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Somewhere Down in Japan

I usually wear cufflinks when I have to sport a suit and tie. That means I wear them almost every day as all the male employees at my company are expected to appear in suits and ties at work. (In case you are interested, female employees are told to wear "proper business attire.") One day, one of my colleagues looked at my cuff and said, "I rarely see people wear cufflinks. You have an eye for fashion." I answered her, "Yes, of course I do have a very good eye for fashion," but she obviously could not spot the actual reason why I like to wear cufflinks. To tell the truth, it is not that I like cufflinks, but I like cuffs without buttons. The reason is simple. Buttons on cuffs get in the way when I iron my shirts. French cuffs (double cuffs) are not easy to iron either, but single link cuffs that have buttonholes on both sides, but no buttons, are perfect. Most shirts I buy are in that style. Thus, in the natural course of events, I tend to wear cufflinks. Accessories are often considered to be excessive, but they sometimes make your life simpler, not more complicated.

As my colleague mentioned, it seems few people in Japan wear cufflinks. I meet a lot of business people every day, but it is only once or twice a week that I see anything other than buttoned barrel cuffs. I do not think there are any worldwide statistics on the usage of cufflinks, but I sometimes wonder how people fasten their shirt sleeves in other countries. I could send emails to all of my colleagues around the world and ask "Are you wearing cufflinks today?" but then everyone would think that I'd gone crazy. Are button cuffs worn by the vast majority in your country as well?

Of course, cufflinks are not without weaknesses. You need to buy a pair in the first place, and that costs you money. (Another way is to wait and expect that someone will give them to you as a gift, but that costs you time.) High fashion brands are hideously expensive, but cheaper ones have all the appearances of mass-produced goods. My solution to that is to purchase pre-owned items from a website like eBay. You can always find a lot of "vintage" cufflinks being sold in bulk packages at giveaway prices. The quality is usually fine because cufflinks are not the kind of things that can be easily damaged. Old items sometimes have very interesting designs, and you don't have to be a discerning connoisseur to enjoy them. Now you want to wear a pair on your cuffs, don't you?

posted by st.yuki
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Sat, 21 Apr 2012 / Tagged as: Leisure & Hobbies Living & Housing

One day in February, my wife suggested that we go on a weekend trip overseas, saying that she needed to gain fresh energy to recover from the stress of mothering our two baby boys. I didn't feel like going anywhere, and groped for the appropriate response to her. I usually do not like to travel very far unless I have something unavoidable to do at the destination. But I didn't have the confidence to win over my wife as she is the kind of person who won't take no for an answer.

At that moment, however, I remembered that my wife is from outside of Japan.

"Hey, you are not Japanese, and Japan is a foreign country to you. If you travel in Japan, that means you're travelling overseas."

She didn't seem satisfied, but I also remembered that we live a short distance from the Tokyo Disney Resort.

"And, you know what, we live near a 'resort' where a lot of people from all over the world travel on vacation to have fun and relax."

Then, after hours of discussion, my genius negotiation skills finally convinced her that we should stay at one of the hotels in the Disney Resort over a weekend. We also agreed that we would not go to any of the theme parks, but just enjoy the hotel facilities. I promptly started searching hotels.

Now, there are three categories of hotels that are tied up with the Tokyo Disney Resort.

1) Disney Hotels (operated under the Disney brand within the Tokyo Disney Resort)
- Disney Ambassador Hotel
- Tokyo DisneySea Hotel MiraCosta
- Tokyo Disneyland Hotel

2) Tokyo Disney Resort Official Hotels (operated within the resort, but not under the Disney brand)
- Hilton Tokyo Bay
- Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay
- Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel
- Sunroute Plaza Tokyo
- Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel Club Resort
- Tokyo Bay Maihama Hotel

3) Tokyo Disney Resort Partner Hotels (relatively near Disney, but not within the resort)
- Urayasu Brighton Hotel
- Oriental Hotel Tokyo Bay
- Palm & Fountain Terrace Hotel
- Hotel Emion Tokyo Bay
- Mitsui Garden Hotel Prana Tokyo Bay

4) Tokyo Disney Resort Good Neighbor Hotels (Despite the word "neighbor", these hotels are not very near the Disney Resort.)
- Keio Plaza Hotel
- Hotel Metropolitan Edmont
- Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba
- Hotel Nikko Tokyo
- Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel
- Hotel Sunroute Ariake
- Daiichi Hotel Ryogoku
- Tobu Hotel Levant Tokyo
- Hotel East 21 Tokyo
- Keisei Hotel Miramare
- Hotel Springs Makuhari
- Hotel New Otani Makuhari

If you really love to romp with Disney characters all day and night, the first category, the Disney Hotels, may be a good option. But they are usually too expensive and not suitable for those who just want to relax without being bothered by the blatting mice and their friends. Also, the 3rd and 4th categories were out of question. (Why would we go farther from the resort than we usually are?) So, I chose the Sheraton from category #2. Why didn't I go for one of the other ones like Hilton or Okura? Because the Sheraton was the only hotel that could offer us a spacious room plan for the nearest weekend.

Did we enjoy the stay? Yes, it was fine overall. My wife was free from baby rearing and household duties to quite an extent even though both of our kids were with us. We relished plenty of fresh and delicious buffet selections for all the breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The indoor playground at the hotel was like a paradise for our elder kid. However, there were a few negatives as well:

1) As it was a hasty reservation, we could not compare and choose from many hotels and plans. As a result, we spent more money than we might have if we had looked for better options in plenty of time. Actually, the total "travel" expenses were as high as a short trip to a nearby overseas country. We were upgraded to a Club Level room upon check in, and I guess it was a small mercy from the hotel to a stupid squanderer.

2) I was always going back and forth between the hotel and home during the weekend. On Friday, the day of our check in, I went to the hotel directly from work. I had to return home to change from a suit to a more casual outfit and get some extra clothes for my wife and kids. On Saturday, we remembered that an item from an online store was to be delivered in the evening. It was a new digital camera that my wife had ordered, and she wanted to use it during our "vacation." I went back home again, got the camera, and brought it back to the hotel. It was far from "getting away from it all."

It was not a bad deal, however, if I think of it as a small investment in the local tourism industry. The tax contribution of the Disney and surrounding tourist areas to my city's finances is quite noticeable. The more people spend money in the Disney Resort, the better service we get from the city. Are you looking for good places to visit in Japan? Come here, enjoy and give me a better life!

posted by st.yuki
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Sun, 20 Mar 2011 / Tagged as: Living & Housing Society & Culture

On March 11th, most public transport stopped running even in Tokyo, and many people could not go home after work. Some people walked many kilometers in the darkness to get home. Did I have a hard time too? Not really. I was in my office at work, and kept working until late. As always, I sent some emails to my colleagues and clients before leaving the office. Then I was lucky enough to catch one of a few subways that resumed service.

A couple of days after the quake, the city where I live, Urayasu, was reported by the media as the "disaster area nearest Tokyo." As around 70% of the city is on land reclaimed from the sea, many roads, roadside trees, bridges and buildings were severely damaged by liquefaction of soil caused by the intense shaking of the quake. Tokyo Disney Resort, which is my wonderful neighbor, was one of the many areas affected. What about my apartment? Well, it is on the inland edge of the old coastline, and there was no damage except that some of the water in my aquarium was spilled. The roads and sidewalks in front of my place are as flat and smooth as a skating rink.

The water supply in most areas in Urayasu city was disrupted after the quake. That was the case even in those areas which are not on a landfill. The block where I live was a fortunate exception. I missed the notification from the city authorities that the water supply was stopped in the entire city while I was taking a shower. Also, a few days later, I realized that the gas supply was suspended in many areas of the city. At my apartment, of course, the gas supply has never stopped since the quake.

To cope with electricity shortage caused by the mega earthquake, Tokyo Electric Power Company started to carry out area-by-area power rationing with rolling blackouts in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo. Urayasu city, however, was at first exempted from the blackouts in consideration of the above disruption to gas and water supplies. As a result, my family and I have had the perfect services of basic utilities. I have no trouble at work either.

My good luck did not end there. Since the earthquake, many shelves have been half-empty in convenience stores and supermarkets as people stock up. Even now, some people are still frantically buying excess food and supplies. When I went to a supermarket last Sunday, I could not help laughing at the sight. While rice was sold out completely, there were so many bags of flour left unsold. Nothing seems to hold me back from living my normal life. I baked good bread that night.

As time goes by, people's interest shifted from the earthquake itself to the nuclear reactor in Fukushima. Even from the greater Tokyo area, some people started to flee to the western regions of Japan. Interestingly enough, most of the evacuees from Tokyo I know are people who have always been unreasonable and demanding. All the ones whose wisdom and abilities I have always admired have stayed in or around Tokyo. The M 9.0 earthquake blew a lot of interpersonal stress away from me.

I believe there are tens of millions of people who are perfectly safe and fine just as I am in the eastern Japan. It is our responsibility to stay calm and suppress any panic. Don't pass on chain emails. Use your wisdom to quiet groundless rumors. Help everyone to access correct and unbiased information. We are the lucky ones, and Japan will never be destroyed as long as we are here.

posted by st.yuki
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