Parking (Soto Kanda 1-18-13)
Fuji Soft Building (Kanda Neribecho 3)

Until July 31, these three parking garages in Akihabara, Tokyo’s anime and video game shopping mecca, are offering 50% discounts if you pull in while it’s raining outside. You also have to show their ad featured in the free local guide pamphlet Radio Kaikan #9, which can conveniently be obtained inside the garage, as well as at hundreds of stores in Akihabara. As a bonus, parking in Akihabara means you stand a good chance of spotting a couple of “itasha”—cars decked out by hardcore anime fans with decals and graphics of their favorite characters.

5. Pizzeria 1830 Nogizaka (Akasaka 9-6-28, Minato Ward)

If you’ve worked up an appetite, it might be worth heading to Akasaka for dinner at Pizzeria 1830 Nogizaka. From Monday to Thursday of each week, the restaurant offers pizzas at half-price for the first 20 diners to order one on rainy nights.

6. Landmark Tower (Minato Mirai 2-2-1, Nishi Ward, Yokohama)

And finally, if you’re looking for a romantic place to end the day, there’s the 69th floor observatory in Yokohama’s Landmark Tower. Located just a block away from the bay, on rainy weekdays regular adult admission of 1,000 yen is discounted to 700 yen and includes a drink.

While rain might obscure your view of the city’s unique skyline, the observatory’s 273-meter-high altitude puts you right inside the clouds, making for an otherworldly atmosphere. And of course, wet weather also means fewer noisy kids running around, so you and your sweetheart can snuggle to your hearts’ content.

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Where to shop: musashi koyama shoutengai; a slice of the real Japan


Musashi koyama shoutengai: domestic shopping as far as the eye can see!

Musashi koyama shoutengai: domestic shopping as far as the eye can see!


When most visitors imagine shopping in Tokyo, they think of classy department stores with well-turned-out women pointing white gloves in the right direction. Other popular images include the massed ranks of electronic goods at Akihabara, or perhaps the trendy boutiques for the young or young-at-heart in places like Shibuya and Omotesando.

For those actually living in Tokyo though, shopping is a much more practical activity; the criteria for a good location to shop being that you can get most things you need at a reasonable price. That’s why traditional shopping streets, or “shoutengai” as they are known, are an important feature of Tokyo life. These shotengai, often located near stations, tend to mix the old with the new, and you often find family-run stores next to modern fast-food restaurants or pachinko parlors.

Two stations from Meguro on the Tokyo-Meguro Line, Musashi Koyama has one of the most interesting shotengai in Tokyo. The 1km long street was opened in 1956, when it was known as the biggest in the Far East, and it still has plenty of stores left over from that time. Turn left as you leave the station and you’re already at the entrance to this vast glass-roofed arcade. There are open-fronted shops strategically placed at the entrance serving Chinese dumplings (gyoza), fried octopus balls (takoyaki) and skewered chicken (yakitori).The latter also doubles as a standing bar and pulls in shop-weary customers of all ages on weekends and leads into the maze of small side streets, filled with tiny bars and restaurants, that exist by the side of the shotengai – the limited size of these establishments guaranteeing that, should you enter, you are bound to end up talking to someone.

Inside the bustling shotengai proper, there are fruit stores, ¥100-shops, sushi-restaurants, pharmacies, pachinko parlors, cafes, as well as shops selling Japanese cakes and vegetables, books, kimono, green tea… the list is endless. Interestingly though, the further you walk away from Musashi Koyama station, the cheaper the goods on offer seem to be. The greengrocers at the end of the shotengai is the place of choice for the older ladies, who know a good deal when they see it, and ¥100-for a bunch of bananas in Tokyo is a pretty good deal.

Elsewhere, places like “Book Off”, a chain, second-hand CD, DVD, manga store is worth a browse, as is the bizarre “Hollywood Mirror,” a novelty goods shop where you can buy souvenirs that will confirm to your friends back home that Tokyo is just as wacky as they thought. More practically, the Shinryudo clothes outlet has T-shirts, shirts, sweaters etc at prices you wouldn’t hear mentioned at department stores, and if you hang around till 8pm, the Chiyoda Sushi store starts to slap big discounts on its take-out sushi.

If you do find yourself loitering there till evening, you could do worse than slipping into one of the side streets mentioned earlier, which seem to come alive at night when the red lanterns of the izakaya traditional Japanese bar-cum-restaurants are turned on. There are bars with drinks as cheap as ¥500, and quite a few interesting non-Japanese places too.

Not on most people’s travel itinerary perhaps, but Musashi Koyama shotengai gives you a chance to experience a real slice of Tokyo life, and to come away with one or two bargains in the process.

Access: Musashi-Koyama Station, Tokyo-Meguro Line


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

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