• ツイッターブームの裏側

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Lately Twitter has been gaining popularity in Japan. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed Professor KAZAMA Ryuta, a Twitter and blog expert, and the author of “Twitter Boom Generated from Human Nature.”

    CIA: Why are Twitter and blogs relevant to human nature?

    Prof.: Simply put, a blog is a diary and Twitter is murmurings. In short, these satisfy the hidden, human “peeping-tom” desire to know about other people’s behavior and private lives, as well as drawing their attention.

    CIA: I’ve heard that famous people also use Twitter nowadays.

    Prof.: Yes, politicians including Prime Minister HATOYAMA and many “talento” have also started. Fans can learn of their activities and about their daily life, but in reality they usually write something positive about themselves to increase their good PR. In other words, what you read is controlled information.

    CIA: Ordinary people do not need good PR, so they write more honestly, no?

    Prof.: Yes. As a result, popular bloggers and Tweeters draw more attention and are followed more closely than “talentos.” Their comments are more persuasive since their comments are based on their real experiences.

    CIA: Don’t you think that there are many companies that would love to use their influence?

    Prof.: Companies ask people to rate their products & services in exchange for free items or a consulting fee. Bloggers and Tweeters would be happy to know that their messages were valued and would surely accept more company requests, maybe even becoming professional corporate spokespersons. Here is where you can see human nature at work – they are similar to politicians, who start out honestly working for the people, but end up corrupted by sweet temptation.

    CIA: Without knowing all the facts, people probably buy poor products believing that they are fine products. Is there any way to know the real truth?

    Prof.: You should know the 8:2 rule. If there is only admiration for a product, then people will know that it’s PR. To avoid that, 20% should be something negative so the comments seem realistic. The writer’s skill can easily mask the deficiencies, leading the reader to make the purchase anyway. After reading the comment, if you still want the product, you should remember the old adage that still applies. “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

    One Comment from CIA

    Many companies have their staff write positive comments about their products/services. Do you remember that it became a big issue when manufactured comments were disclosed by a leading supermarket in USA? It has been suggested that Twitter will spread quickly among Japanese, who habitually follow other people’s behaviors. In other words, Japanese are unable to independently judge whether or not something is really good or bad. So dear Japanese readers, now that many people have started using Twitter, saying that it is fun, what will you do?

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)


    最近、日本で「ツイッター」がはやり始めた。Hiragana Times CIAは、「人間の性質が生んだツイッターブーム」の著者で、ツイッターやブログ事情に詳しい風間流太教授にインタビューした。













    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

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  • 飛べない白鳥の世話をするペンキ屋さん

    [From June Issue 2010]

    HIROI Yoshinobu

    Every year around October, various migratory birds fly to the Japanese Archipelago. Since it is too cold for them to feed in Siberia during the winter, they migrate to a warmer Japan for their food. For two weeks they fly between 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers from the Eurasian Continent.

    Facing the Sea of Japan, in Shibata City, Niigata Prefecture, lies Lake Masugata, just one of the destinations for hundreds of swans who make it their home from October through April, before returning to Siberia in the spring. Among them, however, is one swan that is a Masugata resident. About 10 years ago it was seriously wounded and lost its right wing, making it unable to fly, and even the locals don’t know how it happened.

    In Masugata, the bogs are full of water grass. The lake is surrounded by low mountains, which shield it from both wind and heat – great conditions for a flightless swan during Japan’s severely hot summers. However, since it is difficult to survive on only nature-supplied food, the swan has been getting some local help.

    HIROI Yoshinobu, a paint shop owner for 40 years, has visited Lake Masugata to feed the crippled swan every morning before going to work, regardless of whether it is rainy, windy, snowy or freezing cold.

    Since his youth, Hiroi has taken regular walks around Masugata, but it was only 10 years ago that he first encountered a woman who was giving the wounded swan some bread. That’s when he decided to start feeding it rice. He had seen other swans foraging for food in rice paddies during the winter, and thought it would be nice to give the wounded swan some similar food.

    Hiroi first bought “irigo,” or unripened rice, from both the Agricultural Cooperative Association and local farmers. Since it was light and floated easily on water, he thought it would be most suitable for the swan. Thirty kilograms cost about 2,500 yen, and was enough to feed the swan for about five days. Nowadays, according to Hiroi, many neighboring farmers bring him rice to, “Please give to the swan.”

    Over the past 10 years, many people have fed the swan, but Hiroi is the only one who does it regularly. One day, Hiroi had something he had to do at his workplace, so he headed to Masugata later than usual. Upon arriving, he saw the swan standing on the shore gazing at him, making him feel guilty for being late. However, Hiroi felt deeply moved by the fact that the wild swan was waiting for him.

    Hiroi passionately admits that “as the person who started the feeding, I have a responsibility. The life expectancy of a swan is about 24 years. I imagine that this swan will live for at least another 10 years or so. I’m not sure who will live longer, the swan or I, but I intend to take care of until the day it dies.”

    When other swans start their return journey north, the wounded swan tries to follow, but with just one wing, it can only fly about two meters. Hiroi, who has been watching those attempts for ten years, says, “I really feel sorry for the bird. I wish I could send it back, at least once, to its homeland of Siberia.”

    Moreover, Hiroi organized the “Yamabiko-kai” (Echo Club) with the people he met at Masugata, and keeps in touch with them by taking trips and having meals together. Some new members have even joined after seeing him feed the swan. “The wounded swan has brought me encounters with so many people,” he remarks.

    One time, while Hiroi was feeding the swan as usual, a stranger approached, offering him a painting job. Like the old Japanese story, “Tsuru no Ongaeshi” (Crane’s Repayment of Kindness), for Hiroi, that repayment really happened.

    Hiroi admits that although he’s taking care of the swan voluntarily, he knows that he is also getting a lot of cooperation from the bird. “Live and let live. I wish we could all be friends,” he says as the tears welled up in his eyes. The flightless swan of Masugata, that Hiroi protects, is loved by everyone still today.

    Text: HAMADA Miyako
















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  • 南国リゾートの島―沖縄

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Okinawa Prefecture is located in the southernmost part of Japan, and is reachable via direct flights from major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. As the only subtropical region in Japan, Okinawa is warm all year round, boasting an annual average temperature of about 22℃, and a winter temperature never falling below 10℃. All this strong sunshine makes the native hibiscus plants, and the sparkling emerald ocean, look even more lush and beautiful.

    Although now a popular tourist destination attracting some 5 million visitors annually, Okinawa was once an independent state called the Ryukyu Kingdom. Over time it has developed a number of historic, World Heritage Sites, as well as other fascinating cultural elements including performing arts, craftwork and local cuisine. While you can travel by bus or taxi when visiting tourist spots within Naha City, traveling to the outskirts is easier done by taxi or rental car.

    The northern part of Okinawa’s main island is just a few hours’ drive from Naha Airport and remains a precious part of the main island, preserving its rich natural environment. The area’s most popular tourist spot is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, one of the world’s largest, located within the Ocean Expo Park in Motobu-cho. Featuring “The Kuroshio (Black Current) Sea,” and “The Coral Sea” tanks, which allow for direct interaction with creatures that live in the shallows, the aquarium introduces the waters of Okinawa from every angle, providing plenty of things to see.

    The captive breeding of several whale sharks and manta rays, along with the large scale exhibit of living coral sustained in an “open system” (in which water pumped directly from the sea flows into the tank and then directly back out again) are the first such attempts at this in the world. Through one of the world’s largest acrylic windows, you can peer across the huge Kuroshio Sea tank’s massive 7,500 cubic meter size, and see whale sharks and manta rays swim vigorously. While just outside you can further enjoy a dazzling dolphin show at the open-air Okichan Theater.

    Five minutes by car from the Ocean Expo Park is Bise Village, offering streets lined with fukugi trees (Garcinia subelliptica), some of them 300 years old. They were originally planted across Okinawa long ago to protect village houses from typhoons and sea winds.

    The northern part of Okinawa’s main island is also the first place in Japan where people can enjoy viewing the yearly cherry blossoms. Hikan cherry trees, which have bell-shaped blossoms in deep pink, bloom in the area in late January, with later blooms happening further down south. At the popular viewing spots such as Yaedake (Motobu-cho) and near the Nago Castle Ruins (Nago City), various festivals are held while the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Furthermore, throughout Okinawa, cherry trees are planted along slopes so people can enjoy the seasonal ritual while taking long walks through the rows of blooming trees.

    Heading South on national route 58, which runs along the island’s west coast, you can see the breathtakingly beautiful emerald ocean stretching out before your very eyes. In this area there are a number of side-by-side resort hotels and beautiful beaches where vacationers can enjoy swimming.

    In Okinawa, the swimming season lasts from May through October, during which time you can also enjoy other aquatic activities such as riding banana boats and jet skiing. Okinawa is also known as a mecca for scuba diving, which can be enjoyed all year round.

    In Naha City, the center of Okinawa, popular tourists spots including the busy Kokusai Street, and Shuri Castle can be found. Naha City also boasts a number of cultural assets, including the ruins of “gusuku” (meaning “castle” or “fortress” in Okinawa) that dates back to the Ryukyu Kingdom era. Of the prefecture’s nine designated World Heritage Sites, four are located in Naha City, with the Ruins of Shuri Castle, the king’s royal residence, playing an important role as the center of politics, where most official ceremonies took place.

    The Shuri Castle Festival, held annually in early November, is a big event that celebrates the Ryukyu Kingdom era through traditional dance and a gorgeous procession of people dressed in the costumes of the royalty, and nobility of that period. Around Shuri Castle there are many spots where strolling can be enjoyed, including the stone-paved road in Kinjo-cho, where Bingata (Okinawa’s traditional dyed cloth) studios are also located.

    During the Ryukyu Dynasty, the chefs of Shuri Castle developed some excellent cuisine, having been sent to China to learn how to cook. Since then, typical Okinawan pork dishes are said to use every part of the pig, except for its squeal, and are staples for most of the locals. Rafute, braised pork belly, and Ashi Tibitchi, stewed pig’s feet, are still served at dinner tables across Okinawa, and are indispensable for special occasions.

    Naha City’s Makishi Public Market, a.k.a. “Okinawa’s Stomach,” offers a huge variety of local food, but what immediately catches your eye upon entering the building, is the fresh fish corner displaying such vividly colored catch as irabucha (parrot fish). In the meat corner, every part of the pig is sold, from chunks of meat to feet and chiraga (skin from the head). There is even a restaurant on the second floor where you can have food you purchased on the first floor cooked for you right then and there.

    Okinawa’s main street is the 1.6 kilometer long Kokusai Street that’s lined with souvenir shops, boutiques and many restaurants, and is usually festively crowded until late at night. Every Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., the street turns into a “transit mall” (“for pedestrians only”), remaining vehicle-free so that people can enjoy the lively street performances and open-air cafes.

    Yachimun (Okinawan for “pottery”) Street in Tsuboya, located near the Makishi Public Market, is known as a pottery street, and is lined with dozens of pottery studios and retail shops. Many visitors to Okinawa keep returning, fascinated by its beautiful, natural surrounding, the unique culture and rich history. In Okinawa, there is always something intriguing to learn about!

    Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Text: SATO Kumiko
















    財団法人 沖縄観光コンベンションビューロー


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  • 手軽に食べられる日本食

    [From June Issue 2010]

    There are a variety of different foods available in Japan, including Chinese, Korean and Western cuisines, and among them is the Japanese light meal, or fast food. “Yoshinoya,” “Matsuya” and “Sukiya” are well-known gyu-don (beaf bowl) chain restaurants where you can have a regular-sized bowl for less than 300 yen. “Tenya” is another well-known chain restaurant that specializes in ten-don (tempura bowl).

    “Don” means bowl, and “gyu” mean “cow” or “beef,” so together it’s a bowl of beef, with gravy, on rice. “Ten-don” is a tempura rice bowl, and “una-don” is unagi (eel) rice bowl. “Katsu-don” is made with a batter-coated and deep fried pork cutlet, while “oyako-don” is mixed chicken with eggs, on rice. In Japanese, “oyako” means parent and child, and since a chicken and an egg are similar, that’s how it got it’s name.

    Ramen (noodles) is the most widely eaten food in Japan, with more than 25,000 ramen restaurants across the country, and about 3,000 in Tokyo alone. Though ramen came from China, its cooking has been developed in Japan to meet Japanese taste for so long that it is considered to be Japanese food. Originally, it was cooked with a soy sauce broth, but nowadays there are many varieties, including miso-based and salt-based flavors. In Japanese, “men” means “noodle.” Other noodles like soba and udon are also included in “men.”

    Traditionally, sushi was considered a luxury food. However, now that kaitenzusi has spread across Japan, inexpensive sushi is now readily available at kaitenzushi restaurant chains such as Sushiro, Kura-zushi and Kappa Zushi. In kanji, sushi is written commonly as “寿司,” but it is originally written as “鮨.” The kanji is a combination of “魚” (fish) and “旨い” (tasty), and means “tasty fish.” This kanji is also used now.

    Many so-called “famiresu” or “family restaurants” such as “Gusto,” “Denny’s,” “Saizeriya” and “Jonathon’s” are often frequented by non-Japanese, especially tourists. There, you can enjoy meals in a relaxed atmosphere, with different dishes to choose from, all at reasonable prices.

    Upon entering, restaurant staff members will usually greet you with “irasshaimase” (welcome, or come in), but you don’t have to reply as it is just a customary greeting. And don’t forget that in Japan tipping does not exist.

    At some restaurants you may come across these signs: “本日休業” (closed today), “臨時休業” (temporarily closed),“営業中” (now open), or “準備中” (under preparation).

    The following Japanese words are often used at the table.

    Mizu (water), o-cha (tea), biiru (beer), koppu (glass), hashi (chopsticks), satou (sugar), shio (salt), koshou (pepper), wasabi (horse radish), shouyu (soy sauce), sousu (sauce), su (vinegar), kaikei (bill), otsuri (change), and ryoushuusho (receipt). Often used phrases include “mada desuka” (Not ready yet?), “okawari” (another one), “xx arimasuka” (Do you have xx?) and “ikuradesuka?” (How much is it?).











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  • 厚揚げのいんろう煮

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 1 block (200g) atsu-age
    • 1 tsp potato starch

    <minced meat stuffing>

    • 60g minced chicken
    • 10 cm green onion (finely chopped)
    • (A) 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 1/2 tsp ginger sauce
    • 1 tbsp beaten egg

    <cooking broth>

    • 1 cup stock (1 tsp bonito and seaweed stock powder/commercially prepared)
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp sweet cooking rice wine
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp sake
    • a pinch of salt
    • 40g field mustard
    • Inrou: A small, wooden case often tied to the waist, inrou was traditionally used to carry around small items such as personal stamps (inkan) and medicine. Inrou also refers to a dish where one ingredient is hollowed out and stuffed with other ingredients.
    • Atsu-age: This is thick, deep-fried tofu, also called nama-age (raw and deep-fried) because its center remains uncooked. Atsu-age is similar but different to abura-age in that it is thin and deep fried instead (also referred to as usu-age.)

    1. Pour boiling water over the atsu-age to rinse off any excess oil. Cut the block in half, then cut around the inside of each piece leaving 5 to 6 mm along the edges. Scoop out the atsu-age making a pocket.

    2. Lightly mash the scooped out tofu then thoroughly mix it in a bowl with minced meat, green onions and part (A). Divide that mixture in two. Using a strainer, sprinkle half of the potato starch along the insides of the atsu-age, then spoon the tofu/meat stuffing into the pocket, sprinkling the remaining potato starch over it.

    3. Boil water then cook the field mustard for approximately 1 minute. Once cooked, immediately immerse them in a bowl of cold water for another minute to brighten their green color. Remove, align the stalks and wring out the water, then cut in two.

    4. In a pot mix together all the cooking broth ingredients then add the atsu-age. Cover, using an otoshi-buta (small wooden lid), and cook over a low-medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from heat when only a thin layer of broth is left.

    5. Diagonally cut the atsu-age in half, then arrange them in a slightly deep dish. Garnish with the field mustard at the front and pour the remaining broth over top and serve.



    • 厚揚げ 1枚(200g)
    • かたくり粉 小さじ1


    • とりひき肉 60g
    • ねぎのみじん切り 10cm分
    • (A)しょうゆ 小さじ1
    • しょうが汁 小さじ1/2
    • とき卵 大さじ1


    • だし カップ1(市販のかつお昆布だし顆粒小さじ1を水でとく)
    • 砂糖 大さじ1
    • みりん 大さじ1
    • しょうゆ 大さじ1
    • 酒 大さじ1
    • 塩 少々
    • 菜の花 40g
    • いんろう:昔、印鑑や薬などを入れ、腰に下げた小箱のこと。材料にあけた空洞に、詰めものをした料理に使われる名前です。
    • 厚揚げ:とうふを厚く切って揚げたもの。油揚げを「薄揚げ」と呼ぶのに対してついた名前。中が生なので「生揚げ」とも呼ばれます。

    1. 厚揚げに熱湯をかけ、油を抜きます。2つに切り、外側5~6mmを残して包丁で切り込みをいれ、中身をくり抜いて袋状にします。

    2. ボールに、ひき肉、ねぎを入れ、厚揚げをくり抜いた中身を軽くつぶして加え、(A)も加えてよく混ぜます。それを2等分にします。厚揚げの内側に、茶こしでかたくり粉を半分ふりかけます。ひき肉あんをつめ、上から残りのかたくり粉をふりかけます。

    3. 熱湯に菜の花を入れて約1分ゆでます。ゆで上がったらすぐに、ボールに入れた冷たい水に約1分つけます。冷たい水につけることにより菜の花の緑色が鮮やかになります。根本をそろえて水気をしぼります。根本の固い部分を切り落とし、長さを半分にします。

    4. 鍋に煮汁の材料を入れます。2を並べ入れ、弱めの中火にして、落としぶたをのせ、鍋のふたをずらしてのせます。時々、スプーンで煮汁をかけながら10~15分煮ます。煮汁がなべ底に少し残るぐらいになったら火を止めます。

    5. いんろう煮を、斜め半分に切り、少し深めの皿に盛りつけます。手前に菜の花を添え、いんろう煮に煮汁をかけてできあがりです。

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  • 高校生たちがジャズバンドを組む青春物語

    [From June Issue 2010]

    Swing Girls (Directed by YAGUCHI Shinobu)

    This story takes place in a small town in the Tohoku region of Japan where 13 remedial high school students, including SUZUKI Tomoko (UENO Juri), are attending supplementary classes during summer vacation. One day, the school’s entire brass band, the one supporting the school’s baseball team, contracts a severe case of mass food poisoning. NAKAMURA Takuo, the only healthy band member left, tries to rebuild the band with new recruits. Tomoko and others who want to skip their supplementary classes, as well as some who enjoy playing music, join the band.

    Soon a new, 17-member band is formed, led by timid Nakamura. Tomoko and the other girls complain about all the running and muscle training, but still the band starts taking shape. Eventually, as the original band members start to recover, Tomoko and her friends lose their positions. But the girls, who start to enjoy playing music, decide to form their own band at the beginning of the new semester. Nakamura, who did not fit in with the brass band, quits and joins them.

    Tomoko and the other girls start working part-time to buy their instruments, but most of them end up spending their money on clothes and bags, and eventually quit the band. Four members including Tomoko, and Nakamura never give up and finally buy used saxophones and trumpets to form “Swing Girls and a Boy.” OZAWA, the Jazz-freak math teacher, then introduces them to the excitement of Jazz, and the band get into full swing.

    The former band members decide to return when they hear how well Tomoko and the others thrillingly play together. One day, they find out that the “Tohoku Students Music Festival” is accepting applications, so they record an audition tape. However, Tomoko misses the deadline, eliminating any chance for them to take part in the contest. Tomoko still hasn’t told the truth, even by the day of the contest. They are all travelling to the concert hall by train when they are stopped by a snow storm. Finally the students know that they won’t be able to play anyway.

    Disappointed, they blame Tomoko for her fault. Then, as they overhear some passenger’s portable radio playing Jazz, they all start spontaneously playing their instruments. Soon after that, a motor coach arrives to pick them up, as they have been invited to participate in the contest as replacements for another band that had to cancel due to the same storm.

    The band eventually gets on stage for the festival’s final performance, and just start playing in harmony. While their style of Jazz, with its unique rhythms and power horns, is in sharp contrast to the classics that the other bands played, it still gets the audience going. Eventually all the people are standing and clapping to the beat.

    Released in 2004, this movie won many prizes including ‘Best Film Nominee’ at the 2005 Japanese Academy Awards. All the actors trained intensively to learn how to play their instruments before filming began, and performed live nationally and internationally to help promote it.


    スウィングガールズ(矢口史靖 監督)








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  • 若者たちをとりこにした反社会的青春映画

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Juvenile Jungle (Directed by NAKAHIRA Ko)

    This original story was written by the present governor of Tokyo ISHIHARA Shintaro, who is also a known novelist. Ishihara, who wrote the script, approved the making of the film on the condition that his younger brother, Yujiro, play the leading role. Shot on location in Zushi and neighboring Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, where the brothers spent their youth, the film depicts the lives of university students raised in a wealthy family, whose days are full of womanizing, fighting and sibling rivalry.

    TAKISHIMA Natsuhisa (ISHIHARA Yujiro) and his younger brother, Haruji (TSUGAWA Masahiko) are the main characters. In comparison, Natsuhisa is taller, more skilled at picking up women and at winning fights, while Haruji is more slender and serious, and tends to gets treated like a child among his brother’s friends. One day, on his way to one of Natsuhisa’s friend’s villa, Haruji finds himself attracted to a woman he sees at the train station.

    That same day, Natsuhisa and his friends plan an unusual party featuring a woman pick-up contest. Whoever brings the most attractive woman will be the winner. Haruji immediately thinks about the woman he met earlier that day. Then a few days later, while water-skiing, Haruji sees another attractive woman swimming just offshore.

    When Haruji realizes that the woman swimming is the same one he met a few days earlier, he gets nervous. Natsuhisa, in his suave manner, chats-up the woman and then carries her ashore. Later, by coincidence, Haruji sees her yet again at the station and, finally learning that her name is AMAKUSA Eri (KITAHARA Mie), he invites her to the party. Natsuhisa and his friends are surprised when the shy Haruji arrives at the villa with beautiful Eri.

    Haruji and Eri continue to date but he never learns her address because she keeps telling him that “My mother is quite strict.” One night, Natsuhisa discovers that Eri has an American husband, and threatens to expose her secret to Haruji unless she has sex with him. Natsuhisa is irritated to learn that Eri is still genuinely drawn to Haruji, with a pure heart, even after they had sex.

    One day, Haruji invites Eri to go camping. Natsuhisa gets to their meeting point earlier than Haruji and takes Eri to his yacht. After searching all night, Haruji finally finds them both. Haruji remains silent, but there is anger in his eyes. Eri, wanting to be with Haruji, jumps in to the water to swim to his boat, but without saying a word, he just runs her over. Then he rams into Natsuhisa’s yacht, breaking it to pieces, and just keeps going.

    Released in 1956, this movie greatly influenced many young Japanese people. With the earlier release of “Season of the Sun” (original story by Ishihara Shintaro) that same year, youth called “taiyouzoku” (sun tribes), who ignored common sense to live carefree lives, made Shonan Beach increasingly popular. Ishihara Yujiro, who became a big star following this movie, eventually married Kitahara Mie, who played his love interest.


    狂った果実(中平 康 監督)



    その日、夏久たちは、変わったパーティーを開く計画を立てる。それぞれがナンパした女性たちを同伴し、どの女性が一番かわいいかを競うというのだ 。春次の頭に昼間の女性が思い浮かぶ。数日後、春次は夏久とモーターボートを走らせて水上スキーをしている最中に、浜から離れて泳ぐ女性を見つける。





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  • 日常生活に欠かせないコンビニ

    [From May Issue 2010]

    “Konbini” or “convini” is the Japanese short form for convenience stores, the system of which was imported from the USA. They open from early morning to late at night, some remaining open for 24 hours. Japanese convenience stores do more than just sell daily items – they also provide a variety of other services.

    One of them is an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). Besides making deposits, withdrawals or bank transfers, you can also use them to pay your monthly gas, water and electricity bills. A photocopy machine is usually available, and you can also purchase movie and special event tickets there.

    The peculiarity of Japanese convenience stores is the high volume of lunch box (bento) purchases, which can account for 40% of a store’s total sales. The lunch boxes range from sushi to noodles to sandwiches, but among all edible items, onigiri is number one. However, you can not see an onigiri’s ingredients, and there is no written English description.

    If you want your lunch box or onigiri warmed up, at the counter just say, “Atatamete kudasai,” and the staff will heat your food into their microwave. There is also a large, hot and cold beverage selection, offering colas, teas, coffees, Japanese tea, alcohol and drinks made with nutritional supplements.

    In Japan there are some convenience stores that do not sell alcohol or cigarettes, outside of which there is usually a sign reading “酒、たばこ.” And, while the Japanese are fond of beer, the newest trend is for both low-malt and dai-san beers (beers made without highly-taxed barley). Furthermore, with more restaurants turning non-smoking, convenience stores have set up ashtrays for smokers next to their outdoor trash containers.

    Other store amenities include a magazine corner, personal hygiene items such as tooth brushes and health masks, and umbrellas for sudden downpours. Thus, convenience stores provide all kinds of goods and services necessary for daily life.








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  • 焼きさばすし

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 1 mackerel (sliced into 3 pieces)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 2 shiso (green perilla) leaves
    • 10g sweet pickled ginger

    Sumeshi (vinegary sushi rice)

    • 1/2 cup of rice
    • 90ml water

    Vinegar mix

    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar


    • 2 tbsp vinegar
    • 2 tbsp water
    • Tezu: Vinegar-water solution to moisten hands, rice paddle and kitchen cloth, to prevent the sushi rice from sticking. Equal amount of vinegar and water is mixed together to make the solution.
    • 3-Piece Fillet: Cutting a fish into three pieces: upper, below and bone.
    1. Rinse the rice, and then add water (90ml). Let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
    2. Slice the mackerel into 3 pieces and debone. Take one piece and lightly sprinkle salt on both sides, then let sit for 10 minutes. Season with vinegar and leave for 5 more minutes.
    3. Turn grill on high. Place mackerel on grill skin side up. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until brown. Turn over and cook thoroughly. Let cool.
    4. Well-stir the “vinegar mix” ingredients. Once the rice is cooked, pour vinegar mix evenly over the rice. Use the rice spoon to blend using cutting motions.
    5. Moisten hands with the tezu, and mould the sushi rice into a roll.
    6. Spread a piece of plastic wrap (30cm x 40cm) vertically and then place the mackerel, skin-side down, at the center. Layer the shiso green perilla leaves, sweet pickled ginger and the sushi rice on top. Spread the sushi rice so that it entirely covers the mackerel.
    7. Firmly wrap and then shape the sushi into a small loaf. Twist the edges of the plastic wrap and then let sit for 1 hour so the flavors can blend.
    8. While still wrapped, cut the sushi into 8 pieces. Peel off the wrap, then place the sushi on a plate and serve.



    • さば(3枚におろしたもの) 1枚
    • 塩 小さじ1/2
    • 酢 大さじ1
    • しその葉 2枚
    • 甘酢しょうが 10g


    • 米 米用カップ1/2
    • 水 90ml


    • 砂糖 大さじ1
    • 塩 小さじ1/4
    • 酢 大さじ1


    • 酢 大さじ2
    • 水 大さじ2
    • 手酢:酢飯がつかないように、手やしゃもじ、ふきんをしめらせる酢水のこと。酢と水を同じ分量あわせて作る。
    • 魚を3枚におろすこと(三枚おろし):魚を上の身、下の身、中骨の3つに分けること。
    1. 米はとぎ、水(90ml)を加えます。30分以上おき、炊きます。
    2. さばは3枚におろします。(そのうちの1枚を使います)腹骨と小骨をとります。さばの身の両面に塩をふり、10分おきます。さらに酢をかけて5分おきます。
    3. グリルを強火で予熱します。皮を上にしてグリルにいれ、焼き色がつくまで5~6分焼きます。裏返して中まで火を通したら、さまします。
    4. 合わせ酢の材料をよく混ぜます。米が炊き上がったら、合わせ酢を全体にかけます。ごはんはしゃもじで切るように混ぜます。
    5. 手酢で手をしめらせ、酢飯を棒の形にします。
    6. ラップ(30×40cm)を横長に広げ、さばの皮を下にして中央に置きます。さばの上にしその葉、甘酢しょうがを順に並べ、酢飯をのせます。さばの大きさに合わせ、酢飯を広げます。
    7. ラップでしっかり巻き、形を整えます。ラップの両端をねじり、1時間おいてなじませます。
    8. ラップを巻いたまま、8等分に切り、ラップをとり、盛り付けてできあがりです。

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  • アジアの玄関口―福岡

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Fukuoka City is the biggest metropolis on Kyushu Island, and is considered to be one of Japan’s most vibrant cities. Just a mere 200 km across the sea from Busan, South Korea’s southernmost city, it is closer to both Korea and China than it is to Tokyo. To more warmly welcome its many non-Japanese tourists, signs in both Hangul and Chinese are everywhere across the city. The Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) connecting Fukuoka and Kagoshima in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, is scheduled to start operating in the spring of 2011.

    Kyushu Island offers many famous tourist destinations, including Aso, Yufuin, Kurokawa, Beppu, and Nagasaki. Fukuoka, the transportation hub and commercial center of the Kyushu region, is the perfect starting point for a deeper journey into Kyushu, with many interesting points along the way. It’s also a popular destination because of its easy accessibility, with both the international airport and the ferry terminal connecting to the city center by a quick, 15-minute, public transportation ride.

    A 30-minute train or car ride will take you either to Seaside Momochi, offering a beach overlooking Hakata Bay, or the scenic Abura-yama Shimin-no-Mori (Nature Observation Woods) where you can mingle with farm animals. Another possible day trip is to the historical Futsukaichi Spa, which dates back some 1,300 years. Such varied destinations allow tourists to enjoy both the city, as well as the area’s abundant natural surroundings.

    In Fukuoka, also referred to as “Hakata,” a strong, traditional culture still exists. There are many age-old shrines and temples to visit, including the Shofukuji Temple, Japan’s very first Zen temple. There are many famous festivals in Hakata, including July’s well-known, annual Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, where men kaku or carry 1-ton “Yamakasa (floats)” on their shoulders. There is also the 800-year-old “Hakata Dontaku Minato Festival,” Japan’s largest citizen’s festival, held during May’s Golden Week holiday.

    Displayed at the Kushida Shrine, fondly referred to by the locals as “O-kushida-san,” is a 10-meter high “Kazariyama” (decorated float) that can be viewed anytime of the year. Within the shrine grounds, visitors can reflect on Hakata’s long history while viewing the 1,000 year-old gingko tree, that has been designated both a prefectural and natural treasure, or, at the Hakata History Museum, where a shuinjou (official document) written by the famous feudal lord TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, is on display.

    A 5-minute walk from Kushida Shrine will take you to CANAL CITY Hakata, a commercial area offering shopping, a movie theater, and a performing arts center. Through it flows a canal approximately 180 meters long where visitors can enjoy an hourly water fountain show. With approximately 12 million annual visitors, CANAL CITY ranks up there with similar commercial areas in both Tokyo and Osaka, and is popular not only as a shopping destination, but also as an entertainment area.

    A 15-minute walk from CANAL CITY Hakata, you’ll arrive at Tenjin – Kyushu’s biggest commercial district. The area around Nakasu Kawabata is famous for its yatai culture. A yatai is a small, simple food stall that can be packed up and change location. In the evenings many of these carts, equipped with compact kitchens and limited counter space, line the streets and run along the riverside, where both locals and tourists enjoy visiting.

    A conventional yatai menu includes ramen and oden, but at either a Hakata or Tenjin yatai, you will find a variety of foods being served, including tempura, okonomi-yaki, Italian food, Okinawan food and cocktails. The most popular of them all is the Hakata ramen characterized by its thin noodles and tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. Stewing the pork bones over high heat for a long time makes the fat and flavor blend into the soup stock, thus creating the soup’s signature thick texture. This is especially popular with non-Japanese people who don’t often enjoy fish and soy flavors. The pushcart business, which started just after World War II, has grown to about 160 stalls in Fukuoka City alone, which is estimated to be roughly 40 per cent of all the pushcarts in Japan.

    The “Hakatakko (people who were born and live in Hakata)” are characterized as “taking in the new and valuing hospitality.” People are often seen conversing and drinking with strangers at yatai stands. An ippai (drink) at a Hakata yatai stand often consists of shochu rather than Japanese sake. Shochu is distilled alcohol made most commonly from sweet potato or barley and often has a strong aroma. Kyushu is the greatest shochu-consuming region in Japan.

    Shochu is usually made from sweet potato, buckwheat, and barley, but other unique ingredients such as sesame, brown sugar, and corn can also be used, with oyuwari (diluting it with hot water) being the most common way to drink it. The shochu found and fancied at yatai or izakaya can be purchased at liquor stores as omiyage (souvenirs) or on visits to local distilleries.

    After a scrumptious night out in Hakata, take a stroll over to the western beachside area of Fukuoka City, where you will find the 234-metre high Fukuoka Tower, Japan’s tallest seaside tower, as well as the Fukuoka Yahoo Dome. Shopping enthusiasts should not leave without visiting Marinoa City Fukuoka, the huge outlet-shopping/resort facility with a hotel proudly boasting, “The seaside outlet mall with a ferries wheel.”

    At Marinoa City Fukuoka, shoppers can purchase world-famous, brands-name merchandise at discount prices – some slashed down to 50% off. On weekends, it’s a very popular destination with visitors from all over Kyushu as well as many other Asian countries. Traditional culture, good food, and great shopping – just the right elements for traveling enjoyment – are all found in one compact, international city. That is the fascination of Fukuoka.

    Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau
    Photo courtesy by Fukuoka City

    Text: YOSHIDA Akiko
















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