Travel & Culture

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Japanese culture and lifestyles through the eyes of NHK WORLD personalities

December 3, 2015

Love Thy Neighborhood Shotengai

Matthew Masaru Barron / MC, Narrator

Matthew Masaru Barron is a man of many talents. He works as a narrator, actor, translator and MC. Whatever he does, he tries to make it fun for the audience. On NHK WORLD, he hosts great gear.


When you start living in Japan you sometimes feel lonely. You miss your family, friends and maybe even your neighbors. You're in a new city… no wait, a new country. What's the first thing you want to do? After unpacking, of course. Here's what I did; I took a walk. I wanted to see what my new neighborhood looked like.

First, I looked around for restaurants. I was hungry. You see all these fine places! Soba noodles, sushi, tempura, etc. So many good places yet only one stomach! I was finally able to decide on a restaurant. I think I had some pike with rice and miso soup.

After I finished my dinner, the lady who served me started chatting with me. We had a nice chat. She asked me couple of questions and so did I in return. This was very helpful to me. I needed information about my new neighborhood and she was a big help.

That's when I learned about the shotengai. It's a street where you can pretty much get everything you need for daily life.

Here's how it works… What do you want for dinner? You hear a man shouting fresh fish on one side and you hear another man shouting a special price for chicken breast. Or perhaps you can go check out the bakery for some curry bread. Maybe you want to go healthy and stop by the vegetable market where the lady will give you extra potato just because you have a nice smile.

The next morning you realize you need some stuff for your house. You've got a small book store where you can get your favorite books or manga. A toy store owned by a nice old lady, who tells you there's a nice Japanese sweets shop where the owner makes tea cups and gives you one as a welcoming gift!

The shotengai is a street where all the shops are independently owned. The shop owners work together as a team to make the neighborhood more friendly. You can even sometimes see school kids walking home and saying hello to the shop owners.

If you ever decide to move here, check out the nearest shotengai. If they have a smile, then so will you.


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Matthew Masaru Barron / MC, Narrator

After arriving in Japan in 2000, thanks to his friendly attitude, and influenced by his brother, Matthew started his career in entertainment. Born of an American father and a Japanese mother, he speaks both English and Japanese fluently. Mainly starting as a narrator, his talent rapidly brings him to a wider variety of work including acting and translating as well as work as an MC and even a lyrics advisor for musicians. His motto is that everything is entertainment and must be fun for the audience. Whether it is as a presenter for educational programs, or as an MC in clubs, Matthew is a versatile artist that does it all. With a natural talent for promoting Japan to the rest of the world, he is constantly broadening his circle of relations wherever he goes.

Question How long have you been in Japan?
I've been in Japan for over 14 years.
Question What was your original reason for coming to Japan?
I was interested in Japanese show business.
Question What's your favorite scenic spot in Japan?
Asakusa, Takaosan (Mt. Takao), and Amami Oshima.
Question What's the one thing that's essential to your life in Japan?
Aojiru green juice for health!
Question What is your favorite Japanese word? Please briefly describe what it means in English.
虚心坦懐 "Kyoshin tankai"
To have a clear mind on whatever you challenge or experience.


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