• 自然を表す芸術を好む日本人

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Approximately 80% of Japan is mountainous. Because of its high rainfall, it has abundant moisture and greenery. For this reason, in many places in Japan you can see vegetation growing by the edge of waterways or covering the sides of mountains. And this scenery changes according to the season. This is because there is a clear distinction between the four seasons in Japan. Preferring untouched nature (undeveloped natural beauty), Japanese feel a strong attachment to the bounty of nature and the changes in season.

    This preference is reflected in Japanese gardens too. In traditional Japanese gardens, objects, such as winding brooks or stones, are used without altering their natural form. Trees are also pruned in a way that makes use of their natural shape. The unique characteristics of the Japanese garden become clear when compared to the ruler straight flower beds and streams you find in Europe and the Middle East and the manufactured stones favored in China.

    “In the Japanese gardens that were created by daimyou (feudal lords) in the Edo period (17~19th centuries), we see a characteristic similar to landscape paintings,” says EBINA Makoto of the Cultural Assets Garden Section, Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association. “For example, a small mound is made to resemble the shape of Mount Fuji, or the garden is a miniaturized reproduction of a sorely missed native landscape.”

    “Japanese gardens are designed so that the scenery changes when you look at it from a different perspective,” says Ebina. In this way a slope resembles a mountain path when you ascend it, or standing close to a pond gives you the feeling that you’re standing on the sea shore. “Flowers and trees are planted with the characteristics of the changes in season in mind, so that in spring there are fresh green leaves, and in autumn the leaves show up in beautiful reds and yellows. These gardens are a condensed version of nature,” says Ebina.

    “Another characteristic trait of the Japanese garden is incorporating the topography and trees that were originally there in the garden design. For example, a waterfall is created where the land suddenly drops in height, or if the sea is nearby, seawater is pumped into the garden to create a pond, allowing visitors to enjoy the changes in water levels. When the tide goes out, a sandy beach that had been hidden is revealed,” Ebina says, explaining the special features of a Japanese garden.

    Japanese gardens may resemble untouched nature, but they are very difficult to maintain. “Trees in gardens designed to display beautiful scenery through the foliage, must be constantly pruned to prevent the foliage from getting too thick. In recent years, global warming has had an effect on certain trees, which now grow too vigorously, and flowers which bloomed in the old days, no longer bloom in season,” says Ebina. “Japanese gardens have to be maintained by highly skilled craftsmen. I think we must pass on these skills to future generations.”

    A traditional art form called “bonseki” is a way of creating miniaturized depictions of landscapes with sand and stone on a tray. This is a tradition that goes back several hundred years and there are a variety of different schools, but the basics of the Hosokawa style, which was founded by the 16th Century daimyou HOSOKAWA Tadaoki, uses natural stones and white sand on a black tray to suggest scenery.

    The Hosokawa style uses a stone to represent mountains and white sand to represent a sandy beach, the flow of water, or trees. The sand is placed on the tray with a small spoon and then patterns are created using bird feathers. Once complete they may be kept for a while, but generally they are tidied away by removing the stones and pouring the sand back into a box.

    “Originally bonseki was an art form connected with tea ceremony. It was prepared to decorate the tokonoma (alcove in a Japanese room) in honor of one of the guests at the ceremony, bearing in mind that person’s taste and the current season. So once the ceremony was over, the bonseki was cleared away,” says KOMEJI Setsuko, chairman of the Tokyo Kuyoukai, Hosokawa School of Bonseki. “When I am creating the tray, I can forget other things and concentrate on the art. All idle thoughts fade away and I can free myself from all thoughts and desires.”

    “Originally I liked suibokuga (India ink painting) and the rock gardens of Kyoto,” says Komeji. “I feel that bonseki, which represents miniaturized landscapes with sand, has an affinity with suibokuga. Using sand to represent water and stones for mountains is also similar to karesansui (traditional Japanese rock gardens). Because these representations strip away unnecessary elements, it conversely allows the viewer to give free reign to their imaginations. It gives you the feeling that you are actually there in the landscape.”

    “The appreciation of rocks is a cultural tradition that originally came from China, but the Japanese have adapted this to suit their own tastes,” relates Komeji. “Bonseki is associated with various forms of Japanese culture. We still recreate the same picture that is said to have been created by SEN no Rikyu and when we look at the textbooks from the past several hundred years, we can sense the influence of art and kimono that were popular in the day. These days artists of the Hosokawa School increasingly produce realistic landscapes.”

    Another hobby is suiseki, which is a way of appreciating nature in a stone. For example, spotting a similarity to Mount Fuji in a stone and displaying it for the appreciation of others. “Suiseki is a hobby in which the viewer can give free range to his imagination. One can imagine oneself climbing a mountain, recall a kanshi (Chinese poem) or waka (Japanese poem) about a mountain, and imagine the scene,” says WATANABE Hiroki, the chairman of Nikkei Suisekikai.

    Records of the hobby of suiseki date as far back as the 14th century. The Chinese cultural tradition of appreciating beautifully colored stones was adapted to Japanese tastes so that stones with a subdued wabi-sabi beauty, and stones closer to their natural state were preferred. Currently, there are more than 400 suiseki enthusiast associations in various parts of Japan, and a specialist monthly magazine, titled “Aiseki” (Love Stones), about stones. “There are people who pay money for several-hundred-year-old stones, but I like to go to rivers and beaches to gather stones that appeal to me,” says Watanabe.

    “When I look at a stone, I see a natural landscape in it: mountains in the higher parts and plains in the flat parts. When I place an ornament of a person riding a horse near it, it creates the image of a traveler going through an old mountain side. On the other hand, when I place a boat beside it, the image the stone conjures up changes into a sea shore. Because there are so many perspectives, I never tire of it,” says Watanabe, explaining the charms of suiseki.

    “The hobby we call suiseki has a deep connection with the sensibility of the Japanese which is well attuned to the topography of Japan with its numerous mountains and forests and the changes in season,” says Watanabe. Urbanization is advancing in modern day Japan, but the Japanese feeling of love toward nature does not seem to change.

    Tokyo Metropolitan park Association
    Tokyo Kuyoukai, Hosokawa School of Bonseki

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


















    盆石 細川流九曜会


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  • 増えてきた、歌を歌わないカラオケ

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Many people sing songs at “karaoke” with close friends or family. Part of Japanese culture, karaoke has been exported to other countries just as it is. The “kara” in the Japanese word karaoke means “empty” and the second part “oke,” is short for “o-kesutora” (orchestra). Originally the word karaoke referred only to the karaoke equipment itself, but now it also stands for a facility at which you can sing.

    Originally karaoke booths contained thick books from which to select songs, but now a karaoke-on-demand machine together with remote control is standard. A wide repertoire of songs can be stored on a karaoke-on-demand machine, so songs come not only in Japanese, but in many other languages including, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean.

    However, in recent years, the numbers of people going to karaoke has begun to decline. According to All-Japan Karaoke Industrialist Association (Tokyo) – an organization that operates karaoke booths – the total number of karaoke goers in Japan during 2011 was 46.4 million. If you compare this with 1994, when karaoke was at the height of its popularity, this is a 20% decrease. The increase in the number of vacant karaoke booths during weekday afternoons is becoming a serious concern.

    To counter this trend, some companies are increasingly offering karaoke booths to rent for other purposes than singing. For example, during this year’s summer holidays, SHIDAX CORPORATIONs “party rooms” were used as classrooms for the Shidax Chofu Kokuryo Club. In collaboration with Gakken E-mirai Co., Ltd., they hosted hour-long science and dietary education lessons for 30 children (of elementary school age and younger) and their parents.

    YAMASHITA Koji, their PR representative says, “Through our collaboration with Gakken, we hoped to make links between our other business ventures, such as food and public service businesses. We hope to continue this course not only during the summer holidays, but during other major holidays, too.” It was well-received by guardians who commented that, “At first, the children were attracted to the idea of making sweets and snacks, but they also enjoyed the science experiments as well.”

    Adores Inc. has karaoke machines in Akihabara, Tokyo that come with a device named “Sound Effecter” that allows you to plug in a guitar and play music. PR representative, FUJITA Masayuki says, “This is popular with people who come to use our rooms as a music studio. Currently the majority of users are young men in their teens and twenties, but we might have a different demographic of users from now on,” he says, hopefully. They also do guitar rentals.

    Fujita emphasizes that the role of karaoke booths has evolved, “They’re no longer just a place to sing, they’ve become spaces for a variety of different uses and goals.” Recently, there has been an increase in the numbers of people who use these rooms on their own to practice a song they intend to sing at a wedding, or to study for an exam. This change reflects a trend towards trying to prevent booths becoming “kara,” or empty.

    Adores, Inc.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • 時代とともに変わる日本の歌

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Japanese songs come in many different genres. One type is a genre deeply rooted in the Japanese way of life; simple lyrical songs such as “Sakura Sakura” (Cherry Blossom) or “Koujou no Tsuki” (Moon Over a Ruined Castle), and regional folk songs. For these songs traditional Japanese musical instruments such as the koto (Japanese harp), shamisen (a string instrument similar to the guitar) and shakuhachi (flute) are often used. Another genre is enka, a unique kind of Japanese music, which uses “kobushi” (an accentuated or fluctuating note) to emphasize parts of the song.

    Many enka songs take the theme of thwarted love. The late MISORA Hibari was one of the most notable enka singers, who, since she was a little girl, reigned as one of the genre’s most popular singers. The late KOGA Masao was a famous enka song writer who created hit after hit with his melancholy melodies. The 50s and 60s were a golden era for enka, but, with the rapidly growing economy, new genres, such as “mood” romantic ballads appeared on the scene.

    In addition “group sounds” bands like the Tigers and Tempters appeared and became popular. At the start of the 70s, new folk singers and groups such as YOSHIDA Takuro, INOUE Yousui and ARAI Yumi (present-day MATSUTOYA Yumi) appeared one after another. Songs in which singers expressed their feelings directly were called “new music.”

    In the 80s, charismatic singer OZAKI Yutaka’s cries from the heart resonated with young people and drew a lot of attention. After that many different kinds of artists appeared and the term “J-Pop” began to be used. In 1991, SMAP, a band from Johnny’s talent agency – an agency that has created many handsome idol groups – debuted and became popular instantly.

    In November 2012, the JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) announced the top 100 songs from the past 30 years, based on royalties generated from karaoke and other means of distribution. At number one was SMAP’s “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (The One and Only Flower in the World). The reason it was so successful was that the song’s message – that you don’t have to become number one and that each of us is the one and only flower of its kind in the world – struck a chord with many people.

    Other Music Scenes

    AKB48 is trending right now. Many female idol groups have been manufactured in the past. In the 70s Pink Lady was hugely popular, in the 80s it was Onyanko Club and Morning Musume, who debuted in 1998, is also well-known.

    There is a TV program that many people watch on New Year’s Eve, namely NHK’s Kouhaku Utagassen (Annual Singing Contest), which has been going since 1953. Male and female singers, or group singers, divided into red and white teams of 25 compete. Teams are selected according to a variety of surveys. Japan’s top singers, from idol group AKB48 to enka king KITAJIMA Saburo – 2012 marked his 49th appearance on the show – perform on the night.

    Of course, many foreign songs come to Japan. What’s called “yougaku” (western music) has also been popular since the era of Elvis PRESLEY and the Beatles. Recently, in addition to western singers, Korean singers are also becoming popular.












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  • 宮崎県――神話と伝説のふるさと

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Miyazaki Prefecture is located in the southeastern part of the Kyushu region. With its mild climate, Miyazaki was a mecca once for honeymooning couples. Now it’s a mecca for surfers and from spring to autumn a number of surfing competitions are held in the prefecture. There are even people who move there just to go surfing. Miyazaki is also known for being the location of training camps for professional baseball and soccer teams and there are tours that show visitors round these camps.

    Palm trees, such as the Phoenix and Washington Palms, are the symbol of Miyazaki. Washington Palms can often be seen lining the road and grow to about 25 meters tall. Able to withstand strong winds, these trees rarely break, but withered leaves are regularly removed by crews using cranes so that they will not fall and harm pedestrians.

    To enjoy a day out in Miyazaki, it’s a good idea to go on a sightseeing bus tour. On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, a tour, titled “Nichinan-kaigan Coast and Obi, Kyushu’s little Kyoto,” runs along the shore, stopping at places of interest. Although there is no English-speaking guide on board, you can still enjoy the tour by obtaining a pamphlet written in English, Chinese or Korean in advance.


    Washington Palms / Aoshima Shrine


    The first place the bus stops at is Aoshima. Although it’s a small island of about 1.5 kilometers in circumference, there are 27 kinds of subtropical plants growing there. The island is surrounded by undulating rocks called “the Demon’s Washboard.” Having been eroded by the waves for a long time, only hard layers of sandstone that resemble a pile of planks have been left behind. When the tide is out, you can often find small crabs and shellfish moving about on the Demon’s Washboard. What looks like a sandy beach is actually made up of seashells.

    It is said that the “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters) is Japan’s oldest history book, and that about two thirds of the places featured in the book are in Miyazaki Prefecture. In the Kojiki, Aoshima Shrine on Aoshima Island is the place where the love story between Yamasachihiko and Princess Toyotama takes place, and thus is a shrine to the god of marriage.

    About a ten-minute drive from Aoshima is Horikiri-toge Pass. Nearby is Phoenix, a rest stop which sells local specialty products, including soft-serve ice cream with such special local flavors as ashitaba (a herb of the parsley family), mango, lobster and hyuuganatsu (a citrus fruit similar to a tangerine). There you can enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean stretching out endlessly before you and the Nichinan Phoenix Road, which has been chosen as one of the 100 best roads in Japan.


    Udo Jingu Shrine / Garden at Obi


    Continuing on your journey you come to Udo-jingu Shrine, which enshrines Ugaya Fukiaezuno Mikoto. This is where Prince Toyotama gave birth to Ugaya Fukiaezuno Mikoto. The main shrine is inside a cave. When you visit, you must try your hand at undama-nage (throwing a lucky ball). Aiming for the kame ishi (turtle stone) throw the undama – a ceramic ball about two centimeters in diameter – with your left hand if you are a man and with your right hand if you are a woman. It costs 100 yen for five balls. It is said that if a ball goes into a hole in the stone, your wish will come true. Undama balls are made by hand by local elementary and middle school students.

    The last stop is Obi. This is called “Kyushu’s little Kyoto,” characterized by streets of old stone walled houses where samurai used to live. You can tour the residence and garden of the ITO family, who served under Shogun TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi. Visitors really ought to try eating obi-ten and atsuyaki-tamago. Obi-ten is deep-fried fish paste, and atsuyaki-tamago (a thick omelet) is as soft and fluffy as a custard pudding.

    The bus mainly runs along Nichinan-kaigan Coast, allowing you to enjoy views of the sea. At the high of its popularity, in the 1960s and 1970s 370,000 pairs of newlyweds visited Miyazaki’s coast annually. Ninety-five buses ran along the route per day. All this started in 1960, when SHIMAZU Takako, the fifth daughter of Emperor Showa, went to Miyazaki on her honeymoon. Two years later, the then crown prince and crown princess, who had just got married, also visited Miyazaki, feeding the trend.


    Sunmesse Nichinan / Heiwadai Park


    Other unique tourist spots include Sunmesse Nichinan and Heiwadai Park. You can see moai statues from Easter Island at Sunmesse Nichinan, the only place in the world where the statues were allowed to be replicated by the Chilean government. It also houses an animal farm, and “the Bell that Gives Thanks to the Earth,” the first structure to be built with funds donated by top officials from religious organizations from around the world, including Christian and Buddhist sects.

    Heiwadai Park is a relaxing place for the citizens of Miyazaki and its symbol is a 37-meter-high tower. In a plaza within the park is a stone platform, if you stand on top of it and clap your hands, the sound echoes against the tower. The starting point of the second leg of the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics 1964 was in Heiwadai Park and the torch used then still remains there. Next to the park is Haniwa-en Garden, where you can enjoy looking at the expressions on the faces of haniwa (ancient clay figures).

    Miyazaki is famous for its mangoes and hyuuganatsu, and there are also a number of sweets made using these fruits. Famous local dishes include hiyajiru, nikumaki-onigiri (rice balls wrapped with slices of meat), chicken nanban (fried chicken with vinegar and tartar sauce), miyazaki-jitokko (a local variety of chicken) and Miyazaki beef. These days, many sweet shops produce cheese manjuu (buns stuffed with cheese instead of bean paste), which are popular as souvenirs.

    It takes one hour and 40 minutes to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Miyazaki Airport. On the rooftop of Miyazaki Airport, there is a plane on display which you can actually climb inside, which was used for training purposes by the Civil Aviation College. This plane was able to avoid being damaged by the tsunami on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it was flying over Sendai for training.

    Miyazaki City Tourisum Association
    Nichinan City
    Miyazaki Kotsu Co., Ltd.

















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  • 日本食に欠かせないカツオ節

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Katsuobushi, also called dried bonito, is a smoked fermented fillet of skipjack tuna. An essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine, shaved dried katsuobushi is one of the main ingredients in dashi, a broth that forms the base of many soups, including miso.

    First the head of the fish is removed and the flesh is deboned. The fatty belly area is also removed. The fillets are then put in a basket and simmered for an hour to an hour and a half. Bones from the ribs are then removed and the fish is smoked. This action is repeated many times and the process can take up to a month.

    The last step of the process is to cover the fillets with mold and let them dry. The fermentation stage in the process is essential for breaking down the long molecules of the natural fat in the bonito into shorter ones, and this creates the so-called umami flavor. Artisan katsuobushi makers repeat the fermentation stage multiple times until all of the fat has been converted. A katsuoboshi master knows when this has occurred from the softness of the surface of the whole katsuobushi, as well as from the sound it makes when struck.

    A katsuobushi block has the appearance of very hard, dry wood and is less than 20% of its original weight, containing only 18 ~ 20% water. Production takes from three to six months. In spite of its external dull brown color, once broken, the katsuobushi block is a beautiful ruby red inside. When sold in thin shavings it has a soft color somewhere between pink and light brown.

    Katsuobushi is mostly found shaved into very thin pieces and is mainly used for making dashi stock. However it does come in other shapes and sizes: thicker shavings with a richer flavor can be used for salad or as a substitute for smoked ham in a variety of different dishes. You can also buy whole katsuobushi blocks and shave it yourself for a fresher taste. Thin katsuobushi shavings are often used as a topping for dishes such as okonomiyaki or cold tofu. When used on hot dishes it is also called “dancing fish flakes,” because the flakes move in the steam.

    Before shaved katsuobushi was sold in strong plastic bags, every household had a special bowl for katsuobushi and it was often the job of the children in the house to shave the katsuobushi before meals. Elderly people associate the sound of katsuobushi being shaved with pleasant childhood memories.

    The katsuo fish itself has been consumed in Japan ever since the Jomon period (12,000 ~ 4,000 years ago) but dried bonito was not consumed until later and its appearance and taste have evolved over the years to become the product you can find in stores nowadays.

    Katsuobushi is very low in calories but contains lots of protein, thus making it very good for the health. It is considered to be a diet food and useful for fighting stress. Interestingly, outside of Japan it is also widely sold as a gourmet treat for cats.


    Text: Nicolas SOERGEL













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  • ニンジャ教授が大学で教えるサバイバル術

    [From January Issue 2013]


    KAWAKAMI Jinichi

    Since way back, ninja have appeared in novels, movies, comics and games. Using their ninjitsu skills, ninja fight enemies and save their masters who employed them. Similar to a famous brand, the ninja is known, not only in Japan, but also abroad. What isn’t known though is whether such people really existed, and if they did, what kind of activities they were involved in.

    In Japan, Iga City, Mie Prefecture and Koka City, Shiga Prefecture are famous as ninja hangouts. In order to do research into the history and culture of ninjutsu, KAWAKAMI Jinichi, honorary director at the Iga-ryu Ninja Museum in Iga City, became a specially appointed professor of the Science of Ninjutsu at Mie University last December. Kawakami says, “Since I was a child, I’ve been practicing the same training routines as ninja.”

    When he was around six, Kawakami encountered ISHIDA Masazo, teaching Koka-ryu ninjutsu in his neighborhood. Taking an interest in ninjutsu, he learned a variety of martial arts techniques used by ninja, including how to throw shuriken (throwing stars), a weapon commonly believed to have been used by ninja. He also learned to walk without making any sound, to use wild grass as medicine, to sneak into enemy territory, and to set traps. And at the age of 18, he succeeded Ishida and began to hand down the Koka-ryu ninjutsu tradition and teach martial arts to young pupils as a master himself.

    Called “the last ninja” by those got to know him through his ninja activities, Kawakami speaks at various seminars. It was because of a lecture he gave at a symposium hosted by Mie University last year that Kawakami became a specially appointed professor. At the university, he is studying documents related to ninjustu. He is planning to publish his research results in the future.

    Running and jumping about in the mountains, fighting with ninjitsu, and so on; in novels and movies, ninja are depicted as being similar to spies. Kawakami, however, sees ninja as people who have knowledge about information gathering, psychology, medicine and sociology, as well as survival skills. Therefore, when he gets injured or catches a cold, Kawakami cures himself with medicine made from wild grasses.

    “When I was training to become a ninja, I practiced reading other people’s emotions, and this was useful when making business deals and for establishing important relationships,” Kawakami recalls. Because of this, he says, “At the university, I want to teach students not only about the skills that ninja possess, but also their way of thinking, their spirit and historical background.”

    Kawakami is trying to portray ninja not as fictional characters but as masters of survival skills that can be applied to modern life. And in order to disseminate this idea, he is working as a museum director and a university professor. Kawakami’s science of ninjutsu, might help people from abroad with an interest in Japanese culture, history and thought processes, to know Japan more deeply.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • 舞台女優を志す女の子を描いた少女まんが

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Garasu no Kamen (Glass Mask)

    First serialized in 1975 and still going today, “Garasu no Kamen” (Glass Mask) is a popular shoujo manga (girl’s comic). Its fast paced story of rivalry and love made the manga a huge hit. It has been adapted into a TV drama, a TV anime and a play. Since it’s been going for such a long time, the manga can be read to get an insight into changes in Japanese society.

    Heroine KITAJIMA Maya is an elementary school student. Barely able to keep up with her studies, she lives in poverty with her mother. Maya has a talent for storytelling. One day, by chance, the famous actress TSUKIKAGE Chigusa passes by while Maya is telling a story to some children in the park. Tsukikage is captivated and Maya is drawn into the world of the theater.

    Maya has a genius for performing on stage. Chigusa decides that someday Maya will play the lead role in the masterpiece “Kurenai Tennyo” (The Crimson Maiden of Heaven) and trains her hard for the role. The other actors feel that Chigusa is giving Maya special treatment and begin to play tricks on her while on stage. But with talent and hard work, Maya overcomes these difficulties and soon becomes a famous actress.

    Maya has a very talented rival in HIMEKAWA Ayumi. Beautiful and intelligent, Ayumi has been raised by a wealthy family and has had an excellent education. She is well connected because both her parents are in the entertainment business. Though everyone believes that Ayumi is the best choice for the lead role in “Kurenai Tennyo,” Maya battles with her own insecurities and tries to land the part. Gradually her dream becomes a reality.

    Maya also has an enemy. He is HAYAMI Masumi, the president of a talent agency. Masumi believes that “productions are products,” and, as a business rival, tries to hinder Chigusa and Maya. Secretly though he is charmed by Maya’s acting and sends her flowers and money anonymously. Not knowing the true situation, Maya detests Masumi, but when she find out about his kind side, she becomes bewildered. Soon the two fall in love.

    “Garasu no Kamen” became a huge hit with young girls. Not only because it tells the story of a normal girl becoming a star, but also because of the flamboyant costumes and makeup stirred up dreams in little girls of becoming beautiful actresses themselves. Love between enemies and confessions of love by a childhood friend are typical romantic storylines used in shoujo manga. On the other hand, sports manga and shounen manga (boy’s comics) fans were also attracted to this series because the heroine confronts various rivals and, after giving it her best shot, wins out in the end.

    Today there is a hotel which has rooms and a food menu themed around the main characters, and, in addition, Masumi tweets on Twitter. There is also a project underway in which readers can vote on their favorite lines from the manga to be printed onto a set of karuta (playing cards) that is due to go on sale. Since this manga series has been going for such a long time, developments within Japan over the past few decades can be seen: the black home phones of yesteryear have been replaced with smartphones and the poverty stricken households that used to be depicted are no longer seen.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo












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