Friday, 11 January 2008

Dating in Japan

Meeting members of the opposite sex in Japan is usually not a complicated
process, as more often than not the nature of the job, whether it be a
businessman or English instructor, will bring you into contact with Japanese
in the workplace who would like to get to know you better outside of the
office or school. English instructors in particular have an advantage in
regard to being able meet Japanese, as many students will let you know
indirectly if they are interested in establishing a relationship beyond the
classroom, and depending on the school's policy toward dating students it's
quite easy to meet at a later date for dinner or a drink. For those who don't
want to mix business with romance, one of the best alternatives to meeting
Japanese are the many salsa schools that have recently become popular in
Japan. Women in these classes usually out number the men, and the lively
atmosphere makes it relatively easy to meet someone looking for a dance
partner. Yoga classes are also gaining popularity in Japan for both men and
women, and are another possibility for meeting people who share the same

For those looking for a more mainstream approach, the large number of
gaijin bars that are frequented by both Japanese women and men hoping to meet
foreigners are one of the most popular choices, but keep in mind there are
usually more foreigners than Japanese present, and the competition can often
be fierce. Another method of bringing Japanese and foreigners together are
“International Parties” that are often advertised in magazines and newspapers.
For a set fee of approximately 5,000 yen you're able to attend a prearranged
party in a restaurant or lounge where you have an opportunity to mingle with
others interested in cultural exchange. In a similar venue are international
hiking clubs that are now a popular form of meeting people, as most day hikes
in the countryside are arranged with an equal number of men and women in mind.
Sport clubs still appeal to many people who hope to meet others between
workout sets, and the recent influx of Starbucks coffee shops in Japan are
usually packed with Japanese women and men who are alone and receptive to

It's difficult to discuss cross cultural differences without making
generalizations that may or may not be accurate as each case is different, but
for the most part Japanese are usually approachable in a social setting even
if they appear to be a bit shy or reticent at first meeting. Foreigners who
speak Japanese well are obviously going to have an advantage over those whose
language skills are limited, and many relationships in Japan fall to the
wayside eventually because of this lack of communication. Though mutual
attraction is sometimes enough to keep a couple together, those looking long
term usually have a better chance of success if one or both partners can speak
the other's native language well. As is the case in most Asian countries, age
difference between men and women in Japan is not looked upon as an issue, and
you often see couples together whose presence would no doubt turn heads in
other parts of the world.

The Japanese view of sex is also quite different from that of the west, and
they usually approach it with a more relaxed attitude, as can be witnessed by
the large number of “Love Hotels” found in all major cities of Japan which
provide a temporary haven for couples in need of privacy. This cavalier
attitude can also sometimes be confusing for foreigners, who after becoming
infatuated after the first or second date will suddenly find their email and
phone messages going unanswered. Though definitely not pleasant for the ego,
once it's understood the Japanese are uncomfortable with direct confrontation
and this is their way of letting you and themselves off the hook, it's usually
a bit easier to comprehend and accept. This approach often pertains to long
term relationships as well, and there have been many foreigners who after
years of being in a relationship suddenly found themselves in the cold for no
apparent reason and with no explanation forthcoming. Society's view of
international relationships in Japan seems to be that of resigned acceptance,
but don't be surprised if there is resistance on the part of many Japanese
parents in regard to their son or daughter marrying a foreigner. Although this
attitude has gradually begun to change over the years, most traditional
Japanese still want their children to marry Japanese.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Roppongi: Tokyo's Premier Night Spot

If you're looking for a night out on the town the famous entertainment hub of
Tokyo known as Roppongi is a must see. Though the origin of the name is
unknown, the word Roppongi literally means “six trees”, and legend has it the
term derives from six warlords that resided in the region during the Edo
period. The inception of Roppongi as a nexus of nightlife in Tokyo originated
in 1890 when the Imperial Japanese Army took up residence there. With the
devastating effect of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 taking it's toll, the
area was temporarily destroyed, rebuilt, and leveled again by American bombs
during World War Two. With the emergence of several military bases in the
district during the occupation by American forces, the locale soon teemed with
western oriented shops, restaurants, and hostess bars that catered to soldiers
hungry for entertainment and female companionship. The late1960's saw Roppongi
becoming popular with Japanese and foreigners alike when disco first made its
appearance, the area attracting many of Tokyo's famous entertainers and movie
stars. Several embassies and foreign corporate offices located there also
contributed to the international feel that prevails today.

Any given night in Roppongi still finds a high concentration of military
and assorted foreigners intermingling with Japanese businessmen and attractive
young women of various nationalities swaying provocatively down the street as
they make their way to strip clubs and hostess bars that line the boulevards.
The sidewalks resonate with the cadence of club hawker's voices and alluring
come-ons of scantily dressed women beckoning seductively from doorways leading
to the plethora of parlors that offer “massage” and additional carnal
pleasures. As you traverse the maze of gleaming neon you find yourself
enmeshed in an aura of sexual anticipation that lingers enticingly in the air.
Small groups of buff young men or magazine cover perfect couples strolling arm
in arm scurry by to destinations that offer the hippest scenes in Tokyo.
Inside the most fashionable “gaijin” bars patrons eagerly pack into a space
the size of a large elevator, the smoke of a multitude of cigarettes forming a
spectral haze that permeates the room. Music blares from strategically placed
speakers as men and women pose with studied casualness, their eyes scanning
the crowd for the promise of that special someone to share a drink with, or
possibly more.

If you're seeking a more traditional approach to whiling away an afternoon
or evening, the recent addition of “Roppongi Hills” shopping and entertainment
development is sure to provide what you desire. Opening with much fanfare in
Roppongi in 2003, this mega-complex located on a 27 acre site incorporates
restaurants, shops, movie theaters, cafes, a museum, a major TV studio, an
outdoor amphitheater, hotels, and an assortment of parks, all of which are
centered around the 53 story Mori Tower.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Cost of Living in Japan


Japan, and especially it's capital city of Tokyo, have been
notoriously famous throughout the years as being among the world's most
expensive places to live. Those who have experienced a ten dollar cup of coffee
in the Ginza, or noticed the stylishly packaged melons for sale at airport
tourist shops for 10,000 yen will attest to this fact. Yet the truth of the
matter is you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a comfortable and enjoyable
life style in Japan. One of the major considerations in regard to avoiding the
potentially high cost of living is deciding where to reside. As rent will
consume as much as thirty percent of your income, choosing a suitable area to
live becomes a number one priority when trying to hold on to your yen.

The first rule of thumb when looking for affordable accommodation is to stay
clear of the central areas of the major cities, where even small apartments can
be very expensive. Housing costs however are significantly lower in the suburbs
or outlined areas, and despite the additional time spent riding trains if you
need to enter the city on a daily basis, you will still come out ahead
financially in the long run. Commuting costs are usually compensated by the
money saved on rent, and most Japanese companies pay a portion if not all of
their employees travel expense by providing a monthly allotment. Train passes
purchased at a discounted set rate which feature unlimited travel between home
and office are also available for commuters. Those wishing to avoid riding
trains altogether also have the option of driving to work, but the cost of
parking and maintenance in the form of insurance and various taxes is expensive,
not to mention coping with the crowded conditions of most Japanese roads and
streets during peak hours. One possible compromise is that of riding a small 50-CC
scooter, which are economical and mobile enough to negotiate the narrow lanes
that constitute most Japanese cities. Another potential money saver in regard to
finding suitable lodging is to take advantage of the recent increase of real
estate agents geared toward working with foreigners. Many of these companies
offer apartments that don't require the large output of cash in the form of
deposits and agent commission fees that are often necessary when obtaining
housing through more conventional sources.

Possibly the second biggest expenditure in terms of day to day living in Japan
is that of food. The overall cost can be reduced substantially if you cook meals
at home using traditional Japanese items such as seafood, seasonal fruit and
vegetables, soya bean products, and rice. One of the best times to do your
weekly shopping is shortly before closing times in the evening, when
supermarkets offer perishable products that have yet to be sold at big
discounts. Inexpensive restaurants offering dishes such as ramen noodles, curry
rice, grilled chicken yakitori, and kaiten sushi, at prices ranging between 500
to 1,000 yen are also numerous, and can be found around and inside major train
stations. Many restaurants also provide set menus (teishoku) at lunch time for
1,000 yen, and box lunches known as bento sold in convenience stores, kiosks,
and department stores, are also an excellent bargain.

Other expenses incurred such as electricity, gas, and water are relatively
expensive in Japan, but are basically on par with rates of similar services
provided in Europe or the U.S. Telephone fees under NTT, Japan's number one
telecommunications company have been routinely high for decades, but with the
emergence of more sophisticated and economical mobile phone service now
available prices are beginning to come down. For international calls, callback
services and free calls transmitted via computer through companies such as Skype
are making the prospect of calling long distance a more affordable one. Japan's
broadband Internet service is also among the least expensive in the world, with
service available from around 2,500 yen a month.

Clothing in Japan can also be purchased quite inexpensively surprisingly enough.
Supermarket chains such as “ Ito Yokado” or discount clothing stores like
“Uniqlo” offer quality clothing at very reasonable prices. Used clothing stores
are also becoming in vogue, with shops such as “Thank You Mart” offering a set
price of 390 yen for all items sold. And if you're in need of a haircut don't be
discouraged by the high prices that most Japanese hair dressers are currently
charging. There are still many shops that offer haircuts for around 1,000 yen.
New arrivals who also wish to furnish their apartment with household items
without breaking the bank will want to check out the “100 Yen Shops” that offer
a huge selection of items, from kitchen goods to clothing, all at the set price
of 100 yen.