• 川から見る、少し違った東京

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Practiced in Japan from the Heian era (8-12th century), boating is sailing on a river or a pond for pleasure. In addition to river cruises, all kinds of boating can be enjoyed all over Japan. In Tokyo, you can rent the “Riverboat Mizuha” for your private use.
    Tokyo is on the Bay of Tokyo where, during the Edo era (17-19th centuries), large cargo was always transported by ships. Tokyo still has many rivers and canals that were used in those days. “You can forget your everyday routine just by pushing off from the shore and being rocked by the water. You can experience this in the middle of a metropolis,” says SATO Miho, managing director of Floating Life Co., Ltd., the company that runs Mizuha.
    Though the boat has a small capacity of just ten, these ten people are accommodated on comfortable seats with a large table. The boat also has a toilet and electronic devices. Since the boat was built to sit low in the water, it can pass under low bridges even when the tide is high. Slender lighting fixtures leave enough headroom inside the boat. Since the tablecloths and lighting fixtures are traditional Japanese artisanal objects, the whole interior of the boat resembles a showcase in which everything can be seen and touched.
    Typical rental periods are for 60-120 minutes leaving you free to choose your route and to have a good time with your family or close friends. If you indicate your preference for “a route with beautiful nighttime views” or “a route that gives a sense of Tokyo’s history,” suggestions will be made depending on the hour and season.
    Customers vary: some hire the boat for a parents’ anniversary, sometimes all three generations of a family enjoy the cruise, and some are small parties on a company outing. A family with small children doesn’t have to worry about bothering other passengers. People have commented that it was good to laugh out loud and enjoy talking knowing the noise they made on the water wouldn’t disturb anyone.
    On other trips, you ride with strangers. “Tokyo Landmark Boating” and “Dusk/Early Evening Boating” (about 60 minutes) are trips that take you through Nihonbashi River and Kamejima River – unchanged since the Edo era – along the Sumida River visiting Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower area. You can see the contrast between canals that still retain vestiges of their old banks, narrow waterways, and the Sumida River – also called the “big river.” In addition to Tokyo Skytree, you’ll also enjoy the many unique bridges that span the Sumida River. In the evening, the reflections of bridge lights on the river’s surface are particularly romantic.
    Sato says, “I’m delighted if it stirs up thoughts such as: ‘I wonder why the scenery looks so different from the river?’ or ‘Was Tokyo such a cool town?’” It’s possible to embark from three locations: Nihonbashi (Chuo Ward), Kachidoki (Chuo Ward), and Azuma-bashi (Sumida Ward). On such sightseeing boats, it’s often forbidden to bring along your own drinks and food on board, but on Mizuha it’s permitted without incurring extra charges. If you request catering, it’ll be provided. English tours are available.
    Funaasobi Mizuha[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    「いつも見ている風景を川の上から見るとどうして新鮮に感じるんだろう? 東京ってこんなにかっこいい街だった?と思っていただけるとうれしいです」と佐藤さんは話します。日本橋(中央区)、勝どき(中央区)、吾妻橋(墨田区)の3ヵ所から乗船できます。このような観光船は飲食物の持ち込みが禁止されているところが多いのですが、みづはは持ち込み可能ですし持込料もとりません。頼めばケータリングしてくれます。英語でのガイドが可能です。

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  • ネットが結ぶ家庭の食文化交流

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Launched in May 2013, “KitchHike” is an Internet service that brings strangers together round the dining table. Foreigners visiting Japan can sample home-cooked Japanese dishes, and non-Japanese living in Japan can serve up their native dishes to Japanese. While the service is available in different countries across the world, the majority of users are in Japan at present.
    “Cooks” display their menus, profiles and prices on the KitchHike site. Deals are made when “hikers” who want to sample one of these menus make a reservation. Registration is free. Prices are currently only in US dollars, but there are plans to deal in other currencies, too. Kitchhike takes a portion of the price charged in service fees.
    Currently, most cooks are Japanese women in their 20s and 30s. What’s unique about KitchHike in comparison with restaurants is that cooks prepare their dishes at home and sit down to eat with guests to enjoy intercultural exchanges with strangers at the dining table. Because of the registration system, so far there hasn’t been any trouble.
    This service was launched by ASARI Yutaka and YAMAMOTO Masaya, former employees of a large advertising agency. “Seeing how Facebook was gaining more and more users in Japan, I started up a web-based business to give people the opportunity to meet up with each other,” says Asari. The two hit upon the idea when discussing their experiences of international travel – a hobby they both share.
    “When I went to Myanmar, I mentioned to a taxi driver at a marketplace that “I’d like to eat a good meal.” He was puzzled at first, but ended up taking me to his own place to have a meal with his family,” recalls Asari. After several such experiences, he began to think, “I’d like to have homes outside Japan.”
    “I don’t mean having a house outside Japan,” says Asari. He believes in the value of meeting locals while traveling and tasting typical home-made dishes with them and their families. “So KitchHike doesn’t deal in room rental for travellers or in homestays. In principle, you simply eat a home-cooked meal together with your host in their home,” he explains.
    Asari is proud to run a business that offers its service to anyone in the world regardless of nationality and language. “It’s rewarding to feel that we’re creating a new culture,” he says. “We’ll be delighted if, say, a mother who cooks for her family is better off and gains self-confidence by turning an economic profit as a KitchHike cook.”
    “Recently, a cook was registered in the Republic of Ghana, West Africa. She’s from a deprived background and had no access to the Internet, but she managed to register with the help of a Japanese NPO,” Asari smiles. “Our service isn’t very well known yet, so we intend to organize events and collaborate with other companies,” he says, describing his dreams of expansion.
    Kitchhike Inc.[2014年8月号掲載記事]


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  • やよい軒

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Yayoiken is a “teishoku” restaurant with more than 250 branches in Japan and over 100 outlets overseas. Teishoku is a well-balanced set meal comprising of Japanese staple foods, including cooked rice, miso soup and side dishes. Great care is taken over the ingredients and food is served in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Extra helpings of rice are served free to those who order a teishoku or a breakfast from the menu.

    [No. 1] Stir-fried ginger pork teishoku: 538 yen

    Soft strips of pork rib are fried in a special sauce made with soy sauce, ginger and apple juice.

    [No. 2] Chicken nanban (early European style) teishoku: 639 yen

    “Chicken nanban,” a local specialty from Miyazaki Prefecture, prepared as teishoku. Plenty of sweet vinegar sauce and tartar sauce is slathered onto dark juicy chicken meat.

    [No. 3] Fried pork and vegetables: 639 yen

    Full bodied delicious tender pork ribs fried in a special soy-based sauce with plenty of vegetables, including cabbage, carrot, onion and bean sprouts.


    【No.1】しょうが焼定食 538円

    コクと旨味のあるやわらかい豚バラ肉を 、しょうゆ、ショウガ、リンゴ果汁などが入った風味豊かな特製タレで炒めた定食。

    【No.2】チキン南蛮定食 639円


    【No.3】肉野菜炒め定食 639円



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  • 社名に込められた「永遠」の気持ち

    [From August Issue 2014]

    AEON Co., Ltd., known for its AEON logo, is one of Japan’s largest “incorporated retail groups.” Aeon means “eternal” in Latin. As of the end of February 2014, the total number of the group’s employees was about 400,000. With an operating income of 6,395.1 billion yen a year, AEON has been the country’s largest retail group for three consecutive years. Its private brand “Top Valu” carries more than 6,000 products and has sales totalling 741 billion yen a year.
    The company’s core business is its hypermarket division which has some 610 stores both in and outside the country. Based in shopping centers, these stores sell basic necessities, including food and clothing. In addition to these, AEON also runs quite a few supermarkets and discount stores across the country. What’s drawing attention these days are its gigantic suburban shopping centers; there are 155 of these “AEON Malls” in and outside the country.
    An AEON Mall has so many specialty shops that it resembles a small town. Young ladies with an eye for quality, who compare products from different specialist stores, are called “AEON girls.” Manufacturers of clothing and other sundries value the opinions of AEON girls since they have such a good sense of fashion.
    Today’s AEON has the largest sales revenue in Japan, but its predecessor, Jusco, was created from a merger in 1969 of three mid-size provincial companies that were in the same business. Jusco itself grew gradually, collaborating and merging with all kinds of companies. It opened new stores not only in Japan, but eventually overseas as well. In 2001, the company name was changed to its current one: AEON Co., Ltd.
    After becoming AEON group, the group focused its efforts on a tree planting campaign. Since 1991, it’s been implementing the “AEON – Creation of Hometown Forests” campaign in which local consumers plant trees around new malls. This activity reflects the company’s hope that newly created malls will be handy for locals as a place to gather and share a love of nature.
    OKADA Takuya, the founder, appeals to those who’ve planted trees: “Please come back to the store to see how much the trees you planted have grown. Use that opportunity to do some shopping. And love this store forever.” The idea of forever informs their wish for eternity. The number of trees planted in and outside the country has exceeded ten million.
    Group CEO OKADA Motoya says, “In whatever country or region we expand our business to, we always operate under the principle that the customer comes first. We cherish this philosophy and strive to keep innovating.” They aim to become a group that not only sells goods, but also supports people’s lives in general. That sentiment is firmly built into the AEON name.
    AEON Co., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi








    イオングループになってから力を入れるようになったのは植樹活動です。1991年からは地域の消費者が新店舗の周りに木を植える「イオン ふるさとの森づくり」を進めています。この活動は、新しくできる店舗が地域の人たちが集まる場となること、緑を愛する心が広がることなど、地域の人々に役立つ願いを込めたものです。





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  • 8回目の来日で就労ビザを取得

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Sonia SOMOZA
    “Since 2005, I went through a cycle each year of coming to Japan to live for a while, and when I ran out of money, returning to my country to work, then I’d save some money, I would quit my job and return to Japan,” smiles Sonia SOMOZA from Spain. “I came to Japan for the eighth time two and a half years ago. Because I found work and obtained a working visa, it has been my longest stay yet,” she says with glee.
    Sonia has liked robots since she was a child. “I was attracted to the Japanese robot ASIMO and the manga ‘Dr. Slump Arale-chan,’ which had robots in it. It triggered my interest in Japan and this led me to begin reading websites written by Spanish people who lived in Japan, and to watching Japanese TV dramas and movies. Movies by the director KITANO Takeshi, TV drama ‘Stand Up!’ and the actor WATANABE Ken, made a big impression on me” she reflects.
    When Sonia was a university student, she also went to a language school to study Japanese. “Japanese is rumored to be a difficult language, so I thought that if I could use it, this would enhance my skills,” says Sonia. “But I didn’t get along with the teachers in the language school and this made me dislike Japanese so much that I stopped studying it,” she smiles wryly. After that, she learned Japanese from a Japanese person residing in Spain.
    When Sonia visited Japan for the first time, she was surprised at the difference in customs. “If you give up your seat for someone on the train, rather than saying ‘arigato’ in gratitude, they apologize, saying ‘sumimasen.’ The food was totally different from Spanish food, too. I wondered about this difference and thought, ‘I want to know more about Japan.’”
    After 2010, she worked part-time in Japan and attended a Japanese language school. “I went to Kai Japanese Language School and studied grammar, reading and writing, kanji, and conversation for four hours each day. As my skills improved, I was able to select my own classes. Since I had trouble reading, I took classes in which we read novels; works like MINATO Kanae’s ‘Kokuhaku.’” Thanks to this, she also passed Level Two (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    The high cost of living in Japan was a problem. “When I stayed in Japan for three months while attending Japanese school, it cost at least 5,000 to 6,000 euros. I economized by doing things like buying cheap from wholesale supermarkets.” During her stay in 2011, the East Japan Great Earthquake hit. “I went back to my own country once to reassure my parents, but I came back again the following year and have continued to stay here ever since,” she laughs. Her parents, who were worried then, now look forward to the Japanese snacks, nibbles, and radio controlled toys that Sonia buys and sends to them.
    Using her English, Spanish, and Japanese, Sonia currently works at a real estate agency called Asiavox Plaza Housing. “Many non-Japanese customers often say that they do not want to pay key money (money paid as a gift to landlords). When this happens, I accompany them to the property so that they can understand that those places requiring key money are more comfortable than those that don’t.” She enjoys shopping on her days off. “I buy unique clothes and accessories in Harajuku, and search for stationery at Tokyu Hands. Because my younger sister is into erasable ball-point pens, I often buy some to send to her,” she says.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    ソニアさんは子どものころ、ロボットが好きでした。「日本製ロボットのASIMOや、ロボットが出てくるまんが『Dr. スランプ アラレちゃん』にひかれましたね。それをきっかけに日本に興味をもつようになって、日本に住んでいるスペイン人が書いたサイトを読んだり、日本のドラマや映画を見たりするようになりました。北野武監督の映画やテレビドラマ「Stand Up!」、そして俳優の渡辺謙さんが印象に残っています」と振り返ります。


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  • 忍者バトルと細やかな心理描写が人気

    [From August Issue 2014]

    “Naruto” is an ongoing comic strip serialized weekly in Shonen Jump since 1999. Through numerous battles, it portrays friendships and familial ties between ninjas. There are up to 69 volumes of the book version, and total circulation has exceeded one hundred thirty million copies. It is also very popular abroad.
    The story begins with the hero, UZUMAKI Naruto training to become a ninja while studying at school in Konohagakure no Sato (Village Hidden in the Leaves) in the Land of Fire. Twelve-year-old Naruto does not have parents and the adults around him treat him coldly. This is related to an incident that occurred 12 years ago: the village of Konohagakure no Sato was badly damaged when it was attacked by Kyuubi, a demon fox with nine tails.
    Naruto’s father was the fourth “hokage” to lead Konohagakure no Sato. To protect the village he sealed the nine-tailed fox into the body of newborn Naruto, afterwards losing his life. Because it is forbidden to speak of this, Naruto doesn’t know anything about it. However, because he carried the demon fox inside his body, the adults have kept Naruto at arm’s length.
    Before the story was serialized, the setup was going to be that Naruto himself was the human manifestation of the Kyuubi. However, in a different book, author KISHIMOTO Masashi explained that he decided to change this setup in order that Naruto would be more appealing to readers. The story occasionally explores the fact that as a “human” whose body contains a Kyuubi, Naruto both feels cut off from others and craves acceptance.
    The work is divided into two parts. Part One mainly depicts Naruto’s friendships in Konohagakure no Sato; those friends who will eventually team up with him. In Part Two, the world the story is set in expands. The conflict with ninjas from countries scheming to use the power trapped within Naruto heats up. Naruto finds himself in tricky situations again and again as he faces the various techniques of the ninjas. A large-scale war between ninjas breaks out and more and more people close to Naruto lose their lives.
    Because they are ninjas, the characters live according to their own special code. The story fizzes with unusual vocabulary. However, the troubles and joys depicted are not any different from those experienced by readers. Meticulous attention to detail is taken over the circumstances and psychology of not just Naruto, but of all the characters. This is why there is no arch villain. While viewing the story from Naruto’s perspective, readers can also empathize with the ninjas attacking Naruto and his friends, and it’s this that gives the story its depth, making hearts race. This is perhaps the secret as to why the serial remains so popular after 15 years.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo


    NARUTO – ナルト –

    「NARUTO -ナルト-」は週刊少年ジャンプで1999年から連載中のまんがです。忍者の友情や家族との絆を数々の戦いを通じて描いています。単行本は69巻まで出ていて累計発行部数は1億3千万部です。海外でも大人気です。







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  • なりたい自分になれる魔法「なりきりメイク」

    [From July Issue 2014]

    Trends are sometimes born when fans try to recreate the hairstyles or clothing of the TV and movie stars they idolize. Now the latest boom, which got underway via social media, is for “makeovers that transform you into a celebrity.”
    Using makeup techniques, these total makeovers transform your face so that it resembles the celebrity you’d like to become. Many people upload photos of their makeovers onto Twitter and Facebook or outline the makeup process on videos shared on video sites. After sharing their knowhow, those producing high quality makeovers have evaluated and gained popularity, so that some have even published books.
    KAJI Eriko is one of those people. She’s been interested in makeup since childhood and began doing makeovers in her senior year in high school. She shared her photos on her blog and rounded off 2012 by choosing 24 of the best of her celebrity imitation photographs she’d done that year for a compilation. Her blog was retweeted many times and the term “mane meiku” (get the look makeovers) became a No. 1 trend word. This led to appearances on TV and in magazines. She’s published two makeup books so far.
    HANAFUSA Miyako who works in the editorial department at Takarajima, says, “The book ‘Mane Meiku Recipe’ shows how to do your makeup to resemble 32 different celebrities – including KITAGAWA Keiko and Rola – that are popular with women. Special makeup tools aren’t necessary. These (looks) can be easily achieved with what you have to hand. Readers’ comments have included: ‘I was told I looked just like the entertainer’ and ‘Just browsing through (the photos) is fun.’
    Total makeovers have even branched out into CSR (corporate social responsibility activities). Meiji Sangyo Co., Ltd runs a CSR activity for women called “Ah! Meijingu Club” (Amazing Club) under the tagline: “Making myself and my town beautiful!” One of the themes they’ve adopted is ‘trends’ and the seventh and most recent group to be founded is the “Total Makeover ☆ Fukuoka Star Club.”
    Club captain NAGASUE Yuki says, “Fukuoka is a city that many people have moved to either because of job relocation or because of the effects of the earthquake. Our intention is to provide an environment where they can mix with locals. Total makeovers are quite popular, so when we advertised to recruit members, there were five times more applicants than the spaces we had to fill. When we held a party to show off our work, everyone had such a good time and got so excited that we burst out laughing many times. Our members get along together very well and keep in touch.”
    A characteristic of this trend for total makeovers is that many people upload their makeover photos onto social media. Interaction through the Internet is lively as people comment and click ‘like.’

    Text: HATTA Emiko[2014年7月号掲載記事]

    宝島社編集部の花房美也子さんは話します。「『真似メイク RECIPE』は、北川景子さんやローラさんなど、女性に人気がある芸能人計32名の顔になれるメイク方法を紹介した本です。特別な道具は不要で、手持ちのメイク道具でできます。読者からは『芸能人に似ていると言われた』『見ているだけでも楽しい』という声をいただいています」。


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  • クリエイターとお客との近さが魅力

    [From July Issue 2014]

    Design Festa
    Design Festa is an art event at which artists get to display or perform their work. Since 1994, the event has been held biannually at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward, Tokyo. No limits are set on age or nationality, and exhibitors include professional and amateur artists. Art of any genre is accepted. There are no auditions or evaluations, so as long as it’s original work, it can be displayed or performed here.
    At Design Festa, a variety of art works and performances are shown. Some people paint pictures on eight-meter-wide canvases, while others deliver collective singing and dancing performances on stage. In a darkened area of the venue works utilizing light and video images are shown. In the outdoor area participants can cook and sell food. There is also a handicrafts section for visitors to enjoy.
    In many of the booths, the items on display are also on sale. At most of the booths the creator is there in person to explain their work to customers. “Design Festa is a place which both exhibitors and visitors can enjoy together. It’s possible to attract many more customers than you would be able to do on your own and through communicating with visitors, new opportunities and possibilities arise,” says ITO Azusa, head of PR for Design Festa, Ltd.
    “We do not divide the space up by genre. The mixture of various art works makes for a chaotic atmosphere, which creates an exceptional space,” says Ito. “Exhibitors are the stars of the event, so we take care to ensure that they feel free to exhibit as they please.”
    “The great thing about Design Festa is that it attracts customers searching for items that don’t appeal to the general public or are extremely unique,” says ASAI Hideo, who has exhibited his work at the event 13 times in a row. Asai is the CEO of Asai Seisakusho, Ltd., a company that makes screws. At Design Festa, they sell accessories made using handmade screws.
    To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Design Festa, it has been decided that Designfesta, Ltd., will host a new art event – the “All Student Art Festival – Gakuten” – on August 9 and 10. “Gakuten” is a Design Festa for students. Those wanting to participate in the event have to be studying in school, in further education, or in a class. There are no restrictions on age or nationality. Original work of any genre is accepted.
    “I expect that the exhibitors at Gakuten will be younger than those at Design Festa, so we are anticipating a more festive atmosphere,” says MINEO Asahi. Asahi is currently attending a product design course at Nihon Kogakuin Hachioji Campus. Mineo and her classmate TAKENAKA Mizuho are making accessories that combine traditional Japanese patterns with the cute colors and designs seen on items worn around the Harajuku area. “We’re hoping that young people will become familiar with the charm of traditional Japanese patterns.
    “We would like to make a music video and do an installation at Gakuten,” says IZUKI Keito of Amphithéâtre, a student handicraft club from Yokohama National University. “We would like to make a video production featuring these accessories to show while selling our products,” she says.
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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  • 伝統的な着物をドレスに生かす

    [From July Issue 2014]

    Yorozu International
    At Yorozu International in Roppongi, Tokyo, dresses made from kimono cloth and bags put together out of obi material and leather are laid out in rows. When the company was established in Karuizawa in 2010, a store was established in Daikanyama. Because the company wanted people from overseas to become familiar with the charms of kimono, one year ago the shop was moved to Roppongi, an area easily accessible to foreigners.
    MURAKAMI Yuko, the representative director, used to work in the apparel industry. Western clothes were at the center of her life. She says that approximately ten years ago, her husband encouraged her to enroll in a school where she could comprehensively study kimono. In the beginning, she didn’t even know how to fold a kimono. She started out studying how to wear kimono, but afterwards her studies went deeper and she learned about such things as dyeing techniques.
    The more she learned about kimono, the stronger her feeling that “these traditional techniques must be retained.” However, younger people view kimono as being expensive; not something that can be purchased casually. When her husband saw Murakami learning about kimono, he suggested that she establish a business. In order to give more people the chance to come into contact with kimono, she sold products made from repurposed kimono cloth.
    Murakami says that the best thing is when someone enjoys wearing a kimono. However, “When I thought about what should be retained, I thought it should be the colors and patterns of kimono which cannot be found in any part of the world except for Japan.” That’s why she’s not particular about the kimono retaining its form. Rather, she utilizes its patterns to reflect Japan’s four seasons and allows the delicate colors of its natural dyes to come alive in the form of dresses or bags.
    There are other shops that repurpose kimono into clothes, but Murakami has noticed that most of them use Japanese dressmaking techniques for the finish. Because Japanese dressmaking uses boxy fabric, it cannot be made to fit the body when repurposed into western clothes. Kimono fabric is 30 centimeters wide – narrower than western fabric – so Yorozu International is particular about cutting it with three-dimensional shapes in mind. They finely match the patterns, to give them new value as an attractive product.
    In the case of tailor-made dresses, which are basically made-to-order, prices start from 160,000 yen – which is not cheap. However, Murakami says with confidence: “Even though kimono patterns are old, they’re never out of fashion. Once you have it made, it can be something they can be proud of to the next generation.”
    One of the reasons why people have lost touch with kimono is because there are no opportunities to wear them. So Murakami holds a kimono dressing salon four to five times a month. After learning how to dress in a kimono, participants can enjoy a meal in a restaurant around Roppongi while wearing a kimono. Because it’s possible to communicate in English, word has got out and the numbers of foreign visitors have gradually increased.
    The “万” (yorozu) character used by “Yorozu International,” signifies “a great amount.” With this character, Murakami expresses her appreciation of nature and the eight million (countless) forces that created the kimono. Once one touches the smooth texture of the silk kimono cloth, one can feel the fascination of kimono created by these many powers.
    Yorozu International
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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  • 歌で日本の心を海外に伝えたい

    [From July Issue 2014]

    TAKEI Ryoko
    President of Foster Japanese Songs
    Using the western scale, nursery rhymes and school songs produced in the Meiji period (1868-1912) represent a unique Japanese world view. This makes them the perfect tool to promote the beauty of Japan to the rest of the world. This was the reasoning of TAKEI Ryoko, when she took on the role of president of Foster Japanese Songs (FJS).
    Takei has been studying singing while at the same time pursuing her academic and professional career. In 2006, she went over to America to get her MBA. While studying at Columbia University, she brushed up her vocal skills by attending a master course as an auditing student at the Juilliard School.
    Returning to Japan in 2008, she thought about what she could do for her country, and it occurred to her that she could be active in disseminating Japanese songs to other countries. “In attempting this, I could make the best use of my knowledge of business management and marketing skills, as well as my singing skills. I thought I was the only person who possessed both of these qualifications. And this above all, made me excited,” said Takei.
    Before getting started, Takei gave some consideration to how she would capture people’s interest. Takei says: “Japanese melodies, such as school songs, nursery rhymes and classic artistic melodies use the western scale, so they are approachable for non-Japanese listeners. Nevertheless, they express unique Japanese views of the world. If we make an analogy with sushi, for example, California rolls are an original dish made using Japanese techniques. So I thought I would start non-Japanese listeners off with California rolls and then have them move on to norimaki (rolled sushi wrapped in sheets of dried seaweed), namely, the world of Noh plays and so forth.
    So FJS was established in 2012, under the slogan of “Transforming Japanese soul songs into global classics.” She keeps herself active and is a member of Nikikai, an organization for vocalists, and sings as soprano on the side.
    In the middle of this March, FJS held its first overseas performance at a U.N. event in New York. “I assured the members that everything would be alright, but I was actually very nervous,” says Takei, explaining how she felt before the concert.
    After the performance, however, some non-Japanese people were found to have shed a tear. The concert attracted the attention of foreign media and she felt that things had gone rather well. “The next day we gave a concert at a recital hall and I was really happy to see that some of the people who had attended the previous day’s event came with their friends to listen to our songs again,” says Takei.
    Takei prioritizes conveying the meaning of the Japanese lyrics. During a performance, she took some time to explain the environment in which the songs were created. Using phonetic transcripts, she got everyone to join in a rendition of “Furusato” (Hometown). She also translates lyrics, but she does this very carefully. “I want to retain an academic appearance. Depending on how you translate it, you can end up with something resembling inferior California rolls. I always take time to make sure that my translation fully reflects the meaning of the original.”
    These days, even in Japan, there are fewer opportunities to enjoy nursery rhymes and school songs. “Japanese songs account for only 10% of the songs found in junior high school music textbooks,” says Takei. She plans to hold the same performance in Tokyo that she did in New York and, in addition, to actively continue her efforts at home. Takei says that FJS’s goal is to have famous opera singers such as Plácido Domingo sing Japanese songs in Japanese on their European tours.
    Foster Japanese Songs
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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