The 4 Big Japanese Beach Essentials

Summer is a wonderful season in Japan. It’s finally warm enough to peel off down parkas and ski gloves, it’s nice to relax in the park drinking beer, and the girls all wear short skirts. Actually, they wear those in winter too. What a country, seriously. Probably sucks to be a girl here though, having to walk by the park all winter long being ogled by some white guy in a parka drinking beer with ski gloves. If anybody asked, I figured I’d just say I was a member of the ski patrol, although sadly no one ever did.

Anyway, when summer comes, I starting thinking beach. Sand. Waves. Sea shells. Girls in even less clothing. You pretty much can’t go wrong, and it all starts with proper preparation. Now I know what you’re thinking: Should I pack some sandwiches and beer? How about a big tent and a giant umbrella? Perhaps a watermelon so I can split it like they do in Japanese movies? The answer is No, you should not, because there’s only four things you really need before going to the beach in Japan.

A Japanese Beach Checklist

Preparation actually begins months earlier, during which time you will need to secure the following four items:

1. A stylish and well-fitting bathing suit,
2. A small stack of folding cash,
3. One giant can of Nair, and
4. A gastric bypass operation

Guess I should have told you this back in November. Yeah, sorry about that. Well, print this and keep it for 2014.  Japanese Rule of 7:  Thinking proactively since 2013.

Japanese Beaches

The thing to know about the beach in Japan is that it’s basically a social experiment in self-selection. That’s a nice way of saying that fat people don’t go there. Nor do old people, or hairy people. I realized this, oh, about one second after I arrived.  So maybe I felt a little out of place.  Plus, for some reason, no one was wearing sunglasses, other than me.

“We don’t have to,” said this girl named Naoko, “because our eyes are strong.”

“My eyes are strong too,” I said. I don’t know why I say stupid stuff like this. It just comes out.

“But our eyes are stronger,” she said. That is so her.

Strong eyes, the hell, nobody gets the better of Ken Seeroi.  I took off the sunglasses.  That is so me.  I had to admit, though, it was pretty freaking hard to see.

The Long Train to the Beach

But let’s back up a minute and talk about getting to the beach, because one key feature of “beach” is that it’s not “city.” Otherwise it would be called something else entirely. Like maybe “harbor” or “seaport.” What am I, a sailor? Please. Anyway, what I mean is it’s really freaking far away, so you’ll need to ride the train with that girl named Naoko for about an hour, and she’ll insist upon bringing sandwiches and beer, shelter and camping supplies better suited to Mount Everest, plus a watermelon. Know how hard it is to carry a watermelon on the train? Of course you don’t. That’s because no sane person ever dreamed of bringing a giant piece of fruit to a place all filled with sand.

And once you finally arrive at the train station for the beach, you’re still going to have to walk about two kilometers to get to the ocean. That’s like five miles. And who’s going to lug the cooler, tents, ice axes, and watermelon? Not Naoko, that’s for sure. There’s only one thing a Japanese girl can do when faced with a walk to the beach. She will feel compelled to say the word atsui. That means “hot,” as in “It’s so hot,” and “Why’s it so hot?” and “My head feels like it’s about to explode.” Japanese words are very versatile like that. Try saying it. Atsui. Now with about 70 percent more whine in your voice. Atsuuuiii. That’s better. Now walk ten feet and say it again. Atsuuuiii. Now make the face that says Ken, I’m dying of heatstroke and in need of medical attention, are we there yet? Atsuuuiii. Continue in this manner, because interestingly, there’s no limit to the number of times one can say the exact same word over and over.

Now, I’d like to suggest that you do not point out to Naoko that the reason one goes to the beach is precisely because the weather is sunny. Do not point out what a nice day it is for a stroll. Nor should you mention that you are in effect her personal sherpa. Such reasoning will only result in Naoko becoming sullen, walking even slower and turning your trip to the beach into a hellish death march. Trust me. I do these things so you don’t have to.

Reaching the Beach

When we finally did arrive at the water’s edge at least my arms were all pumped up from carrying the hundreds of pounds of gear, so I felt good enough to take off my shirt. But once I did I suddenly realized the likelihood of being shot with a tranquilizer dart and dragged off to Ueno Zoo.

A guy about 14 years old walked by, looked at me, and in Japanese said, “Chest hair.”

I spun around and yelled after him, “Yeah, well, wait till you see deez nuts.”

It wasn’t a great reply, but at least it was quick. That’s something.

About that time I noticed that everyone—guys, girls, the whole freaking lot of them—was tanned, skinny, and seemed to be about fourteen. I mean, from what I could tell, since all I could see were ghostly silhouettes without any sunglasses.  But I figured maybe all the squinting would make my eyes look more Japanese, which would be good.  At any rate, I put my shirt back on, because it was kind of chilly, with the sea breeze and all.

The Japanese beach is actually, well, it’s not that great. The water’s gray and the sand is littered with random bits of plastic and suspicious-looking styrofoam.  Plus, there’s a shit-ton of people. That’s a technical term. Now, I know you’re going to say, Yeah sure Ken, but I bet you’d like it just fine if you weren’t wearing a fur suit and had gone on a diet back in November like I told you to. To which I can only reply, Jeez, why must you say such hurtful things, Naoko? I mean, it’s bad enough I’ve gone sun-blind already.  Next time remind me to bring my man-parasol.

Japanese Beach Shacks

But the good news is that the Japanese in their wisdom have improved upon nature with their amazing technology, and nailed together giant plywood shacks on the sand that overlook the ocean. These beach barns offer all manner of food, beer, and shelter, completely obviating the need to have carried a damn thing. This is another matter you should not bring up with Naoko, despite the fact that she freaking knew it because she came to the exact same beach last year. Some things you just have to let go.

The Ocean, so Much Better from Afar

Once safely out of the blinding sun, I realized we’d found the best feature of the beach, in that our shack was essentially a giant, tatami-floored izakaya facing the ocean.  I finally understood what people mean when they talk about the serenity of the sea.  We got our own 3-inch tall table and ordered cold beers and something infinitely more appealing than the loaf of soggy tuna-fish sandwiches I’d packed. Who would have thought of serving steaming hot curry at the beach? Those wacky Japanese folks, that’s who, and it was freaking perfect after all that schlepping of the gear. The only remaining problem was the accursed watermelon, which I had no intention of shlepping all the way back home.

“Have some watermelon?” I asked gently.

“I can’t,” said Naoko.

“It’ll help you feel less atsui . . .

“No, I’m too full,” she said, but with 70 percent more whiny voice.

“Well, why’d you eat so much freaking curry?

“Because it was delicious.”

It’s kind of hard to argue with that logic, especially since it actually was and all. Still, it left me with the dilemma. I was determined to dispatch the damned round thing to Fruit Hell once and for all. I grabbed a knife. We’d actually brought an 8-inch chef’s knife to the beach, just to kill the watermelon, and I had every intention of using it.

I dragged the watermelon kicking and screaming over the sand, threw it down upon a blue plastic sheet, lifted the knife above my head, and brought it down with a tremendous Whack!  Seeds and red fruit went everywhere as it cleaved cleanly down the middle, and watermelon juice poured over the blue sheet. I was actually kind of impressed at how good a job I did.  Walk softly and carry a giant knife, that’s my new motto.  Actually, if you’ve got the knife, I guess you can walk however you like.  But that’s more of an American motto, I think.

Anyway, we spent the rest of the day in the shack, with occasional forays down to the dark water just to confirm that we still weren’t drunk enough to swim in it.  So we drank a few more beers, took naps, ate a couple of soggy sandwiches, and powered down as much watermelon as possible. Then when the sun started to go down, grabbed a taxi back to the station, because that’s the only intelligent way to get to and from the ocean.

Yes, the beach is pretty awesome, but like all things in Japan, it pays to be plan ahead.  Preparation, as Alexander Graham Bell said, is the key to success.  Although, well, not to slam the guy who invented the iPhone or anything, but that dude might have benefited from a bit of electrolysis himself.  Just sayin’.  I mean, he practically makes me look like a Japanese guy.  And that, as Naoko will gladly tell you, isn’t easy to do.

47 Replies to “The 4 Big Japanese Beach Essentials”

  1. Hi Ken, just some quick questions –

    1. How have I only just now discovered your blog?
    2. How do you accommodate the stack of folding cash within the well fitting bathing suit?
    3. You’re writing is pithy, funny, and acute. What kind of dick move is that?


    1. Thanks. In reply to #3, yes, any humor is purely a byproduct of attempting to dick with you. Do we even say that in English? Because it sounds pretty gay. Well, whatever. For #1, I’m not sure, but I think your decision to use the internet may have played a pivotal role. And #2, well, it probably helps to roll it up before stuffing it down your suit. It’s guaranteed to garner some attention. And while some people may feel that’s deceptive, the way I look at it, any girl who discovers a roll of cash down your pants definitely won’t be disappointed.

  2. I know you enjoy getting your ego stroked (because obviously reading what someone writes on the internet means I completely understand everything about you), so I’m finally commenting to say thanks. I look forward to reading your astute observations of the world, as well as your views on language learning/teaching. You may be sitting at a three inch tall table drinking a beer and slamming natto wondering what you’re doing with your life and I can tell you you’re doing it for me.

    Keep on keepin’ on Seeroi-san

    1. Wow, thanks so much. It’s my standing policy to accept whatever stroking is on offer. Whenever I write something, I wonder, will this resonate with anyone? Is it over the line? Will it somehow result in my getting kicked out of Japan and simultaneously refused entry into the U.S., forcing me to live out my life in Narita Airport? Not that that would be so bad, actually. It is a pretty excellent airport. Anyway, what I mean to say is, thanks.

  3. OMG the atsui! How that resonates! My host sister from high school would always walk around, “atsui, samui, kumori, ame ga furiso” always with the wihny voice! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like the japanese seem to be secretly frustrated with my lack of ability to make everyday perfect weather, lol
    And the food thing, “I’m full so full.” She says.. “Oh wait! Is that something I like? Better eat for Japan now”

    Sorry if I came across ranty, haha 🙂

    1. Yes, the words you mentioned, combined with sugoi, kawaii, and oishii, comprise approximately 50% of the adult female vocabulary. (Males simply make do by speaking 50% less words.) Who says Japanese isn’t easy to learn?

      Oh, and I forgot tsukareta. Now we’re well over 50%.

  4. I tried it. I said Atsui with 70% more whine. I think my manliness meter went down 600%. Good thing I was clocking 700% beforehand.

    Anyway, great article 🙂 I wanna go to the beach now. Too bad none around here have curry…and public drinking is generally frowned upon by the long arm of the law…

    1. Manliness in decline? Try getting a man purse and a full-body waxing. Now you’re just more Japanese!

      Yes, as always, where Japan really shines is in the food and drink. Beach, mountains, makes no difference. It’s a delicious country. Even for the hirsute.

  5. Hello Ken,

    I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to shoot you this message so I picked the first blog and commented on it.

    So yes, my goal i to get a BA in something and drag my family and I out to Japan to live for an undetermined amount of years to teach English. Since you have conquered visa renewals and multiple jobs in Japan, as well as touch upon the idiosyncrasies of daily life in Japan, I figured your input would be quite helpful. My friend currently lives in Kasai and takes the train to Kobe to teach for GABA. I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with him and his wife’s family and became quite enamored with Japan, it’s rich culture, and it’s people. Obviously I had a vacation stay without the life sucking daily work involvement while I was there, but Japan changed me and I feel strongly about returning there and trying to live a slightly over-complicated life out there.

    So all that being said and without revealing my entire life’s story, you have lived successfully there and possibly applied for the same types of jobs that I would be looking for to live out there. I worked at a bank for over 10 years and have managed the family business for over 10 years so I have plenty of “working experience”. I plan to get a BA in Liberal Studies or some type of educational BA in hopes a company will sponsor my work visa. I have 1 year under my belt teaching with kindergarten students through volunteering doing reading groups. Since I live in Southern California there is a large Hispanic population and I’ve gotten to work with a few that only speak English at school. My biggest concern moving out there, besides my family’s adaptation, is making enough to support the family. I’ve seen online ads for jobs and the pay seems to vary greatly. Some pay for transportation some don’t. Any of your do’s and don’ts or advice will be helpful. I realize the great task ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and actually having a goal in mind. Please feel free to contact me directly if this website happens to give you my email. If I make it out there you definitely seem like someone I’d like to have a brew with.


    1. Hi Chad,

      That’s fine to post here since I don’t have a place to ask general questions—but I will. I’ll move this comment there in a few days, once I decide where there is.

      So on to your question . . .

      Sweeping job qualifications aside, I’d say the real question is: Can a family live on an English teacher’s salary? Yes, and many Japanese families do. Japan isn’t expensive, but it is different. Waaaay different. That’s what people like when they visit here, but it’s also what makes folks leave after a few months of living here.

      When I say different, in this case, what I really mean is small. A Japanese family of 3 on a limited budget might well live in one crowded room. If you’re the main breadwinner, then yeah, you’re setting yourself up for an authentic Japanese experience. Dad comes home, Mom complains that they don’t have enough money, so Dad takes on a second job, plus he really doesn’t want to go home to that one small room anyway, so after his two jobs he spends his nights hanging out in izakaya, and when he comes home Mom complains that he’s not taking care of the family, spending all their money . . .

      “But I am taking care of the family! I was working, you know!

      “You’re never home. I’m here all alone with little Alise!

      “That’s because I work two jobs! You’re the one always saying we need more money!

      “Well, you’re the one who wanted to move to Japan!”

      You can probably play out that conversation pretty easily. So I’d say, find a way not to put yourself in that situation. If you’re the primary breadwinner in a foreign country, whoa, that’s a world of hurt. There are plenty of guys who got married here who can attest to that.

      Then you’ve also got to consider how you and your wife are going to deal with the everyday reality of life in Japan: renting an apartment, registering your child in school, going to the doctor . . . bazillions of things. Who’s going to manage all of that in Japanese? It’s a lot of extra work, to say the least.

      The people who do this successfully are mostly not English teachers. They’re businessmen on expat packages, who get set up with apartments and have their children enrolled in private international schools.

      So that’s my take on it. Could you move here and teach English? Yes, but having extra money would really help. But then it always does, doesn’t it?

      1. Ken,

        Thanks for the input. As long as I can make atleast 2200 yen and hour and up I think I’ll be ok. As is my oldest daughter is still to afraid to sleep in her own room. So if any guests spend the night I end up with the wife and 2 kids in the same bed. I think I can deal with the small living quarters.

        As far as being the sole breadwinner, I do make the majority of the money for our household. My wife works from home and does medical billing, which she can do anywhere with internet access. If I happened to find a job somewhat near a US base she would probably try to do some nanny work for extra pay. We always find a way to survive.

        My kids are my biggest worry. They are both very young so I figure they should adapt pretty quick as well as pick up the language fairly fast with classes. School I figure I would have to home school them considering not much money being left in the budget for private schools. Also I don’t know how well they’d survive in schools out there.

        Things being “different” is what I love most about Japan. I figure there will be a little frustration at first getting used to the differences at first, but think with time we will all adapt pretty well. Medical attention, getting a driver’s license, getting a seal and opening a bank account will obviously be a constant frustration as things are much different then here. I have many english fluent friends in Japan I will hope to lean on for help in these areas. One in Tokyo. One in Osaka. One in Kasai. They all are just a call away and I think they will be able to help me greatly with some of this stuff.

        I feel I will regret if I don’t explore this opportunity, as well as, I think it will be richly beneficial for my kids to exerience a new culture. I am getting tired of the constant news of shootings, child abductions, and just the plain disregard for another individual where I currently live. I know things aren’t perfect in Japan, but I do enjoy not having to check my pockets or bags every minute to make sure they haven’t been jacked. Just last weekend a friend of mine had someone break into her daughter’s room in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep.

        Thank you again for your advise. Your critical and humorous viewpoint is very helpful.


        1. Sounds like you’ve given some serious thought to this, and that’s excellent. I always think people should follow their dreams. You can make a lot happen if you really want to. Man, I gotta keep that in mind. Anyway, I support you 100% in making a move to Japan. Well, maybe 90, but that’s still pretty good.

          1. So income tax. how’s that work? I assume you still are a us citizen and may be required to pay taxes. I’ve seen that you don’t need to claim certain things paid for by the company you work for. Any input on tax payment while working there? Not that you’re a tax expert, but if you have any insight. Please share.

            1. Income earned in Japan is typically exempt from U.S. income tax (I think). “Americans working abroad can exclude up to $97600 per year from their US taxable income.”*

              You will, however, have to pay Japanese income tax, which according to Wikipedia is about 25%. I’m not really sure, because, like in the U.S., your employer usually withholds it, and then at the end of the year you can make adjustments. You’re right, I’m no expert, that’s for sure. But I think you can safely plan on not paying income tax in the U.S., although you do need to file a 10-40 form, stating your income and claiming the exemption. How you’d deal with working online is another matter.

              You’ll also need to pay residence tax while in Japan, and that varies from place to place. It seems to run me about $1200 a year, depending on where I’m living. If you work for a big company, they might also deduct this, but make sure so you don’t get a bill in the mail like I did last week. Ugh.

          2. Simple enough I guess. lol. Do companies typically pay for the employees healthcare? Or is something the employee has to get on their own? Going down my list of “i have no freaking clue how they do it there” items.

            1. Again, although I’m far from the expert, I’ll give you my experience.

              Japan has very inexpensive health care as compared to the U.S., and it’s pretty good. If you’re self-employed, you can sign up at your local city/ward office, and the cost is based upon your income. I’ve paid as little as $20 a month (in yen), when I wasn’t working much.

              Working for a company, they will deduct your health care expenses for you, and perhaps pay part of the cost (I’m not sure about the details but it never seems like too much).

              The bottom line is that basic health care is provided to persons who work in Japan. But . . . it only covers (again, I think) about 80% of the expenses. Many people here long-term get supplemental, private insurance to cover the other 20% of the cost. If you work for a company, they may take care of that for you, although that will depend on the company.

              I think a lot of people come over under the umbrella of a large company because so many of these details are taken care of for them.

          3. Ken. I’m surprised you aren’t sick of my thousands of questions yet. So as I continue my never ending research of working in Japan I have noticed many people saying to avoid eikawa type schools at all costs. My friend works for GABA and I haven’t heard any of the complaints others have mentioned. Such as not being paid etc.. I do know he only gets paid by appointment which does sound like that could suck, but considering he is living with his in-laws he does not have to pay rent. Lucky him. Anyways that brings me to my question. What companies are worthwhile to work for in Japan? I may have to go with JET or Interac at first to get sponsored since I’m guessing smaller companies are only looking for people already residing in Japan. It sounds like JET pays for your transportation and possibly part of your living expenses. I’m guessing that is countered by getting paid less per hour. What does the wise Ken Seeroi have to say on the matter?


            1. No, that’s cool. I had a ton of questions before I came too. I still do—so again, I’m only giving you my best guesses on a range of topics. I’m not the expert on very much.

              As for work, you’d be very lucky if you could land a spot as a JET. Those are good jobs, and they pay well. An eikaiwa gig would probably mean working harder for less pay. Interac isn’t a bad gig, although a lot of people seem to have their grumbles about the company.

              I’d say you have to be careful about evaluating jobs on the basis of how much they pay per hour. I wouldn’t hesitate to turn down a job that payed me $50 an hour, and I’ll tell you why.

              I’ve often had job offers to teach 2 classes a week way outside of town for that kind of pay. By the time you travel all the way out there and back, it’s 4 hours out of your day. Suddenly that $50 doesn’t look quite so good, even if your transportation is paid.

              On the other hand, if you get a job working in a nearby school that pays you $20 an hour, but you work five days a week, 8 hours a day, that’s a lot more money and less hassle. You make $160 a day, and if you only teach 3 classes a day, that’s $53 per class. The rest of the time you can sit on your butt and study Japanese. I know at least one guy who did this.

          4. I forgot another topic I wanted to ask the all wise and knowledgeable Ken Seeroi. My friend told me most rooms were measured by tatami mats to determine the size of the room. I am not seeing that when searching pricing for apartments online. They all give total square meter sizes. I don’t know if that’s just to cater to us foreigners or not, but I’m wondering what they count to give the total size. I’m guessing with major lack of restrictions there they can count every cm down to the closets, but any input you have would be great. And yes, I am way ahead of myself here looking at apartments, but I like to research as much as possible so I am prepared as much as humanly possible.

            1. Japan uses parallel measuring systems for many things, including housing and, for some odd reason, calendar years. It’s kind of similar to how the U.S. uses feet and inches while much of the rest of the world uses the metric system.

              I suspect the sites you’re seeing are using square meters because they’re written in English. Your friend is right, most of the ads here count rooms in terms of tatami. In that case, a 6-mat room would be the actual floor space, not including the closets and bathroom. For square meters, I actually don’t know.

  6. WOAH!!!
    Ok, before I comment on the actual blog post, I need to freak out about something else: I LOVE LOVE L:O:V:E!!! your new blog layout! It’s great! ^_____^

    You know what’s “funny”?
    I never go to Japanese beaches in summer. I mostly visit in late autumn, winter or early spring.
    I’m not so much of a “beach person”, I guess, but I love taking photos of beautiful beaches and during those times less people are in the way. *g*

    Some of the best beaches thus far I found on Okinawa, especially on the smaller islands, but Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture is very nice as well!
    Just wanted to mention that because you said that beaches in Japan aren’t great at all. It depends on WHERE you go! 😉

    1. Thanks so much. I love the layout too, and it’s all thanks to the technical wizardry of Leafstone Media: “We do the thinking while so you can do the drinking.” That’s not their motto, but literally how it worked out. Anyway, I have them to thank entirely.

      Yeah, I wondered if someone (i.e. you) was going to point out how nice the beaches are in other parts of Japan (i.e. Okinawa). There’s pretty much nothing that one can say about Japan that covers all situations, so I just try to aim for the middle. I’m relentless in my quest for mediocrity. And as always, it’s best to take what I say with a grain of salt. Plus a slice of lime. Hmmm. 8:30 a.m. and that’s sounding kind of good . . .

  7. Ken, bravo! ^^ I had a very similiar experience in Enoshima last year. I stick to drinking beer in parks since then. Chest hair is a little bit more acceptable there. A little bit. And no need to walk “five miles” before my first kanpai 😉

    1. Yes, any time you go a place where you need to take off your clothes, you know you’re in trouble. Hmmm, let me rethink that . . . shouldn’t that be a good thing? Well, whatever. Don’t get me started about the hot springs here. Anyway, yeah, sticking to the parks works out much better. Sure, you feel like a wine-o, but a Japanese wine-o, so it’s okay.

  8. How, precisely, does one deal with what in any other part of the world is an average amount of body hair …in Japan? I like literally never thought about it until I went to my first Japanese beach (actually a big ass lake near Kyoto).

    Oh also in Gunma we have this wacky take on onsens–it’s just like a normal onsen, only it’s *mixed gender*. Now that actually sounds way more awesome than it is. Woman wrap themselves in big towels and are almost universally married with kids (however it must be said, Japanese woman manage to stay hot after having kids). You do see some younger ladies, and maybe if you’re lucky they’re wearing semi-transparent white towels which suction onto the body after getting out of the water, and once in a blue moon you see a couple girls take the towels off. But since it’s a mixed onsen you’re probably there with your female partner and you can’t even really look, and you won’t see past the fourteen-odd perverted old Japanese dudes forming a wide semi-circle around the aforementioned topless ladies anyway.

    Anyway, guys don’t get a towel. We get the normal little 4 inch by 10 inch strip of cloth that we use at any other onsen. You can try to like… dangle it in front of your manhood, but it doesn’t really work. And the water is crystal clear anyway. So I guess it’s kinda like going to the beach, except that it’s in Gunma and nobody’s ever seen a foreigner before, and oh yeah the foreigner (you) is buck-nekkid. With what in other parts of the world would be an average amount of chest hair. Jesus. Anyway I’m just walking around naked, literally inches from families and some college girls and kids and… I mentioned I was naked, right? About the only plus side is that just about every single woman was sneaking glances at my junk. That felt pretty awesome. Also I guess it’s nice going to an onsen and having ladies stare at you instead of legions of wrinkly old men.

    So yeah, I don’t know what to do with this whole body hair thing. I just try to own it and strut around like the huge man-beast that I am. “Yeah, sup girly-man? I’ll fucking rip you in half with my hormones alone.” I think I need to work out more.

    1. Yeah, gotta watch those hormones. Eat more tofu, that’ll help.

      I’ve actually been to one of your mixed-bathing onsens in Gunma, years ago. And I can attest that it’s not really as sexy an experience as I would have hoped. That kind of goes for Japan in general, though. The truth is it’s not really me being naked in front of women that I want, but rather the other way around. Guess exhibitionists like it though.

      You know, about the body hair thing . . . while certainly not as furry as their Western cousins, I think Japanese people are originally a bit hairier than they wind up being. Depilatory is big business in Japan, and women and men often use handheld electrolysis machines to take the hair off. Working in schools, I’ve often been surprised by how much hair, including mustaches, some kids have. Especially girls. That’s not a good look. But by the time high school rolls around, the mustaches and bushy eyebrows are gone and the eyelashes are magically longer. Magical.

      So yeah, maybe you should add “Epilady” to your Christmas list.

  9. Haha, great article as always. I’ve simultaneously looking forward to and dreading the summer in Japan (17 days to go!) – the humidity is definitely not something I’m keen on. I know Australia’s got a rep for being super hot, but our summers aren’t often humid so they’re tolerable. Plus our beaches are pretty amazing, just sayin’ – maybe your next trip should be to Australia (though that probably will be a bit longer of a trip than a 1hr train ride + 2km walk). So aside from trips to the beach, any other tips on how to keep cool in the summer? Especially when wearing a suit?!

    P.S. Also, love the new layout!

    1. Yeah, the suit thing—man, that’s a serious issue. Try not to walk, move, or breathe, as the slightest motion will only result in you becoming soaked from head to toe with sweat.

      If you’ve got a long walk outdoors, you’re basically—how to put this nicely—screwed. I’ve heard that even men are starting to use sun parasols. Never seen it myself, but it doesn’t seem like the worst idea ever. Not going to do much for your manly self image, but carrying your own shade would definitely help.

      In the trains, okay, you’re screwed there too. Try wearing a shirt made of solid ice. That would feel kimochii. Other than that, maybe some short pants like that dude from AC/DC.

  10. Hopefully this summer less buildings adhere to the energy saving measures so I can continue my walks to and from work in little sprints from building to building.

    I really need to figure out how to read the signs on the trains that depict the cooler cars and the cars without AC. I mean it’s usually pretty obvious looking into the windows and seeing open seats during rush hour but knowing the Japanese, there’s something very obvious I’m missing up front.

    I asked my female co-workers about men using parasols and the reaction wasn’t so supportive. The guys listening won’t enthusiastic either but they were very interested (hopeful) in the female response.

    1. Yeah, I gotta say, using a parasol is about on par with wearing a skirt. Although, actually, that would be quite cool and refreshing. No, must resist.

      To confess, though, once a few years ago I had to walk about half a mile to the station in a suit, and we were expecting rain later in the day, and since I had an umbrella anyway, it seemed a pretty intelligent thing to put it to use. But this was pretty far out of town and nobody was really around, so that made it okay. Maybe. I couldn’t really see doing it as a matter of course. Probably.

  11. So that’s what those hillbillies were saying in that movie “Deliverance”, with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voit: “Atsui”. That makes more sense to me now, I had no idea there are Japanese speaking red necks in the US …LOL! If you need that explained (it was an old wierd movie) just email me. Great piece, loved it and laughed til it hurt. I have a cousin out in Seattle and he said there were loads of those beach shacks floating out in the Ocean a few months back, apparently leftovers from the Tsunami. They found one with a Harley Davidson inside it with Japanese plates.

    I was catching up on my Japanese Dramas the other day and I started to really appreciate this one called “Kamo Kyoto e iku”. Its about a 200 year old high quality inn in Kyoto where the Okami dies and her daughter (a junior executive in the finance ministry in Tokyo) comes back to take it over. At first I didn’t think this one was such a great show, but it had enough interesting situations to keep me watching it. The characters all seem to have hidden and complex sides to them and they presented some very interesting issues in the last few episodes, like politics between Kyoto and Tokyo and the Face game that goes on in Japanese politics. Here’s a link to it if you want to see it:

    Well, I know you’re really busy, but I would like to recommend this show because it seems to explain many of the cultural conflicts going on in Japan and its well written and acted. The show has some comedy too and one of the episodes talked about the art of Japanese Rakugo story telling. They explained the roots and history of the Grand Kabuki in another episode. The art work that is presented in the show and the Cuisine are truly exceptional and very instructive about the high level of Japanese sophistication portrayed in this series. I found it eye opening on several different levels and highly recommend it.

    1. Thanks, Bud. I need to take a vacation from Japan just so I can catch up on Japanese culture. But if I get a chance I’ll definitely check that out. You were right on about “Tonbi,” so I now look to you as my source for video entertainment.

  12. Ken, I have a serious request to you. Your blog is informative and hilarious! But your posts are way too infrequent. I know that it takes a certain amount of time for you comedic genius to germinate and you can’t spend all your time writing. That’s why you should be on Twitter so all of your fans can get a daily dose. I always post your stuff there and you have many readers and fans in the Japan Twitterverse. Please consider it!

    1. Hmmm. The Twitter, you say. That’s a reasonable and good suggestion which any sensible person would implement. Let me see if I can find such a person, and thus begin this tweeting of which you speak.

  13. Ken, I just returned from my first trip to Japan — family of five, three kids ages 13, 11, and 8. The kids favorite thing oddly enough, or maybe not, the toilets (I digress). The first thing I noticed other than the quiet (Japan has to be the quietest country I have ever visited) was that the Japanese don’t wear sunglasses or so it seems. If true, why not? Are Americans (especially New York, where I live) too hipster cool to face reality so to speak? We were in Japan in July so it was hot as blazes and the mid-day sun was, well, the mid-day sun, blinding. We had a lovely time, by the way, a fantastic time. My family loves Japan.

    1. Hi Kristen,

      Glad to hear your family had a great time. Japan is certainly a fun and interesting place to visit, and crazily different from the States.

      So sunglasses, yeah, that’s a great question. Japanese people have told me that their eyes, being darker than Western eyes, withstand the sun better. And while that seems reasonable, I think fashion also plays a role. Women in particular are hugely concerned about sun exposure, and go to great lengths to wear long sleeves, hats, and carry umbrellas. So it seems a bit strange to ignore the effects of ultraviolet radiation on the eyes. Like everywhere else in the world, people tend to follow those around them, and sunglasses aren’t currently fashionable, except when worn indoors, if you’re under about 25.

  14. hi I read all your postes don’t mind me and my terrible English if not for auto corrct I don t think it would be legibal

    I would like to go to japan for schooling and to mabe teach some English on the side, I had a person recently who was born and raised there telling me its ok money and that in a lot of cases u don’t need a degree if you come from Canada. all you need is to be a native speaker in the English language

    SO my question is have you ever come across a company or job where a degree was not needed to teach English?

    1. I think what you’re describing sounds do-able. If you come to Japan on a Student Visa, then you may be able to get some work on the side teaching English.

      Everything I’ve ever read leads me to believe that you need a Bachelor’s degree in order to teach legally. I kind of doubt that Japan has some kind of exemption for Canada, or that the nation of Japan even knows anything about Canada other than it makes some damn fine maple syrup, but hey, I guess anything’s possible.

      Your best bet might be tutoring English, where you just charge somebody money to sit with you in Starbucks while you speak English at them. You don’t need a degree to sit in Starbucks, although getting a table for two is about as much effort as graduating from a state school. Bear in mind, though, that there is a lot of competition for tutors, and having good qualifications (and good English) will go a long way in determining how many students you can attract and how much you can charge.

  15. No wonder they are super atsui at the beach, since that’s preciselly where they wear their parkas and ski gloves. Coming from a western country I used to think that umbrellas and waterproof jackets were meant for rainy days, but apparently I was wrong.
    I’m in Okinawa right now, and after a couple of days at the beach I start to wonder which item from the list they failed to bring, #1 or #3? Or maybe they checked the weather forecast beforehand and got the degrees Celsius and Fahrenheit mixed up? When I dress down, I kinda feel like white trash for a minute, with my flashy sunglasses, exposing my chubby nakedness (i miserably failed at #4 since I arrived, all these tempting fried nibbles, damnit!) in front of honeymooners and families with young kids. But that’s my concept of the beach, and i can’t help but feel that i’m right, and they’re wrong, hehe.

    Anyway, thanks for this great blog, it never fails to make me laugh!

  16. Hi Ken,

    I recently discovered your blog and have been going through all of your posts, this piece literally made my cry laughing (I cannot remember the last time something I’ve read made my laugh so hard). You really are very talented, especially for how you weave together humor and your cultural insights (but more so your style of writing). I’ve been to Japan three times and have been studying Japanese for two years now. My motivation was originally because I loved their culture and wanted to understand more deeply how they think/act and obviously speak. Anyway I made friends with a couple Japanese girls last time I was there and they visited me in Manhattan (where I live) over the winter. Every 10ft they would say Samuiiiii and then I took them to Connecticut where I grew up and every other minute it was Sugoiiiiiiii. Anyway, I work in the automotive industry, which is another reason why I’ve been studying Japanese (because of all the Japanese companies in the industry and if I were to do an ex-pat experience with my company or another then Japan is where I would want to be). Out of all the things I’ve read over the years this blog has really helped me understand, better than anything, the realities of living there. I’m going back with my family in June (Tokyo, Kanazawa and the west coast of Izu) and I will definitely be more mindful and or aware since having read your blog. If you have any opinions on Izu and Kanazawa, I would love to hear them. I hope you keep on writing and more importantly one day write a book. You’re such a talented writer you should really put something together one day. I’m currently taking Japanese at NYU and have put our whole class onto your blog, please keep on writing and I hope you’re doing well.

    1. Man, that’s great. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Kanazawa and Izu, wow, those are some of the best places I know. That being said, I never fail to be amazed at the difference between Japanese cities and the Japanese countryside—you know, the inaka. Compared to Tokyo, where you can’t walk 3 meters without bumping into a vending machine, you could find yourself in a place that didn’t even have convenience stores. The horror. Like I don’t even know how people eat there. I guess they just plant seeds, and wait. Hey kids, we’re having curry for dinner, just as soon as these carrots, onions, and potatoes grow. Jeez, you might even be able to see stars. That’s what scientists call illumination, only way up in the sky. Anyway, yeah, it’s a pretty good place.

  17. Hey Ken! I come to Tokyo often so I always try to figure out your journey through your adventures! I’ll have to google map some locations to figure out your cross town drinking adventure. What beach did you end up going to near Tokyo?

    1. It was near Enoshima. It was pretty crowded. Okay, it was ridiculously crowded. I’ve also been to Kamakura. That’s nice. But crowded. Well, Tokyo, you know.

  18. I hate to break it to the Japanese (though they already know), but their eyes are not particularly “stronger” (whatever that means) than other people’s eyes. It’s just something they say to make them feel good about not being able to find sunglasses that fit. They don’t wear sunglasses because most sunglasses are not made for Asian facial geometries.

    1. “Asian fit” is the “flesh-colored” of body shape.

      Considering that millions of Asian people wear eyeglasses, I doubt that has much to do with it. The explanation I’m usually given is, “I’m not wearing sunglasses because nobody else is wearing sunglasses.” A logic which applies the world over.

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