Nescafe × Ultraman collaboration Café opens tomorrow!! (For a limited time only) If you happen to be in Japan from April 28 to May 8 you’ll be able to enjoy this incredible collaboration between the brand Nescafe and Ultraman. Nescafe Harajuku Café will offer a heroic menu! Take a chance during this Golden Week to visit and enjoy Ultraman from a different perspective! Let your stomach feel the Ultraman hero! Some of the menu is pretty cute!
You’ll be able to enjoy “Busuka omelets” and also Ultra Seven Latte art. Ask for a Latte and enjoy the art on it! But wait, that’s not all!
Oaiso (お愛想) is a restaurant lingo in Japanese that means a “bill” or “check” in English.
You may hear this word used between restaurant employees, but you should be aware that this word is only used by the staff, not the customers.
The literal meaning of “aiso (愛想)” by itself is “a friendly, likable attitude.”
When one says someone has “aiso,” it means that person is likable attitude. Also, when someone says “aiso wo tsukasu (愛想を尽かす),” it means that person no longer wants to be friend with you.
The word aiso is used to mean “check” in restaurant industry because it was considered rude for employees to talk about bills in front of customers. When an employee is asked by a customer for a check, he/she would tell the other employee to do “oaiso.” It’s a short way of saying “please offer a friendly service to this customer till the end.” The word also implies “we are terribly sorry to be so rude (lacking aiso) and asking you to pay a bill.”
Even though it’s completely reasonable (and normal) for customers to pay for the service they receive, Japanese culture is built on humbleness as their virtue, so employees must show how sorry they are to ask for money.
Customers on the other hand, should use a proper word for check, which is either okaikei (お会計) or okanjō (お勘定).
“Posto (ポスト),” or post, refers to a mailbox or a post box in Japan.
In Japanese, English equivalent of post (as an actual piece of mail, or delivery of mail) is called “yūbin (郵便),” but public mailbox was given a western-derived name “post.”
Today’s Japanese mailboxes are typically square-shaped and made of metal. They have two slots for different types of mail. One is for postcards and regular-sized letter, the other is for expedited, irregular shaped, and international mail.
Many convenience stores in Japan also offer part of postal service. In such case, you can buy postage stamps, send letters and packages there. A small “post” can be found near the cashier.
You can usually tell whether a convenience store provides postal service or not by looking for a postal logo “〒” at the entrance or on the store window.
West Japan Railway announced yesterday on its newest train to be operated next year, “Nanao Line,” inspired by traditional handicrafts of Hokuriku Region. The train uses abundance of luxurious specialities produced in the area including famous Wajima lacquer, Kaga Yuzen silk, and Kanazawa gold leaf.
Concept image of Nanao Line. The exterior is wrapped in Kaga Yuzen style kimono design.
Seichi (聖地) is traditionally translated as a sanctuary, sacred place, or holy site in religious term. Examples of well-known seichi are Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians, Muslims, and Judaism.
In recent years, the word seichi started being used heavily in anime/manga and otaku culture. In this usage, seichi refers to a physical location in which certain anime/manga titles are supposedly taking place. Famous examples of anime seichi include Washinomiya Shrine that appears in Lucky Star, Shirakawago that appears in Higurashi no Nakukoro ni, and Iwamicho that appears in Free!.
When fans of such anime/manga titles visit a seichi, they call it seichi junrei (聖地巡礼), meaning making a “pilgrimage” to a sacred place.
Fans of anime Free! make a pilgrimage to Iwamicho and set up a character’s birthday party at an inn.
Sometimes rural towns become suddenly famous due to exposure through anime and manga. Not all the towns appreciate it, but many do use such opportunity to promote local businesses and attract tourism from outside. When you make a “pilgrimage,” just remember to be courteous to the locals and respect their culture. When you are respectful, I’m sure they’d enjoy your company.
Kōban is a small police station located in different parts of towns and cities in Japan. A kōban is a lot closely attached to local community than larger police stations. Uniformed policemen who work there are perceived as neighborhood cops whom you can ask for help at ease.
A kōban in front of Ebisu station, Tokyo.
At a kōban, a team of 2-3 policemen work in shift so there’s always someone 24 hours a day. There is typically a tiny tatami room with futon in the back for a policeman to staying overnight.
An advantage of having a kōban is proximity and accessibility to police from local residents. It’s in walking distance from most residents in the area. Compared to large police stations, kōban is much cheaper to establish and maintain, so you can even place one in areas where there isn’t enough budget or population to afford a large police station.
Also, many people get intimidated by going to large police stations to ask for help when their problems are mundane. For example, people often ask for directions at a kōban when they get lost. Or when your purse is stolen by someone, you can just go up to the nearest kōban and file theft complaint right there without having to go to a police station far away. A policeman at a kōban may even be able to catch the thief because it’s close to the crime scene.
When you are in trouble in Japan, don’t hesitate to ask for help from them!
If you are going to spend a prolonged period of time in Japan, teikiken (定期券) will come in handy. Teiki means periodic, and ken means a ticket. It’s a special type of railway pass you can use repeatedly within a certain period for a specific route (between pre-specified train stations). The price for teikiken is discounted and will end up cheaper than if you were to buy tickets individually. You can usually get teikiken with different time durations, 1 month, 3 months, abd 6 months.
There are many kinds of teikiken, but the most common ones are Tsūkin(Work), Tsūgaku(School), and Tokubetsu Sharyou(Special Train).
通勤定期(Tsūkin Teiki): For people who take the same train route for work. However, it doesn’t require any proof of your workplace, so in reality, you can purchase it for any purpose beside work.
通学定期(Tsūgaku Teiki): For students who take the same train route for transportation between their home and school. You’ll need to show proof of your enrollment to schools to purchase this pass.
特別車両定期(Tokubetsu Sharyou Teiki): This is for people regularly taking special trains that offer Green Cars (premium class seats), including Shikansen and special rapid lines such as Shonan Shinjuku Line, Airport Narita Line, etc.
You can either buy them in traditional magnetized pass, or in SUICA pass format. Or if you have cellphones in Japan, you can even have one on your phone!
For JR, you can purchase teikiken at ticketing machines at JR stations or at Midori no Madoguchi Ticket Offices.
Every year, June is usually the beginning of tsuyu (梅雨), the rainy season in Japan.
The origin of the word came from China, where some parts of the country also experience rainy season around the same time of the year.
Tsuyu season is humid, and cloudy days continue for several weeks. People watch out for mold growth in the household, rust, and food poisoning during this time. Tsuyu will usually last till late July, but sometimes it could continue later.
A tip for travelers. Whenever there’s rain, convenience stores and drug stores in Japan rush to sell cheap, transparent umbrellas at their storefront. They are called “binīru gasa (ビニール傘),” because they are made of vinyl. They are priced around 400-600 yen, and usually considered disposable, but you can actually use them for a few times before it breaks.
Although Japan has reputation for low theft rate, people do frequently take your umbrellas when you leave it in one of those umbrella racks in front of stores. I don’t know if it’s because everyone’s disposable umbrellas look the same, and it may not be done on purpose, but just be aware it can happen when it’s unattended for a while.
Can you believe this is inside a train? Japan Railway is planning to operate a new train line called “Cruise Train” that offers first-class services and luxurious rooms to passengers. The concept of the train is “an environment to enjoy space and time passing.”
This is a word you must know when shopping in Japan. Otsuri (おつり) refers to change (money given back to the payer when the payment was excess).
It is believed to be derived from the word tsuriai (釣り合い), meaning balance and equilibrium. “O” is an honorific prefix. Therefore, the word otsuri was coined probably because change is given in order to make a balance between the payer and the payee.
In Japan, people don’t take tips. Even if you try leaving tips, employees will most likely chase you down the street to return the money. Even bus drivers give you change.* So make sure to receive otsuri and not leave it there when they give it to you. They’ll just get confused otherwise!
*The only exception is maybe at old ryokan. When staying at traditional ryokan and onsen inns, some guests hand their nakai (waitress/housekeepers) what’s called “okokoroduke (お心付け).” This is basically the same as tip in western culture, except it must be wrapped in a piece of fabric or paper. Handing bare cash is considered impolite in Japan. However, this tradition is also disappearing as Japanese young generation no longer knows of it. So as a foreign visitor, it’s entirely up to you to decide if you want to tip at ryokan or not.