• 文化伝承の新たな一歩を踏み出したアイヌ民族

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Including Sapporo, 80% of place names in Hokkaido have their origin in the Ainu language. These kind of place names show us that “the Ainu have lived in Hokkaido,” but they don’t show us how they lived, or tell us anything about their present way of life.
    Ainu are an indigenous people of Japan. Wajin, or ethnic Japanese (other than Ainu), settled in Hokkaido in order to fish its waters in the Edo era (17-19th centuries) about 400 years ago. Analysis of excavated earthenware shows that Ainu already lived in and around Hokkaido some 20,000 years ago.
    Ainu made their living mainly through hunting and fishing. Trading animal skins and dried fish, it’s known that they traded with what are now Russia, China and Japan’s Honshu. Free trade, however, was banned by wajin during the Edo era. During the Meiji era (19-20th centuries), Ainu culture was destroyed; the use of Japanese language was made compulsory and hunting and fishing, their main livelihood, was restricted by the infrastructure imposed by the country’s modernization policies.
    Because of this history, the Japanese government has recognized the state’s responsibility to ensure the preservation of Ainu culture and has decided to build the national “Symbolic Space for Ethnic Harmony” in Shiraoi Town, Hokkaido. It’s scheduled to be completed before the Tokyo Olympics of 2020.


    Entrance to the Museum

    YOSHIDA Kenji of the Comprehensive Ainu Policy Office at the Cabinet Secretariat explains the role of the building, “Ainu culture and history can be studied at this facility and memorial services for remains that have been kept at universities can be performed in this space. As well as being a place in which the spirit of the Ainu people can be housed, it is also a symbol of respect and harmony between different ethnic groups.”
    The Ainu Museum, founded in 1984 and run by Ainu themselves, stands beside Lake Poroto in Shiraoi and has some 180,000 visitors a year. There you can enjoy performances of traditional dancing and music and learn about Ainu culture by trying your hand at activities like cooking or playing musical instruments.
    Affiliated with a Finnish museum that introduces the culture of the indigenous Sami people of Northern Europe, the Ainu Museum has many visitors from abroad. There were eight possible sites on which to construct the Symbolic Space, however, the existence of this museum was the deciding factor in the selection of Shiraoi.
    This museum has played an important role in passing on a cultural heritage to younger generations of Ainu. Today about 24,000 Ainu live in Hokkaido alone. They all reside in ordinary Japanese houses and their lifestyle is the same as that of other Japanese people. Even if they have Ainu blood, they have few opportunities to learn about their culture.



    As there were times when Ainu were discriminated against just for being Ainu, the majority of Ainu families avoided teaching their children their culture and customs. Traditional rituals held regularly at the museum, therefore, provide precious opportunities for Ainu themselves to learn about, and practice, their culture. The museum creates jobs, too. “I’m grateful that I can pass on my culture through my work,” says YAMAMARU Ikuo, administration officer of the Ainu Museum.
    Yamamaru was in his 40s when he rediscovered his Ainu heritage. “There had been a fire in a chise (house) at the museum site. I was working in construction in those days and I helped with the reconstruction. I was surprised to learn for the first time that Ainu had unique ways of choosing building locations and of building houses.” That experience led to him working for the museum. Now, alongside performing a variety of traditional rites, he’s also involved with a project to pass on cultural traditions to younger generations.


    Experiencing playing the tonkori, a traditional musical instrument

    The museum has been running a “leadership training course” for six years. The course, which lasts three years, gives young people of Ainu descent an opportunity to learn about their heritage. The second class is now in its final year. Besides Shiraoi, the lakeside of Akan lake and Biratori Town in Hokkaido are also known for their kotan (Ainu villages). Each has its own unique style of traditional dancing and wood carving. The students also go to those places to get a comprehensive understanding of Ainu culture.
    Yamamaru says that people need to take pride in their own culture in order to pass it on to future generations. Since things like Ainu craft works have enjoyed a revival in recent years, more and more people are now feeling that “our culture isn’t something to be discarded after all.” When they go to Tokyo to participate in events, some take the subway in ethnic clothing. He really feels that attitudes are changing.
    Yamamaru says he hopes some graduates of the course will act as leaders at the Symbolic Space in order to create new traditions. He says, “Culture is a living thing, so it’s natural for it to change.” He hopes that, instead of stubbornly preserving old things, by fully understanding them, it will be possible to create something new.
    Yoshida says that the Tokyo Olympics, to be held in the same year the Symbolic Space is due to be completed, “will be a good opportunity to disseminate information. I hope we can make it appealing.” The Olympics is a festival for ethnic groups. In the past, indigenous people displayed their culture at the opening ceremonies of the Sydney and Vancouver Olympics. Ainu have just taken new strides in passing on their culture. It will be the right occasion at which to let the world know about the Ainu.
    Ainu means “people” in the Ainu language.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2013年12月号掲載記事]






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  • 新しいスタイルが広がる日本の贈り物

    [From December Issue 2013]

    In addition to birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, in Japan there are many opportunities during the year to give gifts to show your appreciation to somebody, including ochuugen (midyear gifts in summer) and oseibo (year-end presents).
    It used to be common to deliver items by hand or to send them by post, but new styles have become popular. Recently, more people are giving “an experience.” The range of content varies, from a voucher for a meal in a restaurant, to a horseback riding experience. Since 2010, more and more websites exclusively dealing in these experience-based gifts have appeared. One of these sites called “expe!” is run by “Felissimo,” a mail order company that deals with fashion items and other miscellaneous goods.
    “It is said that people in their teens to twenties these days are not particularly attached to material things. On the other hand, if you’re talking about people of the bubble generation, they are more satisfied with possessing material objects and know how to enjoy spending money. We believe that both generations are able to accept experiences rather than material objects,” YUMOTO Kyoko of expe! operations department says, giving her analysis of the current popularity of such experience-based gifts.


    Japanese dance experience

    Ever since the website was established last July, the most popular gifts have been relaxation experiences, such as beauty treatments. Besides this there are options that allow the person receiving the gift to choose an experience which appeals to them. Options include working as a bus tour guide, or a shrine maiden; the fact that many people rewarded themselves with these kinds of personal experiences drew a lot of attention. Future products in the pipeline include gifts for men and gift plans that are suitable for ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, coming-of-age days and celebrating a new job.
    A new style of giving gifts has also been invented. Even if you don’t know the address of the recipient, it’s possible to send a present through Facebook or other SNS sites. Dubbed social gifts, this service started out around 2010 in Japan. Though they specialize in easily sending small gifts like a 300 yen cup of coffee, depending on your purposes there’s a wide variety of services to choose from, so it’s also possible to have products delivered.
    All About “Utilization of Mail Order and Net Shopping” guide ENDO Namiko says, “Because we can find out the birthdays of friends and acquaintances that we did not know about before by friending them on Facebook, there are more opportunities to celebrate these occasions. Also, from looking at people’s statuses on SNS, for example when they write that they’ve completed a big task, there’s been an increase in opportunities to give casual gifts to mark occasions other than birthdays, so we can give them a beer for a ‘job well done.’”
    According to a certain survey, only 5% of Internet users have given a social gift. “Currently social gift services are run independently from SNS, so this may be a hurdle. If a service run by an SNS that suggested products to commemorate friend’s birthdays were introduced, this might facilitate things,” speculates Endo.
    A social gift service run by Facebook has already been launched in the United States. In addition, the Japanese version of “Wrapp” – a Swedish enterprise that provides free or subsidized products sponsored by companies as social gifts – is in the pipeline. When this service launches, the Japanese social gift market will surely undergo a drastic change.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2013年12月号掲載記事]


    All About「通販・ネットショッピングの活用法」ガイドの遠藤奈美子さんは、「Facebookで友達になると誕生日がわかるので、これまで誕生日を知らなかった友人や知人に対してお祝いできる機会が増えたのではないでしょうか。またSNSで近況がわかるため、大きな仕事がひと区切りついた、と書き込みがあれば『お疲れ様』のビールを一杯プレゼントするなど、誕生日以外にもちょっとしたプレゼントを贈る機会が増えたと思います」。


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  • 飛び散る火花から生まれる日本の刀

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Blades are useful for a variety of tasks in our daily lives: kitchen knives to cut raw fish up into sashimi, scissors to create beautiful hairstyles and razor blades to keep skin smooth. These days most blades used in Japan are manufactured in Japan. Sharp edged and suitable for delicate work, blades made in Japan are renowned throughout the world. So why are Japanese blades at the cutting edge?
    Located in the center of Japan, Seki City in Gifu Prefecture is an area known for the production of blades. Blades made there are distributed not only to the domestic market, but also to other areas, including Europe and the U.S., making it a world famous brand like Germany’s Solingen. Blades made in Seki have the largest share of Japan’s market; from blades used for haircuts – which are the best in the country – and kitchen knives, to other types of knives and scissors.
    The reason Seki became the center of production for blades in Japan is that it is following on from a 700 year old sword making tradition that began in the Kamakura era. YOSHIDA Ken, a representative of sword maker Kajita-token, says, “It could be that the level of craftsmanship of blades in Seki is so high because it’s ideally located to easily source high-quality materials and there is an infrastructure in place to distribute swords around Japan.”


    太刀 全長 73cm 刃文 反り 2.1cm
    銘 御護濃州住正明作之

    Yoshida says, “Compared to other sword makers, who were protected by powerful military commanders, sword makers in Seki did everything themselves from production to sales, so they gradually became powerful themselves, without having to rely on people in power. It could be that craftsmen who heard about this reputation flocked to the city, and this also contributed to Seki becoming a city that is highly regarded throughout the world for the production of blades.”
    When a knife cuts well, it’s often said that it is “as sharp as a sword.” The reason that Japanese blades are so sharp is that skills acquired through making swords were utilized for making other kinds of blades. For instance, scissors are made with two blades and it’s particularly important when manufacturing to both make the blades sharp and to put them together. To get a sharp edge, it’s necessary to toughen the metal immediately after it is heated.
    Simply put, the art of sword making is in making steel from a reaction of iron fillings with carbon, which is then repeatedly forged into the shape of a sword. There are many steps in the production process but the main phase is forging. The work of a sword smith involves repeatedly striking steel so that it is stretched out; in temperatures of 1,300℃ little by little it takes shape. This reaches its climax in a process called tempering. Tempering involves hitting steel that is still rather soft to strike off impurities; this adjusts the structure of the steel. When the small mallet of a licensed sword smith and the large mallet of his apprentice are swung down alternately, a lot of sparks fly around.
    In this way, a sword smith’s work is all done by hand. Because it’s impossible to automate, experience, intuition and all the five senses are brought into play. To make the best swords, high temperatures are important for creating the finest possible steel. This is reflected in the English phrase “Strike while the iron is hot.” Forging has a close connection with sword making.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2013年12月号掲載記事]



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  • 大分県――地球のエネルギーを感じる「温泉天国」

    [From December Issue 2013]

    An area of hot springs, Oita Prefecture is visited by tourists not only from within Japan, but from all over the world. Although located in the Kyushu region, links with the Chugoku region, Shikoku, and Kansai have flourished via the Seto Inland Sea. This is because Oita is surrounded by mountains, and therefore, until the advent of modern roads and railroads, interaction with other prefectures in Kyushu was rather limited.
    In terms of their sheer number and output, the hot springs in Oita Prefecture outstrip any other in Japan. Within the prefecture there are 4,471 individual sources, the greatest concentration in the world. There are 11 varieties of hot spring in the world, ten of which can be found in Oita. Whether you’re talking sand baths, mud baths or steam baths, Oita’s springs are also characterized by their rich diversity. There are also carbonated hot springs, hot springs that turn from being transparent to brown when the water comes into contact with the air, and hot springs that you can drink from to help alleviate stomach disorders.
    In Beppu City, where over half of the prefecture’s spring sources are located, hot springs have been typically utilized as public bathhouses for centuries. That’s why, even today, many old houses do not have a bath. Moreover, these days it’s not unusual for baths in modern homes to draw their water from a hot spring.


    View of Beppu Onsen

    Taking the best part of the day to cover, the “Hell Tour” begins just five minutes by car from the Beppu Interchange. From the blue “Umi-jigoku” (sea hell) to the red “Chinoike-jigoku” (blood pond hell), it’s possible to see eight individual hot springs. Scalding hot water gushes out from each spring with tremendous force, allowing visitors to experience the enormous power of the Earth’s energy firsthand. Jigoku-mushi savory dishes and puddings are cooked instantly by harnessing the power of the high temperature steam.
    Only a 40-minute drive from The Hell Tour, is “Yu no Tsubo Kaido” (Hot Spring Boulevard) in Yufu City, another popular tourist spot. The street is lined with gift shops and eateries. One street away from the main road is the Oita River where one can take a stroll and enjoy the scenery that changes according to the season. Only a 15-minute walk away is Kinrin Lake, in which a hot spring bubbles up from the bottom. On winter mornings this creates a fog on the surface of the lake; a fantastic spectacle.
    Another 50 minutes by car from Kinrin Lake is Kokonoe “Dream” Suspension Bridge in Kokonoe-machi. At 173 meters high and 390 meters long, it is Japan’s largest suspension footbridge. From the highest point of the bridge, it’s possible to enjoy some spectacular scenery: the Kuju Mountains, the Kyusui Ravine, the Shindo Waterfall and the Naruko River Canyon. A 45-minute drive from there takes you to the Kuju Flower Park on the Kuju Plateau in Taketa City. With the Kuju Mountains as a backdrop, in this extensive flower park, depending on the season, a variety of different flowers bloom including, tulips, lavenders, and cosmoses.


    Usa Jingu

    Situated on the north side of the Kuju Mountains, the Tadewara Wetlands in Kokonoe-machi is a marsh formed from an alluvial fan created by volcanic activity. Along with the Bogatsuru Wetlands, it was registered in the Ramsar Convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance) in 2005. It is possible to stroll freely through these wetlands and the surrounding forests along a trail that was constructed for the purposes of studying the nature in the area.
    Those with an interest in history should head for the Stone Buddhas of Usuki in Usuki City. Carved into a natural cliff face, the statues have been designated a natural treasure. Believed to have been carved around the 12th century, there are four groups of over 60 stone Buddhas. In the nearby Stone Buddha Park different flowers can be enjoyed in different seasons, but it’s recommended that visitors go in July and August when the Sacred Lotus blossoms. In Oita City there are also the Oita Motomachi Stone Buddhas and Kamezuka Kofun (an ancient burial mound). In Bungo-ono City there are the Sugao Stone Buddhas.
    Usa Jingu in Usa City is the head shrine for over 40,000 Hachiman shrines across the country. The grounds are so enormous that it takes about an hour to walk around the whole perimeter. One notable feature is that, along with many of its surrounding buildings, the main shrine – which has been designated as a national treasure – has been lacquered in vermillion. Only used once every ten years, another highlight is the covered bridge and courtyard. The road leading up to the shrine is lined with a number of gift shops.


    Suya no Saka

    An Edo period (17-19th centuries) townscape has been preserved in Kitsuki City. The sloping streets of “Suya no Saka” and “Shihoya no Saka” used to connect the higher level samurai manors with the merchant town below and, because of their scenic beauty, are often used as a backdrop for filming TV dramas and movies. Before taking a stroll, it’s recommended that you visit Waraku-an, where you can rent kimono to wear for only 2,000 yen, this also earns you free admission into Kitsuki Castle, a museum and other places. If you don’t speak Japanese, it is no problem, but English-speaking representatives can be made available if you call ahead of time.
    Those who want to immerse themselves in nature are encouraged to visit the Inazumi underwater limestone caves in Bungo-ono City. Caves of this scale are rarely found anywhere else in the world. Formed 200,000 years ago during the glacial period, there, countless stalactites can be found. The water inside is over 40 meters deep. Magical scenery can also be found at Yufu River Gorge in Yufu City. The v-shaped gorge, measuring between 20 to 50 meters deep, with its innumerable strings of cascading water and smoothly eroded rock is a natural work of art.


    Inazumi underwater limestone caves

    These days the “Olle” style of travel, which originated in Korea, is attracting attention. With a map in one hand, participants walk along at their own pace, looking out for ribbon signposts placed along the route while enjoying the scenery. In the dialect of Jeju Island in Korea, Olle means “the narrow road home.” In Kyushu there are eight routes. Passing by various parks and temples along the way, the Oita route starts at Asaji Station in Bungo-ono City and gives hikers an enjoyable taste of the rural landscape. Finishing at Bungo Taketa Station in Taketa City, the route is approximately 12 kilometers long and takes five to six hours to complete.
    Blessed by nature, Oita has lots of delicious local cuisine to offer. Its dried shiitake mushrooms and barley shouchuu liquor are renowned throughout Japan. Oita brand seki aji (Japanese horse mackerel) and seki saba (Japanese chub mackerel) are considered to be of the highest quality. Normally chub mackerel has to be cooked to be eaten, but this variety can be eaten raw as sashimi. Oita produces 97% of the kabosu (a type of citrus fruit) grown in Japan. With its juice poured over sashimi, tsukemono (pickled vegetables) or into beer, most of it is consumed in the prefecture. Toriten deep-fried chicken dipped in tempura batter is a staple local specialty as well as a traditional home-cooked dish.


    Seki saba

    In the Oita Prefecture Tourism Guidebook are a number of different coupons offering discounts and special promotions. Information and directions are available in English, Korean and Chinese both inside JR Beppu Station and on the street just outside the station. A “Friendly Guide” service can be provided if requested at the cost of 3,000 yen for two hours, excluding travel expenses.
    It takes roughly six and half hours to get to Oita Station from JR Tokyo Station on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train), transferring at Kokura along the way. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo it’s roughly a one and a half hour flight to Oita Airport. At Oita Airport, plastic replicas of sushi plates of shrimp and sea urchin revolve around the conveyor belt as you wait for your luggage.
    Tourism Oita[2013年12月号掲載記事]







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  • サンタクロースに学んだ「親の品格」

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Paradise YAMAMOTO
    “It was pure chance that I became a Santa Claus,” says Paradise YAMAMOTO. Paradise is the only Japanese Santa Claus recognized by the Greenland World Santa Claus Congress. At Christmas time, he visits children who are unable to go home at children’s hospitals and care homes.
    In his real job, Paradise is a Latin music musician. In 1998, out of the blue, an acquaintance asked him, “Do you weigh more than 120 kilos?” When he answered, “Perhaps, but just barely,” he was asked, “You’ve been a Santa Claus, too, haven’t you?” Paradise had worn a Santa Claus costume for his live shows and events at kindergartens. So when he answered “Yes, I suppose so,” he was told, “Then, for God’s sake, go to Denmark.”
    Paradise went to the headquarters of the association, took an exam and passed it to become an authorized Santa Claus. For the first few years, however, he worried about whether he should continue as an authorized Santa Claus. He receives no money whatsoever from the association and it’s forbidden to give out “letters from Santa Claus” in exchange for money. He also has to go to the association every year at his own expense to attend the The World Santa Claus Congress. “On top of all that, you have to be dressed as Santa Claus when travelling between your home and Denmark. It’s physically demanding in the middle of summer,” Paradise smiles wryly.
    His wife said to him, “If it’s that hard and you want to quit, why don’t you quit?” He understood however that she was giving him a push. “If I quit now, the past few years would be meaningless,” he reasoned.
    Paradise had an unforgettable experience. “When I visited a care home, I met a child who usually spoke to no one. That child spoke to me of all people. The staff at the home were surprised and said, ‘That’s the first time we’ve heard that child’s voice.’ It’s this kind of thing that makes me think it was worth it despite my doubts.”
    Paradise is from Hokkaido. “When I was small, there were footsteps in the snow outside the window on Christmas morning. My parents not only left presents, but also orchestrated that kind of thing. As a child, I would jump around with excitement crying, ‘Santa Claus came from that direction!’ I gave my parents trouble as a high school student, but when I remembered those Christmas days, I sensed their love and decided to do the same thing myself for children. I think I learned about parental values from Santa Claus.”
    Paradise isn’t happy about the general perception of Santa Claus in Japan today. “Japanese children take it for granted that they’ll receive expensive presents from Santa Claus. I feel sad when I hear a child say ‘I’m going to get a game console for Christmas and buy software for it with my otoshidama (money given as a gift to children at New Year).” I’d rather they experience a dramatic Christmas that brings the family closer together.”
    Santa Claus Site
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2013年12月号掲載記事]


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  • 音大生の姿を描いたコメディー

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Nodame Cantabile
    Set in a music college, “Nodame Cantabile” was serialized between 2001 and 2010 in the women’s manga magazine “Kiss.” “Nodame” is the nickname of protagonist NODA Megumi who is studying at the piano studies department. “Cantabile” is a musical term that means “songlike.”
    Living in a room filled with junk, Nodame is an eccentric character who sometimes emits strange cries, such as “hagya” or “mukya.” She dreams of becoming a kindergarten or elementary school teacher in the future, but she is not a diligent student at college and her grades are not so good. In fact, CHIAKI Shinichi, who attends the same college, sees that she is exceptionally talented.
    Shinichi is one year senior to Nodame and is also taking piano studies. His father is a famous pianist, so he spent his youth in European countries. He gets the best grades in piano studies, and although he is better at playing the violin, he wants to become a conductor in the future. He hopes to study abroad, but has become traumatized because of an accident in the past and is unable to travel by either airplane or ship. He is secretly anguished by the fact that he may never leave the island of Japan.
    Shinichi is handsome, is talented musically, and is good at cooking. Living in the room next door to Shinichi, Nodame forces herself on him. Other eccentric characters include a drop out from violin studies, a male timpani student who has a crush on Shinichi, and Shinichi’s proud ex-girlfriend who enrolls for choral studies and is still in love with him.
    Musical performances and classical pieces are featured in many scenes. Just as in a real college of music, the dialogue is peppered with musical terms. However, it’s been said that the author, NINOMIYA Tomoko, having no knowledge at all of classical music, thoroughly researched the subject before beginning the series. As a result, although the work was intended to be a comedy, it is also realistic. Some believe that the author is a graduate of a music college herself. The manga is popular with music students.
    However, the story centers not on music, but on the development of the characters of Nodame and Shinichi; on how Nodame changes from being a person who does not take the piano seriously, despite having had her talent recognized from an early age. It also deals with what Shinichi, who is unable to go abroad, should do in Japan. It’s an inspired work that seriously gets to grips with the world of music, while delivering laughs at the same time and is widely appreciated, even by people who have no knowledge of music. There are 25 volumes of this manga. With more than 36 million copies printed, it was a huge hit.
    When the story appeared on TV as a live action drama and animation, the number of people interested in classical music increased. On the day following a broadcast, CD shops would receive many inquiries about musical pieces used in the program. Seven sets of Nodame-related CDs were released. Increasing numbers of people attended classical concerts and purchased classical CDs, on top of the classical music fans that already existed, and a boom got underway.
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2013年12月号掲載記事]


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  • 日本語を学習してホテルで働く

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Both from China, Urgenbayar and LIU Sichen work for Tokyo Business Hotel (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo). Urgenbayar comes from Chifeng in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Lui was born in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang.
    Urgenbayar came to Japan in 2004. After graduating from college in China, he spent two years searching for a job but was unable to find one. Thinking that as Japan was an economic powerhouse there’d be work, he enrolled in a Japanese language school in Hohhot for half a year. His nomad parents approved and gave him money after selling about a third of the livestock they owned.
    After coming to Japan, he studied for a year at a Japanese language school and then went on to study at the Faculty of International Development in Takushoku University. His major was Japanese culture and language. The university alone cost 800,000 yen a year, and he struggled economically. One of the ways he saved money was to share the rent of a four-and-a-half-tatami room with a shared bathing room and toilet, with a student friend of Mongolian descent, reducing his rent to 22,000 yen a month.
    “I worked at an izakaya (Japanese pub / restaurant) to pay for part of my living expenses. Teachers spoke slowly to me, but patrons spoke rapidly and were hard to understand. I had difficulties with honorific language, too,” says Urgenbayar. After graduation, HASHIMOTO Taiitsu, President of the Tokyo Business Hotel and the father of a friend, gave him a job on the basis of his good character. He first worked at the front desk. Now he’s a cook.
    “I want to work in Japan for the foreseeable future because there’s no work in the countryside in China and the pollution is awful. In Japan, your salary is always paid and the food and water are safe. But I intend to return to China eventually to inherit my father’s job,” says Urgenbayar.


    LIU Sichen

    Liu came to Japan because she had studied Japanese in high school. “Japanese and English were compulsory. Teachers of the Japanese language were usually serious, but at parties they would liven things up with karaoke,” she recalls. She majored in Japanese at college and became an interpreter for a Japanese company.
    The salary, however, wasn’t very good for a recent graduate. “Besides, while I was working with Japanese people, I felt my Japanese wasn’t good enough. So I came to Japan in 2010 and went to a language school for a year and then studied business Japanese at a post-graduate course at Musashino University,” says Liu.
    The school and her living expenses of a little less than 100,000 yen a month were paid for with money sent by her parents and with her salary from her job at a convenience store. “My parents approved of my studies in Japan at first, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, they suggested I return. But I had just been admitted to a post-graduate course. I wanted to further improve my Japanese after graduation, so I got a job at this hotel. Besides, Japan is a convenient place to live.”
    “At first, sushi disgusted me because it is raw, but I love it now. There was a period when I was obsessed by ramen, too,” laughs Liu. After starting to work at the hotel’s front desk, she began dreaming of having a shop or a hotel of her own in the future. “One day, a Chinese guest fell ill and I went to the hospital with him as an interpreter. That made him so happy that I was glad, too. In the future I’d like to do work that makes people happy. I’d also like to act as a bridge between Japan and China.”
    Tokyo Business Hotel
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2013年12月号掲載記事]



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