• リメイク・リフォームで、世界にひとつだけの洋服

    [From April Issue 2010]

    In the last few years, a clothing style known as “fast fashion” has become popular in Japan. The trend is to incorporate affordable pricing and manufacture bulk quantities to sell in short-term cycles. UNIQLO, with over 790 stores across Japan, is one of the largest brands offering this style.

    In 1998, UNIQLO offered fleece sweatshirts for 1,900 yen, and sold 8.5 million pieces. From then on yearly improvements were made, and cheap, durable fleece garments soon became regular winter wear for everyone.

    Conversely, a new trend called “Remake Fashion” is also attracting attention. “Remake Fashion” is ready-made clothing altered to one’s own taste. Located just a few minutes walk from JR Omiya Station (Saitama Prefecture), Ichinomiya Dori is known as a second-hand fashion street with about 20 used clothing retail shops open for business.

    “OMIYA momo-kuri” is just one such popular store with Tokyo branches in both Kichijoji and Shimokitazawa. Not only do they sell second-hand clothes, they also trade in retro clothing acquired from overseas. But before selling any item, they alter the pieces to fit with Japanese sensibilities, adding designs to lapels, and changing the buttons to a more appealing set. Their unique designs and colorations are popular with the local students and other fashion-conscious young people. Even some performers shop there for their stage wardrobe.

    Many customers visit often because they want to “wear something different from everyone else.” SAKAI Hidetaka, a 2nd year university student who’s been stopping by the shop since high school, says friends often ask him, “Where did you buy your outfit?” “Second hand clothes are cheaper than new clothes. Moreover, the unique designs are popular with the younger generation,” says store manager NOZAWA Ayumi.

    Located in the Lumine Omiya Building, “Reform and Recycle JUST” alters customers’ clothes to fit their exact size. Customers stop by not just to lift hemlines of their pants and skirts, but to also adjust favorite items that no longer fit. The shop even gets customers who bring in new, recently purchased business suits.

    “Sometimes the alterations cost more than the actual business suit,” says shop owner, OGAWA Miyoko. She says that pulling out all the threads and retaking measurements is painstaking and time-consuming, even for experienced staff, and that altering a two-piece suit to properly fit the body can cost upwards of 30,000 ~ 40,000 yen.

    It seems that the inclination is to alter second-hand clothes for “a cheaper and unique look,” and new clothes for “a better fit despite the fee.” Tailored clothes are very expensive, with remakes and alterations much more convenient, and, the extra care makes people enjoy them more.

    OMIYA momo-kuri
    Reform and Recycle JUST

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko










    大宮 momo-kuri
    洋服のお直し専門店 JUST


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  • 温暖化被害地ツアーはいかが?

    [From March Issue 2010]

    After Lehman’s fall, the number of Japanese tourists decreased due to the global depression. Travel companies are now developing new destinations to increase tourism. A Japanese travel company is planning “Global Warming Experience Tours,” taking advantage of the continued trend for eco tours. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed Ms. ONCHI Miyuki, the manager in charge of the plan.

    CIA: What is the exact meaning of “Global Warming Experience Tours”?

    Mgr.: As you know, abnormal phenomenon are occurring everywhere on the earth. The purpose of these tours is to provide an opportunity to visit the places suffering greatly from global warming, in order to really feel the global crisis. For instance, take a tour to Tuvalu, a little island in the Pacific Ocean, which is sinking due to rising water. The participants will stay and live together with the local people.

    CIA: Isn’t that taking advantage of unfortunate people?

    Mgr.: Not at all! You should know that our tourists spend money there and as a result the locals will profit. Nothing gets resolved by merely sympathizing with the m, something must be done, and this will help their livelihood. We are planning on sending great numbers of tourists to those places in cooperation with travel companies worldwide.

    CIA: What other tours are being offered?

    Mgr.: There is a large Australian lake that dried up and became a desert, which tourists can cross by foot. In Brazil, there is a camp site where the forest has been completely raised. There are also many other destinations, including Northern Europe where falling ice can be seen.

    CIA: Recently the world has started to take global warming more seriously. Do you think you can carry out your plan?

    Mgr.: At COP15 it became obvious that it is hard to calm some countries egos. After all, CO2 emissions are not decreasing.

    CIA: Do you think some positive changes will result from the success of such tours?

    Mgr.: Ironically, the more an area suffers, the more tourists will visit it. Their CO2 complaints will stop, and instead, they will welcome CO2 emitting nations. If CO2 restrictions are abolished, CO2 manufacturing countries will be more productive and consequently the income of their workers will grow and they will have more opportunities to travel. There is no doubt that the tourists from CO2 emitting countries visiting suffering areas will increase, and all parties will be happy. Don’t you think that this is a wonderful plan?

    One Comment from CIA

    Dear Readers, have you heard of the book “The Spider’s Thread” written by AKUTAGAWA Ryunosuke, in which he describes how Buddha pulls one person out of Hell and up to Heaven by a single spider thread for showing compassion. Upon climbing up, the person notices many others following him, so fearing the thread breaking and his descent back into Hell, he shouts, “Get off.” Suddenly the thread breaks in front of him and he plunges back down into Hell again. So readers, please be aware of just how fragile our ecological thread really is.

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency)


    リーマン・ショック以後、世界的な不況で日本人観光客が少なくなった。旅行会社は観光客を増やそうと新しい観光地を開発している。最近はエコツアーの人気が続いていることに目を付けた日本のある旅行会社が、「温暖化体験ツアー」を企画している。Hiragana Times CIAは、その企画の責任者、温地みゆき部長にインタビューした。




    部長:とんでもない! いいですか、観光客はそこでお金を使うので、現地の人はうるおうのです。行動を起こさず、ただかわいそうだと同情するだけでは何も起こりません。何かをしなければなりません。これは現地の生活を助けることになります。私たちは、これらの場所に世界中の旅行会社と一緒にたくさんのお客を送る計画を立てています。









    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

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  • 歴女の誕生と刀剣の魅力

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Interests traditionally considered manly in Japan such as trains and history are attracting an increasing number of women. The trend has seen the creation of several new Japanese phrases such as “tetsu-ko” to describe women who like trains (“tetsudo”), “reki-jyo” for women who like history (“rekishi”) and “butsu-jyo” for women who like Buddhist statues (“butsuzo”). Of these, the word “reki-jyo” (“history girls”) has become so well known to the public that it ranked in the top ten of the 2009 Ryuukougo Taishou (an award for words that were newly created and became common in the year). Many reki-jyo are uniquely fascinated by swords and Japanese traditional suits of armor (yoroi) and helmets (kabuto), as well as historical characters, in contrast to their male counterparts who focus mostly on historical backgrounds.

    At Takase Dojo in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, women-only lessons for tate are gaining popularity. Tate is a series of movements for attacking and defending with a sword, which is often seen in period dramas. Takase Dojo is also a training center for actors and has long been incorporating tate as a way of instructing them. The dojo opened its doors to the public in 2001, and when a tate class exclusively for women was started on a trial basis in the autumn of 2007, it soon became very popular. In July 2009, women-only tate classes began in earnest.

    The classes for women are divided into two levels, beginner and intermediate, each with around 12 students. The students are mostly in their 20s and range from college students to office workers and housewives. “Being a fan of period drama actors, I wanted to try tate,” says AOKI Kaori in the beginner class about her reason for taking up the new hobby. Both beginner and intermediate classes use takemitsu, wooden swords covered with silver foil to look like real swords, but weighing only 350 grams.

    “Women concentrating on swordsmanship all look beautiful. They should be more aware that they are beautiful and have more self-confidence,” says instructor TAKANO Utako. Being paired up makes it possible for each student to practice attacking and defending with a sword. Learning to manipulate a takemitsu also improves posture and makes people more alert to their surroundings.

    Meanwhile, women are found among the visitors at the Japanese Sword Museum in Shibuya Ward these days. “The world of swords was originally dominated by men and women could never set foot in it. That’s the reason why swords were not familiar to women,” says chief curator KUBO Yasuko. Kubo herself is the first female curator at the museum since its founding.

    In olden times warlords cherished swords as family treasures and also used them as weapons in fights and to protect themselves. Until the end of the Edo period, Japan saw a lot of fighting and swords were very familiar to the Japanese.

    There are a number of expressions in Japanese that originate from swords. For example, “Ittou ryoudan” means to slash something into two in a single sweep of the sword. Because of this, the phrase is also used today in the sense of making a quick decision without paying attention to other people’s opinions.

    Takase Dojo
    The Japanese Sword Museum

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko











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  • オリンピック競技にシニア部門をつくるべき!

    [From February Issue 2010]

    At the end of last year a committee for the Olympic game reform consisting of influential Japanese politicians was organized. They made a decision to propose the creation of a senior division in the Olympic Games to the International Olympic Committee. The proposal will be officially submitted to the committee through the Japan Olympic Committee. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed the chief secretary, ITSUWA Masanao.

    CIA: Why will you propose to create a senior division?

    Sec.: At present there are men’s and women’s games in the Olympics, but not senior games. We propose to create the senior division for those over 50 years of age in all Olympic events. The senior division will be further divided into four classes; 50~54, 55~59, 60~64 and over 65.

    CIA: What will happen after creating the senior division?

    Sec.: The senior sports population will surely increase. The world is now in depression. It will bring a great economic effect in the industries of sports goods, gyms, drinks and so on. Japan should propose it to the world as another “Hatoyama Initiative” like the CO2 cut. The world will accept the plan.

    CIA: Why do you propose it so suddenly?

    Sec.: The Hatoyama cabinet has been criticized for having no policy for economic growth. As you know Japan is an aging society and old people have lots of money. With this policy they will spend more money. In a trial calculation, Japan can expect a great economic effect. It will also be good for their health maintenance and should decrease medial expenditure.

    CIA: Is there any other advantage for Japan with this plan?

    Sec.: Japan has the highest ratio of elderly people and the longest life span. There is a high possibility that Japan can get many gold medals in the senior division and be one of the top countries.

    CIA: After all, your true intention is to take advantage of the Olympics, isn’t it?

    Sec.: Yes, actually we have a hidden aim. Japan’s influence in the world is gradually decreasing, reflecting the development of newly emerged economic countries such as China and India. Our purpose also includes diverting people from dissatisfaction. If Japan can make good results in the senior division, the world’s views on the nation’s value will change greatly. The world would begin to compare national power by the power of the elderly, not by economic scale. Then, Japan could be a country people of the world envy.

    One Comment from CIA

    This proposal would be beneficial for Japan, but the US and China, which gain many medals in the Olympics, would oppose this plan just like CO2 cut policy as it violates their benefits. Dear Japanese politicians, you know Hatoyama can not make any decision. It is obvious he cannot pressure the International Olympic Committee. Don’t bring anymore shame on him!

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency)


    昨年の末に日本の有力政治家によるオリンピック改革推進委員会が誕生した。そして、オリンピック競技にシニア部門をつくるよう国際オリンピック委員会に提案することを決めた。提案は2月のバンクーバー・オリンピック終了後に、日本オリンピック委員会を通じて正式に行うとしている。Hiragana Times CIAは、五輪正直事務局長にインタビューした。













    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

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  • 新しい歌舞伎座 ―― 伝統と革新

    [From February Issue 2010]

    The Kabuki-za Theater is in eastern Ginza, a fashionable part of Tokyo known for its high-end stores. A theater for the traditional Japanese performing art of kabuki, the Japanese-style building is characterized by its impressive roof and is registered as a tangible cultural asset. But it has been decided that the theater will be rebuilt because it’s getting old – a new theater and an office building will be constructed on the same site.

    Kabuki has about 400 years of history and continues to preserve its tradition. For example, a family system in which the performing art is handed down from parent to child is still considered the norm. Kabuki plays mostly deal with stories from the Edo period and the lines contain old Japanese that is not used today. So even Japanese sometimes use audio guides.

    Another feature of kabuki is that it changes flexibly to accommodate changes in the times and the political landscape. Take kabuki actors for instance. When kabuki first started, most actors were women. But the then government banned female actors, saying they would corrupt public morals. So boys started to perform instead, which was also subsequently banned by the government. That’s how men came to perform kabuki.

    Kabuki plays do not just preserve tradition. In the Edo period, new works were often created based on actual incidents, such as “Chushingura” (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). From the Meiji period onward, some new kabuki plays were created by exploring and incorporating noh (another traditional dramatic art form) and Western plays.

    Among the latest kabuki plays are “the Super Kabuki,” which incorporate modern music and a traditional Chinese performing art, and “the Cocoon Kabuki,” which are staged in a Shibuya theater just like modern plays. Some kabuki actors are also active in other fields outside kabuki, such as television, film, and even musicals. Not only do some actors perform kabuki plays overseas but they also appear in traditional performing arts in other countries.

    Given this historical background, it’s no wonder that the Kabuki-za Theater is changing as well. After all, the theater itself came out of a change. In the old days kabuki was played in small theaters called “shibai-goya” (play huts), but in the Meiji period there was a movement toward modernizing plays called the “Theater Enhancement Movement.” Amid this movement the Kabuki-za Theater was built in Ginza in 1889.

    What was new about the theater was its Western-style exterior and electric lights, the most modern equipment of the time. A little over two decades after its completion, however, the Kabuki-za Theater saw its exterior changed to a Japanese-style in 1911 because the Imperial Theater, with a Western-style appearance, was to be built in Hibiya. After that, the theater experienced two fires and it was reconstructed each time. The current one is the fourth version.

    The fifth-generation Kabuki-za Theater will be equipped with elevators and escalators, features lacking in the old one. Meanwhile, the stage will retain the old style and traditional seats such as sajiki (balcony seats) and makumiseki (non reserved seats) will remain unchanged. The old and new elements of the Kabuki-za Theater symbolize the tradition and innovation of kabuki. The current theater will be used till this April, and the new theater will be completed in 2013.

    Shochiku Co., Ltd.
    Chuo-ku Kyobashi Library

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo











    文:砂崎 良

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  • 遼君のような子どもがほしい!



    日本の男子ゴルフ界にビッグスターが生まれた。その名は石川遼。18歳にして2009年は賞金1億8千万円を超え、賞金王になった。しかもハンサムでスタイルもよく、インタビューもさわやかで、英語も話す。今、遼君のような子どもがほしいという親が増えている。Hiragana Times CIAは、ベストセラー「子どもに賭ける親の夢」の著者、大星光氏をインタビューした。













    ※CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

    [:en][From January Issue 2010]

    A new star has been born in the world of Japanese men’s golf. His name is ISHIKAWA Ryo. He is only 18, but became the top prize winner in 2009, earning over 180 million yen. In addition, he is good-looking, speaks well in interviews and speaks English. Now, many parents wish to have a child like Ryo-kun. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed Mr. OOBOSHI Hikaru, author of the bestselling book “Parents’ dreams betting on their own children.”
    CIA: Why do many parents wish to have a child like Ryo-kun?
    Author: Until now, most parents have wished for their children to have a steady life, offering them a higher education so they can enter a leading company. However, it is difficult nowadays to be a regular employee of a leading company, and even if they do get such a job those companies also have the possibility of going into bankruptcy. Because of this, there is an obvious trend now for parents to encourage their children to be somebody like an athlete who isn’t reliant on a company.
    CIA: But, it can cost a lot of money for a child to become a top athlete.
    Author: Taking golf as an example, parents let their children start from around age 6. Golfing requires a lot of money for equipment and practice. It will be a burden for poor families. Father of professional female golfer YOKOMINE Sakura devoted himself to raising her. They would sleep in a camping van when she participated in a competition. His devotion to her was admired and he was later elected to the Diet.
    CIA: Even so, only few people can be successful, can’t they?
    Author: 6 billion people live on the planet, but no one has the same face and character. Suppose the world is a theater, everyone is given a role from God and leaves the stage after acting their role. Not all people can be the main character.
    CIA: In spite of that, parents wish for their children to be stars.
    Author: That’s a problem. The most important job for parents is to find a child’s talent and guide them in that direction. But, it is most unfortunate for children that parents are lacking in the talent to find it.
    CIA: It must be hard for such parents.
    Author: Actually, the parents’ desires are not really concerned with what is best for their children. They come from their selfishness to want their children to realize the dreams they could not achieve themselves. It is like the parents are gambling on their children being a success.
    One Comment from CIA
    The Hatoyama cabinet promised to pay 26,000 yen per child monthly as child support aid in the election. Do not hesitate to invest it in your children. We are not interested in whether your children are talented or not, but if you spend money on your children, the Japanese economy will surely recover.
    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)[:]

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  • お寺や神社での手創り市











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  • 現代に息づく神様、仏様




    例えば「仏像ブーム」。仏像とは仏様の彫刻です。これまでの仏像には、お寺や仏壇にあるもの、年配の人が祈るものというイメージがありました。しかし最近は芸術としてその美しさが見直されていて、幅広い世代で人気となっています。2009年に東京で開かれた「国宝 阿修羅展」は約2ヵ月間で90万人もの人を集め、新しいブームを印象づけました。













    文:砂崎 良


    It is one Japanese custom to visit shrines and temples. For example, the Japanese go to these places in January to pray for happiness for the coming year. During the Bon period in summer (August 13~16), they pay a visit to graves to make offerings to the dead. When a Japanese person is preparing for entrance examinations, or when babies are born, they visit shrines and pray for good luck. When someone dies, a funeral is held at a temple. Thus, shrines and temples are a part of life for the Japanese.
    In fact, shrines and temples represent different religions: Shintoism and Buddhism, respectively. An indigenous religion in Japan, Shintoism worships animals, people and powerful natural forces such as mountains and rivers, as gods. In Buddhism, which was introduced to Japan around the 6th century, followers pray for the Buddha to save them from their suffering. Shinto and Buddhism influenced each other to help create a culture unique to Japan. The two religions are still deeply rooted in Japanese life, and lately they are experiencing a new boom.
    Take the “boom for Buddhist statues,” for example. Buddhist statues, sculptures of the Buddha, used to be considered things that belonged in temples and on Buddhist altars and that were only prayed to by older people. Recently, however, their artistic beauty is being reappraised and they are gaining popularity among wider generations. “The Exhibit of the National Treasure Ashura” held in Tokyo for about two months in 2009 attracted 900,000 people, highlighting the new boom.
    New fans of Buddhist statues are also active in making them as well. Buddhist statue sculptor SEKI Kouun started a school for making such statues two years ago, but added more classes because the number of students increased. “The average age of our students is younger than at other schools,” says Seki. “The students’ motivations are varied. Some say they love sculpting and others say they want to make statues to commemorate their deceased parents.”
    A young couple who just joined Seki’s school say: “We had always liked Buddhist statues and often visited temples. Before long we found ourselves wanting to make one ourselves, so we jointed this school together.” “I would like to make a gorgeous statue with lots of decorations,” says the woman. “I like fighter statues, so I want to make a cool one like the four heavenly kings,” says the man.
    A man attending the class with his son says: “I work in a computer-related field, so every day it’s a digital, virtual world. That makes me want to do something that involves making things by hand. That’s why I joined this school. The touch of wood is therapeutic, too.” Looking at a statue that his father had made, the son said he wanted to do it, too.
    New efforts by temples are also leading to their growing popularity. Yakushi-ji Temple, which has 1,300 years of history, has incorporated comics into sanga-e, pictures drawn on petal-shaped pieces of paper. This paper is used for memorial services. “Buddhism teaches how to live, and a temple is essentially a cheerful place where people gather, rather than a place for funerals. So we have incorporated comics that will please children,” says KATO Choin of Yakushi-ji Temple.
    “VOWZ BAR” (Buddhist monk bar) is another new endeavor by a temple, and there are two such bars in Tokyo. Started by Buddhist monks, these bars house Buddhist statues and altars. The monks recite Buddhist sutras every now and then. Here customers can listen to stories about Buddhism and talk about their problems over a cup of sake. “This is a temple that is open at night,” says HATORI Hiroaki, one of the monks.
    New movements are also found in shrines. For example, Negai-no-miya Shrine in Osaka utilizes IT, allowing people to make wishes and interact with the guuji (the head of the shrine) on the Internet. It also lets people experience the job of a miko, a maiden who conducts ceremonies to worship gods at a shrine. In addition, the shrine offers classes in gagaku, a type of Japanese music from ancient times.
    “We always put an emphasis on the idea of ‘helping people become happier.’ We’d like to continue with the new endeavors to help make gods feel more familiar to people,” says Negai-no-Miya’s guuji MOMOYAMA Kiyoshi. “We would like people from different backgrounds to experience traditional Japanese culture and Shinto culture, and above all to have the experience of purifying their hearts.” With this in mind, Momoyama makes the miko experience and gagaku lessons available to non-Japanese as well.
    “It felt really sacred. Being caught up in hectic daily life, I had forgotten about my life-long dream, but doing this has made me want to pursue it once again,” says a woman who experienced the job of a miko. “If you pray at this shrine, your wish will come true, and I’m also attracted to the personality of the guuji,” says a man who has come all the way to this Osaka shrine from Ehime Prefecture.
    Momoyama’s new activities are increasing the number of fans of Negai-no-miya Shrine. A woman living in Tokyo learned about the shrine through mixi, a social networking site. “I’m not religious, but I believe that some invisible power exists,” she says, referring to the shrine that she calls her “oasis.” “This is a place where your wishes are delivered to the gods. I like its atmosphere of freedom, too.”
    Sometimes people gather in shrines and create new movements. Washinomiya Shrine in Saitama Prefecture became popular among anime fans because of one anime. In 2007 about 130,000 people came to Washinomiya Shrine for hatsumoude, a visit to a shrine at the beginning of the year. But the figure for 2009 increased to about 420,000. Now even anime fans from abroad come to visit the shrine.
    The fans draw anime characters on ema and hang them in the shrine. Ema are wooden tablets on which to write one’s wishes, but these tablets mean more than that to these anime fans. Ema serve as their means of expressing themselves. “I come here on my days off to draw pictures on ema,” says MOTEGI Takanori, whose ema became well-known because of the high number he drew and his excellent drawing, and were even introduced on TV.
    Although they visit shrines and temples, the Japanese also celebrate Christmas. “I kind of believe in gods and the Buddha and think that if I do something wrong, I will be punished. I like omikuji (sacred lots) and fortune-telling. I don’t care whether or not they are scientific,” says a woman. That would represent how many Japanese feel.
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
    [From January Issue 2010][:]

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