• 制服 ― 日本人に愛されるファッション

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Most middle and high school students in Japan wear “uniforms” their schools have chosen. Some exceptions to that rule include private middle and high schools that allow street wear, and elementary schools that also prefer uniforms. The most common colors for school uniforms are black or navy, with summer uniforms costing between 20,000 to 30,000 yen, and winter uniforms between 40,000 to 50,000 yen. Additionally, Japanese school uniforms are considered formal attire, so students can wear them to attend funerals and other similar formal events.

    School uniforms were first introduced in Japan during the late 19th century. This was because a more comfortable western alternative was needed to replace Japan’s more formal attire, kimono. Thus the uniforms took on a military design, with hard collared shirts for boys and sailor-style uniforms for girls. Additionally, since there was also a wide economic gap between the rich and poor back then, uniforms helped everyone seem equal to one another.

    In the 60’s, students demonstrated their opposition to obligatory uniforms declaring that “uniforms were mere tools to control the students.” As a result of this movement, some schools decided to abolish them. But after a while, the students’ crusade faded as more fashionable uniforms, including suits and jackets, became popular. Today, even some private schools that initially permitted students to wear street clothes have reintroduced the uniform, while other schools have enticed prospective students just because of their attractive clothing.

    However, sometimes students get a bad reputation for the way they wear their uniform, such as when girls “wear their skirt hems too short.” There are even schools that impose strict guidelines on such “dressing down” alterations. Some teachers may measure with a ruler the length of a skirt while others stand watch outside school grounds.

    “The interpretation of the school uniform differs from school to school,” says NISHI Kentaro, the editor of “Koukousei Shimbun (High School Newspaper).” “There are some schools that strictly police such actions while others give freedom to uniforms that resemble street clothes. Schools in Tokyo compared to schools in other cities, and public schools rather than private schools, tend to have more freedom.”

    “Uniforms have the power to control the overall atmosphere of a school,” says Nishi in analyzing their effects. “When schools become rowdy, teachers police hairstyles, uniforms and tardiness, which really calms students down. That is why I understand when some schools get strict on such matters.”

    “I was told to wear my school uniform when I went to town,” says student TAKEDA Shiori from Oita prefecture. “That is why everyone stayed out of trouble. Because of the knowledge that people would immediately recognize which school you went to, it was a good break from temptation.”

    When Takeda was attending school, the “in” thing was to tie the uniform ribbons very short. “There is at least one student in each class who is the trend setter. With time, everyone dresses like that person. I think the short ribbon became popular because it made everyone look taller,” she explains.

    But Takeda herself was not influenced by this trend. “I am tall so I felt longer ribbons looked better on me. Since everyone wears the same uniform, I became more interested in expressing my individuality. I looked at how I could wear the uniform to better suit me. Sometimes I looked at other girls and thought ‘I should be careful not to dress like her. It looks sloppy,’ and thanks to that I was able to look at myself objectively,” she says.

    HARUTA Nana is a manga (comic) artist who has written stories that take place in middle and high school. She arranges the way her characters wear their school uniforms based on their personality. “I put active characters in hoodies and t-shirts under their uniforms to make them look casual. On the other hand, I will not let mature characters dress down their uniforms,” she explains.

    Haruta debuted as a comic artist when she was in 9th grade and continued writing throughout her high school years. “The uniforms that I was issued for middle and high school were dreary, navy, jacket-style blazers. I longed to wear sailor-type tops and checked skirts so I wrote a lot of that in to my work. But in those days, I did not know that students living in other parts of Japan dress themselves differently, so all I drew was what was ‘in’ in my town,” she laughs.

    “Manga is written in black and white. So, some cute clothes do not look as adorable as I want them to be, which can be a concern,” she says. “But uniforms have an invincible cuteness,” she continues. “Now that I am no longer a school girl, I cannot help myself from being attracted to all kinds of uniforms, even dull jackets and sailor style.”

    “Everyone is in school for sometime in their life, but once you graduate, you can never go back. That is why adults long for the “student” look and the students understand that they are in their prime. Uniforms are a representation of this look and that is why they are so attractive,” says AIURA Takayuki, president of Conomi Co., Ltd.

    His company sells standard uniform items including ribbons, cardigans and sailor-style outfits under the CONOMi brand name. “Silhouettes, materials and manufacturing style make these uniforms unique,” says vice president YOKOYAMA Toyoko. “For example, cardigans for students have looser weaves. Tighter weaves give cardigans an office girl look. And while uniforms do evolve, some things remain unchanged over time. The school uniform is a combination of unchanging elements – that is why it has a universal ‘uniform’ look.”

    “I was active in the freedom of clothing choice when I was in high school,” says Aiura. “When I was in school, uniforms were uncool, so the students who hated them chose to dress them down, which the teachers strictly supervised and scolded us for. But today’s uniforms are adorable. So students are happy to wear them with care, and the teachers are relieved. I think both sides of the party are happy now,” he concludes.

    “Uniforms should be more than good looking. It is school clothing so it must be easy to move in and comfortable to wear so students can enjoy their life at school. But it is also fashion and must be socially acceptable,” Aiura explains about his company’s policy. “It’s fashionable clothing but within the standard dress code appropriate for school.” So, it seems that students won’t stop wearing contemporary uniforms anytime soon.

    Koukousei Shimbun Company
    Ribon Editorial Dept., Shueisha Inc.
    Conomi Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


















    株式会社集英社 りぼん編集部

    文:砂崎 良

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  • 学校でも使われるまんがキャラクター

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Japan is the world’s manga superpower. Manga books and magazines are published here on an almost daily basis. Of all the sections at a typical bookstore, it’s the manga section that attracts the most customers. Weekly Shonen Jump, a manga magazine for younger readers, has the largest circulation in Japan and once, one of its issues even reached a circulation of 6.53 million. Manga is the center of modern Japan’s entertainment industry.

    Part of manga’s charm is its many unique characters, to which readers form an emotional attachment to. More recently, even some public elementary schools have started using learning materials featuring manga-style characters. And, there are also manga in which characters popular among children, such as Doraemon, Chibi Maruko-chan and Crayon Shin-chan, help teach subjects that children study at school.

    While reading manga, students can learn how to do arithmetic or the proper stroke order of kanji. Children who love Doraemon say: “Doraemon and Nobita-kun talk in their usual way, so it is easier for us to remember things. Because manga is fun, we just keep turning the pages. It doesn’t feel like we’re studying.”

    In using these new study materials, now children who don’t like studying not only enjoy it, but also better retain what they have learned. Furthermore, the number of manga characters appearing in such learning materials continues to increase each year. Now, mothers can no longer scold their children while saying, “Stop reading manga all the time and start studying.”

    KASHIWABARA Junta, who is responsible for editing educational manga at the Shogakukan Inc., publishing company, says, “We started publishing educational comic books around 1975 so that through reading manga children would take interest in science and history and enjoy studying those subjects.”

    “Popular series ‘Shonen Shojo Nihon no Rekishi’ (Japanese History for Boys and Girls) has had a circulation of 17 million copies, ‘Gakushu Manga Jinbutsu Kan’ (Educational Manga: Museum of Famous Figures) 2.3 million copies and ‘Doraemon Fushigi Tanken’ (Doraemon’s Wonder Exploration) 1.8 million copies,” continues Kashiwabara. Talking about these characters, he adds, “Doraemon is perfect as a guide for educational manga because he can travel to different ages and worlds using secret gadgets such as his time machine and the dokodemo door (go-anywhere door).”

    Shogakukan Inc. continues to receive many positive comments from children who have read their manga and who say that “It was very easy to understand because of the format” “I’ve learned a lot” and “I was impressed with the way great people lived.” One parent even remarked with a sense of relief and expectation that “My child was reading the material with a lot of interest just because they were manga.”

    And recently, more and more public libraries are also carrying educational manga. One staff member, who handles these type of manga for the International Library of Children’s Literature, says: “Our library has about 3,000 educational manga titles. And while they are not all classified as official manga, there are some that plainly explain science and social studies topics using manga.”

    In modern Japan, where the rate of visual literacy and access to information is accelerating, it seems that manga characters could be the ones teaching children from now on.

    Shogakukan Inc.
    International Library of Children’s Literature

    Text: OBAYASHI Hitoshi











    国立国会図書館 国際子ども図書館


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  • 接客する日本の自動販売機

    [From April Issue 2011]


    In Japan, there are many vending machines found at train stations and along the streets. They are also very prominent in downtown areas, where they stand side-by-side. And, they can even be found on rather deserted streets. But Japanese vending machines offer more functions than just offering items for money.

    JR East Water Business Co. has installed “next-generation” vending machines at many of its JR East stations. These new machines have new digital displays on which many images and messages can be seen. For instance, after a customer buys a drink, a “Thank you!” message is displayed. These smart-machines can also sense when there is a person standing nearby, and make purchase suggestions, or show other animated images, before displaying all its contents to people standing directly in front of it.

    What is most notable about these machines is that they communicate a vast amount of information wirelessly. So, in the event of a natural disaster, a “Give out drinks for free” command can be sent from its Internet server. Furthermore, while users’ private information is not recorded, they can recognize whether a person is a man or a woman, and their approximate age. They do all this using sensors that collect data, then use statistical information such as “Men in their 30s tend to buy sweet drinks in the evening,” to make possible suggestions, which people standing in front of it may then decide to purchase.

    “We developed this vending machine with the aim of entertaining customers who buy items through it,” says planning department member MUTO Ayano, “We get responses from our customers saying that ‘It’s interesting,’ or ‘It’s pretty.’ The resulting sales are twice that of a regular vending machine. So, we are getting quite a good reaction.”

    Some DyDo Drinko Inc. vending machines offer point card and voice functions. Machines with these installed issue point cards when customers press the “issue a card” button. So, customers who frequent these machines can get a point for each drink they purchase by inserting the point card into a machine. Gifts are then sent to those who redeem cards with enough accumulated points.

    The voice function was developed to help more easily explain to customers how the point cards work. But now, the machines can also greet customers according to the time of day, or the season, using their pre-installed calendar functions. For instance, they say “Good morning” in the morning, while also saying “Thank you for being our customer this year” at the year’s end. Some machines can also speak in a Kyoto or Nagoya dialect, with a few even operating in English.

    “We consider each vending machine to be a store. So, a vending machine with voice functionality is just a further developed version, ‘a guiding salesperson,’” says KITAGAWA Ryoichiro, a member of the sales planning department, who adds that “We hope that many more people will enjoy communicating with these new vending machines in the near future.”

    In Japan, it seems that vending machines are not just item-selling boxes, but box-shaped robots that can also entertain their potential customers.

    JR East Water Business Co., Ltd.
    DyDo Drinko Inc.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo



    株式会社JR東日本ウォータービジネスは、2010年8月から、次世代自販機をJR東日本の駅に置いています。この自販機は電子看板(デジタルサイネージ)機能を持っていて、正面の上部にいろいろな画像を映すことができます。例えば、お客が飲み物を買うと「Thank you!」と表示します。また、近くに人がいるかを認識する機能もあるので、通常はおすすめ商品やキャラクターの顔などを表示していますが、前に人が立つと商品を表示します。








    文:砂崎 良

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  • 聖地の静けさ――高野山

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Wakayama Prefecture’s Koyasan is considered to be one of Japan’s holiest places ever since the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (a.k.a Kukai) founded the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism among its towering cedars in the 9th century. In 2004, along with two other nearby locations, Koyasan was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”

    Nowadays, 117 Shingon monasteries cluster around the mountain’s main temple where 1,000 monks and 3,000 people live, attracting a steady stream of pilgrims. But it’s not just the pious that make the several-hour long trip south of Osaka – many visitors come just to spend a night as a monk would, at one of the 52 monasteries offering lodging called “shukubou.”

    The accommodation tend to be rather Spartan, typically no more than a simple tatami mat room with a low table and futon mattress, plus communal washrooms with deep, piping hot baths. The price, which is usually around 10,000 yen per person per night, includes a beautifully presented breakfast and dinner, served in your room.

    Strictly vegetarian, you can expect the meals to include numerous small dishes using ingredients such as tofu, yuba, and seasonal vegetables, as well as rice, pickles, miso soup and perhaps some soba noodles.

    One particular area specialty (although readily available across Japan) that you will most likely be served at Koyasan is a freeze-dried tofu called koyadofu, which once rehydrated, has a moist, spongy texture perfect for retaining the flavor of the soup or broth it is cooked in. Traditionally, the monks here used to freeze the tofu by leaving it out on the mountain overnight.

    Another highlight of a monastic stay is the opportunity to attend morning prayers with the monks. In inner temple rooms that are usually faintly lit, the air thick with incense, you’ll be able to watch close at hand as the monks recite their early morning sutra in an almost hypnotic droning chant, sporadically accompanied by a heavy, driving drum beat.

    At some monasteries guests can also attend a morning fire ceremony, where a lone, seated monk burns 108 pieces of wood in a spectacular ceremony representing the 108 defilements to be overcome on the road to enlightenment.

    Staying at a monastery is not the only reason to visit Koyasan. The Okuno-in is another sacred part of Koyasan, where more than 200,000 grave stones and monuments sprawl across this heavily wooded area. It has a wonderfully mysterious feel to it as you wander among its tall cedars, mossy stone stupas and small jizou statues dressed in vivid red bibs. At its eastern end, the cemetery gives way to the Hall of Lanterns, richly decorated and lit by 10,000 constantly burning oil lanterns, behind which, almost hidden in a cloud of incense and dense woodland, is the off-limits mausoleum of Kobo Daishi.

    It’s also worth paying a visit to the other side of town and Kongobu-ji, the Shingon sect’s main temple, which is home to a famed collection of 16th-century paintings. The 500 yen entry fee includes green tea and a confectionery, taken in one of the temple’s newer halls, but the real highlight is the landscaped rock garden. As one of Japan’s largest, this garden is called “Banryuutei” and the sizable rocks represent two dragons.

    Nearby, you’ll also find Koyasan’s sacred inner precinct, the Danjou-garan, a collection of several wooden halls and colorful stupas where Kobo Daishi erected the mountain’s first monastery. Although most of the structures in this sandy compound are modern rebuilds, they do house some impressive antiquities. Inside the vivid orange Konpon Daito (Great Stupa), a towering structure located at the compound’s center, the most impressive of these are the five giant, golden-gilded Buddhas.

    From Shin-Osaka shinkansen station take the Midosuji subway line to Namba station and transfer to the Nankai-Koya Line. Services run almost hourly from Namba to Gokurakubashi station, some requiring a change at Hashimoto station, and take between 70 and 100 minutes. The last leg of the trip is a five-minute cable car ride from Gokurakubashi up to Koyasan.


    Text: Rob Goss















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  • 伝統工芸を手頃な素材とデザインで海外にも広めたい

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Japanese Hairpin Artistry, ARAKAWA Toshio

    ARAKAWA Toshio runs Hanakobo, an ornamental hairpin and hair accessory manufacturing and sales company located in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward. These are Japanese-style accessories all hand made by Arakawa himself, that are worn by young girls and women in kimono on such occasions as the Seven-Five-Three Festival celebrating children’s growth, the coming-of-age ceremony and for school graduations, as well as weddings and Japanese dance recitals.

    From the age of 18 Arakawa studied accessory design for two years at a technical college, and after graduating, he trained at his father’s studio. “Technically, I was training there, but my father didn’t really teach me anything, so I learned the skills by closely watching and copying the way he did it,” he recalls. Going independent in 1992, Arakawa began to work with hairpins and hair accessories made of plastic materials.

    While expensive materials such as ivory and tortoiseshell are often used for hairpins, Arakawa uses plastic, which is easier to obtain and helps reduce each item’s retail price. He thinks that “the most important thing is to establish the trade as a business and continue to grow it, rather than merely pursuing artistic beauty.” “Although acrylic and acetate are both plastic, their wholesale prices are different and one is easier to process than the other,” explains Arakawa, who chooses different types of plastic depending on the item’s design and its production budget.

    “Basically, my works features the beauty of nature throughout the seasons, such as chrysanthemums in autumn or snow in winter,” explains Arakawa, who draws all the designs himself. He mostly deals with other businesses and the distributed items are then sold at kimono stores, beauty parlors and variety shops. Arakawa, who sometimes get requests to create items for foreign brands, says, “I design the items so that they can also match Western-style clothing. That’s why they are also so well received by young people who don’t wear kimono.”

    In recent years, he has also unexpectedly expanded his “business overseas.” “When my niece studied in Britain, she took my hairpins as souvenirs for local people and they liked them more than expected,” he recounts. “Then, on my nephew’s recommendation, I started showing my work for some years at an exhibition in Los Angeles where traditional Japanese culture was being introduced and that led to our items being sold in the Singapore Changi International Airport.”

    Furthermore, last September special hairpins commemorating the 35th anniversary of the birth of Hello Kitty, a world-famous, original Japanese character, started to sell. “When I was asked to incorporate Hello Kitty into my traditional craft, I tried to create a design which would appeal to people from a wider age group, a design most suitable for a character loved by all generations,” he says.

    Arakawa’s plan is simple. “I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to actively spread the charm of my handmade hairpins and hair accessories overseas,” he says. “More and more individuals are buying our items over the Internet, so I would like to further enhance our product line and services.” Presently, Arakawa is hard at work creating new hairpins and hair accessories that feature seasonal plum and cherry blossoms.



    かんざし職人 荒川 敏雄さん









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  • 初めて明かされるルパンと仲間たちの出会い

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Lupin III Episode 0: First Contact (Directed by OHARA Minoru)

    Lupin III was originally based on an action-manga magazine serial that ran for about two years starting in 1967. It was then turned into an animated TV series years later, at which time the magazine resumed publishing as an accompaniment. Though comical, the Lupin III series are well-liked by all generations for the characters’ philosophies and style.

    Monkey Punch, the writer of Lupin III, was inspired by Maurice LEBLANC’s “Arsène Lupin.” The series’ main character is supposed to be the original character’s grandson. He steals treasures all over the world and is hunted for by each country’s police forces. Millionaires and crime organizations want him dead. But he really isn’t a treasure hunter or collector. His raison d’être is in the art of the steal.

    This program was specially broadcast in 2002. It tells of how four characters encountered one another: Lupin III, who is nimble and good with disguises, but also easily excitable with a weakness for beautiful women; JIGEN Daisuke, quiet and stubborn, but a crack shot; ISHIKAWA Goemon, a master fencer, who is a direct descendent of ISHIKAWA Goemon, a historically famous Japanese thief and, MINE Fujiko, the beauty who uses men to get money and jewels. Inspector ZENIGATA also makes an appearance as he attempts to incessantly track them all down.

    The setting is New York City. At the request of a female journalist, Jigen begins to recount his encounter with Lupin. It happened while he was working as a bodyguard for the mafia boss, Galvez. Jigen spotted Lupin sneaking into Galvez’s residence to steal an unbreakable metal tube harder than diamonds. A shootout ensued and Lupin gave up, fleeing without it.

    Later on, Fujiko, who is being pursued by Japanese police, successfully steals the tube with her boyfriend Brad. However, now she needs the “key” to open it. Brad is then killed by one of Galvez’s men. So, she uses Lupin to get it for her. Meanwhile, Inspector Zenigata and Goemon finally arrive in New York. Zenigata is after Fujiko while Goemon is searching for a special, steel-cutting sword.

    It turns out that the sword that Goeman is after is the key to cutting open the tube. Contained within the tube are instructions detailing how to reproduce the metal’s indestructible formula. The four come into contact with one another as enemies who are all seeking the same treasure. Initially, they deceive and try to kill each other, eventually having no other choice but to join forces in order to bring down the Galvez gang while eluding Zenigata and the New York Police Department.

    As Jigen finishes his story, Goemon, Fujiko and another person also named Jigen all arrive on the scene. It seems that the person the journalist was talking with was really Lupin in disguise. Quickly, the four disappear before the story’s veracity could be checked. The journalist then looks back onto the Federal Reserve Bank, where the four thieves are trying to break in, with Zenigata in hot pursuit, as the film ends.


    ルパン三世 EPISODE 0:ファーストコンタクト(大原実監督)








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