• 親しみやすい人が好き ― 日本人のファン心理

    [From February Issue 2010]

    In recent years more Japanese are becoming fans of people who are not especially well-known, but have specific charms. It ranges from weather forecasters to entertainers. Why are the Japanese bewitched by them?

    Since 2007, NHK Service Center, Inc. has been selling calendars of weather forecasters. In the first year, they made a calendar showing both male and female forecasters. From the next year, however, the calendar only featured female forecasters, and in 2009 it added pictures of “weather girls” clad in yukata (kimono for summer). The first printed copies of the 2010 version have sold out and they have decided to print additional copies.

    Dressed in casual-style clothes, NHK’s weather girls describe the weather in simple words. Because of their “friendly next-door neighbor” looks, they’ve become nearly as popular as TV entertainers. Especially popular is NAKARAI Sae, who is nicknamed the “7:28 Lover” because she always appears on TV at 7:28 p.m.

    In November 2009 an event was held in Sakura-shi, Chiba Prefecture, where a female idol group called “Sakura-gumi” performed a concert and shook hands with fans. The group, made up of Japanese and Chinese members, sings and dances in ninja costumes. Although they just debuted in August, a number of avid fans turned up to speak to them and ask for handshakes.

    “They came all the way from China and are trying hard in Japan, so I really hope they will succeed,” says a man who came by bullet train from Fukushima Prefecture. He is a fan of the Chinese twins in the group, SAKURA Ranmaru and SAKURA Benimaru. “They have a great memory because they could soon recognize me. They look a little skinnier than before, and I’m a little concerned about that,” says the man.

    ASAMI Chiyuki is a singer who has released five CD albums and often appears on TV and radio programs. Moreover, she puts on a live show in Tokyo’s Inokashira Park on a regular basis. Asami is also surrounded by many supportive fans. When she was still unknown, for example, one of her fans taught her how to play the guitar. From another fan who worked at a hotel, she learned manners such as how to bow properly.

    Even now, her fans help prepare for her concert at the park. They get to the park hours before the concert and set up by laying down sheets and arranging chairs. They also stand at intervals along the way from the station to the venue so as to guide new fans. They buy and bring things that Asami likes or that are good for her health as well as food from Yamaguchi Prefecture, where she is from.

    “Chiyuki-chan is like my daughter,” says a man who became her fan on March 18, 2005. “When I walked out of the ticket gate, a voice caught my ears, a very natural singing voice which made me feel great,” he continued of the moment he first heard her perform. “When a TV crew is shooting, she gets really nervous. That makes me feel uneasy as well and I start praying, ‘Please sing well.’ ”

    “Chiyuki-chan still calls me ‘Uncle’ even after she has become so famous,” says another man. “If it were not for her, I would have secluded myself in my house after retirement. But I started working again after I became her fan. With the money from that job, I buy her CDs and go to her concerts throughout Japan to support her. I’ve made friends with some of my fellow fans. So this is what I live for.”

    KIMURA Junko, who lives in Tokyo, has favorite musical actors. “Rather than buying brand-name items or ready-made goods, I place special orders with stores,” she says about the gifts she gives them. “I think of something that he can hand out to other actors he works with and that will also make him happy. Or some food that is good for his health.”

    Fans are often seen waiting outside of the stage door (the exit for actors) and giving them presents or asking for autographs. Kimura sometimes talks to the actors at the stage door before she decides what to buy for them. “When I read my favorite actor’s blog, it said, ‘I haven’t been eating enough vegetables lately.’ So after checking with him at the stage door to see if he wanted vegetables, I sent him a big box filled with vegetables,” she says.

    “Fans observe us really well,” says SASAKI Nobuhiko, a top-class dancer who performs in the famous Imperial Theater and also choreographs musicals. “One time, I was feeling sick and had a mask on when passing through the stage door. Soon after that, new masks were sent to me. And another time, I was dancing naked from the waist up in a show. Then, a fan gave me a hand-made shawl that I could easily fling on and off.”

    “I feel that behind such behavior on the part of fans lies the Japanese custom of guessing what others want, the custom of thinking about what the other person wants to receive, rather than what you want to give them,” says Sasaki. “For example, a fan sent vegetables and meat to a group of actors who can cook, but she sent sashimi along with paper plates and soy sauce to another group who can’t cook. When we look busy, fans never ask for autographs.”

    Not all fans, however, are on close terms with actors, according to Sasaki. “Actors who like to have friendly relationships tend to get fans who will take care of small things for them, and those who like to be alone will attract those kinds of fans. But I guess there are more actors now who want to interact with fans naturally as human beings. That seems to be the case with the actors around me,” he says.

    “I give stuff to the actors or wait for them at the stage door because I want to show my support for them, but I also want them to remember me a little,” says Kimura. “Besides, there are more actors who blog these days, and it makes me happy when the actors write about what I gave them, which is another reason for doing all this.”

    “When I got the hand-made shawl, I was touched because it felt like my mother or girlfriend taking care of me,” says Sasaki. “There was also a girl who asked me to write a message for her ailing grandmother.” It might be Japanese fans’ tendency to like approachable entertainers and support them as if they were family.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo







    あさみ ちゆきさんはCDアルバムを5枚発売し、テレビにラジオにと活躍する歌手です。また東京の井の頭公園でも定期的にライブをしています。そのあさみさんの周りにも、多くの温かいファンがいます。例えば、まだ有名でなかった頃には、ファンがギターの弾き方を教えてくれました。ホテルマンだったファンからはおじぎなどマナーを習いました。







    文:砂崎 良


    ただし佐々木さんはファンの全員が、役者と親しくつきあっているのではないと言います。「アットホームな関係が好きな役者には、細かく面倒を見てくれるファンがつく気がしますし、一人でいるのが好きな役者には、そういうファンがつく気がします。人間として自然なつきあいを望む役者が以前より増えたのでは? 自分の周りを見ていると、そういう気はします」。



    Read More
  • 歴女の誕生と刀剣の魅力

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Interests traditionally considered manly in Japan such as trains and history are attracting an increasing number of women. The trend has seen the creation of several new Japanese phrases such as “tetsu-ko” to describe women who like trains (“tetsudo”), “reki-jyo” for women who like history (“rekishi”) and “butsu-jyo” for women who like Buddhist statues (“butsuzo”). Of these, the word “reki-jyo” (“history girls”) has become so well known to the public that it ranked in the top ten of the 2009 Ryuukougo Taishou (an award for words that were newly created and became common in the year). Many reki-jyo are uniquely fascinated by swords and Japanese traditional suits of armor (yoroi) and helmets (kabuto), as well as historical characters, in contrast to their male counterparts who focus mostly on historical backgrounds.

    At Takase Dojo in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, women-only lessons for tate are gaining popularity. Tate is a series of movements for attacking and defending with a sword, which is often seen in period dramas. Takase Dojo is also a training center for actors and has long been incorporating tate as a way of instructing them. The dojo opened its doors to the public in 2001, and when a tate class exclusively for women was started on a trial basis in the autumn of 2007, it soon became very popular. In July 2009, women-only tate classes began in earnest.

    The classes for women are divided into two levels, beginner and intermediate, each with around 12 students. The students are mostly in their 20s and range from college students to office workers and housewives. “Being a fan of period drama actors, I wanted to try tate,” says AOKI Kaori in the beginner class about her reason for taking up the new hobby. Both beginner and intermediate classes use takemitsu, wooden swords covered with silver foil to look like real swords, but weighing only 350 grams.

    “Women concentrating on swordsmanship all look beautiful. They should be more aware that they are beautiful and have more self-confidence,” says instructor TAKANO Utako. Being paired up makes it possible for each student to practice attacking and defending with a sword. Learning to manipulate a takemitsu also improves posture and makes people more alert to their surroundings.

    Meanwhile, women are found among the visitors at the Japanese Sword Museum in Shibuya Ward these days. “The world of swords was originally dominated by men and women could never set foot in it. That’s the reason why swords were not familiar to women,” says chief curator KUBO Yasuko. Kubo herself is the first female curator at the museum since its founding.

    In olden times warlords cherished swords as family treasures and also used them as weapons in fights and to protect themselves. Until the end of the Edo period, Japan saw a lot of fighting and swords were very familiar to the Japanese.

    There are a number of expressions in Japanese that originate from swords. For example, “Ittou ryoudan” means to slash something into two in a single sweep of the sword. Because of this, the phrase is also used today in the sense of making a quick decision without paying attention to other people’s opinions.

    Takase Dojo
    The Japanese Sword Museum

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko











    Read More
  • 銭湯を彩る背景画を描き続けて半世紀

    [From February Issue 2010]

    “Sentou” public bathhouses have a history of more than 400 years. These bathhouses had been used by most people until the late 1970s when bathrooms became common in ordinary houses. A conventional sentou has separate doors leading into the ladies’ or men’s changing rooms, a bandai from where the sentou is watched-over and yusen (bathing fee) is paid, and conversations are carried out over the wall, only a few meters high, dividing the ladies’ bathing area and the men’s.

    It is said that the culture of painting scenery on the bathing area wall began in 1912, when the gengou (name of the Emperor’s reigning era) changed from Meiji to Taisho. The owner of Kikaiyu bathhouse in Chiyoda Ward asked a painter to do the job. The painter was from Shizuoka Prefecture and loved Mt. Fuji, and thus the mainstream image painted on sentou walls became Mt. Fuji.

    In 1935, MARUYAMA Kiyoto was born in Suginami Ward, Tokyo. He currently is one of the only two remaining sentou scenery painters in Tokyo. Maruyama, still an active painter at 74 years old, has been painting since he was 18, when he started working at a relative’s advertising agency and scenic advertising company. Upon request, he will visit any part of the country to paint landscapes such as Mt. Fuji, Ashinoko Lake and the Seto Inland Sea.

    “I was very good at drawing from a young age. During my evacuation in the war to Yamanashi Prefecture in elementary school and middle school, the watch out for fire disaster prevention poster I drew won a contest,” Maruyama reminisces. “I was taking Japanese calligraphy lessons then, and later I became a scenery painter and had to write letters on billboards, so those skills paid off.”

    Maruyama decided to become a professional scenic painter and took apprenticeship under his master MARUYAMA Kikuo, who was the president of his company. Kikuo was the cousin of Kiyoto’s father, who worked as the sales representative. “He didn’t take extra care in teaching me, so I watched and stole all the skills from him. Work was demanding every day; Besides bathhouse scenery, I even had to write advertisement words on department store shutters and truck bodies.”

    “Originally, advertisement agencies would draw scenic paintings free of charge in exchange for free wall advertisement space. Its own scenic artists would draw the pictures. Post cards were useful references, but the rest of the ideas were all in the head. Looking back, it was a very generous age,” says Maruyama.

    Soon scenic art became a business in its own right. Maruyama became independent at the age of 45. Once he gets a request over the phone, he loads his work tools – paint, brushes, rollers and ladder – into his van and drives himself to the painting site. It takes approximately an hour and a half just to prepare as he sets up scaffolding and spreads sheets of plastic so the bathing area will stay clean.

    The painting process is a work against time. Sentou open from 3 or 4p.m. Maruyama gets to the site by 7a.m., and once he is set up, he starts drafting with chalk. “Gradation is the very essence of scenic art,” Maruyama states. He places the seven colors on his handmade pallet and mixes them to create the subtle shades. He used paintbrushes before, but now uses rollers to directly put paint on the wall.

    Every year, more and more sentous disappear. Scenic artists are losing jobs fast, and the few dozen scenic artists that existed in Tokyo in its golden age have been reduced to just two – the other is his fellow apprentice, NAKAJIMA Morio. But with the help of the recent Showa era boom, plus his appearance in different media, new job opportunities have presented themselves from unexpected directions.

    “After a TV interview, there was a rush of phone calls from people asking me to paint on their bathroom walls.” Moreover, with the graying society, there has been an increase in opportunities to paint bathing rooms at rural retirement homes and care centers over the past five or six years. “Other than that, I have more activities to attend to apart from painting, such as appearing in talk shows at events, or holding exhibitions of my work,” he says.

    There are more than 10,000 scenic art pieces that Maruyama has painted. A sentou wall is typically around 13 meters wide, with the height ranging from five to 10 meters. Working with these “big canvases” is an occupation that calls for tough physical labor on one hand and delicate technique on the other, but he is satisfied with a job that he can continue at an older age. “I feel a calling in the job. It is unfortunate that sentous are decreasing in number and I have no heir,” Maruyama says, smiling.

    Photo provided by Maruyama Kogei, MARUYAMA Kiyoto:













    写真提供:マルヤマ工芸、丸山清人 Tel: 042-573-1852

    Read More
  • オリンピック競技にシニア部門をつくるべき!

    [From February Issue 2010]

    At the end of last year a committee for the Olympic game reform consisting of influential Japanese politicians was organized. They made a decision to propose the creation of a senior division in the Olympic Games to the International Olympic Committee. The proposal will be officially submitted to the committee through the Japan Olympic Committee. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed the chief secretary, ITSUWA Masanao.

    CIA: Why will you propose to create a senior division?

    Sec.: At present there are men’s and women’s games in the Olympics, but not senior games. We propose to create the senior division for those over 50 years of age in all Olympic events. The senior division will be further divided into four classes; 50~54, 55~59, 60~64 and over 65.

    CIA: What will happen after creating the senior division?

    Sec.: The senior sports population will surely increase. The world is now in depression. It will bring a great economic effect in the industries of sports goods, gyms, drinks and so on. Japan should propose it to the world as another “Hatoyama Initiative” like the CO2 cut. The world will accept the plan.

    CIA: Why do you propose it so suddenly?

    Sec.: The Hatoyama cabinet has been criticized for having no policy for economic growth. As you know Japan is an aging society and old people have lots of money. With this policy they will spend more money. In a trial calculation, Japan can expect a great economic effect. It will also be good for their health maintenance and should decrease medial expenditure.

    CIA: Is there any other advantage for Japan with this plan?

    Sec.: Japan has the highest ratio of elderly people and the longest life span. There is a high possibility that Japan can get many gold medals in the senior division and be one of the top countries.

    CIA: After all, your true intention is to take advantage of the Olympics, isn’t it?

    Sec.: Yes, actually we have a hidden aim. Japan’s influence in the world is gradually decreasing, reflecting the development of newly emerged economic countries such as China and India. Our purpose also includes diverting people from dissatisfaction. If Japan can make good results in the senior division, the world’s views on the nation’s value will change greatly. The world would begin to compare national power by the power of the elderly, not by economic scale. Then, Japan could be a country people of the world envy.

    One Comment from CIA

    This proposal would be beneficial for Japan, but the US and China, which gain many medals in the Olympics, would oppose this plan just like CO2 cut policy as it violates their benefits. Dear Japanese politicians, you know Hatoyama can not make any decision. It is obvious he cannot pressure the International Olympic Committee. Don’t bring anymore shame on him!

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency)


    昨年の末に日本の有力政治家によるオリンピック改革推進委員会が誕生した。そして、オリンピック競技にシニア部門をつくるよう国際オリンピック委員会に提案することを決めた。提案は2月のバンクーバー・オリンピック終了後に、日本オリンピック委員会を通じて正式に行うとしている。Hiragana Times CIAは、五輪正直事務局長にインタビューした。













    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

    Read More
  • 廃校舎を再利用したクリエイターたちの学校

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Ikejiri Institute of Design (Setagaya School of MONOZUKURI) is located from just several kilometers west of Shibuya. The school was designed to be a place for creators in design, architecture and art and offer opportunities to meet each other and learn from one another.

    Mr. MATSUMURA Takuya serves as the “school principal” although his official title at Ikejiri Institute of Design is managing director. “When we first opened the school, we faced considerable opposition from the neighborhood. People had strong concerns and unease about having many young people in their neighborhood because many deadly attacks had happened in schools throughout Japan at that time. Also, we are next to an elementary school, and there is a pre-school behind us, so people became very nervous. Now we have meetings with people in our community four times a year. We discuss, share the information and try seeking the direction for consensus with people when the issues arise,” Matsumura says.

    This school opened in October 2004 as a temporary plan to revive Ikejiri Middle School. At first, Setagaya Ward officials requested the school to keep the school building unchanged. So, a local furniture designing company did the remodeling without changing appearance.

    Currently all spaces in the school are fully occupied by 41 different companies. Occupants may be individuals, groups of designers, inexperienced or experienced, unknown or well-known designers working in companies as diverse as a film distribution company, the design research department of a major electric company, the editing division of a magazine devoted to parenting, a food coordinating company, and a “bread sommelier” association, but they have all connected under a common theme, “design and monozukuri.”

    “There has been a blossoming interaction among school residents. They even sometimes work together in collaborative activity. The general public can tour the school themselves, allowing an open-minded atmosphere that private business companies do not have,” Matsumura says.

    In addition, the school offers classes for people who want to be designers or launch their own business. Matsumura himself has given lectures of how to prepare for starting a business. The school also offers workshops such as woodworking, instructed by furniture designers, and one on making snow domes instructed by Japan Snow Dome Association.

    The school renews its contract with Setagaya Ward every five years. “The school was able to fit in the community and gained more of their understanding in the first five years,” Matsumura says. As a result, the ward approached the school to extend their contract. “We would like to express more the individuality of the school in the coming five years. Head office will organize more events in the future and we would like to make school residents even prouder of the school.”











    Read More
  • 新しい歌舞伎座 ―― 伝統と革新

    [From February Issue 2010]

    The Kabuki-za Theater is in eastern Ginza, a fashionable part of Tokyo known for its high-end stores. A theater for the traditional Japanese performing art of kabuki, the Japanese-style building is characterized by its impressive roof and is registered as a tangible cultural asset. But it has been decided that the theater will be rebuilt because it’s getting old – a new theater and an office building will be constructed on the same site.

    Kabuki has about 400 years of history and continues to preserve its tradition. For example, a family system in which the performing art is handed down from parent to child is still considered the norm. Kabuki plays mostly deal with stories from the Edo period and the lines contain old Japanese that is not used today. So even Japanese sometimes use audio guides.

    Another feature of kabuki is that it changes flexibly to accommodate changes in the times and the political landscape. Take kabuki actors for instance. When kabuki first started, most actors were women. But the then government banned female actors, saying they would corrupt public morals. So boys started to perform instead, which was also subsequently banned by the government. That’s how men came to perform kabuki.

    Kabuki plays do not just preserve tradition. In the Edo period, new works were often created based on actual incidents, such as “Chushingura” (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). From the Meiji period onward, some new kabuki plays were created by exploring and incorporating noh (another traditional dramatic art form) and Western plays.

    Among the latest kabuki plays are “the Super Kabuki,” which incorporate modern music and a traditional Chinese performing art, and “the Cocoon Kabuki,” which are staged in a Shibuya theater just like modern plays. Some kabuki actors are also active in other fields outside kabuki, such as television, film, and even musicals. Not only do some actors perform kabuki plays overseas but they also appear in traditional performing arts in other countries.

    Given this historical background, it’s no wonder that the Kabuki-za Theater is changing as well. After all, the theater itself came out of a change. In the old days kabuki was played in small theaters called “shibai-goya” (play huts), but in the Meiji period there was a movement toward modernizing plays called the “Theater Enhancement Movement.” Amid this movement the Kabuki-za Theater was built in Ginza in 1889.

    What was new about the theater was its Western-style exterior and electric lights, the most modern equipment of the time. A little over two decades after its completion, however, the Kabuki-za Theater saw its exterior changed to a Japanese-style in 1911 because the Imperial Theater, with a Western-style appearance, was to be built in Hibiya. After that, the theater experienced two fires and it was reconstructed each time. The current one is the fourth version.

    The fifth-generation Kabuki-za Theater will be equipped with elevators and escalators, features lacking in the old one. Meanwhile, the stage will retain the old style and traditional seats such as sajiki (balcony seats) and makumiseki (non reserved seats) will remain unchanged. The old and new elements of the Kabuki-za Theater symbolize the tradition and innovation of kabuki. The current theater will be used till this April, and the new theater will be completed in 2013.

    Shochiku Co., Ltd.
    Chuo-ku Kyobashi Library

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo











    文:砂崎 良

    Read More
  • 国家権力に挑む新幹線爆破計画

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Super-Express 109 A.K.A. The Bullet Train (Directed by SATO Junya)

    A suspense movie released in 1975. The cast consists of stars of the Japanese movie industry of the era. Especially notable is TAKAKURA Ken, who plays the main character. He was a leading actor for his Japanese gangster movies and is also an internationally acclaimed actor, co-starring in the American movie “The Yakuza” with Robert MITCHUM in 1974. In 1989, he co-starred in “Black Rain” directed by Ridley SCOTT, with Michael DOUGLAS and Andy GARCIA.

    The story begins with a phone call made to the Kokutetsu – the Japanese National Railways (JNR) – saying, “We’ve set a bomb set on the Hikari 109.” With 1,500 passengers on board this shinkansen (bullet train) has already departed Tokyo bound for Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture. The bomb will arm automatically when the speed of the train exceeds 80 km/h, and will detonate when the train slows back down to 80 km/h.

    To prove that this is no prank, the perpetrators say they have set the same kind of bomb on a freight train running the Yubari line in Hokkaido. When the locomotive engineers jump off the train, the freight train loses speed and bursts into a ball of flames. The perpetrators ask for a 5 million dollar ransom. In those days, that was equivalent to 1.5 billion yen. The bombers are hard-hitting. They say the ransom is cheaper than the 1.6 billion yen train plus the lives of the passengers.

    The perpetrators are a three-man team: OKITA (Takakura Ken) is the leader and the caller whose small factory went bankrupt, leading to his divorce. KOGA is the man who set the bomb on the freight train. He was involved in radical political activity when he was a university student. The youngest and the one responsible for placing the bomb on the train is OHSHIRO – he came to Tokyo from Okinawa, hopped from job to job, and was saved by Okita when he was near death selling his own blood.

    The police identify the perpetrators and track them down, but fail to arrest them. KURAMOCHI, the head of the bullet train control room, relays orders to the train drivers to prevent a crash. Meanwhile in the bullet train, the train crew desperately try to reason with the passengers who start to panic. In the midst of all this, Okita finally calls the police and tells them how the ransom delivery will go down.

    Koga and Ohshiro die while on the run, but Okita obtains the money as planned. Okita had agreed to inform the whereabouts of the planted bomb and the directions on how to deactivate it in exchange for the cash. However, the drawing is destroyed in a fire. But JNR somehow finds the bomb, disables it, and the train comes safely to a stop. A few hours later, the police on a stake out at Haneda Airport locate Okita as he attempts to flee Japan.

    Okita bolts. The police advance on him. And as the police shoot Okita to death, the airplane that Okita was to board takes off overhead, into the night sky. The Japanese version is 152 minutes. The international version omitted the scenes where they reveal why the perpetrators become what they are and puts more emphasis on the suspense. Overseas versions are shortened.










    Read More
  • ふろふき大根

    [From February Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • Daikon (Japanese radish: thick part) 6 to 8cm
    • 2.5 (500ml) cups rice-rinsed water
    • 5×10 cm (approx.) konbu seaweed
    • Yuzu miso (bean paste with citron)
    • 2 tbsp (approx. 30g) miso
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)
    • 1 tbsp Japanese granulated stock (available at stores)
    • pinch of citron skin
    • Mentori : (beveling) cutting the edges of daikon and pumpkins before cooking. This prevents the edges from crumbling while cooking.
    • Kakushi-boucho: (hidden knife) since daikon is thick, a cross-shaped incision is made in the underside of the daikon. It speeds up the cooking and makes it easier to cut with chopsticks when eating.
    • Kome-no togi-jiru : (rice-rinsed water) starch contained in water that has been used to rinse rice absorbs the bitterness and acrid taste of daikon. If this water is not available, add 1 tbsp of uncooked rice in water.

    To Prepare

    1. Cut the daikon in 3~4cm thick rounds then peel skin deeply.
    2. Trim the cut edges (mentori). On one side of the disk, cut a cross that goes 1/3 deep (kakushi-bouchou).
    3. Place the daikon in the pot with the cut side facing down. Add the kome-no togi-jiru (rice-rinsed water) until the daikon is fully submerged.
    4. Put on the otoshi-buta (drop-lid) and boil on high. Then simmer for approximately 7 minutes over a medium heat.
    5. Take the daikon out, and rinse with cold water. Wash the pot and otoshi-buta.
    6. Place konbu seaweed in the pot. Add the daikon and water until the daikon is fully submerged, put on the otoshi-buta and lid. Boil on high, and then cook for approximately 20 minutes on a low-medium heat.
    7. Make the yuzu-miso sauce. In a pan, add the ingredients in the order listed (excluding the citron) while mixing. Once smooth, put pan over heat. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes over a medium heat. Set aside to cool for a while then add grated citron skin.
    8. Place the daikon on a plate with the yuzu-miso sauce.



    • 大根(太い部分) 6~8cm
    • 米のとぎ汁 2.5カップ(500ml)
    • こんぶ 約5×10cm角
    • ゆずみそ
    • みそ 大さじ2(約30g)
    • 砂糖 大さじ1
    • みりん 大さじ1
    • 顆粒だし(市販の和風だし)大さじ1
    • ゆずの皮 少々
    • 面取り:大根やかぼちゃを煮るときに、あらかじめ煮くずれしやすい角をとっておくことです。
    • かくし包丁:大根が厚いので裏に切り込みを入れておきます。中心まで火が通りやすく、はしで切り分けしやすくなります。
    • 米のとぎ汁:米のとぎ汁に含まれるでんぷんは、大根の苦味や辛味の成分を吸いとります。とぎ汁がなければ、米大おさじ1 を水に加えます。


    1. 大根は3~4cm厚さの輪切りにして、皮を厚めにむきます。
    2. 切り口の角を薄すく「面取り」します。切り口の一方に、厚みの3分の1まで十文字の「かくし包丁」を入れます。
    3. 鍋に切り込みを入れた面を下にして大根をおきます。「米のとぎ汁」を大根がかぶるくらいまで入れます。
    4. 落としぶたをして強火にかけます。ふっとうしたら中火で約7分ゆでます。
    5. 大根を取り出し、水洗らいをします。鍋と落としぶたも洗らいます。
    6. 鍋にこんぶをしき、大根を入れ、かぶるくらいの水を加え、落としぶたと鍋のふたをして強火にかけ、ふっとうしたら弱めの中火で約20分煮ます。
    7. 「ゆずみそ」を作くります。鍋にゆず以外の材料を順に混ぜながら入れます。なめらかになったら火にかけます。中火で2~3分混ぜながら少こし煮詰めます。火ひ からおろし、冷ましてから、ゆずの皮をすりおろして入れます。
    8. 器に大根を盛り、ゆずみそをかけてできあがりです。

    Read More
  • 駅の案内板には英語表記もある






    小さな駅へ行く場合には、駅がどこにあるか知らない人が多いと思われますので、路線(ライン)も言わないとわからないかもしれません。たとえば、小田急線の喜多見駅なら、「おだきゅう・せん の きたみ・えき」と、言ってください。(大きな駅には英語で駅名が書かれたパネルもあります)





    [:en][From February Issue 2010]

    Trains are convenient for getting around in Japan. People who can not speak Japanese will have no problem at stations since most of the information boards and signs also use English besides Japanese. Recently Chinese and Korean are also used. Well then, let’s go to a station.
    If you can’t find a station, or a ticket office, to ask for directions just say “Station?” or “Ticket?”, then someone will kindly direct you to these places. These words are now used as Japanese terms. Most English words used in the station can be understood. The word “train” is one of them.
    You will buy a ticket through an automatic ticket machine. The station names and train fare are written on a panel on the wall, so you just put the amount of the fare into the machine. Generally the station names are written in kanji. If you don’t read kanji, just tell a station worker your destination. Then, the person will help you find the fare.
    If you are going to a small station, it is likely that not many people know where it is, so you will have to tell the name of the line (sen), too. Take for example Kitami station on the Odakyu Line. Say “Odakyuu-sen no Kitami eki.” (Some of panels in big stations show station names written in English.)
    Next, you will go to a ticket gate, kaisatsuguchi in Japanese. You should learn the word kaisatsuguchi since not many Japanese understand “ticket gate.” The ticket gate is also automatic. Put your ticket into the ticket mouth of gate and then collect it from the other side. These days most people buy a train pass, which can be purchased in units of 1,000 yen. It will enable you to pass through ticket gates just by holding the pass over the illuminated scanner on the ticket gate.
    You will do the same thing at the station where you get off. Your train fee will be automatically deducted from your pass. If you don’t have enough money on your pass, the ticket gate door will be automatically closed. In that case, with a nearby fare adjustment machine you will either pay an additional fare by touching the additional fare button written as “精算,” or deposit some money by touching the charge button written as “チャージ.”
    Then, you will go to the platform. Each platform is numbered like “1 ban-sen” and “2 ban-sen.” As you see, the word “ ~ sen” is also used here. On a direction board you probably find the word “houmen” like “Shinjuku houmen” (for Shinjuku). If you don’t know the platform number.
    There are basically two kinds of trains. One is called kakueki-teisya (各駅停車local train). Usually the shortened word kakutei (各停) is used, which stops at each station, and the other called kyuukou (急行express), which stops only at big stations. Besides these, other categories of train are running, including junkyuu (準急semi-express), which runs at the speed between kakutei and kyuukou, and tokkyuu (特急), which runs faster than kyuukou. Furthermore, the word kaisoku (快速) has different meanings depending on each railway company. English words are not commonly used for such words as kakutei and kyuukou. Norikae (乗換transfer) is also often used. It is advisable for you to learn them.[:]

    Read More
  • 花々の宝庫 - 八丈島















    [:en][From February Issue 2010]

    Located near the southend of the Izu Island chain, 287 kilometers from Tokyo, Hachijo-jima offers a relaxing yet slightly exotic environment just 50 minutes from Haneda airport. The plane lands on a small strip that cuts right through the center of the island on land formed from the lava of two volcanoes, which provides most of the islands habitable area. Once off the plane, the layout is simple, Mt. Mihara in one direction and the iconic Hachijo-fuji directly opposite.
    Hachijo-fuji gives a lot of reward for very little effort. Most of the trail to the 854-meter peak consists of steps, and while it can leave one short of breath, it’s simple and relatively fast. At the top is a spectacular view of the rest of the island and its smaller but striking neighbor Hachijo-kojima. Walking around the narrow edge of the crater takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour depending on your speed.
    Unlike some of the recently active volcanoes in Japan, Hachijo-fuji’s last eruption was as far back as 1605, allowing time for a small forest to grow at the bottom of its deep crater. A clear illustration of the old lava flow as it hit the ocean can be seen at Nanbara-senjojiki, a stark expanse of black rock by Yaene Port.
    Back down below, it’s hard not to notice the island’s other natural wonder – its flora. Besides fishing, cultivating and harvesting flowers and other plants is a large part of the islanders’ business. Bright red hibiscus can be seen near houses and streets throughout the island along with aloe and the Colorful Bird of Paradise flower, which can be bought much cheaper than on mainland Japan.
    The ashitaba (tomorrow leaf) plant can be found growing just about everywhere as well and is used in many foods like udon, tempura and even ice cream. The only thing more ubiquitous might be palm trees. They’re everywhere, lining the streets and decorating some people’s front lawn.
    The plethora of tropical foliage owes much of its prosperity to the rich, volcanic soil and sunshine, as well as to the rain which frequently falls on the island. But there’s still plenty to do if a rainy day intrudes on one’s trip. Maybe the most obvious, and relaxing, would be to take advantage of Hachijo-jima’s numerous onsen (hot springs).
    To learn about the island’s history – for example how it was used as a prison of sorts for exiles during the Edo period -, there’s the Hachijo History and Folklore Museum with loads of artifacts for the curious. The Hachijo Visitor Center in the Botanical Garden, which houses 140 different species of flora, focuses on the island’s plant and wildlife.
    The TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) geothermal plant is also a fascinating place to visit to see exactly how they harness the island’s natural heat deep below the surface to provide over 20% of Hachijo-jima’s energy needs. More hands-on activities like slicing up your own sashimi with local fishermen or trying weaving on an old school loom, used to make local textiles, are also possible.
    Last, but not least, one other must-see is the Ozato Tamaishi cobblestone wall, with its naturally rounded stones. The beautifully unique neighborhood has an old-fashioned feel reminiscent of Okinawa.
    The journey to Hachijo-jima is not only possible by plane, but also by ship (about an 11 hour journey). Tours can be arranged, and once there, travel can be done by rental car or bicycle, city bus or tour bus, and taxi.
    Hachijo Town Office
    Hachijo Island Sightseeing Association
    Text: Jeremy DROUIN[:]

    Read More