On the blog

The latest news and views, as we get them

On the blog

This is our repository for news updates and rambling discussions about what's going on around Tokyo at the moment. Comments can be sent in via our Twitter account or by emailing the editor. Please note, by submitting a comment you are accepting that it may be edited for house style and used on this page.

AKG48: Like AKB48, but 2.08 times as big

And so we bring you the latest in the AKB48 saga, and it seems a challenger may have arrived; one that may not outdo our heroes for talent, but one that beats them physically, member for member, 2.08 to one.

Meet AKG48, an idol group with an unusually familiar name who recently descended from the Gunma mountains to stake their claim on the hearts and minds of Tokyo. Saturday saw the central 'G' core hit the street outside Gunmachan, a shop in Ginza that specialises in Gunma produced goods (see the video clip above). The core 'G' group features 12 members, a mere fraction of a more stupendous whole: at full strength, AKG48 boasts 100 members.

According to a report in the Sankei Shimbun several weeks ago, the all-singing-all-dancing mega unit was formed by an odds-and-sods company called Oriental Japan (also a dispatch company, recruiter, events planner, consultancy and advertising firm), and was originally intended to replicate AKB48 in everything, including number. However, of the 220-odd people who turned up, the Sankei tells us, 'there were too many promising candidates to narrow it down', and so membership was rounded up to include 100 people. Who'd have thought that Gunma was such a hotbed of burgeoning pop talent?

If you're having trouble comprehending the name, know this: AKG48 were not always thus. A little surfing around their Flickr site quickly shows that they once worked under the name Gunma Mega Idol Group (or the Japanese translation thereof). We've yet to discern why they thought to change it, though the official line is that they're named after Gunma's Mt Akagi, along with the idea that 'A' stands for 'akaruku' (brightly), 'K' stands for 'kawaiku' (cutely) and 'G' stands for 'genkiyoku' (cheerfully). None of this adequately explains why they've kept the number 48 in their name, but it's obvious that the group and their management company are not shy when it comes to wearing influences on their sleeves. Videos on YouTube demonstrate that an AKG48 show has so far consisted chiefly of the group miming or dancing along to AKB48 hits.

Interestingly enough, the Gunma Discover tourism campaign is currently underway, running July 1-Sept 30. Without wishing to appear too cynical, we wouldn't be surprised if AKG48 disappears back up the Akagi mountain they came down from before the summer is out, though with luck they'll stick around long enough to do some Oricon chart damage with their first single, 'Knee High Lover'.

Google Plus Top 100: Where does Japan figure?

We have moved this entry. Click here to read about Google Plus Japan.

Who is the biggest idol of them all?

If Facebook figures are anything to go by, the Japanese idol wars are all but over. A report on Japanese music industry website Hotwire this morning showed that girl army AKB48 have 35,048 'likes' (approximately 730 likes per member), while nubile vocaloid creation, Hatsune Miku, has managed to grab herself 221,590, almost six times more. For some reason, the report also throws in figures for mysterious part-time vocaloid, Gackt, who beats all 48 girls into third place with 53,898. We hope you sleep better tonight knowing this.

Introducing vlogging sensation-to-be, Ami Yamato

The latest J-sensation to excite the Time Out Tokyo office is Ami Yamato, an animated Japanese Vlogger apparently searching for work in London. With only three vlogs posted so far (two in English, one in Japanese), she's not quite a household name yet, though we suspect that won't last long (either she'll become a viral sensation, or she'll, er, just get the job she's looking for and give up). Just watch the video below and judge for yourselves. Cute trick, or the future of online diaries? Let us know what you think.

Donating money the Japanese way

'Only in Japan,' as the phrase goes. This pic, snapped and tweeted by @Darrell_Nelson in Chiba shows that Japanese vending machines are now accepting donations for tsunami relief.

Potential charity givers have the choice of donating their change – ¥100 (just over a dollar) or ¥10 (approximately 12 cents) – to the cause, though the electricity-guzzling machines are currently the subject of criticism as the capital struggles to deal with the surge in energy required to stay cool during the summer.

Portable dosimeter as fashion accessory?

As Kepco (Kansai Electric Power Company) announced plans to continue its nuclear power programme earlier this week, a research team at Kyoto University unveiled the beginnings of a perfectly timed fashion accessory. Science bods in the ancient capital have managed to create a plastic that glows neon blue when exposed to radiation.

Talking to the Mainichi Daily, Assistant Professor Hidehito Nakamura said, 'I'd like to see this plastic put to use in portable radiation detectors that could just be hung from mobile phone straps.' A colleague in the Time Out Tokyo office suggested using the plastic for glow sticks at raves, though we can't see the Nuclear Rave making one of our things to do in Tokyo lists.

The Mainichi article goes on to explain that the plastic is able to detect alpha, beta and gamma radiation, and is more efficient at doing so than anything else currently on the dosimeter market, costing about a tenth of the manufacturing price to boot. Expect mobile phone straps in pulsing radiation blue to hit Shibuya before the year is over, and the matching dosimeter manicure to follow shortly after.

Can Tokyo survive the summer heat?

As Tokyo gets its first taste of summer, air conditioners are whirring into life around the city, and there's been a marked rise in demand for electricity. According to the TEPCO website, we're currently at 91 percent of the operator's generating capacity, which doesn't seem to bode well for the coming months. Is this going to be the Summer of Blackouts?

Perhaps not. The government's clunkily named Electricity supply-demand measures in summer time – which aim for a 15 percent reduction in electricity use – don't come into effect until July 1, so we're likely to see a lot more setsuden (power-saving) action from then on. Tepco will also be using a souped-up online system from the start of next month, whereby the company will post forecasts each evening for the following day, based on the supply capacity and predicted demand. As this PDF explains, these range in severity from 'According to your cooperation, we will have enough Electricity Supply today' to 'During 9:00 to 20:00, we ask your cooperation to refrain from using electricity'. Yup: refrain from using electricity.

There's no telling whether these measures will do the trick or not, although if you peep at that chart again, you'll see that Tokyo is currently using significantly less than it was on this day last year (and the thermostat didn't make it above 28.3°C in Tokyo then). Here's hoping...

Charity T-shirts designed by celebrities

'Fashion Unites for Japan', a Vogue, GQ and Uniqlo collaboration that hopes to raise 100 million yen for the survivors of the Tohoku disaster, launches across the globe today (Saturday, June 25). Charity T-shirts designed by celebrities will be on sale at Uniqlo stores in Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, US, UK, France, Russia, Hongkong, Malaysia and Singapore, at the local Tokyo price of ¥1,500.

Designs include work by Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Victoria Beckham, Karl Lagerfeld, Cindy Lauper, Orlando Bloom, Charlize Theron and many more. Uniqlo stores can be found all over Japan, though the UT store in Harajuku is a particular favourite of ours.

Click to see all the T-shirts on sale at Fashion Unites for Japan

Maki Goto takes a break

The news taking Twitter by storm this evening (June 22) is that Maki Goto, former member of Morning Musume, is to take a break from the entertainment industry. According to Kyodo News, she's doing it to 'live for herself', presumably following the death of her mother, who fell from the third storey of her home in January 2010, as well as previous unpleasantries involving her younger brother, Yuuki Goto.

Maki, who was christened Gomaki by fans and the media, joined Morning Musume in 1999 at the age of 14. For our younger readers, Morning Musume found fame in the late '90s, and might be described as an earlier (we hesitate to say better) version of AKB48, only with less members (though, after 14 years of constant auditions and 'graduations', they've probably had more members overall – we'll leave you to do the maths). While their latest single, 'Only You', peaked at number four on the Oricon chart, it looks increasingly as though their younger rivals have eclipsed them entirely. No wonder Gomaki is ducking out.

39 years of Pia magazine

If print isn't dead yet, it's getting there. After 39 years in the business, the Tokyo edition of event listings magazine Pia will be ceasing publication next month. With the Kansai and Chubu versions of the mag already killed off last year, it looks like the company is getting out of the print industry for good, although it will be continuing its popular Ticket Pia service. Much of the pleasure of the paper Pia was in Masamichi Oikawa's cover illustrations, which offered well observed – and sometimes mildly satirical – portraits of the current stars of the day. The artist took charge of Pia's cover in September 1975, and never missed a single issue after that. Guess he's going to have some time to kill now, then. You can check out nearly 1,300 examples of Oikawa's work – searchable by date and genre – at this online Pia covers gallery.

Studio Ghibli says no to nuke power

Japanese anti-nuclear power protestors got an extra fillip last night as Studio Ghibli, the home of anime master craftsman Hayao Miyazaki, hung a banner from the roof balcony of one of its buildings proclaiming the words: 'Studio Ghibli wants to make movies without using nuclear power!'

Bloggers in Tokyo have been quick to note that the anti-nuclear power community now has Totoro on its side, although nobody at the studio, which is responsible for hits including Spirited Away and Ponyo, has been available to comment on the banner so far this morning. The message does not come as a surprise, however, as Ghibli films are well known for their eco friendly messages. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), often thought of as the studio's first film, dealt with man's toxic pollution of the planet, and both Pom Poko (1994) and Princess Mononoke (1997) also incorporated explicitly environmentalist themes.

3 things to do today in Tokyo: June 16

Get naked...
Lavishly decorated Aoyama lounge-club Velours marks its 6th anniversary this weekend with a three-night onslaught of kinkiness: think drag queens, 'lusty' go-go dancers and a whole lot of red lighting. Read more

Drink as much as you like...
When Time Out headed to Laguna Bass last month, we had the open bar practically to ourselves. That's right: an hour's worth of free-flowing booze. The Laguna Bass posse will be in attendance, too, and you can drink as much as you like from 9-10pm. Sorry, some things just bear repeating. Read more

See some shorts...
Since starting life in Harajuku in 1999, Japan's premier short film festival has sprawled in a bewildering fashion. It takes a dedicated buff to keep on top of everything that's going on during Short Shorts – this year's program of 68 films from 23 different countries is being screened across venues in Harajuku, Shinjuku, Roppongi and Yokohama, and keeping track of what's going on where can be an effort in itself. Read more

For more things to do today in Tokyo today, click here...

3 things to do today in Tokyo: June 15

Send in the clowns...
Kooza is billed as a return to the Cirque de Soleil's roots, putting the emphasis back on clownery and physical acrobatics. Highlights include the Wheel of Death, the contortionists and the impressively muscled balancing-on-chairs guy. Read more

Eat like a rich bod...
Airline food isn't usually notable for its quality, but then most of us don't get to travel first class. No matter, Virgin Lounge and Minami Aoyama's Vulcanize London have teamed up to bring you top flight experience, while you keep your feet firmly on the ground. Read more

Get back to nature...
For a chance to see the fireflies in their natural glory, head to the countryside. It's a bit of a mouthful, but the lush, wooded area around Yuuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato is the perfect place to pitch up at dusk, and - if you're quick - to grab a room and a dip in the onsen before you head back to town the next morning. Read more

Award winners

Boasting's not really our thing, but we thought we'd share this one with you. For our coverage of March 11 and the effects it had on our city, Time Out Tokyo received 'Best Online Feature 2011' at the recent Time Out International annual awards. We just wanted to say that we're very grateful for the recognition, and we're glad we were able to help at a crucial time, though we were by no means the only people offering guidance.

If you'd like to know a bit more about why a Time Out award makes us particularly proud, here's a lightning guide to the world of Time Out in 12 quick pictures (warning: you're about to see some very hairy men indeed).

Meals at Muji

Café & Meal Muji Minami Aoyama, artist's impression

Internationally renowned minimalist brand, Muji, have announced that they'll open their first meals-only venue on June 8 on Koto Dori, Minami Aoyama. The company already have café and restaurant spots built into 14 stores across the country, but this will be the first to do away with the clothes and household goods for which the company is so widely known. The eatery, nattily named Café & Meal Muji Minami Aoyama, will specialise in food and drink made with seasonal ingredients. It'll have room for 86 diners and will be open daily, 11am-10pm.

Quakebook print date announced

Cover image published via Quakebook.org

The people behind Quakebook have announced that the date for the project's print publication will be June 14. While the original eBook reached number four on Amazon's non-fiction charts, this development will make the charity must-have available to people who have yet to invest in a Kindle. We've yet to hear of any launch parties, but we'll keep you posted if and when we do.

in the Hot Seat: Joi Ito

Photo by Mizuka Ito

Time Out Tokyo will be interviewing the newly appointed director of MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito, this Thursday morning. This extraordinary gentleman is also the CEO of Creative Commons, one of the key figures behind the introduction of Twitter to Japan, a respected writer and author, a one-time DJ, the second cousin of Cornelius and godson of the late psychedelic explorer, Timothy Leary.

Obviously, we won't be short of things to ask him, but we thought it polite to offer you the chance to pitch your questions, too. If you have anything you'd love to know, send your questions directly to the editor, or submit them to our Twitter account.

'What lies in store for the docile Japanese?'

Last week, the Japanese arm of Time Out Tokyo received an interesting think piece from a leading Japanese journalist. Part analysis, part call-to-arms, the article raged against the 'docility' that the author perceived in his fellow citizens, as the government announced plans to protect TEPCO and its investors, 'rather than give priority to the interests of the citizens of Japan'. While this may not be usual Time Out fare, our colleagues chose to give the journalist space, as it turned out that many of the publishers he usually dealt with had refused to run the article, apparently for fear of losing advertisers.

Here, then, is the translation: What lies in store for the docile Japanese?

Russell Brand deported

Odd happenings concerning British comedian Russell Brand yesterday afternoon, as his wife Katy Perry began tweeting that he'd been deported on entry for 'priors from over 10 years ago'. While those 'priors' weren't specified, we suspect that Brand's drug-fueled twenties had something to do with it. Perry's tweet was followed shortly by a series of tweets from Brand himself, apparently in Japanese 'custody', enquiring after vegetarian sushi and trying to tunnel his escape with a chopstick. The above picture, tweeted last night at about 7.30pm, appears to be the last anyone has seen of him...

3/11: The Movie?

The Cannes International Film Festival wraps up in a couple of days' time, and director Naomi Kawase has used the occasion to announce a film omnibus to commemorate the March 11 quake and tsunami. 3.11 A Sense Of Home Films Project will feature shorts by approximately 20 directors, including both rookies and established veterans such as Víctor Erice (The Spirit of the Beehive) and last year's Palme d'Or winner, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. As Jason Gray reports in Screen Daily, all of the films will have a running time of 3 minutes, 11 seconds; the omnibus is set to premier on September 11 in Nara, Kawase's hometown.

Still from 'Hanezu' (2011)

Kawase won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2007 for The Mourning Forest, and her new film is in the main competition this year, although it doesn't look like she'll be walking away with any prizes this time around. Hollywood Reporter described Hanezu as 'visually rhapsodic but overbearingly metaphorical', while Boston.com was particularly harsh, dismissing it as 'a film so dull and powerfully inoffensive that to boo would be to cause the celluloid (or whatever it was projected from) to burst into tears'. Ouch.

Come to our arms, Bieber

The boy with more than half a million Twitter followers will be glad to have arrived in a country that cares for him. Justin Bieber, who plays the Budokan later this week, was met in Hong Kong by 20 security guards, brought out in preparation for the thousands of fans expected at the gates. As the footage below show, only seven fans actually showed up.

Aww, come to our arms, poor Bieber. Japan still loves you (200 turned up at Kansai Airport, in case anyone's counting).

Japan's sexiest...

Time Out Tokyo readers have voted, and the results are in. A week ago, we asked you to pick the sexiest Japanese movie star of all time, based on this article. You took up the challenge, and we can now tell you that Takeshi Kaneshiro took the title with 16.67 per cent of the vote, followed in joint second place by Meiko Kaji and Aya Sugimoto, each taking 11.11 per cent. Third place went to current Thor actor, Tadanobu Asano, with 7.41 per cent. Many thanks to those who joined in.

Cool Biz just got cooler

With Tokyo enjoying an early taste of summer over the weekend, one of the big topics of conversation was the government's new office dress code recommendations for the coming months. You probably know Cool Biz, the Junichiro Koizumi-endorsed campaign that gave salarymen permission to rock up at work in short sleeves and no tie – the upshot being that businesses could reset their thermostats at a more eco-friendly 28C. If a lot of companies were hesitant to embrace such sartorial slackness, they're going to have an even harder time with this year's campaign, deliciously titled Super COOL BIZ 2011.

As reported in the Asahi Shimbun and elsewhere, the government is aiming to cut peak electricity usage by 15 percent this summer, which should reduce the threat of unexpected blackouts as Tepco struggles to meet demand. The 'standard' Cool Biz period has already started, and will run until October 31, but from June 1 office workers will be able to take advantage of even laxer clothing regulations. Here are the guidelines in full, via the Ministry of Environment website. Salarymen in Hawaiian shirts? This is going to be an interesting summer.

Clothes Last year This year
No tie Yes Yes
No jacket Sometimes OK Yes
Short-sleeved shirt Yes Yes
Patterned shirt Sometimes OK Yes
Polo shirt No Yes
Hawaiian shirt No Yes
T-shirt No Yes*
Running vest No No
Chinos Sometimes OK Yes
Jeans No Yes**
Shorts No No
Trainers No Yes
Sandals No Yes***

*solid colour, only in the office
**no rips or holes
*** only in the office, no beach sandals

Google StreetView takes you further inside...

That Tokyo has some 80,000 restaurants is well know. Quite what keeps them all in business is another matter entirely. Restaurants that inhabit hidden corners of minor skyscrapers must lose untold amounts of walk in trade, and not merely through invisibility. As far as advertising goes, few of them think any further than planting an anonymous, fading flag on the street outside, hoping to lure customers without any hint of what to expect inside. As far as visiting foreigners are concerned, they may as well be bookmakers.

Any sense of intimidation you may experience venturing into the unknown may soon be gone, thanks to a new add-on being worked into Google StreetView, unveiled to the Japanese public yesterday (see the blog post in Japanese here). The site as it currently stands allows users to mooch around streets in at least nine different countries, though until recently it wasn't possible to go into any buildings. Google Places now allows potential diners the chance to click their way through the door and have a poke around the restaurant for themselves.

The company have been shooting venues across the country for about six months now, and while an example can be seen here (look for and click on the small white arrow in the lower half of the image), it is far from being complete. Google Japan tell us that the American version of the project already includes restaurants, museums and more, all of which will come to this country eventually. For the moment, viewers are able to get inside restaurants, bars, some of Kyoto's tenugui stores, and (most importantly) a handful of nail salons.

From where we're sitting, it looks like a superb opportunity for smaller businesses, though it obviously still needs ironing out. In its current state, getting from the street view to the interior view is a little clumsy (starting from the StreetView page, you have to click through to the business itself, then look for the StreetView logo and finally select the interior images), but we doubt it'll take them long to get it right - at which point it'll feel like another jab in the increasingly skinny gut for print travel guides. Now, if they could just perfect the Google Senses interface, we could give up on going outside altogether.

Cars 2 heads to the J-toilet
Disney Pixar released a clip yesterday from their forthcoming kids' movie, Cars 2. The 50 second scene will have special resonance for anyone who has ever marvelled at a modern Japanese toilet, depicted here as something similar to the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise. The movie's plot finds the hapless boom truck, Mater, involved in a spy mission that takes him to Japan. It is set for a US release on June 24.

Tenniscoats down our street

Ahead of their June 5 gig at Time Out Café & Diner, Tokyo experimental duo Tenniscoats will be dropping by outside the Time Out Tokyo office on May 12, 1pm, for a spot of street busking. Weather permitting, they'll simply show up and bang out a handful of songs for whoever happens to be around. It's absolutely free of charge, naturally, but you'll have to bring your own mug of tea. Hope to see you then.

5 to try: Art exhibits in Tokyo

As always, this coming weekend looks like being a bit of a party. But there are still a few days to go before that kicks off, and things are a bit quiet in Tokyo today. Ideal, then, for a trip to an art gallery. Here are a few of our favourite current exhibits.

Be Alive!
The current exhibition at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art encourages us to 'live in the moment' and to fight against the horrors that surround us in daily life. It appears to be a theme well chosen for Japan, spring 2011, though it has actually been open since the beginning of the year. For exhibition details, click here

Time of Me
Saitama-born photographer, Reiko Someya, launches her second major exhibition of the year at Kita-Aoyama's Gallery Jy, this time turning her lens on herself. The artist, who works mainly in black and white, is something of a portrait specialist, though this event presents her first collection of nude self-portraits, the result of a four-year study. For exhibition details, click here

Le Surréalisme Exhibition
This popular exhibition, showcasing Surrealist superstars such as Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell, comes to an end this weekend, so get in while you can. For exhibition details, click here

Man or myth? Sharaku produced around 140 woodblock prints in a mere 10 months, many of them now considered classics. And then he vanished, apparently into thin air. For exhibition details, click here

Shinjuku Turmoil
This small exhibition deals mainly with the turbulent late '60s and early '70s, portrayed in a set of 20 astounding prints taken immediately after the photographer's relocation from Nagoya University to Shinjuku, where he claims to have actively sought out trouble and hardship as a subject for his lens. For exhibition details, click here

Japan's sexiest movie stars: you decide

You've read the article, now place your vote. Who do you think is Japan's sexiest ever movie star? If your choice isn't there, just tap his or her name into the box at the bottom of the poll. We'd love to hear who you're fantasising over!

May 10

An audience with Mr Tei

He's the only Japanese artist whose music you're likely to hear in a New York taxi, and we're interviewing him on Thursday. If there are any questions you'd like us to put to the mighty Towa Tei, let us know on our Twitter account.

April 28

Golden Week poll

April 26

15 great photos of the day

Our photo of the day series has proven to be a great success so far, and in honour of the fifteenth entry, we'd like to know which has been your favourite. Take a look at the Time Out Tokyo: Photo of the day list, and then vote below. We'll keep the poll open for a week. In the meantime, send your photos of the day to this address.

April 21

Anti-nuclear power online poll

Continuing with the anti-nuclear power theme, one reader sent in a link to an interesting poll this morning - an online petition, of sorts, asking participants to vote on whether they are for or against nuclear energy. At the time of writing, 129 readers approved of its use, while a staggering 3,932 were opposed to it.

'Leaving nuclear waste to our children is disgusting,' notes LuckyLucyFlower via her Twitter account, a response that is common on the 'anti' list. On the other side of the fence, however, responses are slightly less emotional: 'In order to maintain industry, we need this power,' says HidekiH, while SiroTKY adds solemnly that 'Dreams and reality are not the same.'

The poll can be found here.

Demo data

The public demonstrations held in Tokyo last weekend appear not to have caught the public imagination in the way that the previous Koenji rally did the weekend before. Data from the organisers suggest that the 'Let the vegetables have their say' event managed to attract 1,500 costume-clad protesters, a mere tenth of the figures reported by organisers of the Koenji event (interestingly, the police appear not to have put out information on either). Around the corner, the anti-discrimination rally is said to have mobilised 180 supporters.

Still, demo organisers will be hoping that both weather and mood change in time for this coming weekend, marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Of particular note is the Greenpeace-backed Energy Shift Parade, taking place on Sunday and marching through Shibuya, Omotesando and Harajuku. That the big Earth Day festival is taking place a stone's throw from the starting point could potentially add to the numbers.

The series of anti-TEPCO rallies taking place on April 23, 24 and 26 are planned to lead up to and coincide more precisely with the anniversary (which actually takes place on April 26). The last of these will take the form of a candlelit vigil outside the TEPCO headquarters.

With a discernable lack of interest in these events from major Japanese news broadcasters and other mainstream media, organisers of the anti-TEPCO rallies will cover the rallies themselves via a pair of Ustream channels, available here and here.

April 15

Now we are two

Happy birthday to Time Out Tokyo, and so say all of us!

Actually, that's not strictly true. We've had a couple of people tweet us to say they don't approve of our party mood, what with the country currently in such dire straits. A word to the naysayers: after a month of fear and mourning, the people on the ground here in Japan are keen to return to life as normal just as soon as they possibly can. And if we can raise a few extra charity yen by throwing ourselves a birthday party... well, where's the harm in that?

We'd also like to use the event to say thanks for all the support you have given us over the last month. There has been some amazing work done here in Tokyo - we're talking about the folk behind Quakebook, the foreign journalistic community, the local volunteers, and so many more. Japan has seen - and will continue to see - some remarkable changes in an extremely short space of time, and it's been our pleasure to try and keep up with it all. The encouragement we've had from our readers has meant a huge amount. So tonight's party is for you, too.

Time Out Tokyo has been around for two years now, quietly generating a name for itself by reporting on this city we love in the grand old Time Out tradition. Time Out itself began 43 years ago in London, thrown together by an energetic student called Tony Elliott with just 70 pounds given to him as a birthday present by his aunt. It's now one of the world's most popular and successful entertainment magazines, available in print in over 30 cities around the world, watched over by Uncle Tony himself from his office on London's Tottenham Court Road. Time Out Tokyo is, for now, online only, though that's all about to change, too...

We hope to see you tonight.

PS: The peculiarity in the above photo is the TOT editor, Jon Wilks. Getting in the party mood, apparently...

April 14

Throw your charity event at... Womb!

Nightclubs: they sit there all day, just doing nothing. Well, apart from Shibuya pleasuredrome Womb, that is: the Dogenzaka den of iniquity is putting its charitable money where its metaphorical mouth is, and letting fundraisers use its premises for free to host their events.

The 'For You' campaign runs until early May, and there are inevitably a few catches: you won't be able to schedule your event during regular opening hours, and while they're waiving the space rental fee, other overheads are 'subject to discussion.' Still, it sounds like a ripe opportunity to host that charity gig, flea market or auction you've been idly dreaming about recently. Interested parties should send an email to info@womb.co.jp including their name and contact details, type and aim of event, preferred days, and expected number of attendees. There are a few more details – only in Japanese, sadly – available here.

April 12

Anti-nuclear rallies in Hiroshima

In response to several readers' requests for info in English, here are the details of the anti-nuclear rallies taking place in Hiroshima.

There will be two events, the first on April 24 at Hanover Teien, a map for which can be found on this page. A live event and series of anti-nuclear speeches will take place between 10.30am and 1.30pm, after which the 'main rally' will take place until 3.30pm (it's not clear from their website what this will involve). The event will conclude with a 'peace walk', finishing up around 4.30pm.

The second event takes place on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. Gather infront of the Genbaku Dome at midday. A series of events will run throughout the day, culminating in the 'Chernobyl-Hiroshima Candle Night' at 6pm.

Full details, in Japanese, are available here.

EMI Family Shows Love 4 Japan

In a break from the current charity album trend (and, yes, they just keep coming), EMI is getting its extended 'family' of artists to auction off a vast miscellany of memorabilia, with all proceeds going to the Japan Red Cross Society – oh, and the label will match the amount raised, up to 1 million euros. Nice. We're not sure which of the auction items on offer is the most fab: could it be the Steinway grand piano from Abbey Road Studios? The chance to spend a day on tour with Simple Minds? Jane Birkin's old Hermes bag? The 1987 Ferrari 412 from Daft Punk's Electroma? Or, um, Mel C's belt from the Spice Girls' short-lived reunion tour? Bids are being taken now: check out the complete list here.

Anti-Ishihara's Discriminatory Comments Rally

As the organizers of last weekend's 15,000-strong anti-nuclear rally in Koenji predicted, the coming months will see a swell of interest in public demonstrations. To use a particularly Nihon-friendly term, rallying may well be the latest 'boom'.

Originally organised for March 12, but postponed due to the March 11 disaster, this coming weekend will see protestors unite to demonstrate against discrimination in Japan, inspired by the anti-homosexual comments made by controversial Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in early December and mid-February.

The rally will take place on April 16, 3pm, in Okubo Park, Shinjuku, and will head through Ni-choume (Tokyo's gay district) before communing outside the Governor's office at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Participants are encouraged to wear rainbow colours, and 'anyone who opposes Ishihara's comments and ideologies can participate in the rally, regardless of sex, gender or sexual orientation.'

We'll bring you more information as and when we get it. The official rally site is here.

April 11

The 'Internet Regulation Strengthening Law'

On a day that saw the first month since the March 11 disaster marked by another terrifying earthquake, perhaps the most significant moment came very late this evening when Masayoshi Son, Chief Executive Officer of Softbank (one of Japan's major internet providers), broke his silence concerning a rumoured government crackdown on the spreading of potentially harmful information - 'rumours' - that could lead to public hysteria.

Just before midnight on April 11, Son tweeted in English: 'I will stop my tweet for next 3 days. Japanese government has passed the law to damage freedom of speech over internet', and in Japanese that, 'to stop tweeting for 3 days is like a hunger strike against the law!'

At the time of writing, the full details of this new law (currently being called, somewhat clumsily, the Internet Regulation Strengthening Law) are not readily available, but it is thought that they would increase the Japanese government's rights when it comes to requesting user information from Internet Service Providers.

Observers are already suggesting that this may have something to do with the apparently minor coverage afforded the anti-nuclear rallies that took place in Tokyo yesterday afternoon, though this is obviously only conjecture at present.

April 9

How-to demo pamphlet, cho~ kawaii

In slightly cuter news, this evening we received a lovely keepsake ahead of tomorrow's anti-nuclear power march: a Japanese how-to manual entitled My First Demo.

Inside the 6-page PDF pamphlet, the reader is instructed on what precisely a demo entails (including some stirring words from a cartoon Ghandi), a step-by-step instruction guide on how to make a banner (and what to put on it), and a brief word on what kind of food to prepare for the average two-hour protest (Japan doesn't do anything without making sure that someone's packed a family-sized bento first). Best of all are the ever-so-kawaii illustrations showing plenty of colourful, smiling protestors quietly going about their business - not a word or a truncheon raised in anger.

Tomorrow will be an educational day for one and all.

Download the manual here.

Ishihara's Independent interview

Presumably overlooked in the wake of the disaster, Governor Ishihara's month-old Independent interview seems to have finally caught the eye of his compatriots: it's all our J-colleagues were talking about in the Time Out Tokyo office today. Not surprising, really - the gobbiest septuagenarian in Tokyo gave the interview only days before the earthquake, and rambled on at length about Japan's need to develop its nuclear arsenal as a way of preventing the neighbours from getting too big for their boots. 'If the Sato administration had unilaterally developed nuclear weapons then, for a start North Korea wouldn't have taken so many of our citizens,' he is reported as having said, along with inflammatory remarks concerning China and the Senkaku Islands dispute.

On the eve of both the gubernatorial election, in which he hopes to be re-elected as Governor for a fourth term, and what may prove to be Japan's biggest ever anti-nuclear demonstration, the man's poor timing may prove to be his final undoing.

Read the original Independent interview here.

April 8

5 things to do this windy day

We've been silent these few days, so our apologies for that. Busy times, here at Time Out Tokyo. All will be revealed soon enough. In the meantime, here are the 5 things to do on this blustery day in Japan's capital.

Dig the Danish furniture dudes
It's the last day of the Danish furniture exhibition, and it's been a roaring success so far. People just can't seem to get enough white chairs! It's indoors, too, so your barnet is perfectly safe. More deets here...

Throw your body around at an Awesome Benefit Show
Seldom has a gig been better named. Progressively inclined post-hardcore duo 2up have roped in minimal/maximal noise rockers Kuruucrew and complex noodlers (((Rebelrebel on Rebelrebel))) for an ear-busting all-night fundraiser. All proceeds on the door will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society. DJs K.E.I., Satoshi Yashiro and Toad round out the bill. More deets here...

See the 8th greatest DJ of all time
His name is Sasha and he's in Tokyo tonight. Need we say more? If so, you'll find more deets here...

Meet with the master
Rembrandt's in town, and he's got with around 100 major pieces with him. Catch the city's biggest Spring exhibit at the National Museum of Western Art while you still can. More deets here...

Throw stones with Peanut Butter Wolf
Stones Throw boss Peanut Butter Wolf will be returning to these shores with his brain-boggling video DJ set, alongside turntable pioneer J. Rocc – whose solo album drops this week – and soulful crooner Mayer Hawthorne, the latter flexing his muscles behind the record decks for a change. That's only half of the line-up, though: there'll also be a sizable posse of local hip-hoppers doing their thing, including Zen-La-Rock, Muro and Luvraw & BTB. More deets here...

April 5

Towers get flagged
Cities around the world ganged up for a big 'Ganbarre Nippon!' last night, as they cast landmark buildings in the colours of the Japanese Hinomaru flag. Iconic structures such as Toronto's CN Tower, New York's Empire State Building and Seoul's North Tower all did their bit. And, er, so did the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, England. You can see a compendium of shots here.

Meanwhile, in other flag-related news, the Consulate General of Japan in New York has apparently filed a complaint with Bloomberg Businessweek over its stunning March 21 'Crisis in Japan' cover design, which depicted a cracked Hinomaru. The consulate's verdict: inappropriate.

April 4

Zozotown raises 354 million yen
Online shop Zozotown announced today that it has sold 176,988 charity t-shirts, raising the amazing sum of 353,976,000 yen for disaster relief. The t-shirts, created by 680 different brands and designers, went on sale both internationally and in Japan, selling as far afield as Mexico. Back on home soil, the most shirts sold in the Tokyo region (16,162), while Saga prefecture brought up the rear (324 shirts). For the full rundown, click here.

Food for the soul
We know that there are already plenty of music-related ways to raise money for Tohoku, but we doubt you'd argue if we said one more wouldn't hurt. Besides, we're proud to say that Soul Aid is the brainchild of one of our regular contributors, Yuko Asanuma. The site offers people the chance to download mp3s for free, in the hope that they'll make a donation in return. Their aim is to raise 10,000 pounds (1.36 million yen) for disaster relief, and despite only launching in the last few days, they're already 17 per cent of the way there. Lend a yen and an ear when you have a moment...

Five things to do today in Tokyo

Catch up on the latest art and culture news
PauseTalk returns for it's first post-quake meeting, hosted - as always - by the irrepressible Jean Snow. More on tonight's event here.

See virtuoso musicians 'do battle'
'Duo 7 Days' sees a different pair of musicians clash each night, with tonight seeing a face-off between Koji Ota and Shinpei Ruike. More info here.

See a spot of sakura
The country may be in a state of turmoil, but that's not going to stop the capital turning pink. See our guide to top Tokyo sakura spots here.

Print out and slap up a Quakebook poster
Do your bit to help the relief effort by heading over to the Quakebook page, downloading their poster, and then spamming everyone you know with it. If they complain, de-friending them is just a click away...

Meet Tokyo's latest celebrities
The latest and most celebrated inhabitants of Ueno Zoo moved into their new home on April 1. The two pandas, on loan from a Sichuan wildlife sanctuary, are starting a ten-year stay (costing Tokyo tax payers 80 million yen in loan fees alone) that is expected to rake in 20 billion yen per year through tourism. Judging by the panda motifs that are plastered around the Ueno area already, the bears should prepare to be inundated with well wishers from the off. Ueno Zoo, Tuesdays-Sundays, 9.30am-5.00pm. Adults, 600 yen, kids, 200 yen. 9-83 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo (03 3828 5171). Transport: Ueno Station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hibiya lines). Read this idea and 65 more in our '66 things to do this spring article'

April 3

Thom Yorke addresses Japanese fans
Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, has responded to the March 11 disaster with the following statement:

'For a while I have felt the need to write something for our fans, I am very fond of Japan and feel awful seeing what has happened since the earthquake and tsunami...

My friends in Tokyo tell me there are now big powercuts and though the city is still functioning there is a lot of re-evaluating going on. Tokyo the temple to light and power is something different now.

That such a fast paced hyperkinetic place can be brought to it's knees is shocking even before the worries over radiation from the reactors.

It is hard to imagine how it must feel to have witnessed such devastation by mother nature and so many dead, and I think a lot about the rest of Japan and how it will rebuild itself. How much of a struggle and a leap of faith the Japanese will have to make.

I'm told that in the rest of Japan life is carrying on almost normally but rebuilding what has been lost is going to be a massive job.

I hope that the Japanese people we have met over the years are not freaking out, and I like to think the way Japan comes out of this will be an inspiration to us all.'

The message was posted last night on Dead Air Space, the band's website. Radiohead were recently involved in an unusual Shibuya promotion incident that was thwarted by safety fears – a non-starter that seems like a lifetime ago from where we're sitting now.

April 2

Big spring article
The big Time Out Tokyo article this week is our 66 things to do this spring feature, proving that the capital has more to offer this season than solemn faces and radiation fear. Whether you live here or you're just passing through, we think you'll find more than enough to keep you entertained in our jam-packed pages. Make the most of it before tsuyu arrives!

April 1

Charity album update

It's encouraging to note that a lot of Japan benefit albums have been released since our first round-up. Here are a few of the ones we've heard about recently…

– The major labels weighed in with Songs for Japan, which kicks off with John Lennon's 'Imagine' and then gets even less interesting. Not to worry: it debuted at Number 6 in the Billboard 200, and, with a physical release due next week, it should raise a fair heap of money for the Japanese Red Cross Society. And that, after all, is what really matters.

– Club kids are likely to be tempted by the BPM Japan compilations, the first of which is available now via Beatport, with tracks by Dr. Shingo, Hardfloor and others. Oh, and artwork by the legendary Katsuhiro Otomo, of Akira fame (see above). There are three more to follow, and proceeds go to the Japanese Red Cross.

– There's also Something We Can Do, an aptly titled compilation featuring tracks by Japanese and overseas drum'n'bass artists, including Womb resident DJ Aki and Brazilian wunderkind DJ Marky. It's available on Bandcamp now, with iTunes and Beatport releases due later in the month, and all money raised will be given to the Japanese Red Cross.

– As if the first six volumes of Play for Japan weren't already impressive enough, Ototoy has just announced Volumes 7-10. The combined tracklist reads like an encyclopedia of the Japanese indie underground, and proceeds, as ever, will be wending their way to the Japanese Red Cross.

– Readers of The Wire magazine (yeah, you know who you are) will probably grok Benefit for the Recovery of Japan, produced by the Antiopic label in collaboration with indie imprint Thrill Jockey. Fennesz, Prefuse 73, Oneohtrix Point Never and Jackie O-Motherfucker contribute, and proceeds go to the NPO Civic Force.

– In a totally different vein, tomorrow Universal Music will release Ai no Uta, a 79-track comp of major Japanese pop, rock and hip-hop acts. The album is only available until September 30, and proceeds are being donated to the Japanese Red Cross.

Jane Birkin announces 'guerilla gig'

News reaches us that '60s songbird, Jane Birkin – wife of the notorious Serge Gainsbourg – will be jetting in for what is being called a 'guerilla gig' at Club Quattro, April 6. We're not yet sure what make it guerilla, but we hear that the event will be free. Interesting that it follows almost immediately after the Serge Gainsbourg tribute event, being held at SuperDeluxe on April 3. More details to follow as and when we get them.

Banksy postpones release date
The long awaited release of Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop has been put back, yet again. While the film originally went on general release in the UK as long ago as March 5, Japanese fans of the mysterious British street artist will have to continue their wait until July 16.

Five things to do today

Guidance feat. Spirit Catcher
While other DJs were busy cancelling their trips to Japan, odd-bod duo Spirit Catcher went to the effort of preparing a brand new live set just for the occasion (although frankly, with a publicity photo like that we probably would've written about them anyway)...Continues here

We Believe Our Future
Tonight's event gathers together many of the biggest names on Tokyo's club scene: there are 20 of them vying for deck supremacy in the main room alone, including Ken Ishii, Mayuri, Sugiurumn, Ko Kimura and Dexpistols...Continues here

Celebrate the Celebration
Influential DIY musician and artist Jad Fair brought an exhibition of cutout art as part of his recent tour of Japan, his first in five years. The exhibit is still on show at the Hiromart Gallery, and is worth dropping in on if you're a fan of the twee side of life.

Book in for a mambonsai lesson
The weird world of Mambonsai is coming to Time Out Café & Diner this coming weekend. Places in the class are limited, so book now if you want to be a part of it. Odd, but strangely relaxing...Read up on Mambonsai here

Grab a scrumptious ice cream
In a city that often takes its desserts more seriously than its politics, judging the best ices on offer can be a thankless task. Japanese Ice Ouca ought to come out near the top of any best of list, however, for the simple fact that nearly everything it turns its icy hands to tends to work...Review continues here

March 31

Unsurprisingly, the country doesn't seem very up for a hanami bash this year, and the mood isn't likely to improve with the news that many of the parks are calling early hours to help with the energy saving drive. While blossom viewing itself is still permitted, as far as our research shows, how much of a party mood the officials are in can be measured by the amount of portable toilets they'll be laying out. The latest news from the biggies, then:

Inokashira Park
Signs have been posted across the park appealing for 'voluntary restraint'. The park officials have requested that people refrain from pitching hanami parties this year, and, in accordance, will not be providing the usual portable toilets or rubbish bins.

Ueno Park
Much like Inokashira, the message seems to be 'take your parties elsewhere'. Toilets and bins will not be made available.

Shinjuku Gyoen
Tokyo's very own Central Park will remain open everyday between March 25 to April 24, as they do every year during hanami season. Not that it's much of a party park, anyway; there is a strict no-alcohol ban all year round, and the regular 4.30pm closing time will not change. They do expect a big viewing turnout, however; the portable loos are all in place.

Yoyogi Park
The portable toilets have been ordered, but regular street lights will be switched off. If you want a party, you'll have to hold it by torchlight. Expect the park to be completely dark.

The most interesting bit of news we've read so far today comes courtesy of The Wall Street Journal, which details the 'barebones risk plan' at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. According to the article, the plant's disaster response plans – while apparently adhering to the IAEA's safety recommendations – failed to 'envision the kind of worst-case scenario that befell Japan.' No surprises on that front, then. More intriguing is the fact that Tepco's first line of response in times of crisis is… the fax machine.


It might smack of opportunism to some, but Shibuya's Uplink cinema has decided to rush release nuclear-themed documentary Into Eternity, which will begin screening this weekend. Made by Danish conceptual artist Michael Madsen, the film delves into the construction of a permanent storage site for radioactive waste in Finland. The facility is intended to last for 10 millennia, hence the Japanese title for the documentary, 100,000-nengo no Anzen (rough translation: '100,000 Years of Safety'). 200 yen of each ticket sale will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

By Time Out writers
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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