• リニア・鉄道館

    [From June Issue 2014]

    This is an interactive railway museum that both children and adults can enjoy in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture. Focusing mostly on the Tokaido Shinkansen; from steam locomotives to magnetic levitation trains, there are 39 original vehicles on display. The shinkansen driving simulator allows you to experience operating a train in a life size driver’s cab while watching a big screen (Users are selected by lottery). The railway diorama is one of Japan’s largest and is both impressive and popular.
    Nearest train station: Take the Aonami Line at JR Nagoya Station and get off at “Kinjo Futo Station.” Then it’s a two-minute walk from the station.
    Admission: 1,000 yen for adults. 500 yen for elementary, junior and high school students. 200 yen for small children (preschool children over three).
    Opening hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm (entry allowed up until 30 minutes before closing time)
    Closed days: Every Tuesday (the following day if Tuesday is a national holiday). December 28 – January 1.
    SCMAGLEV and Railway Park[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • セブン‐イレブン

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Seven-Eleven was the very first convenience store in Japan. The franchise has expanded and now there are over 16,000 stores all over the country; approximately double the number of stores in the United States. One of the hit products is onigiri (rice balls). Seven-Eleven was the first in the industry to start selling temaki (DIY hand-rolled) onigiri, and they currently sell 1.88 billion onigiri annually. Their original products are also very popular.

    [No. 1] Gu Tappuri Temaki Tuna Mayonnaise (Hand-rolled Tuna Mayonnaise With a Generous Filling) 102 yen

    A long time favorite product first put on the market by Seven-Eleven. Particular care is taken over the freshness of the eggs used in the mayonnaise.

    [No. 2] Temaki Onigiri Beni Shake (Hand-rolled Red Salmon Onigiri) 130 yen

    Though salmon is a standard filling, this onigiri is filled only with natural red salmon for a rich umami (savory) flavor. A lot of time and effort is devoted to making this product; after seasoning the salmon with salt to bring out the umami flavors, it is baked slowly and carefully, and then crumbled by hand.

    [No. 3] Jikamaki Omusubi Torigomoku (Wrapped Rice Balls Mixed with Chicken and Vegetables) 112 yen

    This product is brimming with the umami taste of chicken and vegetables. Prepared to have a salty-sweet flavor, the rice is wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. Many customers are fans of this signature product.


    【No.1】具たっぷり手巻ツナマヨネーズ 102円


    【No.2】手巻おにぎり 紅しゃけ 130円


    【No.3】直巻おむすび とり五目 112円



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  • 間伐材を使った杉のわりばし

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Receiving a bowl of noodles from across the counter with one hand a customer uses the other to split apart a pair of chopsticks he’s been holding between his teeth and proceeds to vigorously slurp up his noodles. This familiar scene at standing soba and udon shops might one day disappear. That’s because disposable chopsticks are gradually starting to disappear from the counter.
    Plastic and lacquer chopsticks are increasingly replacing disposable ones. These days disposable chopsticks are rarely seen at family restaurants and Japanese-style bars. There are two reasons why disposable chopsticks have become less popular. The first reason is that there is a preconception that cutting down trees to make them leads to deforestation. The second is that more and more people think it’s a waste to use disposable chopsticks, because they are thrown away after only one use.
    Responding to the view that disposable chopsticks are a bad thing, YOSHII Teruo, president of Yoshiishoji, a company that sells chopsticks wholesale in Nara Prefecture, says, “Using domestically produced disposable chopsticks helps protect the environment.” Yoshino Japanese cedar is produced in the Yoshino region, where the company is located. This area is also said to be the region where disposable chopsticks originated. Originally, disposable chopsticks were made from the wood shavings created in the production of cedar sake barrels.
    Today, they are made by effectively using lumber from “forest thinning” (removing certain trees from an overcrowded forest), and “wood shavings” from timber used for construction materials. No wood is wasted. In short, the production of Yoshino chopsticks is unrelated to deforestation. “Forest thinning effectively encourages the growth of surrounding trees,” Yoshii argues. “Therefore, making chopsticks with wood from forest thinning serves the purpose of preserving and cultivating timber resources.”
    Mr. Yoshii explains the benefits of using disposable chopsticks: “Over the 20 years after they are planted, the cedar and cypress trees used for making chopsticks absorb a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide from the air. In other words, the mountain forests we humans carefully cultivate play a big role in protecting the environment we live in. It’s been calculated that a reduction of 16 grams of carbon dioxide per year is generated by using one pair of chopsticks.”
    In response to the view that disposable chopsticks are a waste, Mr. Yoshii has this to say: “Plastic or lacquered chopsticks are certainly convenient because they can be used over and over again. However, there is a cost involved in the water and detergent needed to wash them. It is important to consider this total cost, rather than the cost of a single pair of disposable chopsticks. We should also take into account the effect draining water has on the environment.”
    Disposable chopsticks are produced in other regions, of course, but the production process is mostly mechanized. However, most of the workers in the Yoshino region still continue to make them by hand to this day. Emphasizing the benefits of wooden chopsticks, Yoshii says, “Not only are chopsticks a tool for eating, but by using them, old customs and traditions are preserved. For this reason, because of their unique aroma, feel and texture, cedar chopsticks are best.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 食をテーマに人生を描く

    [From June Issue 2014]

    In the 1980’s when the food service industry really got established in Japan, a gourmet boom got underway, with people becoming increasingly particular about ingredients and recipes. “Oishinbo” (The Gourmet) was one of the driving forces behind this boom. The series started in the manga magazine, “Big Comic Spirits” in 1983 and continues even today. It is a popular series with over 100 million volumes in circulation; in addition to movie adaptations, animated and live action adaptations have been televised.
    Reporters, YAMAOKA Shiro and KURITA Yuko, take up the challenge of creating the “ultimate menu” which will showcase the pinnacle of Japanese food culture for the hundred year anniversary of their newspaper. However, a rival company is planning a “supreme menu,” and this triggers a culinary battle between “the ultimate” and “the supreme.” KAIBARA Yuzan is a consultant for the supreme menu, and is also Shiro’s father. The two have been at odds for a long time over the death of Shiro’s mother.
    As well as being a brilliant artist, Yuzan is a gourmet. His uncompromising attitude covers just about everything and spills over into his private life. On discovering that his son has an extremely sensitive palate, in preparation for adulthood, he gives him a through grounding in the basics of cookery. However, Shiro rebels against this strict upbringing and, when his mother dies of heart disease, destroys all of Yuzan’s artwork, before leaving home.
    Shiro continues to nurse a grudge against Yuzan because he feels that by forcing his mother to continue working while she was sick, he was responsible for her death. He uses his mother’s maiden name “Yamaoka” in order to sever relations with Yuzan. The classic theme of father son conflict, overlaps with the cookery showdown and adds depth to the story.
    Shiro’s feelings about his parents’ unhappy marriage cast a shadow over his life. While he is attracted to his colleague, Yuko, he is unable to make the first move. But by confronting Yuzan through the cookery showdown, Shiro gradually begins to face his past. When he brings about the marriage of a woman, he is inspired to propose to Yuko.
    However, Yuko’s pregnancy makes Shiro anxious again. Shiro is afraid that he will be unable to love his own child because his father did not show any affection towards him, giving him no warm family memories. But when Yuko suffers from morning sickness, Yuzan teaches Yuko a dish that he had made for Shiro’s mother. Shiro becomes aware of Yuzan’s love towards Shiro’s mother and by extension, towards himself; this prepares Shiro for fatherhood.
    The carefully drawn dishes are beautiful and the work also introduces ingredients in profound detail as well as the rich food culture of various regions. All the characters, including Shiro, learn to relate to one another through food and come to understand that “to eat” is “to live.”
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 関心のなかった日本が好きに

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Dongi USENG LAFI
    “To tell you the truth, I used to have no interest whatsoever in Japan,” says Dongi USENG LAFI from Taiwan with a wry smile. “Many people in Taiwan love Japan and sightseeing trips to Japan are very popular. But I never participated in any. Having an interest in Europe, I studied German in college.”
    However, Dongi came to Japan in October 2012 when her boyfriend was transferred there for work. “I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and on top of that my parents were very concerned because it was after the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, I’d made up my mind to go along with my boyfriend.” Since coming to Japan, Dongi has taken quite a liking to the country. “Everywhere you go in Japan the streets are clean. Trains operate on time. The people are all polite and well dressed. Waste is properly recycled. I think we Taiwanese should learn from this side of the Japanese.”
    She’s been won over by Japan’s culture and nature. “I’ve always been fond of flowers, so I’m practicing ikebana (flower arrangement) and kokedama (moss ball making). While pursuing those activities, I’ve come to acquire a powerful sense of the beauty of flowers. When I saw cherry flowers in full bloom for the first time in the spring of 2013, I was moved to tears.”
    Dongi has also come to like Japanese cuisine. “My boyfriend hated nattou at first. But he liked yuzu chili paste, so I put it in nattou for him. Then he just fell in love with nattou,” she says. “On special occasions, we look forward to eating Kobe beef. We also often go to a chanko-nabe restaurant near our place.”
    She also finds some things problematic. “I was shocked by the high prices in Japan. They are about three times as high as in Taiwan,” says Dongi. “The house we live in now is close to a station and convenient. It gets a lot of sunshine and it’s a good house, but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard how much the rent cost. In winter, electricity for heating is quite costly.”
    Dongi started studying the Japanese language as soon as she came to Japan. “Thinking that if I was going to live in Japan, it would make sense to study Japanese, I enrolled at the Evergreen Language School (Meguro Ward, Tokyo). School fees are about 700,000 yen a year. I study Japanese for three and a half hours in the morning and work part-time in the afternoon. At night, I study Japanese until late at home. The good thing about Evergreen is that there are never any more than eight people per class. Right now there are five people in my class and we are able to talk a lot.”
    Dongi enrolled in April 2013 and passed the N2 (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in July. “Next time, I want to take the Japanese Business Proficiency Test,” she says, explaining her goal. “Even though I’m pretty busy with work and Japanese studies, I’m enjoying life in Japan. Japan has lots of shops selling well-known brands second hand. I’m glad I can buy good quality items cheaply. My Taiwanese friends ask me, ‘Have you become rich overnight?’” she laughs.
    Evergreen Language School
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 多彩な分野で新しい役割を担うアイドル達

    [From May Issue 2014]

    “Idols” are a cultural phenomenon representative of modern day Japan. Not a day passes when one of these girls doesn’t make an appearance on TV, in magazines or on the Internet. Besides the idols who are active on a national level, they play a variety of roles: from local idols designed to be associated with their region, to virtual idols – fictional characters that appear on the Internet.
    The diversity of fields in which idols are active has been expanding recently in Japan. In the midst of this, a new group made its debut this year and has been attracting a lot of attention. They are the “Game Girls,” Japan’s first idol group to specialize in video gaming. The six game-loving girls were gathered together by Alice Project a large management firm that handles underground idols.
    Underground idols are those that, rather than appearing on TV, appear mainly at live shows and other events. In live music clubs in and around Akihabara, many underground idols perform almost daily. Featuring extreme performances and aggressive sounds, their concerts have an underground appeal that sets them apart from the concerts given by regular idols.
    Their manager recounts how the Game Girls came to be formed. “Live gaming broadcasts are now huge overseas. Japan is lagging behind this trend, so I thought of broadcasting live gaming with idols. As members, we selected idols who were particularly into gaming.” Each member is in charge of a genre.
    “In 2014, next generation consoles like PlayStation 4, Wii U and Xbox One are being released. I was convinced that an idol group specializing in gaming would catch on while the gaming industry was so hot,” says their manager. “We are already flooded with job offers and inquiries from the industry. We’ll be working not only in Japan, but also overseas as much as we can,” he says.
    Meanwhile, virtual idols that have been popular in virtual platforms, such as the Internet, are now diversifying their activities into new areas. YUZUKI Yukari has been recruited as a brand ambassador for Memanbetsu Airport in Hokkaido. She is a virtual singer created by voice synthesis software VOICEROID and singing voice and synthetic software VOCALOID™. The hitherto-unheard-of idea to use a virtual idol as the public face of a community revitalization project is attracting a lot of attention.
    She was chosen because she fit the strict criteria which excluded the use of costumed mascot characters – which have been all the rage in recent years – and demanded that she fit in with the public image of the airport. A spokesperson for the Memanbetsu Airport building explains, “She’s just been appointed, but more and more people are having their pictures taken with a life-sized panel of her and her popularity is on the rise.”
    “In the future, we’ll organize events involving Yuzuki Yukari, such as a music contest that takes the theme of Memanbetsu Airport and exhibitions of works associated with her,” says the spokesperson. These days, idols active in Japan don’t only sing and dance on TV. They occupy a unique place as entertainers that embrace a diverse range of activities. From now on more and more idols will be active in a variety of fields.

    Text: NAKAGOMI Koichi[2014年5月号掲載記事]

    「2014年は、プレイステーション4にWii U、Xbox Oneと次世代ゲーム機が多く発売されます。ゲーム業界が盛り上がっている中、ゲーム専門のアイドルグループは絶対に活躍できると思いました」と担当マネージャー。「既に業界からのオファーや問い合わせが殺到しています。日本だけでなく、海外での活動も積極的に行っていきます」と話します。



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  • 温もりある食卓風景を表現

    [From May Issue 2014]

    IIJIMA Nami, Food Cordinator
    NHK’s morning program, “Gochisousan” ended its run this March; the delicious looking dishes featured on the show from the dining tables of ordinary families of the first half of the Taisho era and last half of the Showa era were popular with viewers. Food coordinator, IIJIMA Nami, was in charge of creating those dishes.
    “A food coordinator’s job is to suggest dishes that would be suitable for a particular TV commercial, drama, or movie, then to actually create that dish on location and prepare the tableware and tablecloth on which to serve it up on. With TV dramas and movies, directors often ask me questions and request my suggestions about dishes in the script phase. ‘Gochisosan’ was difficult in that I was asked to give logical explanations of the setups that I usually create by intuition.”
    These settings aren’t necessarily confined to today’s Japan. In some cases they’re set in the past and in others, overseas. Thanks to the rich knowledge of cookery she’s accumulated over the years, it’s been possible for her to reproduce dishes even when the correct implements or ingredients weren’t available. “I come up with suitable methods and dishes that match the situation by mixing together my knowledge of regional dishes of Japan and other countries, wine lore, Chinese medicinal food, vegetable cultivation and traditional food in my mind’s eye.” As, for example, in the case of the movie “Kamome Shokudo” – set in Finland – Iijima’s dishes, and more particularly home cooking, always give viewers something to discuss.
    Iijima says, “I’ll be happy if those who see my table settings think to themselves: ‘I want to make that,’ or ‘I’d like to make my table look like that.’” Such remarks aren’t, in fact, rare and Iijima has published books. “I spend most of my time preparing dishes for shoots, so I never thought I could have my own cookery book. Since I measure by eye when cooking for myself, in order to satisfy readers, I wrote my book series ‘LIFE’ after many experiments.” Because it was made in such a way, Iijima’s cookery book is so popular that readers have commented that: “It looks delicious,” and “It looks like I could make that myself.”
    “When I look at recipes from the postwar years, I’m really amazed by the time and energy people put into preparing dishes. They would make a charcoal fire, put a pan on a clay cooking stove and make stew with a white sauce made from scratch. I sometimes wonder how convenient things should get in modern times. Convenience is great, but convenient things, too, are going to change over time. I wanted my book to also be read in the future, so it introduces recipes that employ traditional methods; using neither microwave ovens nor instant stock.”
    Iijima thinks Japanese cuisine is characterized by the fact that it makes the most of the natural flavors of raw ingredients. She says, “It might seem unusual, but, because Japanese want to make the most of the natural flavors of ingredients, such as fish, meat and vegetables, we skim the scum from broths. I have a keen interest in the differing food cultures from countries like Korea, in which this scum is considered to be a source of umami (savory) flavor,” she says.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年5月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本人にこそ見直してほしい日本食の長所

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Erica ANGYAL Nutrition Consultant
    “Many Japanese think their longevity and beautiful skin are due to their genetics. But that’s not the case, the traditional Japanese diet has had a huge effect,” says Erica ANGYAL. Erica is active as a nutrition consultant in her home country, Australia, and in Japan. The first time she felt the beneficial effects of Japanese food was during her high school days when she stayed for one year in Oita Prefecture as an exchange student from Australia.
    “Because I was 15 years old, I had pimples. But I was very impressed as after a month of eating my host family’s cooking, my pimples were completely gone.” She says that the experience resulted in the work she is doing now. However, she also feels that the cooking commonly seen in Japanese homes 30 years ago has changed greatly.
    “I was really surprised when I saw what young models for a magazine project actually eat.” She was shocked by the fact that most of their diets lacked critical nutrients; though meals of just jam and toast contained enough calories, the diets of these models were virtually devoid of nutrition. All through the week, many of the models only consumed ready-made meals such as bentou (lunch boxes) that can be bought at convenience stores – food that contains a lot of artificial additives and chemicals. Erica is worried that such food is addictive.
    Erica says that she regrets that there is disparity between the fact that Japanese food is receiving worldwide attention and the fact that the diet of young people in Japan is becoming westernized. The Western diet promotes weight gain and it also increases the risk of all lifestyle diseases. The traditional Japanese diet is well balanced and varied with its use of seasonal ingredients.
    But, according to Erica, this conversely caused Japan to fail to keep up with preventative nutritional science. Although time has passed and the dietary lives of people have greatly changed, knowledge of preventative nutritional science has not spread. Erica worries that this will lead to a situation in which lifestyle diseases become more common; immune systems are weakened, and gynecological problems and mental imbalance arising from hormonal imbalances increase.
    She says that the ideal Japanese meal is the breakfast served at Japanese style ryokan (inn). “The variety of items, including boiled spinach, eggs and fish, promotes good hormonal balance. Although there are people who believe that it’s possible to get adequate nutrition from eating snack foods fortified with nutrients, you won’t be receiving the amazing synergistic effect of the nutrients found in whole foods.” She says that the Japanese breakfast of vegetables and fish is now attracting attention in countries such as the U.S. and the number of celebrities adopting this diet is increasing.
    Erica feels that young women in Japan are losing the vitality that should come from within. Her advice to them is to look at their breakfast again. “It does not have to be perfect. You can add nattou (fermented beans) or an egg to your rice, or drink soy milk. I suggest that you add some protein.”
    Erica has been giving nutritional guidance to many young women including the finalists of Miss Universe Japan. Her book, written in Japanese, “Diet to Become the Most Beautiful Woman in the World” was translated into other languages and has become a bestseller. From now on she hopes to show women, particularly young Japanese women, how it’s possible to become beautiful through a good diet.
    Erica Angyal website
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年5月号掲載記事]

    栄養コンサルタント エリカ・アンギャルさん

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  • 波の力を使って電気を起こす

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Kyoritsu Electric Corporation
    The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 has affected our lives in numerous ways. In particular, power shortages caused by damage to the nuclear power station inconvenienced a huge number of people. By complying with power saving measures that continue to this day, many people have discovered the importance of electricity. As a result, the debate about how to generate a safe and stable supply of electricity has heated up.
    In addition to standard hydraulic, thermal and nuclear power, recently more and more energy has been generated using methods that harness natural power like wind and sun power. In recent years, “wave power generation” has been a big topic of discussion. As Japan is surrounded by ocean, it’s the most suitable method of generating power. With this in mind, Kyoritsu Electric Corporation of Shizuoka Prefecture is conducting research and development in cooperation with Tokai University and other private companies.
    Wave power generation technology is diverse and includes the overtopping device, the oscillating water column and floating devices. Kyoritsu Electric is working with overtopping devices. Executive Director NISHI Nobuyuki explains enthusiastically, “An oscillating water column turbine can’t generate any power under bad weather conditions. The downside of floating devices is that they don’t generate much power. The overtopping wave device is still in development, but I think we’ll be able to maintain a certain level of power regardless of weather conditions.”
    Nishi and his team are developing the overtopping wave device; for this, piles drilled into the offshore seabed are fitted with equipment such as ramps, reservoirs, water discharge pipes and power generators. The method involves storing water that has surged over the ramp, when it descends it turns a propeller to generate power. “It’s particularly unique, in that compared to other methods of wave power, its effect on the environment is limited and it operates reliably,” says Nishi outlining the merits of the overtopping wave device.
    Nishi says, “Our research indicates that one meter of coastline can generate enough electric power for ten households. Compared to sun and wind power, the cost per kilowatt is low.”
    The lower cost isn’t the only advantage of overtopping wave power generation. Currents created by the revolution of the turbine propeller, dissolve oxygen into the seawater. Oxygen rich seawater promotes the growth of marine life. In other words, it’s known to have a positive effect on the fish farming and fishing industry.
    It takes a tremendous amount of money, equipment and raw materials to generate electricity. However, since Japan is an island country surrounded by ocean, wave power is constantly available for almost all coastal regions. As Japan is a country that is poor in natural resources, wave power that harnesses the abundant raw energy of the ocean is seen as a way for Japan not to lose out to foreign competition.
    Kyoritsu Electric Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年5月号掲載記事]


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  • 大谷資料館

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Oya Ishi is a museum that archives rocks. Using manual labor, rocks have been mined in Oya Town, Tochigi Prefecture since the Edo period. A display of tools shows how that process has become automated in modern times. Thirty meters below the surface are the remains of a massive 20,000 square meter underground mining site. With its fantastic atmosphere, this space is also used for art exhibitions and concerts.
    Nearest train station: JR Utsunomiya Station. From there take the Kanto Bus bound for Oya/Tateiwa. It’s a seven minute walk from Oya Shiryokan Iriguchi bus stop.
    Admission: 700 yen (general/high school students and above), 350 yen (elementary and middle school students)
    Museum hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
    Days museum is closed: not fixed
    Oya Shiryoukan (Oya Museum)[2014年5月号掲載記事]

    最寄り駅:JR宇都宮駅より 関東バス大谷・立岩行きにて

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