How to Map

I love, love, love it when people complain about living in Japan. Often it’s a symptom of homesickness or culture shock and they’re just lashing out at anything to compensate. Sometimes they’re just cynical.

There are no trash cans. Wah. Trains stop running so early. Wah wah. There are no hand towels in the bathrooms. Wah wah wah, motherfuckers.

One of my all-time favorite complaints is the fact that Japan doesn’t have street names. People who voice this particular complaint are in such a state of blissful ignorance that they are unlikely ever to get used to it. I once met a German guy who was complaining about how hard it is to find things in Japan because of the lack of street names and numbers. I asked him for his address and showed him where he lived in less than 30 seconds. I was equipped to do this because I was carrying my trusty map:


The 2009 version just got released, so I upgraded from the version I bought three years ago. There are a number of different pocket-sized maps, but Mapple’s is the most popular. It has tons of useful information in the front.

Last trains:

Detailed subway transfer information (which car to stand in for the easiest transfer):


But the most useful part of all is its main function – maps. To find a place, all you need is the 区 (Ward, although recently I’ve seen “City” used frequently), the neighborhood name, and then the address number. The number is a three-digit number in the format 1-2-3, where 1 is the neighborhood number, 2 is the block number, and 3 is the building number. As an example, let’s find the Sword Museum. Its address is 渋谷区代々木4-25-10.

Generally you can look for the ward first on the map. Shibuya is pretty easy, but Yoyogi, the neighborhood name, is actually a bit far from Shibuya Station, so it’s easiest to track down Yoyogi Station’s page from the map in the front, which tells us Yoyogi Station is on pg 88:

Here’s pg 88 around Yoyogi Station:

Clearly not on this page, so lets check one page south:

There’s 代々木4. Now you track down the light blue 25 closest to it, and that will be right about where it is. On the map it’s marked with 刀剣博物館.

Rather than doing everything street by street, Japan takes a grid approach, which is actually a lot more manageable when you think about it. Get used to it. Once you do, you should be able to find anything. Mapple – don’t leave your tiny ass apartment without it.

Oh, and you can forget visiting the Sword Museum – it’s crap. Small display and zero English.

Predictions for 1Q84 (Updated x2)

As mentioned previously, Shinchosha has announced that Haruki Murakami’s new book will be titled 1Q84 and that it is scheduled to be released in early summer. Here are some of my predictions for the book:

1. It’s going to be a monster. Murakami has admitted that it’s long, longer even than the dreaded Kafka on the Shore. Consider also that it’s been seven years since he wrote Kafka, and during that span he has produced only translations (The Great Gatsby, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Long Goodbye), short stories (Strange Tales from Tokyo, 『東京奇譚集』), a set of memoirs (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running), and a short-ish novel (Afterdark). He’s been busy, for sure, but he started writing in December 2006 (Rubin 338), which means he has probably spent close to two years writing the novel. In the second update to Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words, Jay Rubin has speculated that this might be the “comprehensive novel” that Murakami has wanted to write for some time. No pressure.

2. He will not re-work one of his previous short stories or a section of a novel. Murakami has a long history of reworking old stories. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World reworked a medium-length story titled 「街とその不確かな壁」. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Sputnik Sweetheart all reworked short stories, and with the exception of Sputnik Sweetheart, the reworked versions are stronger than the original and have been received better critically than works he wrote from scratch (Dance Dance Dance, South of the Border, West of the Sun, Kafka on the Shore). Murakami is at his best when he re-explores wells he’s already partially dug. That said, he’s become so popular with international audiences that he can no longer perform this magic without it being obvious. I continue to hope he looked back on his old works for inspiration, but I think 1Q84 will all be brand new. Although… if it is the big fat 総合 novel he says he’s wanted to write, then maybe it will revise an old work. I was torn on this prediction. If he does use an old story as a foundation, it wouldn’t surprise me if it came from after the quake.

3. World War II will be a theme. Murakami used the war as a central theme in Wind-up Bird, showing the brutality and meaninglessness of war through the skinning of a Japanese agent and the slaughter of zoo animals.  He addressed Japanese unease with the Chinese in “A Slow Boat to China,” one of his first short stories, and his most recent novel Afterdark is almost allegorical for the difficulty of coming to terms with the war: a Japanese salaryman has pains in his fist and a bag of stolen clothes but seemingly no true recognition of the beating he handed out to a Chinese prostitute earlier in book, despite the fact that he remembers the event. This time, however, I predict Murakami will address Japanese brutality in the Pacific more directly. In a recent Japan Times article, he mentions Singapore during the war:

Murakami was frequently in court for the Aum trials and saw cultists who had merely obeyed guru Shoko Asahara’s order to release the sarin. Through this experience, he "seriously thought about" the war, he said. "During the war, no one could say ‘No’ to senior officers’ orders to kill prisoners of war. The Japanese did such things in the war. I think the Japanese have yet to undertake soul-searching."

As an example, Murakami mentioned an article contributed by former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to a Japanese newspaper in which he related the cruelty of Japanese troops who occupied Singapore during the war. But once the war was over and they became POWs to the British, they became conscientious and worked very hard to clean up Singapore’s streets, Lee wrote.   

Taking this into account along with his recent acceptance speech for the Jerusalem Prize and the title of the book, possibly a homonymic salute to George Orwell’s 1984, and Murakami seems poised to undertake some cultural soul-searching.

4. It’s going to be great. I personally thought that the 東京奇譚集 stories were a return to form. (Strangely enough, a return to his 1984 form – Murakami serialized the stories from 『回転木馬のデッドヒート』 in ’83 and ’84, and 奇譚集 is very similar in form and theme to those stories.) Afterdark was experimental, a “concept album” I believe someone said (or maybe that’s what Murakami said about after the quake), so it will be interesting to see where 1Q84 takes Murakami. He’s been busy with translation and his memoirs, and historically he’s kept the same pattern – work on the novel in the early morning, go for a run, translate in the afternoon – when writing some of his big works.    

5. There will be a flush of short stories later this year. Murakami never rests as is clear from his running memoir. He’s always training himself for something. He might pace himself at times (translation and short works, he’s admitted, don’t take the same mental toll that novels do), but he is always working on something. Writing short stories happens to be the way he recovers from writing a novel, and if this is a massive novel, perhaps we can expect a bunch of short stories. Once everything for publication is set, I bet he’ll get back to writing short works, which will hopefully be published later this year. 2009 could be the year of Murakami.


Found the link to the Houston Chronicle article where Murakami says his new book will be twice as long as Kafka on the Shore. They put it in the archives and switched the original link.

Also, realized most folks from the large amount of traffic might not be able to read 『回転木馬のデッドヒート』. That’s Japanese for Dead Heat on a Merry-go-round, an untranslated collection of Murakami stories I wrote an article about here.

Updated again:

Probably wrong about prediction 3.

MacGyver, That Adventurous Bastard

Nishiaizu has a small cable television station. Their basic cable package is a mix of different channels – the basic network stations, one J Sports channel, its own station, and a station that used to be called the SUPERCHANNEL. Now, apparently, it’s called Super!dramaTV. Yes, you can check that capitalization and punctuation yourself:

They have a variety of foreign shows, including MacGyver, which translates into Japanese as 冒険野郎マクガイバー. Put that back into English and you get (and I have to warn you that this is painfully literal) "Adventure Bastard MacGyver." Here’s the page:

Hence, the subject line of this entry. That fuggin bastard.

Originally posted December 5th, 2006

号外 – Silk Yebisu



Limited edition Silk Yebisu. Pretty thick and malty with a pilsner bite. To be honest I can’t really differentiate it from The Hop. I give it 2.5 Mehs. Discovered today at Queen’s Isetan in Shinagawa.

Ay yay yay!

A few weeks ago the cafeteria in my town made Chili con Carne. There’s one junior high school and five elementary schools and they all eat the same thing every day. I’m not sure about the high school. I was at one of the elementary schools. They couldn’t get tortillas so they served it with pita bread instead.

Anyway, in Japanese Chili con Carne gets called チリコンカン (chirikonkan). They shorten the carne to kan and say the word incredibly fast, so it sounds hilarious, almost like a strange Japanese compound word.

Which inspired me to create this compound:

チリコンカン化 (chirikonkan-ka) – become Chili con Carne

For example:

I was just putzing around my room and all of a sudden my TV just fucking turned into Chili con Carne!

Originally posted July 14th, 2006

Have you violated your another person’s rights today?

The office lady at the junior high school gave me a set of school supplies when I got here last fall. Scissors, white out, tape, pens, pencil, notepad. I didn’t really notice it until recently, but the mechanical pencil had something written on it in Japanese.



This translates to:

Aren’t you violating another person’s rights?

Fukushima Prefecture

What a GREAT fucking prefectural motto.

P.S. I guess the translation could also be something like, "Are you sure you aren’t violating someone’s rights?" Still, strange enough.

Originally posted June 23rd, 2006

Stop the Misuse of Definite Articles!

I saw a traffic sign that read:



This translates to:

traffic fatalities

Here is the Japanese pronunciation:

shibou jiko

Come on, guys. Cut it out.

It is hilarious, though, to replace "traffic fatalities" with other Japanese words. I am just as bad as they are.

Originally posted May 6th, 2006