‘Two Michelin Star’ Food Poisoning at Puffer Fish Restaurant in Ginza

The Tokyo metropolitan government announced that a woman who had a meal at a puffer fish restaurant ‘Fugu Fukuji’ in Ginza, Tokyo complained of lip numbness and a headache, and was temporarily hospitalized. Chuo City health centre came to the conclusion that the woman had food poisoning from puffer fish because she ate the toxic liver. The restaurant is due to have its business suspended and Tokyo metropolitan government is also considering administrative punishment.

According to the restaurant, Fugu Fukuji was awarded two stars in ‘The 2011 Michelin Guide to Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura’ which evaluates restaurants and hotels.

According to the metropolitan government, the woman and a male acquaintance started the meal at about 8pm. She ate ‘Kimo Ponzu’ which uses the liver of the tiger puffer. At about 10.30pm, she complained of food poisoning symptoms and was hospitalized in the healthcare facility in Shibuya city. She was discharged the next morning.

‘Kimo Ponzu’ was not on the restaurant menu. The puffer fish chef reported to the healthcare facility ‘I provided it because the customer asked for it. I have served it to her male acquaintance in the past’.

In interviews, the restaurant has stated, ‘We are sorry that we have disappointed our customers. We seriously regret what we have done.’

Adapted and Translated from Sponichi Annex


Puffer fish (‘fugu’ in Japanese) is one of the most celebrated but also most notorious of Japanese dishes. Special licences are required to prepare and serve the fish in restaurant, as the toxic parts need to be carefully removed to ensure they do not contaminate the parts of the fish that are eaten. Some consider the liver to be the most delicious part of the puffer fish, but it also the most poisonous and consuming it can result in death. Serving the liver in restaurants was consequently banned in Japan in 1984.


Baby Macaque Monkeys on Mt. Takasaki

In the prime of their mischievousness







On Mount Takasaki Natural Zoo in Oita City, where wild Japanese macaque monkeys have made their home, the babies born this year can be seen playing vigorously with the ‘jungle gym and slide’ installed specially for them.

According to the zoo, a total of 94 baby macaques were born to two groups on Mount Takasaki between May and September 2011. At a month or two old, they are grown up enough to play in groups, and they start to integrate into the macaque society. In the evening, the mothers come to collect their babies and go back to the mountain together.

Adapted and translated from asahi.com

Japanese manga outstrips Tintin

ONE PIECE initial print run of 4,000,000 – a publishing history first

On 4 November 2011, the first-run printing of the 64th volume of ONE PIECE (Shueisha Inc.), a Japanese comic book series by Eiichiro Oda, reached 4,000,000 copies; a Japanese publishing history first. According to Shueisha, the cumulative circulation of the ONE PIECE comic books in Japan is more than 250,000,000. The 64th volume print run surpasses the initial print run of the 57th volume, released in March 2010, which reached 3,000,000 copies.

Adapted and Translated from asahi.com 

Cumulative sales of Les aventures de Tintin (first published in 1929) are estimated at around 350,000,000, a figure which has already been matched by Akira Toriyama’s DRAGON BALL (first published in 1984). As a relative newcomer, ONE PIECE (first published in 1997) has a phenomenal following in Japan and its latest volume looks set to break all sales records.

Never heard of ONE PIECE? Find out more on the Shonen Jump website.

Best selling cumulative sales of manga and comic books:

1. ONE PIECE                      250,000,000 copies

2. DRAGON BALL               156,050,000 copies

3. Kochikame                        155,270,000 copies

1. Classics Illustrated          1,000,000,000 copies

2. X-MEN                               400,000,000 copies

3. Les aventures de Tintin  350,000,000 copies
3. Asterix                                 350,000,000 copies
3. DRAGON BALL                350,000,000 copies

Invite 10,000 foreigners and create ‘Safe Source’ word of mouth

¥1.2 billion requested by the Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency

On the 19th  of October, Mr Mizobata, Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency, held a press conference at the tourism trade fair ‘ITB Asia’ as it kicked off in Singapore. He announced a plan to pay for 10,000 foreigners to visit Japan in 2012, to help the recovery of foreign tourism which has dropped significantly in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Tourism Agency will invite foreign sightseers to share their experiences via the Internet and show the world how safe and secure Japan is. ¥1.2billion (£10 million) for this project has been requested from the 2012 fiscal budget.

The Tourism Agency will recruit 10,000 visitors via the Internet in several languages, including English, Chinese, Korean and Spanish. They will select foreigners who can share their experiences via membership-based social network services such as Facebook and the micro-blogging site, Twitter. These people will be provided with complimentary round-trip air tickets. After the budget year ends, the Agency is planning to continue the project the following summer as well. The Commissioner, Mr Mizobata said, ‘We want people to transmit the image of a safe and secure Japan, by word of mouth, leading to an explosive recovery of foreign tourism.’

Adapted and Translated from jijcom

I’ll be reporting  when the Japan Tourism Agency announces how the selection process will take place, so bookmark this blog and check back soon!

What do you think about this plan to increase tourism? A great idea or could the money be better spent elsewhere?

Call for Japanese Government to Declassify Germ Warfare Documentation

Chinese victims’ families attend press conference

On the 15th of October, a Professor Emeritus at Keio University, Takao Matsumura, along with a representative from civic group ‘Unit 731: Revealing the Truth about Japan’s Germ Warfare Unit’ held a press conference in Tokyo. The group revealed to the media that they had unearthed confidential military medical school material indicating that the Japanese Imperial Army used bio-weapons in China during World War II. Professor Matsumura criticized the government’s stance of denying the existence of germ warfare, because of a lack of evidence, stating “The government should investigate properly because there must be other similar documentation.”

Visiting Japan for the press conference were five Chinese nationals, from families who claimed to be victims of Japanese germ warfare. Their representative, Wang Xuan, said “Germ warfare is a vicious criminal act and not to reveal the truth is shameful. We want the Japanese government to declassify all related material.”

Translated and adapted from asahi.com

Oh, Deer! Cutting of stag horns commences in Nara Park






The autumn tradition, ‘Cutting stag horns’ started on the 8th of October in Nara Park, Japan. This is a traditional event handed down from Edo times (late 1600s to early 1800s), to prevent stags from injuring people and other deer during the rutting season.

Men wearing traditional ‘happi’ coats drive out the deer and knock down the fleeing stags, before attaching a crucifix-like tool to which helps them to control the animals. Local priests then quickly saw off the stags’ horns.

Around Nara Park, famous for its many deer, more than 100 of the animals are hit and killed by cars every year. This year, for the first time, warning signs were displayed for drivers by the ‘Foundation for the Protection of Deer in Nara.’ Cutting of stag horns will resume from 12pm on the 10th of October.

Translated and adapted from asahi.com





Never heard of Nara? A quick guide to one of Japan’s lesser-known cities.

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794 and is situated in the Kansai region, close to Kyoto and Osaka.

Nara Koen (Nara Park) is a public park designated a ‘place of scenic beauty’ where more than 1,200 deer roam freely and enjoy being fed by visitors.

According to legend, a mythological god, Takemikazuchi, arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. For a long time, deer were regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city.

After World War II the deer were officially stripped of their divine status and were instead designated as National Treasures.

Nara isn’t just famous for its deer. It has countless temples and shrines, plus the amazing Buddhist temple ‘Todai-ji’, the world’s largest wooden structure housing the world’s largest bronze statue of a Buddha Vairocana, or what the Japanese call ‘Daibutsu’ (Big Buddha).

A taste of Osaka, without ever leaving the train station

Japan Railway’s Tokai train company has announced that it will gradually renovate and open 16 restaurants and shops in the Tokaido bullet train Shin-Osaka station concourse. A special feature will be a food court called “Osaka Noren Meguri” which will open in September 2011. The food court will include Kushikatsu, Takoyaki, and Negiyaki restaurants so people can enjoy the taste of Osaka right after they get off or get on the bullet train. Osaka Noren Meguri will have five restaurants in total, including  a Kushikatsu restaurant “Daruma” and a Negiyaki restaurant “Yamamoto.”

Re-modeling of shops and restaurants will accompany the construction of station concourses and adding of more platforms, with the work planned to finish at the end of next fiscal year.  The number of shops, and the concourse size, will be around the same as before the re-modelling, but annual sales forecasts predict a  200,000,000 yen (£1.7 million) increase in takings.

Many customers who use bullet trains are business people, but because of the economic slump, they tend to make business visits as day trips. Mr Yoshiomi Yamada, President of Japan Railway’s Tokai train company, said “I want people to experience the atmosphere of Osaka while they wait for bullet trains at the end of their day.”

Translated and adapted from asahi.com

Quick guide to Osaka’s tasty specialities

 Kushikatsu is Japanese-style deep-fried kebab skewers. Kushi refers to the skewers and  katsu means a deep-fried cutlet of meat. Kushikatsu can be made with chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetables. These are skewered, dipped in egg, flours and bread crumb, then deep-fried.

Takoyaki are grilled octopus dumplings. They are made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and spring onion. Tastier than it sounds!


Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients, including shredded cabbage, and topped with bacon, shrimp or whatever you choose. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” and yaki meaning “grilled”. It is usually cooked on a hot plate at your table.

Negiyaki is similar to Okonomiyaki, with the main ingredient being spring onion, rather than cabbage.


Butaman is made from flour dough and filled with cooked mince pork. Butaman  are steamed and look like giant dumplings. Cheap and delicious!

Ikayaki is a squid pancake. It is prepared much like a folded crepe and includes chopped squid, sauce and sometimes egg. Once cooked it is pressed between two iron plates.

Want to live to 100? Move to Japan!

More Japanese than ever living beyond 100 years – Japanese Health Ministry

According to survey findings from the Japanese Health Ministry released ahead of Respect-for-the-Aged-Day (19 September), the number of Japanese passing the century mark this year is 24,952, a record breaking increase of 1,683 on the previous year.

After last year’s discovery that some Japanese listed as centenarians were actually deceased, this year all cases were confirmed through checking of medical insurance records and visits by municipal employees, with the whereabouts of all those reaching the 100-year mark being officially confirmed.

This means that in total, as of 1 September 2011, there is a record number of 47,756 Japanese residents who are over 100 years old. This may however include some residents who are still officially missing following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The oldest person in the country is Ms Chiyono Hasegawa who lives in Saga. She was born on 20 November 1896, making her 114 years old. The oldest man in the country is Mr Jirouemon Kimura who lives in Kyoto and was born on 19 April 1897.

Translated and adapted from NTV NEWS24

A quick guide to the missing elderly in Japan and ‘pension parasites’

On 29 July 2010, the skeletonised body of a 111 year-old man born in 1899 was discovered in a Tokyo home. An autopsy revealed that he had been dead for around 30 years but was officially listed as being alive. This served as the initial trigger for the problem of the ‘missing’ elderly in Japan.

In total, it was revealed that more than 230,000 Japanese residents registered as being over 100 years old were actually ‘missing’. This has cast huge doubt on the reliability of figures prior to 2011.

In one case, later in 2010, a dead body was uncovered in the closet of a home in Osaka – the man had been dead for around 6 years and the eldest daughter had been continuing to claim her father’s pension.

The term ‘pension parasite’ (nenkin parasaito) made it into the 2010 keywords-of-the-year awards for the newest and most popular words in Japan.

Japan’s Most Dangerous Festival?

Traditional Festival Kicks Off in Osaka, Japan

The annual “Kishiwada Danjiri Festival” commenced in Kishiwada, Osaka today.

The festival highlight is “Yarimawashi” during which four-ton wooden floats are pulled at a right angle around street corners. Groups of men pull the floats at speed, encouraged by great cheers from the thousands lining the streets as each Yarimawashi is performed.

The Kishiwada Danjiri Festival expects more than 500,000 visitors over the 17th and 18th of September.

Translated and adapted from NTV NEWS24

Five Kishiwada Danjiri festival facts:

  1. The Kishiwada Danji Festival began in 1703
  2. Men risk their lives, dancing on top of the danjiri as they’re dragged around the streets
  3. More than 40 men have died in danjiri accidents over the last 100 years of the festival
  4. Each danjiri is sponsored and costs around 200,000,000 yen to make (over £1.5 million!)
  5. All Kishiwada residents must contribute to the cost of the danjiri – you can’t live in the city if you refuse!