Category Archives: meetup

Kansai Vegan Meet-up at Genmai Cafe

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Among meet-up groups in Japan, the Tokyo Vegan Meet-up is one of the biggest with over 1000 member. The Kansai one is much smaller and has an irregular schedule. During my stay in Osaka I attended one of their meet-ups at the Genmai Cafe Honmachi.

Genmai Cafe is in a shopping street just three minutes away from Honmachi Station. On the first floor is the Genki Shop for healthy food products. The cafe on the second floor is nice and clean. Every food item is vegetarian, some items contain animal products (eggs) or fish and are marked as such.

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They have various set menus, soups, desserts and organic drinks on their menu. I didn’t go for the curry as it’s relatively easy to find vegetarian curry in Japan. The one Indian restaurant near the place where I stayed (Yotsubashi Station) was even all-vegetarian. I picked their regular set and could select two rice balls (onigiri) and one soup from their menu. Read the rest of this entry

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Karaoke

Microphone
Sometimes meet-ups groups wake up from their year-long slumber, such as the Karaoke Group. The meet-up venue was Karaoke no Tetsujin in Shinjuku, a karaoke chain that offers various rooms, including big ones for company parties. Costume rental is also possible, though their selection doesn’t seem to be very large.

They even have an English website and organize international karaoke parties. One feature is missing from their international site though: The ability to search for songs and artists and write down the code. The search feature works the same way as the controller in the karaoke rooms and is a nice way to find out if they even have your favorite songs.

karaoke controller

Obviously they have a large selection of songs in Japanese, English and Korean language. Other languages are harder to find. Read the rest of this entry

Vegan Meetup at Pink Cow

Pink Cow Vegan Meetup
The Pink Cow is an expat- and vegetarian-friendly bar and has regular live music and art events. Together with the Tokyo Vegan Meetup Group, an all vegan buffet is offered each month and although it’s on the pricey side (2800 Yen), it is quite popular. Before having their regular meet-up at Pink Cow, the meetup group moved from restaurant to restaurant. Vegan meet-ups at places other than Pink Cow are now rare.

Food is just one part why people join this meet-up, socializing is the other one. It’s like an international party with a more laid back feel and the food is much better, but that’s just my personal opinion. There are a lot of international/friendship parties each month and the cost can vary between 1000 to 3000 yen. Some give discounts for foreigners and women, so if you are a female foreigner, you’ll get the biggest discount.

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All-you-can-eat buffet.

Veganism is just one of the topics people talk about at the tables and most of the people aren’t even vegans. Vegans do exist in Japan and at least in Tokyo there are quite a few vegan/vegetarian restaurants. I’d still say that if you plan to lead a vegan lifestyle in Tokyo, you need to be both an excellent cook and should be okay ordering many things online. Read the rest of this entry

Tokyo Movie Lovers Meetup: X-Men First Class

Movie meetup

I could’ve easily watched this film in Seoul and saved a lot of money: meetup fee included, I payed 1400 yen (about 19000 won). The standard price for movie tickets in Korea is 8000 won (600 yen). It can be a bit more depending on the cinema and if the film is in 3D or “4D”. But nothing beats watching movies with a nice group and that’s why I’ve been to over 70 meetups of the Tokyo Movie Lovers.

It’s one of the biggest if not the biggest meetup in Tokyo. It’s not an arthouse movie meetup and we rarely watch Japanese movies. So it’s in English language with Japanese subtitles. This can be irritating when watching a 3D movie because the subtitles hover in the foreground.

X-Men First Class is a prequel to the three X-Men films. Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr were still friends and John F. Kennedy US president. The mutants were fighting together against an evil group of mutants trying to unleash World War 3.

Great movie – unfortunately I’m going to miss the Super-8 meetup, another must-watch movie. After every movie meetup, we usually head to a nearby pub. If you are in Tokyo, visit the movie meetup!

Aokigahara – Suicide Forest

Aokigahara

Aokigahara – also known as the Sea of Trees – is a 35 km2 forest which is so dense and monotonous that you can easily get lost in the woods when you leave the paths. The density of the trees is blocking the wind and with almost no wild life, the forest is very quiet.

Traces of the volcanic rock can be found everywhere. There also seem to be many “holes” in the ground giving the place an even more spooky atmosphere. However, Aokigahara isn’t infamous for the ghost tales which it inspired, but the high suicide rate due to which it became known as the “Suicide Forest”. The forest has been known for suicides for a long time, its popularity in modern times is attributed to the novel Nami no To.

Aokigahara

This trip to Aokigahara was the first one of a new hiking meetup. I thought that this location was perfect for the video mode of my very first digital camera, the Vivitar Vivicam 3610. If you watch the video, you’ll know why.

There are not many situations where I’d prefer the video mode of that toy camera over my Canon HV30! Read the rest of this entry

Mega Hanami 2010

The number of meetup groups grew considerably since I came to Tokyo in 2007. Mega Hanami was a meet-up organized by multiple groups and we all came together to Yoyogi Park, probably the best free hanami (cherry blossom watching) spot in west Tokyo. Since I had already had so many cherry blossom photos and videos, I decided to use my new Digital Harinezumi 2 camera to shoot the video. The video quality is pretty bad, and I’m not happy with the camera in color mode. The camera is however a real eye catcher – I’ve seen lots of Japanese taking a look at it because it’s so tiny.

Seoul: LanguageCast meet-up

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Joining a meet-up is usually not something you do as a tourist, though there are many interesting ones (especially in the U.S.). Today’s LanguageCast meet-up in Seoul was my first meet-up outside Tokyo.

LanguageCast is held twice a week: On Monday they record talk shows (usually in Chinese, English and Japanese) and on Friday it’s time for speeches. Note that there is no obligation to take part in the talk shows or hold a speech. Everyone who joins learns one or more languages. I joined the Friday one.

My Korean doesn’t go much beyond introductions and ordering meals in the restaurant, so I held my speech in Japanese. Most Koreans seemed to learn Japanese too which is a natural choice considering the similarity of these two language (grammar is similar). So I understood most speeches held by Koreans but I didn’t understand the one held by a Japanese (in Italian). Still, it was very enjoyable.

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There’s no critique of each others speech and up to three languages were used by the speakers. Since I graduated from Japanese school, I sometimes lack the motivation to write a speech so this was a great opportunity. All recorded speeches are published on the LanguageCast website. The talk shows are also available as a podcast feed (iTunes link).

Read the rest of this entry

Mashiko Pottery Festival

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Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture is famous for its potteries and many people who live there have something to with pottery. Once a year, a big festival attracts from all over Japan: the Mashiko Pottery Festival.

It’s less a festival and more a fair giving you ample opportunity to spend lots of Yen on pottery. Those who plan to go there should get cash before as there are no convenience stores every 100 meter.

I didn’t find a 7/11 one – or rather one with an ATM – so if you don’t have a Japanese bank account, you will likely not be able to withdraw money while in Mashiko.

Which is a shame, because there are lots of wonderful works and most aren’t terribly expensive either. There are of course lots of cups and dishes if you prefer something less decorative:
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Since my favorite animals (besides penguins) are cats, I also liked ceramic cats. Read the rest of this entry

Water Walk #1 Oji

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One of the interesting new meet-up groups is the water walk meet-up. It follows the places presented in the book “Water Walks: In the Suburbs of Tokyo”. That’s the reason why I joined: To see some places I would usually not visit.

We started at Oji station and I already new four people from previous meet-up and one called me by my Mixi nickname. As with many places in Tokyo, you wouldn’t think that there is something that qualifies as a park nearby when you exit the station. First we walked into the wrong direction which led us to this temple which wasn’t on the list:

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So we had to walk to the station and then walk the other way, reaching an almost dried-out river and later some other temples. After that we went to a tall building with a free observation deck, getting a view of Tokyo. Read the rest of this entry

Movie meet-up: The Day the Earth Stood Still

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Last movie meet-up for this year! Keanu Reeves latest film has received a lot of attention lately and is used by LG in their commercials for a new handset. The film is of course a remake of the 50’s science-fiction classic with a bigger robot, more explosions and more annoying kids. Of course the big alien sphere landed in New York’s Central Park. There were surprisingly many people in the evening – I thought that one should avoid the Central Park when it gets dark?

Most of the film was quite predictable and of course the army later attacked the robot with everything from a machine gun to jets. Parts of it also reminded me very much of Matrix – so much, that I expected the guys in the suit to call Klaatu “Mr. Anderson”. As Klaatu said in one scene, the new human body takes some time getting used to and by the end he still didn’t master facial emotions.

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Photos taken out of the film, when Klaatu makes a short trip to Tokyo

Therefore the director probably thought that to balance things out, Dr. Helen Benson and her stepson Jacob have to show even more emotions. Unfortunately the Jacob character was an annoying brat and **spoiler** when he died for a minute, there was certainly no empathy in our group for him. Unfortunately, he was healed when Klaatu was sacrificing himself, but destroying all of Earth’s technology with a giant EMP.**spoiler end**