• 個性的な6人が繰り広げるアクション・ストーリー

    [From June Issue 2013]


    Yukan Club

    “Yukan Club” is a manga which was first serialised in a magazine in 1981. The well-paced plot revolves around six super rich and eccentric male and female high school students and contains suspense, action, horror and romance. Read by readers of all different ages, no matter what their gender, even today, the work occasionally appears in magazines.

    The six main characters all attend Saint President Academy: KENBISHI Youri, an excellent fighter and daughter of a wealthy family; sharp minded KIKUMASAMUNE Seishirou whose family runs a large hospital; graceful HAKUSHIKA Noriko whose parents are a Japanese painting artist and a master of a tea ceremony school; mechanical whizz kid SHOUCHIKUBAI Miroku who is the son of the superintendent general of the Metropolitan Police; the fashionable KIZAKURA Karen whose mother is a jeweler; and the handsome playboy Bidou GRANDMARNIER who is the son of the ambassador of Sweden.

    The word “yukan,” in the title means either having free time or having too much time on your hands. The six main characters who are very good friends are also members of the student council. Bored of their unchanging routine, the group name themselves the “YukanClub.” Because every member is an eccentric and stands out at school, other students admire them.

    The first episode begins when Karen’s mother mistakenly sells an imitation jewel to a customer. To help their friend out, the Youkan Club plans to switch the fake jewel with a real one at a party. On top of this, a chain of events unfolds in which Youri is kidnapped, a murder is committed and they come into contact with supernatural forces. The main characters all make use of their special abilities to solve difficult cases.

    Besides the main characters, other highlights include family members, pets and the different villains that appear in each episode. Many offbeat characters, such as Youri’s father, Mansaku, and Miroku’s father SHOUCHIKUBAI Tokimune, appear and have an important part to play. Additionally, depictions of the luxurious and extravagant lifestyle of the wealthy characters mean that readers never get bored. They take cruise trips on luxurious passenger liners, and Mansaku even flies his private jet to Hong Kong just to eat gyouza (dumplings).

    In an interview on the Youkan Club official website, the author of these manga, ICHIJO Yukari says, “I want to depict what I can’t do myself in manga. Stories that are ‘so delicious’ they’re like a dream.” The greatest charm of this manga is that, though it is about Japanese high school students, it depicts an imaginary world that is completely different from our own daily lives.

    An official fan book was published in 2002 which included an introduction to all characters in the story, an interview with the author and secret behind the scenes stories about the production. In addition, it has been adapted into an animated cartoon and was broadcast as a serialized TV drama.

    Text: SHIBATA Rie












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  • ブッダとキリストのバカンスを描くコメディーまんが

    [From May Issue 2013]


    Saint Young Men

    “Saint Young Men” is a humorous comic that was first serialized in a manga magazine for young adults in 2007. It has been so popular that, when published in book form, it sold more than two million copies in one year. In 2009, it received the short story award for the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. The two heroes are Buddha (Gautama), the founder of Buddhism, and Jesus Christ, the Christian messiah.

    In the story, in order to enjoy a vacation in this world, Buddha and Jesus live happily together, sharing an apartment in Tachikawa City, Tokyo. They live in a small room without a bath, and wear casual clothes such as hand-made T-shirts and jeans. Sometimes they are like a family, at other times, like close friends who are considerate of each other and respect each other.

    Buddha is a very level-headed kind of guy and takes charge of most of the household chores: cooking, cleaning and managing the domestic finances. He is like a mother. When he says something virtuous, a halo shines around his head. When he walks outside, many animals gather around him. In one episode he reads TEZUKA Osamu’s “Buddha,” and, deeply moved by his own life story, becomes a fan and buys up all the volumes.

    Jesus has an easy-going temperament and often laughs. When there is something to be glad about, he works miracles. Although he isn’t very physically robust, he cures the sick just by drawing near. He can change stones into bread and water into wine. He is up to date with the latest technological developments in personal computing, enjoys using the Internet and even writes a blog. He is aware that people say that he looks like the American actor Johnny DEPP.

    The story is not only about Buddha and Christ; legends and figures from other religions also appear. These incidents are depicted as occurring in real life. For instance, when the two face a crisis, their apostles come flying down from heaven to rescue them and solve their problems. Even if the reader knows little of these religions, each episode is bound to bring a smile to reader’s faces.

    Readers sympathize when, laughing and crying, they read about these great men, who have been the focus of such ardent worship and respect, leading ordinary lives. Also, while many modern manga are high octane and fast paced, this work has no extreme storylines, villains or criminals. For fans of the work, its main appeal is the aura of Buddha and Jesus.

    Exhibited at the British Museum from January to February 2011, this work really struck a chord with the general public. The work was exhibited in the museum’s Asian galleries where Japanese culture is introduced alongside bronze ware, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) and haniwa (clay figurines) with explanatory labels. According to reports, a spokesman for the British Museum said, “Although it deals with religion, I am impressed by the witty content, which encourages tolerance in a cheerful, easygoing manner.”

    Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko












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  • 聖徳太子を描いた異色の少女まんが

    [From April Issue 2013]

    Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun)

    “Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi” (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun) is a shoujo (girl’s) manga that depicts the life of Prince Shotoku from his childhood until he became regent (when he made political decisions for the Emperor). The manga was serialized in the manga magazine “LaLa” (published by Hakusuisha) from 1980 to 1984 and was awarded the Best Prize in the Shoujo Division of the Kodansha Manga Awards in 1983. The publication of the manga caused quite a stir by portraying this great man, whose likeness had been printed onto bank notes, as a homosexual with supernatural powers. The manga has been frequently reprinted in book form and has had an abiding appeal even though 30 years have now passed since it first came out.

    The story is set in Japan during the Asuka era (6~8th centuries). Fourteen-year-old Soga no Emishi comes across ten-year-old Umayado no Ouji (Prince Shotoku’s real name) bathing in a pond on a spring day. He is so beautiful that Emishi mistakes him for a girl and falls in love. Later, when Emishi meets Ouji again as his retainer, he discovers that Ouji is a charismatic man who is cultured, talented and politically astute.

    When Emishi becomes close to Ouji, he begins to have mysterious experiences because of Ouji’s special abilities. He realizes that, because of these abilities, Ouji is feared by his own mother and is isolated from his family. While confounded by his abilities, Emishi tries to treat Ouji as another human being. Despite the difference in their status and the fact that they are both men, Ouji finally falls in love with Emishi.

    One day, Ookimi (the Emperor) – Ouji’s father – dies. Ouji and Emishi get involved in the dispute over succession. Though he is frightened by the cool headed, precocious way Ouji handles himself, Emishi decides in the end to give his support to the prince. The dispute develops into a great war.

    After the war, a new emperor, or Ookimi, ascends to the throne and peace reigns. But, the Ookimi is put out by Ouji’s increasing influence. Though the Ookimi plots to have him assassinated, Ouji easily evades this disaster. With jealousy and intrigue swirling around him, Ouji realizes that Emishi’s purity is irreplaceable. But then, he gets a shock when he finds out that Emishi has fallen in love with a woman. The story develops dramatically.

    When she was a child, the writer saw a newspaper article that read: “A sword inscribed with a message to ensure the repose of a soul has been found inside a Buddhist statue connected to Prince Shotoku.” She was frightened that a person whose spirit needed to be pacified this way had existed. This experience was the impetus for this work. In an interview printed at the end of volume seven of the complete collection (published by Media Factory), the writer says, “I thought about the hero’s character by imagining that somebody who people feared was sitting next to me.”

    Although this work does not accurately portray historical fact, it skillfully incorporates famous episodes into the plot. For instance, in the story Prince Shotoku uses the Yumedono (Hall of Dreams), for meditation. This temple has been designated as a national treasure and is still in the grounds of Horyuji Temple. Since the characters are so unique and it has a historical appeal, the work has attracted not only shoujo manga fans but also a wide range of readers. Skillfully blending fact and fiction, the work gives us some insight into the Asuka era.

    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko












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  • 二人の男を通して描く幕末

    [From March Issue 2013]


    Hidamari no Ki (Tree in the Sun)

    TEZUKA Osamu, the author of this work, is hailed as “the God of comics” in Japan and is also credited with being the founder of modern manga. A doctor of medicine himself, Tezuka made own great-grandfather, Doctor TEZUKA Ryoan (later named Ryosen), the hero of this story. The story is set in the Bakumatsu era, during the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate.

    Born the son of a “ranpoui,” or doctor of western medicine, Ryoan is quite fond of women and enjoys going to the “yuukaku” red light district. Born into a samurai family, IBUYA Manjiro on the other hand is a serious man, who detests womanizing and flattery. At first, the two men do not get along, occasionally even coming to blows, but gradually become friends. The title “Hidamari no Ki” (Tree in the Sun) is how FUJITA Toko, the feudal retainer of Mito, describes the structure of the Tokugawa shogunate to Ibuya, “It appears to be a splendid tree but, its insides, eaten up by insects, are rotten.”

    When told by Fujita to “prop up the huge tree of the Tokugawa Shogunate,” Ibuya feels he has found his purpose in life. In recognition of his role in helping people evacuate during a major earthquake, Ibuya was appointed as bodyguard to Townsend HARRIS, the USA’s first consul general in Japan. Through this relationship, a friendship developed between Ibuya and Harris’ assistant, Henry HEUSKEN. However problems arise because this young American can’t control his sexual desires, causing embarrassment to Ibuya and Harris.

    Meanwhile, Ryoan leaves Edo for Osaka in order to study western medicine at “Tekijuku” a school run by OGATA Koan. However, unable to resist the urge to check out to Osaka’s red light district, he goes there before going to Tekijuku. There he sees a prostitute suffering from stomach pains and has the idea to carry out abdominal surgery, which he has never attempted before. However, in the end, he cannot save the prostitute. Ryoan decides to dissect the body of the prostitute determined to see the internal organs for himself.

    Ryoan seeks permission to dissect the corpse from an Osaka government official. But the official refuses saying, “What foolishness!” However, in actual fact, he has been secretly granting exclusive permission for dissections, to the pupils of Tekijuku. When Ryoan is allowed to watch, he realizes the extent of his ignorance about the human body. Meanwhile, in Edo, Ryoan’s father and his colleagues are attempting to get permission from the shogunate to construct a western medical facility that will carry out vaccinations. However, their lives are in danger due to political pressure from doctors of Chinese medicine, who hold a grudge against them.

    Though Ryoan doesn’t break his habit of going to the red light district, he is also a diligent student. When he hears that Ibuya is a bodyguard to the USA’s consul general, he coerces Ibuya into introducing him to Heusken, so he can ask Heusken to translate English medical books into Japanese.

    This work has many different themes, including: friendship between men regardless of character, social standing or nationality; Japanese passionately fighting against prejudice against western medicine; the state of the Tokugawa shogunate at that time; duels to the death between swordsmen; love affairs between men and women; and the behaviour of prostitutes and customers in red light districts.

    Text: MATSUMOTO Seiya











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  • 海賊王への冒険を描く

    [From February Issue 2013]



    This manga tells the story of its main character Luffy, who sets off on an incredible adventure in search of One Piece (a great treasure) in order to become king of the pirates. The series of comics first came out in 1997 and has continued up until today. It’s been a huge hit with the total number of copies printed domestically exceeding 280 million, the highest number ever. The translated version is also popular abroad and is sold in over 30 countries.

    The story takes place during the Great Pirate Era. The dying words of Gold Roger, the former king of the pirates, were: “My treasure? Why, it’s right where I left it… It’s yours if you can find it.” This pronouncement drove people out to sea in search of his fortune. Luffy is a young boy living in a port village, he wants to join the pirate Red Haired Shanks, but is turned away because he is “just a brat.”

    When Luffy accidentally eats a “gum gum fruit” which Shanks had stolen from an enemy pirate ship, he becomes a rubber human being, but the downside of this new ability is that he will be unable to swim for the rest of his life. Before long Luffy turns 17 and sets off on a grand adventure to find treasure and to fulfill his promise to meet up with Shanks again after he has become a great pirate.

    As he continues his adventure, one by one he acquires travelling companions. Currently, a crew led by Luffy includes Roronoa Zoro who wants to be the greatest swordsman in the world, Nami, a genius navigator, Usopp, an expert sniper who is good at cheering up his mates, Sanji, a cook whose fighting technique is delivering killer kicks, Chopper, a reindeer and ship’s doctor, Robin the beautiful archeologist, Franky a shipwright who made himself into a cyborg, and Brook, the skeleton who is both a swordsman and a musician.

    It’s not only Luffy’s companions that make this story interesting, there are also many other unique characters portrayed in the manga, including members of rival pirate gangs, the World Government, and the marines who chase Luffy. Additionally, the attention to detail in this vividly imagined universe makes these characters even more attractive. These elements give depth to the otherwise monotonous and repetitive story development of defeating each new enemy that stands in their way as they push on with the adventure.

    The themes running throughout the story are passion for adventure and friendship between companions. The characters literally bleed, sweat, cry, even snivel, and crumble to pieces at times. However, they always get back on their feet again and regain the determination to search for their dreams and protect their friends. There has been a long tradition of this kind of passionate determination in the history of shounen manga (boy’s comics).

    The animated version for TV first aired in 1999 and is still in production to this day, there are also ten movie versions too. In 2012 for the 15th anniversary of One Piece, a new movie was released and an exhibition was held. One Piece novels and games are also sold and many companies have produced One Piece merchandise. One Piece has transcended the bounds of manga to become a phenomenon in itself.

    Text: HATTA Emiko





    物語の舞台は大海賊時代。かつての海賊王ゴールド・ロジャーの死に際の言葉「おれの財宝か? 欲しけりゃくれてやるぜ。探してみろ。この世のすべてをそこに置いてきた」という言葉が、人々を海へと駆り立てました。ある港村に住む少年ルフィは、赤髪のシャンクスが率いる海賊団に加わりたいと思いますが、「ガキだから」と断られてしまいます。







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  • 舞台女優を志す女の子を描いた少女まんが

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Garasu no Kamen (Glass Mask)

    First serialized in 1975 and still going today, “Garasu no Kamen” (Glass Mask) is a popular shoujo manga (girl’s comic). Its fast paced story of rivalry and love made the manga a huge hit. It has been adapted into a TV drama, a TV anime and a play. Since it’s been going for such a long time, the manga can be read to get an insight into changes in Japanese society.

    Heroine KITAJIMA Maya is an elementary school student. Barely able to keep up with her studies, she lives in poverty with her mother. Maya has a talent for storytelling. One day, by chance, the famous actress TSUKIKAGE Chigusa passes by while Maya is telling a story to some children in the park. Tsukikage is captivated and Maya is drawn into the world of the theater.

    Maya has a genius for performing on stage. Chigusa decides that someday Maya will play the lead role in the masterpiece “Kurenai Tennyo” (The Crimson Maiden of Heaven) and trains her hard for the role. The other actors feel that Chigusa is giving Maya special treatment and begin to play tricks on her while on stage. But with talent and hard work, Maya overcomes these difficulties and soon becomes a famous actress.

    Maya has a very talented rival in HIMEKAWA Ayumi. Beautiful and intelligent, Ayumi has been raised by a wealthy family and has had an excellent education. She is well connected because both her parents are in the entertainment business. Though everyone believes that Ayumi is the best choice for the lead role in “Kurenai Tennyo,” Maya battles with her own insecurities and tries to land the part. Gradually her dream becomes a reality.

    Maya also has an enemy. He is HAYAMI Masumi, the president of a talent agency. Masumi believes that “productions are products,” and, as a business rival, tries to hinder Chigusa and Maya. Secretly though he is charmed by Maya’s acting and sends her flowers and money anonymously. Not knowing the true situation, Maya detests Masumi, but when she find out about his kind side, she becomes bewildered. Soon the two fall in love.

    “Garasu no Kamen” became a huge hit with young girls. Not only because it tells the story of a normal girl becoming a star, but also because of the flamboyant costumes and makeup stirred up dreams in little girls of becoming beautiful actresses themselves. Love between enemies and confessions of love by a childhood friend are typical romantic storylines used in shoujo manga. On the other hand, sports manga and shounen manga (boy’s comics) fans were also attracted to this series because the heroine confronts various rivals and, after giving it her best shot, wins out in the end.

    Today there is a hotel which has rooms and a food menu themed around the main characters, and, in addition, Masumi tweets on Twitter. There is also a project underway in which readers can vote on their favorite lines from the manga to be printed onto a set of karuta (playing cards) that is due to go on sale. Since this manga series has been going for such a long time, developments within Japan over the past few decades can be seen: the black home phones of yesteryear have been replaced with smartphones and the poverty stricken households that used to be depicted are no longer seen.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo












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  • ある殺人事件を巡り食い違う目撃者たちの証言

    [From December Issue 2012]


    Rashomon (Directed by KUROSAWA Akira)

    In 1950 “Yabu no Naka,” a novella by AKUTAGAWA Ryunosuke, was adapted into a black and white film. The film was directed by KUROSAWA Akira and starred MIFUNE Toshiro. In 1951 the following year it won the Golden Lion Prize at the Venice International Film Festival and went on to win an Honorary Academy Award in 1952, garnering international recognition for Kurosawa and Japanese cinema in general.

    The story is set in the Heian era (8~12th century). A woodcutter and a traveling priest take shelter from the rain under the dilapidated Rashomon Gate. A low-ranking man also taking shelter from the rain joins them and they tell him about a murder case they were involved in as witnesses.

    The woodcutter says he discovered the corpse of a samurai while plowing his way through undergrowth in the mountains to gather firewood and reported it to the local authorities. The priest in turn recounts how he saw the samurai and his wife just before the murder. The two men then start to relate the deliberations that took place between the authorities at the court.

    First of all, Tajomaru, a thief who had been arrested as the killer, confessed that he had approached the couple with the intention of raping the wife. He tied the samurai to a tree and though he didn’t intend to, ended up killing the samurai because the wife had said she would stay with the last man left alive. He recalled that she then disappeared, however, without his realizing it.

    Meanwhile the samurai’s wife was found and her account differed to Tajomaru’s. She said he raped her, but fled without killing her husband. She had asked her husband to kill her because she had been raped by a stranger before his eyes, but she then fainted and claimed that she found her husband dead when she came to.

    Finally, the spirit of the samurai “testifies” by possessing the body of a shrine maiden, who acts as a medium. According to the samurai, his wife changed her mind after the rape and asked Tajomaru to kill him. Tajomaru was enraged by this request and the wife ran away, stunned. Eventually Tajomaru left the samurai, and the latter killed himself with a dagger.

    After hearing the differing testimonies from numerous points of view, the low-ranking man comes to the conclusion that it’s impossible to have confidence in anybody’s testimony. While the priest maintains human beings are all fundamentally good, the low-ranking man insists that they’ll do evil things in order to survive. Then the woodcutter, who discovered the body, reluctantly admits that he actually witnessed the whole thing.

    The storytelling technique employed in this film, in which the same event is seen from the point of view of several different characters, leaving the audience in a state of confusion as to what really occurred, later influenced American films. A remake starring Paul NEWMAN titled “The Outrage,” was set in Mexico in 1964.












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  • 孤独な駅長に訪れる奇跡

    [From November Issue 2012]


    Railroad Man (Directed by FURUHATA Yasuo)

    This movie is based on a novella by ASADA Jiro that won the Naoki Prize. Its Japanese title is “Poppoya.” The word “poppoya” comes from the “sho shoo, poppo” noise made by steam locomotives. Employees working for the railroad, or “railroad men,” proudly called themselves “poppo-ya.” Released in 1999, the movie is about SATO Otomatsu who, nearing retirement, looks back on his life as a poppo-ya. Shortly before he retires something miraculous occurs.

    Otomatsu is the stationmaster of Horomai, the terminus of the Horomai Line, a route that is about to be closed down. Once a flourishing coal mining town, the population of Horomai is now down to about 200 elderly people, and hardly anyone uses the Horomai Line. Despite this Otomatsu removes snow from the platform and carefully keeps a diary, never failing to carry out his duties.

    One day, after the New Year’s holidays, SUGIURA, an old friend from the time Otomatsu was taking his apprenticeship in the locomotive business, visits. At Otomatsu’s home in the station house, they drink sake and reminisce about the good old days. Sugiura, who is the stationmaster of Biyoro City, is the same age as Otomatsu and is also nearing retirement. He suggests Otomatsu joins him in applying for a job at a resort hotel, but Otomatsu turns his offer down.

    When, after 17 years of marriage, Otomatsu’s wife finally became pregnant with a daughter, Yukiko, she sadly died shortly after being born. Two years ago his wife also passed away. As the life of a poppo-ya is all he knows, Otomatsu believes that he isn’t fit for any other kind of work. Although he doesn’t regret that he always put work first, even though this meant he wasn’t around during these family deaths, he feels responsible and cannot leave the station house where he lived with his wife and daughter.

    It gets late, Sugiura falls asleep and a young girl appears at the station building. She says she’s looking for a doll that her younger sister left behind in the station during the day. Otomatsu offers her a drink and together they have a pleasant conversation. The girl leaves, forgetting to take the doll along with her. Sugiura wakes up and hears Otomatsu’s story, then jokes that the girl was a snow fairy.

    The next day, a girl wearing a high school uniform, who says she is the “oldest sister” appears at the station house. She is a railroad enthusiast and asks questions about the subject, so Otomatsu enjoys her company. After he receives a phone call, he discovers the true identity of the three sisters.

    Though the station name is fictitious, Ikutora, a real station on the Nemuro Honsen Line in Hokkaido, was used as the location for the film and this station is still visited by movie fans. The central character is played by TAKAKURA Ken, an actor who used to star in Japanese gangster movies and later became known for his performances in “The Yellow Handkerchief” and Ridley SCOTT’s “Black Rain.”



    鉄道員(監督:降旗 康男)








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  • 貧しい人々のための医療施設を描く人間ドラマ

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Red Beard (Directed by KUROSAWA Akira)

    This is a human drama set in Koishikawa Yojosho, a free clinic built for the poor in 1772 by the Edo government. The film opened to the public in 1965. Winning a prize at the Venice International Film Festival, it was highly regarded not only in Japan, but also abroad. The film is based on a novel whose protagonist is the doctor who put forward the idea of building Yojosho. The novel has been adapted into TV dramas many times.

    The film was directed by KUROSAWA Akira and the part of NIIDE Kyojo – affectionately nicknamed Red Beard – was played by MIFUNE Toshiro, an actor who often appeared in Kurosawa films. The film is also known for being the last Kurosawa work in which Mifune starred. The plot develops through the eyes of YASUMOTO Noboru, a young man who sets out to learn how to be a physician from Red Beard. Yasumoto is played by KAYAMA Yuzo, an actor who was known for appearing in a series of comedies about campus life.

    Having just finished his studies in modern Western medicine in Nagasaki, Yasumoto’s future as a top physician at a government medical institution is guaranteed. However, while he was pursuing his studies in Nagasaki, his fiancée fell in love with another man, so Yasumoto finds himself in the depths of despair. In this state of mind he reluctantly visits Yojosho after being ordered by the government to go and meet Niide.

    Instructed by Niide to practice medicine in a small room packed with patients wearing filthy clothes, Yasumoto takes offence. So by taunting Niide – breaking the rules by drinking alcohol on the job and taking naps when he should be treating patients – he tries to provoke Niide into kicking him out, but these tactics do not work.

    One day, Yasumoto was ordered to accompany Niide on a house call and is told to take care of a twelve-year-old girl, his first patient. After being forced to work in a brothel she’s suffering both mentally and physically. At first she refuses to have her temperature taken or to take any medicine, but as Yasumoto devotes himself to caring for her, she begins to open up her heart and her health improves. This gives him confidence as a physician and he begins to admire Niide who sweats blood for the poor.

    Meanwhile the younger sister of Yasumoto’s former fiancée visits again and again to apologize on behalf of her sister. Touched by this gesture, feelings of forgiveness towards his ex-fiancée begin to take root. His parents then advise him to marry this younger sister and he finally accepts the suggestion after giving it some hard thought. Around the same time, the order comes in from the government to go and work for a medical institution. When Yasumoto comes face to face with both sets of parents for yuinou (exchanging engagement gifts), he tells them about a decision he’s come to.

    Built inside Koishikawa Oyakuen, a garden in which the Edo government cultivated medicinal herbs and other plants, Koishikawa Yojosho was known as being a medical facility for treating the poor for some 140 years, up till the end of Edo era. Today Oyakuen is a postgraduate botanical research facility of Tokyo University and under the name of Koishikawa Botanical Gardens it is open to the public. A well that has been kept in good condition since the Edo era was used to provide citizens with drinking water in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.











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  • 姉妹と不思議な生き物の交流を描くファンタジー

    [From September Issue 2012]


    My Neighbor Totoro (Directed by MIYAZAKI Hayao)

    Praised at film festivals around the world, including Venice and Berlin, this is the third full-length animation film made by Studio Ghibli. Like the first and the second films, “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” and “Laputa: Castle in the Sky,” this third film, released in 1988, was also written and directed by MIYAZAKI Hayao.

    It’s a fantasy about how six-grader Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei encounter a mysterious creature in the woods and how they become friends with it. In 2005 a new English dubbed version was made and released in the U.S.A. The loveable Totoro character was very popular as a stuffed toy and even made a Cameo appearance in “Toy Story 3.” Totoro is also the logo of Studio Ghibli.

    Satsuki and Mei move from the city to the countryside with their father to live in a detached house. This is so that their mother, who is due to be released from hospital soon, can stay in a place that has plenty of fresh air. However, the sisters are scared when they are told by Kanta, a boy living in the neighborhood, that the old house is haunted. Some time later, Mei meets a mysterious creature in the back yard.

    When Mei follows this creature deep into the woods, she finds a bigger creature with grey fur sleeping there. This is “Totoro,” the Lord of the forest, who has been living there since ancient times. Only children can see Totoro.

    After some time, Satsuki meets Totoro at a bus stop. Totoro appears beside Satsuki in the middle of a rain storm as she is waiting at the bus stop for her father. When a giant cat-shaped bus with ghosts for passengers arrives, Totoro gets on it and rides away. Thus, Satsuki and Mei become friends with Totoro and his pals. Totoro has magical powers like the ability to make a fallen acorn grow into a huge tree in an instant, or to fly in the sky by riding on a spinning top.

    One day in the summer holidays, a telegram comes from the hospital. Mei suspects that her mother’s condition has worsened and sets out to visit her by herself taking along an ear of corn as a gift. However, she gets lost along the way. Satsuki desperately searches for Mei but cannot find her. Then, Satsuki asks Totoro for help saying, “Please search for Mei.” Totoro responds by jumping on top of a tree and calling for the cat-shaped bus.

    One of the attractions of the movie is that it depicts everyday life during the late ‘50s. Many people are nostalgic for those times, when Japan was being reconstructed after the war. When the 2005 World Expo was held in Aichi Prefecture, the detached house that Satsuki and Mei lived in was reproduced as an exhibit. The house was built with the same methods employed during those years, and is still exhibited in the Expo 2005 Commemorative Park (Mori-Koro Park).











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