• 生まれ変わる学校

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Due to the declining population, many schools in Japan have been merged or closed. In 2008, Yoshimoto Kogyo, a company known for its comedy shows, moved its Tokyo head office to abandoned school buildings in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Some of its original classroom desks and chairs are still being used. Thus, there are many ways to repurpose abandoned school buildings.
    Arts Chiyoda 3331 (Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo) has turned a former junior high school building into an arts center. With its galleries and café, the site is a focal point for cultural activities, including exhibitions and lectures. At lunch it’s bustling with people who work nearby and mothers pushing baby carriages. In the evening you can find children doing their homework there.
    “Visitors appreciate events like bazaars and music festivals that are held in spaces which were formally a gymnasium and rooftop. There’s an organic garden on the rooftop. One of our defining features is that anyone, not just people interested in art, can easily use it (the center),” says TAMAOKI Makoto, head of public relations. There are plans to periodically invite foreign artists there in the future.



    In the town of Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, the buildings of Sarugakyo Elementary School – abandoned in 2008 – were given a new lease of life in 2012 as a hostel called “Elementary School for Lodgers, Sarusho.” Surrounded by lush nature, guests are free to use the swimming pool, the playground and the kitchen. Among the lodgers are students attending sport camps, working adults attending company training sessions and many others there purely for leisure pursuits.
    “Other abandoned school buildings are often remodeled for use as ryokan or minshuku (traditional Japanese-style lodging). At Sarusho, we wanted to repurpose them as accommodation, but to leave the school buildings as they were. It was hard to get the fire brigade, the Bureau of Public Works and the public health center to understand this idea,” says IIJIMA Kenji, the “principal” of Sarusho. He’s attempting to run the place with his own funds, without receiving any subsidies from local government.
    ITO Masaaki, who has used Sarusho’s facilities with a small group, says, laughing, “We enjoyed playing fondly remembered games such as tag, long rope jumping, catch, and truth or dare. It was a novelty to drink alcohol in a classroom and run along the corridors.” An additional charm of this facility is the fact that you can make as much noise as you want, since it’s rented to just one group per day.
    Depending on your creativity, there is no limit to the ways abandoned school buildings can be reused. They’ve been used as hospitals, libraries, welfare facilities and locations for film shoots. School buildings are solidly built. While it’s costly to demolish them, they can regenerate areas and create jobs when effectively repurposed.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    アーツ千代田 3331 (東京都千代田区)は中学校だった建物を利用したアートセンターです。ギャラリーやカフェなどがあり、展覧会や講演会といった文化的活動の拠点として利用されています。お昼時には近くに勤める人たちやベビーカーを押す母親たちで賑わいます。夕方にはここで宿題をする子どもたちの姿も見られます。

    2008年に廃校となった群馬県みなかみ町の猿ヶ京小学校は、2012年に宿泊施設「泊まれる小学校 さる小」として生まれ変わりました。周囲に豊富な自然があり、プールやグラウンド、調理実習室が自由に使用できます。学生のスポーツ合宿や社会人の研修だけでなく、レジャー目的で宿泊する人も多いです。


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  • 日本の里山体験を楽しむ

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Deep in the Japanese countryside, it’s possible to see a wild landscape known as “satoyama.” On the border between areas populated by humans and the mountains, it’s an environment in which humans coexist alongside nature. After World War II, people’s lifestyles rapidly changed and most of these areas were lost. However, you can still find such landscape in the Hida district of Gifu Prefecture (in Takayama City, Hida City, Gero City and the village of Shirakawa).
    Chura-boshi Company offers guided tours called the “SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE” that highlight the charm of Hida to people from around the world. There have been many successful tours that offer participants the chance to experience the culture and history of this area. All of these tours can be conducted in English.
    The name of the area, Hida Takayama, brings to mind images of old-Japanese style houses. Although they rarely see such traditional Japanese-style houses any more, in Hida, visitors can not only see them, but also stay in them. On such occasions, visitors are asked to bring their own futon, alternatively a shop renting futons can be recommended.
    In Hida Furukawa it’s still possible to find shops that have been in business since the old days: rice stores with a rice mill, mochi (rice cake) shops, and tofu shops. “SATOYAMA DINING” is a tour that focuses on food; it allows you to get a feel for the relation between the local area and its food. It starts in the morning, bringing you to a local restaurant just when you begin to get hungry. Although the tours are in English only, you can study the history of sake in with “DISCOVER THE SAKE” tour. In addition, participants are taught how to wrap sake bottles with furoshiki (a square cloth) and how to drink sake in the traditional manner.
    “HIDA FURUKAWA TOWN WALK” is a walking tour led by a local guide that allows visitors to get to know the town and the surrounding scenery from the point of view of the locals. SHIBA Ryotaro, a well-known novelist in Japan, wrote about Furukawa in his work, “Kaido-o-yuku:” “Because they are unspoiled by tourism, it’s possible to get a sense of the natural behavior, expressions and even the character of the people here.” In this town it’s possible to study a culture and lifestyle that has been handed down from generation to generation.
    The most popular tour is “HIDA SATOYAMA CYCLING.” By making this easy trip along the roads between rice fields, you can enjoy the beauty of farming villages in each season. Also, experienced guides give thorough explanations of the culture and history of “satoyama.”
    For the “KOMINKA OVERNIGHT TOUR,” held two or three times a year, participants cycle around “satoyama” and stay in old houses. All food provided comes from the natural environment of the area. You can enjoy seasonal ingredients such as, freshwater fish, edible wild plants, and soba (noodles). There are also short two-and-a-half-hour tours and hiking tours through a primeval Japanese beech forest (starting point reached by bicycle). Rental bicycles are available.
    SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    株式会社美ら地球が企画する「SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE」は世界中から訪れる人達に飛騨の魅力を案内しています。たくさんのツアーがあり、この地に受け継がれてきた文化や歴史を体験できます。ツアーはすべて英語での対応が可能です。
    飛騨古川には精米屋、もち屋、豆腐屋など昔ながらの店が今も残っています。「里山ダイニング」は食にフォーカスした、地域と食の関わりが感じられるツアーです。午前中から始まるので、ちょうどおなかが空いてきた頃に地元の食事処に到着します。英語だけのツアーですが、「DISCOVER THE SAKE」はお酒の歴史を知ることができます。また、ふろしきを使った酒瓶の包み方、伝統的な酒の飲み方が学べます。

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  • 川から見る、少し違った東京

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Practiced in Japan from the Heian era (8-12th century), boating is sailing on a river or a pond for pleasure. In addition to river cruises, all kinds of boating can be enjoyed all over Japan. In Tokyo, you can rent the “Riverboat Mizuha” for your private use.
    Tokyo is on the Bay of Tokyo where, during the Edo era (17-19th centuries), large cargo was always transported by ships. Tokyo still has many rivers and canals that were used in those days. “You can forget your everyday routine just by pushing off from the shore and being rocked by the water. You can experience this in the middle of a metropolis,” says SATO Miho, managing director of Floating Life Co., Ltd., the company that runs Mizuha.
    Though the boat has a small capacity of just ten, these ten people are accommodated on comfortable seats with a large table. The boat also has a toilet and electronic devices. Since the boat was built to sit low in the water, it can pass under low bridges even when the tide is high. Slender lighting fixtures leave enough headroom inside the boat. Since the tablecloths and lighting fixtures are traditional Japanese artisanal objects, the whole interior of the boat resembles a showcase in which everything can be seen and touched.
    Typical rental periods are for 60-120 minutes leaving you free to choose your route and to have a good time with your family or close friends. If you indicate your preference for “a route with beautiful nighttime views” or “a route that gives a sense of Tokyo’s history,” suggestions will be made depending on the hour and season.
    Customers vary: some hire the boat for a parents’ anniversary, sometimes all three generations of a family enjoy the cruise, and some are small parties on a company outing. A family with small children doesn’t have to worry about bothering other passengers. People have commented that it was good to laugh out loud and enjoy talking knowing the noise they made on the water wouldn’t disturb anyone.
    On other trips, you ride with strangers. “Tokyo Landmark Boating” and “Dusk/Early Evening Boating” (about 60 minutes) are trips that take you through Nihonbashi River and Kamejima River – unchanged since the Edo era – along the Sumida River visiting Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower area. You can see the contrast between canals that still retain vestiges of their old banks, narrow waterways, and the Sumida River – also called the “big river.” In addition to Tokyo Skytree, you’ll also enjoy the many unique bridges that span the Sumida River. In the evening, the reflections of bridge lights on the river’s surface are particularly romantic.
    Sato says, “I’m delighted if it stirs up thoughts such as: ‘I wonder why the scenery looks so different from the river?’ or ‘Was Tokyo such a cool town?’” It’s possible to embark from three locations: Nihonbashi (Chuo Ward), Kachidoki (Chuo Ward), and Azuma-bashi (Sumida Ward). On such sightseeing boats, it’s often forbidden to bring along your own drinks and food on board, but on Mizuha it’s permitted without incurring extra charges. If you request catering, it’ll be provided. English tours are available.
    Funaasobi Mizuha[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    「いつも見ている風景を川の上から見るとどうして新鮮に感じるんだろう? 東京ってこんなにかっこいい街だった?と思っていただけるとうれしいです」と佐藤さんは話します。日本橋(中央区)、勝どき(中央区)、吾妻橋(墨田区)の3ヵ所から乗船できます。このような観光船は飲食物の持ち込みが禁止されているところが多いのですが、みづはは持ち込み可能ですし持込料もとりません。頼めばケータリングしてくれます。英語でのガイドが可能です。

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  • ネットが結ぶ家庭の食文化交流

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Launched in May 2013, “KitchHike” is an Internet service that brings strangers together round the dining table. Foreigners visiting Japan can sample home-cooked Japanese dishes, and non-Japanese living in Japan can serve up their native dishes to Japanese. While the service is available in different countries across the world, the majority of users are in Japan at present.
    “Cooks” display their menus, profiles and prices on the KitchHike site. Deals are made when “hikers” who want to sample one of these menus make a reservation. Registration is free. Prices are currently only in US dollars, but there are plans to deal in other currencies, too. Kitchhike takes a portion of the price charged in service fees.
    Currently, most cooks are Japanese women in their 20s and 30s. What’s unique about KitchHike in comparison with restaurants is that cooks prepare their dishes at home and sit down to eat with guests to enjoy intercultural exchanges with strangers at the dining table. Because of the registration system, so far there hasn’t been any trouble.
    This service was launched by ASARI Yutaka and YAMAMOTO Masaya, former employees of a large advertising agency. “Seeing how Facebook was gaining more and more users in Japan, I started up a web-based business to give people the opportunity to meet up with each other,” says Asari. The two hit upon the idea when discussing their experiences of international travel – a hobby they both share.
    “When I went to Myanmar, I mentioned to a taxi driver at a marketplace that “I’d like to eat a good meal.” He was puzzled at first, but ended up taking me to his own place to have a meal with his family,” recalls Asari. After several such experiences, he began to think, “I’d like to have homes outside Japan.”
    “I don’t mean having a house outside Japan,” says Asari. He believes in the value of meeting locals while traveling and tasting typical home-made dishes with them and their families. “So KitchHike doesn’t deal in room rental for travellers or in homestays. In principle, you simply eat a home-cooked meal together with your host in their home,” he explains.
    Asari is proud to run a business that offers its service to anyone in the world regardless of nationality and language. “It’s rewarding to feel that we’re creating a new culture,” he says. “We’ll be delighted if, say, a mother who cooks for her family is better off and gains self-confidence by turning an economic profit as a KitchHike cook.”
    “Recently, a cook was registered in the Republic of Ghana, West Africa. She’s from a deprived background and had no access to the Internet, but she managed to register with the help of a Japanese NPO,” Asari smiles. “Our service isn’t very well known yet, so we intend to organize events and collaborate with other companies,” he says, describing his dreams of expansion.
    Kitchhike Inc.[2014年8月号掲載記事]


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  • やよい軒

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Yayoiken is a “teishoku” restaurant with more than 250 branches in Japan and over 100 outlets overseas. Teishoku is a well-balanced set meal comprising of Japanese staple foods, including cooked rice, miso soup and side dishes. Great care is taken over the ingredients and food is served in a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Extra helpings of rice are served free to those who order a teishoku or a breakfast from the menu.

    [No. 1] Stir-fried ginger pork teishoku: 538 yen

    Soft strips of pork rib are fried in a special sauce made with soy sauce, ginger and apple juice.

    [No. 2] Chicken nanban (early European style) teishoku: 639 yen

    “Chicken nanban,” a local specialty from Miyazaki Prefecture, prepared as teishoku. Plenty of sweet vinegar sauce and tartar sauce is slathered onto dark juicy chicken meat.

    [No. 3] Fried pork and vegetables: 639 yen

    Full bodied delicious tender pork ribs fried in a special soy-based sauce with plenty of vegetables, including cabbage, carrot, onion and bean sprouts.


    【No.1】しょうが焼定食 538円

    コクと旨味のあるやわらかい豚バラ肉を 、しょうゆ、ショウガ、リンゴ果汁などが入った風味豊かな特製タレで炒めた定食。

    【No.2】チキン南蛮定食 639円


    【No.3】肉野菜炒め定食 639円



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  • 社名に込められた「永遠」の気持ち

    [From August Issue 2014]

    AEON Co., Ltd., known for its AEON logo, is one of Japan’s largest “incorporated retail groups.” Aeon means “eternal” in Latin. As of the end of February 2014, the total number of the group’s employees was about 400,000. With an operating income of 6,395.1 billion yen a year, AEON has been the country’s largest retail group for three consecutive years. Its private brand “Top Valu” carries more than 6,000 products and has sales totalling 741 billion yen a year.
    The company’s core business is its hypermarket division which has some 610 stores both in and outside the country. Based in shopping centers, these stores sell basic necessities, including food and clothing. In addition to these, AEON also runs quite a few supermarkets and discount stores across the country. What’s drawing attention these days are its gigantic suburban shopping centers; there are 155 of these “AEON Malls” in and outside the country.
    An AEON Mall has so many specialty shops that it resembles a small town. Young ladies with an eye for quality, who compare products from different specialist stores, are called “AEON girls.” Manufacturers of clothing and other sundries value the opinions of AEON girls since they have such a good sense of fashion.
    Today’s AEON has the largest sales revenue in Japan, but its predecessor, Jusco, was created from a merger in 1969 of three mid-size provincial companies that were in the same business. Jusco itself grew gradually, collaborating and merging with all kinds of companies. It opened new stores not only in Japan, but eventually overseas as well. In 2001, the company name was changed to its current one: AEON Co., Ltd.
    After becoming AEON group, the group focused its efforts on a tree planting campaign. Since 1991, it’s been implementing the “AEON – Creation of Hometown Forests” campaign in which local consumers plant trees around new malls. This activity reflects the company’s hope that newly created malls will be handy for locals as a place to gather and share a love of nature.
    OKADA Takuya, the founder, appeals to those who’ve planted trees: “Please come back to the store to see how much the trees you planted have grown. Use that opportunity to do some shopping. And love this store forever.” The idea of forever informs their wish for eternity. The number of trees planted in and outside the country has exceeded ten million.
    Group CEO OKADA Motoya says, “In whatever country or region we expand our business to, we always operate under the principle that the customer comes first. We cherish this philosophy and strive to keep innovating.” They aim to become a group that not only sells goods, but also supports people’s lives in general. That sentiment is firmly built into the AEON name.
    AEON Co., Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi








    イオングループになってから力を入れるようになったのは植樹活動です。1991年からは地域の消費者が新店舗の周りに木を植える「イオン ふるさとの森づくり」を進めています。この活動は、新しくできる店舗が地域の人たちが集まる場となること、緑を愛する心が広がることなど、地域の人々に役立つ願いを込めたものです。





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  • 8回目の来日で就労ビザを取得

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Sonia SOMOZA
    “Since 2005, I went through a cycle each year of coming to Japan to live for a while, and when I ran out of money, returning to my country to work, then I’d save some money, I would quit my job and return to Japan,” smiles Sonia SOMOZA from Spain. “I came to Japan for the eighth time two and a half years ago. Because I found work and obtained a working visa, it has been my longest stay yet,” she says with glee.
    Sonia has liked robots since she was a child. “I was attracted to the Japanese robot ASIMO and the manga ‘Dr. Slump Arale-chan,’ which had robots in it. It triggered my interest in Japan and this led me to begin reading websites written by Spanish people who lived in Japan, and to watching Japanese TV dramas and movies. Movies by the director KITANO Takeshi, TV drama ‘Stand Up!’ and the actor WATANABE Ken, made a big impression on me” she reflects.
    When Sonia was a university student, she also went to a language school to study Japanese. “Japanese is rumored to be a difficult language, so I thought that if I could use it, this would enhance my skills,” says Sonia. “But I didn’t get along with the teachers in the language school and this made me dislike Japanese so much that I stopped studying it,” she smiles wryly. After that, she learned Japanese from a Japanese person residing in Spain.
    When Sonia visited Japan for the first time, she was surprised at the difference in customs. “If you give up your seat for someone on the train, rather than saying ‘arigato’ in gratitude, they apologize, saying ‘sumimasen.’ The food was totally different from Spanish food, too. I wondered about this difference and thought, ‘I want to know more about Japan.’”
    After 2010, she worked part-time in Japan and attended a Japanese language school. “I went to Kai Japanese Language School and studied grammar, reading and writing, kanji, and conversation for four hours each day. As my skills improved, I was able to select my own classes. Since I had trouble reading, I took classes in which we read novels; works like MINATO Kanae’s ‘Kokuhaku.’” Thanks to this, she also passed Level Two (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    The high cost of living in Japan was a problem. “When I stayed in Japan for three months while attending Japanese school, it cost at least 5,000 to 6,000 euros. I economized by doing things like buying cheap from wholesale supermarkets.” During her stay in 2011, the East Japan Great Earthquake hit. “I went back to my own country once to reassure my parents, but I came back again the following year and have continued to stay here ever since,” she laughs. Her parents, who were worried then, now look forward to the Japanese snacks, nibbles, and radio controlled toys that Sonia buys and sends to them.
    Using her English, Spanish, and Japanese, Sonia currently works at a real estate agency called Asiavox Plaza Housing. “Many non-Japanese customers often say that they do not want to pay key money (money paid as a gift to landlords). When this happens, I accompany them to the property so that they can understand that those places requiring key money are more comfortable than those that don’t.” She enjoys shopping on her days off. “I buy unique clothes and accessories in Harajuku, and search for stationery at Tokyu Hands. Because my younger sister is into erasable ball-point pens, I often buy some to send to her,” she says.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    ソニアさんは子どものころ、ロボットが好きでした。「日本製ロボットのASIMOや、ロボットが出てくるまんが『Dr. スランプ アラレちゃん』にひかれましたね。それをきっかけに日本に興味をもつようになって、日本に住んでいるスペイン人が書いたサイトを読んだり、日本のドラマや映画を見たりするようになりました。北野武監督の映画やテレビドラマ「Stand Up!」、そして俳優の渡辺謙さんが印象に残っています」と振り返ります。


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  • 忍者バトルと細やかな心理描写が人気

    [From August Issue 2014]

    “Naruto” is an ongoing comic strip serialized weekly in Shonen Jump since 1999. Through numerous battles, it portrays friendships and familial ties between ninjas. There are up to 69 volumes of the book version, and total circulation has exceeded one hundred thirty million copies. It is also very popular abroad.
    The story begins with the hero, UZUMAKI Naruto training to become a ninja while studying at school in Konohagakure no Sato (Village Hidden in the Leaves) in the Land of Fire. Twelve-year-old Naruto does not have parents and the adults around him treat him coldly. This is related to an incident that occurred 12 years ago: the village of Konohagakure no Sato was badly damaged when it was attacked by Kyuubi, a demon fox with nine tails.
    Naruto’s father was the fourth “hokage” to lead Konohagakure no Sato. To protect the village he sealed the nine-tailed fox into the body of newborn Naruto, afterwards losing his life. Because it is forbidden to speak of this, Naruto doesn’t know anything about it. However, because he carried the demon fox inside his body, the adults have kept Naruto at arm’s length.
    Before the story was serialized, the setup was going to be that Naruto himself was the human manifestation of the Kyuubi. However, in a different book, author KISHIMOTO Masashi explained that he decided to change this setup in order that Naruto would be more appealing to readers. The story occasionally explores the fact that as a “human” whose body contains a Kyuubi, Naruto both feels cut off from others and craves acceptance.
    The work is divided into two parts. Part One mainly depicts Naruto’s friendships in Konohagakure no Sato; those friends who will eventually team up with him. In Part Two, the world the story is set in expands. The conflict with ninjas from countries scheming to use the power trapped within Naruto heats up. Naruto finds himself in tricky situations again and again as he faces the various techniques of the ninjas. A large-scale war between ninjas breaks out and more and more people close to Naruto lose their lives.
    Because they are ninjas, the characters live according to their own special code. The story fizzes with unusual vocabulary. However, the troubles and joys depicted are not any different from those experienced by readers. Meticulous attention to detail is taken over the circumstances and psychology of not just Naruto, but of all the characters. This is why there is no arch villain. While viewing the story from Naruto’s perspective, readers can also empathize with the ninjas attacking Naruto and his friends, and it’s this that gives the story its depth, making hearts race. This is perhaps the secret as to why the serial remains so popular after 15 years.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo


    NARUTO – ナルト –

    「NARUTO -ナルト-」は週刊少年ジャンプで1999年から連載中のまんがです。忍者の友情や家族との絆を数々の戦いを通じて描いています。単行本は69巻まで出ていて累計発行部数は1億3千万部です。海外でも大人気です。







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