• 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • Never-ending Battle Between Titans and the Human Race


    文:瓦谷登貴子[:en][From August Issue 2015]

    Attack on Titan
    This is a story in which the human race is brought to the brink of extinction by a mysterious race of giants called titans that is constantly waging war against them. The series began in 2009 in a supplement of Shonen Magazine and continues to this day. People took notice when ISAYAMA Hajime made his debut with the publication of this work and in 2011 he won the boy’s manga prize of the Kodansha Manga Award. More than 44 million copies have been sold in book form.
    The human race is flourishing, but in the year 845 giants appear out of the blue and attack. Humans have no choice but to live within three huge walls that are built to protect them from these man-eating titans. The Survey Corps occasionally ventures outside the walls to scout the lay of the land, but they suffer heavy casualties and stand no chance of winning. Ten year old Eren dreams of the world outside the walls and hopes to join this Survey Corps.
    Peace reigns for 100 years inside the walls, but one day the titans break through the walls. One of them eats Eren’s mother. Distraught that he is unable to save her, Eren makes up his mind to take his revenge. He enrolls in the Training Corps along with Mikasa, a childhood friend who has always kept an eye on him.
    A few years later Eren and Mikasa graduate from the Training Corps with excellent grades. The two volunteer to join the Survey Corps which investigates the area outside the walls where the titans live. Eren is attacked by titans while trying to fix a canon. Though wounded in the leg, he saves his comrade and is eaten instead by the titan.
    Misaka is shocked by the news of Eren’s death, but she summons enough courage to lead her comrades in an attack. Meanwhile, a titan appears that attacks other titans. When Misaka is cornered, this titan comes to her rescue and collapses after defeating many other giants. Eren – who had been presumed dead – emerges from the body of this fallen titan.
    As the story unfolds mysteries, such as why Eren transforms into a titan, are revealed. Readers root for the main protagonist who is not only heroic, but is also plagued by doubts and angst. Another key feature of this manga is that you can find something fresh in its various subplots when you reread it. The manga continues to be popular and has also been published overseas, in countries such as South Korea and the United States.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[:]

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  • Story Portraying Friendship and Romance Among High School Students












    [:en][From July Issue 2015]

    Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You
    Set in Hokkaido, this story depicts the journey into adulthood of its intimidating-looking heroine through her interaction with classmates. First published in Bessatsu Margaret magazine in 2005, it is still running to this day. Twenty three volumes in the book version have been published, with a total of over 26 million copies printed.
    Although a few months have passed since she entered high school, first year KURONUMA Sawako hasn’t made any friends. Her classmates avoid her and, rather than addressing her by her real name, call her “Sadako” – the name of the main character in a horror movie. And it’s not just the students; even the teachers believe the rumor that Sawako possesses supernatural powers and can curse people simply by making eye contact.
    But there is one exception, KAZEHAYA Shota. He treats Sawako just like his other classmates. He recognized Sawako’s kindness when she showed him the way to school on the morning of their school entrance ceremony and was impressed by how she took the initiative by taking on the unpopular role of class representative and by being responsible for class chores.
    One day, a test of courage is planned. While chatting, YOSHIDA Chizuru and YANO Ayane say that the event would be more interesting if Sawako played the role of the ghost. On overhearing this, Sawako volunteers. Chizuru and Ayane recognize that Sawako has a pure and kind heart. Kazehaya is pleased to see Sawako getting along with these two and supports her attempt to make friends with the rest of her classmates.
    Sawako’s circumstances change when the students switch seats. While most of the class is unwilling to sit next to Sawako, Kazehaya refuses to draw lots for seating and sits next to Sawako; Chizuru and Ayane do the same. The other students begin to view the high-achieving Sawako differently when they see her helping her friends with their studies.
    At times spiteful rumors and misunderstandings make Sawako push Kazehaya away or make things awkward between her and Chizuru and Ayane. Overcoming this, her friendship with the three deepens and during various school events, she gradually blends into the class. Then, she realizes she has romantic feelings for Kazehaya.
    Traditionally in girls’ manga, an ordinary girl meets an attractive boy and he falls in love with her for a happy ending. In this story, however, supported by those around her, the heroine finds love and friendship through her own strength of character.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[:]

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  • Bringing Japanese Pop Culture to the World


    2015年3月、日本のアイドル文化を国内外へ発信する「TOKYO IDOL PROJECT」がスタートしました。フジテレビ、コンテンツ事業局アカウントプロデューサー、濵田俊也さんは記者会見で話しました。「アイドルの魅力をアイドルファンの方だけでなく一般の方にもお届けし、2020年の東京オリンピックに向けて日本と東京の盛り上がりをお手伝いしたいです」。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECTは、このようなアイドル文化をより盛り上げるために始まりました。アイドルの活動や魅力をテレビ、ウェブ、雑誌、新聞、ラジオなどさまざまなメディアで伝えます。取り上げられるのは主に女性アイドルで、主要コンテンツは現在のところ4点です。
    その一つ「TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL」は2010年から行われている大規模なアイドルイベントです。2014年は138組のアイドルが出演し、4万人以上の観客が集まりました。今年は8月1日と2日に東京のお台場で開催されます。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVEはTOKYO IDOL PROJECTの基幹コンテンツで、毎月日本の各地で行われる予定です。TOKYO IDOL WEBは記事の掲載やライブの動画配信などを行う世界最大級のアイドルポータルサイトです。コラムニストによるアイドル論を載せるなどアイドルの再定義を目的としているのが特徴です。TOKYO IDOL PROJECT TVではTOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVEの公演の様子やアイドルの最新情報などを伝えます。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT [:en][From June Issue 2015]

    In March 2015, the “TOKYO IDOL PROJECT” to promote Japan’s idol (pop star) culture in and outside Japan, was launched. HAMADA Shunya – who works as an account producer for the Content Division of Fuji TV – stated at a press conference for the event, “By communicating the appeal of idols, not just to their existing fans, but also to the general public, I hope to get the nation and Tokyo fired up about the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”
    Five groups of idols – Denpagumi. Inc., Idoling!!!, Babyraids JAPAN, Negicco and HKT48 – made an appearance at the same press conference to perform songs. They then talked about their ambition “to let people know Japan has wonderful idols in every region” and “to help the world discover positive aspects of Japan through us idols.”
    A large number of idols are active in Japan’s entertainment business. Most are all female or all male groups with two to a few dozen members. As a rule, their popularity is based not on their beauty, nor on their singing and dancing abilities, but on their cuteness, friendliness, and dedication. Nowadays, idols have branched out into different fields; for instance there are also so-called local idols whose role is to advertise a particular product or region.
    Typically, Japanese fans not only watch their favorite idol’s performance but also root enthusiastically for them to become more famous, or for their status to rise within the group. That’s why many people attend fan events such as meet-and-greet sessions. Some of these events are large enough to be broadcast live on TV. Idols and the movements spawned by their fans have become part of Japan’s pop culture and their popularity is on the rise overseas, more particularly in Asia.
    The TOKYO IDOL PROJECT was launched to further promote this idol culture. It broadcasts details of the idols’ activities and charms through various media, including television, the web, magazines, newspapers, and radio. It’s mostly female idols that are covered and at the time of writing, there are four main points through which the campaign is run.
    The TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL is one of these projects and is a large scale event that has been held since 2010. In 2014, 138 groups of idols performed and more than 40,000 spectators attended. This year it’ll be held on August 1 and 2 at Odaiba, Tokyo.
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVE is the main vehicle for TOKYO IDOL PROJECT and will be held every month in different parts of Japan. TOKYO IDOL WEB is one of the world’s largest idol websites offering, among other things, articles, and videos of lives shows. The website is unusual in that it aims to redefine idols by publishing essays about idols by its columnists. TOKYO IDOL PROJECT TV broadcasts clips from concerts and provides up-to-date information about idols.

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  • Story of a Boy who Wants to Toughen Up

    [From June Issue 2015]

    Is it Wrong toTry to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?, Cover of first issue

    Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?
    In Japan, “light novels” are a literary genre. Written for young people in a light and easy style, many use cartoonish images on their covers and in their illustrations. This manga adaptation of a novel won the first prize in the new work category at the “These light novels are great! 2014” Awards. It’s been serialized in Young GanGan magazine since 2013 and four volumes of the series have been published so far.
    Set in a dungeon similar to those found in video games, it’s the story of a boy who wants to toughen up. The dungeon is a maze divided into several levels in which all kinds of ferocious monsters appear. Those who venture into the dungeon obtain “fairy stones” by killing monsters.
    “Gods,” “elves,” and “prums” (a tribe of dwarfs), live alongside “humans” in Ororio, a megalopolis built above the dungeon. The main character Bell CRANEL is a typical human in that he is pursuing wealth and women in the dungeon. He is not an accomplished adventurer, but he dreams of impressing cute girls by killing monsters in front of them.
    One day, seeking an encounter with a woman, Bell sets off on an adventure and ascends to the level above. There, he’s attacked by the Minotaur, but is saved by a girl called Ais WALLENSTEIN. Bell falls in love with the beautiful Ais, who has long blond hair and golden colored pupils, and hopes to become as tough as she is.
    All adventurers are members of “Familia,” each of which is centered round a deity. Each deity grants its adventurers powers to fight monsters with and is sustained by the fairy stones that the adventurers bring back. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship and Bell believes that by joining a Familia one becomes part of the deity’s family.
    Bell’s Familia is led by the goddess Hestia, and he is the only member. They have difficulties making ends meet and Hestia works part time, even though she’s a goddess. Moreover, she gets heavily in debt after asking a friend to make a weapon that only Bell can use. As a result, she has two part time jobs. She cares so much for Bell that she even forgets her divine pride and hopes to one day become his lover.
    As his love deepens for Ais, Bell’s skill as an adventurer improves. Because he’s genuine and kind, it’s not only Hestia who gives him a helping hand, but also other women he encounters. The goddess Freya takes a fancy to him and attempts to lure him away from Hestia. As he matures, even Ais begins to care about Bell.
    The attraction of this story is not only in seeing how this boy becomes a man by battling monsters, but also how each awkward romance develops.[2015年6月号掲載記事]











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  • Theater Specializes in Adaptations of Manga and Anime

    2.5-Dimensional Musicals

    In March, 2015, AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo opened in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is the world’s first theater dedicated to “2.5-Dimensional Musicals,” that is theatrical productions based on manga, anime, and video game titles that faithfully recreate the original’s atmosphere and characters.
    Recently 2.5-Dimensional theatrical productions are increasingly being staged in Japan and audience numbers are growing too. In 2013, about 1,600,000 people attended a 2.5-Dimensional performance. In 2014, the Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musical Association Secretariat was established and began its activities, performing tasks such as compiling and sending out information on all performances both within and outside Japan. The association also opened the dedicated theatre.
    There is an English page on the association’s official website, and it’s possible to purchase tickets from outside Japan. In addition, subtitles are available through a wearable terminal at the theatre. Audiences can choose from a maximum of four optional languages, though the subtitle languages available do change depending on the performance.
    “When the popular musical ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical,’ was staged, 20 to 30 percent of the audience was from outside Japan. When this dedicated theatre was opened, in the hopes of getting more foreigners to see our shows, we installed a subtitle system,” says TODA Naomi, head of PR. “Since it is wearable, it’s possible to read the subtitles without taking your eyes off the actors.”
    In Japan, in 1974, works like “The Rose of Versailles” were adapted into musicals, since then there have been theatrical productions of original manga and anime. “There is a long history of manga and anime being adapted into theatrical productions. But the genre only started to gain wider recognition when the ‘MUSICAL THE PRINCE OF TENNIS’ was staged in 2003,” says Toda.
    This musical was well-received by fans of the manga, for its skillful recreation of the original work’s atmosphere. It also went down well with theatrical fans for the production effect of showing the movement of a ball with a spotlight. “It was a good example of how the world of manga could be successfully adapted for the stage,” says Toda. As the appreciation of both manga and anime rose at home and abroad, the number of adaptations that stayed faithful to the original increased. This resulted in the birth of the so-called “2.5-Dimensional” genre.
    “Rather than mimicking characters, actors play these parts by trying not to undermine the image of the characters in the original work. The director also does his best to recreate the world shown in the original work on the stage. And that’s why the audience’s imaginations are stimulated to fill in the blanks, thus enabling them to visualize the original work on the stage,” says Toda. The 2.5-Dimensional Musical, “Live Spectacle NARUTO” is scheduled to be staged in Macao, Malaysia, and Singapore. Plans to promote this genre to the overseas market are advancing.
    The Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musicals Association Secretariat

    「役者は原作のキャラクターをまねするというよりも、そのキャラクターの持つイメージを損なうことなく演じ、演出家も原作の世界観を舞台上に再現します。だからこそ観客は想像力を刺激され、欠けている部分を空想で補って原作そのもののシーンを舞台上に見るのです」と遠田さん。2.5次元ミュージカルは、「ライブ・スペクタクル NARUTO -ナルト-」がマカオ、マレーシア、シンガポールでも上演されるなど、今後は積極的な海外進出も予定されています。

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  • A Look at Hokusai’s Edo

    [From May Issue 2015]

    Sarusuberi (Crape Myrtle)
    This story is about “ukiyoe” (wood block print) artist KATSUSHIKA Hokusai, and his daughter Oei, who lived in Edo – the former name of Tokyo. Drawing on her knowledge as a scholar of Edo manners and customs, writer SUGIURA Hinako carefully depicts the culture and lifestyle of the common people of those times. The title, “Sarusuberi,” is taken from a flower that blooms for about 100 days from early summer to autumn. According to the writer, the vitality of the plant whose recurring blossoms are heavy enough to bend its branches, chimes with her image of Hokusai. The story was serialized in Manga Sunday Magazine from 1983 to 1987.
    On a winter morning in 1814 towards the end of the year, IKEDA Zenjiro, one of Hokusai’s pupils, rushes into the tenement house where his master Hokusai and his master’s daughter, Oei live. When Oei says she does not want any trouble, Zenjiro hands her a picture, saying he has just seen a freshly severed woman’s head. He has drawn a picture of a head that has been displayed in front of the gate of a samurai residence. Hokusai says he wants to see the sight for himself and, accompanied by Zenjiro, sets off to see it for his own amusement.
    But the facts about the case of the severed head become clear when Zenjiro saves the life of a man who tries to take his own life by throwing himself into the river. The man was in service to a samurai and the head belonged to this samurai’s daughter. The daughter had fallen in love with a man from a different class and had been forced to break off the relationship. Subsequently this man was executed. Following him in death, the daughter took her own life. The man who had tried to throw himself into the river, had told his master about the couple’s relationship. After placing the woman’s head at the gate, he tried to kill himself, too.
    Unsurprised by this, Hokusai simply convinces the man to enter the Buddhist priesthood so he can free himself from his suffering. Hokusai never offers consolation that is considerate of people’s feelings, nor does he give advice to lighten the heart. The way Hokusai behaves reflects the unsentimental mind-set of Edo’s citizens.
    Hokusai is a sharp-tongued and short-tempered man who, despite being married, has affairs with his female pupils. When he is invited to show off his painting skills to the shogun, he fails to impress. A lively portrait is painted of an eccentric and fallible human being.
    The appeal of this work is, in addition to the character of Hokusai, its affectionate depiction of people living in Edo. Mingled with the stories dealing with everyday life are stories in which dead people and ghosts appear. During this period of undeveloped medical treatment, earthquakes and famines occurred. Death was close at hand and this world and the afterlife existed side by side. The wall between reality and illusion was thin, enabling humans and fantastical beings to easily come and go between the two worlds.
    At the story draws to a close, Hokusai divines that his infant daughter has died when a strong wind blows on his tenement house. Here, more than sorrow, the fragility of life is emphasized. At the same time, Hokusai’s deep fear of death is portrayed. This is not the only part of this work in which Hokusai shows his weak side. The work shows Hokusai not only as a great artist but also as KAWAMURA Tetsuzo, an ordinary man, as well as depicting the town of Edo where he lived.
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    時は1814 年、年の瀬が近い冬の朝、北斎とお栄が住む長屋に弟子の一人である池田善次郎が飛び込んできます。面倒はお断りだと文句を言うお栄に、善次郎は「女の生首を見た」と絵を手渡します。武家屋敷の門前に置かれた生首を描き写してきたのです。北斎は自分も見たかったと悔しがり、気晴らしに善次郎を連れて出かけます。

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  • The Unfortunate Fate of a Young Man Who Tried to Play God

    [From April Issue 2015]

    Death Note
    This story portrays the fate of a young man who comes into possession of “Death Note,” a notebook that enables him to control death itself. The tale was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump” from December 2003 to May 2006. In Japan alone 30 million copies of the entire series have been printed, and it has also been translated into a number of different languages around the world. It’s hugely popular both at home and abroad.
    One day YAGAMI Light picks up a black notebook with the words “DEATH NOTE” written on it. Instructions written on the back of the front cover state that simply by writing a person’s name in the book it’s possible to kill them. Some days after, the notebook’s owner, the death god Ryuk, appears before him. But Light is not astonished because having already used the notebook to indiscriminately kill criminals, he has come to believe that the notebook possesses a mysterious power.
    There are various restrictions on using the Death Note. Most important being that the name and the face of the victim must match. Light kills a succession of brutal criminals, whose names and faces appear on the news. When this series of suspicious deaths occurs, it’s not long before a rumor begins to circulate that a righteous killer named “Kira” is going around executing bad guys. This has been Light’s intention all along.
    By playing the part of Kira and executing criminals, Light carries out his plan to control people through fear and thereby create a world free of crime. “I will become the God of my new world,” Light declares to Ryuk. At the same time, at the request of Interpol, the mysterious master detective “L” begins looking into the case. By having information on brutal criminals released at different times in different countries, L measures the timing of executions. From this he determines that Kira is in the Kanto region of Japan.
    Light schemes to completely wipe out all the FBI agents sent to investigate the case. Before long L himself comes to Japan. L joins a team heading up the investigation into Kira – a team that includes Light’s own father YAGAMI Soichiro. L eventually comes, on the basis of internal information leaks, into contact with Light and begins to suspect that Light is in fact Kira. Aware he is attracting suspicion, Light also approaches L and offers to help out with the investigation.
    As the battle of wits between the two unfolds the investigation is thrown into chaos when AMANE Misa, a second person suspected of being Kira, arrives on the scene. By manipulating Misa, who adores Kira, Light successfully eliminates L before he’s able to prove that Light is Kira. L’s death, however, is never made public, and Light takes over as a second L, making it seem as if the investigation is still progressing. Behind the scenes, a new world is on its way to being realized.
    A few years later, devotees, who worship Kira as a god, spread throughout the world, and the armies and police agencies of other countries can no longer oppose him. Just when Light is only one step away from dominating the world, two successors to L, Mello and Near, stand in his way. And the three are embroiled in one final showdown. The fate and ultimate demise of Light, who is obsessed with his mission to dispense justice, touches on the universal theme of the “perils of justice.”
    Text: HATTA Emiko




    ある日、夜神月は「DEATH NOTE」と書かれた黒いノートを拾います。表紙の裏には、名前を書き込むだけで人を殺すことができるという説明が書かれていました。数日後、ノートの持ち主である死神リュークが現れますが、月は驚きません。ノートが不思議な力を持つ本物だと確信していたからです。月はすでにノートを使って、何人もの犯罪者を殺していました。







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