• World Heritage Site: Gokayama, Known for its Steep Thatched Roofs

    [From May Issue 2015]

    In Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture there are two villages with unique so called “gasshou-zukuri” style steeply sloping thatched roofs. This year marks the 20th anniversary since they were registered as a World Heritage Site. While most of the houses were built around 100 to 200 years ago, some of them have a history of around 400 years. Residents still live in them and at houses where accommodation and meals are provided, guests are served edible wild plants and iwana mountain trout by the hearth. The site is also a centre of production for washi Japanese paper and visitors can make round fans and postcards by taking part in the Japanese paper-making experience. From around mid-May every year, Ainokura Village is illuminated to create a magical Japanese countryside scene that will delight visitors.
    Access: At JR Shin-Takaoka Station, get on the “World Heritage”bus, get off at “Ainokuraguchi”and walk about five minutes to Ainokura Village, or get off at “Suganuma” and walk about three minutes to Suganuma Village.
    Gokayama Tourist Information Center
    Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    To park in the villages you must pay a fee that will be used for the conservation of these properties: 500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.

    Read More
  • Gusto

    [From May Issue 2015]

    “Gusto” is Japan’s only family restaurant chain to have a branch in every single prefecture. The number of these stores exceeds 1,350. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of dishes for a reasonable price. The chain started as a self-service drink bar. Gusto is a community restaurant with close regional ties. There is also a sister chain of restaurants called “Steak Gusto” that focuses on steaks and hamburgers.

    [No.1] Cheese IN Hamburger 499 yen

    One of Gusto’s signature dishes. Four kinds of cheese, including camembert and mozzarella, are used. When you cut into the juicy hamburger with a knife, cheese oozes out.

    [No.2] Generous Helping of French Fries 299 yen

    These crispy potato fries have been enjoyed by customers since the company first opened for business. Recommended for groups to share.

    [No.3] Omelet and Rice with Beef Stew Sauce Plate 699 yen

    Fluffy omelet on a bed of rice covered with a thick beef stew and red wine sauce. The beef is cooked until it is very soft. Comes with a side salad.
    ※ Availability and prices vary depending on the restaurant.[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    【No.1】チーズINハンバーグ 499円


    【No.2】ポテトフライ(山盛り) 299円


    【No.3】オムライスビーフシチューソースプレート 699円



    Read More
  • By Concentrating on the Fragrance You Become one with Universe

    [From May Issue 2015]

    Incense Specialist
    WATANABE Eriyo
    Kodo “the way of incense” is a traditional art in Japan. Rather than saying “smell” the aromatic wood, we say “listen” to it. Listening to incense means appreciating its fragrance with keen attention. “Japan has four seasons. It’s blessed with the scents of different trees and flowers each season and a moderate level of humidity,” says incense specialist WATANABE Eriyo.
    “The climate, too, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, is diverse; the country has 3,000 meters high mountains and a rich ecosystem. This environment has nurtured the delicate sensibilities of the Japanese people, especially our sense of smell and taste. I’m interested not only in Japanese aromas, but also in aromas from other countries, from history and how these relate to each other.”
    Watanabe opened her “Setagaya Incense Salon” in Tokyo and from this base, she organizes workshops in which people make nerikoh (blended incense balls made by mixing together the raw materials and honey) based on a 1,000-year-old Japanese recipe and learn, through incense, about Japan’s classical literary works and traditional culture. All kinds of people participate, from foreigners who want to “experience something typically Japanese” to regulars who “look forward to listening to lovely fragrances.”
    Watanabe organizes gatherings at which participants simply listen to incense. Many come just for one day. “When a workaholic listens to incense, their expression softens as if a mask has slipped off,” says Watanabe.
    “It’s of course wonderful that kodo is such a rich subject, but it can also be a mental challenge because differentiating scents by ‘listening’ to them and comparing them is competitive. I want people to enjoy the calming and relaxing effects of incense, so they don’t compete with each other, they simply fully enjoy the fragrances. Since ancient times, incense has always been referred to as food for the soul. If you concentrate only on the fragrance, you lose your ego, become one with the whole universe and experience a state of bliss,” says Watanabe.
    The reputation of Setagaya Incense Salon is spreading by word of mouth. The salon has been mentioned on an Australian travel website as one of the “Top Ten Things to Do Only in Tokyo” and on a German travel website as “a relaxing place.” “The enjoyment of scent has always been a cultural practice that has spanned the globe,” says Watanabe. Burning incense is a sacred act in Christianity, Islam, and in Buddhism. Since antiquity, there has been an international trade in the raw materials used to make incense.”
    “As a student of art history in London, I rediscovered Japan when I learned that ‘Japan’ also meant lacquer ware. I later studied expressive arts therapy in Boston and while working in that area, I realized that incense had the same effect as expressive arts therapy. My biggest personal asset is the cross-cultural experience acquired on trips to 48 countries and during the time I lived abroad for ten years.”
    Watanabe says enthusiastically, “When I burn incense that I made with a wish or a prayer, it feels as though that wish or prayer reaches heaven. I’d like to create new kinds of incense equipment and market them to the world.”
    Incense Research Institute
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo/文:砂崎良[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • Food Manufacturer Popularized Snack Gashi in Japan

    [From May Issue 2015]

    In Japan, fried carbohydrate snacks of corn, potatoes, or beans, are called “snack gashi.” CALBEE, Inc. products account for a 50% share of this market. The word Calbee is neither Japanese nor English. It conveys the sentiments of the company’s founder who was thinking of the nation’s good health when he coined the word.
    Founded in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1949, the company was formerly known as Matsuo Food Industries. MATSUO Takashi, then president, was concerned about malnutrition among post-war Japanese people and aimed to create products that would improve the health of consumers. The company name was changed in 1955 to Calbee Foods and Confectionery Co., Ltd.; a name that combines calcium, “cal,” and vitamin B1, “bee.”
    In that same year, the company succeeded in making arare (roasted mochi pieces) from wheat rather than rice – the main ingredient up until then – and marketed it as “Kappa Arare.” In 1964, “Kappa Ebisen,” a snack made from mixing ground raw shrimp into wheat dough, was developed. It became a big hit and the jingle “I can’t stop, I won’t stop, Calbee, Kappa Ebisen” made the Calbee name popular throughout the nation.
    The year 1972 saw the launch of the potato based snack, “Sapporo Potato.” The company’s name was shortened to CALBEE, Inc. when its head office moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo in 1973. In 1975, “Potato Chips” was launched, a snack which later became one of the company’s core products. In 1985, the material used in the packaging of all products was switched from vinyl to aluminum film. This prevented any loss of flavor caused by oxidation.
    Calbee takes great care in its control of raw ingredients. For example, shrimps – one of the ingredients in Kappa Ebisen – are carefully selected, flash-frozen while fresh to a temperature lower than -30 °C and transported to the factory. In the factory, the entire shrimp, including shell, is ground up and used. Red particles on the exterior of Kappa Ebisen are proof that the whole of the shrimp is used.
    Approximately 330 thousand tons of potatoes are procured yearly to make potato chips and other products. From breeding potato varieties to cultivation, to storage, to transportation, to sales, an agreement has been made with other manufacturers to work in cooperation with each other to ensure the entire process goes smoothly. Currently more than 1,000 producers in the Hokkaido area alone have entered into this contract. The so-called field men of Calbee Potato, Inc. (an affiliated company in charge of potato procurement, storage, etc.) support the producers with surveys, advice and an exchange of information concerning cultivation.
    Calbee products are consumed in ten other countries. For example, “Harvest Snaps” made from beans are popular in the US, Canada, and the UK. In Singapore, “Hot & Spicy” potato chips are a hit and in Thailand, “Kappa Ebisen Original” – developed locally for the Thai palate – is selling well.
    The total number of products produced by Calbee in Japan in the financial year of 2013 was 1.8 billion. The company organizes “Calbee Snack Schools” to teach children how to have a healthy enjoyable diet. In 2013 62,251 children in 787 schools across the nation attended the course. This project not only increases the number of Calbee fans, but is also the company’s way of contributing to regional development.
    CALBEE, Inc.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • I Improved my English while Learning Japanese

    [From May Issue 2015]
    Furat BANTAN
    “It’s gotten so that when I’m with non-Japanese friends in a restaurant, waiters only address me. Of course, I can speak Japanese and added to that, since I am of Indonesian descent, I appear to be Japanese, however I am a Saudi Arabian born and raised in Mecca,” says Furat BANTAN in a droll manner with perfect pronunciation. “I am Bantan, just like junbi bantan (completely ready,)” he jokes.
    Japanese anime and games are extremely popular with young people in Saudi Arabia. Bantan also became interested in Japan because of this. “I watched Japanese anime and played Japanese games that were not translated into Arabic with the help of English subtitles. Thanks to this, I became accustomed to the Japanese language and, since I often checked words in the English dictionary, I memorized English words as well,” he laughs.
    After graduating from high school Bantan won a scholarship from the Saudi Arabian government to study aboard and elected to go to Japan. “In Saudi Arabia, Japanese cars, air-conditioners, TVs and so forth are highly prized. I also wanted to learn about such advanced technology,” he says.
    When Bantan came to Japan he attended a Japanese language school in Osaka. “Teachers admired me and said ‘Bantan, your Japanese is very good,’ but my listening, pronunciation, and keigo (formal language) skills were all down to watching anime,” he says modestly. One year later, he entered the Tokyo Institute of Technology – one of Japan’s most prestigious universities.
    What awaited him at university were classes in which scientific and technical terms were frequently used. “I didn’t even understand which textbook I had to open. I asked the Japanese student sitting next to me ‘which one is it?’ and received an astonished look,” says Bantan. Moreover, the classes and textbooks were aimed at students who’d studied the curriculum of Japanese high schools. “Classes progressed as if I would naturally know things I had not learned at high school in Saudi Arabia.”
    Bantan could not keep up with the classes at all and he had to repeat his first year. “It was so difficult that I wanted to die. There was an exchange student from my own country in my dormitory, so we survived by cheering each other up. After all, kanji is difficult. Arabic letters are phonetic symbols, so I had a very hard time with kanji which have numerous pronunciations,” he says.
    Bantan bought textbooks written in English and studied by comparing the Japanese textbooks to them. “I taught myself from the most basic level with titles like ‘anyone can understand’ and ‘for Dummies’ (for people who do not know the subject). Because English was not my mother tongue, it was difficult to understand the contents. But I came to understand the technical terminology as I checked the equivalent term in English.” After about a year and a half of entering university he came to understand what was being taught in class. He passed the N1 grade of the Japanese proficiency test when he was in his senior year.
    He also experienced the Japanese system of job hunting. “Because Japanese companies demand that I act the same way as Japanese natives, I wore a suit and carried a bag just like them,” he says humorously. When (the then) Crown Prince Salman visited Japan from Saudi Arabia, Bantan acted as an interpreter. Currently, he works at a Saudi Arabian government office located in Tokyo. “I want to encourage interaction between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In addition, it’s my dream to someday start a business. I want to dedicate my entire life to creating the Bantan Group that will establish and run schools teaching Arabic, regular schools, mosques, and more.”
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    バンタンさんは英語で書かれた教科書を買って、日本語のものと読み比べながら勉強しました。「タイトルに『だれでもわかる』とか『for Dummies』(わからない人のための)とか書いてある、いちばん低いレベルから独学しました。英語も母語ではありませんから、内容を理解するのが大変でした。でも専門用語は英語と突き合わせているうちにわかるようになりました」。入学して1年半ほど経った頃から授業がわかるようになりました。4年生のときにはN1に合格しました。

    Read More
  • A Look at Hokusai’s Edo

    [From May Issue 2015]

    Sarusuberi (Crape Myrtle)
    This story is about “ukiyoe” (wood block print) artist KATSUSHIKA Hokusai, and his daughter Oei, who lived in Edo – the former name of Tokyo. Drawing on her knowledge as a scholar of Edo manners and customs, writer SUGIURA Hinako carefully depicts the culture and lifestyle of the common people of those times. The title, “Sarusuberi,” is taken from a flower that blooms for about 100 days from early summer to autumn. According to the writer, the vitality of the plant whose recurring blossoms are heavy enough to bend its branches, chimes with her image of Hokusai. The story was serialized in Manga Sunday Magazine from 1983 to 1987.
    On a winter morning in 1814 towards the end of the year, IKEDA Zenjiro, one of Hokusai’s pupils, rushes into the tenement house where his master Hokusai and his master’s daughter, Oei live. When Oei says she does not want any trouble, Zenjiro hands her a picture, saying he has just seen a freshly severed woman’s head. He has drawn a picture of a head that has been displayed in front of the gate of a samurai residence. Hokusai says he wants to see the sight for himself and, accompanied by Zenjiro, sets off to see it for his own amusement.
    But the facts about the case of the severed head become clear when Zenjiro saves the life of a man who tries to take his own life by throwing himself into the river. The man was in service to a samurai and the head belonged to this samurai’s daughter. The daughter had fallen in love with a man from a different class and had been forced to break off the relationship. Subsequently this man was executed. Following him in death, the daughter took her own life. The man who had tried to throw himself into the river, had told his master about the couple’s relationship. After placing the woman’s head at the gate, he tried to kill himself, too.
    Unsurprised by this, Hokusai simply convinces the man to enter the Buddhist priesthood so he can free himself from his suffering. Hokusai never offers consolation that is considerate of people’s feelings, nor does he give advice to lighten the heart. The way Hokusai behaves reflects the unsentimental mind-set of Edo’s citizens.
    Hokusai is a sharp-tongued and short-tempered man who, despite being married, has affairs with his female pupils. When he is invited to show off his painting skills to the shogun, he fails to impress. A lively portrait is painted of an eccentric and fallible human being.
    The appeal of this work is, in addition to the character of Hokusai, its affectionate depiction of people living in Edo. Mingled with the stories dealing with everyday life are stories in which dead people and ghosts appear. During this period of undeveloped medical treatment, earthquakes and famines occurred. Death was close at hand and this world and the afterlife existed side by side. The wall between reality and illusion was thin, enabling humans and fantastical beings to easily come and go between the two worlds.
    At the story draws to a close, Hokusai divines that his infant daughter has died when a strong wind blows on his tenement house. Here, more than sorrow, the fragility of life is emphasized. At the same time, Hokusai’s deep fear of death is portrayed. This is not the only part of this work in which Hokusai shows his weak side. The work shows Hokusai not only as a great artist but also as KAWAMURA Tetsuzo, an ordinary man, as well as depicting the town of Edo where he lived.
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    時は1814 年、年の瀬が近い冬の朝、北斎とお栄が住む長屋に弟子の一人である池田善次郎が飛び込んできます。面倒はお断りだと文句を言うお栄に、善次郎は「女の生首を見た」と絵を手渡します。武家屋敷の門前に置かれた生首を描き写してきたのです。北斎は自分も見たかったと悔しがり、気晴らしに善次郎を連れて出かけます。

    Read More
  • Local Heroes Born From Love of Home Towns

    [From April Issue 2015]

    Heroic characters that come to the aid of the weak and slay evil are well-liked in Japan. Many Japanese grow up watching TV programs about such heroes. Each region has its local mascot and the number of heroic characters, too, is increasing. These are called local heroes.
    Local mascots are created to promote local produce or to revitalize their region. However, most local heroes come into being because of the locals’ affection for their region or from their longing for a heroic character. It’s said that as many as 700 heroic characters exist in Japan. They are popular not only with children, but also with grownups.
    On Tanegashima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, “Rito Shentai Tanegashiman” is popular. This team of heroes were created 17 years ago by a local youth club. Speaking the local dialect, rather than fighting like heroes, their role is to inspire the people of Tanegashima. The Tanegashiman team is already renowned not only in Kagoshima but in other prefectures. “I’d like everyone in the country to know about Tanegashima and Tanegashiman,” says KUKIHARA Kiyotaka of the PR department of Tanegashima Action Club.
    Tanegashiman get a lot of requests to appear at long-distance relay races and, being well-received by the elderly, at local class reunions for 60-year-olds. To the surprise of the youth club’s members, their villainous enemies, the Jabatche, have also become popular. The Jabatche speak the Tanegashima dialect and make people laugh with jokes about audience members. Their amusing banter with the audience is the talk of the town.


    Chojin Neiger

    The local hero of Akita Prefecture, too, is also massively popular. Super God Neiger was inspired by the well-known cry of Akita’s local deity Namahage “Warui ko wa ‘ineiger’/inai ka.” (Are there any naughty children here?) His true identity is AKITA Ken., a young man from an ordinary family of farmers. He protects the peace from baddies. When he transforms into Neiger his rallying cry is “Super God Neiger, protector of the sea, the mountains and Akita!”
    EBINA Tamotsu, who was instrumental in the creation of Super God Neiger, has loved heroic characters since his childhood. He believes Neiger’s popularity is in the way that the hero embraces the Akita world. A TV program about Neiger was broadcast not only in Akita, but also in Tokyo. “Nothing makes me happier than hearing children cheering,” says Ebina.
    Local heroes might utilize regional products as weapons or have a signature pose. TAKAMOTO Shintaro is a fan of local heroes and even travels to distant locations for meet-and-greet events and shows. “I find it particularly interesting that they speak in dialects. It’s also fun to compare regional idiosyncrasies,” he says.
    Most heroes fight their enemies in order to keep the peace and protect the environment in their regions. They therefore set a good example to children. Some adults are nostalgic for the heroes they once looked up to. Local heroes will continue to serve locals’ affection for their region.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2015年4月号掲載記事]




    Read More
  • In Oman it’s also Customary to Remove Shoes in the Home

    [From April Issue 2015]

    After sustaining damage in the Great East Japan Earthquake and going through the disaster of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, in March 2011 a manufacturer in Fukushima Prefecture received an order worth 2.6 billion yen for water purifiers. The order came with a message: “You can use the water purifiers in areas affected by the disaster before delivery.” “It was the least support our country could offer to our friends in Japan,” says Abeer A. AISHA, wife of the Ambassador of Oman, modestly.
    Mrs. Aisha arrived in Japan in January 2008. “My husband visited Japan in 1994 and had a homestay experience with a Japanese family. He was treated very well by his host family, almost like a real son. I’d also heard from my acquaintances that Japanese people were very kind. Our daughter got very ill during the flight to Japan, so she went straight to a hospital upon arrival. She was very well taken care of, so well that it made me understand just how good Japanese people are.”
    Japan is the first country she’d been posted to as an ambassador’s wife. “I like casual socializing; formal situations aren’t my cup of tea. So I was very nervous when we paid a visit to the Imperial Palace,” she says. “When the Empress spoke to us, she was quite friendly even though the meeting was rather formal. I was anxious, but she made me relax.”
    Mrs. Aisha attends official ceremonies and is required to socialize and take part in activities not only with Japanese, but also with diplomats and ambassadors’ wives from other countries. “At first, I felt under pressure when people paid attention to me, my dress and my speech,” says Mrs. Aisha. “I got homesick because back home I always spend a lot of time with my parents and sisters.”

    City of Nizwa

    “It was thanks to my work experience for a bank in Oman that I got over my homesickness,” says Mrs. Aisha. “I dealt with so many types of people, including fishermen, merchants and businessmen, that I became open as a person. We have many foreigners that work in our country, so the culture is international. That’s why I’ve learned to deal with people from different countries in a friendly and polite manner, I think. My husband and children and the friends I made in Japan cured my homesickness, and I ended up becoming a stronger person, as I kept saying to myself that it was all for my family and country.”
    “My first concern about living in Japan was our children,” says Mrs. Aisha. “Before coming to Japan, we were posted in the UK for six months. Our children were 15, 13 and eight years old. We moved twice in such a short time that it must have been hard for them to get used to their new schools and make new friends. I was relieved they were fortunately transferred to good schools here in Japan and they adapted quite well.”
    She had a hard time with the language and with food. As a Muslim, she consumes neither pork nor alcohol. “There were few expatriates in the area where we first lived. So supermarkets there had very few products with English labels. I didn’t know which ones to buy from those that didn’t have English on. My daughter and I once gave up and went home without buying anything,” she says.
    “My daughter loved potato chips sold at the convenience stores, but once she learned enough Japanese at school to read the ingredients, she was disappointed to find out that some pork-derived ingredients were used. That said, Islam is a flexible religion, so it’s not a problem if you ate something without knowing,” says Mrs. Aisha. “We have no more problems now as our chef cooks for us at home and we have a few international stores with English labels near to the embassy. I myself have learned some Japanese phrases such as ‘I can’t eat pork,’” she laughs.


    Bahla Citadel

    The punctuality of the Japanese and the fact that things are planned several months in advance were pleasant surprises for her. “Whenever we go home to Oman during summer holidays, our relatives suggest we stay longer. Everyone’s surprised when I tell them we have to return because we already have plans for September. I suppose Japanese punctuality comes from the fact that they were raised to respect and value the importance of time. The Japanese way of doing things is good for living comfortably,” she says.
    Located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is a country that has prospered from maritime trade since ancient times. A member of Oman’s royal family has Japanese blood and the country is well known for its friendliness towards Japanese. Historical buildings such as the Bahla and Nizwa Forts, the Royal Palace, and mosques are popular with tourists. Although the Middle East is a region unfamiliar to most Japanese, its resorts are well-known in Europe. Oman’s beaches are teeming with foreign tourists enjoying their vacations.
    “Most Japanese must think Oman is a desert country,” says Mrs. Aisha. “Of course, our desert is enormous, but we also have beautiful beaches and oases. The climate in the mountains is good throughout the year and marvelous resorts are everywhere. It’s a stable and safe country security-wise, so please do come for sightseeing. Cherry trees presented by Japan blossom every February in Oman’s Jabal Akhdar. We also have Japanese gardens.”
    “You can enjoy wonderful cuisine in Oman. As many traditional dishes use rice and fish, Japanese people will feel at home, I think. Besides, Oman is a country with lots of international influences. From Lebanese food, to Indian, to Southeast Asian, to Western, and to fast food, we have all kinds of restaurants where you can taste delicacies from both the sea and the land.”



    “Oman produces a fragrant resin called frankincense. The quality of Oman’s frankincense is the highest in the world and its trade has a very long history. Omanis not only burn it, but also chew it like chewing gum, drink it in liquid form and use it for skin care. Nowadays perfumes, body creams, and lotions are made from frankincense. Oman’s dates are also of very high quality.”
    “The Omanis and the Japanese have a lot in common: our hospitality, respect for elders, and the way we take off our shoes before entering the home and sit on the floor. What’s more, Japanese wash their hands at the entrance when they go to a Shinto shrine, don’t they? That’s like us, too; we Muslims also wash our hands before praying,” says Mrs. Aisha. “Oman is a wonderful country. I’m sure tourists would return to visit again.”
    Oman Embassy
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
    Photos courtesy by KOSUGI Yurika[2015年4月号掲載記事]





    Read More
  • If Manga is Engaging, it’s Welcomed by Readers Worldwide

    [From April Issue 2015]
    In February 2015, the awards ceremony for the Eighth International Manga Awards was held in Minato City, Tokyo Prefecture. It’s an open contest for manga created outside Japan. It’s organized by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation – a cultural organization specializing in international cultural exchanges and Japanese language education. The Japan Cartoonists’ Association and publishers of manga magazines are also involved. This time, 317 works from 46 countries/regions were submitted and 15 of them won awards. The award winning works from Asia, the West, the Middle East and Africa reflected the continuing expansion and development of manga culture.
    Gold and Silver Award winners are invited to Japan to meet Japanese cartoonists and to visit publishers and other manga-related sites. This year’s Gold Award was given to Nambaral ERDENEBAYAR from Mongolia. Luo mu from China, Ben WONG from Malaysia, and 61Chi from Taiwan were selected for the Silver Award. Though 61Chi had a prior engagement, the other three winners came to Japan.
    “Bumbardai,” Erdenebayar’s award winning work, depicts the close relationship of a nomadic mother and child. “I want to continue depicting the traditional life of nomads. I’d also like to explore the subject of Mongolian folklore,” says Erdenebayar. “I loved Doraemon as a child. I went to the Fujiko・F・Fujio Museum during this stay in Japan and it was like a dream come true.”
    Luo mu, who won her award for “Mr. Bear,” a story about a boy in a bear costume, has been drawing manga for only a year or two. “I’m still quite inexperienced when it comes to drawing manga and constructing stories, so I was both surprised and delighted when I learned about the award,” she says. “I’ll continue to do my best now that I’ve been commissioned to do a series. I’d like to create heart-warming works in the future.”
    Ben Wong who won his award for “Atan,” a story about a boy and a water buffalo, is a talented cartoonist who’d already won an award at the first International Manga Awards. “I became a manga writer because I thought it was a good business opportunity. My entrepreneurial spirit was stimulated by the possibility of success and by the risks involved,” he says. “From now on, I’d like to expand into educational manga,” he said about his ambitions for the future.
    “There was a time when it was said that Japanese manga wasn’t up to world standards. Japanese cartoonists, however, instead of trying to adapt to this, only depicted what would please readers,” said cartoonist SATONAKA Machiko, chief judge. “In whichever country manga is drawn, readers will welcome it as long as it’s fun. And by sharing stories, we get to know about each other’s cultures,” she said, giving words of encouragement to the winners.
    “The level of the art work was so high and the stories were so well constructed that these works might as well have been published in Japan,” says SAITO Yuko from the Cultural Affairs and Overseas Public Relations Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I hope these awards will one day be loved by cartoonists and readers throughout the whole world.” The application period for the next International Manga Award is expected to be from mid-April to late May.
    International Manga Award
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年4月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • Yoshimi-Hyakuana

    [From April Issue 2015]

    This unique and ancient burial mound consists of numerous caves dug into the rocky hillside. It’s thought that many caves are horizontal burial pits dating from the late Kofun era (6-7th centuries) and at the time of writing 219 have been counted as such. It’s possible to enter some of the caves, while others with their naturally-occurring luminous moss – designated as a protected species – can be viewed and photographed from behind a fence. In the springtime cherry blossoms can be enjoyed on the Hyakuana burial grounds and its environs. There is also a cave built to house a munitions factory during World War II that is often used as a location for television dramas.
    Directions: Take the Tobu line to Higashi-Matsuyama Station. Then take the Kawagoe Kanko Bus heading towards Konosu License Center and get off at the “Hyakuana Iriguchi (entrance)” stop. From there it is only a five minute walk. Or you can take the JR Takasaki Line to Konosu Station, then take the Kawagoe Kanko bus bound for Higashi-Matsuyama Station and get off at the “Hyakuana Iriguchi” stop. From there it is only a five minute walk.
    Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Entrance fees: 300 yen for adults and children of junior high school age or over, 200 yen for elementary students and free to children not yet in elementary school.
    Open 365 days a year
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年4月号掲載記事]

    交通:東武東松山駅下車。川越観光バス鴻巣免許センター行き「百穴入口」下車、徒歩5分、または、JR高崎線鴻巣駅下車 川越観光バス東松山駅行き「百穴入口」下車、徒歩約5分
    入園料:中学生以上300円 小学生200円 小学生未満無料

    Read More