• 季節感を表現する和菓子

    [From April Issue 2013]


    Wagashi are sweets made since ancient times with traditional Japanese methods. Wagashi are distinct from yougashi, or western sweets, which were relatively recently introduced to Japan during the Meiji era in the 19th century. However, many Japanese get yougashi muddled up with nanbangashi, which are European-style sweets introduced by Portuguese missionaries during the Azuchi-momoya era in the 16th century. Some examples of similar nanbangashi and yougashi are kasutera (castella) and sponge cake; bisuketto (biscuits) and kukki- (cookies); or konpeitou (confetti) and kyandi- (candy).

    An example of a sweet that anyone would regard as wagashi is “dango.” Dango are small rounded mochi (or rice cakes), commonly eaten off a bamboo skewer. Mitarashi-dango (glazed dumplings) are dumplings glazed with a sauce made from soy sauce and sugar; kusa-dango (grass dumplings) are dumplings kneaded with yomogi (Japanese mugwort); and san-shoku dango (three-colored dumplings) are a set of pink, white and green dumplings. Other than dango, there are many other kinds of Japanese sweets that use a kneaded mixture of glutinous rice and water called mochi.

    Though known by the same name, sakura mochi actually refers to a different kind of sweet in Kanto and Kansai. Kanto-style sakura-mochi is a crepe made from wheat flour and water baked in an oven, with an in the center, wrapped in a salt-pickled cherry tree leaf. On the other hand, Kansai-style sakura-mochi is mochi – that still has the residual texture of the rice grain in it – with an an center, wrapped in a salt-pickled cherry tree leaf.

    An (anko) is made from a concentrated mixture of adzuki beans, combined with sugar and water. An that retains the texture of the beans is called tsubu-an. Smooth, strained an is called koshi-an. It is such an essential ingredient, that Japanese people would say that, “If it uses an, then it is a Japanese sweet.”

    Another Japanese sweet is daifuku, which is an wrapped in gyuuhi. Gyuuhi is a case made out of mochi. Mame-daifuku has black soy beans in the gyuuhi; kusa-daifuku has yomogi kneaded in; shio-daifuku has added salt; and ichigo-daifuku has a whole strawberry inside its an filling.

    Manjuu (steamed buns) is another Japanese sweet which is made in a similar way to daifuku. Instead of a mochi coating, manjuu has an outer shell made of wheat or some other kind of kneaded dough. One of the most famous rakugo (the art of traditional storytelling) stories is “Manjuu Kowai” (I’m scared of Manjuu). In the story a man confesses that, “What scares me the most is manjuu!” When his friends play a mean joke on him and throw a manjuu into his room, he chows down on the manjuu saying, “I’m so scared of tea now.”


    Sakura-mochi / Ichigo daifuku (tsubuan)


    Just like manjuu and daifuku, there are many other Japanese sweets made by wrapping a piece of an in mochi or dough. The name of the sweet changes, depending on the ingredients and the way it is made. For example the casing for the wagashi known as monaka is made from powdered rice mixed with water. This mochi is then steamed, rolled out and baked in an oven giving the sweet its signature crisp coating. A taiyaki casing is made from flour mixed with water that is baked in a metal mold in the shape of a tai (sea bream). In Japan, sea bream is considered to be a “medetai” or auspicious fish.

    Dorayaki is a Japanese sweet made by sandwiching a piece of an between two pieces of castella sponge cake. Castella is nanban-gashi, made to a recipe specific to Japan that involves adding honey or starch syrup for a moist texture. There are other variations of this treat: mixing fresh cream in with the an filling, or substituting chestnut and custard cream for the an. The Japanese animated cartoon character “Doraemon” really loves dorayaki.

    Made by pouring an into a mold, then chilling it and hardening with kanten (agar) or kuzu (arrowroot) starch, youkan allow you to savor the flavor of an on its own. There are other variations of youkan such as imo-youkan with added sweet potato, kuri-youkan with chestnut, and mizu-youkan which has a higher ratio of water to an. Another Japanese sweet which uses mizu (or water) as a prefix is mizu-manjuu (also called kuzu-manju) which is an wrapped in a transparent case made from kuzu.


    Anmitsu / Taiyaki


    Mizu-youkan, mizu-manjuu, and kuzu kiri (a chilled confection in noodle form made from the same ingredients as mizu-manjuu, eaten with kuro-mitsu or black syrup) are all summer wagashi designed to give a cooling impression. Many Japanese sweets reflect the changing seasons. For example, as the name suggests, sakura-mochi is a wagashi served when cherry blossoms are blooming (in other words, in springtime).

    Sometimes the same wagashi might be called by a different name depending on the season you consume it. The springtime bota-mochi is a piece of mochi wrapped in an; the reverse of the way daifuku and Kansai-style sakura-mochi is made. However, in autumn, bota-mochi is called ohagi. Bota-mochi is named after the botan or peony, which is a spring flower, and ohagi is named after hagi or bush clover, which is an autumn flower.

    The appearance of Japanese sweets is a reflection of the seasons and of ka-chou-fuu-getsu – an idiom made up of the four kanji of flower, bird, wind and moon, which denotes the beauty of the natural world. Kougei-gashi are a kind of decorative wagashi that are especially designed to be pleasing to the eye. It’s hard to believe that they are only made from mochi, an and sugar and are so beautiful that it seems a waste to eat them. When it comes to these sweets, appearance is considered to be more important than taste. About once every four years, sweets from all over Japan are displayed at the National Confectionary Exhibition; the highlight of this event is the kougei-gashi.




    Making kougei-gashi brings out the best in wagashi artisans, who put together their creations using materials like “unpei” and “anpei.” There are different kinds of unpei: “momi unpei” is made by mixing baked mochi flour with sugar and lukewarm water and “mushi unpei” is made from steamed mochi. These ingredients are fragile, but are useful for the intricate molding of things like petals and leaves. Made from an, mochi flour and sugar, anpei is a more resilient ingredient better suited to molding into the shape of tree trunks.

    Wagashi allow us to enjoy not only sweet flavors, but also savory flavors like soy sauce and salt. Small pieces of dried mochi roasted until golden and flavored with soy sauce or other ingredients are called arare. Larger pieces are called okaki and flattened pieces are called senbei. Whether sweet or salty, many wagashi utilize mochi rice in various ways. Mochi and an are indispensable ingredients for creating wagashi.

    National Confectionary Exposition in Hiroshima

    Text: MATSUMOTO Seiya



















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  • 身近になったノンアルコールドリンク

    [From April Issue 2013]


    Alcohol-free drinks are now a firm fixture in Japan because they don’t give you a hangover and, by consuming them, those who have a low tolerance for alcohol don’t have to be afraid of ruining the atmosphere at boozy get-togethers. The reason why alcohol-free drinks are now so popular is that the police are now monitoring drivers more carefully after an increase in drink driving accidents. In addition, the youth of today doesn’t tend to drink as much.

    Available in Japan for a long time, non-alcoholic drinks can be found in places serving food and drink. KAWAI Yasuyuki, the PR representative of Reins International, a company that operates a chain of yakiniku (barbecue) restaurants called “Gyu-kaku” and a chain of pubs, says, “There has been a certain level of demand from those who are driving and from those who can’t drink alcohol. There are also those for whom the last glass is non-alcoholic.”

    NAGAI Jean Marks Norihiko, Director of the Alcohol-free Cocktail Association, says, “Drinks like oolong tea have always been available in bars and have been the beverage of choice for non-drinkers. Because it’s so apparent that they’re not alcoholic drinks, I’ve often observed that they spoil the atmosphere.”

    Alcohol-free cocktails look as if they contain alcohol. There is now a wider selection of alcohol-free cocktails, especially alcohol-free cocktails with interesting flavor combinations. In recent years, the range of alcohol-free drinks available has expanded to include beer, shouchuu (a kind of Japanese liquor) and umeshu (plum wine).

    This trend has delighted non-Japanese, too. Hariom SINGH from India often orders alcohol-free beer and says, “Good alcohol-free drinks are very welcome.” Many people from India and the Middle East cannot drink alcohol for religious reasons. Other people prefer alcohol-free drinks because they are more conscious of health issues, a trend that has not just occurred in Japan, but all over the world.

    With more alcohol-free drinks available, people are no longer ordering non-alcoholic drinks because they have no other choice; rather they’re ordering them because they really want to drink them.

    Non-alcohol Cocktail Organization

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi











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  • 伝統芸能の歌舞伎の魅力とは?

    [From April Issue 2013]


    The newly renovated Kabukiza theatre will be reopening this April. The traditional art of kabuki has a 400 year old history. Integrating drama, dance and music, it’s possible to see the Japanese sense of beauty up on a kabuki stage expressed through things like the four seasons and gorgeous costumes. The word “kabuki” comes from “kabuku,” which means “extraordinary.”

    Kabuki is unique in that roles are performed by men only. Actors playing female roles are called “onnagata,” and one of the attractions of kabuki is that they appear to be more feminine that women themselves. Kabuki plays can be roughly divided into two categories. The first is “period drama” that portrays the world of the samurai or battles. The second is “human empathy drama” that portrays the trials and tribulations of the citizens of the Edo period.

    The stage itself is another attraction of kabuki. A walkway called hanamichi leads up to the stage through the audience. Actors make their entrances and exits on this. Sometimes actors will stop and perform here allowing the audience to get a look up close. Besides this other devices include a revolving stage allowing for quick scene changes and trapdoors that allow actors to make an entrance in the middle of the stage.

    Some scenes in kabuki get both actors and audiences really fired up. When an actor appears on the stage or his performance reaches its climax, the audience yells out “Yamashiroya!” or “Otowaya!” These are yagou, or stage names. This custom arose because in the old days actors were not allowed to have surnames. Instead they used stage names.

    Kabuki performances are generally held twice a day: once during the day and once at night. Each play lasts about three to four hours and there are intermissions between dramatic and musical scenes. Kabukiza theaters sell tickets for one act only. Headsets that provide an explanation of the play can be rented. English versions are also available for a fee.

    Traditional Kabuki and the “New Movement”

    The majority of kabuki actor’s names have been passed down from generation to generation. Actors acquire different stage names as they progress up the ranks, until they acquire the most elevated title of their clan. In the kabuki world, not only stage names, but also an acting style and the plays that one specializes in are inherited; it’s normal for children of actors to inherit all of this.

    Last December, the 18th generation NAKAMURA Kanzaburo, who was a popular kabuki actor, and this February ICHIKAWA Danjuro, who was known for his stupendous performances, passed away. It was a great loss for those in kabuki circles.

    In 1986 “super kabuki,” a form of theatre that adopted a contemporary theatrical style appeared in the traditional kabuki world. The 3rd ICHIKAWA Ennosuke (currently called Enoh) incorporated other kinds of theatrical styles such as western opera or Beijing opera into his acting style. It had a big impact on the theatrical community both in Japan and abroad. Since then performances have been held at theatres including Shimbashi Enbujo Theatre, Tokyo.












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  • 静岡県――富士山が見守る歴史と芸術の地

    [From April Issue 2013]


    Located roughly in the center of Honshu, Shizuoka Prefecture is home not only to Mount Fuji – Japan’s national symbol – but also to other beautiful natural features: mountains, the sea and lakes. This prefecture can be divided into three regions: the eastern region which includes the foothills of Mount Fuji and the Izu peninsula; the central region which includes the Gulf of Suruga and the mountains leading to the Southern Japanese Alps; and the western region around Hamanako (Lake Hamana). The climate is generally mild throughout the year, but there is a distinct difference between the seasons and as a result it’s possible to enjoy different scenery depending on the season.

    The Tokaido road was one of the highways developed during the Edo period (17–19 century). Inns within Shizuoka Prefecture that ran along this route prospered. Many famous places and historic sites still remain in the prefecture. Easily accessible from the capital, to take in its numerous sightseeing spots, it’s suitable for day trips or longer vacations.

    To kick off a trip to Shizuoka, it’s best to go and check out Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji can be viewed from many places in the eastern to central areas of Shizuoka Prefecture. At an altitude of 3,776 meters, it is the highest mountain in Japan. Its strong and beautiful form has greatly influenced many artists. Mount Fuji has even been depicted by Edo period ukiyoe (woodblock print) artists: by KATSUSHIKA Hokusai in his “Fugaku Sanjurokkei” (Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji) and UTAGAWA Hiroshige in his series “Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi” (Fifty-three stages on the Tokaido highway). This landscape has long been treasured and is close to the hearts of the Japanese people.


    Mount Fuji / Mount Fuji Hongu Sengen Taisha


    Ever since ancient times Mount Fuji has been considered to be a sacred place by religious groups; the Asama sect was founded on the belief that Mount Fuji is a deity. This sect was said to have been founded in order to calm the frequent eruptions of Mount Fuji. The main temple of this Buddhist sect is the Mount Fuji Hongu Sengen Taisha in Fujinomiya City. Designated as an important cultural property, the main building stands in front of Mount Fuji. It is 13 meters in height, built in two sections and has multiple stories.

    A little distance away from Mount Fuji is the Izu peninsula which is one of the main sightseeing areas in Shizuoka. The peninsula with its mountains running down it like a spine jutting up through the sea has been loved by both people in positions of power and by artists alike. Izu is also known as the setting of many literary works including “Izu no Odoriko” (The Dancing Girl of Izu) by KAWABATA Yasunari, which portrays the love between a woman of a travelling dance troupe and a lonely young man.

    Named after Shuzenji temple built by Kuukai in 807 AD, the Shuzenji area also appears in this novel. Shuzenji is also the place where the Genji clan defeated the Heike clan and rose to power establishing the Kamakura era (12–14th century), before subsequently falling from power. Originally a Shingon Buddhist temple, after a fire, it was reduced to ashes during the war. It was resurrected by HOUJOU Souun as a Soutou sect temple during the Muromachi Era (14–16th centuries). These days many people visit the temple throughout the year and the area has come to be renowned as a spot for viewing the autumn leaves.


    Scenic view at Izu / Koibito Misaki


    Izu has a special tourist attraction that sweethearts should visit. This is “Koibito Misaki” (Lovers’ Cape) in Izu City. Located at the end of the 700 meter Fujimi path, it’s possible to see the Suruga Gulf and Mount Fuji on the opposite bank of the cape. There you will find an adorable bell called the “Love Call Bell;” by ringing this bell and calling out the name of your lover it is said that you can make your love a reality. This place is also known for having beautiful views around sunset.

    Shizuoka Prefecture is a health resort and many artists have moved here to concentrate on their work, making it a center for artistic activity. There are over 30 art galleries and museums within Shizuoka, each with its own unique characteristics.

    One example is the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, located in Shizuoka City in the central part of the prefecture. This art museum is the only museum in the country that has 32 works of the sculptor, RODIN, on display, in addition to well-known works of exquisite art by both western and eastern artists including MONET, GAUGUIN, and YOKOYAMA Taikan. Since the museum concentrates its efforts on displaying modern art and putting on special exhibitions, it has a diverse collection of art works that attracts fans of modern art from all over Japan.

    With its fertile environment, Shizuoka has a variety of delicious produce, but, producing more tea than any other prefecture in the country, it’s most famous for Shizuoka tea. Blessed with conditions that include a warm climate, pure water and fertile soil, high quality tea leaves are cultivated.

    Delicious inexpensive “gotouchi gourmet” – local cuisine that can only be enjoyed within a particular region – is increasingly popular in Japan. “Fujinomiya yakisoba” (fried noodles), from Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka, was the catalyst for this trend. This dish is made with al dente noodles, oilcake of pressed lard, and powdered sardines.

    There are so many hot springs in Shizuoka that it has been dubbed the “hot spring kingdom.” Encircled by sea and mountains, Atami onsen is one of Japan’s foremost onsen towns, garnering popularity with its female customers because its waters moisturise and promote beautiful skin. Effective in treating skin problems, the waters are recommended for people with sensitive skin.

    The western part of the prefecture is the area around Hamamatsu City and Hamanako, a lake with a circumference of 141 kilometers is located there. Rich in minerals, because seawater flows into its brackish waters, it is home to a wide variety of fish and is excellent for eel farming. Around the lake, flowers bloom throughout the year and it’s possible to enjoy leisure facilities like Hamamatsu Flower Park there.


    Hamanako / Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments


    Because Yamaha, the global musical instrument manufacturer has its head office in Hamamatsu City, music has flourished in this town. Many music fans visit the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments because it is one of the largest museums in Orient. These instruments include rare musical instruments native to particular regions and even instruments that have been used by well-known composers. From its collection of over 3,000 musical instruments, approximately 1,300 pieces are on display. In the “experience room,” visitors can try playing various musical instruments.

    To get to eastern Shizuoka, from JR Tokyo station it takes approximately 45 minutes by Shinkansen to JR Atami station and to JR Mishima station 53 minutes. To get to central Shizuoka, it takes approximately one hour and ten minutes to JR Shin-fuji station or one hour and 30 minutes to JR Shizuoka station. To get to western Shizuoka, it takes one hour and 45 minutes to JR Kakegawa station, or two hours to JR Hamamatsu station. It takes about three to six hours by bus departing from nearby Tokyo station.

    Photos courtesy by Shizuoka Prefectural Tourism Association

    Text: OMORI Saori




















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  • 「自然治癒力」に命をかけた決断

    [From April Issue 2013]


    Director of the Natural Healing Association, Reiki Master
    TANAKA Yasuhide

    I can celebrate with sushi and wine tonight! Oh, thank goodness, I can drink wine again, and I can even eat tuna, my favorite… After leaving the doctor’s office, I rushed into the nearest restroom and cried. My doctor had given me the good news today, “Congratulations Mr. Tanaka! Your readings have finally returned to normal. You are not a patient anymore.”

    Diagnosed as being terminally ill with a collagen disease, I was unable to breathe properly after a heavy coughing fit. Soon after, the doctor told me, “Your condition has reached the stage at which it’s no longer likely that you will recover. You have half a year or so at best.” I was unable to accept the statement that “I was going to die.” No way was I going to die! In the depths of despair, I desperately sought for some way to live.

    That was when I finally discovered a “natural healing method.” This is the belief that it’s possible to strengthen natural healing powers contained within ourselves and use that power to overcome disease. It’s possible to be examined in a hospital, but you cannot receive treatment. I literally put my own life at stake in order to strengthen the inner force latent within myself. It was my faith in reiki that led me to this decision.

    Reiki, which is essentially about “ki,” tends to be regarded with some skepticism in Japan. But there is a rising awareness of “ki” as a form of “celestial energy” in the Orient and as “universal life energy” in the Occident. By channeling and utilizing “ki,” reiki is now widely practiced in many countries.

    I studied chi kung in Japan and China, and acquired my reiki skills from my German master. I was then awarded the title of reiki master. For many years, as a member of the “Usui Reiki Therapy Society,” I have practiced traditional reiki techniques. I have long believed in the innate strength of the life force within humans themselves.

    When they learned that the doctor had diagnosed me as being a terminal patient, my worried children came to visit from far away. But when they saw me looking vivacious and full of hope, they were totally taken by surprise, yet at the same time relieved. Fortunately my treatment was gradually taking effect and the test results from my medical examinations were improving each year. However, I was suddenly struck by another blow when I discovered in the middle of this that I had cancer of the colon.

    But I kept on going, never giving up. In addition to using reiki to harness the power of “ki,” I also strived to unite my mind and body and in addition I stuck to a brown rice based diet to maximize the integral healing power contained within food. That is to say I adopted a lifestyle based on the three fundamental cornerstones of “ki,” “mind” and “diet.”

    As a result, guided by the power of “ki,” my health took a turn for the better. Eight years after the onset of symptoms, my doctor now diagnosed my collagen disease as having “naturally regressed.” Eight months after the onset of my cancer, it was diagnosed as having “gone into remission.” This means that both the collagen disease and the cancer have gone away for good.

    This being a rare case in the medical world, I was then invited to give lectures on the subject and I was determined to make it my life’s mission to pass on my experiences to the public. I then conceived my natural health method, which was attractive to many people and could be easily practiced. Now in the heyday of Western medicine, I strongly believe that we should really consider “a system of medicine based on the bounty of nature” which strengthens the natural healing power contained within all living creatures.



    自然健康法普及会会長 レイキマスター

    今夜はお寿司とワインで乾杯だ! ああ、またお酒が飲めるんだ。好きなマグロも食べられるんだ……。私は診察室を出るなり、近くのトイレに飛び込んで泣きました。今日は医師から「田中さん、よかったですね! ついに正常値になりましたよ、あなたはもう患者ではありません」との朗報を受けたのです。

    難病といわれる膠原病にかかった私は、非常に強く咳き込んだときに呼吸が止まってしまいました。間もなくして医師に言われました。「余命はよくてもあと半年、ここまできたらもう回復の見込みはありません」と。「自分が死ぬ」、それは到底受け入れられない宣告でした。死んでたまるか! 私は絶望の中から生きる道を必死で模索しました。








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  • 日本語から、人を育み、平和を育むNPO法人

    [From April Issue 2013]


    Non-Profit Organization, The Japan Return Programme

    “To tell you the truth, I had no idea my mother was doing something so big,” says IKEZAKI Miwa, the executive director of a Non-Profit Organization, the Japan Return Programme (JRP). Miwa’s mother Miyoko founded the JRP in 1995 and ran it until last year when Miwa took over the reins. The purpose of the JRP is to nurture people who could one day forge important links between Japan and the outside world.

    The JRP carries out two tasks. One is the “Nihongo Summit,” organized every year since 1999. It’s an event at which youngsters living overseas, who are putting all their effort into studying Japanese, are invited to express their opinions in Japanese. It’s not simply a one day event; participants (panelists) arrive in Japan about a month prior to the Nihongo Summit.

    Everything is done in Japanese: peace studies at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; a cultural exchange with people living in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake; experiencing traditional Japanese culture; visiting corporations and politicians; and homestays. As part of the program, they get a chance to speak keigo, or honorific language, too. At the end of their visit they perform a presentation at the summit on “What I can do now for peace.”

    Between 1999 and 2012 a total of 1,465 people applied to take part in the Nihongo Summit. From those, 233 panelists from 61 countries were selected to come to Japan.

    Former panelists have maintained strong links to the organization by keeping in touch via Facebook and working in cooperation with JRP’s administration. Some return to Japan to study at university in a specialized field, while others work for Japanese companies overseas. A few have come back to Japan as diplomats.

    The JRP’s other function is to give free lessons of Japanese language and culture to ambassadors and other diplomats stationed in Japan. JRP teachers teach their students to produce beautiful Japanese so that they can talk about their country in Japanese and use appropriate Japanese for work.

    Miyoko, who was formerly a teacher of Japanese language, founded the JRP because she noticed that foreign children who had once lived in Japan ended up forgetting the Japanese they had learned once they returned to their countries. “Japanese is a compassionate language in which you put yourself in another person’s place. It’s a good language for discussing peace. Young people studying Japanese will build bridges between Japan and other countries in the future. And they’ll also contribute to world peace.” With this idea in mind Miyako ran the JRP in the early days with her own money.

    Miyoko’s wish struck a chord with many and the number of sponsors has increased year by year. Eventually well-known companies within Japan and famous politicians began to cooperate.

    Miyoko passed away in 2012. Miwa hesitated at first to take over when she discovered that the administration of the JRP, which depends on contributions, was quite a challenge. Her mind was made up, however, after listening to Miyoko’s passionate ideas. “I’ll do my best to keep the JRP going.”

    Non-Profit Organization, The Japan Return Programme

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo















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  • 聖徳太子を描いた異色の少女まんが

    [From April Issue 2013]

    Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun)

    “Hiizurutokoro-no-Tenshi” (Emperor of the Land of the Rising Sun) is a shoujo (girl’s) manga that depicts the life of Prince Shotoku from his childhood until he became regent (when he made political decisions for the Emperor). The manga was serialized in the manga magazine “LaLa” (published by Hakusuisha) from 1980 to 1984 and was awarded the Best Prize in the Shoujo Division of the Kodansha Manga Awards in 1983. The publication of the manga caused quite a stir by portraying this great man, whose likeness had been printed onto bank notes, as a homosexual with supernatural powers. The manga has been frequently reprinted in book form and has had an abiding appeal even though 30 years have now passed since it first came out.

    The story is set in Japan during the Asuka era (6~8th centuries). Fourteen-year-old Soga no Emishi comes across ten-year-old Umayado no Ouji (Prince Shotoku’s real name) bathing in a pond on a spring day. He is so beautiful that Emishi mistakes him for a girl and falls in love. Later, when Emishi meets Ouji again as his retainer, he discovers that Ouji is a charismatic man who is cultured, talented and politically astute.

    When Emishi becomes close to Ouji, he begins to have mysterious experiences because of Ouji’s special abilities. He realizes that, because of these abilities, Ouji is feared by his own mother and is isolated from his family. While confounded by his abilities, Emishi tries to treat Ouji as another human being. Despite the difference in their status and the fact that they are both men, Ouji finally falls in love with Emishi.

    One day, Ookimi (the Emperor) – Ouji’s father – dies. Ouji and Emishi get involved in the dispute over succession. Though he is frightened by the cool headed, precocious way Ouji handles himself, Emishi decides in the end to give his support to the prince. The dispute develops into a great war.

    After the war, a new emperor, or Ookimi, ascends to the throne and peace reigns. But, the Ookimi is put out by Ouji’s increasing influence. Though the Ookimi plots to have him assassinated, Ouji easily evades this disaster. With jealousy and intrigue swirling around him, Ouji realizes that Emishi’s purity is irreplaceable. But then, he gets a shock when he finds out that Emishi has fallen in love with a woman. The story develops dramatically.

    When she was a child, the writer saw a newspaper article that read: “A sword inscribed with a message to ensure the repose of a soul has been found inside a Buddhist statue connected to Prince Shotoku.” She was frightened that a person whose spirit needed to be pacified this way had existed. This experience was the impetus for this work. In an interview printed at the end of volume seven of the complete collection (published by Media Factory), the writer says, “I thought about the hero’s character by imagining that somebody who people feared was sitting next to me.”

    Although this work does not accurately portray historical fact, it skillfully incorporates famous episodes into the plot. For instance, in the story Prince Shotoku uses the Yumedono (Hall of Dreams), for meditation. This temple has been designated as a national treasure and is still in the grounds of Horyuji Temple. Since the characters are so unique and it has a historical appeal, the work has attracted not only shoujo manga fans but also a wide range of readers. Skillfully blending fact and fiction, the work gives us some insight into the Asuka era.

    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko












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