I do not know Garret Popcorn. I do not know if it is good, I do not know if it is bad.

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All I do know is that the store in Shibuya must be the highest sales per square foot in their chain. It is ALWAYS lined up around the block. I tried to capture the size of the line, but is hard.

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Do you see the end to the line? Hard.

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Crazy. I will be unable to form an opinion on Garrett popcorn as the chances of me standing in a line for 2 hours for popcorn are somewhere between 0 and none.

A side note, the advanced encoded security with digits that moved around on the pad for this bathroom gave me a chuckle.

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It wasn’t even that fancy of a bathroom (smile).


It is hard to describe why being a foreigner in Japan is so hard. The people are friendly, they mistake me for American all the time and Japan loves the US. English is more prevalent than I thought. Why so hard?

I am not talking about the business side. That is a different conversation and as a multi-cultural Canadian with a previous expat under my belt, that is going exactly as I expected.

I am talking about living in Japan as a person, as a family. Is it because it is such a busy city? Is it because the expat community is so much smaller due to people leaving after the earthquake; leaving only the semi-gaijin behind (ones who have localized or married a local)?

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As I took the subway the other morning, something happened that encapsulated the experience and perhaps, though a story, a point of view and an explanation.

I have been commuting to a new office for weeks now and tried a few different subway routes, settling on the quickest and easiest. 5 stops, up the stairs, 50m, down the stairs, 1 stop and 250m underground to our new office.


I have found the Tokyo subway commute interesting. On this particular morning I stood on the packed train and took a good look around. Men reading manga .. I still find that odd, especially when you glance at one and notice how graphic they are. People on their phones. A man standing oddly trying to read a huge paper. An ad for whisky that made me laugh. Observing, learning, enjoying the "foreignness".

Stop 8 – Ginza (It is easier to identify by the number than the name). Time to change trains. Step out, head up the stairs and … what?

Everything is different.

Where is my next line 50m away? Where is the red circle to guide me? Where am I?

What has changed? (it starts dawning one me). This time instead of stepping on to the last car, which is busiest, I walked up 2 cars.

The smallest of changes. A tiny shift.

I am lost.

Wandering around I find signs and trudge what feels like 1000m around corners, up stairs, down stairs. How is this possible? The change between trains is a hop, skip and a jump. A long walk, it feels like my 2 minutes is now 20.

Finally, I get to my change over. Back on track. One stop, short walk, at the office.

That is the Japan expat foreigner experience.

Over that first, painful year of learning you build your cocoon of knowledge in this foreign country where everything is different, where there is a “way things are done” which allows 40 million people to live together and create the safest, cleanest and one of the most functional cities in the world.

The problem is that when you shift a millimeter right or left, that cocoon is torn asunder. Your understanding is blasted apart and you are left wondering, where am I? (This often happens when you are under a time pressure).

Drifting in an ocean where everyone understands, except you.

If you don’t believe me, rent a car and a GPS in Tokyo and try driving across town. GPS’s don’t understand 3 level freeways. One minute it will say go straight for 13km and the next, it thinks you are on the first level and is screaming “U-turn .. exit left in 150m .. recalculating .. Turn right!”

That being said, year two is about 200% easier and as always, fascinating.

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There is always a line around a stairwell near Shibuya in Tokyo. Why? Popcorn of course.

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It was a Saturday and the “feels like” temperature is 42. Perfect temperature to line up for an hour to get some hot popcorn right? The parasol helps.

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It is right around the corner from this incredibly quirky street, Takeshita Street.

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Costume shops, punk rock clothing and a hundred things in between including great outfits for your dog.

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Not sure marvel would appreciate the cross-dressing Spiderman.

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Crepes on the corner, ice cream and chocolate or tuna and lettuce? Would you like that in a cone?

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Absolutely must get to this place before we head back to NA. Stock up on Halloween costumes.

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I have thought about blogging about this before, and will instead make a simple reference. In Japan there are almost no t-shirts with the Japanese language on them, only English (which is an oddity). Furthermore, the Japanese use English words in odd ways and it is very clear that they do not understand the cultural implications of some words.

In an overly formal and polite society which does not have swear words in the language (In Japan, you swear through voice inflection – there literally are no swear words), it makes their prominent display of the f-word quite surprising. My son once pulled me aside to show me a 80 year old woman with the word prominently displayed on her shirt. I recently walked behind a young man who had it written all over his shorts.

It isn’t quite “everywhere”, but surprisingly common. Walking down this street, I counted it on 7 items of clothing including this young, well dressed girl’s hat as she strolled through a shop (I cropped the picture).

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I really do think someone needs to sit them down and explain the word. Stranger in a strange land.


Tokyo is a place of umbrellas. If not for the rain (it is pseudo-tropical), for the sun; in which case they call them parasols and charge a lot more money.

Awhile back we were stuck in a rainstorm in Shibuya. I did not have my camera with me and have vowed that one day, I will get back to a very specific alley to get a shot in the rain as it was an amazing site.

That being said, a few shots in a similar vein, from the same area but on the wrong street (smile).



The trees have an interesting texture in black and white.


At a crossing. Not “the” crossing. But one of them.


And one oddity. I don’t know if I would buy from this shop. I found the name a bit creepy.



Sure, you can find “different” things in those out of the way shops in North America. What we would consider “different” in Canada is the mundane in Japan, even common.

At Tokyu Hands (best described as a big craft, DYI and everything in between store), you wander from the mundane to unique in moments.

On a Sunday we had to get craft supplies for my son’s science project. Here are a few things that caught my eye (I had my 5D with me as we were heading over to Yoyogi afterwards).

The street outside the store. Busy, busy.


This diorama of a kitchen is valued at …. wait for it … $3500. You can almost smell the rice. Who would buy it? Not sure. Remarkable detail.


This one made me laugh out loud. After all, how can marketing “Girl und Panzer” not be a winner? Right? (far right side of box in English)


Who feels it necessary to buy these for the house? Not sure. But they are “Home Sign’(s).


Japanese people LOVE their dogs. I mean LOVE. So much so, that they dress them up non-stop. For that special pooch in your life, look not farther than Tokyu Hands my friends.


Check out for some great Tokyo dog shots and their crazy outfits.


I am not sure why you would buy these coloured specimens, but there is lots of choice .. although they are not cheap. Our boys were looking at the bottom shelf, which had the $400 specimens.


This is from the popular mobile game Touch Detective Mushroom Garden. I found it disturbing.


Always an adventure.


There was a holiday on Monday and when I asked a few colleagues they didn’t know anything about it .. other than it being a holiday. National Foundation Day:

The origin of National Foundation Day is New Year’s Day in the traditional lunisolar calendar. On that day, the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu was celebrated based on Nihonshoki (日本書紀), which states that Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne on the first day of the first month.

In the Meiji period, the Japanese government designated the day as a national holiday. This coincided with the switch from the lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. In 1872, when the holiday was originally proclaimed,[2] it was January 29 of the Gregorian calendar, which corresponded to Lunar New Year of 1873. Contrary to the government’s expectation, this led people to see the day as just Lunar New Year, instead of National Foundation Day. In response, the government moved the holiday to February 11 of the Gregorian calendar in 1873. The government stated that it corresponded to Emperor Jimmu’s regnal day but did not publish the exact method of computation.

In its original form, the holiday was named Empire Day (紀元節, Kigensetsu?)[citation needed].[3] It is thought that the Meiji Emperor may have wanted to establish this holiday to bolster the legitimacy of the imperial family following the abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The national holiday was supported by those who believed that focusing national attention on the emperor would serve a unifying purpose.[4] Publicly linking his rule with the mythical first emperor, Jimmu, and thus Amaterasu, the Meiji Emperor declared himself the one, true ruler of Japan.[5]

With large parades and festivals, in its time, Kigensetsu was considered one of the four major holidays of Japan.[6]

Given its reliance on Shintoism and its reinforcement of the Japanese nobility, Kigensetsu was abolished following World War II. Ironically, February 11 was also the day when General MacArthur approved the draft version of the model Constitution in 1946.[7]

The commemorative holiday was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966.[8] Though stripped of most of its overt references to the Emperor, National Foundation Day was still a day for expressing patriotism and love of the nation in the 1950s.[9]

What did not happen this National Foundation Day is the “muted” Japanese nationalism that was suggested in this note:

In contrast with the events associated with earlier Kigensetsu, celebrations for National Foundation Day are relatively muted. Customs include the raising of Japanese flags and reflection on the meaning of Japanese citizenship. The holiday is still relatively controversial however, and very overt expressions of nationalism or even patriotism are rare.[10]

The nationalists were out in full force due to the Chinese and Russian tensions around territories, and the growing support for greater Japanese national defense forces. We live near the Chinese embassy, there were police everywhere and they were dressed for trouble.



The trouble that they were monitoring were these trucks that seemed to be everywhere. Their loudspeakers were blaring some form of rhetoric, which a bystander explained to me were calls for the Japanese people to unite around the themes previously mentioned.


Big loudspeakers.


I guess they need big loudspeakers in the Shibuya area to compete with the trucks that drive around blaring pop music to advertise their video game, pop music group or product.



I can handle the video game trucks .. the pop group trucks with their bubble-gum music blaring set your teeth on edge.

We spent a few hours in Shibuya as I needed to hit the Apple store. There are cool buildings in the area. This one looks like it came out of Battlestar Galactica.


This one does a good job of optimizing their 3m x 200m property.


A little Japanese restaurant for a quick lunch.


And probably Tower Records last store ….


Thanks for dropping by …