Looking for funny? Well, you are in luck, because “Nagoya Comedy” brings you funny in all senses of the word. Nagoya, Japan’s own (and only) English language stand-up comedy troupe holds regular live stand-up shows throughout central Japan featuring a cavalcade of funny; funny looking, funny thinking, and just plain “funny ha ha” local comedians who will shock and awe(ful!?) your evening, and leave you in stitches. You can also check out their weekly podcast “Talk Funny” – available on iTunes, Spreaker and more. New episodes every Friday morning (Japan Time).
For information on Nagoya Comedy
Nagoya Comedy: Nagoya Comedy 3rd Anniversary Standup Show
Nagoya’s hardest writing comics celebrate over three years of live shows and bring their best material and new hits as well. Delirious comedy, an Open Mic contest, and Magic! Get your tickets now by contacting any of the performers. Join the stars of the Talk Funny Podcast and the hardest writing comedians in Japan at GC Live. Featuring Emcee Mark Bailey, Steve Howard, Tim Lennane, Mike Miller and the magic of Joe Hindman.
1,500 yen at the door, 1,000 yen advance tickets, one drink minimum, open mic available to paid audience members at the start of the show. Sign up at the door. Open mic-ers, please pre-time your sets to less than 5 minutes. We will have the first four open mics to sign up on stage called at random order, so get there early. Winner of the Open Mic Contest as determined by crowd applause will get a prize of a free beverage of his/her/zie choice.
September 21, 2018
9 – 11 pm. Doors open 8:30 pm.
Venue: GC Live
Located about 60 minutes by train northwest of central Tokyo is the city of Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture. Because of its location in the Greater Tokyo area, it’s mainly considered just another “bedtown”; Japanese borrowed English slang for a bedroom community. But its current day suburban moniker can be easily peeled away to show Kawagoe’s long rich history that lies in its origins. You only have to wander over to the historical districts north of Hon-Kawagoe station and find not only one of the last collection of historically preserved buildings in the Metropolis but also many museums and shops dedicated to the task of showing off old Japanese traditions and life.
In order to learn more about the area, head over to the Kawagoe City Museum and gain an overview of how a samurai saddled with the burdensome sparsely inhabited lands was able to bootstrap the area into prosperity by turning it into a silk weaving boomtown. The journey doesn’t begin there though as there is a large collection stemming back from the Yayoi and Kofun periods in early Japanese history. You’ll also learn how people were able to rebuild the town after an enormous blaze burnt down almost every building standing in the then small village. There are English speaking volunteers available to help explain the finer points if needed.
Back in the feudal days, nothing could be done without the will of the gods above and rulers of the lands; Kawagoe was home to several strong temples, shrines, and lords. The oldest shrine, Miyoshino Jinja was established in the year 807! It is located on the grounds of what used to be Kawagoe Castle which doesn’t exist anymore but Honmaru Palace is still there and can be accessed. Kita-in also can be found nearby. This was the main Buddhist temple in the Kawagoe domain, and the building itself was once part of Edo Castle. Don’t miss the 540 statues of Rakan inside, all representing the original disciples of Buddha.
Head over towards the “Warehousing Street” historical area and you’ll find a whole district full of “kurazukuri” warehouses and old storefronts that are part of a designated historical site. These are no mere display units though; every one of them is still in use as a storehouse, small workshops or store, and you are very encouraged to visit and drop some hard yen on whatever may tickle your fancy. If you hang out in the area long enough, you will hear the bell toll from Toki no Kane, the old bell tower that is also the symbol of the city of Kawagoe. It rings out 4 times a day (6 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, and 6 pm)
Visit the Kawagoe City tourism homepage where a detailed guide to all the area’s attractions can be found.
Three train companies have stations in the area:
— By Jason L. Gatewood
September is a hard month, it isn’t summer, and it isn’t fall. It is still hot, but cooling down. It is a good time to be outside, sort of, but everyone is tired from beer gardens over the summer and preparing for the upcoming fall colors, so not much is happening. That said, here are some art community-related events you might enjoy while killing time until autumn sets in.
The “Art Aquarium,” began in 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the bridge at Nihonbashi, features ornamental goldfish in various ornate bowls and tanks. The exhibits are well lit and presented, and the exhibit is popular and crowded. From 7 the events changes into the “night aquarium” where you can drink and enjoy DJ music with Tokyo’s most hip and thirsty.
Through 24 September
11:00am – 11:30pm
Venue: Coredo Muromachi 2 Chome-2-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo 103-0022 (map link)
Tokyo University of the Arts, known as Geidai, is arguably among the most creative places on the planet, easily within Japan, and the talent on display at the university’s festival will reflect this. It is entirely possible that the visit will lead to an early look at a not yet famous artist’s work, wouldn’t that be cool?
7, 8, and 9 September
9:00am – 8:00pm
Venue: Tokyo University of the Arts 12-8 Uenokōen, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 110-8714 (map link)
Image from http://artaquarium.jp/en/ used without permission
September is a hard month, it isn’t summer, and it isn’t fall. It is still hot, but cooling down. It is a good time to be outside, sort of, but everyone is tired from beer gardens over the summer and preparing for the upcoming fall colors, so not much is happening. That said, here are a few ways to eat your way through this September in Tokyo.
Can you say jerk chicken? I knew you could! The AACF is a date with food and entertainment with an Afro Caribean flair, join the crowd in Yoyogi Park for this exciting and delicious event.
8 and 9 September 2018
11:00am – 7:00pm
Venue: Yoyogi Park (map link)
Organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Taste of Tokyo is food, food, and more food. Heavy on local Tokyo flavors and ingredients, the Taste will also bring dishes from all over Japan and the rest of the world. There will, in short, be a lot of excellent food for any taste preference, and a healthy dose of craft sake and beers to cool the afternoon heat. Join for the food, stay for the entertainment and music! All dishes are 500 yen so pick up some coins and join 75,000 of your fellow Tokyoites at the Taste!
21, 22, and 23 September
Friday: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm
West Promenade – 3 Chome-7 Ariake, Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0063 (map link)
Fiesta Mexicana in Odaiba Tokyo is unfortunately timed to coincide with the much more popular Taste of Tokyo above, but if you are after a nice tamale (and really, when am I not?!) then this may be the place for you. If you additionally crave Mexican wrestling… Luche Libre yourself to the west promenade in Odaiba, near the Aqua City shopping center.
22, 23, and 24 September
11:00am – 7:00pm
1 Chome-1 Aomi, Kōtō-ku, Tōkyō-to 135-0091 (map link)
When most people think of art and Japan in the same vein, images on the order of Hokusai’s Great Wave of Kanagawa spring to mind. You could tour the traditional art scene in Nippon seemingly forever, enjoying a multitude of museums throughout the metropolis. However, only one is dedicated to interactive digital arts, and that is the Mori Building Digital Art Museum.
The new concept, created by digital art collective teamLab, opened next to the Pallette Town building in Odaiba in January and features 470 projectors shining bright CGI graphics streaming from a data center’s worth of computers, onto reflective surfaces that patrons can interact with in many ways. The Mori Building group has utilized teamLab’s services before; if you’re feeling a bit of deja vu; a stroll around Roppongi Hills or Toranomon Hills should help jog your memory a bit.
The exhibits themselves are interactive and ever-changing suites of light and sound; no two people will experience them in the same way, and that’s a good thing. Whether a virtual bouldering course that alters the light shower as you “climb,” or an incline that allows you (and the kids… especially the kids) to power slide through a virtual pool of fruit and colors, this is a very hands-on affair.
As you move throughout the complex, each exhibit melds into the next, and at times the interactions seemed to follow me. This is not by accident, as the works are designed to integrate and interact both with one another, and the patrons moving in the space. The primary goal of the exhibit is to attempt to unify the digital and biological world and explore those new connections.
While grownups contemplate the deep philosophical ideas behind every piece, the children will be bouncing, running, and crawling the walls while exploring every nook and cranny of the halls. There is even space designed to encourage to sitting down with a cup of tea where virtual flowers will bloom, creating the perfect atmosphere to connect and share the experience with another.
The proximity of the new museum to 2020 Tokyo Olympic venues on Odaiba island isn’t a coincidence, but officials say this is a permanent exhibition and plans for a new installation in the space after the Games are long gone are already underway.
MORI Building Digital Art Museum: EPSON teamLab Borderless
Adult (aged 15 and over)
Child (ages between 4-14)
(Children below age 3 and under are free.)
Purchase tickets and check availability by visiting http://ticket.teamlab.art.
— By Jason L. Gatewood
Images: courtesy teamLab
Exhibition view of MORI Building DIGITAL ART MUSEUM: teamLab Borderless 2018, Odaiba, Tokyo
As Japan adjusts both technologically and demographically to cater to both citizens and visitors alike, the banking industry is also in a state of adjustment.
The broad acceptance of available tech that makes it easy to pay without real money and a public savvy to mobile payments both inside and outside of Japan is encouraging banks to decrease the number of cash machines and raise fees for withdrawing cash from the remaining devices.
One other likely reason for this new trend is the fact that Japan’s working population is shrinking and the numbers of techs and money couriers to service the multitude of machines across the land is stagnant as well, driving up the backend maintenance costs. So what does this mean to us as expat residents of Japan and how can we sidestep the fees?
As I have stated in earlier articles, many of Japan’s banks have finally jumped on the debit card bandwagon. Find out if your bank offers a branded debit card (those that are welcome wherever Visa, MasterCard, and JCB are) and get one. Many banks are starting to abolish fees associated with having one of these cards, raising ATM withdrawal fees, both on and off-network instead.
The good news is many more places accept credit and debit cards now than ever before in Japan, including most convenience and grocery stores, Starbucks and McDonald’s (I remember the dark days when not even they would accept cards). If you are in the market for a different bank for this, I wholly recommend 7Bank, for reasons found in this earlier article.
Many the banks that are imposing fees now are still allowing a certain number of transactions to be “fee free” or are not charging fees to those that keep a significant amount of yen in the bank. Shinsei Bank, long the go-to bank for expats is utilizing this strategy as it has gotten rid of its ATMs and partnered with every convenience store ATM network in Japan.
I will miss the days of scot-free ATM transactions anywhere with these guys, but they do offer a Visa-branded debit card you can set to auto charge from your account to avoid the cash machine. For those times you do need cold hard yen, make sure you take more than enough out, so you can limit your trips.
Many banks now have smartphone apps that keep track of your spending, initiate transfers and so forth, even in English! Take advantage of these, and also that other elephant in the room: mobile e-money.
LINE Pay and Mobile Suica are available in many places as well as Edy/Rakuten Pay and QuikPay. These work in conjunction with Apple Pay and Google Pay as well. I use all of these in some form in my daily life here in Tokyo and have not needed an ATM except at the local produce market or izakaya in my neighborhood. You can even pay TEPCO power bills through LINE Pay now, so expect this trend to only increase.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid a lot of the hassle with cashola is to buy almost everything online. Nearly every store in Japan has an online component, and there are ways to get things delivered even if they don’t have service in-house. Even the small in-your-neighborhood shops will likely take a bank “Furikomi 振込“ transfer for their regular customers — If you’ve ever wondered why so many people in at the ATM corners in Japan look like they’re reprogramming the thing, this is why; ATMs are traditionally where monthly payments to landlords, insurance, and utilities are made.
Many banks have taken this step online in their apps and websites as well. With Rakuten Bank, you can send a payment via email. The receiver will be directed to a secured form where they enter their bank account information to receive the payment; all without having to remember how to “katakana-ize“ their name or which branch of whatever bank they have an account at.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I’m always on the lookout for more tips to help everyone “Japan better”; if you have one you want to share, drop a comment below or shout out to me through social media.
— By Jason L. Gatewood
This list is not intended to be exhaustive; the sheer size and amount of places opening, closing and existing in Greater Tokyo demands an army of greasy, cheesy, burger-loving writers to file addendums on a weekly basis to keep the list accurate. Since I am only one of this type, alone in the Metropolis for this publication, I am humbly forced to curtail the article to my opinion of good burger haunts. As such, this means I can’t profess to tell how good chains like Shake Shack, Fatburger, Wendy’s, and the others are (they are pretty darn good though!), and will be limiting myself to the one-offs, “only in Tokyo” burger joints I’ve personally experienced first hand. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
I’m not entirely sure why this happened, but the Daikanyama/Naka Meguro area has become “burger central” in the last 2-3 years somehow. The first of these shops I visited was the Grill Burger Club SASA located right next to Daikanyama station. I had no idea what to expect until entering the shop. That’s when I saw the rotund manager/grill master doing his thing while wearing a broad smile and a copious amount of grease on his apron— this is always a sign that the food is going to be epic! You can get anything from a standard cheese double to a gourmet mozzarella portobello with artisanal bread. And the chef above is very accommodating if you want to mix and match toppings and ideas from the menu. Go crazy all you want, remember you will pay a bit more for the creativity.
Address: 2-21-15 Ebisunishi, Shibuya, Tokyo
Japan’s most famous cuisine is sushi and ramen, but there’s also “wagyu 和牛,” the rich, marbled cuts of beef that comes from places like Kobe, Matsuzaka, and Hida. Ever wondered what these tasty cuts would taste like in a burger? Wonder no more because you can head over to Ebisu and try it out at BLACOWS. The name is synonymous with the fact that they hand grind 100% “kuroge 黒毛” beef, literally black cows. All burgers here are custom; you select the toppings deli-style, right down to whether you want lettuce, tomato or onion.
Address: 2-11-9 Ebisu, Shibuya, Tokyo
My first time eating an honest-to-goodness-for-real-American-style-in-Japan burger was way back in 2001 when I was brought to this shop in Hiroo by my coworkers. I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger that had my cheeks glistening with oil and mustard by the time I was halfway through it. To this day, if my travels carry me close to the area, It’s a given that I’m making a run over to Homework’s. The place has been around since 1985, and they haven’t done anything but continue to make juicy burgers out of 100% Aussie beef. Well, that and open a branch up in Azabu, so you now have two places to enjoy doing your hamburger homework!
Address: 5-1-20 Hiroo, Shibuya, Tokyo
— By Jason L. Gatewood
Much like ramen, gyoza is a dish with Chinese origins that the Japanese have taken to their hearts. Typically filled with ground pork, chives, green onion, cabbage, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil, these little dumplings can be fried or boiled, but are almost always delicious, not to mention incredibly moreish.
However, as well as the traditional way of making gyoza, many restaurants have come up with innovative and fabulous recipes, and the best and brightest will be gathering in Nagoya to compete for the crown of the gyoza king or queen.
The All Japan Gourmet Festival is a staple of the Golden Week attractions at Nagakute’s Moricoro Park with over 100,000 visitors every year, but this year it is branching out into Silver Week for a gyoza themed special.
The event aims to continue the reputation of gyoza’s rise from that of a salaryman’s staple to that which everyone can enjoy. From the 15th to the 17th of September, competitors from across the country will come together in the hope of winning the event.
What this means is that throughout the park, from the deep-fried gyoza of Mie Prefecture to the black ink pork gyoza from Kagoshima, or the happy gyoza from Bhutan, there are over two dozen amazing dishes for you to sample, as you step from counter to counter, filling yourself on the delicious dumplings (and you will, I did mention that they are very moreish).
If you are new to the gyoza game, it is best to head for any stalls from Utsunomiya and Hamamatsu, Tokai region’s moist famed gyoza capitals. However, pretty much anywhere you try is likely to be mouthwatering as these guys are the brightest and best in Japan’s gyoza world.
If you can’t make it out there, but you still have a craving for gyoza, the festival is not the only place to get it in Nagoya. Here is a handful of some of Nagoya’s best.
You can find this restaurant chain from Osaka all around Nagoya, and with ‘gyoza’ in the name, it should be good. And it is.
Cheap, cheerful, and always bustling, the gyoza here is of the classic, standard variety, and you can’t go wrong.
Taiwanese in theme, Misen is a Nagoya institution. You perhaps know it for its spicy Taiwan ramen, but no self-respecting Nagoyan would tackle a bowl of the ramen without the gyoza on the side.
Perhaps one of the most morish gyozas in the city.
Named after the Tibetan word for Mt. Everest, Zhumulangma (or Chomoranma in Japanese) hits the heights of gyoza experimentation.
They have a huge selection, but perhaps the best is either the niku niku (double meat) gyoza or the refreshing pakuchi (cilantro) gyoza, both of which are out of this world.
If you want a proper, classic gyoza experience, Hyakuroutei in Osu is the place to go. Here there are four different ways that you can enjoy the delightful dumplings: pan-fried, in water, in egg soup, and in a soup made from the water in which the gyoza was cooked.
Having been in the business for over 40 years, Karitto Gyoza does things a little bit differently.
Here the speciality is large fried gyoza balls that are ‘kari-kari-mochi-mochi’ (roughly meaning crispy but soft and chewy). You don’t get gyoza like this anywhere else.
While there are many, many fireworks festivals in Japan throughout the summer months, there are very few that match Toyohashi’s Hono-no-Saiten for sheer spectacle. And danger.
The Hono-no-Saiten festival started in 1996 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Toyohashi City and has been an annual event ever since. It’s not difficult to see why.
While much of the festival throughout the day is similar to other festivals – with yatai stalls selling food, kids running around with toy guns and elderly men drinking more sake than they can probably handle, it is when the night falls that things start to brighten up, quite literally.
The Mikawa area, and Toyohashi, in particular, is well known for its ‘tezutsu hanabi,’ hand-held, handmade fireworks, which are exactly as dangerous as that sounds.
Crafted from 80cm bamboo tubes stuffed with three kilograms of old-fashioned gunpowder, the tezutsu hanabi are thought to have originated as a tool for battlefield and inter-castle communication some 450 years ago. They are rarely seen outside of the Mikaya Bay area, however, at Hono-no-Saiten they are put to use for our entertainment.
Here you will see troupes of locals, 25 at a time, dressed in traditional clothing including unique thickly woven fireproof cotton quilted jackets, clutching these battleground tools under their arms. Once set, and the taiko drums reach their crescendo, they brace themselves as the gunpowder goes off, sending a fountain of sparks and smoke ten meters into the air, as the burning embers rain down on the brave (or perhaps foolhardy) holders below.
The conclusion of the event is signified by a more modern fireworks display, one that may be more visually spectacular, but lacking the inherent danger and cultural importance, it doesn’t quite compete with the sheer visceral thrill of the tetzusu hanabi.
As well as the regular festival stalls at which your children can catch fish and win toys, there are also handicraft workshops will teach kids to make small tezutsu (minus the gunpowder, of course).
The Tokyo Game Show is an annual trade show for video game developers held at Makuhari Messe Convention Center just outside Tokyo. First held in 1996, the Tokyo Game Show is among the world’s biggest video game related conferences. It is well attended by big-name game developers to launch new products and display their latest innovations and advancements, and the video game consuming public who attend looking to see what is fresh and hot this year in gaming.
This year’s show is held over four days, the first two days are business days, which are invited only for industry insiders and company representatives. The third and fourth days are open to the public for a small entrance fee of JPY 1,200 on the day, 1,000 advance.
Some cool new stuff is going to be on display inside!
September 20 (Thursday) & September 21 (Friday), 2016 10:00-17:00
September 22 (Saturday) & September 23 (Sunday), 2016 10:00-17:00
Advance Ticket/1,000 yen per day
At the door Ticket/ 1,200 yen per day
Children (elementary school age and under/ Free of charge