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Tsumori Chisato dresses

Apart from some great designs from Tadashi Shoji, another Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato has introduced a great collection in Paris. They are not "Japanese" per se but almost all modern Japanese women wear like we do in the west. The dresses are colorful and flirtatious.

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Gay rights in Japan

In Japan, if you are different, the best thing is to act as if you don't exist. As a gaijin (or foreigner), I learned this lesson early on and it served me well. Because I chose to not stand out, the Japanese left me alone and I can say that I never faced any overt discrimination in Japan.

Gays in Japan do the same, and so do the handicapped. Things are changing somewhat, though. Kanako Otsuji, a lesbian politician, contested an election and the gays and lesbians actually organized a parade in Tokyo. Despite these small improvements, this group of people has a long way to go before they get any recognition in the country, where things don't change fast.

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Japanese Elvis fans

Elvis Presley is one person that has universal appeal. And while I know that American music is very popular in Japan (despite the English language challenges of the Japanese), even I was surprised by the number of hardcore fans of The King. I am sure that it will surprise you as much as me that the second largest Elvis fan club is in Japan. These dedicated Japanese Elvis fans do what they can when they are not visiting Graceland.

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Cosplay is fun

During our numerous trips to Harajuku, it was a delight to watch Japanese teenagers engage in cosplay (cosupurey is another spelling), which is almost an art form now. The word comes from costume+play and while we practice it in some ways on Halloween, the Japanese cosplay is inspired by anime and manga characters, though Harry Potter lookalikes are popular too. Now these shows and conventions are held all over the world. This is a video report about the convention held in Japan where a French duo was declared the winner for portraying characters from the video game "Final Fantasy." If you happen to visit Tokyo, we recommend that a weekend trip to Harajuku is a great idea. And oh, by the way, cosplay is something couples can do too to spice up their relationship.

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Noodle spa treatment

Looks like spa owners have prepared personal care products out of every imaginable products including chocolate, vegetables, seaweeds, diamonds, and all kinds of salts. Now a Japanese spa owner in Hakone (one of the most beautiful places near Tokyo and I would strongly recommend that you go there) has started offering a noodle bath. Aha, we like Japanese noodles and also love our spa treatments; so this is a great combination.

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Japanese fans of Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a global phenomenon and it is not limited to people of a specific age. Lorena and I must admit that due to time constraints we have not read any of the books but have watched all the movies. And the mania for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has just begun. At the premiere in Japan, the cast was in Tokyo and while looking at the pictures what caught my attention was the role play by Japanese fans. Lorena and I, in our trips to Shibuya and Harajuku, found that the Japanese are the masters of role play and the photos below show how good they are.

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Memoirs of a Geisha movie review

Photo of a geishaI have never understood the rationale for paying someone to chitchat with you. If I feel like talking to new people, there are so many avenues for doing so without spending a penny (except maybe paying for a drink or meal). My experience living in Japan, however, tells me that it is the norm in Japan. I have visited so many bars in Tokyo and Osaka with my ex-colleagues and friends where not only did you pay for your drinks, you also spent a fortune on a companion who does nothing more than pour drinks, giggle at your stupid jokes, and try to make you feel important. While geisha is supposedly an artist (neither a hostess nor a prostitute, though she can become a mistress in some cases), her more important role is to make a man feel what he aspires to be and what his wife may not find credible.

For these reasons and to understand the world of geishas in Japan, the movie "Memoirs of a Geisha" is a must watch. It might seem like a documentary on the life of a geisha, but as you watch the movie, you will find that it is actually a beautiful love story - that of Sayuri (childhood name: Chiyo Sakamoto played by Zhang Ziyi) and the Chairman (played by Ken Watanabe). There are twists and turns in the story, including the backdrop of the Second World War, but what starts off as a very tragic tale of a little girl sold by her parents, actually ends on a very happy note.

What we didn't like?

You might be disappointed to know that most of the movie was not shot in Kyoto, but in a studio in California. We also did not like how all the Japanese characters spoke English - it is heavily accented English (neither now nor during the time of the movie do Japanese people speak to each other in any other language than Japanese) and simply difficult to understand, despite the fact that almost all of my Japanese friends talk like that. In my opinion, the characters should have simply spoken plain American English, or even better, in Japanese (subtitles would have worked just fine).

Otherwise, strongly recommended, especially if you are a Japan lover like me.

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