• 外国人を対象にした宿のオリジナル企画

    [From February Issue 2014]

    The Park Hotel Tokyo (Shiodome, Tokyo) has “Artist Rooms” in which sumo wrestlers and Zen characters painted in ink seem to dance dynamically. These rooms are for foreigners who make up 60% of the hotel’s guests. These rooms were created as part of a project to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the hotel. “In this space, it’s possible to experience the Japanese aesthetic,” general manager HAYASHI Yoshiaki says, explaining the project.
    Each Artist Room has been entirely produced and designed by a single artist. “More than just painting, they’re creating a room,” says Hayashi. The project has been a fascinating one for artists, too. They can not only express their world view with an entire room, but can also leave the PR to the hotel. He says that there are many applicants, although the remuneration only covers the cost of the materials.
    Four Artist Rooms were created in 2013. Black ink was used in all of them. There are plans in the future for rooms with color. “With nine more being created in 2014 and 2015 respectively, eventually we’ll have 31 rooms. We’re planning to transform the 31st floor, where all the Artist Rooms are located, into an Artist Floor where the Japanese aesthetic sense will be on display along corridors and in a private lounge,” says Hayashi.
    As the hotel wanted to appeal to foreigners in particular, accommodation information on Artist Rooms is only available in the English version of its website. Currently, Artist Rooms are more popular with foreign guests than with Japanese guests and sumo designs have been particularly well received. The hotel also has some rooms in which relaxing videos of colored carp can be seen. Those rooms are popular with both non-Japanese and Japanese.


    Nagashi Soumen (Utanobori Green Park Hotel)

    At Utanobori Green Park Hotel (Esashi Town, Hokkaido), the selling point is rustic charm instead of stylishness. Tour groups travel the four hour bus journey there from Sapporo eager to enjoy the hotel’s attractions which gives them a taste of Japanese culture.
    “This time, it’s a tour of five days and four nights including Sapporo and Otaru, but Utanobori is the main attraction,” says Sarisa RASRICHEAM, a Thai guide. “We offer all sorts of Japanese experiences that are not possible to acquire on regular tours. It’s also possible to get to know the Japanese countryside.”
    After arriving at around 6:00 pm, female tour guests change into a yukata and the men into a jinbei. They watch “iai” (the art of drawing one’s sword, cutting down one’s opponent and sheathing the sword in one motion), experience flower arrangement and make sushi on their own. Between meals, they can enjoy a shooting gallery – typically found at country festivals – try their hand at “kendama” (cup and ball game) and enjoy “nagashi-soumen noodles.” After dinner, they have the option to go by bus to a night safari. In winter time, it’s possible to enjoy kamakura (snow huts).
    “They must come to enjoy our ‘anything goes’ parties,” says vice general manager SHOJI Kazunori. As the number of direct flights between Bangkok and Shin-Chitose has increased, he’s been creating package holidays aimed at Thais together with a Thai travel agent. It’s been four years since the first tour.
    The attractions are mostly performed by employees using handmade materials. They cost next to nothing. “Our guests are wealthy Thais. Since we’re in the countryside, it’d be pointless competing by trying to match the fancy things they’ve seen around the world. That’s why we decided to simply entertain them.”
    Although the hotel caters to guests from Thailand, only one employee is fluent in Thai. Most employees communicate with guests in English, with gestures and by using the few Thai words they’ve picked up during their four years’ experience. “Even so, we’re sometimes told ‘your service was as good as that of a three-star hotel,’” says Shoji, who’s encouraged by this response. He’s also thinking of offering tour packages to tourists from other countries.


    Capsule Ryokan

    The Tour Club, a Kyoto guest house that opened in 2000, has been a pioneer in the field of accommodation aimed at foreigners. While a student, the owner SHIMIZU Keiji traveled around the world staying at guesthouses. This experience gave him the idea of running guesthouses aimed at non-Japanese – there were virtually none in Japan in those days – thus transforming Japan into a country in which backpackers from all over the world could visit.
    His business proved successful and more and more guesthouses opened in Japan. Shimizu himself opened another guesthouse and a furnished hotel for foreigners staying for longer periods. During this time, he began hearing comments from guests like: “I’d like to stay at a capsule hotel” and “Instead of a private room at a youth hostel, I’d like to stay at a low-cost ryokan that has a shower and toilet.”
    “Capsule hotels and ryokan are a kind of accommodation that is unique to Japan. I thought of creating accommodation aimed at foreigners that would combine the two and be available at a low cost,” says Shimizu, explaining how he hit upon the unprecedented idea of the “Capsule Ryokan.”
    Regular capsule hotels are tightly packed with mass-produced capsules. However, bearing in mind the proportions of tatami mats, it was difficult to use such capsules. He also was determined to create a comfortable space. “With a measuring tape in hand I went around checking the toilets of bullet trains and camper vans; places in which a small space was used efficiently,” he says, recalling the days when the original concept of Capsule Ryokan was taking shape.
    His Capsule Ryokan opened in 2010. One room is for capsules only, but is only fitted out with eight capsules – less than in a regular capsule hotel. Each capsule is furnished with a tatami (straw mat) floor and comfortable futon. The latest check-in is 10:00 pm. Since no one comes in or goes out at night, it’s not as noisy as regular capsule hotels. Lockers large enough for backpacks and suitcases are available. There are also small rooms that sleep two furnished with tatami and equipped with a high-tech shower and toilet.
    “Guesthouses can be found all over the world and I’ve been striving to popularize them in Japan. I think that my next step will be to popularize this new business model all over the world.” Just as expected, this globally unique style of accommodation became hugely popular with foreign guests soon after opening. As videos were taken of the interior of the building and uploaded to video sharing sites, its reputation continued to grow. And so, in 2011, it was chosen by foreigners as the No. 1 hotel in Japan on the word-of-mouth travel site Trip Advisor, beating luxury hotels.
    Shimizu’s dream of transforming Japan into a country that is accessible to backpackers is coming true. “However, although Japan’s sightseeing spots have plenty of charming attractions, there aren’t enough signs or displays in English; this makes it hard for foreigners to discover the good points,” he says. There’s room for improvement in services that allow foreigners to fully experience the best of Japan.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年2月号掲載記事]





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  • 温泉地に出現した「モンスターハンター」の世界

    [From February Issue 2014]

    Located in the northeast of Nagano Prefecture, Shibu-Onsen is a spa resort where hot spring water bubbles up as soon as you start digging into its soil. The history of this spa town stretches back over 1300 years, and it is now attracting fans of video games. Events are being held there in which it’s possible to experience the world of the hunting action game “Monster Hunter.”
    Monster Hunter is a series of games released by Capcom Co., Ltd. and the latest, “Monster Hunter 4,” is now on sale. The player makes a living as a hunter in a dramatic natural setting. Players improve their skills by completing missions – so called “quests” – to hunt down monsters and so forth.
    The project began because the scenery around Shibu-Onsen resembles that in the game. “We now have visitors from the younger generation who didn’t know about Shibu-Onsen before,” says YAMADA Kazuyoshi, representative director at Shibu Hotel. “That being said, I got worried when Capcom first came to us with the idea. I had absolutely no idea what kind of visitors would come, or in what kind of numbers. I was afraid of alienating our original customer base, too.”
    The town has inherited an “in any case, let’s give it a go” attitude from its ancestors. With this driving them, they got going, with the companies involved working in cooperation with a local association of young people. Numerous discussions were held concerning how the town could more closely resemble the world of the game, while making the most of its hot springs and natural resources.
    Decorations made in collaboration with Monster Hunter hang from doorways and Monster Hunter statues have been put up, involving the whole town in Monster Hunter. The footprints of monsters are painted on the floor of eateries which serve up monster themed food or drink. Depending on the season, during the event periods visitors can enjoy different attractions, such as bon-odori (traditional dance) and fishing competitions in summer, mushroom picking in autumn and illuminations in winter.
    “After the first event was held in 2010, we got a lot of feedback from the spa community praising the way it brought people together,” says Yamada. “It wasn’t only people working in hotels and eateries that chatted to the hunters (visitors), but also the townspeople. It’s just an ordinary thing for us to do, but they are so delighted that I’m amazed.”
    Most townspeople, including Yamada, don’t play video games. He says that he had had the erroneous idea that gamers were loners. “But after greeting the hunters in real life, our image of them changed drastically. There are many groups of friends or families and furthermore, they all greet us cheerfully.”
    Including repeat custom, the number of visitors to Shibu-Onsen is increasing year on year. Yamada says, “The great thing about Shibu-Onsen is the quality of its spa water and the town’s long tradition of unity. One of the biggest bonuses for me is experiencing the joy that comes from receiving guests from the younger generation. I think the same thing could be said about receiving visitors from overseas. You never know what might happen until you try.”
    “Monhan Shibu no sato” official page
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2014年2月号掲載記事]



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  • 絵を描くように刺しゅうできるミシン

    [From February Issue 2014]

    Jaguar International Corporation
    Inkjet printers are useful for printing text created on a PC and pictures taken by digital cameras. By using thread in place of ink, and fabric instead of paper, perhaps it’s possible to create something with more warmth. With this thought in mind, Jaguar International Corporation developed a product called the “Embroidery Printer.”
    This product synthesizes an embroidery machine with software and comes with 120 pre-installed designs. If you connect the machine to a PC on which its software is installed, you can easily create original one-of-a-kind pieces of embroidery. It’s possible to embroider not only pre-installed patterns, but also pictures drawn on painting software, photos, and letters in the fonts you have installed on your PC.
    “Other companies’ embroidery machines tended to be expensive because they had a liquid crystal panel and a built-in computer to control the movement of fabric. Our machine, however, is connected to a PC. That’s why we could set the price low, which has helped increase the number of fans enjoying embroidery,” says MURASAKI Shunsuke of the Planning Division.
    “It’s necessary to have a PC in order to operate this embroidery machine. So we were careful to make the software easy to operate, even for those who aren’t adept with a PC. In addition, for the elderly, and others who are not used to using a mouse and keyboard, we made the software compatible with tablets,” says Murasaki emphasizing that ease of use was a top priority with this product.
    Comments have come flooding in from those who have used this machine, such as: “Because it came with embroidery software, I could try my hand at creating original patterns.” People also appreciate not only the fact that the software comes with a wide variety of fonts and patterns, but also that the software takes you through each step of the process so it’s easy to use even for those who don’t know much about PCs.
    Since being released on the market in 2007, the company has sold a total of hundreds of thousands of embroidery machines in over 25 countries. “Embroidery club” communities have spontaneously sprung up overseas. “It seems that a new kind of network is popular; through the Internet, users who are separated by distance can exchange their creative efforts,” says Murasaki.
    “It’s possible to express yourself through embroidery and users find pleasure through sharing their work. I’d like to encourage people to share that sense of joy and fun,” says Murasaki. These embroidery machines will be used in more and more settings, not only as “a machine that easily creates pictures with thread and fabric” but also as “a communication tool.”
    Jaguar International Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年2月号掲載記事]


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  • 吉野家

    [From February Issue 2014]

    Since it was established in 1899, Yoshinoya restaurant has continued to serve its Beef Bowl for more than 110 years. It is said that, “Yoshinoya is THE place for Beef Bowls.” The company motto is, “delicious, reasonable, and quick,” meaning that it’s possible to eat there affordably without having to wait. They also have a breakfast menu containing salmon and eggs, and, in addition, serve smaller portions for kids’ set meals.

    [No. 1] Beef Bowl (regular size) 280 yen

    Beef and onions are cooked in a secret sauce that has a wine and shouyu or soy sauce base and is served on a bed of rice. This product reflects the core values of being “delicious, reasonable, and quick.”

    [No. 2] Tokachi-style Pork Loin Bowl (regular size) 480 yen

    A large amount of fragrantly baked pork served on a bed of rice. Two kinds of soy sauce are used for the soup base creating a refreshing aftertaste that balances sweetness and spiciness.

    [No. 3] Beef Sukiyaki Pan Meal (regular size) 580 yen

    Hot pot meal containing beef, vegetables, and tofu. Because it is served on a small lit stove, it is piping hot until the very end.




    【No.2】ロース豚丼 十勝仕立て(並盛)480円





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  • アメリカのオーディション番組で優勝

    [From February Issue 2014]

    EBINA Kenichi,
    Director of Ebina Performing Arts
    “I am not very good at dancing,” says EBINA Kenichi. “Generally, in terms of dance, Caucasians and black people cut a better figure. I thought I wouldn’t make it because I’m Asian and short,” says Kenichi who, in September 2013, danced his way to winning the famous American talent show “America’s Got Talent,” taking home one million dollars in prize money.
    Ebina was born in Tokyo in 1974. He wasn’t especially fond of dancing. Because he had a friend that liked to dance, he would dance with him and they’d go to clubs together. Disappointed in love at the age of 20, when he remembered that he “wanted to go to America,” he went abroad, quitting his job at a gardening shop.
    Ebina’s experience of America was invigorating. “For the first time I thought that studying was fun,” he says. “In Japanese classrooms, students silently listen to what the teacher is saying and write it down to memorize. American teachers urge students to be assertive. And the students boldly speak out, even if their English is full of mistakes. It was only the Japanese students who were shy about making mistakes. Even if they got better scores in grammar than the native students, the Japanese students were afraid of failure.”
    “The American style suited me better,” says Ebina. “In addition, Japanese people hate being different from others, but in America, people do not have to be the same. I felt like I could be myself in America.”
    Around that time, Ebina danced at a school party. “When I performed some steps that I learned from a friend a long time ago, it was well received. It made me so happy that I started to teach myself to dance. I watched videos and went to watch performances, and tried to imitate the moves that interested me. Though it was only a part time job, I got work going to parties and dancing in order to liven things up.”
    Wanting to make it as a dancer, people come to New York from all over the world. “The standard is really high and I’m no match,” Ebina says. “But I was able to realize that when I recognized my weaknesses, there were other ways around it. Because my body is stiff I devised ways of making myself look supple, and worked hard on routines and production for the enjoyment of the audience.”
    Ebina’s performance features a combination of music, visuals, and lights. He draws from styles of dance that he finds interesting, including, hip-hop, jazz, and ethnic styles. He also does magic. So far he has won “Amateur Night” at the New York Apollo Theater as part of a group, and became grand champion as a solo performer having won the TV version “Showtime at the Apollo” seven times. He has performed in various countries including Japan, Australia, Europe and Asia.
    “I think I present particularly well visually,” Ebina says. “So someday soon I would like to direct. There are a lot of performers who are better than me, but there are many people who do not know how to show that off. My dream is to bring them together to create a show.” Ebina is supportive of Japan’s youth. “If you’ve only lived in Japan then you aren’t aware of the advantages of Japan. When you go out into the world, your outlook on life broadens, and if you can speak English, your market broadens to span the globe.”
    Ebina Performing Arts
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年2月号掲載記事]


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  • 女性の徳川将軍をめぐる人間模様を描く

    [From February Issue 2014]

    Ooku refers to the area within Edo Castle in which the shogun’s wives and concubines, and the women who attended to those women, lived during the Edo period (between the 17th and 19th centuries). Many people imagine that this place was a kind of harem, and it has been the setting for a number of TV dramas and movies that feature plots against the shogun and the jealousies surrounding him.
    But “Ooku,” which was first serialized in the female-oriented manga magazine Melody in 2005, has an innovative story that turned these representations on their head. It is set in a world where the shogun is actually a woman and in which many men reside in the Ooku.
    During the time of the third Tokugawa Shogun, TOKUGAWA Iemitsu, an epidemic of “blushing smallpox” swept the country. This brought about a switch in gender roles. This made-up sickness only affected men, and the mortality rate was especially high among young males. As a result, the male population decreased dramatically, and the female-to-male ratio soon reached four to one. The story begins when the disproportionately small male population has become a fact of life, about 80 years after the outbreak, during the reign of the eighth Tokugawa Shogun Yoshimune.
    During this period, only a very small number of elderly remember a time when there was about one male for every female. In order that they leave behind offspring, the small number of surviving males are treated with extreme care, and women take on the majority of work, including manual labor. Women still need to adopt a male name, however, in order to pass on their warrior or merchant class lineage. Even Yoshimune, who was originally named “Onobu,” adopts the male name Yoshimune as shogun.
    One day, Yoshimune meets with the leader of the Dutch Trading Post and is surprised to discover that not a single member of the trading post’s delegation to Japan is female. At this time, Japan continued to be isolated from other countries, and neither nation knew much about the other. In the story, excerpts from the actual Dutch leader’s diary are quoted, including: “The women of this country seem very hard-working” and “The shogun sounds like a young boy.” These historical facts lend a sense of reality to the fiction, making the reader wonder if the shogun could have actually been a woman.
    The story revisits the era of the third Tokugawa Shogun Iemitsu, and it gradually becomes clear how women began to take over the traditionally male role of the shogun by adopting male names. While it’s enjoyable watching this mystery unfurl, one of the many attractions of the story is the depiction of love affairs between the shogun and the men at the Ooku.
    This manga has also been translated into English. In 2009 it received the Tiptree Award, which is awarded to literary works, including science fiction, that provides us with a greater insight into gender roles. The series is still ongoing, and ten volumes of the comic version are currently available.
    Text:ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年2月号掲載記事]


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  • テレビ番組とマジックを通して国際交流

    [From February Issue 2014]

    David JOHN
    David JOHN produces programs for Indonesian TV, and, at the same time, has also been doing a wide variety of other activities, including working as a magician. In 2012, he set up a company called Curio Asia with some friends. “Kokoro No Tomo,” Indonesia’s first TV program dedicated to introducing Japan, is produced there and has been very favorably received.
    Some Japanese language schools in Indonesia use this TV program as a teaching tool. “Episodes in which Japanese idols appear are particularly popular,” says David. Japanese idol groups like Scandal have fans in Indonesia, too.
    David majored in IT programming at university and landed his first job with a Swedish software company. He was transferred to a Japanese subsidiary and came to Japan in 2000. Utilizing the knowledge he acquired there, he now works for an IT-related staff introduction agency. “I’m busy, but it’s a fulfilling job and I enjoy it,” says David.
    David managed to pick up his Japanese mostly through self-study. “I had lessons from friends and watched (the same) Japanese TV dramas over and over again. I attended a karate dojo as a hobby and during that time everyone around me was Japanese, so I had to speak Japanese whether I liked it or not. I made progress thanks to that,” says David.
    The secret of making progress with Japanese is to “talk with a variety of different people,” stresses David. “You can’t internalize whatever you learned unless you use it. Besides, Japanese has a male language and a female one. Non-Japanese men who only speak Japanese with their Japanese girlfriends can sound like women and that’s weird at times,” he laughs.
    David started doing magic as a hobby eight years ago and he’s now at a professional level. He was inspired by watching a magic program on TV. He studied with books on magic and delighted friends with demonstrations. By performing shows in different places he changed from being an enthusiast to a professional.
    He gets a lot of work livening up the parties of foreign-owned companies. Fluent both in English and Japanese, he’s a capable MC and is sometimes asked to host events. At matchmaking parties and wedding receptions he gets a man and a woman to help him with a trick. For this trick which each of them hold up a card and, at the last minute, the cards transform into a single card.
    David says that, in the future, he’d also like to produce TV programs that introduce Indonesia to Japanese. “While it’s worthwhile presenting the positive side of Japan to Indonesia, Indonesia, too, has many beautiful places other than its famous resort of Bali. I’d like it if many Japanese knew more about Indonesia.”
    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年2月号掲載記事]

    デイビッド・ジョンさんはインドネシアのテレビ番組の制作を行いながら、マジシャンとしても活躍するなど、様々な活動をしています。デイビッドさんは2012年に友人たちとキュリオ・アジア社を立ち上げました。ここで制作した、インドネシア初の日本紹介を専門とするテレビ番組「Kokoro No Tomo」は大好評です。

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