• 今も進化する日本のカフェ

    [From December Issue 2011]

    When looking for cafes in Japan, what first catches your eye are the major chain stores. For instance, there is the American-owned Starbucks coffee shop or the Japanese-owned Doutor. No matter which branch you go to they typically have Western-style interiors and generally the same menus. Popular chains also sell their own brand beverages in convenience stores. These drinks are popular because they are an alternative to going to the cafs.

    In Japan, there are also Japanese-style cafes and other uniquely themed cafes: the established Japanese confectionery manufacturer Toraya offers an original menu that uses traditional Japanese ingredients such as sweet beans and green tea; the staff at Silent Cafe in Mitaka City, Tokyo, are all hearing impaired; at the Bookshelf Cafe in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, customers can read electronic books using tablets available in the cafe; additionally, “ouchi cafe” means enjoying a delicious beverage at one’s ouchi (home).

    In Akihabara, the city of anime and games, maid cafes staffed by girls in maid outfits are very popular. After these maid cafes became well established, cafes with similar concepts started to appear everywhere. These include shitsuji cafe and miko cafe, which are staffed by butlers and Shinto maidens respectively.

    Last July, a new cafe named the Seiyu Cafe opened in Akihabara. “I intentionally named my cafe with maid cafes in mind. I wanted customers to think my cafe was similar to a maid cafe,” says cafe owner, MATSUKAZE Masaya. “But once you step inside the door, you soon realize that our cafe is completely different. All of our staff are real seiyu – professional voice actors.”

    “I think the person who came up with the maid cafe concept is a genius,” says Matsukaze. “When we go to Kyoto, we expect to see geisha. Similarly, people who come to Akihabara expect to see maids. But most of the maid cafes only feature staff in maid outfits, the ambiance is uncomfortable and drinks are not very tasty. In our store, customer comfort and the taste of our beverages is very important.”

    At the Seiyu Cafe, customers can order dialogue as well as drinks. Serving staff who are also voice actors read the dialogues on the menu at the request of customers. OISHI Tatsuya, a new member of staff, responded to a customer’s request to deliver the lines of a “researcher” by speaking in character for over ten minutes. “Voice actors are in training throughout their lifetime. I am just a beginner,” he says humbly.

    “Japanese seiyu have developed techniques to portray characters using only their voice. This is the hidden power of Japanese animation, and the reason why many fans outside of Japan want to enjoy anime in the original language,” says Matsukaze, who is also a very popular voice actor. “I repeatedly tell my staff to keep in mind that this will be the customers’ first and last visit. My wish is to provide customers with a great experience and give them fantastic memories of the fun time they had here at Seiyu Cafe during their once in a lifetime visit to Akihabara.”

    KAWAI Kazuyuki, a cafe owner for 38 years in Nagoya also tells his staff that, “We should treat each customer with respect, even if they are a tourist visiting just once.” “I want the customers who chose us over the various cafes in town to be satisfied with their choice,” he adds.

    The city of Nagoya where Kawai runs his cafe “Lyon” is a battleground for cafes. This is said to be because Nagoyans have a culture of eating breakfast at cafes. In Japan, it is traditional to eat breakfast at home, but on a Nagoyan weekend, the whole household goes out to a local cafe to enjoy breakfast together. Since competition is intense, many cafes provide “morning service” – a light meal that comes with a beverage. The whole breakfast costs the same as a cup of coffee.

    At Lyon, the morning service menu can be ordered throughout the day. “After morning service, customers stop coming in. I thought, if that is the case, let’s keep the morning service going all day,” says Kawai. “But the hardest part of running a cafe is not the cash flow, but finding good staff,” he adds. “If we find staff that provide service not for the money, but for the sake of the customers, visitors become regulars, which automatically results in a sales increase.”

    Coming out of Nagoya, “manga kissa (cafes)” are a kind of cafe that have now spread nationwide. At these cafes, customers are able to order drinks and read any comic book made available by the cafe. Soon after this boom, similar concept cafes such as “net cafes,” which provide internet access, appeared. Today, internet and manga “fukugou (combined) cafes” can be found all over Japan, providing comic books, internet access and a free drinks bar.

    One of the characteristics of these “fukugou cafes” is that prices are charged by the hour. “Our business is not to serve drinks, but to create a comfortable atmosphere,” says NISHIYAMA Toshiyuki, Chief of Management Planning Division at Runsystem Co., Ltd., which has 184 shops in all over Japan.

    Their biggest franchise store, Space Create Jiyuu Kuukan, located in Takadanobaba has approximately 1,980 square meters of floor space, with over 50,000 comic books, six pool tables, shower rooms, dart boards, computers and even karaoke. “We placed popular comic books next to the karaoke rooms, because some customers who come for karaoke may want to read the latest manga,” explains SATO Hiroki, Assistant Manager to the Franchise Operations Division. “One of the shower rooms is for ladies only. We also set up a store shelf displaying billiard equipment for people to purchase, and a tatami room for families.”

    “We learn what constitutes a popular service from customers,” says Nishiyama. “For example, if there is a long line at the cashier counter, it means that we need to create a quicker check in/out system. That is how we developed our own unique system.” Unique and popular services are quickly imitated by rival competitors. But “we don’t mind being copied,” adds Nishiyama. “Hardware may easily be copied straight away, but our software, such as staff politeness, cleanliness, and high security, is not as easy to duplicate.”

    It’s been said that there is a strong tendency in Japanese to consider “doing something because other stores are doing it.” But if you look to the example of popular cafes, there are many who feel their cafe is different from others, especially in the sense that they have confidence in the service provided by their staff.

    Seiyu Cafe
    Lyon Tel: 052-551-3865
    Runsystem Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo

















    リヨン Tel: 052-551-3865


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  • 日本の子どもたちの習い事

    [From December Issue 2011]

    Even before they enter elementary school, Japanese children are kept busy every day with classes. A variety of subjects are available, including swimming, piano, Japanese calligraphy, and foreign languages. Approximately 80% of pre-elementary school children attend at least one class. There are even children who manage to attend around four or five classes. The monthly tuition and other fees for one class can cost between 5,000 yen to 10,000 yen.

    There are over 200 children attending Yoseikan, a karate dojo in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Of them, 43 students are in kindergarten. The main reason the parents chose this dojo is so their children can learn self-discipline and good manners. At the dojo qualities of independence are encouraged by teaching children the proper way to reply to questions, how to greet others, how to correctly remove and stow their shoes and correct posture. Yoseikan is not only a place where you can acquire karate skills; it’s also a place that builds mental strength.

    “In Japan children used to be taught discipline and correct manners at school and at home, but in modern Japan this is no longer the case. These days adults are inconsiderate of others, and do not exchange greetings. Such adults cannot properly teach their children what is right and what is wrong,” says the head of the dojo, WATANABE Takato.

    The mother of a kindergarten student attending the dojo says, “After my child began karate here, he become more positive about facing challenges, he also lines up his own shoes at the entrance after taking them off without anyone telling him to do so. He looks forward to every class saying, ‘Karate is tough but fun.’”

    Watanabe says, “Once children acquire that enjoyable feeling that they can do anything they put their mind to, they begin to aim higher and thus develop their natural abilities. In fact, one of our third year elementary school girls won the national championships in 2010.”

    Recently, because of the influence of figure skater ASADA Mao and golfer ISHIKAWA Ryo, the numbers of children taking lessons in sports that are typically considered to be for adults only have risen. Kid’s Golf located in Minato Ward, Tokyo, provides golf lessons for children. The most unusual feature of this school is the location of the classes; together with an instructor, children practice on an actual golf course.

    PR representative, KOSHIGOE Saeko says, “Japan does not have an environment where children can enjoy a lighthearted game of golf on a golf course. Our aim is to offer an opportunity for children to get a taste of what golf is, and hope they will grow to like it.”

    At 37,000 yen for two lessons a month, tuition is rather expensive, but there is no dress code and golf clubs can be rented free of charge. There are currently approximately 40 first to sixth grade elementary school students of both sexes enrolled at the school. Many golf-mad parents sign their children up for lessons, but as children quickly improve they too find themselves completely caught up in the sport.

    Giving children the opportunity to study a variety of subjects increases the chances that they’ll realize their true potential. Parents express their love for their children by giving them this chance to grow into respectable adults while enjoying themselves.

    Yoseikan, Karate Dojo, Japan Karate Kohshi Association
    Kids Golf Inc.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko子











    日本空手道鴻志会 空手道場 養正館


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  • 鉄工所生まれの新食材

    [From December Issue 2011]

    Setotekkou Co.,Ltd.

    Setotekkou Co., Ltd is a company in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture, which despite being an ironworks, has attracted a lot of attention from the food industry. For 18 years the company has manufactured rice crackers that are so thin (less than 0.2 millimeters) that they resemble sheets of paper. The only other ingredient added to the rice is locally produced iriko (sardines that have been boiled and dried).

    The impetus for this development was a newspaper article about children who had broken bones simply by kicking a ball. The company considered how they might turn local iriko, which contains a lot of calcium, into something a little more appetizing. That is how they created the rice crackers. When they distributed the product to elementary schools for free, it became the talk of the town.

    They managed to process the iriko using the “instant high-temperature high-pressure firing” method. In just one second, while high pressure is applied, the ingredients are cooked to the core with temperatures of approximately 220 degrees, thus sealing in the nutrients inside. In recent years, the method has evolved further, and the company has developed a technique to press hard foodstuffs such as oysters – a specialty of Hiroshima – and pumpkins, as well as grains, in large quantities. Now, the product range has increased to 50 items.

    The instant high-temperature high-pressure firing method makes it possible to process vegetables and other ingredients, while retaining their bright colors. This method is expected to be applied to various foodstuffs because it can seal in their natural nutrients without using any additives.

    It has also been discovered that foodstuffs processed by this method extract nutrients more efficiently than other methods. This means that nutrients can be extracted faster and in higher concentrations from ingredients. If you eat soup stock made from such ingredients as shiitake mushrooms, crabs and shrimps, you can absorb more nutrients more quickly. Since the method is very effective in making products that can be prepared simply by pouring boiling water over them, it has also astonished the food industry.

    Furthermore, foodstuffs processed by this method are noted for their shelf life. Since the ingredients contain no water, they can last two to three years at room temperature. If tomatoes are ground into powder, all of their natural nutrients can be preserved. Since these dry powdered foodstuffs are completely new, there has been one inquiry after another from restaurants both at home and abroad.

    UEDA Koji, who is in charge of development, says, “It may seem that development has been going smoothly, but after we discovered the efficacy of the method, we had to go through a period of trial and error. The method was originally discovered using techniques employed in our ironworks. All kinds of ingredients were brought in, and we went to a lot of trouble searching for the most appropriate temperature and time period for each ingredient, feeling our way forward to explore the possibilities of the method.”

    In 2010, the company began research into increasing food self-sufficiency by utilizing waste and unused ingredients; such as by reusing the remains of squeezed lemons that were normally thrown away. Taking advantage of the ingredients’ long shelf life, they are now doing research into developing emergency foods for disaster victims and space food. Their research into creating smaller portions and increasing the efficiency of nutrient absorption will be increasingly useful in today’s aging society. Flooded with requests for trial products from across Japan, the company is expected to play an even more important role in the future.

    Setotekkou Co.,Ltd.

    Text: TAKAHASHI Yoshinori













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  • 加賀百万石の城下町――金沢

    [From December Issue 2011]


    Many Japanese people associate Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture with the phrase, “Kaga hyakuman goku.” Used up until the Edo period, Kaga is the old name for Kanazawa and the surrounding area. One koku is the amount of rice consumed by the average adult in a year, and hyakuman goku is a million times that amount. The phrase shows just how rich an agricultural area Kanazawa was.

    This expression, used in the samurai era, is still the city’s catch phrase. It indicates that Kanazawa is a famous castle town (a town that thrived around a castle). To get around the city, it’s convenient to use sightseeing buses called “Jokamachi Kanazawa Shuyu Bus” available from JR Kanazawa Station. There are three different buses named after three of Kanazawa’s famous literary masters: Kyoka, Saisei, and Shusei.

    In Higashi Chaya-gai (East Teahouse District), rows of houses from the Edo period still remain to this day, making it a popular spot among non-Japanese tourists as well. The district was established when the Kaga Domain, which governed Kanazawa in the Edo period, assembled and maintained ochaya teahouses (eating establishments where geisha entertained customers by playing traditional musical instruments such as the koto and shamisen and by performing dances) in the area. In addition to the teahouses that have been in business since the old days, unique restaurants, cafes, general stores and ryokan (Japanese-style inns) stand side by side.

    In Higashi Chaya-gai, there are some general stores which deal in gold leaf. Gold leaf is gold that has been beaten repeatedly into a sheet thinner than a piece of paper. It’s one of the traditional crafts in Kanazawa made with the same method that has been passed down through the ages. If gold leaf were made using only gold, it would be too soft, so it’s mixed with small amounts of silver or copper. Initially encouraged by the Kaga Domain, nearly all gold leaf production in Japan is now based in Kanazawa.

    Because there’s an East Teahouse District, it follows that there’s also an West Teahouse District. Nishi Chaya-gai is adjacent to an area with many temples. The most famous of those temples is Myoryuji Temple. With a number of architectural tricks in place to deceive intruders – such as trap doors, hidden staircases and rooms – it’s been nicknamed the “Ninja Temple.” What’s more, the temple looks like a two-story building from the outside, but once inside, you discover it has four floors.

    To the south west of Higashi Chaya-gai is Kenroku-en, the most famous tourist spot in Kanazawa. Not only is it well-known in Kanazawa, but it’s one of the most famous gardens in Japan. Originally a “daimyo teien” – a garden built by feudal lords in the Edo period for their personal pleasure – now that the daimyo are a thing of the past, Kenroku-en is open to the public. A common sight in Kenroku-en during winter is yuki-tsuri: branches tied together with rope in order to prevent them from breaking under the weight of fallen snow.

    Right next to Kenroku-en is Kanazawa Castle Park. These are the ruins of the castle previously owned by the Maeda family, who used to be the rulers of the Kaga Domain. Its gates and turret (a part of the castle built to watch for enemies and defend against attack) have been restored to look as they did in the Edo period. Based on old plans, pictures and documents, as well as on research findings, they were reproduced, down to the last detail according to the original construction techniques.

    Preserved since the Edo-period, Ishikawa-mon is a gate leading from Kenroku-en to Kanazawa Castle Park. Since the gate is the oldest structure in the park and looks so magnificent, many people mistakenly believe that it’s the ote-mon (the front gate), but it’s actually the karamete-mon (the rear gate). The karamete-mon is the gate used by the lord to escape from the castle in case it becomes impossible to defend against an enemy attack, and it’s designed in such a way that it can be guarded by a small group of people.

    For those who would like to experience modern Kanazawa in addition to the traditional Japanese scenery that remains in the city, we recommend the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, located at walking distance from Kenroku-en and Kanazawa Castle Park. The building is circular with glass walls surrounding it on all sides, and many of its exhibition spaces are accessible free of charge. The most famous work of art there is “Swimming Pool” located on the patio. Looking at the water from above gives the illusion that other visitors below are standing on the bottom of the pool.

    Near Minami-cho, a business district in Kanazawa, is the Oyama Shrine. This shrine has a rare feature not seen in any other shrine in Japan: stained glass is used for the windows at the top part of its shin-mon (main gate). The lightening rod standing on its rooftop is also unique to this shrine. The shin-mon is lit up at night.

    Oyama Shrine is dedicated to MAEDA Toshiie – the first lord and founder of the Kaga Domain – and his wife Matsu. In the grounds of the shrine you can find a bronze statue of young Toshiie. Riding on his horse, a cloak hanging from his back swells in the wind. This cloak is called a horo and is intended to protect its wearer against arrows shot from behind. As it stands out on the battlefield, the cloak is only worn by samurai that are considered skilled by their master and as such, wearing one is a mark of honor.

    Omi-cho Ichiba, north of Oyama Shrine, is the most famous market in Kanazawa. There you can find eating and drinking establishments, many of which serve sushi made from fresh seafood. A fish unique to Kanazawa is nodoguro (literally translated as “black throat”). It is an expensive fish, and the inside of its mouth is black, as its name suggests. Snow crabs are well-known as a winter delicacy in Kanazawa.

    To get to Kanazawa, it is convenient to use Komatsu Airport. Buses go directly from the airport to JR Kanazawa Station, and if you take an express bus, you will arrive at the station in about 40 minutes. Incidentally, Komatsu City, where this airport is located, is the birthplace of Komatsu Ltd., a world-famous company which manufactures heavy machinery.

    Photos courtesy by Kanazawa City

    Text: MATSUMOTO Seiya






















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  • シニア劇団と共に歩む

    [From December Issue 2011]

    Theater Group Suzushiro

    In Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture, there is a senior citizen’s theater group called “Suzushiro” whose members are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. The group, which now has about 20 members, was first established after a theater class for local citizens, “Introduction to Theater for People Aged 60 and Older,” was held in 2004. Since its foundation, the company has been lead by KURATA Misao, who also works as an actor.

    “Back then, I was 28, quite young, so I was worried whether I could teach people who were more than double my age,” says Kurata, speaking about how he began feeling his way around the task of teaching an amateur theater group made up of only elderly people – a rarity in those days.

    Problems such as clashes of opinion in meetings or difficulties memorizing lines cropped up one after another. After overcoming these problems they had their first performance, which turned out to be a great success, and they gradually began to win support from audiences. “Unlike performers in professional or young theater groups, it often takes time for elderly members to learn to do what I advise them during practice, but since people at this generation show respect toward their instructors, the members trust in and listen to my opinions as a director, which I really appreciate,” says Kurata.

    In June 2010, they gave a performance at an off-Broadway theater in New York, which in Japan received a lot of coverage in local magazines, and also on Japanese TV and in newspapers. The plot is as follows: two men, who have died unexpectedly, hesitate to go to heaven and instead talk to each other about their lives in the waiting room of a funeral home while meeting each other’s families.

    The play starts off in Japanese with English subtitles, then English is gradually introduced, and eventually it is entirely spoken in English. “Some of the members had never learned English at school because Japan was at war in those days, but they studied the language extremely hard before they went on stage,” says Kurata. “They had a chance to interact with local American seniors, which made me grateful for the peaceful state of the world.”

    Working as a producer and director, Kurata turned videos of how they had worked toward their performance in New York into a documentary movie titled, “Harebutai wa Broadway de!” (The Big Moment in Broadway!). The movie is scheduled to be shown in Spring, 2012 at Uplink Factory in Shibuya, Tokyo.

    The promoter of the theater group AKITA Keiko says, “I never expected that an activity we’d started simply for our own pleasure would have an impact on society. The theater is fascinating because it allows you to look at yourself objectively. There are a number of hurdles that we faced because the members were elderly people, but we would like to continue doing this.”

    “In a play, we can naturally express the things that have been building up inside us, which I think is great,” says TOYODA Asahi, a member of the group and a former principal of an elementary school. “People who come and see the play tell me that they feel a sense of release.”

    Kurata says, “When I was studying drama, I hoped that I would one day participate in activities which could make a contribution to society. There was a time when I assumed that this would only be possible after I became a professional actor and got famous. Through the activities at Suzushiro, I realized that what I’m doing now is just that.”

    Theater Group Suzushiro

    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko














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  • ある父と子の「宿命」を描いたサスペンス・ドラマ

    [From December Issue 2011]

    Blu ray cover. 143 minutes. 4,935 yen
    発売・ 販売元:松竹
    © 1974・2005 松竹株式会社/橋本プロダクション


    The Castle of Sand (Directed by NOMURA Yoshitaro)

    This film is an adaptation of the original novel of the same name written by mystery writer MATSUMOTO Seicho. The novel has been translated into English, French, Italian, Chinese and Korean. Released in 1974, this film won various awards including the Mainichi Award for Best Film and the Golden Arrow Award. Its humanist story, which uncovers the fate of a father and son who had been separated for about 30 years, received rave reviews. This story has also been dramatized on TV over and over again, each time set in different periods.

    The story opens with a murder that occurs in a Tokyo train yard in the wee hours of June 24, 1971. The investigation falters because there are no clues as to the victim’s identity. However, once a man searching for his missing father comes forward, they are able to identify the victim as 65-year-old MIKI Kenichi. Gradually the truth is unraveled, as Detective IMANISHI and his team investigate.

    Miki, the murder victim, had been a police officer in a village in Shimane Prefecture. Dearly loved by the local villagers, he was even compassionate when delivering sermons to criminals. One day, a roaming father and son arrive in the village. The father, Chiyokichi is suffering from leprosy, a condition which was thought to be incurable in those days, fleeing from society’s prejudice, he has constantly been on the road with his son, Hideo.

    Miki admits Chiyokichi to a hospital and takes in the unwanted Hideo. But, because of his sadness caused by the absense of his father, Hideo soon runs away. He ends up in Osaka, and finds work as a live-in employee with the Wagas, a couple who own a bicycle shop. After the couple passes away, Hideo changes his name to WAGA Eiryo, and grows into manhood. Soon, Waga starts his life as a talented young musician.

    Just around that time, Miki finds out that Waga is actually Hideo. Miki who has continued to communicate by letter with the hospitalized Chiyokichi, is aware that Chiyokichi had been praying for his son’s happiness. Miki visits Hideo, who is now known as Waga Eiryo, numerous times and tries to persuade him to visit his father in the hospital. But the prejudice against leprosy at that time was still strong and Hideo, who has become a famous musician, is afraid that a meeting would adversely affect his public image.

    Some months later, Waga is performing his new song “Shukumei” (fate) at a concert hall. Waga has managed to overcome his isolation and achieved success, but he has never been able to discard his complex feelings toward his father, and he is frantic in front of his keyboard. For awhile images of Waga and his father suffering from discrimination as they continue their journey are shown on the screen. It’s as if the beautiful Japanese scenery and melody flow alongside the fate of this man.

    The story includes a vital key – the word “Kameda” -which connects criminal and victim. Detective Imanishi and his team try to figure out whether the word refers to a person or a place. This film is not just an attention-grabbing human drama, but is also an intricate mystery-suspense movie.


    『砂の器 デジタルリマスター2005』
    DVD ¥3,990(税込)/ブルーレイ ¥4,935(税込)
    発売・ 販売元:松竹
    © 1974・2005 松竹株式会社/橋本プロダクション


    砂の器(野村芳太郎 監督)








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