• 増えてきた、歌を歌わないカラオケ

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Many people sing songs at “karaoke” with close friends or family. Part of Japanese culture, karaoke has been exported to other countries just as it is. The “kara” in the Japanese word karaoke means “empty” and the second part “oke,” is short for “o-kesutora” (orchestra). Originally the word karaoke referred only to the karaoke equipment itself, but now it also stands for a facility at which you can sing.

    Originally karaoke booths contained thick books from which to select songs, but now a karaoke-on-demand machine together with remote control is standard. A wide repertoire of songs can be stored on a karaoke-on-demand machine, so songs come not only in Japanese, but in many other languages including, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean.

    However, in recent years, the numbers of people going to karaoke has begun to decline. According to All-Japan Karaoke Industrialist Association (Tokyo) – an organization that operates karaoke booths – the total number of karaoke goers in Japan during 2011 was 46.4 million. If you compare this with 1994, when karaoke was at the height of its popularity, this is a 20% decrease. The increase in the number of vacant karaoke booths during weekday afternoons is becoming a serious concern.

    To counter this trend, some companies are increasingly offering karaoke booths to rent for other purposes than singing. For example, during this year’s summer holidays, SHIDAX CORPORATIONs “party rooms” were used as classrooms for the Shidax Chofu Kokuryo Club. In collaboration with Gakken E-mirai Co., Ltd., they hosted hour-long science and dietary education lessons for 30 children (of elementary school age and younger) and their parents.

    YAMASHITA Koji, their PR representative says, “Through our collaboration with Gakken, we hoped to make links between our other business ventures, such as food and public service businesses. We hope to continue this course not only during the summer holidays, but during other major holidays, too.” It was well-received by guardians who commented that, “At first, the children were attracted to the idea of making sweets and snacks, but they also enjoyed the science experiments as well.”

    Adores Inc. has karaoke machines in Akihabara, Tokyo that come with a device named “Sound Effecter” that allows you to plug in a guitar and play music. PR representative, FUJITA Masayuki says, “This is popular with people who come to use our rooms as a music studio. Currently the majority of users are young men in their teens and twenties, but we might have a different demographic of users from now on,” he says, hopefully. They also do guitar rentals.

    Fujita emphasizes that the role of karaoke booths has evolved, “They’re no longer just a place to sing, they’ve become spaces for a variety of different uses and goals.” Recently, there has been an increase in the numbers of people who use these rooms on their own to practice a song they intend to sing at a wedding, or to study for an exam. This change reflects a trend towards trying to prevent booths becoming “kara,” or empty.

    Adores, Inc.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • 人気の缶詰バーとその魅力

    [From December Issue 2012]


    Canned food bars are becoming popular. Up until now canned food has been thought of as simply a preserved food or just another ingredient, but in these bars it is the main attraction. Because it’s so practical, canned food is often used in the home, and many recipes utilizing canned food have been published. Canned food is particularly trending right now in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, because it can be stored for long periods, making it useful thing to have around during a disaster.

    Mr. Kanso is a well-known chain of canned food bars. Launched in 2002, it now has 19 establishments all over the country – mainly in the Kansai region – and that number is expected to increase to around 50 within two years. The stylish interior and excellent atmosphere means that it’s popular with fashionable young people.

    KAWABATA Yoshihito, who was president of Mr. Kanso in the early days and is now the chairman, used to be involved in managing fine art facilities and organizing art projects. He started his canned bar when he was asked to put a vacant lot to good use by opening up an eatery there. He was inspired by the excellent designs of some can labels and the delicious taste of some canned foods. An art school graduate, he drew on his artistic talent and sensibilities to give canned food an image change. The cans lining the shelves make for an eye-catching décor.

    His bars stock between 250 to 300 types of canned food. The price is indicated by a colored sticker on the bottom of a can and you’re free to choose a can that appeals to you from the shelves. Rather than being served on a plate, the food is served straight from the can. The most popular can is the bar’s own brand product, “Dashimaki-kan.” It’s popular because people are amazed that a fluffy omelet can come out of a can and even taste like it was made by a professional. Rare canned foods, like sea lion yamatoni (cooked with sugar, soy sauce and ginger), seal curry and grasshopper, are also stocked.

    KAWABATA Michio, who’s in charge of publicity, says, “I think the charm of canned foods lies in the excitement you feel as you open it yourself and in the fact that you get to eat something delicious immediately. We have some own-brand products, too. To satisfy our customers, I’d like to continue offering new canned foods that no one has heard of.”

    Popular with railway fans, “Kiha” in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, is a bar that serves kappu zake (sake served in a glass jar) and canned food. Its walls are decorated with items such as model railways and train maps. Seats are modeled on those found in train carriages, so you feel just as if you were travelling in a train. At Kiha you can enjoy the sensation of setting off on a journey and the bar is popular with people who are too busy to travel themselves.

    The price of a can starts from 300 yen and popular staples are roast chicken and mackerel. There are also some cooked dishes on the menu too, such as the “corn butter” made with a can of sweet corn and the “oiled sardine cheese yaki,” which is sardines in oil from a can grilled with cheese. FUTAKAMI Noboru, the owner, says, “Thanks to improvements in food processing technology and in the quality of ingredients, there are more and more really good canned foods out there these days.”

    Businessman, TANAKA Kosuke, often stops by canned food bars after work. He says, “Canned food bars are good in that everyone can choose whatever he wants whether he’s by himself, or with friends.”

    Kiha: a bar offering sake and canned foods

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko











    カップ酒・缶詰バー キハ


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  • メール翻訳コンシェルをご存じですか?

    [From November Issue 2012]


    “It’s fine weather today.” “It’s not raining today.” Both these sentences mean it’s not raining, but the nuance is different, depending on whether you use the word “fine” or “rain.” It’s important to choose the right words when expressing yourself and this is especially true if you’re talking to a foreigner. NTTdocomo’s “Mail Translation Concier” is an app to help you out in these kinds of situations.

    Translating inputted text into foreign languages, “Mail Translation Concier” has been developed for NTTdocomo smartphone users. It’s very easy to use. You start the app and, simply type in a sentence like, “What’s your favorite food?” The text will be translated immediately into a foreign language of your choice.

    Text in, say, English, will be translated into Japanese, furthermore the translated Japanese can be translated back into English with a Japanese nuance. You can tell how your text has been understood by whoever you are communicating with. One of the characteristic features of this app is that it displays three sentences allowing you to make comparisons. As it can translate foreign languages into Japanese and vice versa, it’s quite useful for foreigners learning Japanese. Three languages are available to be translated into Japanese: English, Chinese and Korean.

    With this app, foreigners learning Japanese can learn Japanese expressions. Of the three sentences, the original and the translation can be emailed, or can be sent via SNS sites such as Twitter. They can also be saved to a memo pad. If a foreigner in need of directions shows the translation, perhaps a kind Japanese will show him the way.

    Japanese can be input not only through a touch screen, but also orally. The translation will be displayed just as if the text had been typed in. It’s much easier to have your speech directly translated. The app is free of charge, but we recommend you subscribe to a fixed rate plan as downloading and using the app will incur packet communication charges.

    You should always use your own head rather than relying too heavily on an app. However this is useful for those times when you need to look up a Japanese phrase, want to learn an expression, want to communicate by email with Japanese people, or send messages through a SNS. Furthermore the retranslation function will allow you to communicate without fear of being misunderstood. You can use the app to study Japanese, or to communicate with Japanese people.

    NTTdocomo “Mail Translation Concier”
    Download site

    Text: ITO Koichi









    NTTdocomo メール翻訳コンシェル


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  • 海外にも広がる、日本流の社内資格制度

    [From October Issue 2012]


    In Japan, more and more companies are adopting their own in-house qualification systems lately. Although qualifications obtained may only be useful for selling goods or providing services at a particular company’s facilities or stores, they are said to be highly effective in ensuring customer satisfaction and enhancing workers’ motivation. Also, many companies give preferential treatment to those with in-house qualifications.

    For example, major retailer Aeon Retail Co., Ltd. introduced their “Advisor Education System” which provides a total of 28 in-house qualifications. This is because having someone knowledgeable about products on the sales floor can improve customer satisfaction. “Enabling staff to meet customers’ needs helps raise their motivation as well,” explains a company spokesperson.

    The spokesperson acknowledges the benefits of this system, saying, “Sales clerks with expertise win the trust of customers. As a result, this leads to more sales.” Moreover, it delights customers, “If they get advice on the features of products and how to handle them, they can choose what’s most suited to them, rather than if they were selecting items on their own.”

    OZAWA Hajime, manager of the Mihama Saiwaicho store of Aeon Bike, who holds the qualification of “cycling advisor,” applied for the system because cycling is his hobby. Speaking about what he finds rewarding about his job, he says, “When I serve customers, I always try to help them by addressing their problems and concerns, rather than just selling things to them. Having customers appreciate my knowledge and skills is really encouraging.”

    Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. has introduced a “Black Apron” qualification. To acquire this qualification, employees have to complete an in-house “coffee program” and take an annual test. The test comprehensively evaluates the employee’s knowledge of coffee beans and their ability to describe coffee flavors as well as their day-to-day performance at the store. In 2011, 487 employees obtained the qualification and the best of these is called a “coffee ambassador.”

    Describing the effect the introduction of the qualification has had, spokesperson TANAKA Aki said, “The qualification contributes to enhancing employees’ passion for coffee. As a result of their passion for coffee, coffee seminars given by Black Aprons are held more frequently and attended by more people each year.” One of the staff who holds the Black Apron qualification says, “If you attend a coffee seminar, the coffee you make at home will taste different.”

    The Black Apron system (coffee master program) was created in the USA, but it was given its trial run in Japan. Based on the success of this program, it was introduced to the USA. Improving employee motivation and giving precedence to those with certain levels of skills and ability, these in-house qualification systems developed in Japan will surely spread to other parts of the world through the overseas expansion of Japanese companies.

    Aeon Retail Co., Ltd.
    Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • お姫様になれるバトラーズカフェ

    [From September Issue 2012]



    “Yes, my princess,” comes the sonorous response from the foreign butler as soon as you ring the bell. Placing a tiara on your head, a butler will then bring you an aromatic cup of tea and a delicious slice of cake. The BUTLERS CAFE in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, which opened in 2006, is still quite popular.

    For two hours during the day and two and a half hours during the evening, they mostly serve a clientele who have made reservations in advance. Most evenings and weekends are fully booked. The price of a meal starts from 1,100 yen. Foreign English-speaking men who are good looking enough to be models work here as butlers. Because they always put ladies first, they are naturals when it comes to interacting with women. They are carefully trained by the owner KAZU in matters of deportment, from the way they walk, down to the tiniest gestures.

    Anime and otaku (geek) culture has become part of mainstream Japanese culture, and since 2005 “concept cafes” that have particular themes, such as maid cafes and railway cafes for railway fans, have been popping up in Akihabara and Shibuya. However, some of them shut up shop after being in vogue for only a short period of time.

    Despite this climate, the BUTLERS CAFE now has 14,000 members, who acquired this status by visiting the cafe two times. Many people come a long way to visit the cafe. The cafe has also come to the attention of both the domestic and international media.

    “Women have become so busy; along with being housewives and mothers, many more women are now holding down jobs. I wanted to make a place where such women can relax,” says YUKI, who co-owns the cafe, explaining how they started the business. Before opening the cafe, YUKI interviewed many Japanese women. The results showed her that serious, shy women secretly dreamt about being a princess and sought a relaxing place in which to realize this dream.

    SUZUKI Natsuko, a first time visitor to the cafe says, “It was a dreamlike moment. The food was delicious, it’s a comfortable environment and the hospitality goes that bit further than normal service. Although I usually have few opportunities to speak English, I could enjoy a conversation at my level. Since it is more refined than English conversation cafes and friendlier than cafes in foreign-owned hotels, I spent a relaxed time there.”

    Alejandro from Colombia, who is one of the butlers says, “The ladies are carrying around a lot of stress brought on by the monotony of their everyday routines. Here women become princesses. As a butler I pride myself on my minute attention to detail.”

    YUKI says, “The way concept cafes are run can be easily swayed by changing trends. The reason we are able to run a stable business is that we have kept to the concept of being ‘a place where you can become a princess.’ That has not changed since we opened the cafe.”


    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














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  • 学校給食を提供する居酒屋が人気

    [From June Issue 2012]

    Since 1954, “kyuushoku” (school lunch) has been served at Japanese elementary and middle schools. Everyone has their own unique memories of eating lunch alongside their classmates in the same classroom where they also sat down to study. Now “kyuushoku izakaya” that serve recreations of these school lunches, are gaining popularity. With interiors that resemble classrooms and menu items that have names related to school, these taverns use a variety of methods to add spice to the experience.

    School lunch concept izakaya (Japanese taverns) are most popular with people in their 40~50s, but recently, the number of customers in their 20s has also increased. One of the main reasons these places are popular with people is that, despite the fact that these customers are now adults and full members of society, reminiscing about school days with friends and colleagues naturally creates a lively atmosphere.

    The interiors of “Koshitsu Izakaya Roku’nen Yon’kumi” (Private Dining Tavern, Year Six, Class Four) in Shibuya, Tokyo, look exactly like a Japanese classroom. Inside, blackboards, schoolbags, and a kind of Japanese calligraphy called “kakizome” decorate the walls. “Every time I come here with my friends from my student days, we have a blast talking about the good old times. It’s so much fun here.” says SAKURAYASHIKI Naomichi, a regular of the bar.

    “I want people to taste our delicious school lunches. But our real goal here is to get our customers to have a fantastic time, while reminiscing about their school days. We look to entertain our customers so we challenge them with short quizzes that change daily, and instead of serving drinks in cups, we use those measuring cylinders you used to have in science class,” says the manager, HINOKIDANI Tai.

    One of the private rooms at “Kyushoku Toban” is a classroom, recreating the school atmosphere for close friends to enjoy together. The restaurant is also open during lunch hours, so customers can casually enjoy the experience. The menu contains items that bring back nostalgic memories for many Japanese, including fried bread, and soft noodles.

    “We have customers of all ages come to our restaurant. Some come with their families; the parents tell their kids about the lunch they used to have, and the kids tell their parents about the lunch served today. When they’re done eating the customers say ‘gochisousama’ (the formal way to express thanks for a meal) and in addition ‘natsukashii’ (that takes me back). It gives me the feeling that the guests truly enjoyed themselves,” says manager, KUBOTA Masaya.

    Also, older customers say, “The kyuushoku served in this restaurant is very delicious. But when I used to be a student, the same meal did not taste so good. Times have really changed.” Regardless of their age, for Japanese, kyuushoku brings back fond memories.

    Koshitsu Izakaya Roku’nen Yon’kumi

    Text: NAKAGOMI Koichi
    Photos: SAKURAYASHIKI Tomonao




    東京都渋谷区にある「個室居酒屋 6年4組」の内装は日本の学校そのままです。店内には、黒板やランドセルや「書き初め」と呼ばれる習字が飾ってあります。「学生時代の友人と来店するたび、昔のなつかしい話で盛り上がります。とても楽しませてもらっています」と常連客の桜屋敷直道さんは言います。





    個室居酒屋 6年4組


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  • 途上国で生まれた、世界に通用するブランド

    [From June Issue 2012]


    Motherhouse Co., Ltd.

    Motherhouse sells a variety of products that have been made in developing countries. By doing so, it plays a part in highlighting the incredible potential of such countries or areas. They are now selling bags and stoles made in Bangladesh and Nepal at the company’s Japan-based stores, as well as over the Internet. In the future they intend to increase their range of products and have their sights set on the global market.

    The concept of Motherhouse was born when YAMAGUCHI Eriko, the public face of the company, visited Bangladesh during her student years and came face to face with the poverty there. Yamaguchi discovered that “jute,” a kind of hemp, can be used to make an environmentally friendly material. “I’m going to make bags of the highest quality with this,” she said to herself, and founded the company in 2006.

    Yamaguchi set out “not to give charity, but make people self-reliant through trade,” and gradually established a means of production. She did not want to make goods that people would buy out of pity, instead she aimed to make goods that would really appeal to people. The first 160 bags, made by inexperienced factory workers, sold out in two months. Things were going well for the business at the start: it was decided that more items would be produced and events aimed at attracting customers were successful.

    However, political instability and numerous cyclones hitting the area meant that business was often disrupted. In this prolonged period of political strife, passports were lost, factories were looted and promises were broken, causing Yamaguchi much anguish. But even in the midst of such difficulties, Yamaguchi held on and continued with her activities in the area.

    Consumers are able to lend their support to charitable efforts in the area with the “Social Point Card” system. Customers receive one point for each purchase of 2,000 yen and, once they’ve collected 25 points, are awarded a discount of 1,500 yen. At the same time 1,000 yen is assigned to the local community. Up to now, this money has been used for projects such as handing out relief supplies to the victims of the cyclones, or providing school bags to street children.

    Motherhouse, which intends to establish itself as a brand that supplies goods made in developing countries to the world market, has now begun production in Nepal as well as Bangladesh. They have increased production and, at the same time gradually widened their sales network. At the end of April 2012, their network grew to nine stores in Japan and three in Taiwan.

    “Identifying the worth of a country’s raw materials as well as the value of its people, we aim to fully develop both, allowing them to realize their true potential and become self-reliant,” says Yamaguchi. It’s a good example of how a business enterprise can be socially involved. Yamaguchi’s dream of “having bags with a ‘Made in Bangladesh’ label carried not only by women in Japan, but also by women in places like Paris and New York” might not be so far off.

    Motherhouse Co., Ltd.

    Text: ITO Koichi










    「その国にある素材や人柄の良さをなるべく生かして現地の自立を促すのがマザーハウスのねらいです」と山口さんは話します。企業と社会との関わりを示す好例ともいえます。「国内だけでなくパリやニューヨークの女性にも『Made in Bangladesh』のラベルを付けたバッグを持ってほしいです」と話す山口さんの願いが叶うのはそう遠くはないでしょう。



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  • 注目の「こうじ」、人気の秘密

    [From May Issue 2012]

    Furumachi Kouji Seizousho

    There is kouji boom going on in Japanese food culture. “Kouji” (aspergillus oryzae) is a kind of mold made by breeding microbes on grains of rice or barley. Although it is cotton-white and tasteless, it becomes sugar-sweet and mellow after adding water and fermenting.

    Kouji specialist store Furumachi Kouji Seizousho, opened their first shop in Niigata, Niigata Prefecture in July, 2009. Since they opened, the business has been so successful that in February this year they opened up new stores in Tokyo, in Jiyugaoka and Matsuya Department Store, Ginza. In addition to their salt kouji, drinks made with kouji and bottled kouji are popular.

    HABUKI Masayuki, representative director of Wakyou Shouten Inc., the parent company of Furumachi Kouji Seizousho says: “Responding to requests for an enterprise that utilized rice and raised public awareness at the same time, we started up the business as a way to revitalize Niigata Prefecture. When we opened our first shop, many doubted whether a business based on kouji could be successful.”

    Habuki has been interested in kouji for some time. “Kouji effectively gives rice a surprisingly sweet, rich and deep taste. In terms of delivering nutrition, it’s as effective as an intravenous drip. I really want to communicate the power of kouji to others”

    Many products made with kouji, such as ice cream and cookies, have been released on the market, but the one that has generated the most interest is salt kouji. Salt kouji is a product made by adding salt and water to kouji and then fermenting it. It has become so popular that it has been featured on TV and in magazine articles. Many cookbooks containing recipes that use salt kouji have also been published.

    Meat and fish marinated in salt kouji is softened and its umami (savory or meaty) flavors are enhanced. The reason it becomes soft is because the protein inside the food is converted into amino acid. In addition, the cleansing effect of its enzymes on the body results in beautiful and healthy skin.

    Salt kouji is sold at supermarkets but can also be easily made at home. Just put 200 grams of shredded kouji and 60 grams of salt together in a bowl and add 300 cubic centimeters of water. Pour it into a jar or similar container for storage. Stir once a day. Repeat for about ten days, and the size of each kouji grain will be reduced, making smooth salt kouji.

    YANAGISAWA Satoko, living in Saitama Prefecture, uses salt kouji in various dishes. “I got to know about salt kouji from TV. I had thought kouji was used in special cases, for making such things as miso or sake. I found out that salt kouji can be used instead of salt as seasoning for soup or with grilled vegetables. Everyday food became really delicious.”

    In Japanese food there are many fermented ingredients, such as miso, mirin (sweet sake), soy sauce and amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice), which are all made by fermenting kouji. Until recently, kouji had been used just an ingredient in food manufacturing and was not something that attracted a great deal of interest. The kouji boom has made Japanese reassess the value of this foodstuff.

    Furumachi Kouji Seizousho

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














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  • 日本の伝統文化を現代に伝える「OKIMAK」

    [From May Issue 2012]


    Vectculture Inc.

    These high quality book covers and eye catching pencil cases at first glance appear to be made of leather, but are actually made from washi (Japanese paper). Handmade, these products were developed by OKIMAK, a subsidiary of Vectculture Inc., Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

    OKIMAK refers both to the name of the brand and to the style of paper production. When you purchase a product from their website, it is delivered to your door wrapped in tenugui (a traditional hand towel made from cotton), rather than in paper. This form of packaging adheres to the Japanese tradition of wrapping items with extreme care before presenting them to someone. Another special feature of OKIMAK is that the company allows the general public to take part in the production process by attending a regular workshop.

    In Nara Era (8th Century) Japan, kamiko culture existed. Kamiko were garments made of paper crumpled to make the fabric soft, and painted with tree sap to make it strong and waterproof. They were worn by ascetic monks to keep out the cold and, in the Warring States Period (15~16th Centuries), by samurai as jinbaori – sleeveless jackets worn over armor. But, as western clothes became popular, the culture of kamiko disappeared.

    At the workshop, the method of production is roughly the same as that used to create kamiko; participants crumple paper, coat it with sap from a fir tree, dry it and apply the finishing touches using a sewing machine. Crumpling creates tiny creases that mark each work out as being unique. Applying the sap not only makes the fabric durable, but also creates a brilliant gloss.

    Director and designer ITO Taichi says, “The workshop is a place in which we can demonstrate the traditions, enjoyment and unexpected qualities of paper by creating something from raw materials. When participants see paper in a way they never have before, as a three-dimensional object, their interest is captured; it’s the best way to get through to people. I feel there’s been a shift in emphasis from ‘what is made,’ to ‘who made it’ and, in the future, ‘whom you make it with.’”

    Expressing the idea of a modern take on the kamiko tradition, the name OKIMAK was created by reversing the word KAMIKO. Ito says, “Paper is traditionally a medium used to convey messages. That’s why we wish to create items made of paper; by cultivating the art in cooperation with many people, we can get the word out. The important thing is to adapt to modern styles, not to just make paper by using the same methods and materials as in the olden days.”

    TANAKA Satomi, who participated in the workshop says, “By engaging in the same activity, we were able to communicate through the medium of paper. The sense of having created something new made the experience really worthwhile.”

    The company name Vectculture was coined by putting the words “vector” and “culture” together and has the meaning of “cultivating new directions.” The company hopes to revive valuable Japanese traditions and pass them on to future generations. Although it is only one year since the company was established, the various high-quality products made in the spirit of OKIMAK have inspired quite a response from the public and are being widely talked about.

    Vectculture Inc.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














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  • 世界のお母さんの味で、フラットな関係を築きたい

    [From April Issue 2012]


    Mino Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA)

    “Team Shikamo,” a group of non-Japanese residents in the north of Osaka, are serving up the home cooking of their native countries at an event called “Sekai wo Tsumamigui (Taking a Bite out of the World) One Day Café.” Held every fourth Saturday at a café in Minoh City, Osaka, the event is becoming popular with local residents who have become regular customers.

    This event was organized by the Minoh Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA). Secretariat of the association, IWAKI Asuka says, “Approximately two percent of our city’s population is non-Japanese. But there are not many opportunities for them to gather together, or to have more meaningful interactions with Japanese people. Since food is universally appreciated, we thought it might serve as common ground.”

    At meetings the menu is chosen. Food tasting and preparation all takes time, but non-Japanese members are in charge of all these activities. One of the Japanese volunteers, AKARI Kaeko says, “I help with the preparation, which includes chopping up the ingredients. Every time I participate, it is very interesting to me to see how each country uses ingredients and in what combinations.”

    Staff member HINO Miyako always speaks to the non-Japanese participants in easy to understand Japanese. To help non-Japanese participants understand the language and customs of Japan, conversation at the event takes place in Japanese. At the last event, Victoria and Natalia, both from Russia, prepared borscht for 40 people. Smiling, they commented, “It was the first time, so we were anxious before we did it. We were rushed off our feet serving so many people, but it was very exciting.”

    TOUDOU Marina, who participates in the events as a member of staff, is from Slovenia. Before getting married to a Japanese man and coming to Japan in 2004, she had gained a lot of experience working as a nurse in her home country. “There aren’t many places where non-Japanese housewives can gather and the range of activities available is also limited. By getting together with people in similar circumstances, we can share our troubles and let off some steam,” says Toudou.

    Before being appointed as the secretariat, Iwaki was the manager of a Japanese deli. Even though the café is only open one day a month, she believes she’s doing important work. “We keep the prices affordable, but ask that customers rather than volunteers foot the bill, so that we are able to pay our chefs. I believe that this is the way to gain independence, not by depending on the charity of others,” she continues.

    Minoh City is planning to set up the Multicultural Exchange Center (provisional title) in 2013. In the future the team aims to run this enterprise as a business using the center’s café area. “It would make me very happy if other local communities took our lead, putting Japanese and non-Japanese citizens on an equal footing.” The team members continue to keep themselves busy day after day in order to realize this dream.

    Mino Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA)

    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko




    大阪の北部で暮らす外国人市民が集まった「Team Shikamo」は、「世界をつまみ食い1Dayカフェ」と名づけた自国の家庭料理をふるまう試みを続けています。毎月第4土曜日に大阪府箕面市のカフェスペースを借り切って開催されるこの催しは、地元の住民が常連客として訪れていて評判となっています。









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