All posts by Rob in Japan

Too much Tokyo, Not enough Vice

‘They found a way to monetise suicides? Even for yakuza, that’s pretty fucked-up’

Episode 3 of Tokyo Vice.

The central idea behind the series is that it takes a foreign, white male to uncover the sinister truth behind a spate of recent deaths that have seen pensioners kill themselves. Jake Adelstein wrote the book in 2005, giving his account of how he became the first foreign writer of the crime section of a Japanese newspaper. The book was notable for two things: one, it was a real-life account of the yakuza practices, rather than the fictionalised version seen in films. Second, the book uncovered some shocking information about a previously covered up crime involving the death of director Juzo Itami. the book also revealed how often Adelstein had put his neck on the line and risked meeting a similar fate to the director whose films had drawn the wrath of the yakuza on so many occasions.

The Yakuza Boss in Tokyo Vice

Those expecting to see a close adaptation are going to be disappointed. Right away, the credits tell us that it’s only ‘based’ on the book. They use the character of Jake Adelstein and some of the newspaper figures, but that’s about it. There’s no mention of Juzo Itami or the Goto Gion Yakuza group. Maybe the producers didn’t want to meet the same fate as Itami?

The first episode, directed by Michael Mann is certainly a strong opener. At this point, Jake is still working as an English teacher, although not for long. After he passes the gruelling kanji exam, he takes his place at the newspaper where he is the only foreign born member of staff. but after the excitement of the opener, the TV show settles down and then takes a long time to find the heart of the drama or engage us fully with Jake.

Many reviewers have criticised the casting of Ansel Egort as not exciting for the lead.

Jake starts to make progress, but is often cut off by a female reporter who is unwilling to give him any leeway in how he writes the crime reports. Alongside the story of Jake, there is an American escort (Rachel Keller) working for a yakuza owner of a hostess bar. The storyline is only loosely linked to Jake, and this character was never even in the book. Obviously, the producers wanted to include another American face, and so they decided to use another American actor. Unfortunately, scenes involving her are some of the most boring in the series and they really drag the show down, as well as adding to the running time. episode 6, mainly focusing on how she came to Japan as a missionary worker is particularly unnecessary.

Rachel Keller plays a hostess in one of the night-clubs of Kabukicho.

The Real Jake Adelstein

Mr Jake Adelstein himself

Ansel Egort is far too clean-cut for the role of Jake. In reality, Adelstein was a lot more rough and prepared to get his hands dirty (literally in the case of the red light district). The character seems to lord his way above most of the Japanese staff, not helped by being a lot taller than most of them.

It’s like they deliberately chose a much taller actor than the Japanese cast.

Still, I watched it to see some excellent Japanese actors, and I wasn’t disappointed. all the nuances of the Japanese language are here, and it’s fascinating to see the varying degrees of deference shown. Yakuza bosses are adressed most politely, and even humble customers are referred to as ‘Okyakusama wa kamisama’ ,meaning the customer is God. The Nightlclub scenes show the pulsating rhythms and music of the period, and the women are often very beautiful. It’s just that when you have a show calling itself ‘Tokyo Vice’, you expect to be in for some very graphic stuff, which the show doesn’t fully deliver on.

A nightclub scene.

The great big Instagram LIE

Near the end of that amazing book by the writer and chef Eddie Huang, he talks about his idea of a neighbourhood restaurant.

Im going to paraphrase here but the essence of a neighbourhood place is one where everyone is welcome. you don’t need to buy anything , and you especially don’t need to make a purchase in order to use the wifi. In other words, the young who often don’t have Money would still be welcome to come in to a neighbourhood joint, because there are so few other options for them. Huang’s sense of generosity is not limited to the customers. He expects his staff to leave him and get better Jobs. Sadly in the real world we don’t put these selfless ideas in to practice. Not only do we expect to have to pay for things that should be free, we are expected to look up to people who go to all these supposedly cool places for free and get paid to promote them to people like you. I’ll save what I think about Instagram for another post. What I’ll say here is I’m tired of people being made to feel they’re not good enough because they haven’t been to some restaurant, or bar, that’s overrated anyway… It’s not only women who do this, although it’s easier for women to simply use their image to get paid to sit around in a Jacuzzi.

Lets face it, these women are getting paid, and if you think I’m lying, when was the last time you saw a typical Instagrammer simply doing something nice for somebody else, not because it was for money, or for more followers, just because they could help someone who maybe doesn’t have the same high-level public image that they are fortunate to have themselves. You can be sure I’m not bitter about this.

The truth is, I can remember when I couldn’t get a date. If you don’t have money, it’s going to be really hard to get a girl interested in you. Then when I was thirty I was finally able to take women out, but we could only share a dinner somewhere or maybe just have a starter each and then leave. As quaint and funny as that sounds, I’d have loved to have been able to do more with women at that time. Being poor is romanticised by people who have money but I’ll be honest it’s really not that much fun.

Hot Girl Supper Podcast

Howdy folks. You have come across two talented Asian women on Instagram showcasing their cooking skills and restaurant visits. These two women are Verna Gao and Ngygen Yeats-Brown

As well as sharing their Asian revcipes and cooking skills, these two have more recently been sharing their views on everything from first dates to friends with benefits. 

The podcast has a definite female slant, but it’s still well worth listening to if you’re a man. 

Let’s have a listen now. https://open.spotify.com/show/2xk4Hi4MhOkRFaHNMxTzuS

AS you can hear, these two have a great chemistry between them. They boince off each other and have an amazing simpatico. The fact is that it’s rare even now to hear women, let alone Asian women, speak directly about dating and relationships. I have enjoyed all of their podcasts. They keep things interesting for the whole running time and it sounds like they didn’t even need to have a script for things to be interesting. 

Maybe they will be a little too sassy for some people not used to hearing women speaking frankly. There;s a lot of stuff they talk about that honeslyt, I had no idea was even an issue for women, it’s helpful to get an honest female perspective on things. 

I fell like they do want to be seen as very confdidnt and empowered women, especially when they talk about the ‘creeps’ who approach them . At the same time, they occasionally let their vulnerability come through and that’s when the podcast is most edifying.  However, I love hearing what they have to say and I would love to have them as friends. They are the funniest people I haven’t met in real life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOHGykcgS-Q&t=31s\

3 Sojus reviewed

Soju, the distilled drink has been the number 1 drink in South Korea and is also the world’s most popular spirit.

For most people, soju is a cheap, simple alcohol with little taste. The drink is only made in South Korea and can be distilled from bamboo or sweet potato. It is best drunk with food, barbecue and raw fish for example. It’s rare to see Koreans drinking it in more expensive bars and restaurants. Here are the most popular soju brands.

Chamisul – Jinro

1623401181-082739200

Made since 1926, this is the most well-known brands. The taste is little metallic, almost like a solvent. It’s very clean tasting but it has little flavour.

https://www.foodforfoodies.co.uk/

Chum-churum

I really like this one. At first I was sure I was drinking vodka, the taste is very similar although the ABV is only 17.9. I got some citrus here as well and it would be good to try it with a slice of lemon or lime to bring this taste out. Highly recommended.

https://www.japancentre.com/en/products/15464-hitejinro-chamisu

Jo-eun Day

Jo-eun day is a slightly harsher soju that once had a much higher alcohol content that has been successively lowered over time. https://hmart.co.uk/shop/gb/

Chloe Flower CD review

Flower Through Concrete

Chloe Flower released through Sony Music Entertainment Masterworks

Chloe Flower has released her first album. The self-titled release features original compositions as well as famous piano pieces from the classical repertoire.

The concept album is presented in three parts like a concert programme.

Act 1 starts with ‘Innocence’. Over a beautiful Schumann piece (from scenes from childhood), New Age Faith healer intones that ‘innocence is the symphony of the universe. We have music deep inside our consciousness, and we dance to it before we know the tune’. The original compositions that follow show Chloe’s gift for melody and technical piano playing. ‘Rise Up’ is a pastoral sounding-piece that has some impressive piano runs and is accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments.

Act 2 is titled ‘suffering’ and begins with an extract from Moonlight Sonata and some more Deepak Chopra ramblings about ‘feeling the anguish’, which might come across as grating depending on your tolerance for alternative philosophy. The next tracks are dark and menacing, and here Chloe combines the classical style with pounding hip hop beats. This style has introduced Chloe to wider fame and attention.

The final Act, titled Hope, ends on an optimistic note. There is a cover of the Billie Eilish song Bad Guy features more of the hip hop beats and the final song ‘popsical’ is a summation of Chloe’s genre-mashup of classical and pop music.

Overall, I enjoyed Chloe’s album. The classical pieces are well chosen and fit into the album’s themes. The spoken intros to some of the tracks became irritating. It would be interesting to have some collaborations with other artists to add vocals to Chloe’s talented piano stylings.

Rating: ***and a half

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chloe-Flower/dp/B0948N64JC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4TIQC9XQFT3C&keywords=Chloe+flower+CD&qid=1651782701&sprefix=chloe+flower+cd%2Caps%2C42&sr=8-1

She’s just looking for friends

It can be hard to accept, but a lot of women are only interested in being your friend. Even if the issue of sex is impossible to avoid, that attractive woman who smiles at you is probably being polite or friendly.

Yet when it comes to Asian woman, we forget that not all of them want to sleep with the first white guy they meet. Yes, I’m probably guilty of that assumption sometimes. But what if you are ok with the idea of being her friend, and nothing more? Was she lying on her tinder profile when she said she was looking for friends?

Assuming that you are both on the same page and want to keep things platonic, how does it work in reality? Movies and sitcoms make it all look straightforward, don’t they?Nevertheless, I still think that it’s hard for men to just be friends with a nice woman. Men aren’t really trusted to have female friends. That goes double for men in relationships. Just imagine that a guy wants to be friends with a woman who is in a relationship with someone. It’s unlikely she will return his offer, no matter that his intentions to her are honest. Yet a woman could I ask a married man for his number, and no-one would care. Are there double standards going on here? Who knows.

The fact is, I bet a lot of men would kill to have a smart and funny female friend just to hang with and nothing more. Yet society continues to pump out the message that friendship between men and women is not achievable, and men follow suit, swallowing the myth in toto. And men can’t be just friends with a woman, whether they are in a relationship or not. Or they are simply scared, don’t want to be judged for hanging out with a woman they aren’t sleeping with. Then they realise that their friendship groups consist of the same friends they’ve had since middle school. And they wonder why they struggle to relate to women?

mean while, women get all the benefits of having men who want to sleep with them, the men who want just to be friends and love them for their company. Hence, the social life of women is that much more varied, richer, and just more interesting than that of most men.

I learned this the hard way when I tried to ask a girl out. She had made it clear that she had a boyfriend, and when she didn’t volunteer her phone number, I made do with Instagram, Needless to say, she didn’t respond to either of my messages I sent her. Yet, if she could be prepared to be open-minded, we could have a really good platonic relationship together.

Being just friends is something woman can get away with when it comes to a male friend, but it’s something which people are less accepting when it comes to men and their female friends. No matter how advanced we are, this is one rule that refuses to die.

London’s best value 4*Hotel

London isn’t known for being good value, so when you do manage to find a bargain it’s all the more satisfying. Yet I managed to find a great hotel during the holiday season, and it wasn’t difficult! https://www.radissonhotels.com/en-us/hotels/park-plaza-london-park-royal

the brand-new, 4 Star hotel looks the part inside and out

I stay in a lot of hotels. I don’t get paid to travel and I’m not on business. So I need to look around to find somewhere nice, in a good location, and a main Hotel brand that has a loyalty scheme. The best offers for rooms tend to be off-season, or on quieter days. You get a cheaper room rate if you stay on Sunday than Friday night. Following this rule will only get you so far, though. On the whole, an average price for a 3-star hotel in London will be $148 (thanks Google). and a lot of hotels at his rate will only offer very small rooms, middling to poor service, or be old and tired inside. And 3-star hotels don’t offer much for service, or provide extras (gyms, free breakfast or late check-out).

Finding a VFM 4 star Hotel in London

You don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds a night for the kind of luxury you think you need. Yes, the top hotels are going to be out of reach for most travellers. But, looking outside the centre, you can find some real bargains!

Smart, modern design and a comfortable room in Park Plaza, Park Royal.

Last year I booked a room mid-week in London that I was not expecting anything from. By chance, it turned out to be my best London Hotel stay of the year. Most people would struggle to find any decent hotel in central London for under 100, even under 200 would be pushing it. However, the Park Plaza Park Royal is a fantastic hotel that simply cannot be beaten for price or quality.

The hotel is recently built so you don’t see any of the dodgy plumbing, tired wall paper or slow, out of work lifts. the building is fully up to date. Here’s a quick breakdown of my trip.

Location

Location might be your top priority, and whilst the hotel is not central London, it’s next to a tube station (Park Royal), and it’s near Wembley Stadium, which is one of the main tourist attractions in the capital. And it’s 45 minutes from Heathrow, which is really not that far.

check-in

I had received emails regarding check-in, but I checked in at the desk. It was well-staffed. I certainly didn’t need to wait long to be served.

Reception and lobby

the hotel offers a modern and slightly opulent design. You don’t feel like you are in Wembley next to a busy fly-over. The Staff uniforms are elegant and understated, plus the lobby is spaced out so you don’t feel crowded, and the place is quiet without being devoid of character.

The room

The room was a decent size. There was a well-appointed bathroom. The bed was thick , comfortable and spacious. I was more than satisfied by the room’s furniture and design.

Nice modern fittings in the bathroom

Tea and coffee

There was a kettle with tea bags and coffee sachets for making hot drinks, as well as fridge with complimentary bottled water.

TV/satelite

The TV was fixed to the wall and was a good size. the channels were mainly standard ‘Freeview’ offerings.

Bed.

With a leather headboard, high thread count, you’ll want to bed down once you come inside.

I had no problems sleeping in the room and the bed was luxurious, I couldn’t wait to hunker down.

Breakfast included?

Yes, they gave me breakfast at no extra cost, the buffet was very full and the staff were not putting anyone in a hurry to finish their breakfast. There were options to order from the menu as well as a full hot English breakfast.

Checkout

I checked out past one. I was very comfortable in the hotel. There is a large waiting area past the lobby where you can relax, read magazines and just chill.

Verdict

this is an absolute bargain for London. You are right next to tube station that connects you to central London in around 20 minutes. You aren’t staying a stones throw from the palace, but do you really need to be ? For less than a £100 – the hotel offers stylish design, great service, and breakfast. For even a 3-star hotel like a Hampton in a more central area you would pay more than double that. This puts Park Plaza at number one for best value hotel in London. This is ideal both for business and leisure travellers. I’m glad I made this choice and I look forward to staying in more Park Plaza hotels.

Thailand is back open for foreign tourists

After two years, Thalailand is fully open for international travellers.

The country has seen most of its famous landmarks closed to tourists, but it now looks as though the country is ready to welcome tourists with open arms.

Before April 2022, the requirement for international tourists was that they needed to show a negative PCR test before arrival. However, this can be done and it is necessarily required to get ‘Thailand Pass’. All applicants using the ‘Test and Go Scheme’ must upload several documents to apply for Thailand Pass QR Code. (a copy of passport / insurance certification with a minimum coverage of USD 20,000 / vaccination certificate / the payment confirmation of SHA Extra+ hotels which also includes the receipt of a pre-paid COVID-19 RT-PCR test on day 1, ATK self-test on day 5-6 and airport transfer.) Plus, all tourists are required to upload their RT-PCR and ATK self-test results to the Thailand Travel Pass app (called ‘Morchana’). https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thaialert.app&hl=en_GB&gl=US

It’s great to be back!

(According to official information, tourists will get ATK self-test instead of RT-PCR after arrival from May 2022. The price for tests will be reduced).

The beautiful Royal Cliff Beach Resort

We spent one night in the government approved quarantine hotel, and after that we were free to travel to Pattaya. As you can see, the hotel was comfortable and didn’t present any hardship.

The comfortable bed where we spent a single night of quarantine before we were free to travel in Pattaya.

Airlines have seen increased booking to the country and flights are expected to increase for the summer season. https://www.thaiairways.com/

The resort we stayed in in Pattaya was doing a good trade and we are happy to announce that mask-wearing was not enforced, even in the busy nightclubs.

One of the many bars doing a roaring trade, in post-Covid Pattaya.

This time I visited was Songkran which is one of the most famous festivals in the world. The airlines and hotels have seen increased booking to the country and they are expected to increase for this season. I’ve expected many activities throughout Thailand (especially Sprinkling water!!) but it stopped because of pandemic. The festival usually involves some pretty wild water fights – with people getting crazy – but it was not allowed this year.

I Stayed at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, and Cape Dara Beach Front Resort. There were few foreigners stayed, mostly local people celebrated Thai New Year.

We Stayed at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort, Pattaya, and Cape Dara Beach Front Resort. https://www.royalcliff.com/

I participated in a salsa club in Pattaya

I’ve visited here 4 years ago before the pandemic. The streets were so crowded; full of tourists and most shops were busy day and night, but I could see some stores were ruined because of the shutdown order that was issued due to COVID-19.

You can see how people have ignored the rules on mask-wearing.

The resorts we stayed in Pattaya were doing a good trade and I am happy to announce that mask-wearing was not enforced, even in the busy nightclubs. It looks like the care-free travel days of the pre-covid era are becoming a reality again.

Article idea by Puruna Jo. Photography by Puruna Jo.

For more information on planning a trip to Thailand, visit Fanclub Thailand. https://fanclubthailand.co.uk/

Chessington World Of Adventures: is it a good day out?

Billed as Britain’s Wildest Adventure , Chessington is a theme park and zoo combined! It has millions of visitor each year and is one of the famous parks owned by Merlin There are many good things about the park so explaining why it’s so popular is not difficult. But first, a quick guide to the park for those who haven’t taken the trip yet.

Situated in a town in south west London, Chessington aims to provide a fun day out for the family, with several themed sections (or lands) of the park that combine rides with animal enclosures and even special performances throughout the year! The park was opened as a home for exotic animals in the 1930s, and was a zoo up until the first ride opened in 1991. Now it is home to some twenty rides, some quite fast whereas others are for smaller children and less exciting.

Over the years as the rides have increased but the animals have continued to provide interest for all visitors. The safari ride, Journey into Africa is still a big draw. There is now a four star hotel for guests who want to make a longer break in the park.

Arriving at the park, most visitors will come to the large carparks that bring them to the Adventure point. The park is divided into themed areas, all of which have their own distinctive look and feel. Although the park has a lot of branding, it feels slightly less co-ordinated than when it was a different place in the nineties. the arrival of the room in the broom tie-in experience shows that the park has been able to make a deal with the publishers for the characters of the story.

What used to be the Bubbleworks is now a Gruffalo Ride, which is very much aimed at younger children. The park’s famous Vampire ride still takes pride of place, although seems to have less in terms of fear than it used to as the ride has seen more scary rides eclipse it.

Mexicana

Now we come to one of the best areas of the park. Taking a cue from the Wild West, the area has some cool stylings in the buildings that look like colourful storehouses and cantinas. There are two good rides here. The Rattlesnakes (a cart style ride that has a rickety looking track) and a runaway Train ride ‘Scorpion Express’. The area of the park manages to incorporate food offerings in a more subtle way; Tortilla restuarant sits in the centre of the area, giving you a view of the rides whether you sit in or out. There are even some jars of animal skeletons, and some animatronic figures by rattlesnakes that add to the carnivalesque atmosphere.

The Forbidden Kingdom

Just as you leave Mexicana, you will see the new Croc Ride. The jaws of the crocodile open to allow the vertical ride to drop the riders down to the depths. This was previously Rameses Revenge. Some would say that the new ride is not in the same league. True, it doesn’t have the same fear factor, it simply drops from the same position. however, the ride gives a great 360 view of the entire park, and uses some Egyptian curse ideas to give it some stylistic grounding in the area. Another ride that some love is Tomb Blaster! It’s a more immersive ride that takes place entirely indoors. Riders are given laser style GUNS and must ‘blast’ various targets. As a dark ride it could have been more scary but it’s a little too family friendly for that. Overall, the forbidden kingdom has some nice touches but it’s not the most enjoyable section of the park.

Wild Asia/land of the tigers.

Here we come to my favourite section of the park! The area was once known as ‘Beanoland’ but it has been completely revamped to look like jungle India and Thailand. It looks particularly fitting when you visit on a hot day – the grey concrete buildings reflect the sunlight – helping to create a sense of the exotic. The three big rides are all worth visiting. First, head to Monkey Swingers, the carousel style swing seat ride has some vertigo inducing moments as the seats ride into the air – and you can feel the wind blow towards you when you kick out your seat. Kobra is a nice ride that is very smooth – taking you back and forth on a rotating disc in the shape of a giant snakes head. But nothing can beat the Land of the tigers and Tiger Rock. The most spacious area is home to the superb log ride which goes through the tiger’s enclosure, hence the name! you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet here as you walk past the streams and Chinese style bridge. My only complaint is that the area doesn’t offer any Chinese food. Some noodles, dumplings or fried rice would tie in nicely with the oriental theme, and offer something far more varied than the current food offerings.

Is it worth a visit?

Yes, we feel that, given the amount of activities in the park, it is worth going to at least once. Chessington is not a cheap day out, and it’s very commercial. It can seem as though every part of the park is designed to take money out of your pocket. You can save money by doing the following: arrive by public transport, saving petrol and car park fees. Bring your own food and drink. There is nothing to stop you from taking a packed lunch, and Chessington has a picnic area near the car parks. If you do visit a restaurant, Tortilla would be my pick. The food is good quality, and you get a good serving, as well as a nice seating area.

Caution

Some of the downmarket clientele at the park.

We love Chessington. but we have noticed that it tends to attract a somewhat downmarket clientele. Some may think that you need to wear a tracksuit and have tattoos covering your face and neck to fit in. That’s true for many, but not everyone here is like that. If you feel that it’s going to be a problem by all means you can avoid the park. But you will be missing a lot of the innocent fun of the theme park. https://www.chessington.com/