• バリエーション多様な「痛い」アイテム

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Over the past few years, various “itai” items, ranging from inkan (stamps), to cars, have gone on sale. “Itai,” which literally means pain, refers to designs that boldly incorporate manga or anime characters; because these appear rather itaitashii (pitiful), they’ve been dubbed “itai” for short.

    “Itataku” (pitiful taxis) emblazoned with anime (cartoon) character designs began to appear in Sapporo City, Hokkaido, a year ago. The idea was dreamed up by TAKEUCHI Norihito, the head of marketing strategy for Choei Kotsu Corporation. When he was thinking of ways to make his taxi company stand out from the competition, a photograph of an “itasha” (pitiful car) caught his eye.

    The first model incorporated the official mascot of the TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa. “It doesn’t matter if the character isn’t famous. It is more important that people see the taxis driving through the city and say, ‘What on earth was that?’ to each other, thus creating a sensation,” says Takeuchi. The existence of the itataku spread steadily by word of mouth.

    To keep costs down, the body design and printed sticker attachments were done manually by Takeuchi and friends who were supportive of his scheme. In order that the cars didn’t become an over familiar sight, just three to five taxis from a fleet of 85 are run as itataku with designs that are updated about every three months. A total of 15 taxi designs were created in one year.

    The itataku also had a positive effect within the company. More and more customers want to ride in an itataku, and the Choei Taxi name has become well known, so that radio calls increased by about 20%. In addition, Takeuchi feels that since these taxis attract attention, it helps drivers develop as they are conscious of being in the spotlight.

    Most importantly, “complaints are down,” Takeuchi laughs. “Also, customers probably don’t feel like complaining when they are in these kind of taxis.” Next time around, by involving customers in the process of selecting characters and so forth, he is planning to transform the itataku into a taxi made by everyone.


    “Itai” business suits have also gone on the market. YOSHIDA Ryuichi started up this Osaka-based business suit project. Yoshida is a third generation tailor, but has also been interested in anime since he was a high school student. Bringing the two together resulted in the “ita-suits.” He received a better reaction than he expected, after exhibiting suits with cartoon characters printed into their lining at the Tokyo International Anime Fair last March, and decided to begin producing them commercially.

    The business really began to take off last May. Unexpectedly, besides the original target market of young men in their 20s to 30s, women are also driving growth. Recently the suits were exhibited at the 14th Japan Expo held in France, and Yoshida recognizes that demand exists both domestically and overseas.

    These ita-suits demonstrate that it’s possible to create products that combine clothing with printing techniques in a way that is not possible with normal suits. However, Yoshida has set his sights on expanding beyond his current business activities into a different field. “Currently, there is no place that provides information on other ‘ita-items.’ I would like use my ita-suits business to launch a platform which will bring together other ita-items under one roof,” he says, looking to the future.

    Choei Taxi

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo















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  • 魚を同じ重さに切るスライサー

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation

    Fried food ordered at a Japanese restaurant is always served with shredded cabbage and sashimi is served garnished with shredded radish. Chopped leek is indispensable as a condiment for udon or soba noodles and for various kinds of fish fillets displayed in the fish counters of supermarkets. All of these things are an everyday sight.

    At home, cabbage, radish, leek and fish are all cut using a kitchen knife and a cutting board. But in the food services industry and at food markets, which handle large amounts of ingredients, human labor alone won’t cut it. Because of this, food processing machines called “slicers” were developed. One of the leading companies producing slicers for business use is Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation in Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture.

    Speaking about their approach to product development, President SASAKI Keieki says, “We’re attempting to create machines that can cut finely, just as a professional cook would do with a kitchen knife.” Take, for example, the “Leek Chopper:” developed at the request of an udon shop that wished to chop leeks quickly, the machine was a hit with over 1,000 units sold so far. This machine became increasingly popular in the food services industry and is now widely used both at home and abroad.

    One of the firm’s strongest products is the “Super Sakanayasan fish slicer” that can cut fillets such as salmon used for lunch boxes into equal portions. An example of their high tech expertise, using a high precision camera and a microcomputer, this machine can cut a fish split in half from top to tail into equal portions that weigh the same, with an error margin of only three grams. It is capable of processing 2,800 slices per hour.

    Once you enter the weight of the fish you want to slice into the touch panel, the machine selects the optimum program. Though fillets cut from the region near the head are different in shape from those near the tail, because it’s possible to change the angle at which the knife touches the fish and the thickness of the fillet, the machine produces cuts that are almost exactly the same weight. A patent is being filed for the “technology to measure each cut,” this machine’s best feature.

    The company originally offered a service to sharpen knives and other metallic products. Before long, they gained a reputation for sharpening knives, so, employing the same knowhow, began to produce not only knives but also food processing machines. Sasaki explains the reason why they are capable of developing products that other companies can’t imitate, “It’s because we do everything on our own; from designing, to manufacturing parts, to assembling them.”

    While their competitors assemble parts purchased from other companies, “We manufacture parts ourselves, so we don’t need to buy them. This enables us to build machines quickly at no extra cost,” says Sasaki, explaining the difference between his company’s method and that of other firms. When we eat out or consume store bought food, we may be benefiting from this company’s machines without realizing it.

    Yoshiizumi Industry Corporation

    Text: ITO Koichi













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  • 日本の夏はお化けのシーズン

    [From August Issue 2013]


    When summer comes around in Japan, many movies and TV programs related to “obake” (monsters or ghosts) are released. In addition, haunted house events are held in amusement parks. It’s said that this is because people feel a chill when they see something scary. Another word for “obake” is “bakemono” and these words are used to signify something dreadful that is not of this world.

    Generally speaking, obake are divided into two categories: yuurei (ghosts) and youkai (specters or goblins). It is said that the souls of people who have died with unfinished business to complete, remain in this world and appear as yuurei. One traditional image of a Japanese yuurei is a legless woman in a white kimono. She has a pale face and long hair; to show she is dead she has a white triangular piece of cloth tied to her forehead with a cord. With both arms held out and her fingers pointing downwards. She mutters “urameshiya” (I have a grudge).

    Making her debut in the Edo period (17th – 19th centuries) ghost story “Yotsuya Kaidan,” the most famous yuurei is “Oiwa.” In the story, which has been performed as a kabuki play, Oiwa dies after being poisoned; in order to take revenge on the husband that betrayed her, she turns into a ghost with a horrific face. Another famous ghost is “Okiku,” a maid who appears in the story “Banchou Sara Yashiki.” Blamed for losing a plate, she is killed. The reason many ghosts are female seems to be a reflection of the times when many women were abused and died bearing a grudge.

    Youkai are generally human beings or animals that have been possessed by some kind of spirit which transforms them into a strange shape. When speaking of traditional youkai, the “hitotsu me kozou” (one eyed boy) or “rokuro kubi” (long-necked woman) come to mind. However, because of the influence of the popular youkai manga “Gegege-no-Kitarou,” people nowadays fondly think of youkai as being amusing characters. Sakaiminato City in Tottori Prefecture, which is the home-town of creator MIZUKI Shigeru, has created various youkai sightseeing spots to promote tourism.

    Adapted into movies, youkai legends still exist in modern times. In 1979 the “Slit-Mouthed Woman” became a social phenomenon. The story goes that a young woman with a mask over her mouth asks children, “Am I beautiful?” When they answer, “Yes, you’re beautiful,” she takes off the mask. As she does so, her mouth appears slashed open up to her ears. Another famous one is “Hanako in the toilet,” in which the ghost of a girl appears in a school toilet.

    Lovable Youkai and Shape-Changing Animals

    “Tengu” are legendary creatures which have a red face, a long-nose, and wings with which they can fly. Tengu are worshiped as mountain deities. In ancient times villagers feared them, believing that tengu were responsible for mysterious phenomenon in the village. “Kappa” are youkai who live in rivers and ponds. As tall as a child, they have something that looks like a plate on top of their heads. Kappa are cute and, being gods of water, are loved by Japanese.

    “Zashiki warashi” (household deities), are spirits of the dead who reside in the tatami room (room with straw matting) of a house. It’s said that they play tricks on family members, but that fortune will fall on those who see them.

    On the other hand, it is known that in the old days in Japan foxes or raccoon dogs, took human form, tricked humans, or possessed them. Phrases such as “a bewitching encounter with a fox and a raccoon dog,” are sometimes used in business negotiations. Even cats are sometimes treated as youkai.












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  • ゲームやサムライに興味を持って来日

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Alberto SESTI
    Giulia VALENTI

    Alberto SESTI and Giulia VALENTI came to Japan in March and are studying Japanese at TOPA 21st Century Language School in Koenji, Tokyo. Alberto and Giulia are both from Rome, Italy. Alberto played Japanese games as a child and this led to his interest in Japanese culture. He studied Japanese language and history in college.

    Giulia was interested in Japan’s samurai, and she studied karate for more than ten years in Italy. After developing a fondness for Japanese pop culture, including fashion and visual-kei bands, she decided to go to Japan to study. Both share an interest in cosplay. They often cosplay as characters from the popular game “Final Fantasy.”

    “Before coming to Japan, my family and I were worried because the Italian media had reported that the water in Tokyo was contaminated after the Great East Japan Earthquake. But I was relieved to hear from a Japanese friend that these news reports were exaggerated and I didn’t change my resolve to go to Japan,” says Alberto.

    The two of them study at school every day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Giulia says kanji is the hardest to study. Alberto says kanji is his forte, but he has a hard time studying sentence patterns. In addition to studying at school, they also learn a lot of Japanese by watching Japanese dramas. “I’ve recently been watching ‘Last Cinderella’ and ‘35-year-old High School Student,’” says Alberto.

    Alberto and Giulia live together in Toshima Ward. They spend a lot of time together watching TV and going to their local Book Off (a store selling used books and CDs). “Japanese houses are small. We quarrel from time to time, maybe because we are in the same room most of the time,” they say, half joking.

    On her days off, Giulia often goes to Harajuku and Shibuya. “In Japan there are many people who enjoy all kinds of fashions. I like that it’s acceptable for people to dye their hair all kinds of colors,” she says. Giulia cooks both Italian and Japanese food. “I like things like curry rice, soba, omuraisu (omelet with rice) and oyako-don (chicken and egg on rice).”

    Alberto says he often goes to Akihabara on his days off. “Wherever you go in Italy, the landscape looks the same, but Japan has all kinds of scenery, old towns, new towns. I never get bored.” Alberto says he wants to get a job with a Japanese game developer in the future. Giulia wants to find a job in Japan related to fashion.

    TOPA 21st Century Language School

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi













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  • 人と自然の共存を願う少女の物語

    [From August Issue 2013]


    Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

    This is a work by MIYAZAKI Hayao, the world renowned director of animated films. It was serialized in the anime magazine “Animage” from 1982 to 1994. In 1984, an animated movie of the same title, directed by the author himself, was released, receiving rave reviews. The story is set on the Eurasian Continent in the distant future; since the “Seven Days of Fire” war, industrially developed civilization has collapsed.

    The main character, Nausicaä, is named after a princess from the island of Scheria who appears in Greek myths. Nausicaä is also modeled on the Japanese folk heroine, Mushi Mezuru Himegimi (the Princess Who Loved Insects), who appears in a short story collection written during the Heian period (8th to 12th centuries) called “Tsutsumi Chunagon Monogatari.” Both the Greek princess and Mushi Mezuru Himegimi are described as being young women who delight in living in harmony with flowers, birds and insects. Just like the princesses, Nausicaä also has a deep love of nature.

    Nausicaä particularly loves insects (gigantic creatures that live in the Sea of Decay) called Ohmu and she can read their inner thoughts. She occasionally visits the Toxic Jungle; a dead forest also named the Sea of Decay, home not only to the Ohmu but to a wide variety of giant mutated insects. The inhabitants of the Valley of the Wind do not approve of Nausicaä’s visits to the Toxic Jungle. This is because it’s a wasteland, contaminated with pollution from previous civilizations and covered with fungi that release poisonous spores.

    In the forest, without the use of protective masks, human lungs are destroyed within five minutes. However, the forest is gradually spreading and is about to engulf the world inhabited by humans. Living close to the Sea of Decay, the population of the Valley of the Wind is dwindling year by year because of the toxins released by the forest. The human race is fated to gradually die out, but the discovery of the God Warrior, a biological weapon that scorched the world during the “Seven Days of Fire,” changes things.

    The kingdom of Tolmekia has acquired the God Warrior and starts a war by invading the Doruku kingdom. As the tribal leader of the Valley of the Wind, Nausicaä joins the Tolmekian forces. To lead her kingdom to victory, the Tolmekian Princess Kushana plans to reactivate the God Warrior. At first, not wanting to annihilate life, whether it be that of friend of foe, Nausicaä stands up to Kushana.

    Although a bond grows between the two during intense fighting, eventually they cannot help but go their separate ways. To reactivate the God Warrior, Kushana teams up with the king of the Dorok Empire. But the awakened God Warrior dearly loves Nausicaä and calls her mother. In order to put the God Warrior back to sleep and discover the destiny of the polluted world, Nausicaä heads for the Crypt of Shuwa which holds the secret key to the world.

    Nausicaä discovers the cruel truth that “the Sea of Decay is not the cause of the pollution, but exists is to cleanse the world of toxic substances scattered during the Seven Days of Fire. Because humans have adapted to the toxins in the Sea of Decay, they mustn’t continue to live after the world is purified.” When the story concludes, this film leaves us wondering whether the decision Nausicaä makes after this was correct, or whether she has made a mistake. This work makes you ponder what you would have done in her shoes.

    Text: HATTA Emiko











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