• 新しいイメージのモダンな神社

    [From October Issue 2013]


    When you mention Shinto shrines, an image of old looking wooden buildings sitting in spacious grounds comes to mind. However, these days more and more stylish shrines can be found all over Japan. More and more shrines architecturally differ from the traditional model, for example, there are shrines with modern designs that look just like hotels.

    The Akagi Shrine is in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Due to wear and tear, it was replaced between 2009 and 2010. KUMA Kengo devised the design. Kuma is also known for designing the new version of the Kabuki-za Theatre, which was constructed this year. He put himself forward to oversee the project because his nephew and niece were going to a kindergarten that stood on the grounds of the shrine. The main building is glass fronted and there’s an Italian-style cafe on the grounds.

    “It is a modern design, but the shape of the old building has been preserved. Between the Edo era (17-19 centuries) and the prewar years, there used to be a teahouse in the grounds for visitors to relax in, we’ve revived this as a cafe. It looks modern, but it’s based on the old design. The design has attracted increasing numbers of foreign and young visitors,” says KAZEYAMA Hideo, the chief priest of the Akagi Shrine.

    A flea market called “Akagi Marche” is held every month in its grounds. With stalls selling handmade goods, china, and confectionery, this flea market is mostly popular with young women and is one of the reasons why the number of visitors has increased.


    Some shrines are housed in office blocks. Among these is Yatsumitake Shrine in Nakano Ward, Tokyo. A branch of a sect that is based in Yamanashi Prefecture, this shrine was built in an office block and is so small that was impossible to install an altar.

    “By using marble rather than woods such as cypress, we improved the acoustics for gagaku (a traditional form of Japanese music) and norito (chanted Shinto prayers to obtain divine protection). I’ve been told by other chief priests that it ought to be a template for big city shrines. It’s been featured with more and more frequency in magazines aimed at women, like “Hanako,” as a power spot (site with powerful mystical energies),” chief priest YAMAMOTO Yukinori says with a smile.

    As many buildings fall into disrepair, opportunities to remodel or totally redesign shrines have increased. This has motivated people who previously had little interest in shrines to visit them. In the future, the number of these sophisticated, modern shrines may increase within Tokyo.

    Akagi Shrine
    Yatsumitake Shrine

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi















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  • 本好きなら一度は行きたい読書会

    [From September Issue 2013]


    More and more people are attending book clubs and getting together to exchange opinions with each other about a book they’ve brought along. A variety of groups exist, including those that read a designated book by an appointed date and then discuss their impressions of that book, and clubs where members introduce their favorite books. Some clubs are held for just one hour on a weekday morning, and other clubs meet for longer on the weekend. The size of a club can range in scale from ten or under, to larger organizations with hundreds of members.

    Alice KENNEY, an American living in Tokyo, started up a book club named Better Read Than Dead about five years ago. She had attended a different book club, but she wanted to create a book club with a more welcoming atmosphere. Currently there are 10-12 regular attendees and many attendees of various nationalities. The club gathers once a month and members vote to decide on the book they’ll discuss.

    “In the States, book clubs used to have an elite or un-cool image,” says club assistant organizer Daniel SIMMONS. By making them more informal and fun, Oprah WINFREY, a famous TV personality in the U.S., helped to popularize book clubs. “Oprah’s Book Club” was established and books she reviewed became bestsellers. This meant that the number of book clubs dramatically increased nationwide.

    “We discuss books in English, but we have some Japanese members,” says Simmons. “Since it is not easy to get English books in Japan, some members download digital versions. Also, members do not always have to read the designated books in English. For example, when the designated book was Anna Karenina by TOLSTOY, some Japanese members read the Japanese translation. We also enjoy Japanese books, too, such as MURAKAMI Haruki’s Norwegian Wood.”

    Not only do book clubs discuss books, but some also host lectures by the author. HORI Tetsuya invited bestselling author, MATANO Narutoshi – who wrote a book aimed at businessmen named “Things you Ought to Know by Your Third Year of Entering a Company: a Professional’s Textbook” – to give a lecture to his book club. The participants discussed the book and many people shared the view that the event was “a great opportunity to rethink the way I work.”

    “The reason I started these lectures is because when I discussed books at my book club, I had a strong desire to ask the author questions,” says Hori. “I feel like it’s worth it after hearing that the attendees enjoyed hearing directly from the author.”

    Book clubs are attractive because they can allow us to open up to new viewpoints by discussing the book with others. It’s possible to meet people of different ages and professions, people you’d never come into contact with during your everyday life, and, because there is a common subject, people meeting for the first time can have an animated discussion.

    Better Read than Dead

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi




    アメリカ人のアリス・ケニーさんが、読書会Better Read than Dead をはじめたのは約5年前です。最初は別の読書会に参加していましたが、もっと気軽に参加できる雰囲気の読書会をつくりたいと思いました。現在、常連は10~12人ですが、さまざまな国籍の人がたくさん参加します。課題本は多数決で決め、一ヵ月に一回集まります。



    本について話しあうだけでなく、作者による講演会を行っているところもあります。堀哲也さんは今年5月、ビジネスマン向けのベストセラー「入社3年目までに知っておきたい プロフェッショナルの教科書」の作者である俣野成敏さんを招きました。参加者が本の内容について話しあい、「自分の働き方を見直すきっかけになった」という意見が多く交わされました。



    Better Read than Dead


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  • 目元を美しく見せたい日本の女性たち

    [From September Issue 2013]

    Eyes are one of the most alluring features of a woman. Women are always looking into ways to make them appear even more appealing. Recently many women favor tsukematsuge, a simple way to make eyelashes look thicker. Tsukematsuge are artificial false eyelashes that are applied along the line of the eyelash using special glue.

    There are many kinds of false eyelashes on sale: long eyelashes, thick eyelashes or curled eyelashes, for instance. You have to remove them every day, but on the plus side, there’s a style to fit any time, place, or occasion, and you can use them to match your mood: neat and clean, natural, or extravagant.

    There are many websites specializing in false eyelashes. There are even sites that rank the popularity of different false eyelashes. There are sites that have explanatory videos aimed at beginners. False eyelashes have now become an essential item for women. False eyelashes are sold by mail order from 100 yen. They are also sold in 100 yen stores. Their unique selling point is that they look completely natural.

    Recently, decorated eyelashes are drawing attention. They come in colorful shades like pink or red, are made from sparkly lame, or have hearts or flowers attached. Used for parties or events, they make a flamboyant impact.

    Eyelash extensions, which are attached in stores, are also popular. Once applied, you have to wait until they fall off, or ask the shop to remove them. Since extensions need to be replaced, it’s necessary to take good care of eyelashes. They require a serious amount of upkeep and cost more than false eyelashes.

    In addition there is also mascara which makes eyelashes appear longer. The problem with mascara is that it easily runs from tears or sweat. Meanwhile, it has become easier to get cosmetic surgery to create double lidded eyes.

    It has been said that Japanese women’s eyes, compared to those of Western women, are small and narrow, but now women’s eyes look even bigger and more beautiful, thanks to such things as false eyelashes. Some people say their eyes resemble those of the girls that appear in anime.

    Photos courtesy by Matsuge no Matsuma~Decored lashes~

    Text: TAKAHASHI Reiko










    写真提供:まつげのまつま~Decored lashes~


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  • 安倍政権が目指す日本の方向

    [From September Issue 2013]


    Following on from their success in the elections for the House of Representatives last December, the Liberal Democratic Party led by the 96th Prime Minister, ABE Shinzo, won another resounding victory in the elections for the House of Councilors this July. Because of this, the new coalition government, formed with the New Komeito party, now occupies the majority of seats in both houses. Advocating policies that prioritize bringing an end to deflation, Prime Minister Abe has set out to revive Japan’s economy. In addition, he’s decided to participate in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) – an agreement that covers 40% of global trade.

    Aiming to expand trade while protecting domestic agriculture, the Abe government’s negotiations for the TPP have exceeded the expectations of the USA and of other member countries. Meanwhile, the regime is promoting the export of social infrastructure construction, such as nuclear power stations and railroads. However, with the cleanup phase of the Fukushima nuclear power accident still not complete, many citizens have doubts about exporting nuclear power stations and about restarting nuclear power plants for economic gain.

    In diplomacy, in order to deal with the ongoing tension with China, Abe is strengthening friendly relations and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries. With an eye to the security of Japan, he is also trying to strengthen ties with the USA. In connection to this matter he has a powerful desire to amend the constitution in order to evoke the right to collective self-defense, converting the self-defense force into a national defense force. However, this is strongly opposed.

    A rise in consumer taxes is expected next year, but many people are anxious about this as it might lead to a downturn in trade. Though the Abe government faces many difficult issues, it won a landslide victory. The reason for this is the current electoral system and the fact that people prioritize economic recovery. In fact, in the single-seat constituency elections for the House of Councilors, there were fewer votes for the ruling parties than for the opposition parties.

    According to a survey by Asahi Shimbun conducted after the elections for the House of Councilors, only 17% people believed that “approval of the LDP” was the reason for the LDP’s landslide victory. Conversely, 66% stated that, “The opposition parties were not attractive.” In the elections for the House of Representatives four years ago, the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), won a historic victory. If Abe’s government fails to rebuild the Japanese economy, it will share the same fate as the DPJ.

    Prime Minister Abe’s Roots

    Prime Minister Abe was born into a renowned political dynasty. His father is ABE Shintaro who was a foreign minister. Vital in deciding the fate of Japan during the cold war between East and West, the amendment of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was successfully carried out by his grandfather, KISHI Nobusuke the 56th and 57th prime minister. Historic demonstrations strongly opposing the revision occurred, but he persevered in his belief saying, “A silent voice kept me going.”

    His granduncle SATO Eisaku was the 61st – 63rd prime minister. Sato received the Nobel Peace Prize for upholding the three anti-nuclear principles, i.e. non-production, non-possession and non-introduction of nuclear weapons, in Japan. He brought about the restoration of Okinawa from America and served the longest consecutive term as prime minister in history.

    Prime Minister Abe was sworn in as the 90th prime minister in 2006, but suddenly resigned after about one year for health reasons. This is his second attempt and demonstrates his intention to resurrect a “strong Japan.” Diplomatically he takes a hardline stance.












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  • バリエーション多様な「痛い」アイテム

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Over the past few years, various “itai” items, ranging from inkan (stamps), to cars, have gone on sale. “Itai,” which literally means pain, refers to designs that boldly incorporate manga or anime characters; because these appear rather itaitashii (pitiful), they’ve been dubbed “itai” for short.

    “Itataku” (pitiful taxis) emblazoned with anime (cartoon) character designs began to appear in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, a year ago. The idea was dreamed up by TAKEUCHI Norihito, the head of marketing strategy for Choei Kotsu Corporation. When he was thinking of ways to make his taxi company stand out from the competition, a photograph of an “itasha” (pitiful car) caught his eye.

    The first model incorporated the official mascot of the TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa. “It doesn’t matter if the character isn’t famous. It is more important that people see the taxis driving through the city and say, ‘What on earth was that?’ to each other, thus creating a sensation,” says Takeuchi. The existence of the itataku spread steadily by word of mouth.

    To keep costs down, the body design and printed sticker attachments were done manually by Takeuchi and friends who were supportive of his scheme. In order that the cars didn’t become an over familiar sight, just three to five taxis from a fleet of 85 are run as itataku with designs that are updated about every three months. A total of 15 taxi designs were created in one year.

    The itataku also had a positive effect within the company. More and more customers want to ride in an itataku, and the Choei Taxi name has become well known, so that radio calls increased by about 20%. In addition, Takeuchi feels that since these taxis attract attention, it helps drivers develop as they are conscious of being in the spotlight.

    Most importantly, “complaints are down,” Takeuchi laughs. “Also, customers probably don’t feel like complaining when they are in these kind of taxis.” Next time around, by involving customers in the process of selecting characters and so forth, he is planning to transform the itataku into a taxi made by everyone.


    “Itai” business suits have also gone on the market. YOSHIDA Ryuichi started up this Osaka-based business suit project. Yoshida is a third generation tailor, but has also been interested in anime since he was a high school student. Bringing the two together resulted in the “ita-suits.” He received a better reaction than he expected, after exhibiting suits with cartoon characters printed into their lining at the Tokyo International Anime Fair last March, and decided to begin producing them commercially.

    The business really began to take off last May. Unexpectedly, besides the original target market of young men in their 20s to 30s, women are also driving growth. Recently the suits were exhibited at the 14th Japan Expo held in France, and Yoshida recognizes that demand exists both domestically and overseas.

    These ita-suits demonstrate that it’s possible to create products that combine clothing with printing techniques in a way that is not possible with normal suits. However, Yoshida has set his sights on expanding beyond his current business activities into a different field. “Currently, there is no place that provides information on other ‘ita-items.’ I would like use my ita-suits business to launch a platform which will bring together other ita-items under one roof,” he says, looking to the future.

    Choei Taxi

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo















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  • 母と娘は友達?

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Nowadays more and more young women enjoy going shopping with their mothers, just as if they were friends. This kind of mother/daughter relationship is called “parent/child friendship.” As if they were friends, some daughters give their mothers a nickname, or address them as “~ chan.”

    As the birth rate continues to decline and the marriage age for women is getting higher in modern Japan, mothers are spending more time with their children at home. As a result of this, because they are the same sex, mothers and daughters feel closer to each other and are becoming friends. Indicative of this is that matching mother/daughter wristwatches have been brought out.

    Mothers subsidize their daughters financially when they go shopping together. Mothers are also helpful when it comes to paying for lunch after shopping. Generally speaking, while they’re still students, parents pick up the tab for their children, but once they become working adults and receive a salary, this happens less and less.

    Mothers don’t purchase exactly the same things as their daughters. Mothers don’t only buy things for themselves, but also buy things for the family, while daughters tend to only buy things they want for themselves. Both buy clothing and cosmetics. Clothing is bought in different stores, but cosmetics are purchased in the same stores. It seems that they have similar tastes because they are mother and daughter.

    In regards to shopping, mothers have a slightly different attitude to their daughters. If we look at the example of clothing, mothers buy high quality items, regardless of cost, that are well taken care of and worn for a long time. But daughters buy cheap stuff and throw it away after a season if they don’t like it anymore. Everyone has a different attitude towards money, but relatively speaking, we can say mothers prefer quality to quantity, while daughters prefer quantity to quality.

    Today’s market is glutted with products; in the case of clothing alone there is a wide array of choice, but young women lack a sense of how to dress appropriately for different occasions. Daughters can learn from their mothers about how to manage their money, how to spot good quality items, how to buy the minimum items necessary and how to use them carefully.

    Recently, more and more mothers and daughters not only enjoy shopping and eating out together, but also going to the movies, going on trips, and having beauty treatments together. For daughters in Japan, the parent child relationship means having a good friend with whom they can have a frank exchange of opinions and having a teacher to advise them about life. Despite being friends, daughters still respect their mothers.

    Text: TERAUCHI Moe











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  • 日本の夏はお化けのシーズン

    [From August Issue 2013]


    When summer comes around in Japan, many movies and TV programs related to “obake” (monsters or ghosts) are released. In addition, haunted house events are held in amusement parks. It’s said that this is because people feel a chill when they see something scary. Another word for “obake” is “bakemono” and these words are used to signify something dreadful that is not of this world.

    Generally speaking, obake are divided into two categories: yuurei (ghosts) and youkai (specters or goblins). It is said that the souls of people who have died with unfinished business to complete, remain in this world and appear as yuurei. One traditional image of a Japanese yuurei is a legless woman in a white kimono. She has a pale face and long hair; to show she is dead she has a white triangular piece of cloth tied to her forehead with a cord. With both arms held out and her fingers pointing downwards. She mutters “urameshiya” (I have a grudge).

    Making her debut in the Edo period (17th – 19th centuries) ghost story “Yotsuya Kaidan,” the most famous yuurei is “Oiwa.” In the story, which has been performed as a kabuki play, Oiwa dies after being poisoned; in order to take revenge on the husband that betrayed her, she turns into a ghost with a horrific face. Another famous ghost is “Okiku,” a maid who appears in the story “Banchou Sara Yashiki.” Blamed for losing a plate, she is killed. The reason many ghosts are female seems to be a reflection of the times when many women were abused and died bearing a grudge.

    Youkai are generally human beings or animals that have been possessed by some kind of spirit which transforms them into a strange shape. When speaking of traditional youkai, the “hitotsu me kozou” (one eyed boy) or “rokuro kubi” (long-necked woman) come to mind. However, because of the influence of the popular youkai manga “Gegege-no-Kitarou,” people nowadays fondly think of youkai as being amusing characters. Sakaiminato City in Tottori Prefecture, which is the home-town of creator MIZUKI Shigeru, has created various youkai sightseeing spots to promote tourism.

    Adapted into movies, youkai legends still exist in modern times. In 1979 the “Slit-Mouthed Woman” became a social phenomenon. The story goes that a young woman with a mask over her mouth asks children, “Am I beautiful?” When they answer, “Yes, you’re beautiful,” she takes off the mask. As she does so, her mouth appears slashed open up to her ears. Another famous one is “Hanako in the toilet,” in which the ghost of a girl appears in a school toilet.

    Lovable Youkai and Shape-Changing Animals

    “Tengu” are legendary creatures which have a red face, a long-nose, and wings with which they can fly. Tengu are worshiped as mountain deities. In ancient times villagers feared them, believing that tengu were responsible for mysterious phenomenon in the village. “Kappa” are youkai who live in rivers and ponds. As tall as a child, they have something that looks like a plate on top of their heads. Kappa are cute and, being gods of water, are loved by Japanese.

    “Zashiki warashi” (household deities), are spirits of the dead who reside in the tatami room (room with straw matting) of a house. It’s said that they play tricks on family members, but that fortune will fall on those who see them.

    On the other hand, it is known that in the old days in Japan foxes or raccoon dogs, took human form, tricked humans, or possessed them. Phrases such as “a bewitching encounter with a fox and a raccoon dog,” are sometimes used in business negotiations. Even cats are sometimes treated as youkai.












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  • ジェルネイルにはまる若い女性

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Recently, “gel nail” is trending, especially with young women. Gel nail is a type of gel applied to nails and hardened with a special light. Lasting from three weeks to a month, simple to intricate designs with a decorative element can be enjoyed.

    The appeal of gel nail is that it can be done at home, dispensing with the need to go to a salon, and lasts much longer than a conventional manicure. “Even if you’re doing housework such as washing things with water, you do not need to worry about it coming off,” says KOBAYASHI Misaki, an office worker who has been into gel nail for about a year. “They are not only fashionable, but also strengthen the nails of people with thin nails and correct misshapen nails,” she adds.

    Nail salons charge upwards of 5,000 yen for one visit. But self gel nail kits can be purchased online for approximately 3,000 to 10,000 yen. Kobayashi says, “Until you get used to it, it is difficult to apply the gel with your non-dominant hand (left hand if you’re right handed), but after repeating it a number of times, you get better at it.”

    Once you’re done, nobody will have exactly the same nails as you. Because there are so many lovely colors and designs, the overall effect is stunning. Kobayashi says she is encouraged when people admire them saying things like: “it’s pretty,” “it’s stylish,” and “it’s feminine.”

    However, nails that are too long, or designs that are too flashy do not necessarily go down well with family members and men. In addition, compared to conventional polish, it is slightly more difficult to remove, taking about an hour to shave the gel off with a nail file and remove with a special liquid.

    Even so, on the plus side it’s fun to apply it while watching TV at home, listening to music, or casually together with friends. In addition, coming up with an original design and creating it oneself delivers an enjoyable sense of achievement and pleasure, which is why many women are captivated by it.

    Women enjoy adapting their clothes, hairstyle and makeup according to the season or mood, and in the same way they enjoy changing up nail designs as part of their own style. In addition, caring for one’s nails is an essential part of personal grooming.

    Text: TAKAHASHI Reiko











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  • 日本の象徴、富士山が世界遺産に登録

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Mt. Fuji, located between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, has been designated as a World Heritage Site. At 3,776 meters high, Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain and is known for the beautiful symmetry of its coned shape. Mt. Fuji appears to soar particularly high because there are no other tall mountains around it. Its majestic appearance has made it an object of spiritual worship for Japanese as well as an inspiration for artists. According to UNESCO, the mountain is a symbol of Japan, blending religious and artistic traditions.

    Mt. Fuji was not registered as a natural heritage site, but as a cultural heritage site. Since ancient times Mt. Fuji has been regarded as an object of worship, so there are many shrines around its base as well as one on the top. Many people climb up to the summit. The highlight for them is to see the sunrise from the summit. During the summer climbing season, it is as crowded as streets of Tokyo.

    Since the view of Mt. Fuji changes daily and each moment has its own particular beauty, some photographers take photos of the mountain every day. They shoot a variety of different scenes, such as “diamond Fuji,” with the sun rising from its summit, and “upside down Fuji,” of the mountain reflected in a lake. In the Edo period, artist KATSUSHIKA Hokusai drew the famous “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” which included “Red Fuji.” Mt. Fuji has always inspired artists.

    Many people say that Mt. Fuji is more beautiful when it is viewed from a distance. There are some superb spots from which to view Mt. Fuji at resorts such as Hakone and Enoshima. “Miho no Matsubara” in Shizuoka Prefecture is known as one of the most beautiful spots from which to view Mt. Fuji and has been designated as one of “New Three Famous Sites of Japan,” and as one of the “Three Scenic Pine Groves of Japan.” It was requested that it be considered to be part of Mt. Fuji in the application for world heritage designation. Though since it is located 45 kilometers away from Mt. Fuji, it was excluded.

    Although Kamakura applied at the same time as Mt. Fuji to be registered as a cultural world heritage site, its application was rejected. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, next to Tokyo, Kamakura was the location of the feudal government from the late 12th to 14th century, in spite of this, there was insufficient evidence to prove its universal cultural significance. Japan now currently has 17 registered World Heritage sites: 13 cultural and four natural.

    Uneasy Aspect of Mt. Fuji

    Mt. Fuji is a volcanic mountain and might possibly erupt in the future. The last eruption occurred in 1707. This eruption created a large crater and lump (Houeizan) on the base.

    At the foot of the mountain there are five lakes, but recently the water level has fallen. Some people say that this is a sign that there will be an earthquake or an eruption, but this cannot be verified.

    Since there are so many climbers, garbage dropped on mountain trails has been a problem. However, it is likely that this will improve now it has been registered as a world heritage site.












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  • 変わりつつある外国人社長

    [From June Issue 2013]


    Although some people say that the taxes and infrastructure of Japan makes it difficult to start up a business here, non-Japanese startups do exist. But due to the reluctance of Japanese companies to hire non-Japanese, until now, these foreigners had no choice but to become translators or restaurant owners serving up their native cuisine. These days, however, the numbers of a new breed of non-Japanese company presidents are swelling.

    “Japanese people are very enthusiastic about their hobbies. Ordinary office workers go to schools after five pm to learn English, or to take music classes. I thought I’d like to teach guitar to people who have such a love of learning,” says American, Michael KAPLAN. Overcoming many difficulties, he established American Guitar Academy, a guitar school in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

    Having majored in guitar at college, Kaplan is a professional guitar instructor with a master’s degree. He had taught guitar in the USA. When he visited Japan on holiday in 2006, he loved the country. “With its beauty and cleanliness, it made a good impression on me and I came back in 2008. Because Japan is a wealthy country, many people love art. There are so many people who go to art museums, and there are many jazz-clubs, too. Jazz is close to my heart, so the numerous jazz fans impressed me very much.”

    Kaplan wanted to teach guitar in Japan, so he looked into how to do this. Then he found out that not only is it difficult for non-Japanese to live in Japan, but that it is even more difficult to start up a business. It’s hard to acquire a visa, also, if you want to start up a company, it’s necessary to establish an office, but landlords are reluctant to rent to non-Japanese. “Some people advised me to use a small place with only a telephone line and post box as an office. But I had my Japanese friends help to convince a landlord to rent out an office to me.”

    Kaplan came to Japan to open his school in February, 2011. He was badly hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred one month later, but he says with a smile, “Dreams come true if you don’t give up. If there are difficulties, all you have to do is just change your approach and try again.” His policy of teaching guitar in English went down well, and now the number of his pupils has swelled to 80, he has taken on new instructors. “My next goal is to make my school the most recognized guitar school in Japan,” he says.

    Having established Langtech, a software company, that produces apps, in his native country, Canadian Alain BRETON continues to develop his business in Japan. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the trigger for starting up his business. “Until then, I was an English teacher, but after the earthquake, work dried up. I had a lot of time on my hands and I needed to earn money to live,” he says.

    Breton visited Japan in 2004 while travelling around many countries. “It was April,” he remembers. “Tokyo was filled with cherry blossoms and people were happily enjoying cherry blossom viewing; after seeing this I fell in love with Japan,” he smiles. “Of course after a while I found out that I had come during the best season in Japan, but even to this day my positive feeling about Japan hasn’t changed.”


    Alain BRETON / App LEXI


    Breton returned to Japan once again as an English teacher, while also attending a Japanese language school. Then he got the idea for the business he runs today. “There were many Chinese and Korean students in my class. They improved really quickly.”

    Taking into account his experience at the Japanese language school and the environment he grew up in, Breton, who speaks English, French, and Spanish, came to the conclusion that vocabulary was vital to learning foreign languages. “The reason why Chinese and Korean students learned to speak faster was because there are similar words to Japanese in Chinese and Korean. That is why I developed the educational app ‘LEXI’ in which you touch a photo of an item when you hear a native speaker saying the name of that thing out aloud. Colorful pictures help with memorization, so you can learn words while playing a game.”

    He then received an email from a user asking him to“please make an app for children.” “Children of immigrants and children who have learning difficulties want to use iPads and iPhones, so they can learn without becoming bored. That is why I quit my job as an English teacher and established my company.” He is saddened by the fact that, except for teaching a language, it is very difficult for non-Japanese to make a living in Japan. “Because there was little variation in the routine of an English teacher, I wanted to change things up and to continue developing my skills. Starting up a business has made my life more varied and I am very happy now.”

    There are some people who choose to start a business by collaborating with Japanese partners. Ariawan, an Indonesian national who went to university in his own country and was hired by a big corporation, left his job after six months. He then established an IT company with three of his friends. “The corporation managed their business in an inefficient way. I created software and recommended it to them. They then said, ‘Start your own company. We will buy in your software from that company.’”

    Ariawan eventually wanted to go abroad to study further. So, he sold his company and came to Japan. After getting a master’s degree, he began to work in Japan, where he met and partnered up with Japanese citizen, KAKIYAMA Takehiro. The two established FlutterScape Inc. in May, 2010.

    “Kakiyama was in charge of setting up our company,” says Ariawan. “Our company runs a membership based shopping site named MONOCO that sells unique merchandise. I am in charge of the technical side of our website.” Though they’ve gone through some tough times, sales have increased by 20% in one year and they now employ a staff of nine of various nationalities.

    “English is mainly used in our company. Our headquarters is currently located in Tokyo, but we might move to a country with more favorable tax laws. As for myself, I wouldn’t mind going back to start a business in Indonesia someday. Because the economy is now rapidly growing,” says Ariawan. It seems that even in Japan, the time has come for people and businesses to move beyond borders.

    The American Guitar Academy

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    ブレトンさんは再来日して英語教師になり、同時に日本語学校にも通い始めました。そして今のビジネスのアイディアを得ました。「クラスには中国人や韓国人の学 生がおおぜいいました。彼らの上達が、とても早かったんです」。









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