• フランス人の自分にしかできない落語を

    [From April Issue 2014]

    Cyril COPPINI
    This is the 17th year since Cyril COPPINI, born and raised in Nice, France, began his career in Japan. In October 2011, while working at the Cultural Department of the French Embassy in Japan, he made his debut as an amateur rakugo performer. He currently performs once a month at nursing homes, temples, and special cafes that put on rakugo performances.
    Rakugo is a traditional form of comic storytelling that developed during the Edo period (17-19 centuries). A single performer in a kimono sits on a zabuton (a floor pillow) and acts out conversations between multiple characters by changing his voice, manner of speaking and facial expressions. Coppini started learning Japanese in high school, and while studying in a college in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, he grew to enjoy rakugo and wanted to be able to perform it himself.
    However, he realized that it would be difficult to train as an apprentice to a professional rakugo performer while holding down a job. It was then that by chance he met the professional rakugo performer HAYASHIYA Someta, who said to him, “Amateurs can do it, too.” And so, he was instructed by Hayashiya for a year, and took on the name “Shiriru Kopiini” – his real name creatively written in kanji.
    When introducing himself on stage, he explains his name in fluent Japanese by saying, “‘Shiri-ru’ means ‘shiri ga nagareru (flowing from the bum).’ Kopii combines the Japanese word ‘fukusha’ (copy), and ‘ni’ – the kanji for the number two.” This is greeted by roars of laughter from the crowd. Rakugo stories are typically tear jerking emotional dramas, or entertaining ghost stories, but Coppini is more skilled in the comedic form of rakugo.
    For his latest performance “Becoming an Apprentice” –which centers around a Japanese sushi chef and his French apprentice – Coppini has come up with a setting that is unique to him. The exchanges between the stubborn sushi chef and the apprentice, who mixes up recently learned complex Japanese vocabulary with inappropriate slang, elicits bursts of laughter from the audience.
    To bring the joy of rakugo to a wider audience, Coppini also acts as both a translator and coordinator. In France, in 2011, Coppini performed alongside SANYUTEI Ryuraku – who tours internationally in European countries such as France, Germany and Italy, where he performs in the local language – at the professional rakugo artist’s request. The following year he also held performances in Switzerland and Belgium – both French-speaking countries.
    “For these past ten years I’ve been introducing French culture to the Japanese, but now it’s high time I do the reverse,” says Coppini. While kabuki and noh plays have already been introduced to France and a Japanese anime and cosplay subculture exists, “rakugo, a traditional theatrical performance which sits between these things, is not yet well known,” explains Coppini.
    Coppini says that he is going to continue his activities as an amateur rakugo performer. While working at an agency that aims to promote cultural exchanges between France and Japan, he says he wants to promote rakugo in France as a Japanese performing art. Released in France this March, the rakugo themed manga “Doraku Musuko” (The Disciple of Doraku), was translated by Coppini. He will be performing rakugo at the “Avignon Festival,” the world’s largest theatrical festival, held in July. Coppini says that his dream is that “if rakugo becomes more popular and people want to study it, I’ll open my own rakugo school in France.”
    Cyril Coppini Office[2014年4月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本のサッカーにヨーロッパスタイルを取り入れたい

    [From April Issue 2014]

    Robbie SERVAIS
    Dutch native Robbie SERVAIS came to Japan through “The Executive Training Programme” (AKA ETP) five years ago. With this programme, trainees from various European countries visit Japan. Then, for approximately one year, the trainees learn Japanese language and culture while enrolled at Waseda University. The object of this program is to promote trade between Japan and Europe through cultural exchange.
    Robbie had studied in Niigata 14 years ago. After returning to the Netherlands, Robbie was looking for a chance to return to Japan and asked an acquaintance if an exception could be made allowing him to visit Japan through the ETP program as a soccer coach. Robbie is now coach to the J-League junior team, Omiya Ardija.
    To learn Japanese, Robbie uses an app called “imiwa?” The app searches for corresponding Japanese words and related vocabulary from alphabetic input. You can also save previous search words, making it a convenient way to review vocabulary. By making sure he checks every word and kanji he does not understand, Robbie doesn’t slack off in his efforts to memorize vocab.
    Work related to soccer is extremely popular, and the competition is fierce. Therefore, Robbie says he wants to perfect his Japanese and give himself an edge with his linguistic ability. In addition, he emphasizes that it is important to grasp the difference between Japanese and European soccer styles. This is because European soccer style, practiced in countries such as the Netherlands, is totally different from Japan.
    “European players like to stand out and don’t show any restraint. This is because, in order to thrive, it is important for players to show off their individual appeal. On the other hand, the mainstream playing style of Japanese is to avoid risks and this means that outstanding players are not created. They do not openly express their joy at winning because they are considerate of the feelings of the losing team,” says Robbie.
    “The plus side of Japanese soccer is the strong mindset to ‘win as a team,’ and disinclination for selfish plays. In addition, Japanese players perform the practice routines without complaint. Because they do not dislike performing the same exercises over and over again, their technique improves. In the Netherlands, players immediately get tired of performing the same exercises, so it is always necessary to explain why the exercise is indispensable,” Robbie says, explaining differences between the two cultures.
    In February this year, Robbie became the coach of the official soccer school of Arsenal Football Club, one of the most renowned clubs in Europe. Robbie says that someday he would like to coach a top professional soccer team. Robbie dreams of becoming an assistant to a famous manager visiting Japan from Europe.
    Robbie says he wants to convey the merits of European soccer while retaining the merits of soccer in Japan. “I don’t lecture the children; I let them think for themselves. Then I allow them to put into practice the play that they’ve thought up themselves. It means that they take the responsibility for their own play, and this is the way of thinking necessary for playing European style soccer.”
    Waseda University
    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年4月号掲載記事]


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  • さまざまな顔を持つ女性

    [From March Issue 2014]

    Kyoko SPECTOR
    Representative Director of Spector Communications
    Kyoko SPECTOR has many faces. Her days are full of activity; in addition to being a TV personality, and the director of an international friendship exchange association, and a wife, she is the representative director of a company that produces TV programs and manages TV personalities. At the center of her life is Dave SPECTOR, a TV personality and her husband.
    Dave Spector is a well-known American in Japan. The two of them met for the first time in the late 70s in Los Angeles in the United States. Since her elementary school days, Kyoko dreamt about foreign countries she’d heard about from her father who had once worked for a trading company. She was a college student when her dream of studying abroad in the US came true. Upon graduation, she returned to Japan, but, missing the American atmosphere of freedom, she moved back to the US.
    She met Dave when she began working as a concierge and tour manager for a Japanese hotel in L.A. Dave, who was producing programs for an American TV station, asked her out on a date. “He came to talk to me while I was working and his Japanese was so fluent that he gave an impression of being a suspicious American,” laughs Kyoko.
    Thinking that there’d only be one date, never in her wildest dreams would she believe that this would lead to a marriage lasting more than 30 years. In 1983, Dave was put in charge of making TV programs for ABC Broadcasting, US, and the two of them went to Japan together. Finally back in her native country, Kyoko began working as an assistant to her husband.
    In no time Dave himself began to appear on TV shows as a personality or commentator. Dave attached great importance to being fully prepared and so he instructed Kyoko to collect information about the other personalities appearing on the same programs and to record his shows. In this way she became the manager of the TV personality “Dave Spector.”
    Although their life in the entertainment business seemed to be going well, Dave once came under fire from viewers who perceived some remarks he’d made on the popular debate program “Asa Made Nama Terebi” (Live TV Till Morning) as being critical of Japan itself. Discouraged, Dave ended up saying that he wanted to return to the US.
    “If he had returned to the US under those circumstances, he’d have been forever misunderstood by Japanese people. I wanted them to see just how much Dave loved Japan. With only that in mind, I did everything I could to stop him, setting goals and saying, ‘Let’s keep at it just a little more until you appear on that show,’” recalls Kyoko.
    Overcoming such difficulties, Dave established himself as a TV personality and commentator indispensable to Japan’s entertainment business. Then, Kyoko began her own work in the entertainment business as a TV personality and commentator.
    Besides the one she shows to the TV industry, Kyoko has many faces. She has conducted cultural exchanges with the ambassadors of various countries for many years. Kyoko has inherited friendships that Dave made through work and is deepening them. “We put aside business and socialize purely as friends,” says Kyoko.
    She has so far acted as a judge in a Japanese language speech contest for embassy staffers in Japan and has helped with promotion activities for many different countries. In 2002, she was the first Japanese woman to be presented with the “Friend of Thailand” award. In 2012, she was nominated director of the Japanese branch of “San Fortunato,” a friendship exchange association that has a long history in Europe.
    Furthermore, she has participated in charitable activities for “Refugees International Japan (RIJ),” a general incorporated foundation. Drawing on her experience of life in the US, she has also presented her work at a charity event where table settings of different countries were on display. That inspired her to continue to this day to devote her life to the art of table setting.
    Kyoko’s motto is “Don’t let opportunities slip away.” For example, if Dave gets a request to appear on some TV program, she believes that it’s “rude to the other party” to turn it down because of a scheduling conflict. As representative director, she goes as far as to offer her personality “Kyoko Spector” instead, saying, “Dave can’t make it unfortunately, but Kyoko is available.”
    While supporting her beloved husband outside the spotlight, she has always challenged herself and has prized her friendships above anything else. She studied economics in the US and talks enthusiastically about her plan to expand her company’s business in the future.




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  • 目が見えないから気づいた日本語のおもしろさ

    [From March Issue 2014]

    Mohamed Omer ABDIN
    “One of Japan’s best loved foods is the nashi (pear) fruit. If it’s inedible it is dainashi (spoiled). Oops, another pun popped out,” says Mohamed Omar ABDIN humorously. Abdin is a student attending graduate school at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. He is also the executive vice-representative of the “Committee for Assisting and Promoting Education for The Disabled in Sudan.”
    Abdin is from Khartoum, Sudan. Ever since he was a child his eyesight has gradually deteriorated. He was able to study by getting the people around him to read out textbooks and enrolled at Khartoum University’s law department. However, the university was closed down because of political issues. While pondering his next move, he found out that a Japanese group that worked in support of the blind was looking for a foreign student to attend a school for the blind. He applied for the place. Then only Abdin was selected from a large number of candidates.
    Abdin came to Japan in 1998. All the other foreign students who had come from other countries had studied Japanese in their home country, but Abdin had never studied the language. In addition, he was not used to braille either. When he was told to work on Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1 questions he was shocked and burst into tears because he could not make head nor tail of the problems.
    “In Arabic, verbs come first, but in Japanese, the verb comes at the end. So, you need to listen to the end to understand the meaning. Words of foreign origin written in katakana have pronunciations that differ considerably from the original English. In the beginning, I did not know about the existence of kanji,” reflects Abdin.
    If his grades were bad, he would have no option but to return to Sudan. “Because I cannot see, I need people to help me live. Since I am asking for help, I must speak politely. I think that is why my Japanese improved rapidly. I did my best, thinking that all the Japanese people I met were live textbooks, and that conversations were opportunities for me to study.”
    Abdin listened to audio books over and over. In addition, he wrote kanji on clay with disposable chopsticks, learning it by touch. He memorized the jokes and dialect of his homestay father by repeating them to his teachers and classmates. Particularly in the case of kanji, he went out of his way to enquire about how a letter was written, converting this into a database in his head. He found the radio useful for listening to natural Japanese in a variety of genres.
    Abdin took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1 in 2000 and passed. In addition, he learned how to use software that read out the text on his screen. Because he had to start learning the arrangement of the keyboard, he had a very hard time, but he eventually became able to read and write by himself. At the same time, he wanted to make braille available to blind Sudanese children and established the “Committee for Assisting and Promoting Education for the Disabled in Sudan” (CAPEDS).
    Abdin is currently writing his doctoral dissertation about the dispute between north and south Sudan. At the same time, he has summed up his 15-years of experience since coming to Japan in a book called “Waga Mousou.” “The title uses (the kanji) 盲, which means blind, in place of (the kanji) 妄, which means delusion to create (the word) ‘mousou,’ which means delusional thought. Because I cannot see, I can have fun freely playing around with kanji characters.”
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年3月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本は安全でやさしい人が多い

    [From March Issue 2014]

    Meghan SAHARA
    Meghan SAHARA from Pittsburgh, United States, teaches English conversation to junior and senior high school students at Musashino Joshi-Gakuin High School in Tokyo. She decided to come to Japan on the advice of a friend who had lived in the country. Meghan says she was already interested in Japan because she was fond of films by directors OZU Yasujiro and KUROSAWA Akira.
    “I’ve been here nearly five years. It’s very easy to live in Japan and I like it. It’s safe and there are many kind-hearted people here. I like Japanese food. I can eat nattou (fermented soybeans), too,” laughs Meghan. She studied the Japanese language in college for about a year and says, “Japanese is a beautiful sounding language.”
    Meghan studies Japanese at Iidabashi Japanese Language School at Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Honorific expressions and kanji make her feel that Japanese is difficult. “Kanji is hard, but fun. I use a smartphone app called ‘Anki’ in order to study it. The app works in the same way as flash cards and it’s handy that I can share vocabulary lists with friends over the Internet.”
    Meghan got married to a Japanese man and moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2013. Before that, she lived in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, where she taught English at a senior high school. When she met up with her friends over the summer to go to a festival, she met the man who is now her husband. On her days off she spends her time going out for meals or to the movies with her husband.
    One of the tourist attractions she wants to visit in Japan is Tokyo Disneyland. Even when she lived in the US, her native country, Meghan had never been to Disneyland. When she said this to her students, they were very surprised. “They suggest I go soon,” she laughs.
    When she started working in Japan as an English teacher, she was surprised at the strict timekeeping and politeness of students at Japanese schools. She was most surprised by ‘clean-up time’ (when students clean their classroom at the end of the day); something that doesn’t exist in American schools. Meghan says, however, that cleaning one’s school is a good thing. “I think it’s a practice that makes you proud of your school.”
    In her classes she tells a lot of jokes and plays games to create a relaxing mood. “The practice of picking on students one after the other to speak out aloud makes them nervous. Because it’s so unfamiliar to them, it’s quite understandable that they are embarrassed of speaking English in front of classmates. So I first let them practice in small groups.”
    Meghan says that it’s great fun to teach English conversation to students. “Once they understand they can speak freely, without thinking about entrance exams like in other classes, they begin to express their ideas with great flair. It’s rewarding to see the pleasure my students get from understanding what they’re saying in English.”
    Iidabashi Japanese Language School
    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年3月号掲載記事]


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  • アメリカのオーディション番組で優勝

    [From February Issue 2014]

    EBINA Kenichi,
    Director of Ebina Performing Arts
    “I am not very good at dancing,” says EBINA Kenichi. “Generally, in terms of dance, Caucasians and black people cut a better figure. I thought I wouldn’t make it because I’m Asian and short,” says Kenichi who, in September 2013, danced his way to winning the famous American talent show “America’s Got Talent,” taking home one million dollars in prize money.
    Ebina was born in Tokyo in 1974. He wasn’t especially fond of dancing. Because he had a friend that liked to dance, he would dance with him and they’d go to clubs together. Disappointed in love at the age of 20, when he remembered that he “wanted to go to America,” he went abroad, quitting his job at a gardening shop.
    Ebina’s experience of America was invigorating. “For the first time I thought that studying was fun,” he says. “In Japanese classrooms, students silently listen to what the teacher is saying and write it down to memorize. American teachers urge students to be assertive. And the students boldly speak out, even if their English is full of mistakes. It was only the Japanese students who were shy about making mistakes. Even if they got better scores in grammar than the native students, the Japanese students were afraid of failure.”
    “The American style suited me better,” says Ebina. “In addition, Japanese people hate being different from others, but in America, people do not have to be the same. I felt like I could be myself in America.”
    Around that time, Ebina danced at a school party. “When I performed some steps that I learned from a friend a long time ago, it was well received. It made me so happy that I started to teach myself to dance. I watched videos and went to watch performances, and tried to imitate the moves that interested me. Though it was only a part time job, I got work going to parties and dancing in order to liven things up.”
    Wanting to make it as a dancer, people come to New York from all over the world. “The standard is really high and I’m no match,” Ebina says. “But I was able to realize that when I recognized my weaknesses, there were other ways around it. Because my body is stiff I devised ways of making myself look supple, and worked hard on routines and production for the enjoyment of the audience.”
    Ebina’s performance features a combination of music, visuals, and lights. He draws from styles of dance that he finds interesting, including, hip-hop, jazz, and ethnic styles. He also does magic. So far he has won “Amateur Night” at the New York Apollo Theater as part of a group, and became grand champion as a solo performer having won the TV version “Showtime at the Apollo” seven times. He has performed in various countries including Japan, Australia, Europe and Asia.
    “I think I present particularly well visually,” Ebina says. “So someday soon I would like to direct. There are a lot of performers who are better than me, but there are many people who do not know how to show that off. My dream is to bring them together to create a show.” Ebina is supportive of Japan’s youth. “If you’ve only lived in Japan then you aren’t aware of the advantages of Japan. When you go out into the world, your outlook on life broadens, and if you can speak English, your market broadens to span the globe.”
    Ebina Performing Arts
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年2月号掲載記事]


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  • テレビ番組とマジックを通して国際交流

    [From February Issue 2014]

    David JOHN
    David JOHN produces programs for Indonesian TV, and, at the same time, has also been doing a wide variety of other activities, including working as a magician. In 2012, he set up a company called Curio Asia with some friends. “Kokoro No Tomo,” Indonesia’s first TV program dedicated to introducing Japan, is produced there and has been very favorably received.
    Some Japanese language schools in Indonesia use this TV program as a teaching tool. “Episodes in which Japanese idols appear are particularly popular,” says David. Japanese idol groups like Scandal have fans in Indonesia, too.
    David majored in IT programming at university and landed his first job with a Swedish software company. He was transferred to a Japanese subsidiary and came to Japan in 2000. Utilizing the knowledge he acquired there, he now works for an IT-related staff introduction agency. “I’m busy, but it’s a fulfilling job and I enjoy it,” says David.
    David managed to pick up his Japanese mostly through self-study. “I had lessons from friends and watched (the same) Japanese TV dramas over and over again. I attended a karate dojo as a hobby and during that time everyone around me was Japanese, so I had to speak Japanese whether I liked it or not. I made progress thanks to that,” says David.
    The secret of making progress with Japanese is to “talk with a variety of different people,” stresses David. “You can’t internalize whatever you learned unless you use it. Besides, Japanese has a male language and a female one. Non-Japanese men who only speak Japanese with their Japanese girlfriends can sound like women and that’s weird at times,” he laughs.
    David started doing magic as a hobby eight years ago and he’s now at a professional level. He was inspired by watching a magic program on TV. He studied with books on magic and delighted friends with demonstrations. By performing shows in different places he changed from being an enthusiast to a professional.
    He gets a lot of work livening up the parties of foreign-owned companies. Fluent both in English and Japanese, he’s a capable MC and is sometimes asked to host events. At matchmaking parties and wedding receptions he gets a man and a woman to help him with a trick. For this trick which each of them hold up a card and, at the last minute, the cards transform into a single card.
    David says that, in the future, he’d also like to produce TV programs that introduce Indonesia to Japanese. “While it’s worthwhile presenting the positive side of Japan to Indonesia, Indonesia, too, has many beautiful places other than its famous resort of Bali. I’d like it if many Japanese knew more about Indonesia.”
    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年2月号掲載記事]

    デイビッド・ジョンさんはインドネシアのテレビ番組の制作を行いながら、マジシャンとしても活躍するなど、様々な活動をしています。デイビッドさんは2012年に友人たちとキュリオ・アジア社を立ち上げました。ここで制作した、インドネシア初の日本紹介を専門とするテレビ番組「Kokoro No Tomo」は大好評です。

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  • ホストファミリーとの会話で日本語上達

    [From January Issue 2014]

    Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS
    “Learning languages isn’t difficult at all for me. Stuff like math and calculation feel very hard, though,” laughs Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS. Ariadna is Spanish. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, German, French, English and Italian. In college, she studied language interpretation, translation and Japanese. “I passed yon kyuu (the fourth level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test two years ago. I want to try san kyuu (the next level up) next time.”
    In her teens, Ariadna became interested in Japan because she liked Japanese cartoons such as “Crayon Shinchan.” When she was 19, she did a homestay in Japan for a month. She liked Japan even more, so she started studying Japanese in college and came to Japan in October 2013 for another homestay. She used Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan each time.
    “At the moment I’m planning to stay for half a year, but I’d like to stay in Japan as long as possible. So I’ve started working part-time for a Spanish restaurant,” says Ariadna. Before returning to Japan, she got together 14,000 euros for expenses for half a year. “This consisted of 7,000 euros from my grandmother, 3,000 from my father and 4,000 from my savings. The money was saved working in the restaurant my mother runs.”
    At first, her grandmother was against her going to Japan for the second time. She said, “I may not be alive when Ariadna returns.” “But I had a deep desire to go to Japan. When I told her this, she gave me the money she’d saved up over many years.” Ariadna called her grandmother by Skype as soon as she arrived in Japan. “My grandmother was surprised to see my face for the first time on Skype. She looked very happy, though.”
    She’s now staying with the HIRASAWA family; a household of three people: father, mother and daughter. Her Japanese language school is a 15 minutes bike ride away. She gets up at eight in the morning, attends classes from nine to one and works from five to eleven pm. She now makes 800 yen an hour, but might get a raise if she applies herself.
    She often cooks with Tsuyako, her host mother. “I like most Japanese dishes such nikujaga (meat and potato stew), okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza) and shabushabu. I don’t mind the sticky texture of okura, either. But I can’t stand the texture of konnyaku, nor nattou, which smells like the soles of socks. I recently prepared a Spanish dish and they all loved it.”
    For fun, she goes to all kinds of places with her host sister Ami. They’ve been to a music event near Mt. Fuji as well as to Tokyo Skytree. “If there’s something I don’t understand, I ask my host mother or Ami right away. There was a rather large earthquake the other day. I was told to take shelter under a table when the ground shakes. They also took me to a school that becomes a shelter in the event of an emergency.”
    As soon as she hears new words in conversations, Ariadna writes them down on word cards. “I recently added the word moto-kare (ex-boyfriend) after hearing it from my host mother,” she laughed. “I converse as much as possible using words I’ve learned from the cards. I make full use of my brains doing this and the words stick in my memory. Because I can talk with my host family whenever I want, my lifestyle now is well suited to study.”
    Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年1月号掲載記事]

    アリアドナさんは10代の頃、「クレヨンしんちゃん」など日本のまんがが好きで、日本に興味を持ちました。そして19歳のとき、1ヵ月間日本にホームステイしました。日本がもっと好きになったので大学で日本語の勉強を始め、2013年10月、またホームステイのために来日しました。どちらも株式会社ネクステージ・ホームステイ イン ジャパンを利用しました。
    株式会社ネクステージ/ホームステイ イン ジャパン

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  • 飛び散る火花から生まれる日本の刀

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Blades are useful for a variety of tasks in our daily lives: kitchen knives to cut raw fish up into sashimi, scissors to create beautiful hairstyles and razor blades to keep skin smooth. These days most blades used in Japan are manufactured in Japan. Sharp edged and suitable for delicate work, blades made in Japan are renowned throughout the world. So why are Japanese blades at the cutting edge?
    Located in the center of Japan, Seki City in Gifu Prefecture is an area known for the production of blades. Blades made there are distributed not only to the domestic market, but also to other areas, including Europe and the U.S., making it a world famous brand like Germany’s Solingen. Blades made in Seki have the largest share of Japan’s market; from blades used for haircuts – which are the best in the country – and kitchen knives, to other types of knives and scissors.
    The reason Seki became the center of production for blades in Japan is that it is following on from a 700 year old sword making tradition that began in the Kamakura era. YOSHIDA Ken, a representative of sword maker Kajita-token, says, “It could be that the level of craftsmanship of blades in Seki is so high because it’s ideally located to easily source high-quality materials and there is an infrastructure in place to distribute swords around Japan.”


    太刀 全長 73cm 刃文 反り 2.1cm
    銘 御護濃州住正明作之

    Yoshida says, “Compared to other sword makers, who were protected by powerful military commanders, sword makers in Seki did everything themselves from production to sales, so they gradually became powerful themselves, without having to rely on people in power. It could be that craftsmen who heard about this reputation flocked to the city, and this also contributed to Seki becoming a city that is highly regarded throughout the world for the production of blades.”
    When a knife cuts well, it’s often said that it is “as sharp as a sword.” The reason that Japanese blades are so sharp is that skills acquired through making swords were utilized for making other kinds of blades. For instance, scissors are made with two blades and it’s particularly important when manufacturing to both make the blades sharp and to put them together. To get a sharp edge, it’s necessary to toughen the metal immediately after it is heated.
    Simply put, the art of sword making is in making steel from a reaction of iron fillings with carbon, which is then repeatedly forged into the shape of a sword. There are many steps in the production process but the main phase is forging. The work of a sword smith involves repeatedly striking steel so that it is stretched out; in temperatures of 1,300℃ little by little it takes shape. This reaches its climax in a process called tempering. Tempering involves hitting steel that is still rather soft to strike off impurities; this adjusts the structure of the steel. When the small mallet of a licensed sword smith and the large mallet of his apprentice are swung down alternately, a lot of sparks fly around.
    In this way, a sword smith’s work is all done by hand. Because it’s impossible to automate, experience, intuition and all the five senses are brought into play. To make the best swords, high temperatures are important for creating the finest possible steel. This is reflected in the English phrase “Strike while the iron is hot.” Forging has a close connection with sword making.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2013年12月号掲載記事]



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  • サンタクロースに学んだ「親の品格」

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Paradise YAMAMOTO
    “It was pure chance that I became a Santa Claus,” says Paradise YAMAMOTO. Paradise is the only Japanese Santa Claus recognized by the Greenland World Santa Claus Congress. At Christmas time, he visits children who are unable to go home at children’s hospitals and care homes.
    In his real job, Paradise is a Latin music musician. In 1998, out of the blue, an acquaintance asked him, “Do you weigh more than 120 kilos?” When he answered, “Perhaps, but just barely,” he was asked, “You’ve been a Santa Claus, too, haven’t you?” Paradise had worn a Santa Claus costume for his live shows and events at kindergartens. So when he answered “Yes, I suppose so,” he was told, “Then, for God’s sake, go to Denmark.”
    Paradise went to the headquarters of the association, took an exam and passed it to become an authorized Santa Claus. For the first few years, however, he worried about whether he should continue as an authorized Santa Claus. He receives no money whatsoever from the association and it’s forbidden to give out “letters from Santa Claus” in exchange for money. He also has to go to the association every year at his own expense to attend the The World Santa Claus Congress. “On top of all that, you have to be dressed as Santa Claus when travelling between your home and Denmark. It’s physically demanding in the middle of summer,” Paradise smiles wryly.
    His wife said to him, “If it’s that hard and you want to quit, why don’t you quit?” He understood however that she was giving him a push. “If I quit now, the past few years would be meaningless,” he reasoned.
    Paradise had an unforgettable experience. “When I visited a care home, I met a child who usually spoke to no one. That child spoke to me of all people. The staff at the home were surprised and said, ‘That’s the first time we’ve heard that child’s voice.’ It’s this kind of thing that makes me think it was worth it despite my doubts.”
    Paradise is from Hokkaido. “When I was small, there were footsteps in the snow outside the window on Christmas morning. My parents not only left presents, but also orchestrated that kind of thing. As a child, I would jump around with excitement crying, ‘Santa Claus came from that direction!’ I gave my parents trouble as a high school student, but when I remembered those Christmas days, I sensed their love and decided to do the same thing myself for children. I think I learned about parental values from Santa Claus.”
    Paradise isn’t happy about the general perception of Santa Claus in Japan today. “Japanese children take it for granted that they’ll receive expensive presents from Santa Claus. I feel sad when I hear a child say ‘I’m going to get a game console for Christmas and buy software for it with my otoshidama (money given as a gift to children at New Year).” I’d rather they experience a dramatic Christmas that brings the family closer together.”
    Santa Claus Site
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2013年12月号掲載記事]


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