Tokyo Has Been Chosen to Host the 2020 Olympic Games: A Good Decision? You Decide

I’d like to say congratulations to Tokyo for being selected to host the Olympic Games in 2020. I think this is wonderful news and an excellent decision which has definitely uplifted the spirit of the Japanese people.

Japan Olympics

There has been a lot of controversy about whether this was a wise decision due to the ramifications following on from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. I understand this is an on-going issue and many people in Japan and on an international scale are concerned about whether this continuing nuclear problem will be properly addressed now that Japan needs to spend so much to provide for the 2020 Olympics. Many questions are being asked about why such a huge amount of money is being spent on the Olympics when so much money is still needed to fix the problems in Fukushima.

I’ve been trying to find the answers to these questions and therefore I’ve been reading a lot of articles online about the Olympics and the concerns surrounding this decision to stage the Olympics in Tokyo.

One publication that has closely covered the Olympic decision and which has tried to be unbiased about the decision to have the Olympics in Tokyo is the online newspaper The New York Times. This newspaper stated on 07 September 2013 that Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, has asked the public to “Please look at the facts, not the newspaper headlines.” After reading several newspaper articles, I’m convinced Mr Shinzo Abe will certainly be addressing all of the nuclear issues and the problems associated with them as quickly as possible. I believe Mr Abe will not ignore the problems and he is proactive in his decisions. The New York Times also stated that “Since Shinzo Abe came into power late last year and unleashed bold monetary and government reforms to jump-start the economy. Japan has gone from a global economic laggard to the fastest growing nation in the Group of 7.” I’d like to point out that if Mr Abe can do this for the economy in such a short amount of time, he can also clean up the Fukushima problems in a timely and effective manner.

While many people are sceptical about whether the Japanese government is ignoring the nuclear issues, I believe it has to be said that the decision made for Tokyo to host the Olympics in 2020 has definitely increased the confidence and optimism of the Japanese people and how they believe Japan is represented on a worldwide scale. I’d like to add The New York Times also included a quote from Harumi Arima, an independent political analyst, saying “Japan has seemed to be overshadowed by the rise of China and other developing nations. These Olympics will give Japan a chance to be reborn, to feel for themselves that Japan can still be vibrant.”

Japan elated over Olympic decision

After speaking with a few friends in Tokyo in the last few days, I can confidently say they were elated to hear the news Tokyo was selected to host the Olympics in 2020. I was also really pleased to hear so much excitement and hope in their voices now that they feel their country Japan can look forward to a brighter and better future.

My favourite shop in Ginza, Tokyo: KYUKYODO

Ginza is famous for being one of the most expensive shopping areas in the world and you won’t have any trouble finding the most elite Japanese and Western fashion houses in this exclusive area. However, despite the fact hundreds of people from all over the world spend trillions every day in this fascinating shopping district and even I like to admire the latest fashions from the best designers just as much as any other woman, I’ll often walk straight past the big brands and head directly to my favourite shop in Ginza called Kyukyodo, whenever I’m in Tokyo. This wonderful store opened in Kyoto in 1663 and in Tokyo in 1880 and it’s still run by the Kumagai family to this day. I believe it stocks the finest and most accessible selection in Japan of modern and traditional stationery as well as postcards, handicrafts, writing instruments, calligraphy supplies and high-end incenses.


You won’t find designer threads, sparkling jewels or fancy accessories in Kyukyodo, but you will feel a sense of tradition as well as a well-developed respect for these traditions and the essence of Japan as you browse through the first and second floors of this marvellous shop.

You might think I’m a bit old-fashioned if I admit I prefer to send and receive letters via the postal service, but I think a lot of people would agree with me when I say it’s so much nicer to receive a hand-written letter on a pretty piece of paper rather than a rushed email sent straight to my inbox.

So if you’re planning to visit Tokyo or you live near Ginza, take the time out to visit Kyukyodo and I’m sure you’ll leave with the same sense of awe and wonder that I experience every time I walk out of this lovely store, after seeing such beautiful Japanese paper goods and handicrafts on display.

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Kyukyodo is located at 5-7-4 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo, not far from the Matzuzakaya department store in Ginza.

(Images of Kyukyodo courtesy of Alex Kwa)

What Not to Do in Social and Business Situations in Japan

– Don’t spear your chopsticks or stick them upright into a bowl of rice or a piece of sushi
– Don’t point your chopsticks at other people
– Don’t take food directly from a dish and put it in your mouth. Add it to your bowl first
– Don’t pour soy sauce directly on to your rice
– Don’t wear your shoes inside the home
– Don’t wear the house slippers in the toilet. You need to change into the toilet slippers
– Don’t tip in restaurants, taxis or at hotels
– Don’t use sarcasm
– Don’t eat while you’re walking
– Don’t blow your nose with a handkerchief. Use a tissue
– Don’t wear shoes with too many ties or buckles. You’ll need to remove them in Japanese homes and at traditional Japanese restaurants.
– Don’t wear socks with holes in them if you know you’re going to have to remove your shoes
– Don’t use too much eye contact or physical contact as this is considered to be rude


– Don’t show too much emotion in business meetings.
– Don’t be too negative in business meetings. Try to avoid the word “No”
– If you’re offered a business card, accept it with both hands and don’t put it in your wallet without looking at it
– If you’re doing business with a Japanese company, don’t use aggressive sales tactics
– Don’t forget to introduce your colleagues. Proper introductions are important in all business and social situations
– Don’t chat too much in social or business situations. Silence is more important than constant chatter
– Don’t use sarcasm or joke about your manager in a business meeting
– Don’t expect business connections with the Japanese to form straight away or too quickly
– Don’t forget to nod to show you’re listening when a Japanese person is talking to you
– Never forget harmony and etiquette are the basis of all good social and business interactions in Japan
– Don’t wear flamboyant clothing. Men should wear dark suits and a tie for a meeting or an interview and women should wear a dress or a skirt with heels
– Don’t forget to take gifts from your own country if you’re meeting with a Japanese company or if you’ve been invited to a Japanese home
– Don’t be late for meetings. Punctuality is important
– Don’t use sloppy wrapping techniques when you give a Japanese person a gift. The wrapping is just as important as the gift giving process

Is It Difficult to Learn to Read and Write in Japanese?










A lot of people who are thinking about visiting Japan are often put off by the fact they can’t read or write in Japanese. In reality, developing basic Japanese language skills is not as difficult as you might think. The steps below will help to simplify the process and make this daunting process seem a lot easier, especially for those people who believe it’s impossible to learn this intricate language.

Firstly, you need to know there are basically three scripts:

1. Kanji
2. Hiragana
3. Katakana

In short – kanji represents nouns, adjectives and verbs and each kanji character can represent a complete word or part of a word with one meaning or several meanings. Hiragana is the grammatical link between the kanji. Katakana represents any foreign item, place or name.

Hiragana and katakana only have forty-six characters each so it doesn’t take too long to learn these. Take a look at the table below:

Hiragana and Katakana














When you start learning hiragana and katakana, you’ll soon realise that learning to read and write Japanese isn’t really so daunting. Many children’s books in Japan are written in hiragana with very few kanji, so think of learning hiragana as a stepping stone to learning how to read and write Japanese properly, knowing you are learning this in the same way Japanese people learn to read and write.

Once you’ve mastered reading and writing hiragana and katakana, you can start to learn kanji but you must learn how to write each stroke of the kanji character in the correct order. If you do it this way, you’ll soon start to see it’s much easier to write more difficult kanji when you’ve learnt the correct way of writing. Don’t worry – the correct stroke order will come naturally to you in a very short amount of time. Also, don’t be put off by the fact there are about 50,000 Japanese kanji characters. The Japanese government’s list of recommended characters consists of only about 2,000 and that’s really achievable if you dedicate some serious time to this task. Even if you only learn 100 kanji characters, you are already going to have a much easier stay in Japan.

There are now several apps to help you learn Japanese and “16 Best Apps for Learning Japanese Like a Boss” is a good reference point. You could also buy a kanji textbook which teaches you the most necessary 2,000 characters and at the same time shows you how to write the easiest characters from the beginning of the book in the correct stroke order. “Essential Kanji: 2, 000 Basic Japanese Characters Systematically Arranged for Learning and Reference” by P.G. O’Neill is a good book or for something simpler I recommend “Read Japanese Today: The Easy Way to Learn 400 Practical Kanji” by Len Walsh.

When I study Japanese kanji characters I use the flash card method with the kanji written on the front and the meaning and the rōmaji equivalent on the back (rōmaji is Japanese written in the same Roman alphabet that we use in English). I flip these cards over and over until I can recognise and pronounce correctly each Japanese kanji character. I then try writing them over and over again making sure my stroke order is correct, until I’ve mastered the whole process. You can download PDF kanji cards with stroke order diagrams from

I must admit when I started to learn Japanese, I had to memorise these kanji characters so I could pass my exams at university and therefore I obviously had a goal which pushed me to learn these characters properly. I’m glad I learnt so many because even now I can still read many Japanese characters. Understanding the signs in Japan and anything else written in Japanese makes it a lot easier for me to get around and find what I need when I’m in Japan. These days I rarely write in Japanese and I’ve forgotten how to read and write a lot of the characters but I’m always amazed at how many I do remember when I receive a letter from a Japanese friend or when I see something written in Japanese on the internet, in a book or in a magazine.

As with any other subject that can provide enormous self-satisfaction once it is mastered, learning Japanese takes persistence and perseverance, but if you see this process as a hobby rather than a chore you will, without a doubt, have a great time learning to read and write Japanese.