• ハイテク駐輪場でスイスイ

    [From July Issue 2010]

    On their way to work or school, many people ride their bicycles to the train station. This usually results in a lack of bicycle parking spaces, making illegally parked bicycles left on the street or other places a social issue. They prevent pedestrians and other bicycles from passing through the congested area, and they also make the area look bad.

    Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward has built automated, bicycle parking systems. After cyclists puts an IC (integrated circuit) tag on their bicycles and place them on the bike stand, the automated machine then carries each one to its designated storage shelf. The bicycle entrance is very small, big enough for only one bicycle. However, below each entrance is a large cylindrical parking area that measures 6.9-meter wide by 14.45-meter deep, and that can hold 180 bicycles.

    In 2001, there were about 10 thousand illegally parked bicycles in the Edogawa Ward. Five hundred million yen was spent annually to cope with this problem. However, since land was difficult to secure, it was impossible to make a big bicycle parking lot. As a solution, 7 billion yen was spent in creating Japan’s biggest bicycle parking system, with a lot for 9,400 bicycles including 36 automated machines for 6,480 bicycles, underneath Kasai station.

    “The number of illegally parked bicycles around Kasai station decreased from 1,358 to 50,” says NAITO Yasuo, an employee of the Edogawa Ward office’s parking department. “There are no worries about having bicycles stolen and no trouble finding your own bicycle among so many. Since you can store or retrieve at least two bicycles per minute, there is no need to wait.”

    Users are happy and say that, “It’s like the parking system of the future because we can easily park and get our bicycles. It’s also less trouble when we are carrying many things,” adding that “The station area used to look messy with so many illegally parked bicycles, now it’s been completely cleaned up.”

    In Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, an environmentally-friendly bicycle parking lot was completed just this March. It has a large, rooftop solar panel that generates 7,135 kilo watts of electricity annually. The generated electricity is used to charge the batteries of electric power-assisted bicycles and for the parking lot lighting system. Furthermore, there are also extra batteries to store electric power for rainy days and emergencies.

    Electric power-assisted bicycles help with pedaling when a rider starts out or heads uphill. They can be rented for 300 yen per ride but the cyclist must pay a security deposit of 3,500 yen, refundable when the contract ends.

    “Bicycles parked illegally around the station used to have a bad image,” says NISHI Tatsuya, an employee in the transportation safety section of Setagaya’s Ward Office. “However, with less people driving cars as a result of the rise in gasoline prices, and with more people concerned about the environment, the merits of bicycles have been reconsidered. Especially these electric power-assisted bicycles, which are highly-valued because they can be ridden without much effort, and which older people appreciate, knowing that, ‘they can ride this one.’ For people’s good health and for the environment, we hope that bicycles continue to be widely used.”

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    文:砂崎 良

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  • 「パンの缶詰」で飢えを救う

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd.

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd., established in 1947, is located in Nasu-Shiobara City in Tochigi Prefecture. AKIMOTO Kenji, the father of current company president AKIMOTO Yoshihiko, founded the company under the motto “to provide safe and tasty bread,” hoping to become the bakery loved by the locals. And today, the “canned bread” that Pan Akimoto developed is receiving great international reviews.

    “The Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 was the motivator. We delivered 2,000 meals of bread but they didn’t last, so we had to throw a way a portion of it. Dried bread (a simple type of cracker or biscuit made from flour, water, and sometimes salt) lasts longer but we heard that it was difficult to continue eating them over a long period of time,” says Akimoto. This is when his challenge to create long-lasting, fluffy bread began.

    He tried various ways including vacuum packaging and freezing – but all without success. That was when he discovered the canning machine. He came up with a way to bake the dough inside the can, rather than trying to can already baked bread. Furthermore, the dough was also wrapped in special paper to keep the baked bread from sticking to the inside of the can.

    After more than a year in development, the “canned bread” was finally ready. When first opened, a savory scent wafts out, revealing the fluffy bread inside. It was not a big seller in the beginning, but “when the media took it up during the Mid Niigata Prefecture Earthquake in 2004, we received orders from various local governments, firms and the general public,” recalls Akimoto.

    Akimoto then established a mass-production factory in Okinawa. With hopes of exporting them in the future, he got patents for Japan, the USA, China, and Taiwan. Moreover, by changing the labels on the cans, companies and customers can personalize them into souvenirs. In Akihabara, PAN AKIMOTO sells their bread with anime characters printed on the label. And last year, their canned bread was accepted as official astronaut food.

    “It is better if you don’t have to eat it since it is an emergency supply,” says Akimoto. But on the other hand, he admits that, “as a baker, I want people to eat it.” Thus the “kyu-can-cho Project” was conceived. “Canned bread” lasts 3 years, so the two-year-old reserves that local governments stock are traded in for new cans, while the older ones are then shipped to countries suffering from famine.

    Akimoto pioneered new ways of baking by adapting to people’s age and societal changes. He started mobile bread vending in the 1980’s when it was not yet common. He says he inherited the spirit of challenge from his father who was an aircraft pilot-turned-baker. “Canned bread is a product that can be accepted anywhere in the world. But a firm does not grow unless the people working there grow. Our current issue is to strengthen the humanity of our employees.”

    Pan Akimoto Co., Ltd.











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  • 緑豊かな都市、仙台と日本三景の一つ、松島

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Sendai City is the capital of Miyagi Prefecture and the largest city in the Tohoku (northeastern) region, with a population of over one million. It is also famous as a place deeply associated with DATE Masamune, (a.k.a. “Dokuganryu” – the one-eyed dragon) a warlord of the Sengoku period. And while his home, Sendai Castle, known as Aoba Castle, no longer exists, many people still visit the castle ruins, which offer a panoramic view of the city below. Sendai’s climate is mild, being not too cold in winter and not too hot in the summer.

    Each summer, Sendai hosts a big event – The Sendai Tanabata Festival. It is one of the three great festivals of the Tohoku region, along with the Nebuta Festival of Aomori Prefecture and the Kanto Festival of Akita Prefecture. Held from August 6th to the 8th, it is a traditional festival that continues to be observed since the early Edo period, attracting over two million yearly visitors. A myriad of Tanabata (Star Festival) decorations are put up around Sendai Station, and throughout the shopping arcades. And, a fireworks display takes place the night before the festival officially begins.

    The Jozenji Street Jazz Festival is held yearly on the second Saturday and Sunday of September, with this year marking its 20th anniversary. About 700 bands gather from across the country and perform on a number of stages set up throughout the city. In addition to Jazz, visitors can enjoy various other genres of music.

    Sendai is also known as “The City of Trees,” as its avenues are lined with beautifully tended zelkova trees. In December, the Pageant of Starlight festival is held, in which these trees are illuminated by some 600,000 light bulbs. Many couples visit this place, especially around Christmas time.

    Sendai is also home to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, their professional baseball team. Whenever there is a game, their home field at Kleenex Stadium Miyagai is packed with spectators all wearing caps in the team color of dark red. Their soccer team, Vegalta Sendai, is also well-supported by many of the locals.

    Sendai is also knows as a “study capital.” The city is home to a number of universities, technical colleges and educational institutions, where many people come to study, not only from within Miyagi Prefecture, but also from outside the prefecture and abroad. Tohoku University is especially famous for its high standard of research and for having produced a Nobel Laureate.

    Many tourists visit Sendai, fascinated by not only its various events and beautiful scenery, but also by its rich food culture as well. Throughout the city there are numerous restaurants specializing in gyutan (beef tongue), which is considered to be a luxury food item. Zunda, sweet paste made from crushed edamame (young soybeans), is commonly served with rice cakes, but has more recently been used in milkshakes and parfaits. There are many other Sendai specialties available, including Sasa-kamaboko (a bamboo-leaf-shaped fish cake made from whitefish, sake and salt).

    From Sendai, it’s easy to take the JR Senseki Line to Matsushima, known as one of Japan’s Three Great Views, along with Amanohashidate in Kyoto and Miyajima in Hiroshima. The sea stretches out right in front of the station, where small islands covered with pine trees seem to highlight the water’s blue color. Throughout the year, tourists from home and abroad visit to enjoy this beautiful view. And, there are even some haiku and tanka poems written about it.

    Matsushima is also famous for its fish and shellfish. Since oysters are especially plentiful here, there are special cruises available during the winter and spring months on which you can enjoy oyster pot dishes. Because the Shiogama fishing port is located near by, you can further enjoy fresh seafood in the number of sushi shops and other restaurants serving sashimi.

    One of Matsushima’s more popular tourist attractions is the Marinepia Matsushima Aquarium. Opened in 1927, it is Japan’s second oldest aquarium, displaying many kinds of sea creatures, including sea lions, sea otters and dolphins.

    Matsushima is also a great place for viewing the moon. Kanran-tei was a teahouse that was inherited by DATE Masamune from feudal lord TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi. Also known as Tsukimi-goten (the Moon-Watching-Palace), it had long been cherished by the Date family. There is even an anecdote about the beauty of the moon over Matsushima: it is believed that Albert EINSTEIN once said, “No great artisan could reproduce its beauty.” Many of the great figures in history have also been mesmerized by the beautiful moon over Matsushima.

    A number of important cultural assets remain in Matsushima. One example is the Buddhist temple Godaido, first built in 807 AD, then later rebuilt by Date Masamune in 1604. Zuiganji Temple, designated as a national treasure, was also built by Date Masamune, and is currently under renovation. That work is scheduled to continue until 2018. A beloved place of the Date family, Matsushima has many historic buildings associated with Date Masamune.

    Sendai also offers the Izumigatake Mountains where you can enjoy skiing, and the renowned Akiu hot springs. The famous Zao ski resort is also located nearby. Traveling from Sendai aboard the JR Tohoku Honsen, you can arrive at Shiroishi in about 50 minutes, which is quite popular with Japanese history buffs. The reason for this seems to be that the castle of KATAKURA Kojuurou, who served under Date Masamune, is in Shiroishi, and has recently been popularized through an historical video game. So, as you can see, the Sendai area offers a variety of fascinating places to discover.

    Miyagi Prefecture Tourism Division
    Sendai Sightseeing Information
    Sendai Tourism & Convention Bureaw
    Matsushima Tourist Association

    Text: INAIZUMI Shuko

















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  • 日本での賢い買い物

    [From July Issue 2010]

    It was once said that Tokyo is the most expensive city to live in, but that has drastically changed. Since Japan is now in the middle of a recession, inexpensive commodities are not only being sold in Tokyo, but across the nation. Depending on how you shop, it’s very easy to buy inexpensive merchandise. The best way is to visit discount stores and specialty shops.

    Many people buy electrical appliances at big discount stores including “Yamada Denki,” “Edion,” “Bic Camera,” “Yodobashi Camera” and “K’s Denki,” which are scattered across the nation. Some places, like Tokyo’s Akihabara and Shinjuku areas, have lots of big discount stores. Although most of their merchandise is inexpensive, it is always better to check the prices at several stores before you buy, as prices can vary from place to place.

    In the clothing market “Uniqlo” remains the most popular because of its durability, nice design and reasonable pricing. However, to compete with Uniqlo, famous overseas brands such as Sweden’s “H&M” and “Forever 21” from the USA, have started doing business in Japan and are becoming popular with young women.

    “Tokyu Hands” stores are very popular. They are one-stop shops where well-designed, do-it-yourself, home and lifestyle products are available. “Loft,” which sells mostly sundries, is also another popular, variety goods store. “Don Quijote” is the most famous of the discount shops. They are filled to the rafters with items, some even hanging from the ceiling, making the stores resemble a jungle.

    Furthermore, 100 Yen shops are also very popular. You can buy items ranging from stationary to the household goods and even watches for only 100 yen. For the price, the quality of the items is good, with almost no difference compared with regular-priced items. And because everything is so affordable, it makes purchasing easier, even for those who have no intention to shop to begin with.

    While most English product-words are now understood by store staff, some exceptions – refrigerator (reizouko), washing machine (sentakuki), vacuum cleaner (soujiki) and rice cooker (suihanki) – still exist. It is also recommended that you learn the word “hoshousho,” or guarantee, which usually comes with most items. Recently, as the number of foreign customers is increasing, many big discount shops now also employ English and Chinese speaking staff.

    Color is always an important element in clothing, and most Japanese understand the common English words for white (shiro), black (kuro), red (aka), blue (ao), yellow (kiiro), green (midori) and purple (murasaki). Traditional Japanese words such as “haiiro,” “daidai,” and “momoiro” are not used much anymore, having been replaced by “gurei,” “orengi,” and “pinku.” With sizes, you can say “ookii” for large, “motto ookii” for larger, “chiisai” for small and “motto chiisai” for smaller.




    衣料品では、「ユニクロ」が断然人気です。丈夫で、デザインもよく、しかも安いのが受けている理由です。最近は、ユニクロに対抗するように、スウェーデンの「H&M」やアメリカの「 Forever21 」など、海外ブランドショップも日本に進出し、若い女性に人気を得ています。



    製品名はほとんど英語で通じます。英語で通じにくい製品は「冷蔵庫」(refrigerator)、「洗濯機」(washing machine)、「掃除機」(vacuum cleaner)「炊飯器」(rice cooker)。また、製品についてくる「保証書」(guarantee)も覚えてください。最近は、外国人客が増えたため、英語や中国語を話すスタッフを用意している大型店も増えました。


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  • ざるそば、天ぷら

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    < Soba >

    • 140g soba (buckwheat noodles-dry)


    • 5cm naganegi (Japanese leek/white part only)
    • Moderate amount of neri wasabi (kneaded Japanese horse radish)


    • 1 cup ready-made men-tsuyu (seasoned soy sauce)
    • 1 to 2 cup(s) water (depending on the brand of men-tsuyu)

    < Tempura >

    • 2 medium to large-sized prawns (beheaded/shelled)
    • 50g pumpkin
    • 2 shiitake mushrooms
    • 1 eggplant
    • moderate amount of deep frying oil

    Yakumi (grated)

    • 100g daikon (Japanese radish)
    • 1 small piece (5g) ginger
    • Batter
    • 1/2 egg + cold water to make 1/2 cup mixture
    • 1/2 cup (50g) white flour (soft)

    Yakumi: Yakumi’s are the spices and herbal vegetables that add flavor to the dish.
    Checking oil temperature: drop bits of batter into the oil. 150~160°C: the batter sinks to the bottom then slowly rises. 170~180°C: sinks midway then rises. Over 200°C: immediately rises and dissipates at the surface

    < Soba >

    1. Mix men-tsuyu and water to make soba-tsuyu (soba sauce). Dilute the sauce accordingly since thickness differs by manufacturer.

    2. Chop the yakumi leek by koguchi-giri (thinly sliced, starting from the root end). Submerge in water, then drain.

    3. Boil plenty of water and drop in the noodles while separating.

    4. Remove with strainer, rinse under cold water, then drain.

    5. Serve the soba noodles with soba-tsuyu and yakumi.

    < Tempura >

    1. Prawns: Peel shells leaving the last tail joint, and devein. Slice pumpkin into 7 to 8 mm thick slices. Cut the hull of the eggplant then cut into four vertical pieces then slice 3 to 4 incisions into each piece. Cut the stems off the shiitake mushrooms and slice incisions on the top of the mushroom.

    2. Make the batter. Mix beaten eggs with cold water in a measuring cup. Pour into bowl then add flour while sifting.

    3. Mix lightly with cooking chopsticks. Be sure not to make the mix sticky.

    4. Pour 3cm of oil in a frying pan and heat to medium temperature (170°C).

    5. Dip vegetables into batter one by one, then use chopsticks to smoothly slide them into the oil. Turn vegetable over when the batter slightly browns. Take out when the color turns light brown and the batter feels crisp.

    6. Lightly sprinkle 1/2 tbsp flour (not included in above ingredients) on the prawn. Leave tail part batter free and set prawn into oil.

    7. Place the tempura in a mound. Place ten-tsuyu and yakumi along side the tempura to serve.




    • そば(乾麺) 140g
    • 薬味 長ねぎ(白い部分) 5cm
    • 練りわさび 適量


    • 市販のめんつゆ カップ1
    • 水 カップ1~2(メーカーによる)


    • えび (無頭・殻つき)(中~大) 2尾
    • かぼちゃ 50g
    • しいたけ 2個
    • なす 1個
    • 揚げ油 適量


    • 大根 100g、しょうが 小1かけ(5g)
    • 衣  卵1/2個+冷水適量 合計カップ1/2
    • 小麦粉 カップ1/2 (50g)



    1. めんつゆと水をあわせ、そばつゆを作ります。メーカーによって濃さが違うので好みで調節します。

    2. 薬味のねぎは小口切りにします。水にさらしてから水気をしぼります。

    3. たっぷりのお湯をわかし、そばをほぐすようにして入れ、ゆでます。

    4. ざるにあけ、冷水で洗い、水気をきります。

    5. そばを盛り付け、そばつゆ、薬味を添えます。


    1. えびは尾の1節を残して殻をむき、背わたをとります。かぼちゃは7~8mmの厚さにします。なすはへたを落して縦に4つに切り、それぞれ3~4本切り込みを入れます。しいたけは軸をとり、かさに切り込みを入れます。

    2. 衣をつくります。計量カップにとき卵、冷水を加えて混ぜます。これをボールに入れ、小麦粉を振るいながら加えます。

    3. さい箸で、練らないようにざっと混ぜます。

    4. 揚げ鍋に油を約3cmの深さまで入れ、火にかけます。170℃で揚げます。

    5. 野菜は1つずつ衣をつけながら、箸で静かに押して泳がせます。衣が淡く色づいてきたら裏返して、薄い褐色になり、カリッとしたら取り出します。

    6. えびは、小麦粉大さじ1/2(材料外)を薄くまぶしてから、尾を残して衣をつけ、油にいれます。

    7. 盛り付け、天つゆと薬味を添えて出来上がりです。

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  • 名女優が追い続ける恋物語

    [From July Issue 2010]

    Chiyoko Millennial Actress (Directed by KON Satoshi)

    This is an anime film written and directed by KON Satoshi, who started his career as a manga artist. It won the Grand Prize in the animation category at the 2001 Japan Media Arts Festival held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, tying with “Spirited Away,” directed by MIYAZAKI Hayao. Centering on the present, the plot advances in a unique manner, with a mixture of the past and the future, and of reality and fantasy.

    TACHIBANA Genya, the president of a film production company, is asked to make a documentary in commemoration of the demolition of Ginei, the movie studio where he once worked. So, he decides to interview FUJIWARA Chiyoko, the greatest actress the studio has ever produced, in order to record her life’s story. Though a big fan of Fujiwara himself, even 30 years after her retirement from show business, Tachibana has no idea where she lives, nor does anyone else.

    Having finally managed to arrange an interview with Chiyoko, Tachibana visits her home along with a young cameraman. Despite having refused interviews for 30 years, she agrees to the meeting after being told that Tachibana has something for her. As soon as they meet, Tachibana hands her a small box. With a surprised look, Fujiwara opens it to find an old key inside.

    Taking it in her hand, Chiyoko explains that it is “the key to open the most important thing there is.” Little by little, she begins to tell how as a high school student, she was discovered by Ginei, and about the real reason for her entering show business, in spite of her mother’s opposition – her burning love for a man whom she saved while she was in high school.

    Chiyoko recounts how she met the man long ago, when Japan was still very militaristic. He was an artist, and a criminal wanted for having anti-government views. As it happened, Chiyoko sheltered this fugitive, and the two talked and talked without ever learning each other’s names. Then, she caught sight of this key he had.

    The man told her that it was the key to open the most important thing. The following day, on her way home from school, she found it lying in the street. With a sense of foreboding, she rushed home only to find that he had already disappeared, just ahead of the police, who had discovered where he was hiding. From then on, Chiyoko searched for the man using what little information she had, so she could give him back his key.

    Reflecting on her life, she sees herself move from wartime Tokyo, where she was born and raised, through her past movies which depicted the Sengoku period and the last days of the Tokugawa Shognate. Tachibana and the cameraman also appear in those scenes, but only Chiyoko can see them. Her story travels through various eras, mixing real events with her fantasies.

    Just before the end of the interview, Chiyoko faints. When she awakens at the hospital, she realizes that her time is soon coming. Smiling at both Tachibana and the cameraman by her side, she tells them that she is not afraid of death. “After all, I’m going after that man again,” she says, before gently closing her eyes forever.


    千年女優(今 敏 監督)









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  • 日本の結婚式

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Most weddings in Japan start with a religious ceremony which usually only family members attend. Afterwards, a banquet is customarily held to which many people, including friends and colleagues, are invited. To celebrate the happy occasion, guests give the bride and groom goshuugi, or gift money in special envelopes. Goshuugi from friends is usually 20,000 yen or 30, 000 yen.

    A typical Japanese wedding party starts when the bride and groom enter the banquet hall together, and take their seats on a slightly raised platform facing their guests. Invited guests are seated closer to the bride and groom, with family and relatives seated further in back. The bride’s and groom’s bosses usually give congratulatory speeches then friends sing in celebration. Other wedding highlights include a candle ceremony where the couple holds a candle while greeting their guests at each table, and the cutting of the wedding cake. Afterwards, the bride and groom thank their parents with a speech, then leave to end the party.

    In the past, dishes that supposedly brought good fortune, such as prawns and sea breams, were served in abundance. So much of it was ordered that guests ended up taking the surplus home, unlike today, where the majority of the weddings serve just enough for everyone. Additionally, before leaving, guests would traditionally receive souvenir gifts called hikidemono. They used to be expensive dishware and bulky items that looked good, but today’s popular items are more lightweight and easy to take home gift catalogues from which guests can later choose an item they prefer.

    Many wedding ceremonies take place at wedding halls or hotels. Rough estimates show that it costs about 3 million yen to host a wedding party for 80 guests. During the baburu (Japan’s economic bubble), overseas weddings and flamboyant receptions with special effects such as smoke machines and having the bride and groom fly in on gondolas, were very popular. But these days, couples choose to tie the knot in a variety ways, from not having any ceremony to having a modest affair, or, still going all out.

    Happo-en, located in Mintao Ward, Tokyo, performs the most weddings in Japan, offering 3 different wedding styles – a Japanese Shinto-style wedding, a Christian chapel-style wedding and a civil-style wedding. In the Shinto-style wedding, the bride and groom wear kimonos and a kannushi (Shinto priest) performs the ceremony. In the chapel-style, the bride and groom are dressed in a wedding dress and tuxedo, and a Christian clergyman performs the ceremony. Civil weddings have no particular religion so the attire is of the bride and groom’s choice and they make their vows in front of their attending guests.

    “When overseas weddings were popular, many couples chose to be wed in a chapel, but recently, we see many guests choose the traditional Shinto-style ceremonies,” says KUMADE Yoko of Happo-en. “I think it is because many Japanese celebrities are getting married in this style, as well as the Japanese tradition being reevaluated and many magazines are featuring weddings in a Japanese kimono. Additionally, the number of civil weddings is gradually increasing, too. It is popular with couples who prefer not to have any religious ambiance and couples who wish to include their friends at their ceremony. We also have more enquiries from international and non-Japanese couples, too,” she says. It seems the Japanese garden and the traditional Japanese hospitality are also appealing to them.

    On the other hand, there are also couples that choose inexpensive weddings. While some couples may not plan a banquet at all, others may choose to have a “photo wedding” – where the couple wears wedding attire only to take photos for the celebrated occasion. At BUA Holdings Inc., a couple can have a wedding ceremony for only 49,800 yen. “There are some couples who prefer to spend the same money on a new house or their honeymoon. And there are fewer relatives to invite because compared to the past, we have fewer siblings and when they get married later in their life, their grandparents might have already passed away. As a result, there are more couples who are looking for a more compact wedding ceremony,” says KAWABE Toru, the company’s publicist.

    Kawabe continues: “We hope that family ties become stronger through wedding ceremonies. We think this will build the society which values ties that are uniquely Japanese. Recently, international couples that want to have another ceremony in Japan come to us after their ceremony in their partner’s home country. We also have older couples who want to renew their vows because they did not have a ceremony when they first got married.”

    The Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese (AFWJ) is a group for women who have all married Japanese men. Their aim is to support each other in blending into Japanese society. One Australian member, Heather FUKASE, had an elaborate wedding since her husband was the first-born son, and traditionally, the heir of the family. “I was surprised because there were so many people we had to invite,” says Fukase, adding that even the town mayor was a guest. And the traditional Japanese order also bewildered her. “I thought that the immediate family should be seated closer to us, but it was not the case,” she recalls.

    Canadian AFWJ member Suzanne MIYAKE remembers wearing a kimono at her wedding in her favorite color, pink. “My husband’s father prepared a program in English for my parents and myself,” Suzanne recalls about that day. Another Canadian member, Christelle HATANO, also wore a kimono for her traditional Japanese style wedding. But by the end of the reception, everyone was dancing and it turned out to be just like a reception party in Canada. “Our wedding was a wonderful occasion where two families, two languages and two cultures blended into one,” she fondly remembers.

    Traditional Japanese Weddings

    Japanese people used to consider marriage to be something that affected the whole family. Therefore, it was common for families to ask a person whom they trusted to be their nakoudo (match maker) in order to arrange a marriage between two families. Once the marriage was approved, the family of the shinrou (groom) would present the family of the shimpu (bride) gifts referred to as the yuinou. Then wedding invitations would be sent out, sometimes in the parents’ names rather than in those of the bride and groom. Today, while many Japanese people consider these beliefs and customs to be old-fashioned, they are however, still being practiced.

    The custom of omiai, or matchmaking, has also become rare, but does still exist as the way a man and a woman meet through their nakoudo. Before meeting in person, they exchange photos and confirm background information including hobbies, education, and even family data, to make sure they are both trustworthy.

    BUA Holdings Inc.
    Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo















    株式会社BUA ホールディングス

    文:砂崎 良

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  • 将棋から生まれた新しいゲーム、どうぶつしょうぎ

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Shogi is a traditional, two-player board game, similar to Western chess. Each player controls 40 pieces, and the rules are complicated. Each piece has kanji characters such as “Osho” (King) and “Hisha” (flying chariot) written on it, and they can all move in a variety of different directions.

    The yearly decline in the number of shogi players has lead to the invention of Doubutsu Shogi (animal shogi), with the intention of attracting new players, hopefully women and children. KITAO Madoka, a joryu-kishi (professional female shogi player who plays in women-only tournaments), designed the rules, and in 2008 Doubutsu Shogi was sold by the Ladies Professional Shogi-players’ Association of Japan (LPSA). Doubutsu Shogi follows the basic rules and moves of traditional shogi.

    There are four different Doubutsu Shogi playing pieces: a Lion, an Elephant, a Giraffe and a Chick, each cutely designed by joryu-kishi FUJITA Maiko. The playing board, illustrated with a sky and a forest, has 12 squares, far fewer than the 81 squares on a regular shogi board. Learning the moves is as easy as following the red indication marks on each playing piece.

    It’s respectful to cheerfully greet your opponent with, “Yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (Let’s enjoy the game) before getting started, and “Arigatou gozaimashita” (Thank you) at the game’s conclusion. After playing “janken pon” (rock-paper-scissors) to decide who goes first, each player moves their pieces in turn. The winner is the player who succeeds in taking the other’s Lion, the game’s strongest piece (similar to Shogi’s Osho, or the King).

    Another joryu-kishi, OHBA Mika, who also works in the LPSA’s public relations department, has an eight-year-old daughter. Her daughter Maho, initially had difficulty learning the rules of traditional shogi, however, Ohba said that after playing Doubutsu Shogi, her daughter’s understanding of the rules started to improve.

    “I hope that the popularity of Doubutsu Shogi spreads more widely across Japan, and that it will in turn help make (traditional) shogi better known to people worldwide,” say Ohba. And it is, as both Kitao, and Fujita have already attended an international game festival in France this past March, Le Festival International des Jeux, de Cannes, where they introduced their new game. It is being called “Doubutsu Shogi: Let’s Catch the Lion!”

    Due to large amounts of recent media coverage, Doubutsu Shogi is now gaining momentum. The Doubutsu Shogi One Day Tournament, held this past February in Shibuya, Tokyo, attracted 150 children, with well over 300 people, including their parents, flocking to the venue to watch. This new board game, born out of the traditional Japanese game of shogi, is now set to spread from here to the rest of the world.

    Doubutsu Shogi Official Website

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko







    また大庭さんは、「どうぶつしょうぎが日本でますます広まって、世界中の人たちに将棋を知ってもらうきっかけになってほしいです」と話す。北尾さんと藤田さんは3月にフランス・カンヌで行われた「ゲームの祭典」を訪れ、どうぶつしょうぎを紹介した。海外では「Doubutsu Shogi (Let’s Catch the Lion!ライオンをつかまえろ!)」と呼ばれている。

    多くのメディアに取り上げられるようになり、どうぶつしょうぎはブームとなっている。2月に東京・渋谷で行われた「どうぶつしょうぎ・1 dayトーナメント」には、150名の子どもたちが参加し、保護者を含め300名が大会会場に集まった。日本の将棋という古いゲームから生まれた新しいゲームが、日本から世界へ発信されている。



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  • 人間の生活に溶け込むロボットたち

    [From June Issue 2010]

    In March, Japanese software company, FUJISOFT INCORPORATED (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo), released “PALRO,” (Pal + Robot). Their humanoid robot can walk, recognize human faces, and speak, while exchanging looks with people. Connected to the Internet, it can also communicate via e-mail and by telephone.

    Walking robots need strong legs, but using solid metal would both weigh them down, and increase their prices to more than 10 million yen. With that in mind, Fuji Soft developed wrench-proof material technology to make the robot out of plastic, and, they used readily-available materials to further keep costs down. As a result, PALRO only measures 40 centimeters in height, weighs in at only 1.6 kilograms, and sells for 300,000 yen, a relatively low price for a walking robot.

    “The merit of PALRO is that you can install new software in it,” says SHIBUYA Masaki, Director of Robot Business Development Group. “For instance, someone developing software that could make the robot turn its head in the direction of a particular sound, could install a version in PALRO in order to experiment. And, because it is relatively inexpensive, facilities such as universities will make them available so that students can conduct research with them.”

    Humanoid robots will easily fit into people’s daily lives. “Robots with legs can go up and down the stairs and, also having arms, can open and close the refrigerator,” he says. And while the current PALRO model is only for research purposes, they do have plans to release a family model.

    LittleIsland, Inc. (Warabi City, Saitama) is known for their “personalized” robot-dolls. Called “Sokkly,” meaning “just like (the person),” each robot closely resembles its owner, and is custom-made either through personally meeting the client, or by looking at photos of them.

    “The quality of the face is important to us because we want the owner to enjoy being together with their robot,” says KOIKE Hiroaki, LittleIsland President. “There are some cases when the customer is female and, although the people around her think the robot looks just like her, she does not agree – that does cause some trouble. In any case, when I arrange the robot-doll’s hair, I enjoy it so much that I forget about time,” he admits.

    Sokkly offers other positive features besides just its familiar looks. It can be connected to the Internet or IP Phone, and it has the ability to understand verbal instructions. So, for instance, if you input your father’s phone number into Sokkly, then say “Please call father,” the robot will automatically make the connection.

    Sokkly can also speak and move its head and arms. After recording the owner’s voice and creating a verbal database, the robot will talk “just like the person,” but in a more-synthesized voice. It can recognize visitors and verbally welcome your guests with “irasshaimase” when placed in the entranceway of either your home or business. “Users with a little PC knowledge can create their own (Sokkly) programs. But I want to create robots that can eventually work as waiters and caregivers in the future,” says Koike.

    LittleIsland, Inc.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo











    文:砂崎 良

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  • ゲームを日本の色に染めよう

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Gametech Co, Ltd.

    In 1983, the “Family Computer” or “Famicom” home video game console was released by the Nintendo Co., Ltd. Originally developed in Japan for home use, their unique games can now be played almost anywhere, at anytime, either via a handheld unit or on a cell phone. And, while cell phones continue to be fashionably decorated, the same is now happening to video game consoles.

    Starting off as a PC-software dealer in 1985, the Gametech Co, Ltd. (Fukuoka City, Fukuoka prefecture. CEO: NAGAYAMA Hisashi) now develops video game related accessories that reflect Japanese style and sensibility. “We aim at making convenient, original products that would make games more interesting,” says KABASHIMA Yoji, of Gametech’s sales department.

    Their breakthrough eventually came in 1993 when their keychain game, Tetrin 55, became very popular, gradually shifting their business model from selling software to developing video game accessories. To date, they have designed and developed roughly 500 original products, from portable videogame-to-television adapter cables for players who want to enjoy playing on large monitors, to protective, portable game pouches and gear.

    Presently the “Wasabi” line of game-related products is their most popular series, promising to “dress up digital devices with the beauty of Japanese style.” Their employees are young, with an average age of 30, giving Gametech the free spirit to eagerly pursue new ideas and participate in interesting projects. Out of that kind of positive energy came the idea of “making products that game players around the world would want, developing products that would reflect their Japanese origins, such as ‘wagara’ (traditional Japanese design)” and that is how the Wasabi line was eventually developed.

    The Wasabi series includes decorative decals, protective covers, and hard cases, all adorned with gorgeous, and modern Japanese pattern work. “Since it was a brand that we developed for overseas users, it was difficult to choose effective designs and patterns,” says Kabashima. The staff who participated in the project put a lot of effort in marketing and development, and also spent a lot of time choosing the materials, such as silicon and aluminum.

    Japanese aesthetic and quality-driven values are not only present in the design process, but also in the attention to detail. For instance, in making game pouches, care is taken in choosing both the color of the lining and the material for the drawstrings. Other examples from Gametech’s catalogue include the “Rampudo” series of accessories made from cotton, and the “Mokudigi” series made from 100% natural, carved wood, which Gametech can personalize with engraved names.

    Recently, Gametech exhibited at both Tokyo Game Show, and E3, the annual video game conference and show in Los Angeles, where Wasabi was very well received. The line is now being sold through large-scale electrical appliance shops and over the Internet, with many inquiries coming from abroad. Their catalog has been translated into English and Chinese, with Korean to be added soon.

    Gametech Co., Ltd.

    Text: YOSHIDA Akiko




    1985年にパソコン用ソフトの販売からスタートした株式会社ゲームテック(福岡県福岡市。代表取締役 永山久さん)は、日本らしいデザインでゲーム機を飾ろうと様々なデジタル機器向けの周辺アクセサリーを開発しています。「ゲームをもっと面白くするため、便利で個性的な商品作りを心がけています」と語るのは、営業部の樺島洋二さん。








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