• 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

    How To Purchase Magazines

    Get your copy today and embrace the colorful world of Hirohito Honda’s creations.
    Get your copy of the magazine now, available on Amazon, major bookstores, or through this link. Let the journey begin!Click here to get your copy




    Read More
  • A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica

    A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica



    In our April 2022 issue, we featured H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS, the Jamaican Ambassador, and received an overwhelming response from readers expressing their interest in Jamaica. This time, we will introduce Jamaica, including its relationship with Japan. 

    2022年4月号でジャマイカ大使、ショーナ・ケイ・M・リチャーズ(H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS)さんをご紹介し、ジャマイカに興味がわきましたという声が読者からたくさん寄せられました。今回は日本との関係を含めてジャマイカをご紹介します。

    Jamaica is often associated with the “fastest man in the world,” former sprinter Usain Bolt, who has become a legend in the world of athletics. His remarkable speed has etched the image of Jamaica as a “track and field powerhouse” in the global consciousness. Japanese spectators were in awe of the speed of Jamaican athletes during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, particularly in the 400-meter relay final.



    The Jamaican team, including Bolt, won the gold medal by a wide margin over second place. The Japanese team came in second at that time. None of the four Japanese team members could run the 100-meter dash in under 9 seconds. Nonetheless, they showcased their exceptional baton passing skills, setting an Asian record and winning Japan’s first silver medal in a track event. It’s intriguing to note that the leadoff runner for the Japanese team was Asuka Cambridge, who has a Jamaican father and a Japanese mother, creating a fascinating connection between the two nations.



    Another significant aspect associated with Jamaica is the emergence of reggae, which originated in the late 1960s. Reggae is a popular music genre that incorporates elements of traditional Jamaican instruments with the guitar as its base. Bob Marley’s “One Love” became a global hit, contributing to the worldwide recognition of reggae. Reggae entered Japan in the late 1970s, underwent Japanese-style arrangements, and gained widespread acceptance, evolving into “Japanese reggae” or “JapaRege,” “J-reggae.”

    もう一つ、ジャマイカで思い浮かぶものと言えば、1960年代後半にジャマイカで生まれたレゲエでしょう。ギターをベースに民族楽器が加わるポピュラー音楽です。ボブ・マーリーの「One Love」は世界的に大ヒットしました。レゲエが日本に入ってきたのは1970年代後半です。日本風にアレンジされて広く受け入れられ、「ジャパニーズレゲエ(ジャパレゲ、J-レゲエ)」として発展しました。

    The roots of reggae are said to be a fusion of African-American music from the southern United States and traditional Jamaican folk dances. This can be attributed to the fact that the majority of Jamaicans today are descendants of people who were brought as slaves from Africa. Reggae and hip-hop became a means of addressing social and political issues such as racial discrimination. The history of reggae intertwines with the history of Jamaica’s independence.


    The history of Jamaica, an island nation in the Caribbean, was significantly influenced by its “discovery” in the late 15th century during Christopher Columbus’s explorations in the Caribbean Sea. The first invaders of Jamaica were the Spanish, who enslaved the indigenous population (the Tainos) – subjecting them to harsh treatment and exposing them to novel diseases that claimed the lives of many. With the significant decline in the indigenous population, the British, who later colonized Jamaica brought enslaved Africans to work on sugarcane plantations established across the island.



    During this time, Spain realized that there were no expected mineral resources such as gold, leading to a decline in its colonial ambitions. On the other hand, Britain, aiming to expand its own interests, occupied Jamaica and eventually drove out the Spanish after a conflict. In laying claim to the land, the British cited the liberation of the indigenous peoples and the spread of Christianity as their main reasons for doing so. From this time onwards, rebellions by escaped black slaves (called Maroons) started to occur in various regions, but they were suppressed by British forces. Jamaica became a British colony. Drawn by the promise of riches, many privateers began to appear in Jamaica, and the city of Port Royal also became a base for pirates seeking bounty.



    British colonial rule lasted for about 300 years, but from the mid-18th century, slave uprisings began to occur frequently. The movement against slavery also gained momentum within Britain, and in the early 19th century, Britain prohibited the slave trade. Subsequently, prompted by major slave uprisings, slavery was finally abolished in 1833.



    However, even after being freed from slavery, black people remained impoverished. With the influx of cheaper labor through immigration (Indians and Chinese), society continued to be dominated by white figures such as plantation owners. An incident sparked riots led by black people. The riots were suppressed by Britain, and the system of colonial governance for people of color was subsequently abolished.



    In the 1930s, the Great Depression led to an increase in labor movements in many countries, including Jamaica, where there were numerous worker strikes and riots. Subsequently, political parties were formed by leaders who led these movements. In 1944, a parliament was established in Jamaica. Through elections, a two-party system was established. After 150 years of Spanish rule and 300 years of British colonialism, Jamaica finally began its path to self-governance. In 1957, it gained autonomy from Britain, and in 1962, Jamaica became the first independent nation among the Caribbean colonies.


    In 2012, during the 50th anniversary of independence, various events were held in Japan. During this time, an album titled “Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music,” which can be considered a history textbook of reggae, was released. The title “Out of Many” embodies the idea of Jamaica as a multi-ethnic nation, symbolizing the sentiment of “Out Of Many, One People” –  Jamaica’s national motto –  to become one nation beyond race. It also signifies that reggae music has developed by drawing strength from various races, including the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the West.

    独立50周年の2012年には、日本でもさまざまなイベントが行われました。このとき、レゲエの歴史教科書とも言えるアルバム「Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music」が発売されました。題名の「Out of Many」には、多民族国家であるジャマイカを体現するもので、ジャマイカの国是である「Out Of Many, One People」(人種を越えてひとつの国家になろう)という想いが込められています。また、「レゲエ」がカリブ海地域をはじめアフリカ、アジア、欧米などのさまざまな人種の力を借りて発展してきた音楽だということも意味しています。


    Reggae, which has developed alongside Jamaica’s history, can be seen as the core of Jamaican culture. Art, crafts, dance, theater, cuisine — all of Jamaica’s culture has blossomed largely due to the influence of reggae. Reggae is the backbone of the Jamaican people.


    Jamaica Pavilion / ジャマイカパビリオン

    ジャマイカ大使 × 画

    Jamaica – a Country Full of Energy and Hope



    The Jamaican flag is composed of black, gold, and green. The black represents the strength and creativity of the people, who have overcome difficulties, the gold for the wealth of the country and the golden sun, and the green for the lush vegetation and hope of the island.




    In this work, Blue mahoe, a national tree with flowers similar to hibiscus, and the national fruit, Achy, are growing lively, the national bird, Doctor Bird, is dancing, and the national flower, Lignum vitae, is blooming prettily amidst the energy of these three colors.



    The national emblem reads, “OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE.” Today’s Jamaicans are carrying on the strong will of their predecessors, such as Granny Nanny, who once led maroons (fugitive slaves) to win freedom and peace for Jamaicans.

    国章には 「OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE 」と記されています。現在のジャマイカの人たちは、かつて、マルーン(逃亡奴隷)を率いてジャマイカ人の自由と平和を勝ち取ったグラニー・ナニーら先人の強い意志を引き継いでいるのです。


    This year’s work is an anthem to the unwavering hope for the future, encompassing all the souls of Jamaica’s present, past, and future. BUNTA iNOUE painted this work with the heart of “One Love, One Heart,” thinking of all that live on earth.

    今回の作品は、ジャマイカの現在・過去・未来すべての魂を包み込み、未来に向けての揺るぎない希望への賛歌です。井上文太氏が地球に生きる全てを想い、「One Love, One Heart」の心で描きました。

    (C) Buta Inoue

    How to purchase magazines

    Unlock the captivating allure of Jamaica’s rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, and fascinating history.
    And immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Bunta Inoue’s dynamic paintings of Jamaica.
    Get your copy of the magazine now, available on Amazon, major bookstores, or through this link. Let the journey begin!Click here to get your copy

    是非、誌面でジャマイカの歴史と自然、そして画狂人 井上文太氏の絵画のエネルギー溢れる浮世絵のエネルギーに触れていただきたいです。本誌のお求めは、Amazon、大手書店もしくは、こちらのリンクからどうぞ。

    Read More
  • 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

    How To Purchase Magazines

    Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of ISHIKAWA Masumi’s Ukiyo-e as you turn the pages of our magazine.
    Purchase your copy now and experience the captivating power of these artworks firsthand.
    Click here to get your copy


    Read More
  • Music is the Bridge Between Latvia and Japan

    [From August Issue 2015]

    Dace PENKE
    Wife of the Ambassador of the Republic of Latvia
    Located in Northern Europe, the Baltic state of Latvia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Mrs. Dace PENKE has been living in Tokyo since her husband, Mr. Normans PENKE, was stationed in Japan on September 2013 as the Ambassador of Latvia. She studied architecture at university and finds Tokyo’s combination of traditional and modern very interesting.
    When she has time, she goes to exhibitions at galleries and attends craft classes and workshops. She is particularly impressed with the transportation system in Tokyo. “I can go anywhere by train, subway, and bus. It is amazing! However, the only challenge for me is the language barrier, as I’ve found that not so many Japanese speak English. Learning Japanese is not an easy task, but I try to do my best,” she says.
    So many things have impressed her in Japan. For example, fresh and delicious Japanese food, sushi, and sashimi are her favorite dishes. She talked about a special experience at a traditional Japanese restaurant in Kagurazaka where she ate Japanese kaiseki.
    “The attention to detail, the presentation of the food, the seasonal and local food, the food textures, the service, and so on, is amazing. I saw a geisha performance for the first time, and I really felt the hospitality of the Japanese in this traditional setting. Japanese hospitality is something we want to introduce in my country. Japan’s old traditions, like wearing kimono, tea ceremonies, traditional crafts, and its many religious ceremonies, are still alive. I hope that these traditions will be practiced for many years to come. One of the strengths of the Japanese people is the way they keep traditions alive,” she says.

    Speaking of Latvia, the four cornerstones of the Latvian economy are agriculture, chemical industries, logistics, and woodworking. Other prominent sectors include textiles, food processing, machine production, and green technologies. Innovations made in Latvia are highly appreciated by world markets. Recently Latvia has been focusing on design.
    “The Latvian Embassy in Japan just organized the Latvian Design and art week in Minami Aoyama at the gallery Athalie, and it was very successful. Art and design traditions are very strong in Latvia; rooted in traditional craftsmanship, they also draw on contemporary global trends. Many young Latvian designers that have been studying abroad are now coming back to Latvia and expressing their creativity in amazing ways. I really want to promote such things to Japan,” says Mrs. Penke.
    “The most important national festival of the year is Jani (Summer Solstice Festival). On this day, the cities empty, and every civil servant and bank clerk shows their pagan side. It started out as an ancient fertility festival celebrated after sowing the crops and before gathering the harvest. Families get together in their countryside homes. They make bouquets and wreaths out of herbs, flowers, and leaves. Women traditionally wear flower wreaths, while men have theirs made of oak leaves or twigs.”
    “The livestock and fences are adorned with wreaths. Gates and rooms are decorated with birch, oak, and rowan branches. Latvians sing, dance, eat, and are merry during Jani. Cheese with caraway seeds, meat patties, and beer is a must for every table. People light bonfires and celebrate until sunrise. Romantic couples leave the crowds to look for the ‘flower of the fern,’ which is alleged to bloom only on the night of Jani,” says Mrs. Penke.

    “The Latvian folk singing tradition is more than a thousand years old, and those folk songs are deeply connected with our spirit. For Latvian people singing and music is not just a form of entertainment but the core of our identity and one of the most important reasons why Latvia, a small nation, was able to preserve its language and culture for many centuries. These factors also played a major role when Latvia first gained independence in 1918 and re-gained it after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.”
    “These folk song texts are called dines and come in a format of four short lines. Dainas can be sung as songs or recited as short poems. About 1.2 million dines with 300,000 different melodies have been identified. Our drains have been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World list. Being brief forms of expression, dines and haiku have something in common,” she says.
    “The musical relationship between Japan and Latvia is very active. “More than ten years ago, the Latvia Japan Music Association was established by Japanese people who had visited Latvia and been impressed by Latvia and its music. One of the most interesting things is that there is a choir called Gaisma (Light), where Japanese men and women from the association sing Latvian songs in the Latvian language.”
    “Ms. KATO Tokiko’s song ‘A Million Roses’ became a big hit. This song was composed by the Latvian composer Mr. Raimonds PAULS. Culture is the bridge between nations that reflect that we all share the same core human values. At a basic level, we are all the same, with the same aspirations for peace, freedom, and happiness,” says Mrs. Penke.


    The people in Latvia appreciate nature. “I recommend that the Japanese visit my beautiful country. A must-see is the capital city of Riga which has more than 400 Art Nouveau buildings. It has been named one of the most attractive tourism destinations in the world by leading newspapers. The wonderful old town – old Riga – is 800 years old and is on the UNESCO heritage list.”
    “The seaside town, Jurmala, with more than 500 kilometers of pristine white sand beach, is beautiful. If you want to see an old castle, Sigulda has great views of a river and valley. I also recommend Cesis, an 800-year-old castle town.”
    “It takes about 14 hours from Tokyo to Riga via Helsinki. In Latvia a lot of information is available online and printed material is available for tourists. Every city has a tourist information bureau with maps and clear explanations, mostly in English. There are several companies specializing in attracting tourists to Latvia from Japan. So please come to Latvia,” she says.
    Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in Japan[2015年8月号掲載記事]

    時間があるときにはギャラリーへ行ったり、工芸教室やワークショップに参加したりします。東京の交通システムには特に感銘を受けています。「電車、地下鉄、バスでどこへでも行くことができるのは驚きです! でも、英語を話せる日本人はそう多くないので、言葉の壁を乗り越えるのが大変です。日本語を学ぶのは容易ではありませんが、ベストをつくしています」と夫人は言います。




    Read More
  • Grandma’s Recipes Bring Joy to Many

    [From August Issue 2015]

    YOKOYAMA Adina
    Last summer Romanian-born YOKOYAMA Adina changed her job description from “Eastern European Cuisine researcher” to “Genuine Cuisine Researcher.” This was because she had broadened her role from teaching Eastern European cuisine to introducing people to all kinds of recipes that use no additives or refined ingredients.
    Adina got married in 2005 after coming to Japan to work as a model in 1994. Together with her husband Daiki, she ran an importing business based in Chiba City. Being very busy with work, Adina struggled with constant skin problems. In addition, Daiki suffered from eczema and their oldest son struggled with childhood obesity and eczema.
    In search of a simpler lifestyle, Adina and Daiki decided to move to Higashikawa Town in Hokkaido in 2006. Up until then the whole family had mostly eaten food at restaurants or meals bought at convenience stores, but their options were limited in Higashikawa Town. Adina, who had not so much as picked up a kitchen knife before, had no choice but to begin cooking for the family. It was then that memories of her beloved grandmother Anna’s cooking came back to her.
    As Romania was part of the Soviet bloc until 1989, the country had not been much influenced by Western culture. Without using any artificial flavorings, her grandmother Anna, like many others, prepared simple home-cooked meals using only natural ingredients that had been around since ancient times. By cooking these family recipes, Adina realized that the health of her family was improving. Going without makeup, Adina also saw an improvement in her skin.
    Adina, who learned the importance of food through personal experience, began to teach herself about nutrition and how to prepare dishes from other countries. Eventually, while teaching Romanian cuisine to others, she began to introduce recipes that didn’t include additives or refined ingredients. Her students were mostly veteran homemakers with advanced cooking skills, who showed interest in the idea of cooking meals only with natural ingredients. In 2013 she published a recipe book.
    A decision was made to refer to natural ingredients and unprocessed food as “genuine,” and Adina changed her title accordingly. Last year Adina and her husband began sponsoring an event called “Genuine Hokkaido Village” that promoted the merits of a simple lifestyle. The event attracted 14 like-minded organizations, including a group of high school students, and by focusing on the benefits of food covered a wide range of themes including health, the environment, and even beauty.
    Adina’s homemade pastries are available by mail order. The name of her mail order store is MamaMare, which means “Grandma” in Romanian. The goal is to make healthy food using simple ingredients that would’ve been found in Grandma Anna’s kitchen. She hopes that people will consider making their diet healthier, even if it’s only a little.
    Home Made Mail Order Cafe MamaMare
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2015年8月号掲載記事]

    ホームメイド通販カフェ MamaMare

    Read More
  • Japan Has “Bushido,” While Albania Has “Besa”




    ジロカストラアルバニアの観光ポリシーは、アルバニア流のおもてなしです。毎年5千人の日本人観光客が来ますが、アルバニアと日本の旅行会社との協力でこれからはもっと増えていくでしょう。日本人はビサなしで入国できます。バルカン半島観光のピーク時には「Balkan Schengen」が適用されます。この協定によって日本からだけでなく世界のどの国の観光客も国内を自由に移動できます。

    文:片野順子[:en][From July Issue 2015]

    Wife of Albanian Ambassador to Japan
    Reko DIDA
    This is the fifth year I’ve been residing in Japan. I have experience living in Japan as I’ve just stated, that is why I do not have any particular difficulties living in Japan. I am enjoying every single aspect of Japan: everyday life, culture, food, transportation, even the language, and my work here in Japan. I think that all foreigners have initial difficulties when they come to Japan because of the cultural differences; participation in cultural events is the best approach for speeding up understanding and for getting used to these differences.
    Japan is a country of advanced technology and of tradition. Besides tradition, cleanliness and tidiness are noticeable in every aspect of everyday life. I was also impressed by the elegance and style of kimono and traditional Japanese food. The same thing can also be seen in buildings, as Japan is one of the seismic hotspots of the world: Japanese people have learned to defy nature itself with their wonderful skyscrapers.
    When I came to Japan it was the season for the Tanabata and Bon Odori festivals. These events immediately attracted me and I decided to find out more about Japanese heritage and did that through learning the Japanese language.
    And through those events like “Mikoshi Matsuri,” “Nebuta Matsuri” in Aomori, or ”Kitsune no Yomeiri” in Kyoto, one learns a lot about the vitality and sense of community in Japanese society, as well as about Japanese perceptions of history and about the traditions of ancient Japan. I still have an affinity for the “shinto” feeling that came over me when I participated at the Kitsune no Yomeiri.
    The worst experience I had here was on March 11, 2011, when the great earthquake happened in Eastern Japan. We are a small embassy and community here, but we felt we needed to stay to support our friends in Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) and wherever else this natural disaster affected people. Therefore, I decided to publish my work. This was the first Japanese-Albanian dictionary, which took me ten years to make and was made available at the start of 2012.

    At the Nebuta FestivalWhen I first came to Japan I used to live in Sendai; one of the first things that impressed me about Japan was the kindness and hospitality of the Japanese people. As I started to adapt to Japanese life, I was able to notice more about the wonders of Japan. And I realized that it was all due to the hard work and dedication the Japanese people put into their homeland.The things that I would like my country to adopt is the diligence and punctuality that Japanese people display in their work.
    One of the charms of Albania is its unspoiled nature. Seventy percent of the land is mountainous. Albania has a variety of natural landscapes such as the coast alongside the Adriatic and Ionian seas, beautiful Alps located in northern Albania, rich forests, natural rivers and fields.
    I would like to recommend three of Albania’s best sightseeing spots. These are cities registered by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. We have the cities of Gjirokastra – also known as “the city of stone” – and Berat, which is known as the “city of a thousand windows.” These cities are still inhabited. The third one is the ruins of Butrinti. Butrinti was an ancient city that prospered in the Roman era.
    As for food, I would like to mention the grilled fish with salt and lemon sauce that is served in our coastal areas and the fried lamb of our inland areas. All the food is served with Albanian olives, olive oil, and white cheese. For those that like strong drink, Albania has its own traditional beverage called “raki” which is made from grapes.

    GjirokastraOur policy is to facilitate tourism through Albanian hospitality. We have about 5,000 Japanese tourists per year, a number that is likely to increase because of the successful cooperation between Albanian and Japanese tour operators. Japanese tourists can enter Albania without a visa. During the peak season in the Balkan Peninsula, the “Balkan Schengen” applies; this facilitates the free movement of tourists not only from Japan, but also from other part of the world.
    Diplomatic relations between Albania and Japan date back to before the First World War. Albania declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire and Japan acknowledged its independence in 1922. Unfortunately the relationship was not developed further. Relations were restarted in 1987 and developed further when Albania became a democratic country and solidified its relationship with the opening of the Albanian Embassy in Japan in November 2005. Today Albania and Japan have intensive bilateral relations, through technical cooperation with the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), by supporting each other in international organizations.
    I see a lot of parallels between Albania and Japan. For example, we share the same geographical latitude, and the climate here for me is the same as home. In terms of character, Albanians have the institution of “besa” (keeping a promise) and Japanese have the institution of “bushido” (a code of honor developed by samurai).
    Of course we are different as well. We generally use bread instead of rice in our daily lives. We eat raw fish carpaccio style (sliced with lemon, salt and olive oil), which is different from “sushi and sashimi.” When we nod our heads it means the opposite to what it does in Japan, so many times people mistake a yes for a no.

    Ionian SeaI like spending my free time photographing aspects of everyday life in Japan. That is why I always keep a camera with me so I can photograph every interesting moment that I come across every day. More than anything I like visiting Mount Fuji and taking pictures of each side of it. I also like exploring Tokyo by bicycle.
    One of Japan’s greatest treasures is its people, it is they who build and maintain the culture of their country. I think that it is important to take care of your own people as they are the ones who bring prosperity to your land. This is something that not only Japanese people should do, but also people in the rest of the world.
    Embassy of the Republic of Albania in Japan
    Text: KATANO Junko[:]

    Read More
  • Japan – an Inspirational Nation













    [:en][From July Issue 2015]

    Manga Artist
    “Japan is an inspirational country for manga artists,” says Swedish-born Asa EKSTROM. Asa depicts her experience of living in Japan in four panel comic strips she posts on her blog. The blog became so popular that these short comic strips were compiled into a book. There is even a sequel in the works.
    Asa became a fan of Japanese anime at the age of 13 after watching the anime series “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” at home in Sweden. “I was fascinated by these brave female heroines fighting battles. And I liked the fact that the emotional growth of the main characters adds depth to the story,” she says. She then got her hands on the French version of “The Roses of Versailles” and read it with the help of a dictionary.
    Asa made up her mind to become a manga artist and began studying. In 2007 she came to Japan for a nine month stay. “I went to a Japanese language school, but still wasn’t able to converse in Japanese. Thinking I had to speak perfectly, I tended to remain silent, which wasn’t good,” she says, with a bitter smile.
    She made her debut as a cartoon artist in Sweden with the story manga “Sayonara, September.” She also worked as an illustrator drawing illustrations for fabrics used in Ikea products. She would always yearn, however, to live in Japan again and on March 10, 2011, she returned.
    The next day, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. “The Swedish media reported that the nuclear accident would be the end of Japan. But a Japanese friend translated reports in a Japanese newspaper for me, which stated that it wasn’t that serious.” I didn’t know which information was correct. It was very unsettling, so I briefly returned to Sweden.”
    Asa returned in October that year and has been living in Japan ever since. “I want to live in Japan permanently, if possible. That’s as long as I can get hold of a visa. But I don’t want to talk about visas because it’s very difficult to get one as a manga artist,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. When she stayed in Japan for the second time, she lived in a shared house with others and attended a vocational school specializing in graphic design. She even donned a formal suit to experience the Japanese recruitment process.
    Now she can communicate in Japanese. “Since I started posting my manga on my blog, I’ve been reading the comments left behind by readers and memorizing new vocabulary. In formal situations, I just attach “desu” to the end of a sentence,” she laughs.
    “I like drawing four panel manga about my everyday life here in Japan, because as a foreigner, it’s a subject that’s close to me. I also want to do more manga with an extended storyline,” she says. “I look forward to meeting my fans at book signings,” she smiles.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[:]

    Read More
  • Japanese Songs Ending with Vowel Sounds Are Beautiful

    [From June Issue 2015]

    Nahid NIKZAD
    Singer, Presenter and Translator
    “An Islamic Revolution occurred in my native country in 1979. Although traditional songs kept being broadcast, songs sung by female solo singers, and American songs – that had been popular until then – were prohibited. However, since I loved singing, I kept singing in the house,” says Nahid NIKZAD from Iran, laughing. Nahid is a singer who sings at international events, in Iranian restaurants, and in Persian (Persia is the former name of Iran) carpet shops in Japan. She also reads Iranian poems aloud in the Persian language and in Japanese at live music clubs, and gives lectures about Iranian music at universities.
    Nahid was born in a small town on the coast of the Caspian Sea. She studied botany at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. During her time at university, she went to a language school to learn English. After graduation, she heard about a farm that was doing a project with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and was looking to hire an English-speaker. She applied and was hired. “English helped me more than botany,” she says, laughing.
    After that, through personal connections she made during her time with JICA, she worked for Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). “I became fond of sincere Japanese people, who kept their promises and were punctual,” she says. And so, she married a Japanese man she’d met at work and moved to Japan. “Because I thought I would live here for a long time and raise my children here, I enrolled at a Japanese language school and studied the language eight hours a day,” she says.
    One year later, her Japanese was almost perfect. Four years later, she passed Level One (Now N1) of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. Wanting to continue working after getting married, she looked for a job and was hired as a presenter for the Persian Section of NHK World Radio Japan.
    “I experienced difficulties because of cultural differences,” says Nahid. “My husband prioritized work over home and said he could not decline invitations to drinking parties with his colleagues. If that was the case, it was puzzling that he could turn down dinner with his own family. Another strange thing was that Japanese do not directly decline invitations. I was shocked to be turned down without being directly told why,” she says.
    Nahid tried to understand Japanese culture, because she thought that any country that had developed to such a level, must have its good points. Nevertheless, she felt isolated. “The approach to childcare seemed strange to me, but was not strange to friends that were also mothers. When I asked my husband, he agreed with these mothers. Being isolated, I grew lonely, and began to shout at my children more frequently.”
    Nahid felt that she had to change and decided to study singing, an activity she loved. “At first, it was difficult, because I had never sung to musical accompaniment,” she says, smiling wryly. After a while, she was invited to sing Persian folk music at international exchange events and to perform live; this led to more singing work.
    Recently, she often sings Japanese songs, too. “Japanese sentences often end with a vowel, so the note sung can be lengthened to sound very pretty. I love the melodies of children’s songs, too. In the future I would like to introduce Iranian poems translated into Japanese and would like to sing Japanese children’s songs translated into Persian. ”
    Persian Music Seda Facebook[2015年6月号掲載記事]

    Persian Music Seda フェイスブック

    Read More
  • Georgians Can Compete With Japanese Standards of Hospitality


    文:砂崎良[:en][From May Issue 2015]

    “The first European sumo wrestler to be promoted to the juuryou (junior grade) division was Georgian. Today we have two successful Georgian sumo wrestlers and we have won gold medals in Olympic judo,” says Dr. Levan TSINTSADZE, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Japan. He laughs when he explains that wrestling is a traditional sport in Georgia and that Georgians are strong by nature.
    The Ambassador first came to Japan in 1994 as a scientist, and conducted research into plasma physics at the Universities of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Tsukuba, and also at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. After he returned to Georgia, he went to Japan again in December, 2013, this time as an ambassador. “I’ve spent so much time in Japan, so it’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to do something for the country. Both Japan and Georgia are such wonderful countries that I’m glad I can work to strengthen our relationship.”
    His first impression of Japan was that it was a clean and well-organized country. “Japanese people attach importance to duty and obligation. You find self-organized people in any country of course, but I think the number of Japanese with those values is very high. I’d like to see more people like that in Georgia,” he says.
    He quickly got used to life in Japan. “Naturally, any European will have some difficulties in Japan if it’s their first time; just like when Japanese go abroad. I haven’t had any difficulties that I couldn’t overcome,” says the Ambassador. “In the beginning I had a startling impression of the TV programs. I found them a bit strange.”

    “My spare time is devoted as much as possible to my son. We take walks in parks, we also used to ride bicycles together,” says the Ambassador. “Other than that, my pastime is reading. I read literary works from different countries in the original language if I can, or in translation if I can’t. I’ve read Japanese literature, too. I enjoyed it and it helped my understanding of Japan’s culture and history.”
    Georgia is on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and is about a fifth of the size of Japan. With the discovery of 1.8 million-year-old human bones and evidence of wine-making dating back 8,000 years, Georgia is regarded as the birthplace of the first European civilization. Georgia is the birthplace of wine as well. The wine making tradition has been practiced in Georgia for thousands of years and has been preserved until nowadays almost unchanged.
    “After arriving in Japan, I tasted Koshu Wine for the first time and thought it tasted like Georgian wine. That impression was reinforced when I went to Yamanashi Prefecture,” says the Ambassador. A group of researchers has since determined by DNA analysis that Koshu grapes have their origins in Georgia. Georgia is at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations. Koshu grapes must have reached Japan by the Silk Road.

    Japan and Georgia have other things in common besides the flavor of their wines. “Both countries have existed since ancient times and we’ve preserved our culture and unique traditions to this day,” says the Ambassador. Japanese hospitality is well-known, but Georgians can compete with Japanese in that area. Georgian hospitality is legendary, guests are considered to be a godsend in Georgia. If someone comes to your place, it means the host is a person worthy of that guest.
    The Ambassador says that Georgians consider Japan to be a great country with a long history. He says that it has produced excellent literary works and movies and is a super modern nation that also preserves its old traditions. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Japan knows about Georgia. The number of Japanese tourists to Georgia is increasing, but I’d like this to double or triple. I bet Japanese people would love Georgia once they visited it.”
    The Ambassador says that the charm of Georgia is in its rich variety of natural sites. By car, you can cross Georgia east to west, or north to south in about seven hours. The climate keeps changing as you travel. The country has as many as 12 different climatic zones. “After having a good time on the coast of the Black Sea, you can drive to mountains 2,000 meters above sea level. Is there any other country where you can enjoy bathing in the sea and skiing on the same day?” he says, smiling.
    “I’d recommend Georgia’s mineral water. The country has as many as 2,400 springs and they are popular for their healthy water. The soil of Georgia is so fertile that our fruits and vegetables are all delicious. Khachapuri, a dish that resembles a cheese bread, is especially good. Georgian cuisine developed under the influence of various Eastern and Western civilizations over the course of centuries. Each region has its specialty and that’s also due to the diversity of climate.”

    “Our historical buildings are gorgeous,” says the Ambassador. “Iron making and agriculture have been practiced since ancient times in that part of the world. Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world and has its own unique alphabet. Georgia was one of the first countries to accept Christianity as its national religion. We’ve preserved our unique culture despite constant interference from surrounding powers.”
    “For sightseeing, I’d recommend historical and cultural monuments, some of them from the fifth century, that are listed as World Heritage sites. The cave dwellings carved into rocks from the 12th century are also impressive. Those who want to relax can see beautiful sights and unwind. Active people can climb mountains or hunt. History buffs can go to historic sites. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself.”
    There were quite a few important Georgians well-known in Japan during the days of the former Soviet Union. They were fir-rate scientists, artists, actors, ballet dancers, and singers. Georgians are very talented and positive people.
    The Japanese Government changed the transliteration of the name for Georgia from “Gurujia” to “Jo-gia” in April 2015.
    Georgia Embassy
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[:]

    Read More
  • By Concentrating on the Fragrance You Become one with Universe

    [From May Issue 2015]

    Incense Specialist
    WATANABE Eriyo
    Kodo “the way of incense” is a traditional art in Japan. Rather than saying “smell” the aromatic wood, we say “listen” to it. Listening to incense means appreciating its fragrance with keen attention. “Japan has four seasons. It’s blessed with the scents of different trees and flowers each season and a moderate level of humidity,” says incense specialist WATANABE Eriyo.
    “The climate, too, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, is diverse; the country has 3,000 meters high mountains and a rich ecosystem. This environment has nurtured the delicate sensibilities of the Japanese people, especially our sense of smell and taste. I’m interested not only in Japanese aromas, but also in aromas from other countries, from history and how these relate to each other.”
    Watanabe opened her “Setagaya Incense Salon” in Tokyo and from this base, she organizes workshops in which people make nerikoh (blended incense balls made by mixing together the raw materials and honey) based on a 1,000-year-old Japanese recipe and learn, through incense, about Japan’s classical literary works and traditional culture. All kinds of people participate, from foreigners who want to “experience something typically Japanese” to regulars who “look forward to listening to lovely fragrances.”
    Watanabe organizes gatherings at which participants simply listen to incense. Many come just for one day. “When a workaholic listens to incense, their expression softens as if a mask has slipped off,” says Watanabe.
    “It’s of course wonderful that kodo is such a rich subject, but it can also be a mental challenge because differentiating scents by ‘listening’ to them and comparing them is competitive. I want people to enjoy the calming and relaxing effects of incense, so they don’t compete with each other, they simply fully enjoy the fragrances. Since ancient times, incense has always been referred to as food for the soul. If you concentrate only on the fragrance, you lose your ego, become one with the whole universe and experience a state of bliss,” says Watanabe.
    The reputation of Setagaya Incense Salon is spreading by word of mouth. The salon has been mentioned on an Australian travel website as one of the “Top Ten Things to Do Only in Tokyo” and on a German travel website as “a relaxing place.” “The enjoyment of scent has always been a cultural practice that has spanned the globe,” says Watanabe. Burning incense is a sacred act in Christianity, Islam, and in Buddhism. Since antiquity, there has been an international trade in the raw materials used to make incense.”
    “As a student of art history in London, I rediscovered Japan when I learned that ‘Japan’ also meant lacquer ware. I later studied expressive arts therapy in Boston and while working in that area, I realized that incense had the same effect as expressive arts therapy. My biggest personal asset is the cross-cultural experience acquired on trips to 48 countries and during the time I lived abroad for ten years.”
    Watanabe says enthusiastically, “When I burn incense that I made with a wish or a prayer, it feels as though that wish or prayer reaches heaven. I’d like to create new kinds of incense equipment and market them to the world.”
    Incense Research Institute
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo/文:砂崎良[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More