• Tap Water in Japan is Safe to Drink

    [From August Issue 2015]

    Today, more than 97% of Japanese have access to the public water supply. The water supply is hardly ever cut off due to shortages. In general, no matter where you are in Japan, it’s possible to drink the tap water. However, although the Ministry of Health carries out 51 checks on water quality, some people install filters or buy mineral water.
    In June, an event was held in eight locations in Tokyo to compare the taste of tap water with store bought mineral water. It was organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks. Passersby were asked to drink tap water and mineral water – both at a temperature of between 10°C to 15°C – without knowing which was which.
    This wasn’t the first time this event had been held. During the fiscal year 2014 (April 2014 – March 2015), it was held 153 times and a total of 52,747 people took part. Forty six point seven percent of them answered, “Tap water tastes better.”
    The 1960s was an era of rapid economic growth and even purified, tap water had a nasty smell because of pollution in rivers. Since at that time a lot of people were moving from regions with good quality water to metropolitan areas, there was a widespread perception that “tap water in large cities tastes bad”.
    Since then the taste of tap water in large cities has improved due to developments in water purification technology and stricter controls on pollution. Some municipalities, such as Tokyo Prefecture are tackling the issue by setting “water quality targets.” YAMADA Tomoaki, PR manager at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks, says, “I’m glad when someone tells me, ‘I’ll drink tap water from now on since it tastes better.’”
    To demonstrate the good taste of its tap water, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Waterworks distributes “Tokyo Water” in PET bottles at events. Other local governments, too, are selling and giving out PET bottles of their tap water to advertise its good taste and quality. Such water is sometimes handed out during natural disasters.
    Japan’s waterworks is highly regarded: its pipes have few leaks, its water purification technology is high tech, and its equipment is well maintained. The government and some local authorities in Japan have, for many years, been offering technical cooperation to countries with poorly developed waterworks.
    Bureau of Waterworks Tokyo Metropolitan Government
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年8月号掲載記事]


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  • Comfortable Traditional Japanese Suteteko




    文:市村雅代[:en][From July Issue 2015]

    Since the summer of 2011, more and more people have been wearing “suteteko.” They first appeared in the Meiji era (19-20th centuries) and were originally used as underwear worn beneath men’s pants. They were made from “cotton crepe,” a crimped material that effectively absorbs sweat, and were regularly used during the hottest time of the year. However, since people thought of them as being “something old men wear,” white suteteko were perceived as being uncool and gradually fewer and fewer young people wore them.
    TAKEMURA Keisuke of the underwear maker As Corporation is the person who hit upon the idea of reviving suteteko. “One day, a senior member of staff recommended that I try wearing suteteko. Although I had my doubts about wearing another item of clothing under my pants during the hot summer season, when I tried them on, I was surprised. It alleviated the sticky sensation produced by my sweat and felt smooth against my skin,” he says.
    Takemura recommended suteteko to friends of his own generation. “Although everyone was surprised at how comfortable they were, they still felt dowdy in them.” In spite of that, Takemura felt that the functional aspect of them had potential.
    In addition, Takemura was attracted by the fact that they could also double as lounge wear once pants are removed. By adding colors and patterns, he reasoned that they might even be worn as outerwear (as opposed to underwear). He established the “Steteco Research Laboratory” website in 2008 and started to sell suteteko on the web in daring colors and patterns. Suteteko was reinvented as comfortable lounge wear and purchases by women increased, too.
    As suteteko grew more popular other companies also began to sell suteteko in a variety of different designs and materials. However, Takemura thinks that the best way to feel the utility of suteteko is to wear ones made of cotton crepe.

    Yogateko pants, modeled on suteteko, for women practicing yoga have also been created. “Most yoga wear is manufactured abroad. So, in order to make an item of clothing that would fit the Japanese figure and emphasize the beauty of a person’s legs, we decided that the entire production process down to spinning the yarn itself, would be done in Japan,” says TO Ayako, a representative of Yogateko, who also runs a yoga studio.
    Since she studied abroad in the U.S., To felt that Japanese people ought to be better informed about the quality of items on offer in their own country. So, she combined a cloth entirely made-in-Japan with traditional Japanese patterns. Though most yoga pants are black, her gorgeous yoga pants have been attracting attention. In addition, it’s just been announced that the fabric she uses is the same as that worn by the Olympic athletes representing Japan. Suteteko have become an item that combines the positive aspects of Japanese tradition with the country’s latest technology. The fixed idea of suteteko has been altered and the clothing item has proved itself to be adaptable to a variety of different purposes.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[:]

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  • Bringing Japanese Pop Culture to the World


    2015年3月、日本のアイドル文化を国内外へ発信する「TOKYO IDOL PROJECT」がスタートしました。フジテレビ、コンテンツ事業局アカウントプロデューサー、濵田俊也さんは記者会見で話しました。「アイドルの魅力をアイドルファンの方だけでなく一般の方にもお届けし、2020年の東京オリンピックに向けて日本と東京の盛り上がりをお手伝いしたいです」。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECTは、このようなアイドル文化をより盛り上げるために始まりました。アイドルの活動や魅力をテレビ、ウェブ、雑誌、新聞、ラジオなどさまざまなメディアで伝えます。取り上げられるのは主に女性アイドルで、主要コンテンツは現在のところ4点です。
    その一つ「TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL」は2010年から行われている大規模なアイドルイベントです。2014年は138組のアイドルが出演し、4万人以上の観客が集まりました。今年は8月1日と2日に東京のお台場で開催されます。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVEはTOKYO IDOL PROJECTの基幹コンテンツで、毎月日本の各地で行われる予定です。TOKYO IDOL WEBは記事の掲載やライブの動画配信などを行う世界最大級のアイドルポータルサイトです。コラムニストによるアイドル論を載せるなどアイドルの再定義を目的としているのが特徴です。TOKYO IDOL PROJECT TVではTOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVEの公演の様子やアイドルの最新情報などを伝えます。
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT [:en][From June Issue 2015]

    In March 2015, the “TOKYO IDOL PROJECT” to promote Japan’s idol (pop star) culture in and outside Japan, was launched. HAMADA Shunya – who works as an account producer for the Content Division of Fuji TV – stated at a press conference for the event, “By communicating the appeal of idols, not just to their existing fans, but also to the general public, I hope to get the nation and Tokyo fired up about the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”
    Five groups of idols – Denpagumi. Inc., Idoling!!!, Babyraids JAPAN, Negicco and HKT48 – made an appearance at the same press conference to perform songs. They then talked about their ambition “to let people know Japan has wonderful idols in every region” and “to help the world discover positive aspects of Japan through us idols.”
    A large number of idols are active in Japan’s entertainment business. Most are all female or all male groups with two to a few dozen members. As a rule, their popularity is based not on their beauty, nor on their singing and dancing abilities, but on their cuteness, friendliness, and dedication. Nowadays, idols have branched out into different fields; for instance there are also so-called local idols whose role is to advertise a particular product or region.
    Typically, Japanese fans not only watch their favorite idol’s performance but also root enthusiastically for them to become more famous, or for their status to rise within the group. That’s why many people attend fan events such as meet-and-greet sessions. Some of these events are large enough to be broadcast live on TV. Idols and the movements spawned by their fans have become part of Japan’s pop culture and their popularity is on the rise overseas, more particularly in Asia.
    The TOKYO IDOL PROJECT was launched to further promote this idol culture. It broadcasts details of the idols’ activities and charms through various media, including television, the web, magazines, newspapers, and radio. It’s mostly female idols that are covered and at the time of writing, there are four main points through which the campaign is run.
    The TOKYO IDOL FESTIVAL is one of these projects and is a large scale event that has been held since 2010. In 2014, 138 groups of idols performed and more than 40,000 spectators attended. This year it’ll be held on August 1 and 2 at Odaiba, Tokyo.
    TOKYO IDOL PROJECT LIVE is the main vehicle for TOKYO IDOL PROJECT and will be held every month in different parts of Japan. TOKYO IDOL WEB is one of the world’s largest idol websites offering, among other things, articles, and videos of lives shows. The website is unusual in that it aims to redefine idols by publishing essays about idols by its columnists. TOKYO IDOL PROJECT TV broadcasts clips from concerts and provides up-to-date information about idols.

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  • Theater Specializes in Adaptations of Manga and Anime

    2.5-Dimensional Musicals

    In March, 2015, AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo opened in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is the world’s first theater dedicated to “2.5-Dimensional Musicals,” that is theatrical productions based on manga, anime, and video game titles that faithfully recreate the original’s atmosphere and characters.
    Recently 2.5-Dimensional theatrical productions are increasingly being staged in Japan and audience numbers are growing too. In 2013, about 1,600,000 people attended a 2.5-Dimensional performance. In 2014, the Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musical Association Secretariat was established and began its activities, performing tasks such as compiling and sending out information on all performances both within and outside Japan. The association also opened the dedicated theatre.
    There is an English page on the association’s official website, and it’s possible to purchase tickets from outside Japan. In addition, subtitles are available through a wearable terminal at the theatre. Audiences can choose from a maximum of four optional languages, though the subtitle languages available do change depending on the performance.
    “When the popular musical ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical,’ was staged, 20 to 30 percent of the audience was from outside Japan. When this dedicated theatre was opened, in the hopes of getting more foreigners to see our shows, we installed a subtitle system,” says TODA Naomi, head of PR. “Since it is wearable, it’s possible to read the subtitles without taking your eyes off the actors.”
    In Japan, in 1974, works like “The Rose of Versailles” were adapted into musicals, since then there have been theatrical productions of original manga and anime. “There is a long history of manga and anime being adapted into theatrical productions. But the genre only started to gain wider recognition when the ‘MUSICAL THE PRINCE OF TENNIS’ was staged in 2003,” says Toda.
    This musical was well-received by fans of the manga, for its skillful recreation of the original work’s atmosphere. It also went down well with theatrical fans for the production effect of showing the movement of a ball with a spotlight. “It was a good example of how the world of manga could be successfully adapted for the stage,” says Toda. As the appreciation of both manga and anime rose at home and abroad, the number of adaptations that stayed faithful to the original increased. This resulted in the birth of the so-called “2.5-Dimensional” genre.
    “Rather than mimicking characters, actors play these parts by trying not to undermine the image of the characters in the original work. The director also does his best to recreate the world shown in the original work on the stage. And that’s why the audience’s imaginations are stimulated to fill in the blanks, thus enabling them to visualize the original work on the stage,” says Toda. The 2.5-Dimensional Musical, “Live Spectacle NARUTO” is scheduled to be staged in Macao, Malaysia, and Singapore. Plans to promote this genre to the overseas market are advancing.
    The Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musicals Association Secretariat

    「役者は原作のキャラクターをまねするというよりも、そのキャラクターの持つイメージを損なうことなく演じ、演出家も原作の世界観を舞台上に再現します。だからこそ観客は想像力を刺激され、欠けている部分を空想で補って原作そのもののシーンを舞台上に見るのです」と遠田さん。2.5次元ミュージカルは、「ライブ・スペクタクル NARUTO -ナルト-」がマカオ、マレーシア、シンガポールでも上演されるなど、今後は積極的な海外進出も予定されています。

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  • If Manga is Engaging, it’s Welcomed by Readers Worldwide

    [From April Issue 2015]
    In February 2015, the awards ceremony for the Eighth International Manga Awards was held in Minato City, Tokyo Prefecture. It’s an open contest for manga created outside Japan. It’s organized by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation – a cultural organization specializing in international cultural exchanges and Japanese language education. The Japan Cartoonists’ Association and publishers of manga magazines are also involved. This time, 317 works from 46 countries/regions were submitted and 15 of them won awards. The award winning works from Asia, the West, the Middle East and Africa reflected the continuing expansion and development of manga culture.
    Gold and Silver Award winners are invited to Japan to meet Japanese cartoonists and to visit publishers and other manga-related sites. This year’s Gold Award was given to Nambaral ERDENEBAYAR from Mongolia. Luo mu from China, Ben WONG from Malaysia, and 61Chi from Taiwan were selected for the Silver Award. Though 61Chi had a prior engagement, the other three winners came to Japan.
    “Bumbardai,” Erdenebayar’s award winning work, depicts the close relationship of a nomadic mother and child. “I want to continue depicting the traditional life of nomads. I’d also like to explore the subject of Mongolian folklore,” says Erdenebayar. “I loved Doraemon as a child. I went to the Fujiko・F・Fujio Museum during this stay in Japan and it was like a dream come true.”
    Luo mu, who won her award for “Mr. Bear,” a story about a boy in a bear costume, has been drawing manga for only a year or two. “I’m still quite inexperienced when it comes to drawing manga and constructing stories, so I was both surprised and delighted when I learned about the award,” she says. “I’ll continue to do my best now that I’ve been commissioned to do a series. I’d like to create heart-warming works in the future.”
    Ben Wong who won his award for “Atan,” a story about a boy and a water buffalo, is a talented cartoonist who’d already won an award at the first International Manga Awards. “I became a manga writer because I thought it was a good business opportunity. My entrepreneurial spirit was stimulated by the possibility of success and by the risks involved,” he says. “From now on, I’d like to expand into educational manga,” he said about his ambitions for the future.
    “There was a time when it was said that Japanese manga wasn’t up to world standards. Japanese cartoonists, however, instead of trying to adapt to this, only depicted what would please readers,” said cartoonist SATONAKA Machiko, chief judge. “In whichever country manga is drawn, readers will welcome it as long as it’s fun. And by sharing stories, we get to know about each other’s cultures,” she said, giving words of encouragement to the winners.
    “The level of the art work was so high and the stories were so well constructed that these works might as well have been published in Japan,” says SAITO Yuko from the Cultural Affairs and Overseas Public Relations Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I hope these awards will one day be loved by cartoonists and readers throughout the whole world.” The application period for the next International Manga Award is expected to be from mid-April to late May.
    International Manga Award
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年4月号掲載記事]


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  • New Uses for Japanese Staple Ingredient Katsuobushi


    文:市村雅代[:en][From March Issue 2015]

    Ninben Co., Ltd.
    Used in dishes such as miso soup, “dashi” stock is a basic ingredient in Japanese cuisine. Dashi is not used for its flavor, but is added to enhance other flavors. There are many kinds of dashi stock including dried fermented fish and dried seaweed. The most commonly used ingredient is katsuobushi, which is made from boiled bonito which is dried and fermented. Ninben Co., Ltd. has been selling katsuobushi since 1699.
    In the past, home cooking in Japan used to begin with making dashi. To make a dashi stock, katsuobushi or some other ingredient was placed in hot water and removed once the umami (savory) flavor had been extracted. To save time, in recent years dashi powder and miso that contains dashi has been put on the market.
    Rather than simply selling katsuobushi on its own, Ninben is selling more products containing katsuobushi. “All our products contain katsuobashi as a basic ingredient, but liquid seasoning such as “Tsuyu-no-Moto” accounts for 60% of our sales these days,” says ENDO Haruhiko of the corporate planning department.
    In line with this trend, in 2010 Ninben opened the “Nihonbashi Dashi Bar” inside its Nihonbashi flagship store at COREDO Muromachi 1 (Tokyo). The aim was to allow customers to experience for themselves the umami flavor of dashi extracted from freshly shaved katsuobushi. “Before opening, we thought take-out soups and “katsubushi rice” – a lunch dish topped with fresh katsuobushi shavings – would be our main best-sellers,” Endo says.
    But unexpectedly, the most popular product turned out to be the simple “katsuobushi dashi.” The most sold in one day was 1,800 servings. By January this year the total servings reached 550,000. Given this success, a second store was opened last year at the International Terminal of Haneda Airport. Endo feels that Nihonbashi Dashibar is attracting more attention now Japanese cuisine is on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list.
    Endo says “katsuobushi dashi has a relaxing effect on those who drink it.” Although it’s not common to drink dashi on its own, “it’s so gentle on the stomach that we recommend it as a substitute for drinks like coffee.” At the Nihonbashi Dashi Bar, like sugar and milk in a coffee stand, salt and soy sauce are available for seasoning.
    Until recently, many people thought katsuobushi was exclusively for Japanese food. Yet, Endo says “it can also be used in Western and Chinese dishes.” Katsuobushi is now making waves as an ingredient that is high in protein and gentle on the body. As our dietary habits evolve, it’s possible there will be more opportunities to use katsuobushi in the future.
    Ninben Co., Ltd.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[:]

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  • Experience and Learn the Charm of Traditional Performing Arts in Tokyo

    [From January Issue 2015]

    Tokyo Traditional Arts Program
    Launched in 2008 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, “Tokyo Traditional Arts Program” is part of the Tokyo Culture Creation Project. In Tokyo there remain numerous performing arts traditions. The scheme aims to hand down these skills to future generations.
    This year, three major events took place: Traditional Arts Performances, Traditional Performing Arts for Kids, and Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony 2014. The content of the programs is specifically chosen with an emphasis on making traditional performing arts welcoming and accessible. At Traditional Arts Performances, for example, a show called “Japanese Comedy Traditional and Contemporary” was held. Kyogen actors and comedians perform together and explore the differences and similarities between classic and modern comedies.
    Traditional Performing Arts for Kids operates training programs. Children choose their favorite art from options such as Noh, Japanese dancing; shakuhachi (bamboo flute)and shamisen (Japanese guitar). They then receive lessons directly from top-notch artists. At the end of the program, they have a public show. MORI Ryuichiro, a public relations director of Tokyo Culture Creation Project says: “Learning traditional performing may feel awkward. But these programs offer seven months of intensive training so they can learn in a relaxed atmosphere.” So far, some 1,800 children have participated in these programs.
    Mori says he wants students to get a sense of the value of Japanese culture through these programs; that nothing similar can be found in the rest of the world. “Practiced continuously for 600 years, the art of Noh is an aural tradition that has been handed down through imitation. Registered by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, it’s the world’s oldest performing art tradition still in existence. By experiencing such Japanese traditional performing arts, they will hopefully develop a sense of respect for Japanese culture.”
    Mori says that one characteristic of Japanese traditional performing arts is that they are linked to ordinary people’s everyday lives. “In Japan, Noh stages can be found in the countryside, and kabuki is performed in some farming villages.” Nagauta (long epic songs), kouta (ballads) and the shamisen were popular accomplishments amongst the merchant classes in the Edo period. Bon odori dances held in summer throughout Japan are also a traditional performing art.
    The Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to be held in six years, will be a great opportunity to promote traditional performing arts in Tokyo. “In the Olympics, the host city is expected to hold cultural and educational programs. We’re still deciding what we’re going to offer, but there will be many opportunities for people to immerse themselves in traditional arts. Rather than just watching professional performances, for a more direct experience, I want people from abroad to informally participate in bon dancing.”

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2015年1月号掲載記事]



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  • 高い技術で日本の美意識を表現した紙皿

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    WASARA Co., Ltd.
    With the goal of creating high quality plates and utensils that are disposable yet stylish, WASARA was created of in 2008. Because of their unique high quality designs and environmental friendliness, WASARA plates were used at an opening event of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit as soon as they were launched on the market. Since then, the plates have been prized for their ability to make any dish look appealing, and they are now even used at Michelin-starred restaurants.
    The most important feature is the way the range of 18 items – which includes plates, cups and utensils – goes so well together. Speaking about various inquiries the company receives from its customers, SHIMA Shinako, brand manager of WASARA Co., Ltd., says, “I realized the hospitality industries had been looking for disposable tableware that compliments the cuisine served on it.”
    Designs are simple but, through attention to detail, they show off food to its best advantage. Pulp is pressed into a mold that has a ridged surface giving the finished product the feel of washi (Japanese craft paper), and the plates are cut in such a way that the edge is beautifully finished. Fulfilling such specifications requires a high level of craftsmanship. To develop these unique paper plates, technical help was brought in from sources that usually have no connection to the manufacturing of paper plates; such as from factories that usually produce molds for screws used in cars.
    WASARA’s parent company, Itokei Co., Ltd., manufactures and sells containers for desserts and ice cream. In the days preceding Itokei’s 100th anniversary, management thought about what direction the company should take in the future and decided to create high-value-added products that could be passed down to future generations.
    Plates and bowls are made of bagasse – fibrous matter that remains after the juice is squeezed out of sugarcane – and also of bamboo, which is known for being a fast-growing plant. WASARA’s utensils are made of bamboo. So that they can be returned to the earth after use, they aren’t laminated. If you put them into a compost container, they can be reused as compost.
    Compared with Japan, there are more opportunities abroad for catering and parties, so in the first four years subsequent to the launch of WASARA’s products, exports exceeded domestic sales. These products are currently on sale at nearly 100 shops overseas, mostly in the West. Shima, however, analyzes the situation with a level head, saying, “There are challenges to overcome, such as the issue of distribution costs due to rising oil prices.”
    A set of six medium-sized plates costs 540 yen (including tax), not exactly reasonable compared with regular paper plates. But sales in Japan have been increasing, too. According to Shima, one of the reasons they are selling well is that more and more people actually use them and appreciate their value. The product’s strongest selling point is its eco-friendliness and its additional value of being a disposable item that incorporates a design that makes dishes look delicious.
    WASARA Co., Ltd.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年12月号掲載記事]


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  • 「枡」の新しい役割を探して

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Masukoubou Masuya
    “Sake comes in a one ‘shou’ bottle.” “Boil two ‘gou’ of rice.” ‘Shou’ and ‘gou’ are both units for measuring volume. These units are measured in a special container made from Japanese cypress called a “masu.” Japan used to use shou and gou for measuring units, but nowadays liters and kilograms are mostly used. Masu are used more often as cups for drinking sake, rather than as measuring utensils. And even this (way of using them) isn’t very common.
    OHASHI Hiroyuki, the third generation director of Ohashi Ryoki (Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture), is trying to find new uses for his masu. Masu have been familiar objects to Ohashi since childhood, but upon graduating from college, he joined IBM and his life took a completely different course. However, when he went home at the age of 27 to announce his engagement to his parents, they asked him to take over the family business. Two years later he quit his job and took over the business, initially with little enthusiasm.
    He changed his mind when he took a look at their accounts. “The sales figures were about half of what I’d heard from my parents when I was in junior high school. I was so alarmed that I made the round of our customers across Japan.” In four years, sales rose back up to 80% of what they once were. Yet, around the same time, he started feeling that his sales efforts weren’t making much difference anymore. “I began to understand that if we continued to sell cheap we couldn’t expand.” That was the second time warning bells went off.
    So he began to wonder if he could create something new by improving his masu. At the same time, he tried to satisfy all of his customer’s requests. He soon secured a large order. It was a huge opportunity, but the quantity was such that he failed to handle it properly and ended up delivering a large amount of defective products. “That was a huge failure. Since then, I’ve decided never to take on any work we can’t deal with.” Adopting a policy of selling only quality handmade products, he managed to create different models of masu by producing a variety of prototypes.
    To sell these items, in 2005 he opened the factory store “Masukoubou Masuya” on his factory site. By offering unusual products – storage cases for knickknacks with synthetic marble lids, triangular sake cups, different-sized masu for easily measuring ingredients for bagels or buns with a bean-jam filling – more people took an interest in masu itself and the sales of traditional masu also increased.
    Ohashi is enthusiastic about overseas marketing. In order to do this, rather than advocate that they are used in the same way as they are in Japan, he intends to suggest different uses of masu to suit different lifestyles. “Should we market masu with additional features or create something entirely new? It’s hard work to come up with ideas, but I wouldn’t be happy if our products were only used for a short time.” At a trade fair in New York, he showcased them as containers for seasonings, including sugar, and also as utensils for measuring ounces.
    Masu have been used for 1,300 years since the Nara era (8th century). Ohashi describes the appeal: “Its story has been cultivated by its long history. It’s possible to sense the smell and warmth of Japanese cypress. It also has a complete, simple beauty.” His newly purposed masu have inherited those characteristics.
    Masukoubou Masuya
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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  • 紙のように薄い老眼鏡

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Nishimura Precision Co., Ltd.
    As the name suggests, Paper Glass are quite literally paper thin reading glasses. They can be folded flat to a thickness of two millimeters. If you open them out, the lenses tilt downward to help you read the text before you. The temple arms that fit over the ear curve gently round to match the shape of the head. These portable and beautifully designed reading glasses were created in 2012 and won a special award at the Good Design Awards in 2013.
    SAITO Rikito, PR staff member for the sales company Nishimura Precision Co., Ltd. cries out delightedly, “Until then, we were taking two to three months to produce a batch of 100 pairs. Since the award, this has risen to 6,000 a month.” From this it’s possible to deduce that a lot of people were waiting expectantly for them.
    Paper Glass are made by Nishimura Co., Ltd. in Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture. Sabae City produces 90% of Japan’s eyeglasses and has a 20% share of the world market for eyeglasses. Nishimura was once a manufacturer of screws and hinges for eyeglasses. However, in the beginning of the nineties, they started losing work to China. Because of this, in addition to manufacturing glasses, they began taking metalworking contracts to make the best use of the technology they’d developed as a manufacturer of other metal parts.
    At the start of the millennium, they received a tricky commission to produce robust reading glasses which are easy to carry and stylish. Through trial and error, they came up with a way to fix the hinges on the frame at a diagonal angle. With all the requirements met and the hinges installed at this angle, the lenses naturally tilted forwards when worn. This is ideal for reading and for peering over the lens to view objects further away. It dispenses with the need to constantly put on and take off your glasses. The company has patented this technology.
    Nishimura had never produced a complete pair of eyeglasses itself. The company launched its own brand when another company in Sabae City taught them the basic knowhow required to produce a pair of spectacles. In order to develop new sales channels, the decision was made to sell the glasses on the company’s own website.
    The advantage of online sales is that user feedback directly reaches the company. Taking these opinions into consideration, minor changes are occasionally made. For example, the frame width has been adjusted. Although all Paper Glass were designed as one-size-fits-all models for both men and women, some female users commented, “They are so wide that they fall off.” In answer to those complaints, the models were redesigned to fit women’s faces.
    “Elderly ladies in particular have told us that ‘you’ve made reading glasses that I can finally use outside my home.’ Some say they didn’t even feel like going out because they didn’t want to wear reading glasses in front of others,” says Saito.
    If all you want is to be able to see, it’s even possible to buy glasses at 100-yen shops. Paper Glass provides extensive customer service: different strength lenses for each glass are available and repairs are basically free. Paper Glass spectacles have completely revamped the image of reading glasses.
    Paper Glass
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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