• 自分らしさを表現する絵文字、顔文字

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Many Japanese people use emoji (Japanese pictograms) when text messaging on their cell phones. Pictograms are emotional expressions and graphics that fit in one Japanese letter space. Smileys for happy feelings and crying faces for sad feelings can be inserted into any message. The frequency of pictogram use depends on each individual, but the general tendency is that women and younger people prefer to use pictograms more frequently than men and the elderly.

    “When a friend sends a message without any pictograms in the text, I worry that something is wrong, or that the sender may be in a bad mood,” says 20 year-old TANAKA Miho. “I often use pink hearts in texts that I send to my boyfriend, but I use green and blue hearts in messages for other male friends. I don’t use any emoji in my work mail,” she adds.

    “Many men of my generation do not like using pictograms,” says MURATA Shigeharu, a man in his 60s. “I like new things, so I use them more when I send to women rather than to men. When I see hearts in a text I receive from women, I think ‘they are really happy,’ but when I see a playing card heart, I think ‘they are just being polite.’”

    The amount of available pictograms and the ease of text messaging are essential deciding factors when choosing a new cell phone. That is why cell phone companies pay careful attention to both. Previously, pictograms in text sent between different cell phone carriers would turn into garbled characters. But today, there are many pictograms that can be used across many carriers.

    More people have started to create their own pictograms because they “don’t want to use the same pictograms as other people” and they “don’t want to use old pictograms created ages ago.” There are approximately 1,200 websites on the Internet dedicated to creating original pictograms. Some people use multiple sites to create pictograms for various uses, and some people upload pictograms created and received from friends, then alter them on these sites for their own use.

    In March 2008, Roid Corporation launched a pictogram creation website. Here, anyone can create and use their original pictograms while also offering them to the public. Currently, there are approximately 140, 000 registered users. Moreover, communication between the users is very active; for example, people who use the shared pictograms often send thank you notes to their creators.

    “There are many websites displaying new pictograms,” says OHTA Youhei, Roid Corporation’s media representative. “But using pictograms created by others is just another way of using the same pictogram as other people. So here at Roid, we developed a function where you can design your own pictogram. Registered users can now use pictograms that no one has owned before,” he explains.

    At FutureScope Corp., they provide a service where photos taken by cell phones can be automatically processed into pictograms. Once a picture of your face or a friend’s face, or items bought or food ordered, is sent to Future Scope’s server, your converted pictogram will then be returned within 3 to 5 seconds. If a sent photo includes up to 20 people, their server can simultaneously process each face into a pictogram.

    “The fundamentals of communication are to exchange feelings between known acquaintances, and to deepen trust,” says FutureScope’s Brand Strategy Division Manager, OGITA Yoshihiro. “It was a tough job to develop a function which automatically distinguishes facial parts, including hairstyles, from a photo and convert it into a cute icon. We have received positive feedback from people, especially those with children or pets. We also have business opportunities opening up outside of Japan, particularly in Asian countries like South Korea.”

    Pictograms originated from kao-moji (emoticons), which use symbols to make facial expressions. Even though there are many pictograms available today, emoticons are still widely used in emails and on the web since they rarely turn into garbled characters. Even the more intricate ASCII art style (text-based art developed from emoticons) has its own dedicated fans. The biggest characteristic that distinguishes Japanese ASCII art and emoticons from its international counterparts is its use of more diverse letters.

    Japanese input functions on computers and cell phones use kanji, katakana, and hiragana. Moreover, there is also zenkaku (full-width/two bytes) and hankaku (half-width/one byte) input styles. So, emoticons like (^^;)and (^^;) which use the same symbols but different byte-sizes have different looks for expressing detailed emotions; while (^^;)can mean “very embarrassed,” (^^;) can mean “a little embarrassed.”

    HONDA Kenichi, who runs a web-based collection of ASCII art, says: “Take a look at the Japanese ASCII art. The way the letters are used differs for each artist. Since we have so many characters, the choice of symbols the artist uses directly reflects their style. It becomes the distinguishing charm of their work. If we only used the one-byte alphabet and numbers, the art would not be as diverse in character.”

    “ASCII art is time consuming, so its creator must be very dedicated to it,” says Honda, who adds that “when you look closely at the forms of the symbols, you sometimes realize the uniqueness and the beauty within each character. For example, you hardly use kanji characters like “弋 (yoku)” and “卞 (ben)” in everyday life. But in ASCII art, it is a convenient and popular character often used to express roundness and dots.”

    Some ASCII art became so popular that it developed into its own character, becoming the protagonist of a story. The ASCII-art-based cat, as well as other characters often appearing on online message boards, have become so familiar that they have even been given names. And, there are people who continue to create comic strips based on these characters.

    In Japan there is a saying, “writing and nature often agree,” which means that, “one’s personality comes forth in one’s writing.” In this day and age when everyone types in their words, it may be that people are finding new ways to personalize their writing by using pictograms and emoticons.

    Roid Corporation
    FutureScope Corp

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo



    「友だちから絵文字をまったく使わないメールが来ると『どうしたんだろう? 機嫌が悪いのかな』と気になります」と20代の女性、田中美穂さんは言います。「恋人に送るメールには、ピンク色のハートをよく使いますが、男性の友だちへのメールだと緑や青のハートを使いますね。仕事のメールには使いません」。















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 「パンの缶詰」で飢えを救う

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd.

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd., established in 1947, is located in Nasu-Shiobara City in Tochigi Prefecture. AKIMOTO Kenji, the father of current company president AKIMOTO Yoshihiko, founded the company under the motto “to provide safe and tasty bread,” hoping to become the bakery loved by the locals. And today, the “canned bread” that Pan Akimoto developed is receiving great international reviews.

    “The Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 was the motivator. We delivered 2,000 meals of bread but they didn’t last, so we had to throw a way a portion of it. Dried bread (a simple type of cracker or biscuit made from flour, water, and sometimes salt) lasts longer but we heard that it was difficult to continue eating them over a long period of time,” says Akimoto. This is when his challenge to create long-lasting, fluffy bread began.

    He tried various ways including vacuum packaging and freezing – but all without success. That was when he discovered the canning machine. He came up with a way to bake the dough inside the can, rather than trying to can already baked bread. Furthermore, the dough was also wrapped in special paper to keep the baked bread from sticking to the inside of the can.

    After more than a year in development, the “canned bread” was finally ready. When first opened, a savory scent wafts out, revealing the fluffy bread inside. It was not a big seller in the beginning, but “when the media took it up during the Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake in 2004, we received orders from various local governments, firms and the general public,” recalls Akimoto.

    Akimoto then established a mass-production factory in Okinawa. With hopes of exporting them in the future, he got patents for Japan, the USA, China, and Taiwan. Moreover, by changing the labels on the cans, companies and customers can personalize them into souvenirs. In Akihabara, PAN AKIMOTO sells their bread with anime characters printed on the label. And last year, their canned bread was accepted as official astronaut food.

    “It is better if you don’t have to eat it since it is an emergency supply,” says Akimoto. But on the other hand, he admits that, “as a baker, I want people to eat it.” Thus the “kyu-can-cho Project” was conceived. “Canned bread” lasts 3 years, so the two-year-old reserves that local governments stock are traded in for new cans, while the older ones are then shipped to countries suffering from famine.

    Akimoto pioneered new ways of baking by adapting to people’s age and societal changes. He started mobile bread vending in the 1980’s when it was not yet common. He says he inherited the spirit of challenge from his father who was an aircraft pilot-turned-baker. “Canned bread is a product that can be accepted anywhere in the world. But a firm does not grow unless the people working there grow. Our current issue is to strengthen the humanity of our employees.”

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd.











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  • 人間の生活に溶け込むロボットたち

    [From June Issue 2010]

    In March, Japanese software company, FUJISOFT INCORPORATED (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo), released “PALRO,” (Pal + Robot). Their humanoid robot can walk, recognize human faces, and speak, while exchanging looks with people. Connected to the Internet, it can also communicate via e-mail and by telephone.

    Walking robots need strong legs, but using solid metal would both weigh them down, and increase their prices to more than 10 million yen. With that in mind, Fuji Soft developed wrench-proof material technology to make the robot out of plastic, and, they used readily-available materials to further keep costs down. As a result, PALRO only measures 40 centimeters in height, weighs in at only 1.6 kilograms, and sells for 300,000 yen, a relatively low price for a walking robot.

    “The merit of PALRO is that you can install new software in it,” says SHIBUYA Masaki, Director of Robot Business Development Group. “For instance, someone developing software that could make the robot turn its head in the direction of a particular sound, could install a version in PALRO in order to experiment. And, because it is relatively inexpensive, facilities such as universities will make them available so that students can conduct research with them.”

    Humanoid robots will easily fit into people’s daily lives. “Robots with legs can go up and down the stairs and, also having arms, can open and close the refrigerator,” he says. And while the current PALRO model is only for research purposes, they do have plans to release a family model.

    LittleIsland, Inc. (Warabi City, Saitama) is known for their “personalized” robot-dolls. Called “Sokkly,” meaning “just like (the person),” each robot closely resembles its owner, and is custom-made either through personally meeting the client, or by looking at photos of them.

    “The quality of the face is important to us because we want the owner to enjoy being together with their robot,” says KOIKE Hiroaki, LittleIsland President. “There are some cases when the customer is female and, although the people around her think the robot looks just like her, she does not agree – that does cause some trouble. In any case, when I arrange the robot-doll’s hair, I enjoy it so much that I forget about time,” he admits.

    Sokkly offers other positive features besides just its familiar looks. It can be connected to the Internet or IP Phone, and it has the ability to understand verbal instructions. So, for instance, if you input your father’s phone number into Sokkly, then say “Please call father,” the robot will automatically make the connection.

    Sokkly can also speak and move its head and arms. After recording the owner’s voice and creating a verbal database, the robot will talk “just like the person,” but in a more-synthesized voice. It can recognize visitors and verbally welcome your guests with “irasshaimase” when placed in the entranceway of either your home or business. “Users with a little PC knowledge can create their own (Sokkly) programs. But I want to create robots that can eventually work as waiters and caregivers in the future,” says Koike.

    LittleIsland, Inc.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo











    文:砂崎 良

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  • ゲームを日本の色に染めよう

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Gametech Co, Ltd.

    In 1983, the “Family Computer” or “Famicom” home video game console was released by the Nintendo Co., Ltd. Originally developed in Japan for home use, their unique games can now be played almost anywhere, at anytime, either via a handheld unit or on a cell phone. And, while cell phones continue to be fashionably decorated, the same is now happening to video game consoles.

    Starting off as a PC-software dealer in 1985, the Gametech Co, Ltd. (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka prefecture. CEO: NAGAYAMA Hisashi) now develops video game related accessories that reflect Japanese style and sensibility. “We aim at making convenient, original products that would make games more interesting,” says KABASHIMA Yoji, of Gametech’s sales department.

    Their breakthrough eventually came in 1993 when their keychain game, Tetrin 55, became very popular, gradually shifting their business model from selling software to developing video game accessories. To date, they have designed and developed roughly 500 original products, from portable videogame-to-television adapter cables for players who want to enjoy playing on large monitors, to protective, portable game pouches and gear.

    Presently the “Wasabi” line of game-related products is their most popular series, promising to “dress up digital devices with the beauty of Japanese style.” Their employees are young, with an average age of 30, giving Gametech the free spirit to eagerly pursue new ideas and participate in interesting projects. Out of that kind of positive energy came the idea of “making products that game players around the world would want, developing products that would reflect their Japanese origins, such as ‘wagara’ (traditional Japanese design)” and that is how the Wasabi line was eventually developed.

    The Wasabi series includes decorative decals, protective covers, and hard cases, all adorned with gorgeous, and modern Japanese pattern work. “Since it was a brand that we developed for overseas users, it was difficult to choose effective designs and patterns,” says Kabashima. The staff who participated in the project put a lot of effort in marketing and development, and also spent a lot of time choosing the materials, such as silicon and aluminum.

    Japanese aesthetic and quality-driven values are not only present in the design process, but also in the attention to detail. For instance, in making game pouches, care is taken in choosing both the color of the lining and the material for the drawstrings. Other examples from Gametech’s catalogue include the “Rampudo” series of accessories made from cotton, and the “Mokudigi” series made from 100% natural, carved wood, which Gametech can personalize with engraved names.

    Recently, Gametech exhibited at both Tokyo Game Show, and E3, the annual video game conference and show in Los Angeles, where Wasabi was very well received. The line is now being sold through large-scale electrical appliance shops and over the Internet, with many inquiries coming from abroad. Their catalog has been translated into English and Chinese, with Korean to be added soon.

    Gametech Co., Ltd.

    Text: YOSHIDA Akiko




    1985年にパソコン用ソフトの販売からスタートした株式会社ゲームテック(福岡県福岡市。代表取締役 永山久さん)は、日本らしいデザインでゲーム機を飾ろうと様々なデジタル機器向けの周辺アクセサリーを開発しています。「ゲームをもっと面白くするため、便利で個性的な商品作りを心がけています」と語るのは、営業部の樺島洋二さん。








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  • 難民から会社社長へ

    [From May Issue 2010]

    The President of Metran Co., Ltd.
    TRAN Ngoc Phuc / NITTA Kazufuku

    Metran Co., Ltd., located in Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture, is a medical equipment development company with great technology – especially for producing specialized medical instruments to treat premature babies. In 2009, the company received the Shibusawa Eiichi Venture Dream Award from Saitama Prefecture. Metran’s President is TRAN Ngoc Phuc (Japanese name is NITTA Kazufuku).

    Tran was born in Vietnam in 1947. He hardly ever went to high school spending most of his time watching movies and doing karate. “This may sound like an excuse, but we were in the middle of a war in those days. I thought I would be killed in the war sooner or later, so I did everything I wanted to do. I also read a lot of books on philosophy, because I wanted to learn about life and death,” he recalls.

    It was through both karate and philosophy that Tran became interested in Japan. “I still tell everyone that Japan has, to this day, preserved and passed on the treasures of Oriental philosophy like giri (a sense of duty) and ninjou (human empathy). That’s why I chose Japan when I studied abroad,” he says of his starting Tokai University in 1968.

    After graduation, he worked as a trainee at the Senko Medical Instrument Mfg. Co., Ltd., where he soon surprised everyone with his instrument-design ability. “The instruments of that time were more dangerous than (they are) now, and those who were not familiar with them often hurt themselves. So I revamped the instruments so that people wouldn’t cut their fingers,” he recounts.

    But other longtime craftsmen didn’t appreciate the way he worked. They thought their skills could only be mastered through injury and practice. Tran thought otherwise. “I needed to learn those skills in two years, before I went back to Vietnam. So I told them that I didn’t have time. But they got angry and called me names, saying things like, ‘Well, he’s a foreigner.’ But there were many others who praised me, happy that, ‘we don’t hurt ourselves anymore, thanks to you.’ ”

    In 1975 North Vietnam won the war, and Tran, who is South Vietnamese, lost his home. By then, he was already married to his Japanese wife Mitsuko, with whom he had been thinking about building a factory in Vietnam someday. But, they changed their plans and remained in Japan. By that time Tran became a full-time Senko company employee, everyone having already recognized his ability.

    In 1984 he went independent and established Metran. Using the benefits he received from his Senko retirement, he created a new instrument to help assist the breathing of physically weak babies. It quickly became a great success in the United States where it was hailed as “a wonderful device.” However, there were times when Tran wondered if it was ethical to keep alive by machine, babies who were so prematurely born that they could be held in the palm of an adult hand.

    Soon after that Japan fell into recession and a longstanding reseller of Tran’s instruments suddenly decided to stop any future orders. At that point, about 30 units had already been completed, costing several dozen million yen.

    “I got dizzy, having been betrayed by people I’d been doing business with for years. To make matters worse, the employees at that company didn’t know the real situation. They thought I’d betrayed them and made a deal with another company instead. They said, ‘We have been trying hard to sell your instruments. You’re a bad man.’ It was a very tough time,” he admitted.

    Through this experience, Tran came to realize that a small company cannot protect itself unless it has proprietary technology that other competitors can not imitate. He also learned “that people may only show giri and ninjou when they can afford to financially.” So he continued to work, harder than ever, and last year invented an instrument for people who stop breathing while asleep, of which Metran is the sole producer in Japan.

    In 1986 Tran returned to Vietnam for the first time in 18 years and got reacquainted with his parents and brothers, whom he had not seen since the end of the war. He now also owns a factory there. “Vietnam is the country where I was born, so I wanted to give something back. My family’s companies have provided about 1,500 people with jobs. This is the least I can do, and if there are more people I can help by doing this, I’m happy to do it,” he says, solemnly speaking about his feelings for his homeland.

    But these days Tran considers Japan his home because this is where he lives. “I care about the future of Japan because this is my country. I would like to help make Japan a better place,” he states. So, for its rapidly-aging society, Tran is now striving to invent instruments to help Japan’s elderly.

    Metran Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 江戸時代から続くうちわ、扇子の製造

    [From May Issue 2010]


    Uchiwa (Japanese fans) are not only used to cool off during the summer time, they have other uses such as fanning away smoke while cooking and chasing away insects. Sensu differs from uchiwa mainly because of its compact shape when folded, making it easier to carry. It has long been incorporated into fashion where it was originally used to create a breeze. There are many varieties of sensu that are used for different occasions – for instance, a gold or silver sensu is for celebratory events such as weddings, a black sensu is for funerals, while others are used in classical Japanese dance and tea ceremonies.

    IBASEN CO., LTD. has a history that dates back almost 400 years. Initially it sold washi (Japanese paper) and bamboo products, but around the latter Edo Period it began trading in uchiwa-ukiyoe (fan woodblock prints), applying the woodblock prints to fans. “It was what you would call a printing company today. We had ukiyoe artists like UTAGAWA Toyokuni and Hiroshige draw the drafts, then we made them by coloring in the prints and adding patterns,” says the President, YOSHIDA Nobuo.

    The uchiwa-ukiyoe with picturesque scenery and characters gained much popularity, and soon the “Ibaya” store name became very well-known along Edo’s streets. Around the same time, when the era changed from Edo to Meiji, Ibasen started to trade sensu as well. “Uchiwa and sensu both use woodblock prints, so the same techniques are applied,” says Yoshida.

    Yoshida became president 33 years ago, at the age of 28. “I was not pressured about taking over a tradition. It is purely business, so I continue to think about what kind of products we manufacture, and how we can provide them to more customers,” he says. He started their internet shopping site about 5 years ago describing it as “a doorway for the customers to step into.”

    In fact, the company offers many more products than are listed on their site. Apart from the regular, company-designed items, custom-made fans using personal photos, illustrations and poems that are brought in by individuals are also popular. A majority of the customers who visit their store are in their 30’s and 40’s with many non-Japanese tourists also coming by to try the actual items and ask the store staff for advice before purchasing one.

    Apart from their own store, Ibasen products are also sold in department stores and, the company also actively participates in events that promote Japanese concepts such as “Wa (harmony, peace and balance).” “We hope to advance further into the Asian markets in the near future. For example, we would like to open a shop in Shanghai, China, and demonstrate our design skills, which is our pride and joy, to give it our best shot,” he says.











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  • 遠くに住んでいる人とコミュニケーションがとれる道具

    [From May Issue 2010]

    TSUJITA Hitomi of the Ochanomizu University Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, is developing tools to help couples who live far apart, better communicate with one another, such as pairs of trash bins and desk lamps. When a person uses one trash bin, that information is conveyed via the Internet, automatically opening the lid of the other bin. Likewise, when a person turns on their desk lamp, the other lamp also gets turned on. As a result, even when living far apart, you can know whenever your loved ones use the trash bin or turn on the lights.

    “We would like to communicate with our partners without being a nuisance. I thought it would be nice if we could do so through our daily appliances,” says Tsujita, who asked three couples to try these devices. The results showed that when the couples were quarrelling, the men frequently used the trash bin repeatedly to draw the women’s attention.

    “I, myself was living far away from my partner. So, I felt I would like to have a tool that would let me communicate with him, which led me to this study,” says Tsujita. Professor SHIIO Ichiro, Tsujita’s advisor, adds that: “Computers used to be very expensive, so they were only used in research, business, military, and other fields that were male-dominated. But, since computer technology has become very cheap, it is now used in daily products. From now on, I predict that computers will be utilized more in daily life in ways that are more in tune with the female intuition, like in this study.”

    Household appliance manufacturer Zojirushi Corporation is another company making a similar item – the “i-POT,” a tea pot that facilitates communication over great distances. When you push the button to pour water, an e-mail is sent to a registered address in the “Mimamori (watch over) Hot Line” system, informing the recipient that the tea pot is being used.

    The i-POT system allows children living far from their elderly parents to know if their parents are okay or not. In Japan, since older people tend to drink lots of tea, this system utilizes that custom as a tracking device. When parents go out, the “going out” button can be pushed, informing the children that their parents are out of the house, and not sick or in trouble.

    It was developed soon after a sad incident in 1996, where a sick son and his mother who were living together, were both discovered a month after their deaths. Learning from that, they installed the e-mail function and made the i-POT. “Now it is used by about 3,900 people. It is a tool not for ‘looking out’ but for unobtrusively ‘looking over’ old people,” says YAMASHITA Naoki, of Zojirushi Corporation’s Public Relations Department. According to him, Zojirushi received responses like, “I found out that my parent was sick with the help of this pot” and “I feel that this pot is like my child.”

    Amongst Japan’s aging population, the instances of older people living far from their children are increasing. Many people also live far apart from their families because of their jobs. These products are a reflection of this reality, and enable people to better communicate with one another, without becoming a nuisance.

    Zojirushi Corporation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    文:砂崎 良

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  • アクセサリーを「デコする」ためのスクール

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Mobile Designer School

    Creating “decorations” (a.k.a “deco”) for personal belongings such as cell phones, digital cameras, and more recently ballpoint pens, watches, hair dryers and sunglasses, is very popular, especially among young Japanese women.

    “Decorations” can be almost any personal design made of tiny sparkling crystals or shiny materials called stones. The excitement of being able to transform plain appliances, or your favorite small articles, into original, one-of-a-kind pieces of art, seems to be THE reason for this being much more than just a passing fad. Another reason could also be the number of TV personalities who have their own, branded accessories.

    In 2002 The Japan Decorator Association NPO (non-profit-organization) was launched to support professional decoration designers and creators. A year later new decoration design schools started opening, with enrollment increasing on a yearly basis. At the Mobile Designer School (MDS president: IIO Hitomi), lovingly referred to as “the Tokyo University of the decoration industry,” students from teenagers to seniors attend, with the large majority being females.

    MDS offers a wide range of classes, from single-day beginner lessons, to full-time courses where students can hone their skills in earnest over about a year. Recently there have also been cases where parents actively encourage their children to enroll in the school, supporting the idea of their becoming professional decorators. Many MDS graduates eventually go on to work at Glam Baby, a retail chain that sells both pre-designed items and custom-made orders.

    Some decorations are quite reasonable, costing only several hundred yen, but recently, luxurious designs with intricate detail have become increasingly popular. Having your cell phone decorated by a pro can cost between 20,000 and 60,000 yen per surface side (of the phone). While it is not cheap, orders for such services keep rolling in. Even quite a few foreign tourists have had their cell phones decorated as a souvenir of their trip to Japan.

    To be successful, decorators require strong design skills, speed and dead-accuracy. In addition to listening, understanding and interpreting the client’s ideas, they also need the ability to finish in two hours, rather than the customary five. Furthermore, attention to detail in arranging and placing the stones, so as to balance the overall design, is also a prerequisite.

    WATANABE Tetsuo, president of Glam Baby, says the future looks promising. “There’s a fair chance that we will open stores in Europe, America and Southeast Asia in the future. Decorations are especially popular in China and South Korea, so these countries have good potential markets.”

    Mobile Designer School

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi






    このスクールでは一日だけの入門コースから、約一年かけて本格的に技術を身につけられる全日制コースまで幅広いコースがある。最近では親が子どもに職業としてデコレーターを提案し、入校をすすめることもあるという。また、デコの販売と受注をおこなう専門店「Glam Baby」へは、スクールの卒業生がたくさん就職している。



    「Glam Baby」の代表取締役である渡邊哲郎さんは抱負を語る。「今後はヨーロッパ、アメリカ、東南アジアへの出店も可能性が高いと思います。特に中国、韓国ではデコ人気が高いので、市場としての見込みがありますね」。



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  • みんなで写真を楽しもう!新しい機能を持ったカメラ

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Sony Corporation recently released the Party-shot Automatic Photographer (IPT-DS1), docking station. When used with specific Sony digital cameras, this device automatically takes photos by searching for people’s faces, detecting smiles and framing groups by shifting camera angles.

    This accessory was developed to free people from having to stop talking or enjoying the company of friends in order to take photos. “I myself often forgot about taking photos when I was immersed in a conversation while having a meal with my friends. I thought I would not forget if there was a camera that would automatically take photos for me,” says YAMASHITA Masanobu.

    YOSHIZUMI Shingo, who was the first to come up with the idea for the Party-shot, explains the troubles they had to overcome in developing the product: “When we started our study, digital cameras didn’t have the face-recognition function. We tried to cope with that by programming the camera to take photos when it detected a large amount of skin-color. The result was that it took photos of nearby cardboard boxes. Also, it could not take good pictures in dark places.” Since then, because the performance of digital cameras has improved, it is now possible to detect people’s faces and take good, low-light pictures too.

    “It was also important not to break the good atmosphere of friends and families getting together. So, we continued to study how we could make the camera’s movement less like that of a surveillance camera and more like the adorable shakes and nods of a person’s head,” says Yoshizumi. “We also thought about how the joy of taking photos manually was also important. So, we made the attachment and removal of the camera easy,” says KURODA Keiichi.

    Nikon offers another innovation by including a small projector in its COOLPIX S1000pj digital camera. In darkened rooms, users can project on the walls or the ceiling their recently taken photos. This means that you no longer have to make prints or prepare the TV to enjoy photos or videos with your friends and families.

    “Many people already have digital cameras, so we thought of expanding their uses and the pleasures they get from them. We presented our ideas and developed a small projector. We took pains in making the projector small, to prevent it from overheating and to keep its power consumption low. The problems were solved with original Nikon technology and we worked out a design enabling its small size. It was only a year and a half ago that we were able to make it the size of a regular camera,” says SUZUKI Nobuyoshi.

    Although Sony’s Party-shot is a camera docking accessory, and Nikon’s COOLPIX S1000pj is an all-in-one camera-projector, there is a similarity between them – the desire to develop and “make photos a more enjoyable experience with friends.”

    Sony Corporation
    Nikon Corporation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


    ソニー株式会社は最近、自動で撮影するカメラの台「Party-shot IPT-DS1」を発売しました。この台に対応するソニーのデジタルカメラをセットすると、自動でカメラの向きを変え、人の顔を見つけて写真を撮ります。しかも笑顔を探したり、人の姿が写真の中に納まるよう角度を変えたりもします。




    カメラの新しい楽しみ方を提案しよう、という動きは、株式会社ニコンにも見られます。「COOLPIX S1000pj」というカメラには、とても小さいプロジェクターが入っています。そのため、部屋を暗くすると壁や天井に、撮った写真や動画を映すことができます。つまり、印刷したりテレビを用意したりしなくても、みんなで写真や動画を見て楽しむことができるのです。


    ソニーのParty-shotはカメラをのせる台で、ニコンのCOOLPIX S1000pjはカメラ本体ですが、両者には共通点があります。「写真をもっと仲間と楽しめるものにしよう」という思いが、開発のもとになっています。


    文:砂崎 良

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  • リメイク・リフォームで、世界にひとつだけの洋服

    [From April Issue 2010]

    In the last few years, a clothing style known as “fast fashion” has become popular in Japan. The trend is to incorporate affordable pricing and manufacture bulk quantities to sell in short-term cycles. UNIQLO, with over 790 stores across Japan, is one of the largest brands offering this style.

    In 1998, UNIQLO offered fleece sweatshirts for 1,900 yen, and sold 8.5 million pieces. From then on yearly improvements were made, and cheap, durable fleece garments soon became regular winter wear for everyone.

    Conversely, a new trend called “Remake Fashion” is also attracting attention. “Remake Fashion” is ready-made clothing altered to one’s own taste. Located just a few minutes walk from JR Omiya Station (Saitama Prefecture), Ichinomiya Dori is known as a second-hand fashion street with about 20 used clothing retail shops open for business.

    “OMIYA momo-kuri” is just one such popular store with Tokyo branches in both Kichijoji and Shimokitazawa. Not only do they sell second-hand clothes, they also trade in retro clothing acquired from overseas. But before selling any item, they alter the pieces to fit with Japanese sensibilities, adding designs to lapels, and changing the buttons to a more appealing set. Their unique designs and colorations are popular with the local students and other fashion-conscious young people. Even some performers shop there for their stage wardrobe.

    Many customers visit often because they want to “wear something different from everyone else.” SAKAI Hidetaka, a 2nd year university student who’s been stopping by the shop since high school, says friends often ask him, “Where did you buy your outfit?” “Second hand clothes are cheaper than new clothes. Moreover, the unique designs are popular with the younger generation,” says store manager NOZAWA Ayumi.

    Located in the Lumine Omiya Building, “Reform and Recycle JUST” alters customers’ clothes to fit their exact size. Customers stop by not just to lift hemlines of their pants and skirts, but to also adjust favorite items that no longer fit. The shop even gets customers who bring in new, recently purchased business suits.

    “Sometimes the alterations cost more than the actual business suit,” says shop owner, OGAWA Miyoko. She says that pulling out all the threads and retaking measurements is painstaking and time-consuming, even for experienced staff, and that altering a two-piece suit to properly fit the body can cost upwards of 30,000 ~ 40,000 yen.

    It seems that the inclination is to alter second-hand clothes for “a cheaper and unique look,” and new clothes for “a better fit despite the fee.” Tailored clothes are very expensive, with remakes and alterations much more convenient, and, the extra care makes people enjoy them more.

    OMIYA momo-kuri
    Reform and Recycle JUST

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko










    大宮 momo-kuri
    洋服のお直し専門店 JUST


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