Odd Scenes From the Tokyo Marathon (Part 2)

I quite enjoyed the costumes in the Tokyo Marathon, but I couldn’t help wondering if there isn’t something a little passive-aggressive about them. On the one hand, people wearing costumes are saying, “Hey, look. I’m just out here having fun in my costume. I don’t take this seriously.” But on the other hand, if I was out running my heart out in a marathon I trained six months for and some guy dressed up as Doraemon ran past me, I don’t imagine I’d feel too good about it.






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Waiting for the Pachinko Parlor to Open


Serious pachinko players often line up in front of a pachinko parlor before they open so they can be the first one in and find the best machines that are the most likely to pay out.

Odd Scenes From the 2009 Tokyo Marathon (Part 1)

The 2009 Tokyo Marathon took place last Sunday, March 22, 2009. I’ve never seen a marathon before, and I have to say that it was really entertaining and of course, completely different from watching the professional runners on TV.
It’s quite amazing to see hundreds of people rushing by you every minute. I heard that 27,000 people entered the marathon this year, and I figure I must have seen about 20,000 of them rushing by me. If you ever want to get a real feel for what a big number like 27,000 means, the Tokyo Marathon is a good way to really understand just how many it is, and get a feel for just how many different kinds of people there living in Tokyo.








This is a namahage.





Read the Kanji

I guess this site is pretty famous, since it’s already been on Japan Probe, but it recently got a lot better, so I’d like to write about it here. I’ve been struggling with kanji for 17 years, and Read the Kanji is the first study method I’ve ever found that was truly effective and efficient for learning them.


It’s just a quiz site, but it’s done a thousand times better than all the other quiz programs and kanji books out there. It flashes a kanji on the screen, you type in the pronunciation, and it tells you whether you got it right or wrong. The great thing about Read the Kanji, though, is that it remembers the ones you have trouble with, and once you get a certain number wrong, it goes into “failure review” mode, and you do all the ones you got wrong (you have to set it to “Learning mode” for this to happen. Otherwise it’s a straight out kanji test). Once you get out of failure review mode, those difficult kanji keep coming up again and again until you start to get them right. I find the algorithm very clever about showing me the kanji just often enough that I learn them, but not so often that I get sick of seeing them. I’ve been using the site for a couple months, and I’m learning more kanji in a shorter time than I ever have before.
Read the Kanji has thousands of characters, graded according to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and has example sentences with English translations that can be turned on of off as you wish.
The other thing I really like about this site is that the guy behind it clearly considers it a work in progress and is constantly changing and improving it.
The quiz is actually kind of addictive, and I sometimes find it hard to quit once I get started, a problem I’ve never had when studying kanji in the past!

Read the Kanji: http://www.readthekanji.com/quiz

Just a note to all of the people who are coming from the Heisig site (http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=2958&action=new). I can read kanji well enough to do a fair amount of professional translation work, and am familiar with the Heisig method, but didn’t find it worked for me.

Kanamara Penis Festival Reminder

This is just a reminder that Japan’s  most bizarre, hilarious festival is coming up soon. This year it will be held on Sunday April 5.






Video of the festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SggvPrkoJUI
Shrine homepage: http://tomuraya.co.jp/wakamiya.htm (Japanese only)

2-3-16 Daishi Eki-mae, Misaki-ku, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Inside the grounds of Wakamiya Hachimangu.

To get there, take the Keikyu line from Shinagawa Station. Transfer to the Keikyu-Daishi Line at Keikyu Kawasaki Station and get out at Keikyu-Daishi. It takes about 45 minutes and costs 580 yen. The festival starts at 10:00 AM.web analytics The main event, the penis procession starts at 1:00 PM.

There are other posts about the festival here:

Love Hotel Restaurant


In the 1920s, love hotels were called tsurekomi yado, which literally means “bring along inn.”  They evolved from tea houses called deiai chaya that allowed men to bring prostitutes or lovers onto the premises and rent a room upstairs for a liason.

There are none of these operating as love hotels anymore, but there is one in Osaka that has been converted into a restaurant. It’s called Hyakuban and is in Tennoji.hyakuban2

This elegant old building has so much character that you’re intstantly taken back in time to a simpler, more graceful time. Pull aside the sliding doors to reveal the elgant wooden bridge in the front hall, and walk past traidtional woodcarvings and woodblock prints on your way to your own little room. They serve traditional Japanese foods like sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and chanko nabe. I wouldn’t go there just for the food because it was good but not spectacular, but it certainly is a unique, atmospheric dining experience.

Here’s the Hyakuban homepage (Japanese only): http://r.gnavi.co.jp/k069800/

Address: 3-5-25 Sanno, Nishinari-ku, Tel. (06) 6632-0050. Reservations required. Dinner costs an average of 5000 yen per person.

love-hotel-coverThere’s more information about   love hotels in my new book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts

Samurai Frog


Giant Samurai Frog in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture.

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