• 飛行船-文明社会の新たなシンボル

    [From March Issue 2010]

    Airships were first used for advertising in Japan in the late 1960’s when the Japanese economy was strong. It’s a time that WATANABE Hiroyuki, Representative Director of the Nippon Airship Corporation, fondly remembers. “I was in fifth grade living in Sakai City, Osaka. One day in December 1968, the school principal gathered all the students in the schoolyard during class time. Then a huge airship flew by, hovering twice above us, as the pilot waved to the students. It was very exciting.”

    After graduating from university, Watanabe found work at a merchant ship company. He got involved in a new venture, an airship company, and was promoted to department manager. However, in the mid-1990’s, his company and its competitors were forced to stop high-cost airship operation, due to the poor economy.

    However, airships finally made a comeback at the eco-themed 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan. With public interest growing for airships as a viable, environmentally-friendly mode of transportation, industry experts soon established the Nippon Airship Corporation. After three years of preparation, official commercial flights then started in November of 2007.

    The NAC’s German-made Zeppelin NT airship is one of only three in the world. Measuring 75 meters in length, it is five meters longer than a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. It uses non-flammable helium gas, which has zero impact on people or the environment. And while the other two airships operate in Germany and the USA, the Nippon Airship Corporation’s Zeppelin NT is the only one that flies over urban areas.

    To date 2,000 people have flown with the Nippon Airship Corporation. The roomy cabin (referred to as a gondola) can hold two pilots, one crew member and ten passengers. They can see high-rise buildings up close while cars and trains down below resemble miniature models. Passengers can also walk around inside the cabin and take pictures, after the seatbelt sign is turned off.

    The company offers several tour packages, including one over Saitama Prefecture (50,000 yen/30 min.), where the landing field is located. Another popular sightseeing tour is over downtown Tokyo (starting from 126,000 yen/90 min.) with several seasonal tours over Yokohama City, Kamakura City, and both Kyoto and Nara Prefectures. Sightseeing tours over both Kagoshima and Osaka Prefectures, as well as special flights from Osaka to Tokyo, are also planned for this coming March. Nippon Airship Corporation is looking for more landing fields in Tokyo in the hopes of making their tours more affordable for the general public.

    Nippon Airship Corporation also offers their Zeppelin NT as an advertising medium, displaying company names and logos on the airship’s sides. SATO Yuji, section manager of NAC’s sales department says, “Showing the names of companies and products seems to be effective advertising but it also makes employees feel proud and motivated.” SATO’s colleague, NAKA Yusuke, further added that the airship once assisted the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology with an illegal radio wave investigation. And, the airship also provided free air-support during relief efforts to those who were affected by the Noto Peninsula earthquakes that hit three years ago.

    “I think the teachers who gave students the opportunity to see the airship back when I was in school were more relaxed. I believe that airships which do not destroy nature but let people dream are needed now more than ever. These airships will become a new symbol of a civilized society,” affirms Watanabe.

    Nippon Airship Corporation











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  • クルーザーで探検する工場夜景見学ツアー

    [From March Issue 2010]

    Centered around both the ports of Tokyo and of Yokohama, the Keihin Industrial Zone has developed into Japan’s largest industrial area. With metal, mechanical and chemical plants standing side-by-side and intricately entangled in pipes, smoke and rising steam, with their lights illuminating the night’s darkness, the scene resembles those of science fiction movies. “The Jungle Cruise for Night Views of Factories,” a boat tour of the industrial zone surrounding the Port of Yokohama, started in June 2008, and costs 4,500 yen per person.

    The cruise, which starts near the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and lasts one-and-a-half hours, is so popular that it’s usually fully booked several months in advance. On the deck of the Ootori, a wooden boat that holds up to 30 passengers, the captain and the chief engineer describe places of interest around the city, including 17 must-see factories. Since it is a night tour for adults, original cocktails are also served on-board.

    The tour is conducted by the KMC CORPORATION, a company involved in operating both regular and chartered passenger liners as well as other marina-related businesses including the storage of private boats. IWATA Hideo, the company’s general manager, says: “MARUMARU Motoo, the famous night view critic, proposed and produced this tour, which made it all possible. We spent a lot of time on preparing for the tour, including choosing the route and instructing the guides.”

    “The echoing sound of metal and the way the boat passes through a narrow canal reminds you of a jungle expedition. But, since the boat sails on the canal, where there are few waves, you hardly need to worry about getting seasick. With permission from the Transport Ministry, you can look at the enormous factories from as close as 30 meters away, which is the real appeal of this tour. The boat departs at dusk and returns after sunset, so you can enjoy a different version of the same views on the way back,” says Iwata.

    In recent years, Japanese history, and trains, have both captured the attention of many young women. Now it’s similar with factories, where young participants have also included young women. The tour is popular among men and women of all ages, with many repeat customers. And aside from the factory-fanatics, those who work, or who used to work at factories, also take their families on these cruises. Some participants even come all the way from Hokkaido or Kyushu for this cruise.

    Last October “The Adventure Cruise” started. This tour uses the largest boat the company owns, which accommodates up to 50 passengers. Passing under the Yokohama Bay Bridge, the boat heads for the famous “Castle of Light” oil refinery. Chartered, group cruises (for 10 to 50 passengers) with hotel catering services are available for parties and other special occasions.

    These night cruises of factories, which were Japan’s first, have prompted some other local administrations to develop their own original tours as new tourist attractions. “I don’t want this to be just a temporary fad. So in order to keep providing this service, I’d like to further improve the content of the tours, rather than merely increasing the number of cruises that are currently provided only on Saturdays and Sundays. Taking our customers’ comments to heart, we’re striving far continuous improvement,” Iwata says.











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  • 銭湯を彩る背景画を描き続けて半世紀

    [From February Issue 2010]

    “Sentou” public bathhouses have a history of more than 400 years. These bathhouses had been used by most people until the late 1970s when bathrooms became common in ordinary houses. A conventional sentou has separate doors leading into the ladies’ or men’s changing rooms, a bandai from where the sentou is watched-over and yusen (bathing fee) is paid, and conversations are carried out over the wall, only a few meters high, dividing the ladies’ bathing area and the men’s.

    It is said that the culture of painting scenery on the bathing area wall began in 1912, when the gengou (name of the Emperor’s reigning era) changed from Meiji to Taisho. The owner of Kikaiyu bathhouse in Chiyoda Ward asked a painter to do the job. The painter was from Shizuoka Prefecture and loved Mt. Fuji, and thus the mainstream image painted on sentou walls became Mt. Fuji.

    In 1935, MARUYAMA Kiyoto was born in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. He currently is one of the only two remaining sentou scenery painters in Tokyo. Maruyama, still an active painter at 74 years old, has been painting since he was 18, when he started working at a relative’s advertising agency and scenic advertising company. Upon request, he will visit any part of the country to paint landscapes such as Mt. Fuji, Ashinoko Lake and the Seto Inland Sea.

    “I was very good at drawing from a young age. During my evacuation in the war to Yamanashi Prefecture in elementary school and middle school, the watch out for fire disaster prevention poster I drew won a contest,” Maruyama reminisces. “I was taking Japanese calligraphy lessons then, and later I became a scenery painter and had to write letters on billboards, so those skills paid off.”

    Maruyama decided to become a professional scenic painter and took apprenticeship under his master MARUYAMA Kikuo, who was the president of his company. Kikuo was the cousin of Kiyoto’s father, who worked as the sales representative. “He didn’t take extra care in teaching me, so I watched and stole all the skills from him. Work was demanding every day; Besides bathhouse scenery, I even had to write advertisement words on department store shutters and truck bodies.”

    “Originally, advertisement agencies would draw scenic paintings free of charge in exchange for free wall advertisement space. Its own scenic artists would draw the pictures. Post cards were useful references, but the rest of the ideas were all in the head. Looking back, it was a very generous age,” says Maruyama.

    Soon scenic art became a business in its own right. Maruyama became independent at the age of 45. Once he gets a request over the phone, he loads his work tools – paint, brushes, rollers and ladder – into his van and drives himself to the painting site. It takes approximately an hour and a half just to prepare as he sets up scaffolding and spreads sheets of plastic so the bathing area will stay clean.

    The painting process is a work against time. Sentou open from 3 or 4p.m. Maruyama gets to the site by 7a.m., and once he is set up, he starts drafting with chalk. “Gradation is the very essence of scenic art,” Maruyama states. He places the seven colors on his handmade pallet and mixes them to create the subtle shades. He used paintbrushes before, but now uses rollers to directly put paint on the wall.

    Every year, more and more sentous disappear. Scenic artists are losing jobs fast, and the few dozen scenic artists that existed in Tokyo in its golden age have been reduced to just two – the other is his fellow apprentice, NAKAJIMA Morio. But with the help of the recent Showa era boom, plus his appearance in different media, new job opportunities have presented themselves from unexpected directions.

    “After a TV interview, there was a rush of phone calls from people asking me to paint on their bathroom walls.” Moreover, with the graying society, there has been an increase in opportunities to paint bathing rooms at rural retirement homes and care centers over the past five or six years. “Other than that, I have more activities to attend to apart from painting, such as appearing in talk shows at events, or holding exhibitions of my work,” he says.

    There are more than 10,000 scenic art pieces that Maruyama has painted. A sentou wall is typically around 13 meters wide, with the height ranging from five to 10 meters. Working with these “big canvases” is an occupation that calls for tough physical labor on one hand and delicate technique on the other, but he is satisfied with a job that he can continue at an older age. “I feel a calling in the job. It is unfortunate that sentous are decreasing in number and I have no heir,” Maruyama says, smiling.

    Photo provided by Maruyama Kogei, MARUYAMA Kiyoto:













    写真提供:マルヤマ工芸、丸山清人 Tel: 042-573-1852

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  • 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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  • 世界一の理容技術を次の世代に











    HAIR RESORT CLIPS : http://www.hrclips.com/


    In March 2008, the 32nd OMC HairWorld Championships of Beauty was held in Chicago, drawing hairdressers from 60 countries. This biannual competition is better known as the “Olympics of Hair,” and the Japanese team won the championship in the Hairdressing Category. It was the first time in 16 years for a Japanese team to win a gold medal at this competition.
    In January 2009, two of the three competitors on the winning team were given an award from the governor of Tokyo. One of the award recipients was SATO Hideki. He runs five shops in Mitaka City, Tokyo, and other neighboring towns. He is currently planning to open his sixth salon.
    He was born as the eldest son of parents running a hair salon in Yamagata Prefecture. “Every day customers came in and had their hair cut by my parents. When they were leaving, the customers always said, ‘Thank you.’ Seeing the way my parents worked, I found myself wanting to be a hairdresser someday,” Sato says. He came to Tokyo at age 18 and learned the basics at a barber school. After that, he joined a hair salon run by TANAKA Toshio, whom he had long admired.
    One year after he started at the salon, he realized his long-cherished dream of participating in a contest. “My father had entered competitions, and I wanted to win the world championship someday,” he says. While instructing Sato, Tanaka Toshio, who had won a world championship himself, said, “Make several times more effort than other people. Concentrate on completing your work without minding your competitors.”
    Sato would practice on head mannequins and people for three hours before the salon opened and another three hours after it closed. On his days off, he put in 10 hours. In his fifth year at the salon, he was appointed manager of the Shinjuku branch. The following year, he became the youngest participant to have won a national championship. But it was just a stepping stone for Sato. Now that he had qualified for the world championships, he became even more motivated.
    What Sato does best is a hairstyle called the ‘Classical Cut.’ “It is a hairstyle that became popular over 50 years ago. Now the hairstyle is often used as a category at hair competitions because it requires genuine skills. The reason I strive to win prizes at contests is that I would like to prove my precise cutting skills and give my customers a sense of security and trust,” he says.
    In 2003, Sato went independent. He opened his first salon in Mitaka City. Business is good, as Sato’s record of winning a number of awards at home and abroad has brought a good reputation to his salons. Sato likes to teach young staff the skills he has mastered by dint of hard work. He advises them to enter six competitions a year and instructs them himself. “I give instructions after the shop is closed and on days off. I teach only the basics, 30 percent of what they need to know, and leave the rest up to their own creativity. Rather than talking about images, I show them lots of specific skills,” he says.
    “One of my goals is to train a lot of hairdressers to follow in my footsteps. I would also like to tell the world about the skills of the Japanese,” he continues. Thus his classes are not limited to his salons. He also gives lectures to young hairdressers in other salons and students at barber schools. In 2009, he started visiting other Asian countries with his mentor Tanaka Toshio in order to give technical guidance to local hairdressers.
    Though he has a hectic work schedule, he visits his parents’ house in Yamagata Prefecture every once in a while. “I really respect my parents because they are over 60 years old and still active as hairdressers. I didn’t take over the family business, but as it turns out, that has made me a better son, I guess,” Sato says laughing. He gained the gold medal at Paris Cup Open last October, and is currently preparing for the world championships to be held in Paris in 2010, as both a trainer for the national team and a competitor aiming for his second consecutive title.
    HAIR RESORT CLIPS : http://www.hrclips.com/
    [From January Issue 2010][:]

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  • すべての人に開放する新宿二丁目のバー


    毎月第一日曜日に開催される「Living Together Lounge」では、「HIVを持っている人もそうじゃない人も、一緒に生きている」というメッセージを伝えるためのライブ演奏や朗読が行われています。
    ArcH: http://www.clubarch.net/

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  • 「安い、早い」で人気の立ち飲み屋


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