• 廃校舎を再利用したクリエイターたちの学校

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Ikejiri Institute of Design (Setagaya School of MONOZUKURI) is located from just several kilometers west of Shibuya. The school was designed to be a place for creators in design, architecture and art and offer opportunities to meet each other and learn from one another.

    Mr. MATSUMURA Takuya serves as the “school principal” although his official title at Ikejiri Institute of Design is managing director. “When we first opened the school, we faced considerable opposition from the neighborhood. People had strong concerns and unease about having many young people in their neighborhood because many deadly attacks had happened in schools throughout Japan at that time. Also, we are next to an elementary school, and there is a pre-school behind us, so people became very nervous. Now we have meetings with people in our community four times a year. We discuss, share the information and try seeking the direction for consensus with people when the issues arise,” Matsumura says.

    This school opened in October 2004 as a temporary plan to revive Ikejiri Middle School. At first, Setagaya Ward officials requested the school to keep the school building unchanged. So, a local furniture designing company did the remodeling without changing appearance.

    Currently all spaces in the school are fully occupied by 41 different companies. Occupants may be individuals, groups of designers, inexperienced or experienced, unknown or well-known designers working in companies as diverse as a film distribution company, the design research department of a major electric company, the editing division of a magazine devoted to parenting, a food coordinating company, and a “bread sommelier” association, but they have all connected under a common theme, “design and monozukuri.”

    “There has been a blossoming interaction among school residents. They even sometimes work together in collaborative activity. The general public can tour the school themselves, allowing an open-minded atmosphere that private business companies do not have,” Matsumura says.

    In addition, the school offers classes for people who want to be designers or launch their own business. Matsumura himself has given lectures of how to prepare for starting a business. The school also offers workshops such as woodworking, instructed by furniture designers, and one on making snow domes instructed by Japan Snow Dome Association.

    The school renews its contract with Setagaya Ward every five years. “The school was able to fit in the community and gained more of their understanding in the first five years,” Matsumura says. As a result, the ward approached the school to extend their contract. “We would like to express more the individuality of the school in the coming five years. Head office will organize more events in the future and we would like to make school residents even prouder of the school.”











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  • 新しい歌舞伎座 ―― 伝統と革新

    [From February Issue 2010]

    The Kabuki-za Theater is in eastern Ginza, a fashionable part of Tokyo known for its high-end stores. A theater for the traditional Japanese performing art of kabuki, the Japanese-style building is characterized by its impressive roof and is registered as a tangible cultural asset. But it has been decided that the theater will be rebuilt because it’s getting old – a new theater and an office building will be constructed on the same site.

    Kabuki has about 400 years of history and continues to preserve its tradition. For example, a family system in which the performing art is handed down from parent to child is still considered the norm. Kabuki plays mostly deal with stories from the Edo period and the lines contain old Japanese that is not used today. So even Japanese sometimes use audio guides.

    Another feature of kabuki is that it changes flexibly to accommodate changes in the times and the political landscape. Take kabuki actors for instance. When kabuki first started, most actors were women. But the then government banned female actors, saying they would corrupt public morals. So boys started to perform instead, which was also subsequently banned by the government. That’s how men came to perform kabuki.

    Kabuki plays do not just preserve tradition. In the Edo period, new works were often created based on actual incidents, such as “Chushingura” (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). From the Meiji period onward, some new kabuki plays were created by exploring and incorporating noh (another traditional dramatic art form) and Western plays.

    Among the latest kabuki plays are “the Super Kabuki,” which incorporate modern music and a traditional Chinese performing art, and “the Cocoon Kabuki,” which are staged in a Shibuya theater just like modern plays. Some kabuki actors are also active in other fields outside kabuki, such as television, film, and even musicals. Not only do some actors perform kabuki plays overseas but they also appear in traditional performing arts in other countries.

    Given this historical background, it’s no wonder that the Kabuki-za Theater is changing as well. After all, the theater itself came out of a change. In the old days kabuki was played in small theaters called “shibai-goya” (play huts), but in the Meiji period there was a movement toward modernizing plays called the “Theater Enhancement Movement.” Amid this movement the Kabuki-za Theater was built in Ginza in 1889.

    What was new about the theater was its Western-style exterior and electric lights, the most modern equipment of the time. A little over two decades after its completion, however, the Kabuki-za Theater saw its exterior changed to a Japanese-style in 1911 because the Imperial Theater, with a Western-style appearance, was to be built in Hibiya. After that, the theater experienced two fires and it was reconstructed each time. The current one is the fourth version.

    The fifth-generation Kabuki-za Theater will be equipped with elevators and escalators, features lacking in the old one. Meanwhile, the stage will retain the old style and traditional seats such as sajiki (balcony seats) and makumiseki (non reserved seats) will remain unchanged. The old and new elements of the Kabuki-za Theater symbolize the tradition and innovation of kabuki. The current theater will be used till this April, and the new theater will be completed in 2013.

    Shochiku Co., Ltd.
    Chuo-ku Kyobashi Library

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo











    文:砂崎 良

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  • 国家権力に挑む新幹線爆破計画

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Super-Express 109 A.K.A. The Bullet Train (Directed by SATO Junya)

    A suspense movie released in 1975. The cast consists of stars of the Japanese movie industry of the era. Especially notable is TAKAKURA Ken, who plays the main character. He was a leading actor for his Japanese gangster movies and is also an internationally acclaimed actor, co-starring in the American movie “The Yakuza” with Robert MITCHUM in 1974. In 1989, he co-starred in “Black Rain” directed by Ridley SCOTT, with Michael DOUGLAS and Andy GARCIA.

    The story begins with a phone call made to the Kokutetsu – the Japanese National Railways (JNR) – saying, “We’ve set a bomb set on the Hikari 109.” With 1,500 passengers on board this shinkansen (bullet train) has already departed Tokyo bound for Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture. The bomb will arm automatically when the speed of the train exceeds 80 km/h, and will detonate when the train slows back down to 80 km/h.

    To prove that this is no prank, the perpetrators say they have set the same kind of bomb on a freight train running the Yubari line in Hokkaido. When the locomotive engineers jump off the train, the freight train loses speed and bursts into a ball of flames. The perpetrators ask for a 5 million dollar ransom. In those days, that was equivalent to 1.5 billion yen. The bombers are hard-hitting. They say the ransom is cheaper than the 1.6 billion yen train plus the lives of the passengers.

    The perpetrators are a three-man team: OKITA (Takakura Ken) is the leader and the caller whose small factory went bankrupt, leading to his divorce. KOGA is the man who set the bomb on the freight train. He was involved in radical political activity when he was a university student. The youngest and the one responsible for placing the bomb on the train is OHSHIRO – he came to Tokyo from Okinawa, hopped from job to job, and was saved by Okita when he was near death selling his own blood.

    The police identify the perpetrators and track them down, but fail to arrest them. KURAMOCHI, the head of the bullet train control room, relays orders to the train drivers to prevent a crash. Meanwhile in the bullet train, the train crew desperately try to reason with the passengers who start to panic. In the midst of all this, Okita finally calls the police and tells them how the ransom delivery will go down.

    Koga and Ohshiro die while on the run, but Okita obtains the money as planned. Okita had agreed to inform the whereabouts of the planted bomb and the directions on how to deactivate it in exchange for the cash. However, the drawing is destroyed in a fire. But JNR somehow finds the bomb, disables it, and the train comes safely to a stop. A few hours later, the police on a stake out at Haneda Airport locate Okita as he attempts to flee Japan.

    Okita bolts. The police advance on him. And as the police shoot Okita to death, the airplane that Okita was to board takes off overhead, into the night sky. The Japanese version is 152 minutes. The international version omitted the scenes where they reveal why the perpetrators become what they are and puts more emphasis on the suspense. Overseas versions are shortened.










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  • ふろふき大根

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • Daikon (Japanese radish: thick part) 6 to 8cm
    • 2.5 (500ml) cups rice-rinsed water
    • 5×10 cm (approx.) konbu seaweed
    • Yuzu miso (bean paste with citron)
    • 2 tbsp (approx. 30g) miso
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
    • 1 tbsp Japanese granulated stock (available at stores)
    • pinch of citron skin
    • Mentori : (beveling) cutting the edges of daikon and pumpkins before cooking. This prevents the edges from crumbling while cooking.
    • Kakushi-boucho: (hidden knife) since daikon is thick, a cross-shaped incision is made in the underside of the daikon. It speeds up the cooking and makes it easier to cut with chopsticks when eating.
    • Kome-no togi-jiru : (rice-rinsed water) starch contained in water that has been used to rinse rice absorbs the bitterness and acrid taste of daikon. If this water is not available, add 1 tbsp of uncooked rice in water.

    To Prepare

    1. Cut the daikon in 3~4cm thick rounds then peel skin deeply.
    2. Trim the cut edges (mentori). On one side of the disk, cut a cross that goes 1/3 deep (kakushi-bouchou).
    3. Place the daikon in the pot with the cut side facing down. Add the kome-no togi-jiru (rice-rinsed water) until the daikon is fully submerged.
    4. Put on the otoshi-buta (drop-lid) and boil on high. Then simmer for approximately 7 minutes over a medium heat.
    5. Take the daikon out, and rinse with cold water. Wash the pot and otoshi-buta.
    6. Place konbu seaweed in the pot. Add the daikon and water until the daikon is fully submerged, put on the otoshi-buta and lid. Boil on high, and then cook for approximately 20 minutes on a low-medium heat.
    7. Make the yuzu-miso sauce. In a pan, add the ingredients in the order listed (excluding the citron) while mixing. Once smooth, put pan over heat. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes over a medium heat. Set aside to cool for a while then add grated citron skin.
    8. Place the daikon on a plate with the yuzu-miso sauce.



    • 大根(太い部分) 6~8cm
    • 米のとぎ汁 2.5カップ(500ml)
    • こんぶ 約5×10cm角
    • ゆずみそ
    • みそ 大さじ2(約30g)
    • 砂糖 大さじ1
    • みりん 大さじ1
    • 顆粒だし(市販の和風だし)大さじ1
    • ゆずの皮 少々
    • 面取り:大根やかぼちゃを煮るときに、あらかじめ煮くずれしやすい角をとっておくことです。
    • かくし包丁:大根が厚いので裏に切り込みを入れておきます。中心まで火が通りやすく、はしで切り分けしやすくなります。
    • 米のとぎ汁:米のとぎ汁に含まれるでんぷんは、大根の苦味や辛味の成分を吸いとります。とぎ汁がなければ、米大おさじ1 を水に加えます。


    1. 大根は3~4cm厚さの輪切りにして、皮を厚めにむきます。
    2. 切り口の角を薄すく「面取り」します。切り口の一方に、厚みの3分の1まで十文字の「かくし包丁」を入れます。
    3. 鍋に切り込みを入れた面を下にして大根をおきます。「米のとぎ汁」を大根がかぶるくらいまで入れます。
    4. 落としぶたをして強火にかけます。ふっとうしたら中火で約7分ゆでます。
    5. 大根を取り出し、水洗らいをします。鍋と落としぶたも洗らいます。
    6. 鍋にこんぶをしき、大根を入れ、かぶるくらいの水を加え、落としぶたと鍋のふたをして強火にかけ、ふっとうしたら弱めの中火で約20分煮ます。
    7. 「ゆずみそ」を作くります。鍋にゆず以外の材料を順に混ぜながら入れます。なめらかになったら火にかけます。中火で2~3分混ぜながら少こし煮詰めます。火ひ からおろし、冷ましてから、ゆずの皮をすりおろして入れます。
    8. 器に大根を盛り、ゆずみそをかけてできあがりです。

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  • 駅の案内板には英語表記もある






    小さな駅へ行く場合には、駅がどこにあるか知らない人が多いと思われますので、路線(ライン)も言わないとわからないかもしれません。たとえば、小田急線の喜多見駅なら、「おだきゅう・せん の きたみ・えき」と、言ってください。(大きな駅には英語で駅名が書かれたパネルもあります)





    [:en][From February Issue 2010]

    Trains are convenient for getting around in Japan. People who can not speak Japanese will have no problem at stations since most of the information boards and signs also use English besides Japanese. Recently Chinese and Korean are also used. Well then, let’s go to a station.
    If you can’t find a station, or a ticket office, to ask for directions just say “Station?” or “Ticket?”, then someone will kindly direct you to these places. These words are now used as Japanese terms. Most English words used in the station can be understood. The word “train” is one of them.
    You will buy a ticket through an automatic ticket machine. The station names and train fare are written on a panel on the wall, so you just put the amount of the fare into the machine. Generally the station names are written in kanji. If you don’t read kanji, just tell a station worker your destination. Then, the person will help you find the fare.
    If you are going to a small station, it is likely that not many people know where it is, so you will have to tell the name of the line (sen), too. Take for example Kitami station on the Odakyu Line. Say “Odakyuu-sen no Kitami eki.” (Some of panels in big stations show station names written in English.)
    Next, you will go to a ticket gate, kaisatsuguchi in Japanese. You should learn the word kaisatsuguchi since not many Japanese understand “ticket gate.” The ticket gate is also automatic. Put your ticket into the ticket mouth of gate and then collect it from the other side. These days most people buy a train pass, which can be purchased in units of 1,000 yen. It will enable you to pass through ticket gates just by holding the pass over the illuminated scanner on the ticket gate.
    You will do the same thing at the station where you get off. Your train fee will be automatically deducted from your pass. If you don’t have enough money on your pass, the ticket gate door will be automatically closed. In that case, with a nearby fare adjustment machine you will either pay an additional fare by touching the additional fare button written as “精算,” or deposit some money by touching the charge button written as “チャージ.”
    Then, you will go to the platform. Each platform is numbered like “1 ban-sen” and “2 ban-sen.” As you see, the word “ ~ sen” is also used here. On a direction board you probably find the word “houmen” like “Shinjuku houmen” (for Shinjuku). If you don’t know the platform number.
    There are basically two kinds of trains. One is called kakueki-teisya (各駅停車local train). Usually the shortened word kakutei (各停) is used, which stops at each station, and the other called kyuukou (急行express), which stops only at big stations. Besides these, other categories of train are running, including junkyuu (準急semi-express), which runs at the speed between kakutei and kyuukou, and tokkyuu (特急), which runs faster than kyuukou. Furthermore, the word kaisoku (快速) has different meanings depending on each railway company. English words are not commonly used for such words as kakutei and kyuukou. Norikae (乗換transfer) is also often used. It is advisable for you to learn them.[:]

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  • 花々の宝庫 - 八丈島















    [:en][From February Issue 2010]

    Located near the southend of the Izu Island chain, 287 kilometers from Tokyo, Hachijo-jima offers a relaxing yet slightly exotic environment just 50 minutes from Haneda airport. The plane lands on a small strip that cuts right through the center of the island on land formed from the lava of two volcanoes, which provides most of the islands habitable area. Once off the plane, the layout is simple, Mt. Mihara in one direction and the iconic Hachijo-fuji directly opposite.
    Hachijo-fuji gives a lot of reward for very little effort. Most of the trail to the 854-meter peak consists of steps, and while it can leave one short of breath, it’s simple and relatively fast. At the top is a spectacular view of the rest of the island and its smaller but striking neighbor Hachijo-kojima. Walking around the narrow edge of the crater takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour depending on your speed.
    Unlike some of the recently active volcanoes in Japan, Hachijo-fuji’s last eruption was as far back as 1605, allowing time for a small forest to grow at the bottom of its deep crater. A clear illustration of the old lava flow as it hit the ocean can be seen at Nanbara-senjojiki, a stark expanse of black rock by Yaene Port.
    Back down below, it’s hard not to notice the island’s other natural wonder – its flora. Besides fishing, cultivating and harvesting flowers and other plants is a large part of the islanders’ business. Bright red hibiscus can be seen near houses and streets throughout the island along with aloe and the Colorful Bird of Paradise flower, which can be bought much cheaper than on mainland Japan.
    The ashitaba (tomorrow leaf) plant can be found growing just about everywhere as well and is used in many foods like udon, tempura and even ice cream. The only thing more ubiquitous might be palm trees. They’re everywhere, lining the streets and decorating some people’s front lawn.
    The plethora of tropical foliage owes much of its prosperity to the rich, volcanic soil and sunshine, as well as to the rain which frequently falls on the island. But there’s still plenty to do if a rainy day intrudes on one’s trip. Maybe the most obvious, and relaxing, would be to take advantage of Hachijo-jima’s numerous onsen (hot springs).
    To learn about the island’s history – for example how it was used as a prison of sorts for exiles during the Edo period -, there’s the Hachijo History and Folklore Museum with loads of artifacts for the curious. The Hachijo Visitor Center in the Botanical Garden, which houses 140 different species of flora, focuses on the island’s plant and wildlife.
    The TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) geothermal plant is also a fascinating place to visit to see exactly how they harness the island’s natural heat deep below the surface to provide over 20% of Hachijo-jima’s energy needs. More hands-on activities like slicing up your own sashimi with local fishermen or trying weaving on an old school loom, used to make local textiles, are also possible.
    Last, but not least, one other must-see is the Ozato Tamaishi cobblestone wall, with its naturally rounded stones. The beautifully unique neighborhood has an old-fashioned feel reminiscent of Okinawa.
    The journey to Hachijo-jima is not only possible by plane, but also by ship (about an 11 hour journey). Tours can be arranged, and once there, travel can be done by rental car or bicycle, city bus or tour bus, and taxi.
    Hachijo Town Office
    Hachijo Island Sightseeing Association
    Text: Jeremy DROUIN[:]

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  • 夢いっぱいの人気アニメ











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  • 筑前煮



    • とりもも肉(皮付き)1枚 100g
    • 酒 小さじ1
    • ゆでたけのこ 50g
    • れんこん 50g
    • にんじん 50g
    • ごぼう 50g
    • こんにゃく 50g
    • 干ししいたけ 2個
    • さやえんどう 6枚
    • ごま油 大さじ1/2
    • しょうゆ 大さじ1

    砂糖 大さじ1/2
    みりん 大さじ1/2
    酒 大さじ1

    • そぎ切り:左端から切ります。包丁を右に45度傾けて食材に当てそのまま斜めに削ぐように切ります。
    • いちょう切り:4分の1(いちょうの葉の形)に切ることです。
    • 乱切り:細長いものを斜めに切り、さらに90度回転して切ることです。
    • 落としぶた:煮物を作るとき、材料の上に鍋の大きさより一回り小さなふたを直接のせます。落としぶたがない場合はアルミホイルを鍋の大きさに合わせて切り、真ん中に穴をあけ蒸気を逃がすように作ります。
    1. とり肉は3cm角のそぎ切りにし、酒をふり、もみ込みます。
    2. たけのこは4~5cmの長さにし、1cm厚さのいちょう切りにします。れんこんは1cm厚さのいちょう切りにします。にんじん、ごぼうは乱切りにします。れんこんとごぼうは水にさらします。
    3. こんにゃくは一口大に切り、ゆでます。
    4. 干ししいたけは水カップ1/3に30分つけて戻します。戻し汁はとりおき、だしと水を合わせます。しいたけは軸をとり、2切れのそぎ切りにします。
    5. さやえんどうは筋をとり、さっとゆでます。大きなさやえんどうは3cmの長さに切ります。
    6. 鍋にごま油を入れ熱し、野菜(さやえんどう以外)、しいたけ、こんにゃくを入れて強火でいためます。油が全体にいきわたったら、とり肉を加えていためます。
    7. とり肉の色が白く変わったら、調味料(A)を加え、沸騰したら、アクをとります。落としぶたをして、中火で約5分煮ます。
    8. しょうゆを加え、鍋のふたをずらしてのせ、15~20分煮ます。
    9. 煮汁が少なくなったら、落としぶたと鍋のふた両方をとり、火を少し強め、全体を大きく混ぜます。
    10. 鉢(深めの大皿)にこんもりと盛りつけます。さやえんどうを上に飾ります。


    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 1 (100g) chicken thigh with skin
    • 1 tsp sake
    • 50g pre-cooked bamboo shoots
    • 50g lotus root
    • 50g carrot
    • 50g burdock
    • 50g konnyaku
    • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
    • 6 field peas
    • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce

    (A) 1/2 cup stock made from 2g granulated bonito and kelp stock (available at stores) + stock of dried shiitake mushrooms + water
    1/2 tbsp sugar
    1/2 tbsp mirin cooking sake
    1 tbsp sake

    • Sogi-giri: It starts from the left. Tip the knife toward the right and cut with the tip of the knife at a 45°angle.
    • Ichou-giri: Cutting into quarters (the same shape of ginkgo leaves).
    • Ran-giri: Cutting a long item diagonally and turning it 90 degrees to repeat it.
    • Otoshi-buta: In making boiled and seasoned food, a lid that is one size smaller than the pot is directly placed on the contents. If otoshi-buta is not available, cut aluminum foil into the size of the pot, make a hole in the center and use it as a substitute lid to let steam out.
    1. With the knife flat, slice the chicken from the left (sogi-giri style) into 3-cm pieces. Pour sake over and rub it into the meat.
    2. Cut the bamboo into 4 ~ 5cm parts then quarter them. Cut lotus root into 1-cm slices then quarter (ichou-giri) them. Roughly chop up the carrot and the burdock. Soak the lotus root and burdock in water.
    3. Cut konnyaku into bite-size pieces and boil.
    4. In order to reconstitute the dried shiitake mushrooms, soak them in 1/3 cup of cold water for half an hour. Use the shiitake stock to make the whole stock (with granulated stock and water). Remove stalks from the mushrooms and slice them into two pieces sogi-giri style.
    5. Remove the string from the peas. Boil the peas quickly. Cut the big peas into 3cm pieces.
    6. Put sesame oil in the pot and heat it. Put the vegetables (with the exception of field peas), mushrooms, konnyaku in the pot and stir-fry them on a high heat. When the oil has spread to all ingredients, add the chicken and continue stir-frying.
    7. When the overall color of the chicken has turned white, add seasoning (A). When it has come to a boil, remove the scum from the surface of the liquid. Put a small lid (otoshi-buta) directly on the food being cooked and boil over a medium flame for about 5 minutes.
    8. Add soy sauce, move the lid of the pot slightly and boil for 15 ~ 20 minutes.
    9. When the broth has reduced, take off both lids (otoshi-buta and pot lid) and intensify the heat slightly. Stir the pot.
    10. Serve generously on a deep platter. Decorate with field peas.

    [From January Issue 2010][:]

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  • 英単語は日本語として使える


    You can Use English Words as Japanese





    The lunch at that restaurant is best.

    That movie was exciting.





    New Year’s card

    National holiday






    Many English words have been adopted as Japanese. For instance, “head,” “hair,” “eye,” ”ear,” ”neck,” “hand,” and “foot” can be understood by Japanese. The number of foreign words (mainly English) which are used as Japanese is approximately 3,500. It means that people from English-speaking countries already know so many words and can express themselves fairly well without knowing many Japanese words.
    On the other hand, written Japanese is one of the easiest in the world if you do not have to learn kanji. The spoken language consists of 46 syllables and 58 syllables in modified forms. Hiragana and katakana characters represent these syllables. In other words, hiragana and katakana are phonetic. Katakana is basically used for foreign words.
    Even beginners of Japanese can communicate with Japanese using katakana (English) words if you know basic Japanese grammar and what you say can be expressed in hiragana and katakana.
    The lunch at that restaurant is best.
    That movie was exciting.
    As you see, it is not difficult to express yourself. However, as kanji is used in newspapers, magazines, signboards and so on in daily life, you cannot ignore kanji. Kanji learning is a burden to Japanese learners, but is useful.
    In Japanese there are many words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. For instance, “kawa.” You don’t know in hiragana whether it is “river” or “skin.” If they are written in kanji you can easily distinguish them.
    If you do not know these kanji, type “ka” and “wa” on your computer. The kanji list for kawa, including the meaning “river,” “skin” and “leather,” will be shown. Checking these words with a dictionary, you will be able to find the one you want to use. You can input text with Japanese word processor software, which is convenient to learn kanji, in hiragana or romaji.
    The best part of kanji is that you can express contents briefly, as below.
    New Year’s card
    National holiday
    When you are in a city you will notice there are many signboards using hiragana, katakana and English besides kanji.
    For example, a signboard that says “to let.” As shown in the pictures, some are written in kanji only, in katakana, English or in combinations.
    Nowadays instead of kanji, katakana words and English words are more often used. A few decades ago a camera was called “shashinki,” computer “denshi-keisanki,” tennis “teikyuu” and toilet “benjo.” Now very few people use these kanji words.
    Japanese use English words as modern or “fashionable” words, just like kanji had been adopted in Japanese. In accordance with the increase of Japanese who study English, more English words will be used as Japanese in the future.
    [From January Issue 2010][:]

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  • 1,300年の歴史が残る街―奈良





















    In December 1998, eight cultural assets in Nara were declared World Heritage Sites as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.” The sites were Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple, the Kasuga-Taisha (Kasuga Great Shrine), Gango-ji Temple, Yakushi-ji Temple, Toshodai-ji Temple, the ruins of Heijo Palace (the Nara Palace Site), and Kasugayama Primeval Forest. Sightseeing tours starting from Nara Station cover most of these eight sites.
    Heading east from Kintetsu Nara Station or JR Nara Station, you will see Nara Park spread before you, with Todai-ji, standing far in the distance. A hall housing the seated image of the Great Buddha (Vairocana Buddha) is said to be one of the largest wooden structures in the world. The statue is 14.98 meters tall (sitting height), with its knees 12.08 meters in width, and weighs an estimated 380 tons.
    Mount Wakakusa, also known as Mount Mikasa, is seen behind Todai-ji, forming part of the Kasugayama Primeval Forest. An event called Yama-yaki (mountain-burning) is held there on the fourth Saturday of January every year. The purpose of the event is to grieve for ancestors’ souls, but it also helps to regulate the grass on the mountain. After a few minutes of a fireworks display, a fire is set and the entire mountain is engulfed in flames.
    To the east from the hall is Nigatsudo Hall, which is famous for the Shunie ceremony or Omizutori. It is a severe training held annually from March 1 through 14 in which priests pray to Kannon Bosatsu enshrined at Nigatsudo Hall for world peace and forgiveness for people’s sins. It has been observed without interruption since the Nara period (710~794).
    A short walk from Todai-ji, toward the southeast, will take you to the Kasuga-Taisha, which was founded to guard the Heijo-kyo metropolis in the Nara period. The shrine houses numerous national treasures and important cultural properties. The Kasuga-Taisha is located within Nara Park and its tame deer are believed to have been messengers of a god that visited the shrine. Therefore, these deer are highly esteemed. “shika-senbei” (deer crackers) are sold in the park to give to the deers, and visitors are allowed to feed them freely.
    There are approximately 3,000 lanterns on the grounds of the shrine, and twice every year, on Setsubun or the day before the beginning of spring (February 3 or 4) and during the Bon period (August 13 to 16), the Mantoro festival is held, where all the lanterns are lit. Another festival, the Kasuga Wakamiya On-Matsuri, is observed in December, where people wearing clothing from past eras, ranging from the Heian period to the Edo period, march in procession. Both of these events have over 800 years of history.
    Heading west out of the first gateway to the Kasuga-Taisha, you will see Sarusawa Pond. Going further west, you will come to an intersection with a shopping arcade. Turning right and walking through the arcade will take you back to Kintetsu Nara Station. If you turn left, you will see the arcade continue all the way to Nara-machi. This area is an old shopping district, with the arcade running the entire length between Kintetsu Nara Station and Nara-machi.
    Nara-machi retains the ancient landscape of the town, with a number of shops converted from old residences. Gango-ji is also located in this area. For the past few years, Nara-machi has been a popular tourist spot, where you can find unique shops such as a store selling small objects made of mosquito net cloth that has long been produced in Nara and restaurants serving locally grown vegetables. The streets in this neighborhood are narrow, and so feel quite crowded.
    Nara-machi is also home to a small shrine called Koshindo, where a statue of Shomen Kongo is enshrined. Red stuffed toys representing monkeys, which legend says are messengers of Koshin (another name for Shomen Kongo), are hung out under the eaves of houses in the area. These are called the “Scapegoat Monkeys” and are intended to ward off evil spirits and ensure the safety of the family. They are sold as charms at Nara-machi Shiryou-kan Museum (open only on weekends and holidays).
    If you walk back toward Nara Park from the shopping arcade, you will come across Kofuku-ji Temple on the way. The temple, which in 2010 will celebrate the 1,300th anniversary of its founding, is famous for the Five Storied Pagoda, the Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall) and the statue of Ashura. The most popular spot for posing for photographs in Kofuku-ji is the Five Storied Pagoda. The structure has a sharply pointed roof, giving a powerful impression.
    From Kintetsu Nara Station, you can take a bus to the ruins of Heijo Palace (the Nara Palace Site). Heijo-kyo (where the palace was located) was an old capital of Japan established in 710 by Empress Genmei. It is believed to have been modeled on Chang’an, an ancient Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty, and it prospered as the capital for about 70 years. The Suzakumon (the main gate to the palace) and the Daikokuden hall (the central audience hall) have been restored, allowing visitors to imagine what the ancient capital looked like in those days. As 2010 will mark the 1,300th year since the capital was transferred to Heijo-kyo, commemorative events are scheduled throughout the year.
    When traveling from Tokyo, take a bullet train from JR Tokyo Station to JR Kyoto Station. Take the Nara Line and get off at JR Nara Station (total time about 3 hours to 3 hours and 20 minutes) or take the Kintetsu Kyoto Line and get off at Kintetsu Nara Station (total time about 3 hours). When traveling from Osaka, take the Kintetsu Line from Osaka Namba Station to Kintetsu Nara Station (about 30 minutes) or take the Kansai Main Line from JR Osaka Station to JR Nara Station (about 50 minutes).
    Horyu-ji Temple
    In order to get to Horyu-ji Temple, take a train from JR Nara Station to JR Horyu-ji Station, which takes about 15 minutes. From the station, it’s about 20 minutes on foot to the temple. Or you can take a bus for Horyu-ji mon mae (10 minutes). Built by Prince Shotoku in the Asuka period (538~710), the temple is said to be the oldest wooden structure in the world. In 1993, it became the first World Heritage Site registered by UNESCO in Japan.
    The vast site of about 187,000 square meters houses a number of articles and structures totaling over 2,300, nearly too many to be covered by a day trip. Many of them have been designated as national treasures and important cultural assets such as the Kudara Kannon statue and the Tamamushi-no-Zushi (a personal shrine). It is said that the temple had adopted Chinese culture via the Korean Peninsula.
    Photos courtesy by Nara City Sightseeing Association
    Ikaruga Tourism Association
    Text: SEKI Keiko
    [From January Issue 2010][:]

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