• 人気の食品サンプル作りを体験

    [From February Issue 2011]

    In the windows and display cases of Japan’s restaurants and other eating establishments, delicious-looking ramen, soba, hamburger steaks, and more can be seen. These are real-looking, life-size samples of restaurant menu items. Now, similar food samples are made into small, popular, souvenir items such as key rings and fridge magnets.

    The technique of making realistic food samples was developed in Japan around 1920. Hachiman-cho, Gujo City, Gifu Prefecture dominates Japan’s fake-food market, and has recently drawn attention as the product’s place of origin. There is even a studio where visitors can try their hand at making food samples. Those interested often come from far away on organized tours.

    Located in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward, Yamato Sample was founded in 1952, and also manufactures fake-food samples. However, not only do they make and sell fake-food samples, but they also actively organize hands-on workshops in and around the Tokyo metropolitan area. At one event held at Sunshine City Ikebukuro, Tokyo, they had 150 people attend their two-day workshop.

    When making a mini-parfait, silicon is used for the cream. By making a similar soft ice cream shape, then adding the pre-made fruits and other garnishes, the parfait is completed. The fake fruits are all handmade and with very realistic color and texture, making it difficult to distinguish them from actual fruits.

    After putting a few drops of melted wax into a bucket of lukewarm water, wrap it around a prawn-shaped mold before removing it, which completes, in a blink, your fake, prawn tempura. The wax’s outer coating is then exposed to air and solidifies, giving it a crispy looking texture, just like real, fried batter. To make a lettuce leaf, which will resemble the relish, drop some white wax (the inside of the leaf) and green wax (the outside of the leaf) into the lukewarm water. Pinching the corners while keeping the wax submerged for a second let’s you quickly and easily create a piece of fake lettuce.

    ITO Yuichi, a Yamato Sample representative, visits each workshop participant one by one, to give detailed instruction. “At our hands-on workshops, children from two-years-old to senior citizens come to try and make food samples. Each participant is entrusted different fruit molds, so no two finished pieces look the same,” he says, adding that he started the workshops after receiving requests from customers who wanted to try making food sample for themselves.

    One participant, NAGANO Fumiko, expressed her pleasure by saying, “I was surprised that I could do it so easily. I feel attached to it since I made it myself. It’s now my treasure.” The participation fee to try and make a mini-parfait, a tart or a cup cake, is 1,575 yen. This includes the instruction and the cost of the materials. However, since melted wax could splash onto people and cause burns when making fake tempura, this type of workshop is presently not being offered. But they are planning to include it at their new studio, scheduled to open this spring, after they have devised a safer way to do it.

    Thanks to food samples on display at the entrances of many eating establishments, customers know what they can have there. “Displaying food samples was born out of the kindness of Japanese people who wanted to let their potential customers more easily understand what they offered. By having more people try to make their own food samples, we want them to more deeply understand this particular aspect of Japanese culture,” says Ito.

    Yamato Sample

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko












    Read More
  • どんな国の占いも楽しむ日本人

    [From January Issue 2011]

    In Japan, there is a lot of fortune telling going on. Some TV stations, for example, broadcast “Today’s Fortune Telling” as a morning program, while some magazines and “free papers” contain articles featuring fortune telling. Fortunes are sometimes printed on packages of candy, and some department stores even have their own fortune telling corners. Walking along some busy streets, especially at night, and you can find fortune tellers counseling customers at little desks that they have set up.

    In Japan, various fortune telling methods from many different countries are on offer. As early as the eighth century, India, the birthplace of Buddhism, introduced fortune telling, while in Japan, the old capital of Kyoto was built based on Chinese influences. From the Meiji period (1868~1912) onward, Western astrology and tarot seeped in. Lately, there have even been methods of telling fortunes by using ancient Mayan calendars.

    Now, Japanese television programs and magazines often feature astrology, and fortune telling by blood type. Astrology tells one’s fortune based on the position of celestial bodies when a person is born. But, invented in Japan in the 1970s, blood type fortune telling uses the ABO blood group system (a blood-classification system based on red blood cell count), in order to divine one’s fortune, or to see whether or not two people are compatible with each other. Previously, there were also booms in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui (the ancient system of balancing aesthetics) and Doubutsu Uranai (animal-type categorization by birth date). However, lately, “power spots,” which are said to make people healthier and more energetic, are being given media attention.

    Some fortune tellers provide counseling by e-mail or over the phone, or meet their clients at coffee shops. “I tell people’s fortunes with tarot, so I need a rather big table that I can spread my cards across,” says fortune teller TAKAHASHI Kiriya. “Some people have serious troubles, so I make it a point of picking a quiet coffee shop where there is enough space between tables. My most popular client requests are first about their fortunes regarding love, then about their work.”

    Takahashi specializes in telling fortunes using the tarot, and Western astrology. She says: “As I had always liked fortune telling, I studied it on my own first, met a good mentor, and became a fortune teller at the age of 25. Since many tarot cards have beautiful pictures on them, I collect them for purposes other than just my work.” Takahashi recently wrote a book on how to become a fortune teller, titled “Uranaishi Nyumon” (A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Fortune Teller). “There is really a lot to learn about fortune telling. I continue to study by telling famous people’s fortunes and then checking to see if I was right about them, all while examining new theories,” she says.

    “Japan today seems to have become a society where it’s difficult for people to speak with one another, even if they are in trouble. In the olden days, people were able to turn to their family and neighbors,” says Takahashi. “Unlike in America, counseling is not common here. But people still want someone willing to listen to them, and to give them advice. I think fortune tellers are meeting those needs.”

    Some schools teaching handicrafts, art and languages, also offer courses in fortune telling. The Asahi Culture Center Shinjuku, which offers various courses including providing Japanese education to non-Japanese, has also been offering, as of October 2010, ten fortune telling related courses. One of them is the Shisen Suimei (Four Pillars of Destiny) Class taught by Kokumon, who studies Oriental fortune telling specializing in feng shui.

    “I don’t think Japanese people particularly like fortune telling. In my opinion, of all Asian peoples, the Japanese are the least enthusiastic about feng shui,” says Kokumon. “In India, for example, if a fortune teller says that you can’t marry someone because you are not made for each other, it may be impossible to do so. In China, businessmen are serious about making use of feng shui for work. In Japan, on the other hand, most fans of fortune telling are women. And it seems like they are just enjoying it rather than making use of it.”

    Kokumon continues: “Since the 1990s, more and more people in Western countries have become interested in feng shui, but generally they still don’t really know much about it. On the other hand, in China ordinary people believe in feng shui. Given this, the Japanese interest in it can be said to fall somewhere between Asian and Western countries.”

    “In America, feng shui is popular among Hollywood celebrities,” says American Suzanne BLESCH. When she first came to Japan, Blesch was very surprised to see “Today’s Fortune Telling” broadcast on TV just like a weather report. “In America, young women also like astrology, if anything, but not as much as Japanese women. Besides, there are some types of fortune telling that seem absurd. For example, fortune telling using the initials of people’s names has too little variation,” she says.

    But now, Blesch too enjoys fortune telling. She admits that “On a morning that I hear today’s lucky color is green, I look for green items or clothes to put on. If I hear that I should be careful about human relations, I act more cautiously. I think Japanese fortune-telling is fun, amusing, and instructive. But when I hear that something bad is going to happen, I try not to believe it.”


    John ZHEN, another American, was amazed to see a fortune telling corner at a Japanese department store. “Of course, we have fortune tellers in the USA, and some of them are very famous. But generally, fortune tellers operate somewhere out-of-sight such as in the back streets. Also, American fortune tellers try to stress how scientific their methods are, but in Japan people seem to prefer it if fortune telling is mysterious,” he says.

    SUZUKI Ai, a Japanese woman living in Tokyo, loves consulting fortune tellers. She says, “I’ve read many books especially on astrology, and what they say is really true. The fortune teller told me things like, ‘You have a good fortune, but it will run out unless you make efforts’ or ‘Something bad might happen to you, so you should try to enhance your fortune by doing a good deed.’ Hearing those things allows me to think positively, like ‘Okay, I’ll try hard and do good things.’”

    Of course, there are some Japanese who can’t be bothered with fortune telling. However, most it seems, either like discussing it or enjoy trying it.

    TAKAHASHI Kiriya
    Asahi Culture Center

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo



















    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • ペットのために手作りする服とアクセサリーが人気

    [From January Issue 2011]


    These days, it is common to see pets wearing outfits and accessories such as miniature Dachshunds in T-shirts and cats with ribbon collars. During the summer, some puppies wear shoes to protect their feet from the heat of paved streets. Some pets are even more dressed up than their owners. However lately, more and more pet owners are making their pet’s clothing and accessories by themselves.

    The clothing sold at Tokyo pet shops can cost from 3,000 to 5,000 yen per item, and for some kinds of dogs, the number of items is limited. But, if you choose a material that suits your taste and then sew it yourself, you can, for a low cost, make a great piece that perfectly fits your pet.

    OHSHIMA Yumiko is the representative of, and designer at, Ruri’s Dog in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, a shop that specializes in selling dog-wear. In July 2010, she released a DVD instructing viewers on how to easily make dog outfits. On it, you can see her actually making clothing. It starts by discussing the materials, the necessary tools and how to take measurements, all using close-ups of her hands at work, making the DVD very well-received. A beginner can make an item in about an hour with 1,000 yen-worth of material.

    MIYASHITA Sachiko, who made a T-shirt for her beloved dog with the help of the DVD says, “My friends now ask me to make clothes for their dogs. When I’m walking my dog, many people praise us. And that has resulted in me making new friends.” Ohshima adds that “your affection for your pet deepens after you make clothes for it. And the joy that your pet brings you also increases.”

    SUZUKI Keiko and MURATA Naomi, who both live in Hiroshima City, opened Favrile Art, an Internet shop selling pet accessories, five years ago. ABE Chiho, a regular customer of theirs says, “Of course their designs are attractive, but on top of that, the needlework is tight and reliable.”

    Suzuki says, “There were not many shops selling pet accessories, and since I could not find any preferred items, I started making accessories and small articles for my pet by myself. When I also gave them as presents to my friends, they were quite happy.” This eventually lead to the opening of the shop.

    According to a 2010 Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living survey, 54.4 percent of people consider their pet as “a member of their family.” According to a 2009 survey regarding the actuality of dressing pets, it was found that 42 percent of pets in the Tokyo Metropolitan and Kansai areas wore some kind of pet-wear.

    “Only an owner knows what color and design best suits his or her pet. The most important thing is to enjoy making it. Your pet will surely feel your affection through your handmade, one-of-a-kind outfit,” says Suzuki.

    OHSHIMA Yumiko
    Favrile Art
    Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Survey

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko





    東京都世田谷区で犬服専門ショップRURI’S DOGの代表で犬服デザイナーの大島ゆみこさんは、誰でも簡単に作れるようにと、2010年7月に作り方を収録したDVDを発売した。実際に大島さんが作っている様子が収録されている。材料と道具の説明、サイズの測り方から始まり、手元のアップもあってわかりやすいと好評だ。初心者でも1,000円程度の材料費で、約1時間で出来上がる。


    広島県広島市在住の鈴木啓子さんと村田尚美さんは、5年前に二人でペット用アクセサリーグッズショップFavrile Artをネット上でオープンさせた。「デザインが素敵なのはもちろん、しっかり縫ってあるので安心です」と、何度も利用している阿部千穂さんは話す。




    Favrile Art


    Read More
  • 日本語学習と国際交流

    [From December Issue 2010]

    A survey about Japanese language education at overseas academic institutions was conducted by The Japan Foundation from September 2009 through January 2010.

    It was found that in 2009, 125 overseas countries and 8 regions taught the Japanese language. Total numbers indicated that 14,939 academic institutions with 49,844 teachers taught the language to 3,651,761 students. Compared to the 2006 results for the same survey, all number were up with an increase of 1,300 more institutions (up 9.5%), 5,523 more teachers (up 12.5%) and 671,941 more students (up 22.5%).

    East Asia was the most active area accounting for 44.1% of the institutions, 54% of the teachers, and 57% of the students involved in global Japanese education. The number of Southeast Asian students studying Japanese also increased significantly. Their percentage rose from 14.8% in 2006, to 24.9% in 2009. East Asia and Southeast Asia alone account for over 80% of the total number of students studying Japanese worldwide.

    The neighboring country of South Korea is the most active. Currently there are approximately 960,000 Koreans studying Japanese, or about 26.4% of the total students worldwide. Second is China, another of Japan’s neighbors. Approximately 830,000 Chinese students, or 22.7%, are learning Japanese. Coming third is Indonesia with 720,000 students, or 19.6%. Students from these three countries together account for 70% of the total number of global students learning Japanese.

    So what kind of academic facilities are these students studying the language in? According to the survey, most students are studying at secondary schools, consisting of approximately 2 million students: equivalent to 54.9% overall. The next highest number is found in higher educational institutions at approximately 970,000 students, which is 26.5%. The third highest number is at approximately 47,000 students (13.0%), who are at non-academic institutions. And as for primary school children, there are approximately 20,000 pupils (5.6%) studying the Japanese language.

    And why is Japanese being studied internationally? The top 4 survey reasons given were (multiple responses): “to gain knowledge and information about the Japanese culture (history, literature, etc.),” “to gain knowledge and information about the Japanese culture (anime, manga, J-pop, etc.),” “interest in the Japanese language,” and “to be able to communicate using Japanese.”

    “To gain knowledge and information about the Japanese cultures (anime, manga, J-pop, etc.),” was a newly added response to the most recent survey. As a result, it can be concluded that Japanese pop culture has become one of the prime motivators for people to study the language. Additionally, primary and secondary educational institutes replied that, “students are required to learn it by their country or government” resulting in the increase/decrease in the number of students who are affected by government policies.

    And who teaches the Japanese language in all these countries? According to the survey, out of the 49,844 Japanese language teachers, 14,044 (or 28.2%) people are actually native Japanese speakers. As for the remaining 35,800 (71.8%) teachers, Japanese is not their mother tongue.

    And what concerns do international institutions face when teaching Japanese? Many cite inadequate teaching materials and equipment as their primary concern. While on the other hand, the newly added choice of “possibly, Japanese will be replaced by other languages” was not as concerning to these institutions.

    Hiragana Times magazine offers a service called “JACS-Japanese Assisting Coach System” (free) to its subscribers. ISHIKAWA Shinobu, a public worker living in Tokyo, teaches Japanese to Tokyo resident Helio Galvao CIFFONI who is Brazilian. They meet for lessons once a week after work at a nearby coffee shop and use Hiragana Times as their textbook. After their lesson ends, they discuss their own cultures in English.

    “A volunteer had taught me English while I was studying abroad in the USA. So because of that experience, I wanted to return the courtesy and decided to become a volunteer,” says Ishikawa.

    In contrast, Helio says, “I do not use Japanese for work, but I am studying Japanese so that I can better communicate with my Japanese friends and colleagues. I go on business trips a lot, so it is hard for me to attend language schools regularly. But with this system, I can have lessons when it is convenient for me. And since we use Hiragana Times as our textbook, I can also learn about news in Japan which is a topic I can then discuss with my colleagues,” he explains.

    SANO Hitomi is also teaching Japanese and interacting internationally via the Internet. She uses Skype to teach Japanese to a North American man, saying that “It is a social contribution that I can make while working during the day. And it strengthens my communication and teaching skills, so I am learning as well.”

    Sano has already taught Japanese to 4 people. During her first class with a new student, she asks them their reason for wanting to learn Japanese, and then adjusts her teaching method accordingly. She also creates a quiz based on each lesson for her students to take during their next session. “I feel that Japanese education has broadened its horizon with the help of the Internet and with language teaching volunteers. As a Japanese person, I would feel proud to know that people think kindly about the Japanese language, and I would be even happier knowing that I have contributed even a little in spreading that thought,” she says.

    The Japan Foundation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo






    これらの国の学習者たちは、どのような機関で日本語を学んでいるのでしょうか? このアンケートによれば、一番多いのは中等教育の機関です。54.9%にあたる約200万人が、中等教育で日本語を学んでいます。次に多いのは高等教育機関で、26.5%にあたる約97万人です。3番目に多いのは学校教育以外の機関で学んでいる人たちで、13.0%にあたる約47万人です。そして初等教育の人たちが約20万人、5.6%います。











    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • おしゃれな女性たちのランニング・ブーム

    [From December Issue 2010]

    The Imperial Palace, where the Emperor of Japan resides, is located in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Here, among the lush greenery, and somewhat out of place in the city center, is the Palace moat, where swans and geese can be found swimming about. Recently, the path encircling the Palace has become a popular place to go jogging.

    The Palace path has been critically acclaimed by running enthusiasts as being “a perfect practice course” because one lap is approximately 5 km, with no traffic lights, making it ideal to accurately time a run. And, since the police guard the Palace 24/7, runners can feel safe even late at night. Area resident SAITO Minoru says, “Someone I know has been jogging there everyday for about 50 years,” adding that “there are also a lot of non-Japanese runners and others who are training hard, aiming to participate in the Honolulu Marathon. Some people even stop by the sentou (public baths) and hotel gyms around the area afterwards.”

    The sudden jump in the number of runners around the Imperial Palace was triggered by the Tokyo Marathon, which was first hosted in 2007. It became very popular because anyone could register, and participants selected by lottery could see famous sights around Metropolitan Tokyo as they ran. The marathon’s popularity continues, as the 5th edition, scheduled for February 27, 2011, received more than 335,000 applicants. This is 9.2 times the event’s maximum allowable capacity.

    And the running fad has spread well beyond the Tokyo Marathon. More and more similar events are being organized, including the Lake Biwa-Otsu Relay Marathon and the Koushuu Fruits Marathon. Other, more events, such as “RunGirl Night,” a running event and after party exclusively for women, are also being organized.

    IKEDA Miho, a technical staff member at ASICS Store Tokyo, says: “With the Tokyo Marathon boom, we saw a rapid increase in the number of runners. Now, running has become entrenched in daily life. Today’s runners are people who truly love the sport.”

    “Previously, ASICS customers were predominantly men. Their aim was to break their previous record, and they were looking for highly functional sportswear. But now, we have more female customers. They run for various reasons including having fun, health, and to make a fashion statement. Their styles are very tasteful, combining running skirts or running dresses with other items,” she explains.

    New facilities called “ran-sute,” short for “runners’ station” have also popped up around the Imperial Palace. They are equipped with lockers and showers, and cost between 500 ~ 800 yen per visit, or 2,000 ~ 8,000 yen per month. After satisfying run, drop by the “ran-sute,” shower, freshen up, fix your hair and makeup (with the supplied cosmetics), and then head out on a date or for dinner. This seems to be the new after 5 PM lifestyle of today’s health-conscious fashionistas.

    Tokyo Marathon
    RunGirl Night
    Asics Store Tokyo

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • 現代日本の「永眠の地」事情

    [From November Issue 2010]

    In Japan, the deceased are generally cremated (reduced to ashes) before being inurned. This is because cremated bodies occupy less space and are more hygienic than bodies buried in a coffin. After cremation, the deceased’s remains are brought to the plot where their engraved family gravestone is located, and where their family’s ancestors lay, and future generation’s family members will eventually rest. Usually, memorial services and gravesite maintenance become the spouse’s or first-born son’s responsibility.

    But recently, more people have started choosing a different type of grave site. This is because a family is now considered to be the “husband, wife and offspring.” Additionally, some even consider the ritualistic inheritance of the grave by the eldest son to be old fashioned, while others do not want to burden their children with tiresome grave-maintenance. There are even those who remain single throughout their entire lives.

    At Shinjuku’s Koukokuji Temple, you can find the Ruri-den building that was built in 2006 to house inurned remains. Stepping inside, visitors are immediately welcomed by a large Buddha statue. Lightning the walls are approximately 2,000 smaller Buddha statues made using an ancient glass making technique. Behind each one of these is a locker-style storage compartment where people’s inurned remains rest. All these glass Buddhas shimmer in various colors when illuminated by the full-color LED lighting system.

    Ruri-den is located in the central Tokyo area, granting easy access, while Koukokuji Temple manages the building, so future maintenance is never an issue. Since Tokyo is so very congested, a conventional grave would cost several million yen. But a spot at Ruri-den is comparatively affordable, starting at only 750 thousand yen. People purchasing a place here receive a smart card, which when used, illuminates the corresponding Buddha’s location.

    Information Manager MURAMATSU Mitsukuni says: “Ruri-den is a cemetery that commuters to the city center decided to build. Everyone began to think of their final resting place after retirement, and we cooperated in creating their ideal spot. It is highly regarded as there is no additional burden on their offspring, and it is easy to visit. The Buddhas of Ruri-den protect the living and guide the deceased into Joudo (the Buddhist Pure Land where people go after death.)”

    Japanese “family graves” are also inconvenient for women. Traditionally, women change their family name after marriage, which means that they usually rest in their husband’s family grave. So it was difficult to find a place where women who “don’t want to rest in the husband’s family grave,” or people who divorced, and single people, could be buried.

    SSS Network is a non-profit organization for women who value the uniqueness of their lives. The group members hold meetings to discuss post-retirement planning while creating support networks. They also enjoy cherry-blossom viewing and social parties. The network members own a communal gravesite, where members can rest after their death, for an affordable 250 thousand yen.

    “Deciding our final resting place will allow us to live the rest of our lives in peace. That is why we created the communal grave,” says MATSUBARA Junko, the head of SSS Network. “We value our hearts, so the members have an annual memorial service. We have received comments such as: ‘I am relieved now that I have a grave to rest in,’ and ‘I won’t feel lonely because I know the group will mourn for me.’”

    There is also an increase in the number of people who wish to have their remains returned to nature. Blue Ocean Ceremony will scatter the ashes of the deceased into Tokyo Bay. Tentokuji Temple in Chiba Prefecture offers jumoku-so (burial under a tree). In this burial ceremony, the ashes are placed in the ground and a tree is planted on top of the remains. There are 40 kinds of trees and flowers to choose from, including a cherry tree, and this service is very popular as it increases mountain greenery.

    There are also some people who make jewelry from the ashes, or with strands of hair, of the deceased. This “mourning jewelry” originated as a European custom and has recently taken root in Japan. Inblooms Co., Ltd, located in Shizuoka, carries a range of over 200 types of pendants to choose from.

    Another kind of mourning jewelry uses the power of science. From carbon extracted from the ashes and hair of the deceased, a diamond can be created. For around 200 thousand yen you can make a 0.1-karat diamond. “Rather than holding a grand memorial service which costs some million yen, I wanted to use the same money to make a diamond that I can keep with me forever. I made jewelry for our daughter and myself, from my husband’s remains, and wear it as a charm,” shares SATO Takako, one diamond recipient.

    Others still choose to keep their beloved’s remains with them, rather than placing them in a grave, says NOMURA Hiroshi. “Our gravesite is in Hokkaido, but my siblings and I all live in Tokyo. It is very hard for us to visit it often, so we divided our parents’ remains among us. Each of us treasures it in our homes. My house is very small, so we don’t have space to put in a butsudan (a Buddhist commemorative altar), so we placed the remains in a small funeral urn, and put it on a shelf,” he explains.

    “I think there are physical and psychological reasons as to why people changed their preference to simpler funeral and memorial services over lavish ceremonies,” says Inblooms PR representative, TOMINAGA Asami. “Urban housing is very small so there is no space to put a big butsudan. And in western-style homes, more modern butsudan may be desired over traditional Japanese ones. The trend toward nuclear families further allows people to choose their own funeral style without the influence of parents or relatives. Of course there are many people who still choose the traditional ceremonies, but I feel there is more freedom when people choose their own way.”

    NPO SSS Network
    Blue Ocean Ceremony
    Inblooms Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo















    NPO 法人SSS ネットワーク

    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • なぜかわいいファッションは人気があるのか

    [From October Issue 2010]

    Nowadays, kawaii fashion originating in Japan is popular all over the world. “Kawaii” is a word to describe something lovable and charming, such as tiny objects, pets, children and young women. It’s often used by women in their teens and twenties. For them, it’s very important whether or not their clothes and belongings are kawaii. And now, women from outside Japan want kawaii clothes and small articles designed in Japan, too.

    Harajuku is a part of Tokyo where you can find a myriad of shops selling kawaii items. PUTUMAYO, a brand with three shops in the area, sells clothes featuring original designs as well as plenty of lace and frills. Lately, customers from a variety of countries come to the shops. “In the past two hours, we’ve had customers from America, Spain and Germany in our store,” says KATSUTA Hiroko, a spokesperson for HYPER HYPER Co., Ltd., which runs PUTUMAYO.

    Laforet Harajuku, a commercial building that houses quite a few stores selling kawaii outfits, also attracts a crowd of non-Japanese customers. 109 in Shibuya and Marui One in Shinjuku are other commercial complexes with kawaii clothing stores, and are much talked about among non-Japanese shoppers these days.

    Sofia LIM, from South Korea, says: “Japan accepts the cultures of many other countries. They start out by imitating, but before long they create special cultures of their own. That’s not imitation but progress. I guess the Japanese are open-minded.”

    More and more kawaii clothing Japanese brands are opening branches overseas. BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT (a.k.a. Baby), a brand whose items were used in the movie “Shimotsuma Monogatari,” opened a branch in Paris in February 2006 and another in San Francisco in August 2009. Baby’s clothes are characteristically adorned with plenty of lace and frills, like dresses from 18th-century Western Europe, a style called “Lolita fashion.”

    UEHARA Kumiko, a designer for Baby, says when their Paris branch opened, Lolita fashion in France was quite different from that in Japan. “Most of their Lolita outfits were black in color and very Gothic in style, which was unique to European fashion. They were wearing a jumper skirt without a blouse, showing some skin,” she says. “But the next time I went to Paris, they were all dressed in the same way as the Japanese. Not only had their garments become more colorful but they were wearing a jumper skirt over a blouse, with everything coordinated properly from head to toe.” When Uehara saw that, she realized that they had studied Japanese Lolita fashion.

    Uehara adds, “Lolita fashion is a style of clothes that is a dream come true for girls, because they can wear the clothes of princesses or the dolls that they admired in their childhood as modern outfits. Lolita fashion is not clothes that you wear to catch other people’s eye, but rather clothes that you wear because you want to wear them.” The whole point of wearing Lolita fashion, she says, is that it makes you feel happy.“Who’s going to feel unhappy to look at or wear something kawaii? Everybody can get a sense of happiness by looking at or wearing kawaii stuff. As far as I’m concerned, kawaii means happy,” she says.

    “Japanese people all have the sensibility to feel that something is kawaii,” says MASUDA Sebastian, owner and designer of a shop in Harajuku called 6%DOKIDOKI. “Behind that sensibility lies their desire to create a world of their own, put their sense of values in there and find their own form of happiness. However, when young people in Western countries say the Japanese word ‘kawaii,’ what they mean is more like cool, neat or fashionable. By using a word that their grown-ups don’t understand, those young people seem to express their antipathy toward adult society.”

    The items at 6%DOKIDOKI, which is located on a backstreet in Harajuku, are characterized by flashy color combinations such as shocking pink and black as well as fresh new designs, and are often described as “shockingly kawaii.” But Masuda’s job is not just designing products. He has acted on stage, and has also produced shows, doing everything from direction to writing scripts. “I wondered whether or not my work was good, but at the store, customers who don’t know me judge my designs in a visible manner, by buying them or not buying them,” says Masuda.

    At 6%DOKIDOKI not only the interior but also the outer walls are painted bright pink. Inside the store, you see a purple wooden horse, mushroom ornaments and a decoration in the shape of a merry-go-round, as well as gorgeous lighting. “Customers from other countries look at the interior and listen to the music played in the store, and they often praise those things as well as the products we are selling,” says Yuka, a store clerk. “Nowadays, earrings made by putting together the hiragana ‘A RI GA TO U’ and a brooch with the kanji characters ‘kakumei’ (revolution) are very popular.” This store is what Masuda considers the embodiment of “kawaii.” Masuda also holds workshops for learning how to move in a kawaii manner or have a kawaii look on one’s face, and takes part in fundraisers to help developing countries, with the motto “Kawaii saves the world!”

    “Young people choose kawaii items to express their feelings of not wanting to be adults. Young people these days think ‘becoming an adult’ equals ‘giving up.’ So by wearing colorful clothes, they say no to wearing gray like adults and assert that they have their own culture and lifestyle,” explains Masuda. “I think that the kawaii culture is even radical, as it is an expression of the young generation’s vast energy. The kawaii fashion in Harajuku is about pursuing what one loves regardless of rules and genres. I believe that the free, flexible ideas and styles in the fashion are what make it so popular outside Japan.”


    Text: SAZAKI Ryo






    日本のかわいい服のブランドが海外に支店を出すことも増えています。映画「下妻物語」にも取り上げられたブランド、BABY, THE STARS SHINE BRIGHT(通称ベイビー)は、2006年2月にパリ支店を、2009年8月にサンフランシスコ支店を出しました。ベイビーの特徴は「ロリータファッション」と呼ばれる、西ヨーロッパの18世紀頃のドレスのような、レースやフリルが多くついた服です。


    上原さんは続けます。「ロリータファッションは女の子の夢を現実にした服です。子どもの頃あこがれたお姫様やお人形の服を、現代の服として着られるのですから。人の目を気にして着る服ではありません。自分が着たいから着る服です」。ロリータファションは着るだけで幸せな気持ちになれると上原さんは話します。「かわいいものを見たり着たりして、不幸せに感じる人はいるでしょうか? かわいいものを見たり着たりすると、みんな幸せな気持ちになります。『かわいいは幸せ』と私は思います」。






    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • 行列の好きな日本人

    [From October Issue 2010]

    In May 2010, approximately 1,200 people lined up in front of the Apple Store in Ginza, Tokyo, on the day the iPad was released. Some of them were even queuing the night before. In other countries this might have been something of a one-off, but in Japan, it is not unusual to see a long line of people waiting in front of a store on opening day or if it is popular.

    For example, at GRANSTA in the underground level of Tokyo station there is a variety of famous shops, many of them selling food items. At one of them, the Nihonbashi NishikiHorin, there is a long line of customers daily. These people are waiting to purchase the karintou (traditional deep-fried sweet made of wheat) snacks. Before, it used to be a two-hour line-up during the afternoon to evening business hours. However ever since the shop added a second cash register, the line-up has gotten shorter, but you still have to wait about 15 minutes. Because the shop is located within the terminal, the line starts a short way from the storefront to avoid obstructing pedestrians. Staff then come and guide you to the storefront when it’s your turn.

    At Mensoubou Mutekiya in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, the long line full of students and young couples surrounding the store is an everyday sight. The weekend and holiday lunchtime period is the busiest, with approximately 50 people in line waiting anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour.

    SASAKI Daisuke, a college student waiting in the line with a friend says, “I wanted to try this popular ramen at least once. If you’re in line with a friend, you can talk while you wait, so it’s stress free.” Many people in line found out about the ramen on a weblog or by word-of-mouth.

    How do non-Japanese see these long waiting lines? Steve WHITE, a Canadian says, “Westerners are often not as patient as the Japanese, and not as interested in new things. So these long lines seem very peculiar to us.” Japanese people have a tendency to feel comfortable when doing the same thing as everyone else. However, you need to have a clear reason to join a line. It may be to confirm a friend’s recommendation, or to acquire a limited edition product. Recently, there are some people who even “enjoy the wait.”

    Ca, an office worker who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture, introduces shops that are the talk of the town on her weblog “Oishiimon! Essay Ver. 4.” The entries are written in simple and easy to understand text, and the clear photos are mouth watering. Ca says, “I would like to try the places that I found for delicious things even if there is a long line.” The places that she introduces always have a long line. Ca’s weblog is so popular that it has even been introduced on television, while recording 1,000 page views in just a few hours.

    TANAKA Chisako is an office worker who uses Ca’s weblog for reference. “Weblogs are just one source of information, but I would like to go and see for myself. I enjoy discussing whether the wait was worth it or not with my friends,” she says.

    Nihonbashi NishikiHorin
    Mensoubou Mutekiya
    Oishiimon! Essay Ver. 4

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko




    東京・池袋のラーメン店、麺創房 無敵家も、店を囲むように長い行列ができているのはいつもの風景だ。学生やデート中のカップルなど、若者が多い。特に休日の昼時がピークで、多いときで50人ほどが並び、30分から1時間ほど待つことになる。



    神奈川県に住む会社員Caさんは、自らのブログ「美味しいもん!エッセイ Ver.4」で、話題の店を紹介している。記事はわかりやすい文章で、あざやかな写真は食欲を誘う。Caさんは「自分で見つけたおいしい店は並んででも食べたいと思います」と話す。Caさんの紹介する店はどこも行列ができている。Caさんのブログはテレビで紹介されるほどの人気で、数時間に1000アクセスを記録したこともあるという。


    麺創房 無敵家
    美味しいもん! . エッセイ Ver.4


    Read More
  • どうして日本には清潔グッズが多い?

    [From September Issue 2010]

    In Japan many things include the words “koukin (anti-bacterial)” and “jyokin (degerms)” on their labels. Most often, they can be found printed on escalator handrails and cleaning products. Japan also has toilets with built-in bidets for better personal hygiene. And, there are even some hotels and department stores that offer disinfectants in each toilet stall for people to wipe the toilet seats with. So why is Japan so obsessed with hygiene?

    The Takayama Green Hotel located in Gifu Prefecture is one place where guests can enjoy Japanese hot springs. Part of their service is the sterilization of their guests’ slippers. This service is available from 4 pm to 9 pm in front of the daiyokujou (the big communal bathing area). Guests who wear their complimentary slippers to the bathing area can enjoy the hot spring while the hotel staff sterilizes their footwear.

    “We prepare about 5 to 6 dusters (cleaning cloths) to wipe the slippers with. Before using them, we dunk them into a sterilizing solution,” explains KIMURA Hisashi, the person responsible for slipper cleaning. “We place 5 sets of slippers on the work table and then clean them. We spray rubbing alcohol all over them, and then wipe it off. We sometimes wash the slippers in water if they are very dirty. Then we place the slippers in rows ready to be worn. Afterwards, we clean the dusters in washing machines, and then hang them up to dry. The dusters and working tables are used solely for this purpose,” he adds.

    “We have 700 guests staying at our hotel on a busy day, and about 300 on a slow day. During the bathing rush, usually from 5 pm to 6:30 pm, we can get over 200 pairs of slippers,” says Kimura, adding that “many of our guests are pleased with our service, mentioning that this is the first hotel that they ever stayed at that wiped clean their slippers. On our guest survey, we see many comments such as ‘I was very pleased with the slipper-cleaning service,’ or ‘I wore them without any worry.’”

    “Japanese people are accustomed to wearing different footwear indoors and outdoors to prevent dirt from entering the household. Since slippers are often worn on bare feet, it is only natural to want a pair that is clean,” says Kimura.

    P&G Japan, which deals in various sundry products such as detergents and shampoos, sells the “Febreze” product line. Febreze is a spray-on fabric refresher that eliminates odors and degerms soft surfaces that are hard to wash, including sofas, curtains and clothes. Since its launch in 1999, approximately 300 million bottles of Febreze have been sold. Currently, the brand offers 38 different products including solid air fresheners and car fresheners with different scents for different occasions.

    The “Febreze W Jyokin” (double degerming mechanism) product has the same disinfecting power as sunlight. “It was created to ultimately solve the odor problem through sterilization. Not just limited to the deodorizing effect, we developed various products that would also be useful for the Japanese lifestyle, such as hanging laundry indoors,” says Marketing Manager, TAKENAKA Nobu.

    The younger generation has even coined the terms “fabu-suru” and “fabu-ru,” both meaning, “to use Febreze.” Additionally, a survey conducted by P&G found that almost 100% of Japanese housewives “know Febreze,” and that close to 90% “have already used Febreze product(s).” Now, many other companies offer various, similar kinds of degerming products. And because the word “degerming” is so often used on product labels, the Japan Soap and Detergent Association has created a standard for what kind of products can be legitimately labeled as having a “degerming” effect.

    “It is said that Japanese people are very sensitive to smell. One reason may be because Japan’s hygienic environment is in very good order, so people can sense the subtle smells of everyday life,” says Takenaka.

    TOTO Ltd., is the Japanese company that sells the “Washlet,” a warm-water, spray cleaning toilet seat (personal rinsing system similar to a bidet). There are many types of Washlets available today that include basic functions such as a warm toilet seat and a warm water cleaning system. These kinds of toilet seats were originally designed for the physically challenged, but TOTO Ltd., developed the Washlet for the general public and launched them in 1980. Other companies also started manufacturing similar toilet seats, and today approximately 70% of Japanese families now have them installed in their homes.

    Of all of these kinds of toilet seats, the Washlet does more than just spray warm water – it also allows the user to adjust the water jet’s pulsation rate, shape, strength and its angle of spray. These result in a better cleaning than a simple spray of warm water can deliver.

    In addition to the Washlet function, TOTO’s Neorest Hybrid Series toilets have even better features. They are made of a material on to which marks do not adhere, and that is specially coated for extreme surface smoothness. Moreover, the water flow is designed to rotate and clean the bowl while it is flushed.

    Another popular feature is that it’s easy to clean. The personal water nozzle is self-cleaning both before and after it used. And, the toilet lid is easily removable. These easy-to-clean and hard-to-stain product features are the result of continuous modifications based on users suggestions.

    “The reason why these toilet seats are so popular in Japan is because Japanese people are early adopters,” says YAMASAKI Akiko, TOTO’s PR representative. “Also, it is because we, the manufacturers, have a tendency to follow through with good products,” she adds. Those early adopters who have the passion for cleanliness, along with the efforts of the companies who try to fulfill their requests, is why there is such a clean, hygienic environment throughout Japan.

    Takayama Green Hotel
    P&G Japan
    TOTO Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
















    P & G ジャパン株式会社
    TOTO 株式会社

    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • 古都・鎌倉で開かれる外国人向け座禅会

    [From September Issue 2010]

    In 1253, when Kamakura (present day Kamakura City) was still Japan’s capital, the Kenchoji Temple of the Rinzai school of Zen was founded. “Zen,” which teaches universal acceptance, arrived from China and spread across Japan. TAKAI Shoushun, Kenchoji’s present Chief Priest, considers that, as one of its functions, the temple must spread the message of Zen to the world. With that goal in mind, he is offering “zazen-kai” (a Zen meditational retreat) in English for non-Japanese.

    Takai says that “Zazen-kai for non-Japanese,” which started last April, is held once every three months. He adds that “Kamakura is a historical city and there are many temples and other things to see. It is also rich in nature with the Bay of Sagami and the surrounding mountains. It is a popular sightseeing spot not only among Japanese, but also among non-Japanese tourists. If you are coming to Kamakura, I strongly suggest that you experience zazen.”

    The zazen practice is lead by three priests from different temples who are all fluent in English. FUJIO Soin, a priest from Dokuonji Temple, Yokosuka City is one of them. With previous experience working as a banker in New York and several other foreign cities, he says that “the explanation is made in English but the message is the same as in Japanese. The guests easily understand it since the desire to look within oneself is universal.”

    Although the basic posture is to sit cross-legged on the floor, seats are available for those who want, or need them. A 15-minute set is repeated three times. The proper breathing and gaze are explained in detail. Then, during the breaks, participants can stand up and walk around to cure the numbness in their legs. After meditating, participants all chant the sutra (hannya shingyo) together, which is written in romaji. Lastly, tea and confectioneries are served while the guests chat with the priest.

    Reservations can be made via fax. Last minute applications made on the same day are also accepted. A reception starts at 1 pm followed by Zazen-kai at 1:30 pm with the entire course finishing around 3:30 pm. The participation fee is 1,000 yen plus 300 yen to enter the temple. While everyone leaves the temple satisfied, Takai has greater aspirations: “We need to do more advertising. If the number of participants grows, we would gladly make it a monthly event.”

    So far, Kenchoji has practiced zazen with people from many foreign organizations. People of all nationalities and occupations, including managers of Western companies, psychology counselors, and research groups from the United Nations University, have all had firsthand Zen experience. Even Fujio has been lecturing at these retreats for ten years. Takai concluded by saying that “Zen Buddhism lies at the heart of Japanese culture. So through this Zen experience, I hope that Japan’s qualities will be better understood by more people from other countries.”










    Read More