• とんぼりリバークルーズ

    [From July Issue 2014]

    This popular cruise plots a course under the nine bridges that span the Dotonbori River in Osaka. From the boat you can look up at the area’s iconic neon signs. During the approximately 20 minutes’ time spent on board, it is also pleasurable to listen to the crew make light banter in their unique Osaka accents (in Japanese). Because it is permitted to bring food and drinks onboard, many people bring along takoyaki and drinks sold around the boarding area.
    Boarding reception: five minutes’ walk from Namba Station (Midosuji Subway Line / Sennichimae Subway Line)
    Boarding dock: Tazaemon-bashi Bridge Wharf
    Price: 700 yen for adults (junior high students and over)
    Cruise schedule
    Weekdays: 1pm – 9pm
    Weekends/holidays/high season: 11am – 9pm
    Departs every 00 and 30 minutes past the hour. 5pm and 5:30pm Services suspended on weekdays.
    (Service subject to suspension due to weather conditions, oceanographic phenomena, tide levels)
    Tombori River Cruise[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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  • カレーハウスCoCo壱番屋

    [From July Issue 2014]

    In business since 1978, this restaurant specializes in curry rice. They have over 1,200 restaurants nationwide and over 100 restaurants abroad. You can choose how spicy you want your curry to be and how much rice to have. Moreover, since you are free to choose from the 40 topping varieties, you can make your own original curry to suit your own tastes.

    [No. 1] Pork Cutlet Curry 700 yen (721 yen in some areas)

    This generously sized crisp pork loin cutlet is an outstanding match with the curry sauce.

    [No. 2] Vegetable Curry 648 yen (669 yen in some areas)

    Traditional Japanese-style curry with plenty of vegetables, including, potatoes, carrots and onions.

    [No. 3] Beef Curry 597 yen

    The popular full-bodied beef sauce is carefully cooked for a full flavor. But it can be altered to become a hashed beef curry.
    Price includes tax.
    CURRY HOUSE CoCo Ichibanya[2014年7月号掲載記事]


    【No.1】ロースカツカレー 700円(一部の地域では721円)


    【No.2】やさいカレー 648円(一部の地域では669円)


    【No.1】ビーフカレー 597円



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  • 風船を飛ばし宇宙を撮影

    [From July Issue 2014]

    Floating a camera from a balloon and photographing the Earth from far up in the stratosphere. It sounds like a fairy tale, but by using a unique method IWAYA Keisuke, from Sapporo City, Hokkaido, made this a reality. Since the first launch in 2011, he has launched 30 balloons so far. As a result of continuous additional improvements, the camera attached to the balloon can now reach heights of more than 40,000 meters.
    “In fact, not many images taken from these heights had, up until now, been shot. It’s not an altitude at which it’s normally possible to take photographs; rockets are further away from earth.” His so called balloon photographic method is unusual and on top of this, his photographs are unique. Because of this, Iwaya’s space photography is attracting interest from different directions.
    When he was child, Iwaya admired Dr. BROWN who invented the time machine in the movie “Back to the Future.” “I wanted to become an inventor. But as I progressed through junior school and high school I became more aware of reality and gave up on becoming an inventor,” he laughs. After that, he moved on to study at the mechanical engineering department of a university, which was where he heard the news about an American student who had successfully taken photographs from a balloon.
    “I want to try it myself!” he immediately thought, but the details of the method used were not disclosed. So he assembled his materials for around 5,000 yen and tackled the problem using his own original design and method. So he could be sure to gather data, a string was connected to the first unit launched. Although the altitude was low at a mere 100 meters, he discovered many things about the effects of wind on the photographic image and about battery consumption.
    After that, he analyzed the data for each launch adding numerous improvements. Currently, he launches his camera packed in Styrofoam with a large helium-filled balloon of one to two meters in diameter. It weighs approximately 250 grams. Because atmospheric pressure falls as the balloon rises, the balloon explodes and falls when it reaches approximately 30,000 meters in altitude.
    As the camera falls to the ground, Iwaya is extremely careful about not injuring anyone. He attaches a speed reduction device and calculates that the camera returns to the earth at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour or slower. Because it is floating, depending on the way the wind blows, the camera is equipped with GPS so that the location of the fallen camera can be discovered. A buzzer goes off when it hits the ground, so that it can be found even if it happens to land in tall grass.
    There have been occasions when he was unable to collect his camera. On other occasions, 10,000 photographs have been taken but only one decent photo produced. However, Iwaya says, “These are no ‘failures.’” He explains that even if he cannot collect the camera or take photographs, he discovers something new at each launch and these findings can be useful for the next launch.
    There were some people who regarded Iwaya’s dream to photograph space from a balloon as being impossible to realize. Iwaya says, “Taking photographs from space with a balloon has taught me that dreams can come true if I continue without giving up.” Iwaya’s next dream is to photograph the deep sea.
    *Data presented in this article is as of April 18, 2014.
    Balloon Space Photography
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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  • 1年間で扱う荷物を積み上げると月まで届く

    [From July Issue 2014]

    Kuroneko Yamato no TA-Q-BIN
    With just four trucks, Yamato Transport Co., Ltd, was founded in 1919 in Ginza, Tokyo as a company specializing in making deliveries by automobile. It’s well known for its tagline “Kuroneko Yamato no TA-Q-BIN (Black Cat Yamato Courier Service). The logo of a black cat with a kitten in its mouth can be seen all over Japan. The word “TA-Q-BIN (takkyuubin)” (express home delivery) is widely known, but, as it’s a registered trademark, can be only used by Yamato Transport.
    In 1976, Yamato Transport founded a private company; Japan’s first home delivery service to target private individuals. That service was named TA-Q-BIN. Until the first half of the 1970s, Japan’s transport companies dealt mostly with business freight. It took as many as four to five days to deliver private parcels. That’s why the then President OGURA Masao put together a service for “collection by phone call” and “next day delivery.”
    Before he started the courier service, Ogura worried about how many branches he should open. In the end he used the number of police stations across the nation – then 1,200 – as a guideline. He thought, “The role of the police is to ensure public order in the area. With the same number of branches, Yamato should available to every resident in the area.” Today they have around 4,000 branches.
    The idea of a courier service quickly caught on and many people signed up to use it. Today Yamato Transport handles around 1.6 billion parcels a year. If the same number of standard-sized tangerine boxes (30 centimeters tall) were placed on top of one another, the stack would be high enough to reach the moon.
    Once the ease and convenience of their courier service became well known, many within the company began to suggest that they offer other services besides to door to door delivery. That’s how the “ski courier service” got underway in 1983. It was originally the idea of an employee in Nagano Prefecture, who wanted to do something to boost the number of parcels after the severe drop in custom following the end of the apple season.
    One winter’s day, he was looking at a national highway and noticed a bus carrying a lot of skies on board. This sight got the employee thinking, “If we transport them, our customers will be freed up to enjoy their skiing trip. This will supply us with a new cargo to replace the apples.” In this way, the first business to couple a courier service with the leisure industry was launched and quickly caught on nationwide.
    Since then, Yamato Transport has been at the forefront of developing new user-friendly services; these have sprung up one after the other, for example, “golf TA-Q-BIN,” “cool TA-Q-BIN” and “airport TA-Q-BIN.” They have also strived to contribute to society, for example, after the Great East Japan Earthquake a “Relief Supply Transport Cooperation Team” was set up in the hardest hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.
    Yamato Transport Co., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年7月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本語学習で自分自身が成長

    [From July Issue 2014]

    TRAN Minh Hoang
    In the fall of 2013, at the “13th IM Japan Writing Contest” – a contest organized by the International Manpower Development Organization, Japan (a.k.a. IM Japan) – “The Color of My Life,” an essay by Vietnamese national TRAN Minh Hoang, won first prize. Many people were touched by Hoang’s ability to write beautiful Japanese and by his idea of expressing his feelings about life up until that time in colors.
    Through a Technical Internship Program that was set up by the Japanese government, IM Japan accepts numerous highly skilled interns sent by the governments of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Taking advantage of this scheme, Hoang came to Japan in June 2011 with 12 colleagues. He’s now receiving technical training at MHI Ship & Ocean Engineering Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. MSK) in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
    Located at the Nagasaki shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., MSK engineers and manufactures tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and more. Trainees like Hoang learn manufacturing skills like welding.
    Hoang says, “The Japanese language is difficult, especially honorific expressions.” MSK encourages trainees like him to study by providing them with two Japanese lessons a week and advising them to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    By responding to the company’s expectations that he take an interest in Japanese and throw himself into his studies, Hoang has been seriously applying himself, sparing no effort. He has thus far managed to pass the notoriously difficult N2 grade (second highest qualification) Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    Before reaching that level, he drew strength from the encouragement of older colleagues. They not only guide trainees at work, but also take an interest in their health and daily lives. Hoang says of his group leader KANAZAWA Akira and manager UEDA Yosuke, “They are like real family.” At times they seriously reprimand him, telling him that “Alcohol and smoking are bad for you.”
    Hoang will soon finish his three years of training and return home to Vietnam. “I’ll be glad to see my family back home, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the folks at MSK,” he says. After returning home, he wants to build on the language and professional skills he acquired in Japan and work towards building ties between Japan and Vietnam. His dream is to someday return to Japan and open a Vietnamese restaurant in Nagasaki.
    In “The Colors of my Life,” Hoang writes, “From now on, I don’t know what colors my life will be painted in, nor do I have any idea of what kind of painting it will be in the end, but I’m learning to enjoy my growing maturity through the study of the Japanese language. Why don’t you try learning a foreign language yourself? You’ll certainly encounter a new you.”

    Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko[2014年7月号掲載記事]



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  • バレリーナを目指す少女の成長物語

    [From July Issue 2014]

    In recent years, it’s not all that unusual for Japanese people to win international ballet competitions or to join famous overseas ballet companies. But this was still a distant dream in 1976, when the serialization of “Swan” began in the women’s comic magazine “Weekly Margaret.”
    Fifteen-year-old HIJIRI Masumi travels to Tokyo from Hokkaido to watch Alexei SERGEIEV and Maria PRISETSKAYA, famous ballet dancers from the former Soviet Union (now Russia), perform in Japan. Unexpectedly the road towards becoming a ballerina opens up, when, deeply moved by the performance, Masumi unintentionally ballet dances in front of the two.
    Because of this accidental encounter, Masumi is lucky enough to get lessons with Alexei, the star dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet troupe. There, her slumbering talent is revealed as is a problem that she must surmount. Through a severe regime and battles with her rivals, Masumi rapidly improves.
    Many real personalities and ballet companies appear in these comics. Also, the meaning of each pose and technique is written about in detail. Since it contains explanations and interpretations of ballets, it is also an introduction to ballet for those who know nothing about the subject.
    In addition, it portrays the protagonist’s love affairs – an indispensible part of the woman’s comic genre. Though her first crush is for KUSAKABE Sho, she falls deeply in love with Luci, who she meets in America. Her suffering from lost love and struggle to choose between love and the ballet, stirred the sympathies of readers.
    After studying abroad in the U.K. and acquiring modern ballet skills in the U.S., Masumi becomes a top dancer. Then, she manages to be reunited with her former mentor Sergeiev and it is decided that she will be cast in the same role as one of Sergeiev’s students. One day, Masumi discovers an unexpected truth. With a wavering heart, the challenge to start life as a ballerina begins.
    A 12 volume collector’s edition of this work was published in 2007. In response to demands from fans, the Moscow sequel was also published. The serialization of “Maia Swan act II,” featuring Masumi’s daughter Maia as the protagonist, continues to this day. Inherited by the next generation, the story continues even though 30 years have passed since the series began. From now on, after seeing the heroine appear on the world stage, more and more girls might aim to become ballerinas.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2014年7月号掲載記事]

    この作品は、2007年に愛蔵版が12巻まで発行されました。ファンの要望から、この物語の続きとしてモスクワ編も発行されています。真澄の娘、まいあを主人公とした「まいあ Maia SWAN actⅡ」の連載は、現在も続いています。連載開始から30年以上経った今も、次世代に受け継がれた物語が続いているのです。世界を舞台に活躍する新ヒロインに憧れてバレリーナを目指す少女が、これからも出てくるかもしれません。

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  • ケータリングでパーティーやイベントを演出

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Recently, more and more people in Japan are holding parties at home. After hosting several parties, many people want to create an atmosphere that is a little different than normal. Because of this, caterers have been attracting attention. Besides house parties, they also cater corporate events.
    Futaba Fruits, in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, is a catering service that deals with fruits. The company originally sold fruit retail, but when regular customers requested that they provide fruits for events and parties, this prompted them to launch their service. Seventy percent of their customer base is female.
    At the turn of the seasons, there are more exhibitions by clothing manufacturers. In the summer, they often set up shop at outdoor festivals, and at the end of the year, the number of company parties they cater to increases for the bounenkai (forget the hardships of the year) party season. A colorful reminder of the changing seasons, fruit is reputed to create pleasing decorative effects at parties.
    IWATSUKI Masayasu, a spokesman for Futaba Fruits says: “We started out as a retailer, so we didn’t get the opportunity to witness our customers consuming our fruit. However, since we started our catering service, we’ve had increasing opportunities to see the smiles on our customer’s faces as they consume our fruit, telling us they find it delicious.”


    Tokyo Masala Boys’ curry

    TAKAGI Shintaro and HATSUMI Ken run a weekends-only, Tokyo-based curry catering service called Tokyo Masala Boys. The two used to cook as a hobby. One day, when they made an authentic Indian curry to eat with friends and family, the consensus was that it was really delicious. Takagi says that making curry requires an in-depth knowledge both of spices and Indian cooking.
    “I simply liked curry, so I wanted to make more of it. If I think that a curry is delicious, it makes me happy when other people find it delicious, too,” says Takagi, with a smile. They offer a set meal for 2,000 yen a head that consists of two kinds of curry, two side dishes and a portion of rice. Another reason for their popularity may be the reasonable price of their catering.
    They’ve catered at a variety of different venues: not only at typical house parties, but also at flea markets, discussion events aimed at regenerating local areas and at youth hostels for backpackers.
    ONO Daisuke, who has tried the catering service, says: “They devise a menu tailored to your budget and the dishes, made by professional cooks, create an exotic atmosphere. They take care of the tableware and so forth, so I wasn’t caught up in preparing for the event. Despite being the host of the house party, I was able to enjoy it, too.” Allowing both organizers and guests to have a good time, caterers may become even more popular in the future.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年6月号掲載記事]




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  • 効率よく観光できるバスツアー

    [From June Issue 2014]

    This year is the 65th anniversary of Hato Bus – one of Japan’s best-known sightseeing tour bus companies. It not only offers tours to Japanese customers, but also runs a variety of tours aimed at foreign tourists. The guides on foreign language tours are all state licensed interpreters.
    A popular option is “Dynamic Tokyo;” a tour of the metropolis with an English language guide. You can take a walk in a Japanese-style garden and try out a version of the tea ceremony that has been simplified for non-Japanese. Also, you can enjoy food cooked on a steel plate made with lava from Mt. Fuji. Everything is a highlight; from the Imperial Palace, to a cruise on the Sumida River to the final destination in Asakusa. The attraction of Hato Bus is in the efficient way it tours round the major sightseeing spots.
    HASHIZUME Mai has nine-year’s experience working as a tour guide and says, “Trying to book the itinerary yourself would be too much even for a Japanese person.” If you go by car, it won’t be easy to find a parking space. You can save time with Hato bus because we have our own private parking spaces. If there are foods you can’t eat, because of allergies, or for religious reasons, or if you are vegetarian, we can accommodate you if you let us know in advance.”
    Time spent travelling can be a good opportunity to learn about Japan’s culture and history. Mexican Hemia CISNEROS, who participated with a Japanese friend, says, “It’s a good thing that I can learn about today’s Japan through the bus window. Tokyo is a big city and I don’t understand the language. Visiting many places by bus is far more practical than planning and going on my own.” It’s the best way to show friends from abroad around, as the guides, who possess an in-depth knowledge of Japan, can comprehensively answer their questions.
    The one-day “World Heritage Mt. Fuji & Hakone tour” tour of Mt. Fuji – registered as a World Heritage Site in 2013 – and its surrounding area is also popular. Other than Mt. Fuji, you can also enjoy a pleasure cruise of Lake Ashi and a Western-style buffet lunch at Hakone Hotel Kowakien. In summer, you can climb up to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji to enjoy a magnificent view.
    Canadian Jacques BOUCHER, who went on a tour with his wife and son, says, “I came because I wanted to compare Mt. Fuji with a mountain we have in Montreal. It’s spectacular and graceful. The best view I’ve had in my life.” Guide INABA Atsuko says, “I make it a rule to talk about things we Japanese see in our everyday life, such as clean streets.”
    There is also a half-day tour of Tokyo and a tour to enjoy Tokyo Skytree tower. Shuttle services are also available to pick customers up from their hotels in Shinjuku, Shinagawa, and other parts of Tokyo Prefecture, to be taken to the departure terminal in Hamamatsu-cho. It’s possible to enjoy a safe, pleasant trip that will give you a sense of Japanese-style hospitality.
    Hato Bus Co., Ltd.
    Tel: 03-3435-6081
    Text: IZAWA Taiichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


    Tel: 03-3435-6081

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  • 地域をより知ることができる民泊

    [From June Issue 2014]

    “Private lodging” – accommodation in a private residence – is getting an increasing amount of repeat custom. Many start out as regional exchange or development schemes to supplement the incomes of families whose livelihood is based on the farming, fishing or forestry industries. Recently they’ve been attracting attention because of their charm; they provide something that can’t be found on a typical sightseeing trip.
    “The charm of private lodging lies in becoming better acquainted with a region through interactions with locals,” says KAWAGUCHI Susumu, “Shiosai-juku” in Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture, has been operating for three years. Made with local produce, his regional dishes are extremely popular. Another big attraction of private lodging is the real-life experience you have with locals.
    Since Goto is next to the ocean, fishing and messing about on the beach are popular activities to experience. While visitors to Shiosai-juku are mostly in their 50s or 60s, more and more schools are giving children the opportunity to get a taste of staying at a private residence as part of an educational program. For children who have no opportunity to spend time by the seaside in the course of their everyday lives, finding out about the diversity of sea creatures can be the catalyst for raising awareness about the Earth’s environment. Visitors from overseas are still rare, but Kawaguchi expects that the number of Korean tourists will increase if the Catholic church in Goto is registered as a World Heritage Site.



    At “Yururiya” and “Tomaryanse” residential lodgings, in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture, roughly half of the visitors are Japanese and half foreign. Owner ERA Yoko says she wants them to come with the mindset of someone who’s about to do a homestay.
    She sometimes has a hard time communicating in English. “One winter’s day, I thought the bathroom was too cold, so I left the shower running in order to warm it up before some high school students from Singapore took their bath. They must have thought it was customary in Japan to leave the shower running. They left it running for a long time after their bath. It was very difficult for me to explain this later,” Era laughs.
    A popular activity is to get a hands-on experience of farming by doing things like harvesting rice and vegetables. If it’s not possible to do any farming because of the rain, visitors prepare food – sushi wrapped in rolls of seaweed, and so forth – with her. Foreign visitors are especially pleased to get the chance to experience making Japanese dishes. Era says she feels very sad when people who have stayed for more than two days leave, as they begin to feel like family. She often continues friendships with them by swapping email addresses.
    As well as being cheap, private lodgings provide foreigners with a chance to get a taste of the Japanese lifestyle, and for this reason they may become popular in the future. They also offer Japanese city dwellers an invaluable experience.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年6月号掲載記事]




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  • 町工場の技術を生かした「痛くない注射針」

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Injectors are medical devices that come into contact with our skin. The majority of injectors consist of a syringe filled with medicine and a needle. Many people hate injections due to the moment of pain experienced when the needle penetrates the skin.
    A routine blood test or flu shot may be just about the only time healthy people require an injection. Children with type one diabetes, however, need to inject themselves with insulin several times a day. With this problem in mind, MATSUNO Takao, formerly the person in charge of research and development for Terumo Corporation, wondered whether they could develop a needle that would make injections as painless as possible.
    Matsuno and his fellow engineers understood that “in order to reduce the pain, it would be necessary to make the needle thinner.” The thinner they make the needle, however, the harder it became to get the medicine to flow through it. In order to minimize pain and maximize the flow of medicine, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to design a needle with a narrow tip and a wide shaft. But they had a hard time finding a company that would collaborate with them on this project.
    In order to find a company that could manufacture a tapered needle, Terumo Corporation’s engineers contacted and visited about a hundred companies. Finally, a small factory, Okano Manufacturing Corporation in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, agreed to take on the project. Normally, injection needles are made from a long pipe cut into a certain length. At Okano Manufacturing, however, they came up with a method of rolling individual sheets of stainless steel one at a time into a tube. So that liquids can flow through unimpeded, the inside of the needle is carefully polished. This production method can only be carried out by Okano Manufacturing.
    In 2005, by developing the world’s thinnest needle, “Nanopass” – which has a 33-gauge (0.2 millimeter) tip –they achieved what no other company had managed to before. In 2012, they broke their own record for thinnest needle by constructing an even thinner one with a 34-gauge (0.18-millimeter) tip. This was made possible by Okano Manufacturing’s press-working expertise and Terumo’s needle manufacturing technology.
    To reduce the pain of injections even further, they not only made the tip of the needle thinner, but also gave considerable thought to its design. In order to avoid that sharp twinge of pain felt the moment the needle punctures the skin, rather than simply making the tip sharper, they made it asymmetrical, so that the edge of the blade would slice into the skin.
    Those with diabetes have to have injections several times a day and this adds up to over a 1,000 injections in a year. Nanopass has been widely used to moderate the physical and emotional pain these patients go through every day. “I am glad to contribute to their medical treatment by alleviating just a little of their pain,” says Matsuno.
    Terumo Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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