• Construction Sites Make Fascinating Tour Destinations

    [From February Issue 2015]

    Tours to inspect construction sites, such as tunnels and expressways, are generating quiet interest. The Kinki Regional Development Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism created an exclusive website called “Miseru! Genba” (Enchanting! Sites) last August to draw in visitors. “Since we maintain the infrastructure with tax money, we wanted the public to know what our job involves. So, we decided to have people come see how the work is carried out,” says MATSUO Jun of the Planning Department’s Planning Division. Anyone of elementary school age or over can visit free of charge.
    Matsuo says the appeal of these construction site inspection tours is being able to see areas that will remain hidden once the construction is complete. Furthermore, “Since the construction work of the Kinki Regional Development Bureau is national government work, you can see construction on a grand scale,” he says, hyping this special feature. Also popular are rides given on the big heavy industrial machines used for construction work.
    As visitors range from elementary school pupils, to students going to engineering schools, to construction industry officials, staff members with detailed knowledge of the site accompany them in order to answer any technical questions. In addition, since the conditions at the construction site change day by day, the content of the tour and the itinerary is updated frequently. Therefore, there are people who sign up many times. Although it was only held for four months last year, 2,100 people participated.
    However, there are also concerns. “The primary goal of the construction site is to push forward with construction. If the numbers of visitors rises too much, there is the concern that the construction work will not progress. Because of this, one of the conditions is that we reduce the number of tours, taking only applications for groups of ten people and over,” Matsuo says.
    There is a movement to make this kind of tour available as a tourist attraction. In conjunction with the Japan Society of Civil Engineering, the Japan Institute of Country-ology and Engineering, and the major construction contractors, the travel agency JTB is finding out whether this kind of construction site visit has the potential to become a sightseeing attraction.
    Many visiting tours are carried out free of charge by administrations and municipalities like the Kinki Regional Development Bureau. However, FUKASAWA Reiko, section manager at JTB Domestic Travel Plan East Japan Division Business Development Section – the department in charge of this project – says, “Because we’re a travel agency we can add that little extra spice to the experience along with a narrative element that will satisfy participants.”
    The first tour they planned was a construction site inspection tour of the Tokyo Outer Ring Road. Their target audience was parent and child groups who were able to pass through a section that was normally restricted to authorized personnel. The content of the tour included writing messages and signatures on the tunnel, and observing an experiment to test the strength of the concrete. They made it available to 20 pairs, but after it appeared in a newspaper, they sold out that day.
    There are future concerns, too. “Because there’s the safety aspect to consider, we limit the number of participants for a single tour. Moreover, it’s a lot of work for the travel agency as it’s not possible to carry out the same tour numerous times at one site,” says Fukasawa. The work of the site manager in ensuring safety increases and bottlenecks might build up when tours are halted due to safety concerns. However, since a lot of people are hoping to sample such a rare experience, Fukasawa feels that there is enough potential for the tours to become a tourist attraction.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2015年2月号掲載記事]



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  • A Similar Sense of Hospitality

    [From February Issue 2015]

    Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan
    in Japan
    “Before I came to Japan, I imagined that since it’s a developed country, all the windows would open and shut electronically. But conditions in the rooms of the lodging house I rented as an international student were surprisingly different from what I had imagined: they were very small, the toilet was shared, and we had to go to the public bath to take a bath,” says Ambassador Gursel ISMAYILZADA in perfect Japanese.
    The Ambassador started working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993, but went to Japan in October of 1996, as a graduate student. “After graduating from Baku University in my home country, I received a scholarship from Japan and studied Japanese at Tsukuba University for six months. After that I went on to receive a master’s degree and doctorate at Sophia University. In January of 2005 I returned home, but wanting to give something back to the country that had facilitated my studies, I returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in September of that year I started working as a diplomat at the newly-established Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Japan.
    Located on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. “My country opened an embassy in Japan in 2005. After getting involved with the establishment of the embassy, I first worked as counsellor and then became an ambassador. The fact I could speak Japanese was a huge advantage in my career as a diplomat.”
    When the ambassador was a student, there was no Japanese program at Baku University. “After I decided to study abroad in Japan I found some textbooks – which were mostly in Russian and English – and spent a few months studying Japanese on my own. The Azerbaijani language has more vowels than Japanese, and the word order is similar, so learning to speak Japanese wasn’t too difficult. But learning to read and write hiragana and katakana along with the many kanji, was quite a struggle,” he recalls.
    He quickly became accustomed to the food and customs of Japan. “Japanese food is healthy and simple. Kaiseki (a traditional multi-course meal) is exquisite. My favorite dishes are yakitori and shabushabu,” he says with a smile. “I also quickly got accustomed how to use the Japanese public bath. I am the type of person who wants to experience everything and was able to adapt,” he adds.
    “Before coming to Japan, I thought the Japanese were very serious and diligent, living like monks in a monastery. But once I got there, I saw all the comedy and rakugo (traditional comic storytelling) on TV. Although students took their studies very seriously on campus, at night they would go out drinking, even with the professors. Then they were right back in class the following day with the same serious faces again, which was amazing,” he laughs.
    “By living in Japan, I’ve deepened my knowledge of Japanese culture,” he says. “For instance, I learned the difference between giri (obligation) and gimu (duty) from reading Ruth BENEDICT’s ‘The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.’ But after coming here and interacting with Japanese people, there came a point at which I realized what ‘obligation’ truly meant. I gained a deeper understanding of what was going on in ‘Black Rain’ – a movie set in Japan – when I watched it again after returning to Japan.”
    “The best quality of the Japanese is the way they work together. I want to learn more about this from them,” says the ambassador. “When the Tohoku disaster occurred, I heard the news in my home country and it greatly saddened me, but at the same time I knew that Japan would quickly get back on its feet again. In fact, at Sendai Airport, which had been damaged by the tsunami, partial service was restored within just one month after the disaster. The teamwork of Japanese people is truly astonishing.”
    “On top of that, Japanese people are gourmets. I think that in Tokyo, you can eat better Italian food than in Italy and better French cuisine than in France. Tokyo has more Michelin stars than anywhere else. Japan’s other attractions include its unique cultural traditions such as kabuki,” the ambassador says.
    “The people of Japan and Azerbaijan are alike in both friendliness and hospitality. My country is just about the size of Hokkaido. You can get around the whole country in a short amount of time, so please come visit it. I recommend trying dolma, which is mutton wrapped in grape leaves with yogurt dressing. The cheese and kebabs are also delicious, and each locality has its own unique pilaf.”
    Azerbaijan is a country rich in high grade petroleum and natural gas. “Because the petroleum is close to the surface, there are places where fires burn continuously. I think that’s probably why the fire-worshipping Zoroaster religion originated here, and it’s said that even the name of the country derives from fire. My country is at the crossroads of the East and the West. Boasting numerous historical buildings, part of the capital, Baku, has been designated a World Heritage site.
    “My country gained its independence in 1918 for two years, becoming the first democratic republic in the Islamic world. During that time, women were given the right to vote. Then, Azerbaijan became a part of the Soviet Union in 1920, and religion was prohibited. The majority of citizens are Muslim, but Azerbaijan is a secular country,” the ambassador states.
    “The people of Azerbaijan are very pro-Japanese,” says the ambassador. “During the Soviet Era, ISHIKAWA Takuboku’s haiku about the suffering caused by poverty were often read for propaganda purposes. This fostered pro-Japanese sentiment amongst the people. In today’s market economy, they admire Japan as a country that has achieved high economic growth, and Japanese-made cosmetics are a huge hit with women. Anime is popular among the youth,” says the ambassador.
    “Japanese martial arts are very popular. There are many people practicing judo and karate, and in the Beijing Olympics an Azerbaijani won a gold medal in judo. The Sumo Federation has a presence in Azerbaijan, with wrestlers competing in international sumo tournaments. Eventually there will be Azerbaijani sumo wrestlers in Japanese professional sumo. If that happens, I would love to give them their sumo names,” the Ambassador says expectantly.
    “Lastly, I’d like tell non-Japanese readers studying Japanese that you made the right decision. Japanese is a language worth learning,” says the ambassador. “Interacting with Japanese people is the best way to improve your Japanese. It’s difficult to learn the difference between ageru (give) and morau (receive/be given) from a textbook, but you can grasp it through actual conversation with Japanese people. Please do come to Japan and converse with Japanese people as much as you can,” says the ambassador.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年2月号掲載記事]






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  • Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

    [From February Issue 2015]

    This is the first malt whiskey distillery to be constructed in Japan. One of the whiskeys manufactured here is “Single Malt Whiskey Yamazaki” which has received awards at various alcoholic beverage competitions around the world. A guided tour (free of charge, reservations required) explains the whiskey making process and attracts many visitors. At the Whiskey Museum you can taste about 100 different brands of whiskeys, including rare unblended whiskeys and limited edition whiskeys, for a fee.
    Access: 10 minutes’ walk from Yamazaki Station of JR Kyoto Line or Oyamazaki Station of Hankyu Kyoto Line
    Yamazaki Whiskey Museum
    Opening hours: From 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (Last admission: 4:00 p.m.)
    Yamazaki Distillery Guided Tours
    begin every 60 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays.
    On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays they begin every 30 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
    An audio guide is available in English, Chinese and French.
    Admittance: Free of charge
    Closing days: Year-end and New Year holidays, factory holidays (and during temporary closures)
    Suntory Yamazaki Distillery[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • Hotto Motto

    [From February Issue 2015]

    “Hotto Motto” is a chain of 2,700 stores that sells take-out lunch boxes. The company has shops in Korea and China as well as in Japan. Many people choose to buy take-out here because of the reasonable prices and variety on offer. Since all the cooking is done in-store, customers can savour the delicious taste of a freshly-made lunch. Box lunches with smaller portions of rice are also on sale. Orders can be made in advance on the Internet. A delivery service is available.

    [No. 1] Seaweed Lunch Box 306 yen

    Layered on top of a bed of steaming rice is “okaka kombu” (finely chopped dried-bonito and kelp boiled in soy sauce and sugar) and dried seaweed produced in Japan. The dish is topped off with fried chikuwa (tubular rolls of boiled fish paste) and fried white fish meat.

    [No. 2] Fried Chicken Lunch Box 408 yen

    This crispy fried chicken and vegetable dish is seasoned with a special ginger, garlic and soy sauce dressing.

    [No. 3] Fried Pork and Vegetable Lunch Box 463 yen.

    Cabbages, carrots, onions, edamame (soy beans), bean sprouts and pork fried in a special sauce.
    Hotto Motto[2015年2月号掲載記事]


    【No.1】のり弁当 306円


    【No.2】から揚弁当 408円


    【No.3】肉野菜炒め弁当 463円



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  • Spreading the Word About the Delicious Taste of Craft Beer

    [From February Issue 2015]

    President of Minoh Brewery
    OSHITA Kaori
    Craft beer is attracting attention these days. The popular “Minoh Beer” was created in the pastoral city of Minoh, Osaka Prefecture. OSHITA Kaori is both company president and factory manager. “My mother and two younger sisters work with me. When I first helped out with the business, it felt like a part-time job as I was a student,” says Kaori. She was later drawn into the fun of beer making.
    Minoh Brewery has won many major awards in Japan. Since 2009, it’s won awards six years in a row at international beer competitions. The success of this family run craft beer has been much discussed. Its international reputation has made this beer popular nationwide. “I could never have predicted that our Minoh Beer Stout would be chosen in the UK, the land of stout. It was quite a surprise. I was glad our longtime fans were also delighted,” says Kaori.
    As the factory is small in size, it can only produce limited quantities, but great care is taken to brew the beer. Although beer production processes usually include filtration and heat treatment, Minoh Brewery does without them. “Bottling is done without filtering out the yeast. Freshness is the key, so we ship it cold and our customers also keep and sell it cold. Our beer is rich in vitamins and minerals, so it’s also beneficial for health and beauty,” says Kaori.
    Minoh Brewery was founded in 1996 by Kaori’s father, OSHITA Masaji. It’s been 18 years since the company was established, and its owners have been through the ups and downs of the craft beer boom even to the extent that they had considered shutting down the business. Prominent in Japan’s craft beer industry, he sadly passed away two years ago.
    Last year, a special beer to pay homage to Masaji’s memory was put on the market at the suggestion of a friend in the industry. This year, to mark the third anniversary of Masaji’s death, several companies produced beers bearing an image of him on them. Minoh Brewery itself released GOD FATHER3. “My father was a lively active man, everyone loved him. I’m glad he’s still remembered through beer.”
    On the first floor of the factory cum head offices, there’s a tasting bar that can be visited for a fee. Neighbors can casually pop in here while taking a walk. Sometimes foreign tourists who have heard about the reputation of Minoh Beer also pay a visit. “We’ve been running this place since the company was established, because we’d like people to drink the beer as soon as it’s been made. Apart from our fixed holidays, we are open every day and at times it’s packed out,” says Kaori.
    The company has been running a pub in Osaka City since 2004. “We aim to make Minho Beer something that can be easily enjoyed every day. It’s more fun if you think about which beer goes well with what kind of dishes,” says Kaori. “Real ale” matured in a barrel is served with a hand pump just like in a British pub.
    They develop new products once every two months. “We have a wide range of some 120 types of beer. Some taste better if they aren’t too cold. I was inspired by foreign beers that used orange peel for our beer containing yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit) from Minoh. I’d like to let more people know about the delicious taste of our different beers.” Kaori’s mission will continue into the future.
    Minoh Beer Co., Ltd.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年2月号掲載記事]

    箕面ビール 代表取締役
    昨年、同業者の発案で正司さんを追悼するビールが発売されました。今年も三回忌に合わせて、正司さんをイメージしたビールが各社でつくられました。箕面ビールもGOD FATHER3を販売しました。「元気で働き者だった父は、皆からとても愛されていました。今でもビールを通して思い出してもらえるのはうれしいですね」。

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  • Manufacturer of Japan’s First Dinner Set

    [From February Issue 2015]

    Noritake Co., Limited
    Noritake Co., Ltd. (Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of ceramic ware. Much of the tableware used in hotels and restaurants is manufactured by Noritake. The company is also known as a manufacturer of ornaments, such as vases, and dolls. The Noritake company name comes from the name of the place where the business was established.
    The founder MORIMURA Ichizaemon set up a trading company called Morimura-gumi (today’s Morimura Bros., Inc.) in Ginza, Tokyo and sent his younger brother, Toyo to New York to open a Morimura Brothers general store there. At first, they imported Japanese curios and various Japanese-style products, but they eventually switched to mainly dealing in ceramic ware. In order to manufacture ceramic ware to sell in the store, in 1904 Morimura established Nihon Touki Goumei, Ltd. – the predecessor of Noritake Company.
    Before that, Morimura visited the Paris Exposition of 1889 and, impressed by beautiful European porcelain, was determined to create his own. After returning to Japan, he and his business partner OKURA Magobe took up the challenge of developing European-style tableware out of local resources. After overcoming various difficulties, they managed to create Japan’s first dinner set in the company’s tenth year. The Noritake tableware they exported created a sensation. “Noritake China” became known throughout the world.
    Companies founded by Nihon Touki that have since become independent, include Oriental Pottery (today’s TOTO), NGK Insulators, Ltd., and NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd. Morimura entrusted the management of these companies to Okura’s son, Kazuchika. The four companies are all frontrunners in their respective fields in Japan.
    There are various stages involved in the production of ceramic ware, including blending raw materials, casting, printing, firing and finishing. Having developed the necessary technology to complete each of these stages, Noritake Company’s subsidiaries have capitalized on their knowhow. For example: pigment developed for applying colored patterns is employed on electronic material used in solar batteries; kilns are also used to make materials used in the production of lithium-ion batteries; and finishing technology helped develop a grindstone business.
    Noritake Company is thus not only known for being a world-class manufacturer of tableware, but is also involved in various other industries. Since tableware was no longer their core business, the company name was changed in 1981 from Nihon Touki to Noritake Co., Limited. In 2001, a project to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary led to the creation of the Noritake Garden on the grounds of the company’s head office.
    Open to the public, the Noritake Garden has become a place for city dwellers to relax in. Besides having over 6,000 trees, it also has a museum and art gallery. In addition it can be used as a temporary shelter in the event of a disaster. When he founded his first company, Morimura made a vow to “contribute to society through business.” It appears that his spirit lives on in the Noritake Garden.
    Noritake Co., Limited
    Text: ITO Koichi[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • In Japan it is Important to Read Between the Lines

    [From February Issue 2015]

    RIO Tina
    “When I wanted to learn a second foreign language, I decided to choose Japanese,” RIO Tina from China says. “Japan was one of the countries I found appealing. I found it interesting that Japan, while being a developed country, properly preserved its old traditions. In addition, Japanese and Chinese businesses are tightly bound together.”
    After graduating from Shanghai University, Rio came to Japan in March 2008 and studied Japanese at Aichi International Academy in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture for two years. “It was a very productive two years. Not only was I able to study Japanese, but I was very satisfied with the level of support I received in my everyday life, which made my stay in Japan very secure,” says Rio.
    By continuing to work a variety of part time jobs while going to school, Rio’s Japanese ability improved greatly. Wanting to further her Japanese studies, Rio enrolled in the junior year of Nanzan University Business Administration Department in 2010 and majored in management environment theory. “The joy of studying a language is that you can easily gauge how much you have advanced,” says Rio.
    “I was glad when I was able to give directions around town to a Japanese person. In addition, I became able to properly articulate my thoughts in a sentence. When my composition won Takushoku University’s International Collaboration and International Understanding Award, I was very happy,” says Rio. “I think katakana is very difficult. Even when the word derives from English, I had a hard time as the pronunciation can be completely different. In addition, many names for people and places are read differently, which was puzzling.”
    Rio says she loves everything about Japanese food. “I especially like white flesh fish, oyster, and sushi. I often go to the standing sushi restaurants. Also, I always admire Japan’s clean environment and the courtesy of its people.”
    Rio now does sales work for a specialist food wholesaler in Tokyo. She is in charge of alcoholic beverages and corresponds with the major Japanese supermarket buyers. She uses Japanese at work and also English when dealing with imports. She says it is pleasant to suggest a product or sales space, while taking buyers’ interests into account.
    “I don’t deal well with the crowds in Tokyo. Rush hour here reminds me of my hometown, Shanghai,” Rio says with a smile. To recharge her batteries after a stressful work week and to get away from the crowds, on her days off she drives to the beach or plays golf with friends and colleagues.
    “There are many differences between China and Japan. In China it’s important to assert yourself strongly; you’ll lose out if you do not state your intentions in front of others. In contrast, in Japan it’s normal to state your opinion after assessing the situation. As they say in Japan, I feel it’s important to ‘read between the lines.’ At times people can be excessively sensitive to the moods of others, but it’s also a virtue,” Rio says.
    Aichi International Academy[2015年2月号掲載記事]

    呂 天吟さん

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  • Sci-fi Work that Broadened the Scope of the Manga Medium

    [From February Issue 2015]

    OTOMO Katsuhiro’s masterpiece is regarded as a work that revolutionized the medium of manga in Japan. It introduced a variety of techniques: detailed and realistic depictions; and the effect of a spherical impact in the ground when supernatural powers are used. It was serialized in the weekly publication Young Magazine from 1982 through to 1990. The 1988 animated feature film was a big hit just like the manga. Currently, a live action film adaptation is in progress in Hollywood.
    In December, 1982, a new and unidentified type of bomb explodes in the Kanto area. Triggered by the collapse of Tokyo, World War III begins. Skipping forward 37 years to 2019, the new capital of “Neo Tokyo” stands in Tokyo Bay. While it appears to have regained its prosperity, an unstable situation continues with anti-government guerrillas opposing the police and the military.
    With the Tokyo Olympics to be held the following year, redevelopment of the neglected old city is due to begin. While KANEDA Shotaro is driving down the highway towards the old city with his motorcycle gang, a strange boy with white hair and a wrinkled face suddenly appears on the road before him. SHIMA Tetsuo, who is a member of the gang, is severely injured when he swerves out of the way.
    The boy disappears into thin air right in front of Kaneda. Tetsuo is not hospitalized, but is admitted to a military facility where a series of tests proves that he has dormant supernatural powers. Kaneda meets the boy again by chance and witnesses his mysterious powers. The guerrilla army is investigating supernatural research and abducts the boy from the military facility. Soon Kaneda and Tetsuo come close to discovering the secret behind the government’s supernatural power development project.
    Before the breakout of World War III, a project to develop supernatural powers in humans got underway. Children with artificially developed abilities were called Numbers. However, the abilities of Akira – one of these Numbers – accidentally destroyed Tokyo. The real identity of the new kind of bomb was Akira. After this, the military continued to suppress Akira.
    Desiring this incredible power, Tetsuo forcibly wakes Akira. The government and the military are at odds over the issue of Akira. Guerilla forces and new cults also get involved and a struggle ensues. In the midst of this chaos, Akira again unleashes his powers and Neo Tokyo is demolished. Tetsuo absorbs Akira’s powers and builds his Great Empire of Tokyo on the ruins of Neo Tokyo.
    With Akira by his side, Tetsuo’s powers rapidly develop. To compensate, his body undergoes a strange mutation. Kaneda stands in the way of the suffering Tetsuo. Should Tetsuo – who has started to become a monster with his powers going out of control – be destroyed or saved? Does Akira, who sympathizes with Tetsuo, finally end up destroying the Earth? The curtain rises on the final battle. This work continues to exert an influence in all kinds of media.
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • A Shared Passion for Baseball

    [From January Issue 2015]

    Hector DOMINGUEZ
    Ambassador for the Dominican Republic
    When I was in the Dominican Republic, I had the impression that Japan was a great country with both political and economic power. In 2013, I’d received an offer from our President to be posted as ambassador to a different country, but I personally told him I wanted to go to Japan. If I had gone to a country in South America, my connections and language skills would have made things easier, but sensing that there was a potential for trade with Japan to grow, I took up the challenge.
    Since I arrived, my impression of Japan has improved even more. The buildings and railways are good, but above all else, I thought that the people were wonderful; everyone is modest and very polite. I highly value that.
    I like all Japanese food. It’s healthy. I would probably be slimmer if I only ate Japanese cuisine. My wife and I often go out to Japanese restaurants and whenever we have guests from our country, we take them to eat out. They all appreciate the variety and delicious taste of Japanese cuisine.
    I’ve visited many parts of Japan in my first year here. I liked them all. I discovered two positive aspects of Japan while traveling to those places. Firstly, marvelous historical landmarks, such as castles and old houses, have been preserved. Secondly, wherever you go in the country, there’s always a modern infrastructure.
    The place I’m now interested in visiting is Hokkaido. I want to go and see the snow, which we don’t have in our country. I also want to see more of Tokyo. I want to go to places like Asakusa, to get in touch with its artistic and cultural side.
    I think Japanese people are passionate about maintaining the cleanliness of their cities. That’s great. Nothing is particularly problematic for me in Japan. The lifestyle is very convenient. My only regret is I came here with my wife. Joking aside, I think Japanese women are graceful and very attractive.
    I believe that Japan and the Dominican Republic have two things in common. The first thing is the people. The people of both countries do their best each day to fulfill their ambitions. The second thing is baseball. Japan and the Dominican Republic are the only countries that have been world champions in the World Baseball Classic tournament. The Dominican Republic is the current champion.
    I believe our two countries will in the future become closer, not only through trade, but also through scientific, cultural, and political exchanges. Prime Minister ABE has made statements to the effect that he is paying particular attention to Latin America. We’re hoping to strengthen ties with Japan. There are many Dominican companies that want to do business with Japan.
    The year 2014 is the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Dominican Republic. To commemorate this we have organized all kinds of events. The year 2015 will mark the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and the five countries of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica). We Dominicans intend to play our part as a member of the Central American Integration System.
    The most attractive feature of the Dominican Republic is its people. We are all open-minded and hospitable to foreigners. Our country receives the greatest number of tourists in the Central American and Caribbean area. Our population is about ten million and we receive about five million tourists a year. So that we’ll have more tourists from Japan, I’m working hard to develop ties with companies in Japan’s tourism industry.
    The Dominican Republic occupies the largest portion of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The climate is pleasant all year round. Superb beaches and beach resorts are dotted along the whole coastline. It’s so beautiful that it’s been likened to “a piece of blue sky.” Legend has it that when he arrived in Hispaniola in 1492, COLUMBUS remarked, “I bet no one has ever seen such natural beauty.”
    Our country is rich in natural resources such as nickel and bauxite. Our GDP comes from tourism, agriculture and mining, and 4% of this is invested in education. Education is the key to a country’s development. We learned that from Japan.
    I once appeared in a TV commercial that was shown in Daiei – a Japanese supermarket. It was advertising mangos from the Dominican Republic. On the subject of food, I should say that our tropical fruits – mango and bananas and so forth – are very delicious and so are our avocados, honey and casabe crackers.
    Please everyone go and visit the Dominican Republic, the most beautiful country in the world. Once you go there, you’ll certainly be captivated. We’ll be waiting for you.

    Interview: KONO Yu[2015年1月号掲載記事]






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  • Establishments that Aim to Attract Female Customers

    [From January Issue 2015]

    Horse race tracks, pachinko parlors, motorboat race tracks… all of these are places where the majority of visitors are male. Recently, these kinds of facilities are devising various schemes to increase female custom. For example, Boat Race Edogawa holds art tours to show off the facility’s art collection.
    During the tour, a guide accompanies customers around the Art Museum located in the facility. The combination of a motorboat race venue and art is surprising and SUZUKI Kenji, who is in charge of this Art Museum, talks about how the art collection increased: “About seven or eight years ago, we began decorating the dreary reserved seating area with object d’art.”
    The tour of the works scattered around the hall began in 2010. In 2012, when the collection increased and it became difficult to travel round the hall on foot, an Art Museum was established to bring the artworks together in one place. Currently, the museum houses many works, including pieces by Muttoni – known for his mechanical dolls – and FUKAHORI Riusuke – who creates three-dimensional goldfish with acrylic resin. The museum is highly regarded for its large collection of valuable modern art.
    The tour costs 1,500 yen including lunch. It’s also possible to watch races from reserved seats, which usually cost 2,000 yen. The tour does not make a profit, but Suzuki says, “A boat racetrack is a difficult place for a casual visitor to drop in on. We hope that this tour will provide a different way in for those visiting our boat racetrack.”
    The impression that this is a male dominated place with a rough atmosphere has been successfully changed, with some tour participants remarking, “Is this really a boat race track?” The art tour only takes place on boat race days and is by reservation only. Numbers are limited to ten people per day. Since the artwork can only be seen by participating in the tour, bookings are always made on holidays.
    Considered to be mostly full of male customers, pachinko parlors also hope to attract more female visitors, particularly housewives. This is because the regular pachinko crowd is on the decline. Eyecandy Co., Ltd. specializes in designing pachinko parlor restrooms and gift exchange counters for women. All the employees are women, which is unusual in the male dominated pachinko industry.
    Originally the company created pachinko hall advertisements, but came to deal in interior decor at the request of the parlors. The parlors particularly want housewives in their 50’s and 60’s to visit. However, the interior decoration, being rather gaudy, does not create a tranquil atmosphere. “Because we want to create a space for women to shine, we intentionally avoided age-appropriate designs,” says the CEO, FUKUMORI Kanae.
    Devices that appeal to the customers’ inner girl have been installed; for instance “actress mirrors” in the powder room create a flattering reflection. The designs suggested by Eyecandy Co., Ltd. were sometimes ridiculed by other competitors when the company was bidding for an interior design contract. However, its bid was successful and after the refit was complete, it was popular with female customers. Other halls have altered their interior decor to be more appealing to women after seeing this response.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2015年1月号掲載記事]




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