THE FILIPINO-JAPANESE JOURNAL

YOUR ONLINE SOURCE TO EVERYTHING JAPANESE & FILIPINO | BEHIND THE BYLINE - MARIA FLORENDA N. CORPUZ a.k.a. Keiko Kurane is a freelance journalist and editor with over eight years of professional experience in writing. Aside from being a freelancer, she is the Editor-in-Chief of FilJap Magazine and the Japan Correspondent of Pinoy Gazette, publications catering to Filipinos living and working in Japan. She was also the former Editor-in-Chief of Philippine Digest and Philippine Correspondent of Maharlika, magazine publications based in Tokyo, Japan. Page Rank Personal - Top Blogs Philippines

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OSAKA, Japan – While attending the 9th Osaka Asian Film Festival, comedienne and actress Eugene Domingo was given one-day leeway to visit some of the popular tourist attractions in Osaka, marking her third time exploring the country’s third largest city.

Domingo’s first stop was Osaka Castle Park, the symbol of the city, where she learned about its rich history. She also had the chance to enjoy the beautiful flowering cherry trees and plum trees around the huge lawn park.

“They begin to blossom. My first time to see and smell them,” Domingo said.

After spending almost two hours at Osaka Castle Park, Domingo excitedly went to Shinsaibashi, a shopping street, and Dotonbori, the city’s most famous amusement district, for some spending. She also tried Osaka foods such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki. “I’m so glad to be here again in Osaka. It’s my third time here and I do not intend to leave. I just want to stay here.”

During her tour, some Filipino tourists saw her and asked for photo ops. The very down-to-earth comedienne gladly obliged.

Domingo stayed for a week in Osaka to serve as a jury member for the Competition section of the OAFF. 

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(Published in FilJap Magazine May 2014, Japan)

If you love watching Japanese movies and television programs, chances are you have already seen a geisha or heard something about them. 

Geisha, which means “person of the arts”, are skilled Japanese women whose traditional occupation is to entertain men. 

The geisha system began some 400 years ago to entertain the wealthy merchants and samurai inside tea houses (ochaya) and traditional restaurants (ryotei). During the 17th century, many Japanese women yearned to be a geisha. But only few aspirants weathered the long years of rigorous and intense training as apprentices (maiko) at geisha houses (okiya). Here, they are taught how to dance, sing, play musical instruments like the samisen, as well as conversational and social graces.

Before the World War II, there were about 100,000 geisha in several cities across Japan, including Tokyo and Kyoto. Their numbers have declined with the rise of the hostesses and prostitutes after the war. Nowadays, there are only around 2,000 and are rarely glimpsed.

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In Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, specifically at the Gion district, which is said to be the best place to experience geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha), you can find quite a few of them.

At Hanami-koji, where the street and side alleys are lined up with machiya and ochaya, geiko dinners take place for trusted customers. The guests eat and drink while being entertained by the geiko and maiko through games and witty conversations. The highlight of the evening is the geiko’s performance of a dance to the tune of a traditional music, played on the samisen by another geiko. These dinners are usually exclusive and expensive. But a cheaper geiko experience is available for local and foreign tourists at the Gion Corner, where cultural shows like the maiko dance are being staged everyday. There are also maiko studios all over the place where you can dressed up as a maiko or geiko and pose for photos for 10,000 yen. You can also spot a few maiko and geiko walking in the streets of Gion district during the evenings.

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The geisha, with their beauty, grace and skill, are a huge part of the Japanese culture. Although they played an intriguing role in the ancient society, it is without a doubt that they are a living work of art.

(Photos by Din Eugenio)

(Published in FilJap Magazine April 2014, Japan)

Springtime in Japan is always synonymous to the blooming of the cherry blossoms or sakura. From late March to early May, cherry blossoms, with its pink and soft flowers,flourish and blanket trees all over the country. It is an enticing sight that captures the attention of local and foreign tourists alike.

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The sakura holds a unique and a cherished admiration in the Japanese culture. It has always been a symbol of evanescent beauty and the nature of life.

Sakura served as a motivating symbol for the Japanese military during World War II. Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes before embarking on a mission. It is also associated with bushi and samurai. Nowadays, the Japanese army and police use it for emblems, flags and insignia.

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The Japanese keep track of the cherry blossom front or sakura zensen. They flock to parks, shrines and temples together with families and friends and hold a flower viewing party known as hanami, by dancing, singing, drinking and eating under the trees. Though some trees can be found in China and Korea, the most kinds of sakura like the Somei Yoshino and Yamazakura, can be admired in Japan.

Hanami, which has been in practice since the 3rd century, celebrates the beauty of sakura and a signal for many to enjoy nature in a very human way. 

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                             Cherry Blossom Forecast 2014

                        (Source: Japan Weather Association)

Location        First Bloom      Full Bloom

Tokyo               March 25               April 1

Kyoto               March 27               April 3

Kagoshima      March 20               March 29

Kumamoto       March 20              March 29

Fukuoka           March 19              March 28

Hiroshima        March 25               April 1

Osaka              March 27               April 4

Nara                 March 28              April 2

Nagoya             March 24              April 1

Yokohama        March 25              April 1

Kanazawa        April 3                    April 7

Nagano            April 12                  April 16

Sendai             April 10                   April 15

Aomori             April 24                   April 29

Hakodate         May 2                     May 6

Sapporo           May 3                     May 8

Note: The forecast is subject to change due to weather conditions.

(Photos by Din Eugenio)

(Published in FilJap Magazine April 2014, Japan)

OSAKA, Japan – Filipino film “Shift” bagged the top prize at the 9th Osaka Asian Film Festival held in Umeda, Kita-ku, Osaka from March 7-16. 

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“Shift” won the Grand Prix (Best Picture award), besting 10 entries from other Asian countries including Indonesia, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Directed by Siege Ledesma, “Shift” stars singer Yeng Constantino in her first movie role as call center agent Estela who falls for her gay male supervisor, Trevor (played by Felix Rocco).

The “Shift” team took home ¥500,000 as cash prize.

Meanwhile, “Anita’s Last Cha-Cha”, a coming-of-age movie directed by Filipino director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo earned Special Mention honors. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old tomboy Anita (played by Teri Malvar) who gets a hopeless crush on a 37-year-old woman, Pilar (played by Angel Aquino).

According to jury member actress Eugene Domingo, “Shift” was awarded for “it’s simplicity, honesty and it’s integrity for pushing boundaries.”

Jerrold Tarog’s “If Only” also competed at the festival. While Miko Livelo’s “Blue Bustamante” and Leo Abaya’s “Instant Mommy” were shown in the Special Screening section.

This year’s festival kicked off with the screening of Taiwanese film “KANO”. Closing the nine-day event was Japan’s “The Light Shines Only There”.

The OAFF aims to facilitate human resources development and exchange, to invigorate the Osaka economy, and to increase the city’s appeal, through providing opportunities to watch excellent Asian films, supporting filmmaking in Osaka and attracting filmmakers from Asian countries and regions to Osaka.

List of winners:

Grand Prix (Best Picture Award)

“Shift”

The Philippines / Director: Siege Ledesma

Most Promising Talent Award

HA Jung-woo

Korea / “Fasten Your Seatbelt” Director

Best Actress Award

Carina LAU

Hong Kong / “Bends” Leading Actress

Special Mention

“Anita’s Last Cha-Cha”

The Philippines / Director: Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo

ABC Award

“Forever Love”

Taiwan / Director: Kitamura Toyoharu, Shiao Li-shiou

Audience Award

“KANO”

Taiwan / Director: Umin BoyaCe

TOKYO, Japan – Three Filipino films have been chosen for competition and two for exhibition for the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2014, which will be held from March 7-16 in Osaka.

Contending for the Competition section are Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s “Huling Cha-Cha Ni Anita (Anita’s Last Cha-Cha),” Jerrold Tarog’s “Sana Dati (If Only)” and Siege Ledesma’s “Shift”.

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Anita’s Last Cha-Cha

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If Only

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Shift

The films “Blue Bustamante” by Miko Livelo and “Instant Mommy” by Leo Abaya will be exhibited in the Special Screenings section.

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Blue Bustamante

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Instant Mommy

Award-winning actress and comedienne Eugene Domingo has been selected as member of the international competition jury.

The OAFF aims to facilitate human resources development and exchange, to invigorate the Osaka economy, and to increase the city’s appeal, through providing opportunities to watch excellent Asian films, supporting filmmaking in Osaka and attracting filmmakers from Asian countries and regions to Osaka.

http://www.oaff.jp/2014/en/index.html

TOKYO, Japan – The official residence of the Philippine Ambassador to Japan became the first and so far only officially-designated Philippine national historical landmark outside of the country, with the unveiling of a historical marker on March 3 at the property in Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku.

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(Photo caption: Ambassador Manuel Lopez and NHCP Chair Maria Serena Diokno unveil the historical marker at the property’s entrance, assisted by (L-R) Philippine-Japan Society President Francis Laurel, former Ambassador Jose Macario Laurel IV and former National Historical Commission of the Philippines Chairman Ambeth Ocampo.)

The unveiling completes the Official Residence’s elevation into a “National Historical Landmark” pursuant to Resolution No. 01, Series 2013 adopted by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on March 11, 2013.

Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel M. Lopez and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chair Dr. Maria Serena I. Diokno presided over the ceremony, which was witnessed by officials of the Philippine Embassy and the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Also in attendance were guests led by former NHCP Chair Dr. Ambeth R. Ocampo and the Laurel family, represented by current Philippines-Japan Society, Inc. President and Director Francis C. Laurel and former Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Jose Macario Laurel IV.

“This is a historic and momentous occasion that honors the history and national patrimony of the Philippines,” said Philippine Ambassador to Japan, Manuel M. Lopez.

Located within a 4,500-square meter property of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Iberian-style residence was first built in 1934 by the family of the prominent businessman Baron Zenjiro Yasuda, whose descendants include the international artist Ms. Yoko Ono.

The property was purchased by then President Jose P. Laurel for the Philippine Government on March 31, 1944.

To this day, the Kudan—as the residence is also referred to on account of its location near the Kudanzaka hilltop—serves as both the official home in Tokyo of Philippine Ambassadors to Japan, and a central venue for the conduct of Philippine diplomacy and cultural promotion.

“Kudan is the crown jewel of the Philippine Foreign Service, and we should preserve this important part of our diplomatic legacy and heritage,” Lopez said.

The NHCP Guidelines on the Identification, Classification, and Recognition of Historic Sites and Structures in the Philippines officially defines a National Historical Landmark as “site or structure closely associated with a significant historical event, achievement, characteristic, turning point or stage in Philippine history.”

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Nippon Ramen Association has once again organized a very successful Tokyo Ramen Show last November 2013 at Setagaya in Tokyo.

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Ramen lovers from all over Tokyo flocked to Komazawa Olympic Park Central Square to sample 40 regional types of ramen, which can be found in Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and many other places across Japan.

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Thousands of people lined up to have a taste of their favorite noodle dish including Hakata Ramen, Yamagata Ramen, Tokushima Ramen, Sapporo Ramen and Tokyo Ramen, which cost them 800 yen per bowl.

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Ramen is a staple food in Japan. It was brought to the country from China during the Meiji period (1868-1912). There are four main kinds of ramen: shioramen (salt flavored soup), tonkotsu ramen (pork bone based creamy soup), miso ramen (miso flavored soup) and shoyu ramen (soy sauce flavored soup). Common toppings include nori, egg and shinachiku.

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Tokyo Ramen Show is a yearly event that aims to promote tourism and food culture in Japan.

(Photos by Din Eugenio)

Busy and driven Osaka is Japan’s second most important and third largest city with a population of 2.6 million and an area of 221 square kilometers. It is considered as the working heart of Kansai region and the gourmet capital of the country.

Located on the main island of Honshu, Osaka is famous to businessmen because of the many leading Japanese manufacturers that are operating here. It is also a must-see destination for local and foreign tourists because of its lively nightlife and sumptuous cuisines like takoyaki, okonomiyaki and ikayaki.

Osaka’s popular landmarks and tourist spots include Osaka Castle, the symbol of the city, with its huge lawn park; Umeda Sky Building, a 40-story twin-towered building constructed in 1993; Universal Studios Japan, a theme park inspired by blockbuster Hollywood films; Dotonburi, the city’s most famous amusement district that is lit up by neon lights and mechanized signs, including the famous Glico Running Man sign and Kani Doraku crab sign; and Shitennoji, the oldest officially administered temple in the country built by Prince Shotoku.

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Fast Facts:

- Osaka was formerly known as Naniwa. It was incorporated in 1889.

- 15.6% of all foreign residents in Japan live in Osaka.

- Osaka represents 18.9% of Japan’s GDP, the second largest in Japan.

- Osaka is the first city in the world where the first instant ramen and instant ramen in a plastic cup were marketed.

- Osakaites are known for their friendly, and down-to-earth nature.

TOKYO, Japan – Exactly three months after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the Philippines showed its appreciation to Japan for its strong and heartfelt support by launching a series of billboard messages at Shibuya Crossing.

“We Filipinos wish to reiterate our thanks to the people of Japan, for their humanity and compassion, and for being our true friends in good times and bad,” Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez said.

Japanese humanitarian aid has totaled $52.1 million (Emergency Grant Aid - $30 million; Emergency Relief Goods - app. $0.6 million; Assistance through Japanese NGOs (JPF) - $1.5 million; Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) of Asian Development Bank (ADB) - $20 million), with some Japanese private donations.

As part of the global campaign, billboards with the messages “Nihon no minasama, Firipin e no go shien, Arigatou gozaimasu!” (“To all Japanese people, thank you for helping the Philippines!”) were displayed in Q Front building. The billboards were displayed until the end of February.

Shibuya Crossing, a four-way intersection, is a famous spot for photo and movie shoots. Thousands of pedestrians stop and go to the beat of the street light making it one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world.

“The choice of Shibuya Crossing as the site for the ‘#PHthankyou’ tarps was because of its ideal location. This crossing has one of the highest pedestrian traffic in Tokyo,” Tourism Officer and Attaché Valentino L. Cabansag said.

“This is one way in which the Filipinos can express in one voice the deep gratitude that they feel because of the overwhelming support received from the international community,” he added.

All the people across Japan who have expressed sympathies and who have extended support, financial or otherwise, were invited to witness this message of appreciation from the Philippines and help share the country’s profound gratitude to the rest of the world by using the hashtag #PHthankyou.

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(Photos by Din Eugenio)

Choosing between Joël Robuchon Restaurant and ROTI as to where we’ll celebrate my 31st birthday wasn’t an easy decision for the simple reason that we’ve been wanting to try both restaurants since last year.

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On my special day, we settled on lunch for two at ROTI because we failed to make an early reservation at Joël Robuchon Restaurant in Ebisu.

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Located at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, ROTI is a casual wine bar and brasserie that serves American food. 

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Mixed Veggie Salad 

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Pan-Seared Salmon with Pasta and Spinach Cream Sauce

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Classic Chicken

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Gelato

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NY Cheesecake

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Thank you, Papa God for the gift of life. I am truly blessed. 

Verdict: 

- The food, ambience and service exceeded our expectations.

http://www.roti.jp/en/index.php

Learning the history of broadcasting is a must for every journalist.

Opened in 1956, the NHK Museum of Broadcasting in Atagoyama, Tokyo is the world’s first museum that exclusively displays broadcasting items.

Here, you can take a look back at the history of broadcasting in Japan that dates back to 1925.

The museum is run by NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai or Japan Broadcasting Corporation), the national public broadcasting company of Japan.

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This studio houses a replica of a double-button mic & speaker used at the dawn of broadcasting. You can listen to your own voice through the mic & speaker to experience the sound quality of those days.

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The first TV set in Japan invented by Kenjiro Takayanagi, the father of Japanese television

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Simulated Broadcasting Studio

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You can experience being a newscaster or cameraman using actual broadcasting equipment.

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http://www.nhk.or.jp/museum/english/index.html

Japan is one of the countries in the world that has the best food. Although it is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants, the popularity of its delicious yet cheap dishes show no sign of slowing down.

Here’s our top 10:

1. Ramen – A staple food in Japan, it was brought to the country from China during the Meiji period (1868-1912). From its simple origins, the popular noodle dish has undergone a sensational evolution, being now among the most favorite comfort foods of the Japanese.

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2. Tempura – Brought to Japan by the Portuguese, it is a Japanese preparation of batter-dipped, deep fried foods, usually vegetables and seafood.

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3. Tonkatsu – A breaded deep-fried pork cutlet similar to Europe’s schnitzel. It was first introduced in Japan in the late 19th century.

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4. Karaage – It originated in Oita, Kyushu and is the most popular style of fried chicken in Japan.

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5. Yakiniku – Meaning “grilled meat”, it refers to a Japanese style of cooking bite-sized meat and vegetables over a charcoal or gas burner grill called “shichirin”. It originated in Korea and has become a primarily Japanese dish.

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6. YakitoriBite-sized pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables, skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled usually over charcoal and eaten with sauce or salt.

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7. Yakisoba – Said to be of Chinese origin,it is a kind of Japanese noodle stir-fried with meat and vegetables. It is typically flavoured with a sweetened, thickened variant of Worcestershire sauce.

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8. Takoyaki – Small balls of fried dough stuffed with octopus. It was first popularized in Osaka.

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9. Onigiri – Also called “o-musubi” or rice balls, onigiri has many varieties as you can put any filling you wish like pickled ume, salted salmon or tuna and mayo. It is made from white rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and often wrapped in seaweed.

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10. Donburi – It refers to a bowl of rice served with a topping. The most popular kind is called “gyudon”, which is a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce.

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(Donburi Photo: Wikipedia)

(Photos taken by Din Eugenio, unless otherwise stated.)

(Published in FilJap Magazine November 2013)

Located on the corner of the Nishi-Azabu crossing point, Gonpachi is a popular Japanese-inn izakaya-style restaurant that inspired the set in Quentin Tarantino’s blockbuster film “Kill Bill (Volume 1)”.

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Gonpachi was founded in 2002 by Kozo Hasegawa, the president and CEO of Global Dining Inc. It gained fame over the years due to former U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit and Quentin Tarantino’s film “Kill Bill”.

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The entire feudal Japanese castle-like structure of Gonpachi is distinctly Edo. Its three floors are decorated in a warm, countrified style with many wooden furniture. 

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Gonpachi serves everything you would expect from a traditional izakaya like sushi, edamame, yakitori, karaage, soba noodles, sake, beer and other alcoholic beverages. They also offer Western and fusion dishes.

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Other prominent personalities who visited the place include Johnny Depp, Sylvester Stallone, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Adam Levine and Broadway superstar and “The Voice of the Philippines” coach Lea Salonga.

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Gonpachi is a nice place if you want to relax and unwind with friends after a hard day’s work. 

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(Photos by Din Eugenio)

(Published in FilJap Magazine November 2013)

TOKYO, Japan – Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada took part in a ceremonial wreath-laying at the bust of national hero Jose Rizal in Hibiya Park, Tokyo on September 27.

Estrada arrived on September 26 in Tokyo to attend the Barrio Fiesta 2013 in Yokohama. Manila has sister city relationship with Yokohama.

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(Photos by Din Eugenio)

(Published in FilJap Magazine November 2013)