• The Canvas of Cultural Fusion: The Allure of Panama

    The Canvas of Cultural Fusion: The Allure of Panama – 文化融合のキャンバス:パナマの魅力

    [Hiragana Times EXPO – March 2024 issue]


    In this Pavilion corner, vibrant artworks featuring the colors of Panamas national flag, blue and red, are showcased.


    The bird with spread wings represents Panamas national bird, the Harpy Eagle, symbolizing independence and freedom. The ten shining stars above its head symbolize the unity of Panamas ten provinces. In the center, there is a symbol of the sun and stars, inspired by the woven fabricMolaof the indigenous Kuna tribe, who worship nature.


    Surrounding it, Panamas national flower, theEspíritu SantoorHoly Spirit Orchid,is characterized by its pure white petals with a dove seemingly perched at the center. In the background, numerous spears stand tall, symbolizing guarding peace and tranquility. Panamas strength and purity coexist.


    The annualCarnival de Panamashowcases the rich diversity of Panamanian culture. During the early 20th-century construction of the Panama Canal, many Chinese laborers migrated to Panama. The timing of the carnival, which coincides with Chinas Spring Festival (Lunar New Year), has led to the incorporation of Asian culture into the festivities. The Chinese lion dance depicted on the bottom left side represents this influence.


    The fusion of tradition and culture, along with the generous spirit of the people, has created a remarkable masterpiece captured on a single canvas.


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  • one of the sword on Blades imbued with a sacred radiance, housing the soul

    Blades imbued with a sacred radiance, housing the soul

    Blades imbued with a sacred radiance, housing the soul – 神聖な輝きに魂宿す刀剣 

    [Japan Style – from March 2024 issue]


    The most famous sword in Japan is perhaps the “Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (grass-mowing sword).” It is still handed down in the emperor’s family as one of the “Three Sacred Treasures” that are inherited along with the imperial throne.


    In the “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki,” it is described that a divine sword emerged from the tail after slaying the eight-headed serpent, Yamata no Orochi, becoming a sacred sword to protect the country since then. Currently enshrined as the main deity at Atsuta Shrine, a replica believed to house the spirit of the deity is kept at the Imperial Palace. Even the Emperor is said to be prohibited from viewing it.


    A sword is a work of art of the highest quality that celebrates elegance and lean beauty. At the same time, it is a weapon of strength, a talisman to protect oneself, and a votive offering to the gods, and is also revered as a deity itself. Numerous legends also tell of spiritual and supernatural powers dwelling within these swords.


    Kinnashi Blade - one of the sword on Japan style

    SANJOU Munechika, one of the most renowned swordsmiths of the Heian period (8th to 12th century), is said to have crafted a sword together with a fox incarnate and presented it to the emperor. In Munechika’s masterpiece, the “National Treasure – Mikazuki Munekane (Crescent-moon Munechika)” housed in the Tokyo National Museum, the supple blade exudes a sensation of something beyond human strength.


    Moreover, the equally fine blade “National Treasure – Doujikiri Yasutsuna” (Crafted by HOUKI Yasutsuna, housed in the Tokyo National Museum) is said to have vanquished the feared demon Shuten-douji, who terrorized the people of the capital. Beyond demons, there are numerous legends of slaying supernatural beings, and during such times, the sword is believed to take on a personality, playing a significant role in aiding and protecting humans.


    Including these two swords, the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, houses 19 out of the 122 designated national treasures of swords in Japan as of 2022. Notably, many of these swords were presented to the imperial family during the Edo period (17-19th century) to pre-World War II, boasting a collection of renowned swords of the nation.


    For us in the modern era, the Japanese sword is a work of art. When displayed in museums and art galleries, its extraordinary beauty radiates a commanding presence, imbuing the atmosphere with an unmistakable air of exclusivity.


    one of the sword on Blades imbued with a sacred radiance, housing the soul

    The Japanese sword consists of the blade and the tousougu (external components). The blade is made of hard and sharp iron. It uses sand iron as the raw material and employs a unique Japanese steelmaking method called “tatara-buki” to create a special iron known as tamahagane. The tousougu, broadly categorized into hilt, guard, and scabbard, incorporates precious materials such as metal, wood, fabric, thread, leather, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, gemstones, and cloisonne. It’s a collection of the finest craftsmanship by artisans. Similar to the blade, the tousougu is also a splendid work of art.


    “Tatara” might ring a bell for those who have seen Studio Ghibli’s animated film “Princess Mononoke.” In this context, “tatara” refers to foot-operated bellows, a tool used to blow air into a furnace. The story unfolds in this “tatara site,” where mountains are carved to extract sand iron, and trees from the forest are cut down to produce charcoal. “Princess Mononoke” narrates the conflict between humans who have polluted the forest and the gods of the forest.


    Using the “tatara method,” the steel created is heated to a blazing red, around 1300 degrees, and then subjected to a process of repeated heating, hammering, stretching, folding, and hammering again. Through this meticulous process, high-purity steel is achieved, possessing a tenacity and strength that cannot be replicated even with the most advanced modern techniques. As purity increases, it’s said that iron approaches transparency and emits a bluish-white light. The enduring radiance and rust resistance, even after nearly 2000 years, are attributed to the thorough removal of impurities. Performing these painstaking tasks results in the unique characteristics of Japanese swords – they don’t break, they don’t bend, and they cut exceptionally well.


    Tamahagane is using to make a sword

    The long blade of the sword, with a gentle curvature, has its tip finely sharpened. The surface displays woodgrain-like patterns, and the motifs known as “hamon” between the blade and the iron base not only indicate its age but also reveal details about its place of origin, the school of the swordsmith, and specific artistic preferences. Crafted with ingenuity and infused with the smith’s soul, these swords are so exceptionally beautiful that one can’t help but think they harbor the spirits of gods and buddhas. They epitomize the ultimate form of balanced and functional beauty.


    Swords are said to have developed uniquely in Japan from those introduced from the continent during the Kofun period (3rd to 7th century). Initially, they were straight swords without curvature, but during the Heian period, they underwent a change to a curved shape for easier downward swings from a horseback position. As the turbulent times unfolded, the demand for swords increased dramatically, leading to continuous evolution. Furthermore, during the Kamakura period (12-14 centuries), swordsmiths began receiving patronage from the imperial court, and swords reached the pinnacle of beauty. Even today, 80% of the swords preserved as national treasures were crafted during this era. Materials, structures, shapes, and sizes varied across different periods, and regional differences in artistic styles emerged. Swords, each with its own origin, history, legends, and anecdotes, become more intriguing as one delves deeper into their details.


    TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, who unified the disturbances of war, is considered the greatest sword collector in history. According to HON’AMI Mitsunori, who served as a sword appraisal official, Hideyoshi stored 453 swords in Osaka Castle. The swordsmiths particularly cherished by Hideyoshi were “Yoshimitsu,” “Masamune,” and “Yoshihiro.” These craftsmen boasted outstanding expertise in the art of sword smithing during the Kamakura era. The Hon’ami family, renowned for sword appraisal and polishing, has continued as a prestigious lineage to this day.


    second blade on Japan Style

    The Japanese swords, highly treasured by emperors and warriors, faced restrictions in the Meiji era (19th century) when carrying swords was prohibited. Furthermore, in 1945 after the end of World War II, all Japanese swords were deemed weapons by the GHQ (General Headquarters), putting them in a perilous situation. However, government officials dealing with national treasures and art pieces fervently protected these exceptional works of art deeply intertwined with Japan’s history and culture, allowing them to be preserved and owned.


    The techniques and traditions of sword smithing, dating back nearly 2000 years, continue to be passed down to the present day, with new swords still being crafted in the modern era. Once a year, tamahagane, produced with the aim of preserving traditional techniques and training artisans, is provided to approximately 200 skilled swordsmiths who have completed over five years of training and practical examinations. The unchanged craftsmanship of Japanese swordsmiths, both in ancient and modern times, garners attention worldwide. Not only historical pieces but also newly crafted swords have gained popularity to the extent of being housed in renowned art museums around the world.


    The sword boom, originating from games like “Sengoku BASARA” and “Touken Ranbu,” has led to crowdfunding initiatives for the restoration and recreation of famous swords. Additionally, the influence is immeasurable, with a significant increase in female fans known as “touken joshi” or “sword girls.”


    In 2019, the beloved sword of AKECHI Mitsuhide, a 16th-century samurai, was discovered. In 2023, a sword exceeding two meters in length was unearthed from an ancient burial mound in Nara Prefecture. The discovery of long-lost or presumed-lost famous swords, after having been missing for an extended period, adds to the allure and romance surrounding these historical artifacts.



    Writer: Yumi Iwasaki


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  • Everything is Going to be Alright

    Everything is Gonna Be Alright –

    [Cover story from Hiragana Times March 2024 issue]
    Cover story of all hourses

    all 9 horses

    Since ancient times, Japan has been called “a country where happiness is born through the spirit of words,” and the sound of words has been cherished.


    Finding meaning in each sound of words and compiling them into 50 sounds, starting from “a, i, u, e, o ,” is what constitutes the “gojuonzu” (fifty-sound chart).


    In Japan, wordplay imbuing meaning, “infuse with significance,” has been commonly observed since the Nara period (8th century) when the “Manyoshu” was compiled, continuing to the present day.


    This month’s cover is decorated with nine samurai paintings by BUNTA iNOUE – samurai riding around on horses. This pattern, which means “umaku iku (Everything is Going to be Alright)” because “uma ga kyuutou iku (umaku iku/ nine horses go),” has long been favored in Japan.


    Depicted in these warrior paintings is KATO Kiyomasa, a military commander from the Azuchi-Momoyama period to the early Edo period (mid-16th to early 17th century). Kiyomasa is said to have been an extremely large man. His beloved horse was also of considerable size, and due to its wild nature, it was affectionately called “Taishakukurige” (God Taishaku chestnut hair). Currently, at Higo Honmyoji Temple in Kumamoto Prefecture, where Kiyomasa is enshrined, there is a hall dedicated to Taishakukurige, housing a wooden statue of a red horse.


    The sumi-e paintings on the campus are new and different from conventional sumi-e paintings on Japanese paper, which are shown through the expression of blotchiness. In the era of Reiwa (2019-present), the revived Kiyomasa resonates with a message of encouragement: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”


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  • Kasa Jizo (Straw Hat Jizo)

    Kasa Jizo (Straw Hat Jizo)


    “Kasa Jizo” is one of Japan’s famous traditional stories. It’s a tale of a poor elderly couple living deep in the snowy mountains who receive a favor from Kasa Jizo and repay the kindness.


    On New Year’s Eve, the elderly couple, who had run out of food, wove kasa (straw hats) in the hope of selling them to buy some rice cakes. The old man went to town to sell the kasa but didn’t sell them at all. When he gives up and starts walking home, it turns into a blizzard. When he reached the outskirts of the village, he noticed six Jizo statues covered in snow. Feeling pity, he cleared the snow off them and placed the unsold kasa on their heads. For the last statue, he even put his kasa on its head.


    The old woman was surprised to see her returning husband covered in snow, but after hearing his story, she said, “Well, you did a good thing,” and rejoiced.


    That night, the two were startled awake by a loud noise and found rice bags, vegetables, and fish piled in front of their house. Then, they saw the figures of six Jizo statues, wearing kasa, disappearing into the distance through the snow. They bowed to the Kasa Jizo in gratitude.


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  • Yakitori is now grilling.

    The Allure of Yakitori

    The Allure of Yakitori | やきとりの魅力
    From February 2024 issue



    Whenever I pass near Shibuya Station, the aroma of Yakitori fills the air, tickling my senses and making me think, “Oh, I want to eat that,” as I hurry back home. The sound of Yakitori sizzling on the grill, the tantalizing scent of the sauce caramelizing, the smoke – it’s irresistible to anyone who loves Yakitori. 


    Near the shop window, there’s a grill where shokunin diligently work; not a hint of a smile, but they are entirely focused as they grill, even breaking into a sweat. You can see their dedication from the outside. Inside, salarymen sit at the counter or tables, beer in hand, savoring Yakitori skewers after a long day at work. It’s easy to be drawn in, step inside, and place an order without a second thought.


    Yakitori is now grilling.

    For the Japanese, Yakitori is an extremely familiar dish. It’s a simple cuisine where chicken pieces are skewered, dipped in sauce, sprinkled with salt, and then grilled. It’s a dish we adore. You can buy ready-made Yakitori at supermarkets, convenience stores, and department store basements or enjoy them in restaurants. They appear on izakaya menus so frequently that it’s almost a given. 


    Even among Yakitori restaurants, the styles vary. Some resemble neighborhood hangouts under the smoky awning under train tracks, while others are elegant venues with soft lighting and jazz playing in the background, perfect for a romantic date night. Michelin-starred Yakitori restaurants, where important guests are entertained, are so popular that securing a reservation can be challenging.


    The shop is selling Yakitori

    In Yakitori restaurants today, while grilling chicken is the orthodox method, some also refer to skewers of beef or pork organs as “Yakitori.” In the Showa era (1926-1989), birds like sparrows and quails were also grilled and called “Yakitori.” 


    So, what can you eat at Yakitori restaurants today? For those who prefer something light, we recommend “Sasami,” which is chicken breast meat. Grill it lightly so that the inside remains rare, and enjoy it with wasabi. Sasami has low-fat content, high protein, and a soft, fluffy texture. The classic choice is undoubtedly “Momo” or chicken thigh. It’s a substantial portion from the leg to the base of the thigh.


    The heart is called “Hatsu” and boasts an elegant flavor and a plump texture. The liver, known as “Reba,” is wonderfully smooth and a treasure trove of iron. Savor its rich flavor. “Snagimo,” a calcium-rich muscular part found on the outer surface of the stomach, offers a satisfying, push-back texture. Some restaurants refer to patties made from minced “Momo,” breast, neck, and other meat parts as “Tsukune.” At the renowned yakitori restaurant Isehiro, these patties are crafted without any binders and are uniquely accented with hemp seeds and salt.


    “Teba” (chicken wings) are typically skewered with the bone from the tip of the wing to the elbow. They grill up crispy and fragrant, and it’s enjoyable to strip the meat off the bone with your teeth. “Kawa” (chicken skin) is rich in collagen, and the fat spreads in your mouth. Utilizing every part of the chicken, from head to toe, is a perfect way to savor it for the times.


    Preparing Yakitori before grilling

    What matters most in Yakitori is the quality of the material – the chicken, the taste, and the skills. Selecting ingredients, careful preparation, skewering, and grilling with skill. Even though they may look the same, grilling techniques vary depending on the part. Maintaining high grill temperatures while grilling quickly, trapping the juices, and achieving a crispy finish – the Shokunin work leaves no room for error. The seasoning is either salt or Tare (sauce). Even with salt, there’s creativity, and the Tare made with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar gives each shop its unique flavor.


    The appearance of chickens in Japanese literature dates back to the “Ama-no-Iwato Legend” in the “Kojiki.” Chickens were considered sacred, believed to have the power to summon the sun goddess with their crowing, and were revered as divine messengers. Thus, the term “Tori,” which means birds, was primarily used for wild birds. During the Edo period (17th-19th century), the “Yakitori-yatai” that emerged were places where chicken organs were skewered and grilled alongside those of cows and pigs. 


    Yakitori in term of omiyake box

    In 1871, with the lifting of the ban on meat consumption, chickens, like cows, gradually became a part of daily life. However, at that time, chicken meat was more expensive than beef. In the 1960s, broilers, which could be efficiently raised in a short period of about 50 days, became popular, and Yakitori spread rapidly.


    Today, some popular places use broilers that prioritize freshness, while others use domestic brand chickens and free-range chickens. The diversification of cuts and rare varieties of chicken satisfy customers’ curiosity and desire for knowledge. High-end restaurants offer Omakase courses, meticulously planned to be eaten rhythmically, with vegetables and other items in between skewers. Also, there’s a wide variety of chicken dishes beyond skewers, which adds to the excitement.


    Yakitori reflects the Japanese attention to detail and aesthetics in every aspect, embodying the philosophies of its shop owners. Since we’re here, shall we enjoy it again today?



    Writer: Yumi Iwasaki

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  • A Tradition to Cool Down the Summer

    A Tradition to Cool Down the Summer

    Kakigoori (shaved ice) is a typical Japanese summer food. The word “kaki” is derived from “かく,” which means to shave off a piece of something hard.


    In the past, a carpenter’s tool called a kanna (Japanese hand planer) was used to shave ice. Today, shaving methods have diversified, creating differences in appearance, texture, and taste. Among these, the most popular remains the shaved ice that’s thin and delicate, much like it was shaved with a kanna, and topped with a syrup that makes the best use of colorful seasonal ingredients.


    The cover art for this issue is also reminiscent of just such a universal summer tradition. It shows the respect for Japanese traditions and culture that Gakyojin
    BUNTA iNOUE has for them.

    今回の表紙絵も、まさにそんな普遍的な夏の風物詩を思わせるもの。画狂人 井上文太氏の、日本の伝統や文化への敬意が表れています。

    Fresh and refreshing iced sweets are well suited to the hot and humid Japanese summer.


    Text: SAWAGUCHI Natsuki

    “Shaved ice” All Year Round


    The highlight of Tokyo Midtown Yaesu, a large-scale complex that opened this spring in front of Tokyo Station, is a store called “Kakigouri (shaved Ice) Collection Baton,” where renowned shaved ice shops from all over Japan take turns appearing. The opening act featured Himitsudo, a specialized shaved ice store in Yanaka, Bunkyo City. This popular establishment is known for its handcrafted syrup made from fresh fruits, attracting fans from across Japan. It’s surprising to find a dedicated shaved ice store, but what’s even more astonishing is that they operate year-round, serving customers not only in the hot summer months but also during the cold winter season. Regardless of the time of year, there is always a line of people eagerly waiting to indulge.


    When I was a child, “shaved ice” was something we ate at summer festivals and often at home. We would shave with the ice made in the freezer with a shaved ice machine, which was available in every house in those days, and pour commercially available red-colored syrup over the ice. In the mid-summer afternoon, when the wind chimes hanging from the eaves of the houses were tinkling, the shaved ice that melted in my mouth was so cold that it cooled me down from the inside and made me feel comfortable. The shaved ice was also available at soba noodle restaurants. By the time I arrived home, about half of the shaved ice had melted, and I ate it while laughing with my family, saying, “It’s melted a lot.”


    It has now become a year-round sweet treat. Specialty stores are particular about the type of ice, how it is shaved, and syrups, and offer a wide variety. Another reason for their popularity is that their appearance and the various toppings they are decorated with make them look good on Instagram. The creators’ tireless creativity attracts customers, and there is always a line out the door at popular restaurants. There are even prices for a proper meal, such as over 2,000 yen.



    In fact, shaved ice has been enjoyed in Japan during the summer since the Heian period (8-12 centuries). Just imagine how precious and luxurious it must have been to preserve naturally formed ice during winter and savor it until summer. Then, during the Meiji period (19-20 centuries), shaved ice with brightly colored red and yellow syrups became a seasonal tradition.


    In Sei Shonagon’s essay “The Pillow Book,” there is a line that says, “Shaved ice with amazura (sweetened kudzu) in it…” This refers to shaved ice with a sweet syrup made by boiling down a plant called amazura. In other words, it is considered an elegant delicacy. Additionally, a collection of laws and ordinances from the Heian period (794-1185) mentions the existence of ten “icehouses,” mainly located in Kyoto. These icehouses were huts built over dug-out holes where winter ice was stored until summer. In the past, they were guarded by watchmen called “Himuro-mori.” The use of icehouses dates back to the Nara period (8th century), and the “Chronicles of Japan” even mentions the offering of ice to the emperor. The site is now home to the Himuro Shrine, dedicated to the deity protecting the ice.


    Currently, only a few breweries in Japan produce this type of natural ice. After the summer season, the brewery starts preparing a dedicated “ice pond” and gradually draws water from the mountains during the extremely cold period. Once the ice begins to form, daily tasks such as sweeping away fallen leaves and inspecting the pond to prevent it from breaking due to the ice’s expansion become crucial. After about two weeks, when the ice reaches a thickness of 14 to 15 centimeters, it is carefully cut out, pulled from the pond, and transported to the icehouse for storage. Most of these tasks are done manually, using tools that have been ingeniously crafted through generations. Once the first round of cutting is complete, the process of creating the second round of ice begins. As the ice slowly forms in the harsh natural environment, it not only becomes transparent and beautiful, but it also locks in the delicious taste of the water, resulting in an exceptional flavor.


    In contrast to natural ice, pure ice, produced by ice companies, comes in various types depending on the source of water and the freezing process duration. Thanks to Japanese technology, this artificially created pure ice captures the fascination of people from abroad and is even exported to the U.S.




    The current popularity of shaved ice began in the 1990s. It all started when “Shogetsu Icehouse” in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture, recognized the excellence of natural ice. They opened their own shaved ice shop, which gained a reputation for its soft and fluffy texture, unlike the previous crunchy ones, and its syrup with a rich fruit flavor. In 2003, a year-round shaved ice specialty shop was born. Then, around 2011, specialty shops using natural ice was opened in Tokyo, and the trend quickly spread and took root in the city. Shaved ice has become particularly popular among women in their 20s who appreciate its resemblance to a parfait but with lower calories since it’s made of ice. Some shops offer different daily menus and adjust the amount of sugar in the syrup according to the weather, ensuring high satisfaction among repeat customers.


    With an increasing range of options for the most crucial ingredient, improved shaving techniques, a wide variety of syrup ingredients, and a focus on different textures and flavor nuances, all stores are captivating the hearts of fans with their unique and original shaved ice creations. This fleeting delicacy that melts within minutes is infused with traditional craftsmanship, cutting-edge technology, and the passion of its creators.




    Writer: Yumi Iwasaki


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  • Japanese Curry Rice Popular Around the World



    I heard that Japanese curry is popular all over the world. TasteAtlas, a website that introduces recipes and restaurants for traditional meals from around the world, ranked Japanese curry No. 1 in its “Best Traditional Food in the World” 2022 rankings.


    It is described there as “one of the most popular dishes in Japan, brought from England and eaten during the Meiji period (1868-1912). Compared to Indian curry, it is less spicy, sweeter, darker in color, and thicker due to the addition of a roux made of wheat flour.” Curry, which is so common among Japanese people, seems to be a world-class national dish.



    Surely no one can forget the taste of the curry their mother made for them as a child. Using commercially available curry roux, potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat, one can make a thick and creamy curry that they can then pour generously over a bed of rice. When I was in high school, my mother was sick in bed, so I made curry to give her something delicious to eat. I took my time to roast onions until they were golden brown and used curry powder to make this authentic curry. I’ve even had someone who makes good curry hit on me using the line, “I made curry. Would you like to come over to my house?”


    Using commercially available curry roux, potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat, one can make a thick and creamy curry that they can then pour generously over a bed of rice. Curry is also made while camping. There is something special about eating curry outdoors with everyone.


    Many households probably keep retort pouch curry, which can be easily eaten by one person, as a preserved food. There are about 3,000 kinds of retort pouch curries, including limited local flavors. Supermarkets even have shelves dedicated to retort pouch curries.


    There are various types of curry available at restaurants, including thick European-style curry, popular soup curry, Indian curry served with naan, Thai curry, and curry ramen ……. Bakeries serve “curry buns,” which are crispy deep-fried dough buns filled with curry. And soba and udon noodle restaurants serve “curry nanban soba” and “curry udon” with Japanese-style broth, each so popular that specialty stores have sprung up.


    According to a survey by the All Japan Curry Industry Cooperative Association, each person eats four servings of curry per month, or about once a week, which shows how popular curry is to people. It is also well known that Ichiro, a former major league baseball player, used to eat curry rice every morning for luck.


    The first time curry appeared in Japanese literature was in an English dictionary published by FUKUZAWA Yukichi in 1860. About 100 years earlier, in the 1770s, the British brought commercialized spices, with recipes, from their colony in India to Japan. It was not until the Meiji period (1868-1912) that people actually began to eat it. At Western-style restaurants that appeared around the time of civilization’s opening to the outside world, “rice curry” became a treat and was placed on the menu along with “omelets,” “cutlets,” and “beefsteak.”



    At the time, rice curry was becoming a very fashionable dish, and high-profile cultural figures such as NATSUME Soseki and MORI Ogai were fond of eating it. The first domestically produced curry powder appeared in 1905. It was manufactured and sold by a pharmaceutical wholesaler in Osaka (today’s SB Foods). In the Taisho era (1912-1926), curry powder spread to ordinary households, and in 1948, after World War II, it was added to school lunch menus.


    The first easy and convenient solid curry roux, with thickening and umami ingredients added to curry powder, was introduced in 1950. Retortable curry, which can be eaten simply by heating the curry in a bag, was born in 1968. Some of you may remember astronaut MOHRI Mamoru was eating retort pouch curry in space.


     Various curry festivals are currently being held throughout Japan. The “Kanda Curry Grand Prix” is a festival to determine the number one curry restaurant in the Kanda area of Tokyo, a fierce battleground for a curry with over 400 curry restaurants. Among the curry restaurants in the Kanda area, 20 restaurants are selected to participate in the grand prix competition by fan votes, and the number one curry restaurant will be voted for by visitors on the day of the two-day event.



    The Shimokitazawa Curry Festival, a town-wide event held in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, a popular town for young people, started in 2012 and has grown into a major event that attracts 120,000 people with about 120 restaurants participating by 2022, its 10th year. Not only the curry specialty restaurants but also local bars and izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) will participate in the festival by creating curry menus and offering special menus only during the festival. During this time, the town is filled with tourists staring at a map to find a restaurant in order to try the curry they are looking for.


     Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, the largest curry chain, has 208 stores overseas (as of the end of February 2023) and has surprised Indians by expanding into India, the home of curry. In the UK, “Katsu Curry,” a curry topped with chicken cutlet, is also gaining popularity.


     In Japan, popular restaurants have long lines of customers. The owner works tirelessly to master the taste, changing the spice mixture depending on the weather and temperature as well as the season. Japanese curry, which is unparalleled in Japan, continues to evolve even today.





    How To Purchase Magazines

    Immerse yourself in the history of Japan and curry in the magazine and experience the ever-evolving depth of Japanese curry.
    Click here to get your copy


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  • You are the Protagonist

    You are the Protagonist


    HONDA Hirohito / 本田博仁

    HONDA Hirohito, who made his acting debut in his teens and later transitioned to becoming a stylist. He passionately pursues a unique expression through fashion based on his extraordinary devotion to clothing and a styling philosophy derived from his experience as an actor.




    “The first drama I was in charge of costumes for was ‘BORDER: Metropolitan Police Department, Investigation Department, Homicide Investigation Section 4’ (TV Asahi, 2014). The protagonist is a dedicated detective whose life revolves around his work. He gets shot in an incident, leaving a bullet lodged in his head. This bullet gives him the ability to communicate with the dead and he proceeds to solve a series of murder cases—it’s the story.”


    「初めて衣装を担当したドラマは『BORDER 警視庁捜査一課殺人犯捜査第4係』(テレビ朝日、2014年)という作品でした。主人公は仕事一筋の刑事です。彼はある事件で銃撃を受け、頭部に銃弾が残ったままになってしまいます。その銃弾が彼に死者と対話する能力を与え、次々起こる殺人事件を解決していく——というストーリーです」。

    “I didn’t know anything about this world, but I developed an image of the main character from various words and created a suit from scratch.The suit was one size up and light gray before I took the bullet, but when I returned to work, I tightened the overall silhouette and lapel (collar) width. The ability to see and interact with the dead. And I wanted to express the tension in his life as he fulfills his mission.”




    “As the story progresses, the bullet that remains in his brain starts to affect him, and he gradually becomes more unstable. To reflect that, we gradually changed the color of the suit from gray to black. We also made the tie narrower while reducing its brightness. In the final episode, where the tension of the story reaches its peak, I wanted to dress him in a suit that symbolizes his madness, like a mourning attire.”


    Honda’s meticulous work, where he doesn’t cut corners even in the smallest details, was highly praised on the set. He is currently active in a wide range of media, including magazines, television, and advertising. In addition, he also offers a personal styling service called “MITAMENTAL” (a combination of “mitame,” which means appearance, and “mental”).



    “I believe that clothing is the outermost expression of a person’s inner self. Even in the casual clothes we choose without much thought, there is inevitably a reflection of our subconscious. For instance, I recently styled a man who had a sleek, all-black ensemble with a sense of luxury, and even his shoes had studs, creating a polished and impeccable appearance.”



    “But he is a simple, pure man. He seemed to be struggling with his relationship with his wife. As we talked, I had an idea, and I took him to UNIQLO. I chose a beige nylon set-up. Inside, I had him wear a pale blue cut and sew.”


    “He works as a financial planner and also manages an old traditional house. Because of his pure and gentle personality, I incorporated the softness of beige. Additionally, I brought in the color blue, which conveys an intellectual and sincere image, for the inner layer. I also chose a size one up for the clothes to give him some room to breathe.”




    At first, the man was perplexed, but eventually, he expressed the realization that by wearing streamlined garments without unnecessary elements, he may have been trying to exert control over himself.




    “By giving him more room in his clothes, I wanted him to have more room in his heart. And I wanted him to have more room for his wife. Eventually, he reflected on the fact that he had been ignoring his wife’s feelings and spoke of his determination to let go of his conscious control, both over himself and over her.”



    Honda never imposes his own sense of beauty. Whether it’s a fictional character or a real person, he meticulously imagines and understands the lives of those he styles. Taking into account their past and present, he expresses a future through fashion that is suitable for that individual.



    “I went from being an actor to a stylist. At the time, I thought I had become a stylist because I wanted to make a living in a profession related to clothing, but looking back now, I realize that was a setback. But because of that experience, I want to tell people to accept and love themselves as they are.”




    “If you see yourself as the main character, the way you perceive things, the way you relate to others, and even the color of your life will change. In this day and age, there are many people who live their lives being swept away by their surroundings. I believe that the way you are in your own mind is everything.”




    “I face my heart through my clothes. I believe that by getting to know yourself in this way, you can find your own personal comfort. Ultimately, I aim to create a style in which the person can be comfortable and be themselves, even in simple fashions like a white T-shirt and jeans. That is ultimately my proposal and what I want to do.”



    Text: SAWAGUCHI Shota

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  • A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica

    A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica



    In our April 2022 issue, we featured H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS, the Jamaican Ambassador, and received an overwhelming response from readers expressing their interest in Jamaica. This time, we will introduce Jamaica, including its relationship with Japan. 

    2022年4月号でジャマイカ大使、ショーナ・ケイ・M・リチャーズ(H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS)さんをご紹介し、ジャマイカに興味がわきましたという声が読者からたくさん寄せられました。今回は日本との関係を含めてジャマイカをご紹介します。

    Jamaica is often associated with the “fastest man in the world,” former sprinter Usain Bolt, who has become a legend in the world of athletics. His remarkable speed has etched the image of Jamaica as a “track and field powerhouse” in the global consciousness. Japanese spectators were in awe of the speed of Jamaican athletes during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, particularly in the 400-meter relay final.



    The Jamaican team, including Bolt, won the gold medal by a wide margin over second place. The Japanese team came in second at that time. None of the four Japanese team members could run the 100-meter dash in under 9 seconds. Nonetheless, they showcased their exceptional baton passing skills, setting an Asian record and winning Japan’s first silver medal in a track event. It’s intriguing to note that the leadoff runner for the Japanese team was Asuka Cambridge, who has a Jamaican father and a Japanese mother, creating a fascinating connection between the two nations.



    Another significant aspect associated with Jamaica is the emergence of reggae, which originated in the late 1960s. Reggae is a popular music genre that incorporates elements of traditional Jamaican instruments with the guitar as its base. Bob Marley’s “One Love” became a global hit, contributing to the worldwide recognition of reggae. Reggae entered Japan in the late 1970s, underwent Japanese-style arrangements, and gained widespread acceptance, evolving into “Japanese reggae” or “JapaRege,” “J-reggae.”

    もう一つ、ジャマイカで思い浮かぶものと言えば、1960年代後半にジャマイカで生まれたレゲエでしょう。ギターをベースに民族楽器が加わるポピュラー音楽です。ボブ・マーリーの「One Love」は世界的に大ヒットしました。レゲエが日本に入ってきたのは1970年代後半です。日本風にアレンジされて広く受け入れられ、「ジャパニーズレゲエ(ジャパレゲ、J-レゲエ)」として発展しました。

    The roots of reggae are said to be a fusion of African-American music from the southern United States and traditional Jamaican folk dances. This can be attributed to the fact that the majority of Jamaicans today are descendants of people who were brought as slaves from Africa. Reggae and hip-hop became a means of addressing social and political issues such as racial discrimination. The history of reggae intertwines with the history of Jamaica’s independence.


    The history of Jamaica, an island nation in the Caribbean, was significantly influenced by its “discovery” in the late 15th century during Christopher Columbus’s explorations in the Caribbean Sea. The first invaders of Jamaica were the Spanish, who enslaved the indigenous population (the Tainos) – subjecting them to harsh treatment and exposing them to novel diseases that claimed the lives of many. With the significant decline in the indigenous population, the British, who later colonized Jamaica brought enslaved Africans to work on sugarcane plantations established across the island.



    During this time, Spain realized that there were no expected mineral resources such as gold, leading to a decline in its colonial ambitions. On the other hand, Britain, aiming to expand its own interests, occupied Jamaica and eventually drove out the Spanish after a conflict. In laying claim to the land, the British cited the liberation of the indigenous peoples and the spread of Christianity as their main reasons for doing so. From this time onwards, rebellions by escaped black slaves (called Maroons) started to occur in various regions, but they were suppressed by British forces. Jamaica became a British colony. Drawn by the promise of riches, many privateers began to appear in Jamaica, and the city of Port Royal also became a base for pirates seeking bounty.



    British colonial rule lasted for about 300 years, but from the mid-18th century, slave uprisings began to occur frequently. The movement against slavery also gained momentum within Britain, and in the early 19th century, Britain prohibited the slave trade. Subsequently, prompted by major slave uprisings, slavery was finally abolished in 1833.



    However, even after being freed from slavery, black people remained impoverished. With the influx of cheaper labor through immigration (Indians and Chinese), society continued to be dominated by white figures such as plantation owners. An incident sparked riots led by black people. The riots were suppressed by Britain, and the system of colonial governance for people of color was subsequently abolished.



    In the 1930s, the Great Depression led to an increase in labor movements in many countries, including Jamaica, where there were numerous worker strikes and riots. Subsequently, political parties were formed by leaders who led these movements. In 1944, a parliament was established in Jamaica. Through elections, a two-party system was established. After 150 years of Spanish rule and 300 years of British colonialism, Jamaica finally began its path to self-governance. In 1957, it gained autonomy from Britain, and in 1962, Jamaica became the first independent nation among the Caribbean colonies.


    In 2012, during the 50th anniversary of independence, various events were held in Japan. During this time, an album titled “Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music,” which can be considered a history textbook of reggae, was released. The title “Out of Many” embodies the idea of Jamaica as a multi-ethnic nation, symbolizing the sentiment of “Out Of Many, One People” –  Jamaica’s national motto –  to become one nation beyond race. It also signifies that reggae music has developed by drawing strength from various races, including the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the West.

    独立50周年の2012年には、日本でもさまざまなイベントが行われました。このとき、レゲエの歴史教科書とも言えるアルバム「Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music」が発売されました。題名の「Out of Many」には、多民族国家であるジャマイカを体現するもので、ジャマイカの国是である「Out Of Many, One People」(人種を越えてひとつの国家になろう)という想いが込められています。また、「レゲエ」がカリブ海地域をはじめアフリカ、アジア、欧米などのさまざまな人種の力を借りて発展してきた音楽だということも意味しています。


    Reggae, which has developed alongside Jamaica’s history, can be seen as the core of Jamaican culture. Art, crafts, dance, theater, cuisine — all of Jamaica’s culture has blossomed largely due to the influence of reggae. Reggae is the backbone of the Jamaican people.


    Jamaica Pavilion / ジャマイカパビリオン

    ジャマイカ大使 × 画

    Jamaica – a Country Full of Energy and Hope



    The Jamaican flag is composed of black, gold, and green. The black represents the strength and creativity of the people, who have overcome difficulties, the gold for the wealth of the country and the golden sun, and the green for the lush vegetation and hope of the island.




    In this work, Blue mahoe, a national tree with flowers similar to hibiscus, and the national fruit, Achy, are growing lively, the national bird, Doctor Bird, is dancing, and the national flower, Lignum vitae, is blooming prettily amidst the energy of these three colors.



    The national emblem reads, “OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE.” Today’s Jamaicans are carrying on the strong will of their predecessors, such as Granny Nanny, who once led maroons (fugitive slaves) to win freedom and peace for Jamaicans.

    国章には 「OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE 」と記されています。現在のジャマイカの人たちは、かつて、マルーン(逃亡奴隷)を率いてジャマイカ人の自由と平和を勝ち取ったグラニー・ナニーら先人の強い意志を引き継いでいるのです。


    This year’s work is an anthem to the unwavering hope for the future, encompassing all the souls of Jamaica’s present, past, and future. BUNTA iNOUE painted this work with the heart of “One Love, One Heart,” thinking of all that live on earth.

    今回の作品は、ジャマイカの現在・過去・未来すべての魂を包み込み、未来に向けての揺るぎない希望への賛歌です。井上文太氏が地球に生きる全てを想い、「One Love, One Heart」の心で描きました。

    (C) Buta Inoue

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    是非、誌面でジャマイカの歴史と自然、そして画狂人 井上文太氏の絵画のエネルギー溢れる浮世絵のエネルギーに触れていただきたいです。本誌のお求めは、Amazon、大手書店もしくは、こちらのリンクからどうぞ。

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  • The Aesthetics of Ukiyo-e Embodied in Lines

    Ukiyo-e artist: ISHIKAWA Masumi


    浮世絵画家・石川 真澄

    Ukiyo-e is a glamorous genre painting based on the “ukiyo (workaday world),” a world reflecting theater and pleasure houses during the Edo period (17th-19th century). To meet the demand for mass production, many ukiyo-e prints were created using a technique called woodblock printing. In this method, the artist would draw the design, a carver would carve the patterns on a wooden block, and a printer would layer colors onto washi paper. Even the ukiyo-e prints that have survived to the present day are mostly woodblock prints.



    ISHIKAWA Masumi, a ukiyo-e artist and disciple of the 6th generation UTAGAWA Toyokuni, developed his own approach to ukiyo-e expression using only brushwork. He has been delighting viewers with his new attempts and styles that have renewed the traditional image of ukiyo-e art. He has collaborated with the American hard rock band KISS and with the creators of the movie “Star Wars.”



    “I have loved art since I was a child. However, I had only a basic knowledge of famous ukiyo-e artists like Sharaku, Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige, whom I learned about in class, and I wasn’t particularly interested in them. The turning point came when I saw ‘Soma no Furudairi’ by UTAGAWA Kuniyoshi on a train platform when I was in high school.”

    「絵は小さい頃から好きでした。ただ、浮世絵は授業で習った写楽や歌麿、北斎、広重といった代表的な絵師を知っている程度で、特別興味を持つことはありませんでした。転機になったのは、高校生の時に駅のホームで見た歌川国芳の 『相馬の古内裏[そうまのふるだいり]』です」。


    “Soma no Furudairi” is a triptych ukiyo-e, which consists of three connected panels depicting a gigantic skeleton leaning out in a samurai residence. “It was shocking. The composition, with the skeleton occupying two-thirds of the triptych, is incredibly dynamic and cool. After that, I started researching various things at the library, although I never thought of drawing myself.”



    “That changed when I heard the news about the 6th generation Utagawa Toyokuni. At that time, I was just a university student with art as a hobby, and I hadn’t thought about my future at all. But when I learned that the Utagawa school was still continuing in modern times, I impulsively wanted to become his disciple.”



    At the time, the 6th generation Utagawa Toyokuni, at the age of 96, became the “oldest active university student” at Kindai University’s Faculty of Law in Osaka Prefecture. His motivation for pursuing higher education was to obtain a doctoral degree and write a dissertation on all aspects of ukiyo-e. Ishikawa visited Kindai University, gathered information like a detective, and went to Toyokuni’s residence to express his desire to become his disciple.



    “My master passed away about six months after I became his disciple, but I still cherish the lessons he taught me as a ukiyo-e artist. Ukiyo-e can be described as the aesthetics of lines. Just look at the difference in contour lines between soft skin and hard rocks.”



    “Ukiyoe artists draw all outlines with lines. Therefore, it is essential to always be conscious of what kind of line you are drawing at the moment. My master taught me to have such awareness.”



    Ukiyo-e has features not found in Western painting, such as the use of lines rather than surfaces and the composition of multiple viewpoints. Ishikawa accomplishes this by observing details carefully and by refusing to be confined to a flat impression. Thus, the charm of the ukiyo-e becomes visible.



    “In my opinion, Western paintings are created with the assumption that they will be appreciated from a certain distance. On the other hand, ukiyo-e, like modern manga or flyers, was meant to be held and examined. It combines dynamics and meticulousness, allowing for different ways of enjoyment when viewed up close or from a distance.”


    “For example, there is a technique called ‘kewari (hair-splitting),’ which depicts the hairline. It is drawn with such meticulous craftsmanship that it can only be appreciated with a magnifying glass. Ukiyo-e may appear flat, but in reality, it is not. From the folds of the kimono to each strand of hair, it is meticulously rendered in three dimensions.”



    Prior to the mid-Edo period, ukiyo-e rarely used perspective. As a result, it tends to be difficult to grasp a realistic sense of perspective. However, ukiyo-e artists made efforts to express a sense of distance through color, shape, and composition.



    Ukiyo-e also often combines multiple viewpoints. By depicting objects seen from various angles in a single picture, a unique visual effect is created. One effect is enhancing the impression of the object most desired to be shown.



    “On the other hand, in the late 19th century in the West, there were paintings influenced by ukiyo-e, known as Japonisme. When you compare them, you can see that while ukiyo-e may appear flat, the details are intricately rendered in three dimensions. I believe it would be interesting to focus on those delicate lines when looking at ukiyo-e.”



    Some people have a rigid image of ukiyo-e as being traditional and Japanese in spirit. However, originally, ukiyo-e served as a medium for all sorts of information, like flyers, posters, magazines, and manga. Ukiyo-e artists entertained the public by reflecting a sense of beauty, humor, and rebellious spirit in the culture of the common people, where anything goes.



    Ishikawa shares that after the passing of his mentor, the 6th generation Utagawa Toyokuni, he contemplated giving up his brush many times while searching for his path as a ukiyo-e artist. His consistent approach since that time has been to use ukiyo-e to depict mental images.



    “With or without a client, I feel that I can create something more interesting by using my inner self as a tool to express myself to the fullest, rather than simply painting mundane motifs.”



    While his technique and expressive ability are, of course, outstanding, he also pursues expression based on his own inner self, without being constrained by any frameworks. It seems to me that this attitude is the reason why Ishikawa has been described as a “modern ukiyo-e artist.”


    Instagram: konjakulabo

    Text: SAWAGUCHI Shota
    文:澤口 翔 太

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