• 世界を駆けめぐる最強スナイパーのアニメ映画

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Golgo13 (Directed by DEZAKI Osamu)

    Golgo13 is a professional assassin whose real name, age and nationality, are unknown. In this hard-boiled action film, the multilingual Golgo, alias Duke TOGO, kills indiscriminately at the request of politicians, millionaires and ordinary citizens. With a grim outlook, Golgo is a cool guy who never wastes time, and he is merciless, with everyone.

    The original character written and illustrated by SAITO Takao has been serialized in print since January 1969, and still continues today. Initially released in 1983, Golgo13 is known as the world’s first animated film to use computer graphics. In 1973 a live-action version was produced, starring TAKAKURA Ken, after whom Saito had supposedly modeled Golgo. More recently, the first animated TV version was also broadcast.

    The story starts just off the Californian coast where wealthy oil baron Leonard DAWSON is celebrating his 62nd birthday aboard a cruise ship. No sooner does he announce that he will remain his company’s chairman, while welcoming his only son, Robert, as the new president, than Robert is shot dead, by Golgo.

    Following another successful assassination assignment, this time of a woman in Sicily, Italy, Golgo finds himself the target of a volley of bullets, but manages to escape. General T. JEFFERSON, the Director of the U.S. Pentagon Intelligence Agency, along with the FBI and the CIA, continue plotting his eventual demise.

    It is soon revealed that the mastermind behind the failed Golgo assassination attempt is none other than Leonard Dawson. Having vowed vengeance for the murder of his only son, Dawson uses his influence to contract the agencies for the kill. However, Robert’s widow, Laura, attacks Dawson, saying the person they should kill is the one who initially hired Golgo. But Dawson doesn’t respond.

    One after another formidable adversaries such as the quick and flexible Big Snake, as well as the notorious assassins, Silver and Gold, are sent out to try to kill Golgo. He struggles to defeat them, and finally corners the puppet master Dawson, who admits that it was Robert himself who requested his own assassination, as a way of foregoing his father’s impossible expectations. Dawson then jumps out of a window of his company’s building, but is shot in the head by Golgo just before impact.

    One night, a women with lifeless eyes stands in the streets as Golgo passes her by. Recognizing him as her beloved husband’s assassin, Laura reaches for the gun that she secretly carries and takes aim from behind. A shot rings out, but it’s never known whether or not the bullet hits its target. The film ends with Golgo just walking away from the camera.


    ゴルゴ13(出崎統 監督)








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  • 茶碗蒸し

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 1 pc (40g) sasami (white chicken meat)
    • a pinch of salt
    • 1/2 tsp sake
    • 2 mid-size prawns
    • 1/2 tsp sake
    • 1/4 pkg (30g) shimeji mushrooms
    • 2 sprigs mitsuba (honeywort)

    Egg liquid

    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups dashi (see below)
    • 2 cups water (to be boiled down to 1 1/2 cups)
    • 5 x 10cm long kelp slices
    • 1/2 cup shaved dried bonito
    • (A) 1/3 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp mirin cooking sake
    • 2 or 3 drops soy sauce

    Tips on Making Smooth Chawan-Mushi

    For a smooth taste keep the ratio of eggs to stock at 1:3. Since eggs solidify at 80℃, keep the steamer temperature between 80 ~ 90℃, but pay attention. Continuous steaming over a high flame will result in air-bubbles. (“su ga tatsu” in Japanese.)

    1. Leave the kelp unwashed as the white surface powder adds flavoring. Clean with a dry cloth then let soak in (2 cups) of water for about 30 minutes.
    2. Heat all the above over a low flame removing the kelp just before it boils. Add shaved, dried bonito, bring to a boil, and then turn off heat. Let cool for a minute or two, then strain stock through a damp, tightly wrung out dishcloth or paper towel.
    3. With stock still warm (approx. 60℃, the temperature of lukewarm tea), add (A) salt, mirin cooking sake and soy sauce.
    4. Remove prawns from shells leaving only the tails intact. Devein then pour sake.
    5. Strip the sasami (white chicken meat) of any bones or cartilage then cut into 4 pieces by sogi-giri (long, thin diagonal cuts). Season with salt and sake.
    6. After removing the hard tips from the shimeji mushroom, divide them into small amounts. Similarly divide the stems and the leaves of the mitsuba (honeywort). Slice the stems into 2-to-3 cm lengths.
    7. Break the eggs but do not beat them. Add them to no. 3 above, then strain.
    8. Put all ingredients except for mitsuba into tea bowls then slowly pour in the egg mix, careful to avoid any air bubbles.
    9. Put water in steamer and heat over a high flame. When steam occurs, place the tea bowls inside.
    10. Steam over high flame for 3 minutes. When the surfaces turn whitish, lower the flame and continue steaming for another 12 to 13 minutes.
    11. Poke a bamboo skewer into a tea bowl, to see if the soup is still clear – if so, stop steaming.
    12. Turn off heat, then place mitsuba on element and continue steaming with the remaining heat for about a minute.
    13. Remove tea bowls from steamer and cover with lids. You are now ready to serve.



    • とりささみ 1本(40g)
    • 塩 少々
    • 酒 小さじ1/2
    • えび 中2尾
    • 酒 小さじ1/2
    • しめじ 1/4パック(30g)
    • みつば 2本


    • 卵 2個
    • だし カップ1+1/2
    • 水 カップ2(出来上がり量 カップ1+1/2)
    • こんぶ 約5x10cm角
    • けずりかつお カップ1/2
    • (A)塩 小さじ1/3
    • みりん 小さじ1/2
    • しょうゆ 2~3滴



    1. こんぶは、表面についている白い粉もうまみの成分なので、洗わずに乾いたふきんでふきます。分量の水(カップ2)に30分以上つけます。
    2. 1を弱めの火にかけ、ふっとう直前にこんぶを取り出します。けずりかつおを入れ、再びふっとうしたら、火を止めます。1~2分おいて、かたくしぼった布きんやペーパータオルでこします。
    3. だしが温かいうち(60℃。ぬるめのお茶くらいの温度)に(A)塩、みりん、しょうゆを加えます。
    4. えびは尾の1節を残して殻をむき、背わたをとります。酒をふります。
    5. とりささみは筋をとり、ささみを4切れのそぎ切りにします。それに塩、酒で下味をつけます。
    6. しめじは石づきを落し、小房に分けます。みつばは茎と葉に分け、茎は2~3cmに切ります。
    7. 卵は泡立てないようにほぐし、3とあわせてこします。
    8. みつば以外の材料を茶碗に入れ、卵液を静かに注ぎます。表面に泡が出来たら泡をとります。
    9. 蒸し器に水を入れ強火にかけます。蒸気が充分に出てきたら、茶碗をのせます。
    10. 始めの3分は強火で、表面が白っぽくなったら弱火にして、12~13分蒸します。
    11. 竹串を刺してみて、穴の汁がすんでいれば蒸し上がりです。
    12. 火を止めて、みつばをのせて、1分ほど蒸らします。
    13. 取り出してふたをしてできあがりです。

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  • 銀行を利用する基礎知識

    [From April Issue 2010]

    While living in Japan it is important to learn how to use the various banking services. The Japanese word for “bank” is ginkou, however, most Japanese understand the term “bank.” There are three major banks in Japan: “Tokyo-Mitsubishi-UFJ,” “Sumitomo-Mitsui” and “Mizuho.”

    To convert foreign currency to yen, follow the signs to a kawase or gaika ryougae (money exchange counter), and take a number from the automated dispenser. When it is your turn, your number will be displayed on an electronic signboard, and called out loud.

    The word for bank note, or bill, is shihei or satsu. Japan uses four different bank notes: sen en (one thousand yen), ni-sen en (two-thousand yen, which is rarely used nowadays), go-sen en (five thousand yen) and ichi-man en (ten thousand yen). Japan also uses six different coins: they are ichi en (one yen), go en (five yen), juu en (ten yen), go-juu en (fifty yen), hyaku en (one hundred yen) and go-hyaku en (five hundred yen).

    Learning how to count money properly is also important – 1, 000 yen is not issen en, but sen en, 10,000 yen is not pronounced juu sen en, but ichi-man en.

    The method of opening a kouza (your account) differs from bank to bank. The kouza-mei (the account holder’s name) is usually registered in kanji, but for non-Japanese it can be in either katakana or English. In Japan a hanko, or inkan (personal seal/stamp) is generally necessary, but for non-Japanese people many banks will accept your signature instead.

    Katakana is Japanese script based on foreign word sounds, and does have its limitations. For instance, in Japan there is no such word as “victor,” because there is no ‘v’ sound in Japanese, so it may be written as “ヴィクター,” or “ビクター.” There are no official katakana rules, so you can choose your own spelling.

    You can access your account in person, or more likely by using your bank card at an ATM. If you want to withdraw money from your overseas account, or get a cash advance on your credit card, places are usually limited to post offices and 7-ELEVEN convenience store ATMs. Also, some overseas credit cards are not accepted in Japan, so remember to check beforehand.

    When receiving money from overseas in the form of a money-order, expect banks to charge a fee of roughly 5,000 yen per transaction. For instance, if you have a money-order valued at 10,000 yen, after paying the fee, you will only receive 5,000 yen, so it is best to get money sent from overseas in a lump sum, or check Japan’s post offices, where the fees tend to be less.










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  • 世界自然遺産の森と歴史につつまれて― 青森

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Aomori Prefecture is located on the northernmost tip of Honshu Island, where the Mutsu-wan (bay) nestles between the eastern Shimokita, and western Tsugaru Peninsulas. It is a region blessedly surrounded by the abundant waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Japan and the Tsugaru Kaikyo (Straits). The Aomori Nebuta Matsuri Festival held annually in August is a well-known festival. Currently only accessible via the Touhoku Shinkansen to Hachinohe station, the Shin-Aomori station is scheduled to open this December, enabling visitors to travel without transferring, directly from Tokyo station to Aomori City.

    In Aomori City visitors can explore the Sannai Maruyama Site, Japan’s largest archeological dig that dates back to the Jomon Period (approximately 16,500 to 3,000 years ago). The full-scale excavation, which began in 1992, revealed that ancient residents lived communally in neighboring villages and regularly interacted with one another.

    Findings considered between 4 ~ 5,500 years old reveal pit-house remains, grave sites, traces of larger buildings, Jomon-era clay pots, stone ware, clay figures, jewelry, jade and obsidian (volcanic glass) from far off regions. DNA analysis further revealed that chestnuts were also cultivated – a discovery which greatly changed the perception of Jomon-era culture.

    Renown for its history, Aomori Prefecture is also known in the literary world as the birthplace of author DAZAI Osamu (1909~1948), whose works include “Shayo (The Setting Sun)” and “Ningen Shikkaku (No Longer Human).” Dazai, the youngest of eight surviving children, was born into a wealthy landowner family in Goshogawara City. Now, both his enthusiastic fans and the local citizens look after his home, which houses the Dazai Osamu Museum, or “Shayo Kan.” And more recently, Dazai’s work has attracted new fans through the comic book version of “Ningen Shikkaku” and the film adaptation of “Viyon no Tsuma (Villon’s Wife).”

    Hirosaki is known for Mount Iwaki and Hirosaki Castle. Mount Iwaki, also referred to as “Tsugaru Fuji,” stands tall at 1,625 meters above sea level. At Hirosaki Castle, annual cherry blossoms bloom just in time for May’s Golden Week holidays (from the end of April to the beginning of May), making it a favorite viewing spot for visitors from all across the country.

    The castle grounds, measuring 385, 200 square meters, were built during his reign of TSUGARU Nobuhira, daimyou (lord) of the Tsugaru Han (domain), and can hold more than 10 Tokyo Domes. The current tenshukaku, the castle’s tallest and most-central building with rooftop views, was rebuilt in 1811. Hirosaki Castle is one of last 12 remaining castles that have tenshukaku from the Edo period, along with the hori (moat) and ishigaki (stone walls).

    Aomori prefecture also grows the most apples in Japan. The Tsugaru region around Hirosaki City, which is located in the Southwestern part of the prefecture, is the main apple-producing area. During typhoons it is common for apples to fall from the trees, with those that remain known as “unfailing apples” which some farmers sell to students preparing for exams.

    Additionally, Aomori Prefecture is proud to have the “Shirakami Sanchi” (Mountains) designated as a UNESCO World Nature Heritage Site. Spreading over to its neighboring prefecture of Akita, it is one of the largest, primeval, beech tree forests in the world, and home to various precious flora and fauna, including black bears, Japanese Macaques, black woodpeckers, and golden eagles. All of Shirakami Sanchi, with its roaring waterfalls and beautiful landscape, is said to be a natural, living, outdoor museum, and as a Heritage Site designee, it is an invaluable and precious global asset.

    Similar to Shirakami Sanchi, Towada Lake also adjoins Akita Prefecture. Surrounded by primeval forests, it is 378 meter deep, with 20 meters of underwater visibility. On its lakeshore stands the bronze statue of “Otome-no zou (maiden by the lake)” created by the poet and sculptor, TAKAMURA Kotaro.

    Drained by the Oirase River, Towada Lake is such a popular spring and autumn tourist attraction, with its roughly 14 kilometer walkway, that there are often traffic jams getting to and from the area.

    Another popular tourist destination is Mount Osorezan, located near Mutsu City, in the middle of the Shimokita Peninsula. According to Japanese tradition, “Dread Mountain,” where the smoky, sulfur smell always hangs in the air, is the gateway to Hell or the Pure Land, through which souls pass on their way to the underworld.

    During the summer festival season, worshippers gather at Mount Osorezan from all over Japan to welcome back the itako (spiritual mediums), who return in the hopes of communicating with the departed. Popular itako usually have very long line ups. At Mount Osorezan, lodging at the temple is also available.

    The three, spoken Aomori dialects are so distinct that sometimes people in Aomori prefecture can’t understand one another. Their dialects are all short. For example: asking “Ku?”, or saying “Ku.” or “Ke.” while similar sounding, all mean slightly different things: “Would you like to eat this?” “I want to eat it.” “(Go ahead and) eat it.” When Aomori people are interviewed on national television, sub-titles are sometimes included so that viewers can understand what is being said. Aomori Prefecture: pleasantly filled with unique surprises.

    Aomori Prefectural Tourism Federation
    Hirosaki Tourism and Convention Bureau

    Text: HAMADA Miyako

















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  • 漢字の魅力をひきだす書道家

    [From April Issue 2010]

    TAKEDA Souun, Calligrapher

    Last year, the most watched TV-drama series in Japan was the NHK Taiga Drama: Tenchi-jin. The calligrapher who created the title’s dynamic letters was TAKEDA Souun. Souun also currently runs a Japanese calligraphy school in Shonan, Kanagawa Prefecture named Futaba-no Mori, while also holding solo exhibitions and designing product logos and CD jackets.

    But Souun goes far beyond merely writing and teaching calligraphy. He also collaborates in performances with famous artists such as the band B’z, and NOMURA Mansai – the traditional kyogen performance artist. Souun also creates huge murals in front of guests, and is continuously active in various endeavors including writing poems with accompanying calligraphy, and lecturing to fellow creators.

    “What is natural to me is sometimes extraordinary or new to others,” says Souun. “I had no intention of creating something new or breaking any boundaries. People are just surprised or excited by what I do, so I humbly accept their requests, and that is how I came to work in various fields.”

    Souun was born in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1975. He began studying Japanese calligraphy under the tutelage of his mother Souyou, when he was 3 years old. His mother’s teachings were very strict, and since there are many detailed rules in Japanese calligraphy, Souun sometimes got fed up with it. “But I never stopped loving the act of writing letters itself,” Souun says reflectively.

    In college he majored in computer science and was then was hired by NTT, one of Japan’s largest telecommunications companies. But, he just couldn’t relate to his colleagues. “When I was in meetings where the executives were also present, I felt the meetings were trivial. So I raised my hand and asked ‘is there any meaning to this meeting?’ Everyone was shocked. There was also the time when I asked a person slacking off, ‘why aren’t you working?’” he fondly remembers.

    Souun’s heart was in the right place as they were honest questions asked purely out of curiosity – but some people got angry. Others were bothered by the casual way in which he spoke to his superiors. Looking back on those days, Souun says: “I couldn’t read between the lines. I think I was the kind of person who had many annoying characteristics.”

    But Souun doesn’t think he has bad character. “I might have been a minus for the company, but individuality is a plus in the world of art. So I think it is wiser to wait before deciding what’s good and bad. When situations change, minuses can become pluses.”

    Souun’s life changed while listening to a street musician’s performance. “Tears started naturally welling up inside me. It made me want to do something to touch people,” he recalls. “As I worked, I felt that ‘all I ever see are printed letters and words from computers, but there’s a warmth to handwritten letters,’ so that motivated me to live my life as a calligrapher.”

    Always optimistic, Souun admits that he “gets right back on his feet after a fall.” But in his book of poetry, he writes words such as “Righteousness is something that one considers convenient,” that portray reality as both cold and hard. “There is probably a cheerful Souun and a gloomy Souun inside me. For example, when I look into a child’s face, I sometimes think ‘I am happy, but there are some parents in this world who abuse their children.’ Then I think of how both the abusing parents and the abused children must feel and it makes my eyes water,” he reveals.

    Souun advises non-Japanese people learning kanji to study like it’s a game. “It’s not worth your effort if it makes you forget the fun part. And this can be said for more than just kanji. Everyone should have more fun, just make merry, I think,” he advises. And it’s this laid-back character of his that continually attracts more Souun-fans.

    “When I am talking to non-Japanese people, I realize things that are otherwise mundane. The points that interest us are the same, and although we may have different features, use different languages and have different cultural backgrounds, I love it when we find common ground,” he affirms.

    TAKEDA Souun’s Official website

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


    書道家 武田双雲さん













    文:砂崎 良

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  • 本当の悪は誰だ?

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Aides to DPJ Secretary-General OZAWA Ichiro were arrested for their parts in the fund management scandal that was widely reported throughout Japan’s mass media. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed Japan expert Victor TRUMAN, author of “Who Has the Real Power in Japan?” about the true nature of what happened.

    CIA: What do you think about the opinion polls in which more than 70% of Japanese agree that Mr. Ozawa should resign as the Secretary-General?

    Author: Mr. Ozawa was not indicted, his secretaries denied the charges against them and the real trial hasn’t even started yet. However, a citizens’ group did bring the case to the attention of the prosecutor’s office, alleging his involvement. And because the public learned its information through the media and are not fully aware of the truth, it is very dangerous for them to hold such views.

    CIA: Are you suggesting the media’s information was unreliable?

    Author: The mass media reported on the prosecutor’s intentions. It was impossible for the media to know beforehand the exact date of Mr. Ozawa’s hearing, and that he would not be indicted, without leaked information from the prosecutors. I feel that it’s unfair to survey public opinion just after the incident occurred, especially accompanied by inflammative reporting, and then believe that it is people’s true opinion. This is a kind of public lynching without hard evidence.

    CIA: So you are saying the mass media’s reports are unfair?

    Author: The “mass media” is a really “private media” after all. They surely report with a bias. It will become more obvious when you see what they write about Toyota’s recall. There will hardly be any negative press about Toyota, which is one of their biggest advertisers.

    CIA: Why do you think the prosecutor and the mass media are targeting Mr. Ozawa?

    Author: The JDP won the last election touting administrative reform, so I guess they were afraid of losing some power. Regular mass media is also losing its influence in the Internet age. Last year Internet-based ad revenue surpassed newspaper ad revenues. So maybe condemning powerful politicians is their best option in maintaining power.

    CIA: The mass media often say Mr. Ozawa’s resignation will depend on public opinion, what do you think?

    Author: Most people are non-political and are easily influenced by media reports, acting just like herded sheep. Remember, Japanese people once believed the media’s biased reports in support of war. Where did they get their information from? From what real evidence did people support the war? In fact, people, who themselves are influenced by the media, can change the course of a country, affecting the lives of all its citizens.

    One Comment from CIA

    The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is trying hard to recover its favorable public opinion. Mr. Ozawa, why don’t you sell all your property that was mentioned by the media? Prime Minister Hatoyama, why don’t you get a bigger allowance from your super-rich mother? Then, the DPJ could use that extra money to buy advertisements in the mass media, just like Toyota, and reintroduce their clean political policies. The money-loving media will most certainly change their attitude because after all, both the values of politicians and the media are the same – Money Talks!

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


    民主党の小沢一郎幹事長の秘書が政治資金管理問題で逮捕され、マスコミはこの問題を大きく報道した。Hiragana Times CIAは、日本通として知られ、「日本で実権を持っているのは誰か?」などの著者でもあるビクター・トルーマン氏に、この問題の本質を尋ねた。













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

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  • アクセサリーを「デコする」ためのスクール

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Mobile Designer School

    Creating “decorations” (a.k.a “deco”) for personal belongings such as cell phones, digital cameras, and more recently ballpoint pens, watches, hair dryers and sunglasses, is very popular, especially among young Japanese women.

    “Decorations” can be almost any personal design made of tiny sparkling crystals or shiny materials called stones. The excitement of being able to transform plain appliances, or your favorite small articles, into original, one-of-a-kind pieces of art, seems to be THE reason for this being much more than just a passing fad. Another reason could also be the number of TV personalities who have their own, branded accessories.

    In 2002 The Japan Decorator Association NPO (non-profit-organization) was launched to support professional decoration designers and creators. A year later new decoration design schools started opening, with enrollment increasing on a yearly basis. At the Mobile Designer School (MDS president: IIO Hitomi), lovingly referred to as “the Tokyo University of the decoration industry,” students from teenagers to seniors attend, with the large majority being females.

    MDS offers a wide range of classes, from single-day beginner lessons, to full-time courses where students can hone their skills in earnest over about a year. Recently there have also been cases where parents actively encourage their children to enroll in the school, supporting the idea of their becoming professional decorators. Many MDS graduates eventually go on to work at Glam Baby, a retail chain that sells both pre-designed items and custom-made orders.

    Some decorations are quite reasonable, costing only several hundred yen, but recently, luxurious designs with intricate detail have become increasingly popular. Having your cell phone decorated by a pro can cost between 20,000 and 60,000 yen per surface side (of the phone). While it is not cheap, orders for such services keep rolling in. Even quite a few foreign tourists have had their cell phones decorated as a souvenir of their trip to Japan.

    To be successful, decorators require strong design skills, speed and dead-accuracy. In addition to listening, understanding and interpreting the client’s ideas, they also need the ability to finish in two hours, rather than the customary five. Furthermore, attention to detail in arranging and placing the stones, so as to balance the overall design, is also a prerequisite.

    WATANABE Tetsuo, president of Glam Baby, says the future looks promising. “There’s a fair chance that we will open stores in Europe, America and Southeast Asia in the future. Decorations are especially popular in China and South Korea, so these countries have good potential markets.”

    Mobile Designer School

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi






    このスクールでは一日だけの入門コースから、約一年かけて本格的に技術を身につけられる全日制コースまで幅広いコースがある。最近では親が子どもに職業としてデコレーターを提案し、入校をすすめることもあるという。また、デコの販売と受注をおこなう専門店「Glam Baby」へは、スクールの卒業生がたくさん就職している。



    「Glam Baby」の代表取締役である渡邊哲郎さんは抱負を語る。「今後はヨーロッパ、アメリカ、東南アジアへの出店も可能性が高いと思います。特に中国、韓国ではデコ人気が高いので、市場としての見込みがありますね」。



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  • みんなで写真を楽しもう!新しい機能を持ったカメラ

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Sony Corporation recently released the Party-shot Automatic Photographer (IPT-DS1), docking station. When used with specific Sony digital cameras, this device automatically takes photos by searching for people’s faces, detecting smiles and framing groups by shifting camera angles.

    This accessory was developed to free people from having to stop talking or enjoying the company of friends in order to take photos. “I myself often forgot about taking photos when I was immersed in a conversation while having a meal with my friends. I thought I would not forget if there was a camera that would automatically take photos for me,” says YAMASHITA Masanobu.

    YOSHIZUMI Shingo, who was the first to come up with the idea for the Party-shot, explains the troubles they had to overcome in developing the product: “When we started our study, digital cameras didn’t have the face-recognition function. We tried to cope with that by programming the camera to take photos when it detected a large amount of skin-color. The result was that it took photos of nearby cardboard boxes. Also, it could not take good pictures in dark places.” Since then, because the performance of digital cameras has improved, it is now possible to detect people’s faces and take good, low-light pictures too.

    “It was also important not to break the good atmosphere of friends and families getting together. So, we continued to study how we could make the camera’s movement less like that of a surveillance camera and more like the adorable shakes and nods of a person’s head,” says Yoshizumi. “We also thought about how the joy of taking photos manually was also important. So, we made the attachment and removal of the camera easy,” says KURODA Keiichi.

    Nikon offers another innovation by including a small projector in its COOLPIX S1000pj digital camera. In darkened rooms, users can project on the walls or the ceiling their recently taken photos. This means that you no longer have to make prints or prepare the TV to enjoy photos or videos with your friends and families.

    “Many people already have digital cameras, so we thought of expanding their uses and the pleasures they get from them. We presented our ideas and developed a small projector. We took pains in making the projector small, to prevent it from overheating and to keep its power consumption low. The problems were solved with original Nikon technology and we worked out a design enabling its small size. It was only a year and a half ago that we were able to make it the size of a regular camera,” says SUZUKI Nobuyoshi.

    Although Sony’s Party-shot is a camera docking accessory, and Nikon’s COOLPIX S1000pj is an all-in-one camera-projector, there is a similarity between them – the desire to develop and “make photos a more enjoyable experience with friends.”

    Sony Corporation
    Nikon Corporation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


    ソニー株式会社は最近、自動で撮影するカメラの台「Party-shot IPT-DS1」を発売しました。この台に対応するソニーのデジタルカメラをセットすると、自動でカメラの向きを変え、人の顔を見つけて写真を撮ります。しかも笑顔を探したり、人の姿が写真の中に納まるよう角度を変えたりもします。




    カメラの新しい楽しみ方を提案しよう、という動きは、株式会社ニコンにも見られます。「COOLPIX S1000pj」というカメラには、とても小さいプロジェクターが入っています。そのため、部屋を暗くすると壁や天井に、撮った写真や動画を映すことができます。つまり、印刷したりテレビを用意したりしなくても、みんなで写真や動画を見て楽しむことができるのです。


    ソニーのParty-shotはカメラをのせる台で、ニコンのCOOLPIX S1000pjはカメラ本体ですが、両者には共通点があります。「写真をもっと仲間と楽しめるものにしよう」という思いが、開発のもとになっています。


    文:砂崎 良

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  • 商品を飾る宝物―おまけ、ふろく

    [From April Issue 2010]

    Some goods sold in Japan come with fun, extra items. For example, candy might come with a small toy or an action figure might be attached to the lid of a plastic beverage bottle. Such free gifts are called “omake.” Omake included with magazines is called “furoku.”

    Confectionery manufacturer Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd., was the first to pioneer the trend toward “goods with omake.” President EZAKI Riichi, who founded the company in 1922, thought “children need to both eat and play.” This prompted him to create items like beautiful cards and small medals that were included with the company’s candy when sold. These candies, with their free gifts, became extremely popular in helping Ezaki Glico grow into a large company.

    Now more than 90 years later, Glico is still manufacturing candy with free toys attached. While some toys need assembling, others can be play with right away, and it’s not only children who buy them. Adults buy Glico candies and collect the toys to fondly remember their childhood, with some eager collectors going so far as trying to collect them all.

    “Choco Egg,” a chocolate, egg-shaped candy manufactured by Furuta Confectionery Co, Ltd., became hugely popular in 1999. The surprise inside each hollow, chocolate egg was an animal figurine of such high quality, that many adults became fans. Today’s Choco Eggs contain new toys including vehicles such trains and airplanes.

    The chain of Mister Donut stores also offer cute omake, but rather than attaching free items to their doughnuts, they give customers point cards. By buying doughnuts, customers accumulate points they can eventually exchange for omake. The free gifts change periodically and currently include lunch boxes featuring original character illustrations.

    Food companies are not the only ones that attach omake to their products. Mobile telecommunications provider Softbank Mobile Corp., offers its clients free gifts, including covers for toilet paper holders and slippers adorned with stuffed replicas of their “White Dog.” NAKAYAMA Naoki of Softbank’s public relations department says: “The white dog that appears in Softbank’s TV commercials is so popular that we created these omake. Some people sign up with us because they want the free items.”

    Similarly, furoku (omake for magazines) also became widely popular around the 1920s, just like Glico’s. At first, furoku were mostly packaged with children’s magazines, but now magazines for adults often carry furoku as well. These days many furoku are of such high quality that they are bought and sold on online auctions sites, with some extremely unique furoku even becoming the talk of the town.

    Take the business magazine “Dime,” published by Shogakukan Inc., for example. The magazine usually sells for 400 yen, but when furoku is included, it can sell for around 500 yen. Dime’s furoku are practical items such as iPod speakers and ear picks, but recently they have been offering an increasing number of eco-friendly omake such as solar-powered keychain lights and mouse pads with built-in, solar-powered calculators.

    Published by Gakken Education Publishing Co., Ltd., each issue of “Otona no Kagaku (Science for Adults) Magazine,” comes with a build-it-yourself gadget as its furoku, such a mini electric guitar, a theremin (an electronic musical instrument), a moving doll or a twin-lens reflex camera. These are not toys but real items that you can actually operate and use.

    Those who buy the magazine make the item while reading the instructions. Moreover, you can even improve on the finished product. For example, in the case of camera furoku, you can buy either another lens to replace the original one, or a thin plate to insert for better film stabilization. “Giving adults the pleasure of making things, that’s the concept of this magazine,” says AIHARA Satoru of the company’s public relations department.

    “Brand Mook” of Takarajimasha, Inc. is famous for its stylish furoku. Each magazine issue features a famous fashion brand accompanied by a free brand sample. The furoku may include a wide variety of items from bags and pouches to housedresses or umbrellas. Sales of Brand Mook have been increasing on a yearly basis with the August 2009 issue, featuring Cher, selling 700,000 copies. The November 2009 issue featuring Yves Saint Laurent sold one million copies.

    “We think of the designer goods (furoku) as one of the contents of the magazine, just like an article,” says YAMAZAKI Ayumi of the company’s public relations department. “We at Takarajimasha consider the combination of the magazine and the brand item to be the “Brand Mook” product. Since the editorial department plans and produces brand items, I think that makes it possible to create a product that meets our readers’ needs and matches the trend.”

    NAKAHARA Osamu of Glico’s Public Relations Investor Relations Division says: “In Glico’s offices, we don’t use the word ‘omake.’ For us, the toys are not merely ‘omake that come with confectionery you buy.’ The combination of the confectionery and the toy constitutes a single product. ‘Use confectionery to provide nourishment for children’s bodies, and toys to provide nourishment for their minds,’ that’s our motto. That’s why we call the attached items toys rather than omake.”

    Some people criticize omake and furoku as being too extravagant. They say, “The main thing is the product, and yet too much money is spent on omake and furoku.” That said, products with omake and furoku attached are very popular and there are a number of avid collectors of them all. The reason that so many collect is their belief that the manufacturers think “omake and furoku are also the main thing” and make them with all their hearts.

    Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd.
    Mister Donut Official Website
    Furuta Confectionery Co., Ltd.
    Softbank Mobile Corp.
    Shogakukan Inc.
    Gakken Education Publishing Co., Ltd.
    Takarajimasha, Inc.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo

















    文:砂崎 良

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  • リメイク・リフォームで、世界にひとつだけの洋服

    [From April Issue 2010]

    In the last few years, a clothing style known as “fast fashion” has become popular in Japan. The trend is to incorporate affordable pricing and manufacture bulk quantities to sell in short-term cycles. UNIQLO, with over 790 stores across Japan, is one of the largest brands offering this style.

    In 1998, UNIQLO offered fleece sweatshirts for 1,900 yen, and sold 8.5 million pieces. From then on yearly improvements were made, and cheap, durable fleece garments soon became regular winter wear for everyone.

    Conversely, a new trend called “Remake Fashion” is also attracting attention. “Remake Fashion” is ready-made clothing altered to one’s own taste. Located just a few minutes walk from JR Omiya Station (Saitama Prefecture), Ichinomiya Dori is known as a second-hand fashion street with about 20 used clothing retail shops open for business.

    “OMIYA momo-kuri” is just one such popular store with Tokyo branches in both Kichijoji and Shimokitazawa. Not only do they sell second-hand clothes, they also trade in retro clothing acquired from overseas. But before selling any item, they alter the pieces to fit with Japanese sensibilities, adding designs to lapels, and changing the buttons to a more appealing set. Their unique designs and colorations are popular with the local students and other fashion-conscious young people. Even some performers shop there for their stage wardrobe.

    Many customers visit often because they want to “wear something different from everyone else.” SAKAI Hidetaka, a 2nd year university student who’s been stopping by the shop since high school, says friends often ask him, “Where did you buy your outfit?” “Second hand clothes are cheaper than new clothes. Moreover, the unique designs are popular with the younger generation,” says store manager NOZAWA Ayumi.

    Located in the Lumine Omiya Building, “Reform and Recycle JUST” alters customers’ clothes to fit their exact size. Customers stop by not just to lift hemlines of their pants and skirts, but to also adjust favorite items that no longer fit. The shop even gets customers who bring in new, recently purchased business suits.

    “Sometimes the alterations cost more than the actual business suit,” says shop owner, OGAWA Miyoko. She says that pulling out all the threads and retaking measurements is painstaking and time-consuming, even for experienced staff, and that altering a two-piece suit to properly fit the body can cost upwards of 30,000 ~ 40,000 yen.

    It seems that the inclination is to alter second-hand clothes for “a cheaper and unique look,” and new clothes for “a better fit despite the fee.” Tailored clothes are very expensive, with remakes and alterations much more convenient, and, the extra care makes people enjoy them more.

    OMIYA momo-kuri
    Reform and Recycle JUST

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko










    大宮 momo-kuri
    洋服のお直し専門店 JUST


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