Mr. Manners (Mister マナー)

Mr. Manners has a friendly message for you…

Mr. Manners (Mister マナー) is your friendly cartoon character offering the uncouth all of the right tips to a civil express-train travel experience.

He greets you from the on-train advertising on the Nankai-Koya line in Osaka with his friendly smile, crisp green-framed glasses and M-logo utility belt. Check out his futuristic gettup with retro moonboots … He seems to point the way to intergalactic societal harmony. And of course, you can tell that he is well schooled in the intricacies of proper commuter etiquette. Obey and absorb what he says because he’s a model futurist.

What kind of soundtrack would you use if you were producing an animated PSA for Mr. Manners? Fusion Jazz? Electronica? Bossa Nova? 60’s era Moog music? ….. Ska?

But back to seriousness, what lessons does Mr. Manners have for us?

1. Keep the headphone volume down, lest you disturb your follow passengers…
2. Line up in two rows while awaiting your train in queue…
3. Throw your trash and recyclables in the proper receptacles (there are four … newspaper & magazines, pet bottles, glass bottles & cans and … other)
4. Mind your oversize bags… Other people need their space too, you know…

Yes, Mr. Manners cheerily offers the way to pleasant train riding for all travelers. Thank you Mr. Manners!


Osaka Ali

An Literary Paradise in Osaka…

Umeda is one of Osaka’s most exciting neighborhoods. Located in the city’s business and commerce hub, it’s a great place to find cool digs, forward leaning fashion, an urban ferris wheel, the latest flicks, a worldwide sample of foods, fast trains (the JR, Hankyu, Keihan and other lines all meet there), shopping, art galleries and more…

The Entrance to Maruzen / Junkudo in Chayamachi, Umeda, Osaka

Working in Umeda is a stimulating experience. The busy downtown, the pulsing crowds, the traffic rush, and the continuous distraction can be overwhelming. On the other hand the constant buzz can add up to an accumulated blandness, if you know what I mean. My solution to the sensory bombardment and boredom is to head over to Maruzen / Junkudo bookstore. It resides in the first eight floors of the beautiful Chaska Chayamachi Tower. The striking design is another signature reinforced concrete building by Osaka architect Ando Tadao completed in 2010. On hand are literally hundreds of magazine titles, and that’s only counting the Japanese publications. There are 9 floors of books, stationery, manga (this has it’s own basement level floor), and an iPhone / iPad repair and accessories station. There is an extensive collection of foreign language books as well.

Some of the interesting finds include magazines like WonderJapan (ワンダー), a campy guidebook of roadside Japanicana including odd locales, forgotten attractions,abandoned amusement parks, obscure statues of idols, ruins, and other assorted weird worlds for you to discover throughout Japan. Upstairs you’ll find some materials for English language teachers located along with games and puzzles for helping students learn. On three floors there are balconies to sit, read, take in the ambiance and do some discreet people-watching. There are great finds including photography books, children’s books and the latest Japanese literature.

Bookstores are very popular in Japan and perhaps as a result, books can be expensive. Other bookstores I have found can’t afford to provide much space to comfortably scrutinize the books and magazines. However, I can spend hours ( ok, ok … in all honestly days) checking my finds while I, ahem, consider a new purchase at Maruzen / Junkudo because it is so spacious and comfortable.

What is my personal favorite section? I suppose it is the foreign language SF stacks. All the greats are represented here like J.G. Ballard, Ben Bova, Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson and Philip K. Dick. I currently have got my eye on a paperback copy of “The Man in the High Castle”. So come on down to Umeda, have a coffee at Tully’s and then pop across the street to Maruzen / Junkudo. I’ll be in the S.F. Section…

Maruzen / Junkudo Bookstore is located at Ōsaka-fu, Ōsaka-shi, Kita-ku, Chayamachi, 7-20. (34.707478,135.500124) Store hours are from 10am – 10pm

Osaka Ali




The Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church

If Ayn Rand re-wrote The Fountainhead with a Japanese setting, Howard Roark’s name would be changed to Ando Tadao. That’s just my opinion, speaking as a recovering architecture fanatic.

The man is a legend. Ando is a former truck driver and prizefighter who made a notable transformation by training himself to be an architect. Winner of the Pritzker Prize ( as close as architect gets to Nobel laureate-hood ), he has been making a name for himself and bringing honors to Japanese design for more than four decades. Anecdotes about his passion for construction excellence abound.If he has built a masterpiece, it is hard to choose it from his wide portfolio. The Church of the Light certainly makes the shortlist. The local people know the church as the Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church, and its presence in the neighborhood is subtle and unobtrusive. The only hint that the building houses something special is a great cruciform window facing the intersection nearby. The cross shaped window served as a beacon to my family and about three dozen other architectural pilgrims who visited this past weekend, the final day of golden week.
The property that the church sits on is small, so Ando-sensei placed the masses of the sanctuary and study hall carefully to create an introverted, contemplative courtyard that forces the mind and body into narrow corners and then suddenly

opens up into sublime spaces that seem to touch and free the soul. The concrete work is exquisite throughout, the surfaces at times glassy smooth. Steel and glass frame and capture the views outside and then seem to disappear behind the surface of the concrete. Wood cabinetwork retains simplicity, utility and humanity, all at once. Light and shadow caress the concrete texture, rendered delicate by the unparalleled craftsmanship.

After digesting the beauty of it all, I met the current pastor of the church, Reverend Ken’ichi Oishi. He’s a kind and gracious host who enjoys taking the time to tell about the people who make up his flock and the history of how they commissioned a maestro-in-the-making to build a special home for their community. He hinted that when the church approached the architect, they weren’t in a position to capture his attention with a spectacular building budget. Ando has said in speeches that he was impressed by the sincerity and intensity of the vision of the church leaders enough to overcome his own reservations about the obstacles that would arise. Together, client and architect overcame those obstacles. What resulted from the courageous union was a bounty of grace and tranquility. Howard Roark would approve.


The Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church is located in Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture, near Bampakukinenkoen (Expo ’70 Park). For more information about the church, location and how to arrange a visit go to