• 世界中の人を落語で楽しませたい

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    KATSURA Kaishi, Rakugo-ka
    In Japan there is a comic form of entertainment called “rakugo” (comic storytelling) which has been around for approximately 400 years. It features one person portraying many different characters. The storyteller sits down on a cushion and spins a tale using only a tenugui (Japanese thin towel) and a sensu (folding fan) as props. The performer is called a rakugo-ka (comic storyteller) and in theaters that specialize in rakugo in Tokyo and Osaka, performances take place every day.
    Based in Kansai, KATSURA Kaishi continues to translate and perform classic rakugo stories in English. Since 1998, he has successfully performed over 300 times in 97 cities in 17 countries worldwide. “I started this partly because I loved English and longed for a chance to study abroad. My master (the late KATSURA Bunshi V) generously gave his permission, even though it was shortly after I had completed my apprenticeship.”
    “At the outset, even in Japanese, I only had seven or eight stories in my repertoire,” says Kaishi. But now, after receiving many awards including the Ministry of Culture Rookie of the Year Award, and the NHK Japan National Television Award for Young Artists, he is beginning to gain acknowledgment for his abilities in Japan. Subsequently, he was appointed as the cultural ambassador of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and went on a six-month English rakugo tour in the United States.
    “Driving the camper van myself, I toured around 33 cities with my family. In rakugo, movement – for example miming eating with chopsticks with a sensu or sewing with tenugui – is more important than words. It was very difficult to explain to local staff that it is typically performed on a high platform called a kouza (stage) so that the entire body is visible. They said that it was too dangerous and I had to sign a written waiver that said I would not sue even if I were injured.
    “I was worried when I visited the township of the Native Indian Navajo tribe and was told that these people rarely laugh. When I tried a kobanashi (short story) about Monument Valley, there was applause and laughter from the audience and the rakugo also got a huge laugh. I was very pleased that people who knew nothing of Japan or rakugo enjoyed it,” he continues.
    Performing as part of a group, I took part in the “Edinburgh Festival,” the world’s largest drama festival, in August this year. The performance, which brought to mind a “Japanese Cirque du Soleil,” consisted of physical performances, including Japanese dance, taiko (Japanese drums), and aerial dance, combined with CGI.
    “The production shows how sake is created; in the role of the touji (the person in charge of a sake brewery), I was MC for the whole performance. Before the rakugo, I appeared in front of the audience with a sake bottle in my hand and gestured for them to have a drink; I was very nervous, since it was a new experience for me.” It got the highest five star rating from the “British Theater Guide” and was highly praised by the fair and exacting local media.
    With his English rakugo, Kaishi has continued to break out of the rakugo sphere, by collaborating with other art forms, including bunraku (Japanese puppet theatre). “Whether it be Japan or abroad, I’d like to go anywhere where I can give pleasure with my rakugo. I’d like my dream to study drama in London to come true, too,” he says with a radiant smile.
    Office Beginning
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko










    「酒が誕生する様子を表した作品です。杜氏(酒の製造過程を取り仕切る役目)役で、全体の進行係でした。落語の前に酒瓶を持って客席から現れて、お客さんにお酒を勧める仕草をしたりしましたが、初めての経験だったので最初は緊張しましたね」。イギリス舞台専門雑誌「British Theater Guide」で最高評価の五つ星を獲得し、公平で厳しい現地メディアから大絶賛されました。




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  • Inspired To Go To Japan By Japanese Idols

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    “I like Japanese idols,” says Rassawan KONDEJADISAK, describing the interest that brought her over from Thailand to Japan. “I especially like Johnny’s ‘Hey! Say! JUMP’ When I was watching their concerts on TV programs and DVDs, I felt I wanted to study Japanese because I wanted to understand what they were saying.”
    Rassawan came to Japan in 2011 and without delay entered Yokohama Design College. Although the school specializes in design, they also have a Japanese language course aimed at foreign students. Rassawan, who had not studied Japanese before, started with the basic reading and writing of “a, i, u, e, o.”
    “I did not understand any Japanese,” says Rassawan. “I could not read books nor magazines and I could not understand what they were talking about on TV. At first I was quite worried because I could not even manage basic conversation. But by continuing with my studies, I gradually became able to understand Japanese and that made things surprisingly enjoyable.”
    “Now I can read books that I could not! I can understand conversation that could not! Before I knew it, the uneasiness in my heart changed to joy. I wanted to study more and more every day and I wanted to know more about things I was ignorant of.”
    “Although three years have passed since I started to live in Japan, there are still many things I cannot understand about the Japanese sensibility. Why do I have to do this? Why don’t I have to do that? Sometimes it is a mystery to me. There are some similarities to the Thai way of thinking, but other things are totally different.”
    “I felt uneasy when I became a fully paid up member of Japanese society. But I don’t want to limit myself to just Japan and Thailand, I want to understand the feelings of people in other countries, too.” Rassawan is now doing PR work at Relation Japan., Inc., promoting Japan to Thailand. The company produces advertisements for Japan in various media, including travel magazines and TV, it also operates booths at travel fairs. Rassawan is in charge of design and of communication with Thailand.
    “Japan is a country that places importance on public order. It is quite different from Thailand, which has an easy-going attitude. But I am really happy because the people of both countries are kind hearted.” On her days off, she often goes to Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando. “I enjoy going to stylish cafes. I like reading books in such places. And, of course, in the concert season I go to concerts!”


    「私は日本のアイドルが好きです」とタイから来たラッサワン・コンデッチアディサックさんは日本に興味を持ったきっかけを話します。「特にジャニーズの『Hey! Say! JUMP』というグループが大好きです。テレビ番組やDVDでコンサートを見ているとき、彼らが何を話しているのか知りたくて、日本語を勉強したいと思いました」。
    「今まで読めなかった本が読める! わからなかった会話がわかる! 心の中にあった不安感がいつの間にか楽しさに変わりました。毎日もっと勉強したくて、知らないことをもっと知りたいと思いました」。

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  • 日本について話すたびに日本を好きに

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Karine LIEBAUT,
    Wife of the Belgian Ambassador to Japan
    My husband came to Japan on the 16th of March, 2011, five days after the East Japan earthquake, because he felt that it was then that it would provide moral support to the Belgian community in Japan. For practical reasons I came to Japan one month later, in April. It was terrible to come at that time and see what had happened. I had never experienced an earthquake and there were still aftershocks, but I got used to it gradually.
    Language is the only problem for me in daily life in Japan. The transportation system is very organized. Once you have your PASMO (IC card), a plan of the metro and know all the lines, it’s no problem. In the stations, there’s always somebody who can help you. They speak a little bit of English and know enough to explain to you which train to take. Shopping is not a problem. In the supermarket, sometimes, the lack of English is sometimes a little difficult. But many times, Japanese people understand what we are asking.
    Regarding Japanese people, a lot of people might think that Japanese people are very reserved. It’s true, but they are also very open. I can talk to my Japanese friends about anything. It’s not like they are holding things back, so for me, this is an aspect I haven’t experienced.
    Then there’s the civic sense of Japanese people. In Japan, there is a huge respect for everything: for people, society, rules, and for things in general. They show respect for other people by not throwing litter on the floor, thus keeping the environment clean. This is something we’ve lost in Europe.

    Christmas in Brussels © www.milo-profi.be/Visit Flanders

    Christmas in Brussels
    © www.milo-profi.be/Visit Flanders

    I would say that one thing Japan could learn from us is how to have a more relaxed atmosphere in schools: the schools children go to here are too strict. In Europe, it’s a little bit more relaxed.
    I certainly think that the security in Japan is wonderful. In the West, in some parts of our major cities, there is a growing feeling of insecurity. Here, I feel there is 100% security. I think this comes from having a respectful attitude to others.
    In Belgium people are very nice. They like to go out, they enjoy life, and they’re hospitable. I think we’re generous. We don’t open our doors right away, but once we know people, we’re very open. As we speak two or three languages, this facilitates communication with other cultures.


    Historic buildings overlook the river in Ghent
    © Joost Joossen

    The center of our cities have beautiful terraces and museums. When you think of the Flemish artists, some of the best artists in the world come to mind. We excel at modern art and modern dance.
    We are a very creative country. We have good architects and beautiful modern design. So for a small country with 11 and a half million inhabitants, we really have a lot to offer. Also, in certain respects, we have two cultures: part Flemish and part French. These two cultures make the country richer.
    Home to the EU, NATO and numerous embassies, Brussels is an international city. You can hear a wonderful mix of languages in Brussels, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, as well as French and Dutch. This creates an international atmosphere. It has a very international cultural life because there are plays in Dutch, English, and French. All movies are shown as soon as they’re released. Food is one of the Belgium’s top attractions.
    The housing is very beautiful. You can live in a wonderful villa just outside of Brussels and commute every day. It’s a small country so we can go to Germany, France, and Holland. Paris is just one hour, 20 minutes by train. People can travel all over. One problem in Belgium is the traffic. A lot of trucks pass through the country in transit.


    The Great Market Square of Antwerp
    © Antwerp Tourism & Congres

    We have a lot of nice little cities. Of course Bruges, which is like walking through a museum. I think a lot of Japanese people don’t know Ghent; a city not far from Bruges and Brussels. This university city, where I studied, is very lively. It has canals, beautiful houses and paintings.
    Antwerp is beautiful with its cathedrals, and the house of Rubens. Antwerp has a different mindset from other cities; because it has always been an important port, people are a bit more cosmopolitan and open.
    The south of Belgium is the French speaking part. Namur is a beautiful little city. It is hilly and very green. The food is great; you can eat game in small restaurants in season. It’s nice to do sports and hunting there.
    The coastline and the sea are beautiful. It’s a grey sea with white beaches. There, you can cycle. A lot of apartments have been constructed along the coastline. I think all Belgians are especially fond of the coast, because it’s where many people spend their summer holidays.
    In the end, I realize how much I love Japan when I talk about it. I take lessons in ikebana and sumi-e. I like flower arranging myself, so I enjoy going to the flower shop and making my own arrangements for the house. I hope Japanese people appreciate what a wonderful country they have.
    Photos courtesy of Tourist Office for Flanders & Brussels, Belgium
    Interview:TONEGAWA Masanori[2014年11月号掲載記事]





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  • 美食の国ベルギーを知ってほしい

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Paul De CONINCK
    In Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Paul De CONINCK runs Paul’s Cafe, an establishment that specializes in beer from his native Belgium. This often prompts people to ask him the following question: “What is your favorite beer?” Paul replies: “I don’t have one. When, where and with whom will you drink beer with? That’s a very important factor. I choose completely different beer based on that information.”
    It is said that there are over a thousand kinds of Belgian beer. While the Japanese tend to place importance on how it slips down the throat, the attraction of Belgium beer is that the way it is drunk varies greatly according to the brand. “When I drink with friends, I gulp down beer with a low alcohol content, but when it’s winter and I’m tired, I might choose a strong beer that satisfies after one glass,” Paul says. At Paul’s Café, there are always about seven kinds of draft beer available, as well as some 70 kinds of bottled beer.
    Besides beer, the shop’s menu includes waffles, frites (French fries), and typical Belgian dishes that use ingredients such as mussels. Out of these, Paul’s chicken comes highly recommended. Imported from Belgium, this rooster is roasted whole.
    Paul first came to Japan in 1988, as coach of a Belgian children’s baseball team. When he came back the next year, he visited Sapporo and loved it there. “I wanted to hang out in Sapporo for a year, so I took a leave of absence from the company I was working for,” he says. “Since then, for the past 25 years, I’ve been living in Sapporo.”
    As a student at a hotel school in Belgium, Paul learned various things about the hotel industry; including food preparation, hospitality and management. From the age of 14, he was involved in food-related work for restaurants and catering services. Taking advantage of that experience, he worked at restaurants and hotels in Sapporo. In 2000 he set up a business on his own and started selling Paul’s Chicken – which even today is still his shop’s signature dish. Then, in 2003, he opened Paul’s Cafe.
    Since his shop opened, the number of customers has been increasing steadily; these days beer lovers from Honshu (the main island of Japan) even visit. He has been asked to open branches in Tokyo and Osaka, but isn’t eager to expand, saying, “Only the shop I’m in can be called Paul’s Cafe.” Former employees of Paul’s Cafe have set up businesses themselves, so there are now more shops in Sapporo serving Belgian beer.
    These days craft beer (regionally made beer) has been gaining popularity in Japan. Large-scale beer events are held in Sapporo, too. Paul’s shop has benefitted from the fact that more people are drinking a variety of different beers. Paul, however, is going to suspend a big Belgian beer event he has held annually since he opened the shop. From now on, he wishes to organize events to inform the public about other aspects of his native country, including its food and culture.
    Belgium is located roughly in the center of Europe, and its capital Brussels has sometimes been called “the capital of Europe.” In the past, its convenient location unfortunately caused the country to be used over and over again as a battleground, but after each war, soldiers from the countries involved left behind something of their own culture. Paul thinks that the fusion of these influences created the gourmet culture of today’s Belgium. “I’m paying back the kind support I’ve received from the people of Sapporo by introducing them to the gourmet culture of Belgium.” He welcomes customers with a smile every day.
    Paul’s Cafe
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年11月号掲載記事]


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  • Coming to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Ada TSO
    “I came to Japan on a working holiday scheme and I’m enjoying working and traveling,” says English language teacher Ada TSO. “I’d recommend working holidays to people who’ve just graduated from college and to those who want to start a completely new life. I myself quit a job to come to Japan because I wanted to live and work here while I was still young.”
    Ada was born in Hong Kong and grew up in New Zealand. “Every day I communicated in Cantonese and Mandarin with my family and Chinese immigrant neighbors, while speaking English at school,” she recalls. “When I was a child, my older brother often watched Japanese cartoons translated into Cantonese and I enjoyed ‘Doraemon’ and other programs with him. That’s how I came to be interested in Japanese anime and manga. I love ‘One Piece,’” she says with a smile.
    Ada took Japanese language courses in high school and university. While still in university, she came to Japan on an exchange program and studied at Sophia University for half a year. “It was a marvelous experience,” she says nostalgically. “So many Japanese students wanted to be friends with foreigners. We traveled a lot together. Some of them came all the way to New Zealand to visit after I returned home.”
    After graduating from university, Ada worked for a radio station in Auckland. “I worked as a news reporter and also as a moderator in public debates before elections.” She left that job after two years and returned to Japan for a year.
    “It’s a pity that because I teach English, I don’t have much opportunity to speak Japanese,” she says with a wry smile. She doesn’t attend a Japanese language school. “That’s why, when I get the chance to speak Japanese, I try practice my conversation as much as possible. On my days off, I memorize grammar and words with study-aid books. Unlike my student days, I now work full-time and it’s hard to maintain my motivation for studying. To spur myself on, I’ve made a goal of passing the N2 grade (of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before the end of this stay in Japan.”
    Ada sometimes works as a narrator in English and Cantonese. Most companies, however, don’t want to hire foreigners with a working holiday visa. “That’s why the majority of people here on a working visa have no choice but to become English teachers,” Ada says regretfully. “People who want to improve their career prospects, would do better to obtain a working visa by finding a Japanese employer before entering Japan,” she says.
    “Prices are high in Japan, but there are ways to save money. I found this site called tokyocheapo.com and discovered there were cheap shops like 100-yen shops and Matsuya,” says Ada. She now lives in a shared house to save on her rent. “The lower cost isn’t the only benefit of a shared house. You also get to know people from different countries, so you can make friends to go sightseeing with around Japan.”
    Ada visits cafes in her free time. “For me, the ideal confectionary does not only taste good, but looks good and also smells good. I’m researching exceptional confectionary by taking photographs. After returning to New Zealand, I want to work and save money in order to have a cafe of my own one day. I think the experience of tasting sweets and green tea in Japan will be useful then,” she says.
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年11月号掲載記事]


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  • 地域ごとに異なる人の気質に興味

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Eleonora FLISI
    Eleonora FLISI came to Japan from Italy a year ago. She’s been working for the past half a year as a PR representative for a company that manages Italian restaurants and a catering service. Seventy percent of their clientele are Japanese, so she mostly uses Japanese at work. On hearing her speak she sounds as fluent as a native Japanese person, but, she says, smiling awkwardly, “I’m not good at writing. Handwriting is particularly difficult.”
    Eleonora started studying the Japanese language at university. An economics major at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, she chose Japanese for her primary foreign language as the university was well-known for its Chinese, Korean and Japanese programs. “I also studied Chinese, but I chose Japanese because its pronunciation is closer to Italian.”
    During her studies, she twice made use of an exchange program to study abroad at Meiji University. She was surprised at the differences between colleges in Italy and Japan. “Colleges in Italy have neither sport events, nor school festivals. I didn’t have any seminar activities, either.” In those days, she lived in a dormitory and spoke Japanese with her non-Japanese roommate. Even now, she spends some of her days off with friends from those days.
    “I wanted to live abroad while I was still young. I thought Tokyo was safe and easy to live in.” She came back to Japan upon graduating and started life in Tokyo. Even though she had learned enough Japanese in her mother country and had studied twice in Japan, she studied at the Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute for the first six months. “I hardly used any Japanese in my last year in college because I had been concentrating on my graduation thesis. I had forgotten my kanji.”
    She says she finds grammar particularly difficult. When she doesn’t understand something, even after consulting a grammar book, she asks her Japanese friends. “It’s easier to understand because they teach me with example sentences that apply to particular situations.” She has a friend who’s knowledgeable about Italian matters. “She knows what Italians have difficulty understanding, so she fine-tunes her explanations for us.” Her Japanese has improved with help from such friends.
    That said she’s worried she won’t improve her Japanese further. “Starting from zero you make speedy progress. This slows down, however, once you’ve reached a certain level. That’s the stage I’m at right now.” She says she hopes other people studying Japanese in a similar fashion won’t give up.
    Eleonora is interested in food. She likes sashimi and ramen, and often makes yakisoba the way her friend taught her. She of course looks forward to eating delicious food when she travels around Japan. But she has another goal for these trips. “I want to discover differences between Tokyo and the rest of Japan,” she says. This is because she’s under the impression that people’s temperament differs between Tokyo and other regions.
    “I’ve recently been to Osaka. I was taken aback when someone said to me, ‘Where are you from?’ Tokyoites seldom come up to talk to me. Osaka’s citizens are like talkative Italians.” She and her Italian friends compare the lively character of Osaka people to those from Naples and the cool atmosphere in Tokyo to Milan.
    Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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  • 目指すのは身近に使われる伝統工芸品

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Made out of wood, kokeshi are dolls with round heads and cylindrical torsos. They are said to have originated in the Tohoku region during the Edo era (17 – 19th centuries) as toys made for farmers’ children. They later came to be sold as souvenirs in spa resorts around the country. These days, most people buy them as ornaments.
    Founded in 1926, Kijidokoro Satou (Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) is a workshop manufacturing kokeshi. The family of four – SATOU Seikou, a second generation master, his wife Mikiko and their sons Hideyuki and Yusuke – are all kokeshi craftsmen. All four of them won a prize in 2010 at the National Kokeshi Festival Competition, one of the country’s three major kokeshi contests.
    Seikou worked as a crew member on a merchant ship until his father Makoto – a kokeshi artisan – passed away. Although he eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, he confesses he had never been taught how to make kokeshi. “My teachers were the tools my father left for me. I learned how to make them (kokeshi) through trial and error and by consulting literature on how to use those tools.
    After 20 years of making kokeshi his own way, Seikou started to wish that kokeshi had a more immediate impact. He tried to create something that was not only decorative but also useful in real life. His first attempt was a kokeshi that could act as a receptacle for a stamp. However, it wasn’t particularly popular in the traditional world of kokeshi. “I didn’t make many, so it didn’t cause much of a stir,” he smiles at the recollection.
    In the last ten years Kijidokoro Satou’s “useful kokeshi” have begun to attract attention. On becoming a third generation master Seikou’s son Hideyuki created a website that has had a part to play in this. Their range has widened to include kokeshi-shaped stamps and accessories that fit into smartphone ear jacks. Seikou says, “I’m happy with the casual and natural way people use our kokeshi in their daily lives, regardless of the fact that they come from a long tradition.”
    Seikou says that the interesting side of kokeshi is that he can end up making something that surprises himself. Nowadays he makes most of his traditional kokeshi to order. They take shape as a result of consultations with customers. “Rather than being something I create, it feels as if they come into being themselves. When I was young, I would try to create what I had in mind, but now I let my brush do its work without thinking much about the result. “Kokeshi may appear expressionless, but upon closer inspection, you see that each one has a different look and is brimming with personality.
    What Seikou is now pouring his passion into is making extra small (about 4.5 centimeter tall) traditional kokeshi. He began making them because bigger kokeshi took up so much space. However, it’s harder to make the small ones balance and they require more attention to detail. “It’s that difficulty that’s exciting for a creator.” Even so Seikou, now 67, says, “I enjoy my work, though it’s begun to take a physical toll on me, there are still many other types of kokeshi I want to create.”
    Kijidokoro Satou
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年9月号掲載記事]


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  • 家族を大切にするエジプト人と日本人


    Hisham EL-ZIMAITY,
    Egyptian Ambassador to Japan
    “I once asked someone why the Egyptian vegetable tussa jute or molokhia is so popular in Japan. She answered, ‘because Tussa jute contains umami, a taste Japanese are fond of.’ Egypt is a distant country from Japan, but there are some things we have in common,” smiles the ambassador Hisham EL-ZIMAITY.
    The ambassador came to Japan in September 2011. “I soon got used to life in Japan,” he recalls. “I like to try out foods from different countries. Japanese dishes are all delicious. My big favorites are teppan-yaki (cuisine fried on a hotplate) and sushi. Kobe beef is also great,” he says. “The Japanese language is hard, though. I don’t have enough time for study, so unfortunately I still can’t speak it.”
    The ambassador has visited many places in Japan including Nara, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukushima. “Wherever I go, I’m impressed with people’s self-discipline. In addition, Japanese people are capable of acting as a group. Such virtues were apparent at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and when the stadium (stands) were cleaned up by Japanese supporters after the World Cup soccer matches. I think Egyptians could learn something from this,” he says.
    The ambassador has also been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Those atomic bomb tragedies should never happen again,” he says with a sad face. “In Egypt, our Foreign Minister releases a statement every August 6 saying that it’s important never to use nuclear weapons again. We’d like to work alongside Japan in order to abolish nuclear, biological and chemical weapons,” he says.


    The sphinx

    “I also like the honest hardworking spirit of the Japanese,” says the ambassador. “And Japanese people don’t hesitate to venture out into the world to learn about other cultures. Japanese are among the world’s best violinists and pianists in classical music. This is also impressive.”
    “Japanese and Egyptians have some things in common,” says the ambassador. “For example, we all cherish family values. I’ve heard that Japanese children often don’t leave their parents’ home until they are married. It’s the same in Egypt. When I go out to restaurants on weekends, I see young people who come to enjoy their time with their parents. I’ve also witnessed situations in which everyone listens respectfully once an older person starts talking. I think it’s just like that in Egypt.”
    According to the ambassador, good hygiene is another thing Japanese and Egyptians have in common. “Cleanness is important for Muslims, so we wash before prayers five times a day. I’m under the impression that it’s important also for the Japanese.” He says they’re also alike in the way they incorporate different cultures into their own. “In Japan, people wear all kinds of fashions. Some, however, try to preserve traditions by wearing kimono.”
    “In Egypt, more people wear Western clothes in urban areas, but in the countryside, people still dress traditionally,” says the ambassador. “People wear a garment called the jellabiya in the Nile Delta. On the Sinai Peninsula, their outfits resemble those worn by the Jordanian and Palestinian Bedouins. Western Egypt has a Libyan-influenced brownish costume. And in the very hot region of Nubia they wear white. I enjoy wearing something similar to the jellabiya on ceremonial occasions and suchlike.”


    The sea front at Alexandria

    With its numerous ancient sites, tourists flock to Egypt from all over the world. “Our country had the oldest kingdom in history,” says the ambassador. “Right now, the Great Egyptian Museum is being built near the Giza pyramids with help from Japan. When it’s completed, it’ll be a wonderful place where you can admire the long history of Egypt from the times of pharaohs, to Roman times, to Christian times, through to the Islamic era, finishing off with a panoramic view of the pyramids.”
    An issue for the tourism industry of Egypt is that (the country) has so many superb ancient sites that few people visit other tourist spots. “You can go diving in the Red Sea. You can enjoy fishing and all kinds of seafood dishes on the Mediterranean coast. Siwa, an oasis town in the middle of the desert, is believed to be the place where in the Temple of the oracle, Alexander the Great received the order from the god Ammun to rule Egypt and the rest of the world; and Queen Cleopatra enjoyed her baths. Also famous is the Ecolodge hotel, where you can experience the ancient lifestyle.”
    “Tourists spend a week in Egypt on average,” says the ambassador. It takes two days just to see the Valley of the Kings and other sites near Luxor, so we are now trying to come up with a strategy to encourage visitors to repeat their visits. We’d like them to visit ancient sites on their first trip and enjoy leisure activities and see Egyptian lifestyles on their subsequent trips.”
    In Egypt, you can sample dishes that were eaten in the times of pharaohs. “Onion, carrot, lentil beans, cabbage … these ancient vegetables are painted onto temple walls,” says the ambassador. “One of the common main dishes is Coshari – rice mixed with fried onion and macaroni. My suggestion would be kofta – ground meat grilled on metal skewers. The fava-bean paste we eat on Ramadan nights makes us full. I’d also recommend our dates.”


    The Suez Canal

    Besides tourism, one of Egypt’s main industries is the manufacturing of aluminum and cement products. Egyptian cotton is also well-known. “The tolls for the Suez Canal are important for Egypt. The bridge – which looks like “rainbow bridge” – Japan built in 2001 over the Suez Canal is helping us. Japan is also cooperating in the construction of a subway line.”
    The ambassador enjoys listening to music in his spare time. “I listen to a lot of rock, jazz and soul music. I often go to the jazz club called the Blue Note,” says the ambassador. “I also like reading. I’m now reading about Japanese history and trying to understand why the Meiji Restoration was achieved without much violence. I feel I understand today’s Japan better by learning its history.”
    “Egypt has been politically unstable for the past few years, but things have now returned to normal. Please choose Egypt as the destination of your next vacation,” concludes the ambassador. “We are looking forward to welcoming Japanese visitors along with people from around the world.”

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo






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  • 日本企業のインド進出をサポート

    [From September Issue 2014]
    Venugopal TENKAYALA
    President of Shinko Advisors
    “Japanese companies have great technology. In spite of this, when it comes to expanding into India, many people lose their way due to fear of risks and partly due to hesitation. I wanted to lend a helping hand to such companies,” Indian Venugopal TENKAYALA says, explaining why he started his business in Japan.
    Tenkayala came to Japan in 2000. “At first, I was thinking of eventually moving on to the United States, but I decided to stay because I liked Japan. I appreciated the safety and cleanliness of things like the water, air, and the excellent infrastructure.” He continued to study, while at the same time gaining business experience in a foreign bank, after which he got permanent residency in Japan.
    “I wanted to have a business of my own one day. I gained an MBA in finance in 2010 at McGill University in Canada and that was the impetus for me to begin preparations for starting up a business.” Tenkayala hoped to build on his business experience in Japan. In 2011, he founded Shinko Advisors, a consulting firm, to help Japanese companies expand their businesses into India.
    “I recently took about 20 Japanese companies with me on a visit to India, showing them around various cities over the space of four months. In relation to their plans for expansion, I answered their questions on safety, infrastructure, management possibilities and finding local business partners,” he says, explaining part of the work he does. His company now has offices in Chuo Ward, Tokyo Prefecture, as well as in Bangalore in the state of Karnataka, India.
    “The strength of Shinko Advisors lies in a good understanding of the business environment in both Japan and India,” says Tenkayala. “Just to give you an example, Japanese companies tend to regard India as a country that has a homogenous culture. In actual fact, India is an immense country in which the culture and laws vary from one region to another. The difference is so great between the north and the south in particular that it’s better to consider them as two countries,” he explains.
    Another side to Tenkayala is his teaching career. He’s Vice Chairman and visiting professor at the Shree Institute of Technical Education, a private school in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. “I’m good at logically breaking down issues that are difficult to understand. When I’m dealing with a client that’s consulting, with students it becomes teaching. For me, consulting and education is practically the same thing. In the future I plan to concentrate my efforts on the business of educating Japanese employees in India.”
    “India not only has a large market, but it’s also a country that can be a base from which to sell products to the Middle East and Africa. Although many Japanese companies are sending employees to India these days, there are times when I feel that their international business training is inadequate. I want to train and support such employees, to help Japanese companies launch their business in India more efficiently,” he says.
    Shinko Advisors KK
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年9月号掲載記事]


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  • たくさん話ができるこの仕事が好き

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Rukshona ESHPULATOVA
    “When I can explain in beautiful and courteous Japanese, customers are pleased and say, ‘I’ll buy another one,’ or ‘Please help me next time, too.’ That makes me glad and gives me a sense of purpose; the more customers I’m put in charge of, the more my salary increases,” says Rukshona ESHPULATOVA. Rukhshona came to Japan in April 2013, and joined Somo Japan Inc. this January. She is in the car exporting business.
    Rukhshona is from Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia. When she was a child, she encountered Japanese tourists and became interested in Japan. Then she learned the Japanese language from Japanese teachers at the Samarkand College of Tourism. “There are a lot of tourist attractions in Samarkand. I took the teachers there and guided them in Japanese,” Rukhshona says, reflecting back.
    However, she later enrolled at the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages, which in those days did not have a Japanese studies department. Rukhshona studied in the English department and became a tour guide after graduating. “Because my major was English, I could not obtain the necessary qualification to become a Japanese-speaking guide. Before long I had forgotten Japanese,” she says regretfully.
    Rukhshona thought of going to Japan to study the language once again. Her older brother who lived in the United States helped her out financially. “I watched online videos of the classes provided at the various language schools in Japan. Out of them, I thought that the Academy of Language Arts in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was a good fit for me. Most importantly, the teachers are friendly and cheerful. In addition, they let the students speak a lot while incorporating information useful in everyday life. I thought that their teaching methods were good,” says Rukhshona.
    Because prices in Japan are high, she had to start working part time as soon as she arrived. On weekdays, she would go to school from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and then work afterwards at a restaurant until 11:00 pm. “Because I also worked on Saturdays and Sundays, I was very busy and it was tough. So I used to review the expressions that I learned during class at work the same day. In order to learn the words I did not know, I asked ‘kore wa nan desuka’ (what is this?) to my fellow part-timers,” Rukhshona laughs.
    Rukhshona was brought up in an environment where Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian were used. “Because I studied Japanese and English after I grew up, I use Uzbek as a reference when I speak Japanese since the word order is similar. English is close to Russian, so I use Russian as reference when speaking in English,” says Rukhshona. “Also, when I used to do guide tours in English, I learned to check if I was speaking well by observing the reactions of the person I was addressing, as well as ways to control my uneasiness when speaking in a foreign language. This experience has now come in handy with my Japanese study.”
    Currently, Rukhshona uses Japanese, English, and Russian for work. “I often explain things in Russian to customers as I read Japanese documents. English words written in katakana like ‘support’ and ‘inner panel’ were very difficult. However, as with difficult kanji, if I use it for work, I can remember it. Also, since I like talking, I love this job because I can talk to customers. I am very happy because I have a job that I love doing,” she smiles.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年9月号掲載記事]



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