• 再び注目される社歌

    [From July Issue 2012]


    Just like every country has a national anthem, many Japanese companies have company anthems. Corporate anthems are songs that represent the spirit of the company, and are most often sung during corporate events and morning assemblies. In reality, even if they have one, many companies do not sing their anthems. However, there is a trend towards actively using the company anthem in order to unite employees and to give the corporate image a boost.

    In recent years, many unique company anthems, perhaps commissioned from famous composers, or made in-house with the help of company employees, have made their debut. In addition, some company anthems have been made available for karaoke and are used to motivate employees. It seems that recently, rather than being formal and difficult, company anthems are something that foster and encourage a sense of community.

    For example, Kikkoman Co., Ltd. commissioned the producer of AKB 48, AKIMOTO Yasushi, to write the lyrics for their anthem, and the popular composer OSHIMA Michiru to compose the music. Their anthem, titled “Oishii Kioku” (Delicious Memories), is sung on occasions such as when senior management addresses the company, or at initiation ceremonies, and the song is also played over the PA system at each office before the start of business. Additionally, the song is distributed through some karaoke on demand services and is utilized to deepen ties of friendship between clients and employees. The company anthem is an effective communication tool, used both within and without the company.

    ITO Hiroshi of the Corporate Communication Department reflects on the tremendous impact the company anthem made on the company, “The company anthem has given us an opportunity to think about what kind of lifestyle we want to deliver to our customers, and it has allowed us to consider each aspect of our business from the standpoint of our customers. Also, by singing it together, it produces a feeling of unity between employees.”

    There are some companies that put together their own lyrics and music, but there are also cases in which production companies have been commissioned to do this job. Creating company anthems, Idea-Garage Co. Ltd., operates “Sya-ka Seisaku Dot-com” (Corporate Anthem Dot-com). They produce company anthems by interviewing employees and discussing with them what kind of song they would like.

    “In the past it was generally the case that company anthems would be reluctantly sung at morning pep talks, so at one point they began to disappear. But recently they’ve come back into the spotlight. If company employees can participate in writing the lyrics, this strengthens the sense that the ‘song is theirs.’ Listening to the familiar tune over and over again gives employees a chance to reflect back on why they are working for the company,” says company president, NISHIO Ryuichi.

    Just like the word “kizuna” (ties) became a focus of attention after last year’s Great East Japan Earthquake, the importance of cooperating with each other to achieve the same goal is now being reaffirmed. One reason for the revival of the company anthem is to strengthen ties between company employees. Different from songs used in commercials to advertise products, company anthems aim to strengthen unity between employees and will surely increase in number from now on.

    Kikkoman Co., Ltd.
    Idea-Garage Co. Ltd.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • 復興を支えるボランティア活動の組織化

    [From July Issue 2011]

    The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, with its epicenter off the coast in the Pacific Ocean, was the worst disaster in Japan since the end of World War II with 23,000 dead or missing. Miyagi Prefecture was hit the hardest, with 15,000 people dead or missing and most of its coast swept away by the tsunami. In Ishinomaki, the biggest city in the prefecture after Sendai, more than 5,700 people are dead or missing.

    Volunteer activities in the city are carried out using the “Ishinomaki method,” which is attracting attention. The method effectively organizes volunteer staff so they can engage in activities that meet the needs of the victims in the stricken area. The spacious campus of Ishinomaki Senshu University is being used as its base, with about 500 to 1,000 volunteers on weekdays camping out on its sports fields.

    NGO Peaceboat was the first group to arrive in Ishinomaki after the disaster and is sending down more than 100 volunteers every week from Tokyo. Coordinator UENO Yoshinori feels three fortunate elements combined to make the Ishinomaki method successful in engaging so many in volunteer activities.

    First, the city was able to secure land for its base. Ishinomaki Senshu University and Ishinomaki City had been indiscussions for more than a year about how to use the campus in case of a tsunami. The city had been expecting to use that space to store relief goods, as a heliport, and as a good location to house about 1,000 volunteers. The inland university with its spacious grounds met the requirements and, in preparation, possible supply routes were prepared in case of a disaster. The fact that the mayor of Ishinomaki City, KAMEYAMA Hiroshi had been a professor at the university helped in obtaining the institution’s full cooperation to facilitate the intake of the volunteers after the earthquake.

    Secondly, Ishinomaki City Social Welfare Council (SWC), a local organization set up to liaise with volunteers, responded flexibly to offers of help. ABE Yoshinori, subsection chief in charge of planning and general affairs looks back and says, “Since the damage was so extensive, we had no reason to decline offers from organizations coming to help us.” SWC is in a position to directly listen to the problems of the local people. “When people speaking standard Japanese arrive, the locals become rather reserved. It’s easier for them to communicate their needs to people who speak the same dialect,” says Abe explaining the merits of dialogue between people of the same area.

    Thirdly, Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery Assistance Council (IDRSC) was established. In fact, it is impossible to talk about the Ishinomaki method without mentioning the IDRSC. More than 220 NPOs and NGOs have registered with this council as of May 17, 2011. If these organizations act independently, they run the risk of having two or more groups engaging in the same activity at the same time at the same place. In order to prevent that, the organizations get together in the evening and report on how their activities are progressing.

    ITO Shuki, the chairperson of IDRSC had been aware that it would be difficult to divide the requests brought to SWC and IDRSC among the NGOs and NPOs so that the tasks would match up with each organization’s particular strengths. “Each NGO or NPO were created with a particular purpose in mind, they have a strong sense of purpose and specialized skills to deal with specific problems. Our work is to match their skills to the needs of the local people,” says Ito.

    Volunteers first register at the SWC or the IDRSC. There are nine subcommittees of the IDRSC, handling medical care, mental health care, transportation, childcare, hot meals, “mud-busting” work (raking out sludge from houses and shops), relaxation, a psychological assessment survey and daily life support (involving the distribution of goods). As members of organizations, people participate in activities they are suited to.

    Among the subcommittees, the one with the biggest numbers of volunteers registered is mud-busting.Flooded buildings have sludge in them and it is hard work getting rid of it. Just looking at this state of affairs made many locals feel that they had lost their drive to “get back on their feet” or to“carry on.”

    In the shopping streets in the center of the city, many shopkeepers looked at the interior of their shops covered with sludge and decided they could not stay in businesses. In response to the situation, SWC and IDRSC dispatched mud-busters. Many shops could have sludge cleared in a day or two with the help of a unit of about five people. There have been cases in which shopkeepers, who had given up, started to make plans to reopen their businesses, after their shops were cleaned up by the volunteers.

    One of the organizations that is sending the biggest number of mud-busters out is Peaceboat, although the original purpose of the NGO is to promote international friendship through cruises around the world. “We are used to deploying many members of staff and to coordinating transport,” says Ueno. The organization has also brought in chefs who have previously worked aboard its ships. Ueno feels that the abilities of the staff is matching the work, keeping Peaceboat active while still maintaining its identity.

    Matching the needs of the local people with the abilities of volunteers sounds simple but it is a difficult task, which has not often been discussed. The Ishinomaki method has shown that local administration can join in the effort by acting as a bridge to connect the power of the volunteers with the needs of the local people, making their activities more effective.

    IDRSC does not have the kanji meaning “city” in its name. Ito says that this decision was made with the idea of applying this method to other areas. Now 16 years have passed since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. During that time the general public felt inspired to volunteer their help; now a developed form of volunteerism is helping the reconstruction of the Tohoku area.

    Ishinomaki Disaster Recovery Assistance Council
    Ishinomaki City Social Welfare Council

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo


















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  • 婚活事業に自治体が続々と参加

    [From July Issue 2011]

    The term “konkatsu” which denotes the “matchmaking activities of an individual seeking a wedding partner” became common parlance approximately three years ago. Many private companies have helped build this industry, but in recent years, municipalities have also been participating proactively. Of them, Shinagawa Ward (Tokyo) is considered to be the industry’s pioneering municipality because it established the “Shinagawa Marriage Support” program in 2008. Three times a year the municipality partners up with O-net Inc. marriage service company to throw matchmaking events.

    Each event starts with a seminar in which participants learn about their own personality type and how to communicate with the opposite sex, before the real party begins. “Before, we used to divide the men and women for the seminar. But now, we have all the participants attend the seminar together. Initially, these events were hosted at popular venues within the ward such as the aquarium, places which stimulated interaction. But after we combined the seminars, we saw that at the party the participants opened up quicker than before,” says KATO Toshiaki of O-net’s PR Group.

    As of April 20, 2011, Akita Prefecture, which recorded the lowest marriage rate in Japan for 2009, introduced a data-based marriage matchmaking (omiai) system. Akita Prefecture established the “Akita Kekkon Shien (Wedding Support) Center” in 2010, to provide young men and women with information about matchmaking parties hosted by local companies. As a result, they have succeeded in bringing together a total of 5,400 party goers, with 11 couples reported to have tied the knot.

    “Some question why the prefecture has to go so far. But because of Akita’s current situation, the government decided that there is a need to go this far in order to stop the declining annual birthrate. That is why the municipality decided to introduce the matchmaking system,” says KIMURA Masahiko. The supervisor for the Akita Prefecture Declining Birthrate Policy Team, explains, that, “Although the system aimed for 500 annual registrations, there were already 60 applications submitted a mere five days after the system launched. This number reflected the high interest of the local citizens in this kind of municipal service.

    These matchmaking services have unparalleled trust from the users because they are hosted by the municipality. Additionally and on a positive note, since the local government provides monetary support for the service, the fees are affordable in comparison to those of private companies’. Hence, the choices in the field of konkatsu are now more varied. However, psychiatrist Dr. ONO Hiroyuki feels there are cases where people fall into a depressed state because they have a hard time finding a partner.

    “During konkatsu activities an individual evaluates themself from many angles. Because of this, when the match does not work, one feels like the entire self is being rejected,” he explains. As a result, Dr. Ono has established the “konkatsu hirou gairai (matchmaking burnout care service)” at the Kawamoto Mental Clinic (Sumida Ward, Tokyo) where he is an advisor. Furthermore, he additionally learned that just visiting a mental health clinic has a negative impact on konkatsu activity, so he also set up a Skype counseling service.

    To prevent becoming “konkatsu depressed,” Dr. Ono also advises people to find konkatsu friends of the same sex to talk to about their inner feelings with, and not to set severe limitations, such as a certain age by which to get married, etc. So in this day and age when konkatsu is no longer a trend, it seems that industry-related businesses have taken on greater roles, including municipal participation and mental health care.

    Shinagawa Marriage Support
    Akita Kekkon Shien Center
    Kawamoto Mental Clinic

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo











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  • 都民にとって最も身近な山――高尾山

    [From July Issue 2011]

    Located in Tokyo’s Hachioji City, Tokyoites are very familiar with Mount Takao. The train station closest to the base of the mountain is Takaosan-guchi station. A mere 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station, central Tokyo plus a five minute walk from the station, brings visitors to the entrance to a mountain carpeted with verdant greenery.

    The mountain was rated a “must see” receiving three stars from France’s Michelin Guide because of its rich greenery and proximity to the metropolitan area. The only mountains in Japan that have achieved a three star rating are Mount Takao and Mount Fuji.

    Standing at only 599 meters, Mount Takao is not so high. It is a one to two hour climb from the base to the summit on foot. There is a cable car and two-seater lift up the mountain to allow visitors who don’t want to walk long distances to enjoy the mountain with ease. The lift is highly recommended during the summer season for the enjoyable sensation of a refreshing breeze.


    It is about 40 minutes on foot from the Takaosan cable car station or the Sanjo lift station to the summit. On a very sunny day Yokohama’s Landmark Tower is visible from the summit. An observation deck is located to the right of the funicular station for visitors who aren’t feeling up to the hike to the top. There, visitors can enjoy the view of dense green foliage and a view of Hachioji City without hiking to the summit.

    Seven hiking trails with distances of one to four kilometers are available on Mount Takao. All the trails are equipped with restrooms and rest stops. One of the most popular routes is trail number four, which covers a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers from Takaosan cable car station to the summit. The gradual uphill climb allows visitors to savor the flourishing greenery which includes beech and fir trees. It is also called the “suspension bridge course.”

    Another reason for Mount Takao’s popularity are the various facilities that give pleasure to members of both sexes and people of different ages on a day out, including the Monkey Park, Wildflower Garden and the Takaosan Yakuoin Temple. At the Monkey Park, there are approximately 50 monkeys and the adorable baby monkeys born in the spring bring a smile to the faces of visitors. In the Wildflower Garden there are approximately 300 varieties of native plant species currently growing in their natural habitat.

    The highlight of the summer in Mount Takao is the beer garden. Every year on July 1, the mountainside observation point transforms itself into the “Takaosan Beer Mount,” and is bustling with people trying to get away from the city heat (this year it is open until October 2). The nighttime scenery is the perfect accompaniment to a beer, so drinking a beer at Mount Takao after dark has become somewhat of a summer tradition.

    Various Japanese and Italian dishes are on Takaosan Beer Mount’s buffet-style menu. The specialty is tororo-soba. Tororo-soba is soba (buckwheat) noodles with grated yamaimo (yam) topping. It is said that this dish was originally served to hikers by locals, giving visitors energy for the climb. These days the dish is valued for its slow release of energy.


    Now Mount Takao is popular with the citizens of Tokyo, but formerly, Mount Takao was revered as a spiritual mountain by the local citizens. The Takaosan Yakuoin Temple was built on the mountain in 744 by Gyoki Bosatsu. Izuna Daigongen is enshrined there. Izuna Daigongen, who has a beak and wings, is a Buddhist god that is said to bring wealth to its worshipers.

    Protecting the honzon (principal sacred object in the shrine) of this temple is the tengu. A tengu is a creature with a red face, long nose or a crow-like beak, who wears the robes of a monk training in the mountains. Depending on the region, tengu are thought to be either devils or gods, but at Takaosan, they are the protectors of the temple’s honzon. Here, the long-nosed tengu is referred to as daitengu (great tengu), and the beaked tengu as shoutengu (small tengu) or karasu tengu (crow tengu). Statues of these tengu can be found in the temple grounds.

    There are many tengu legends in Mount Takao. One of them concerns the Tako Sugi (Octopus Cedar), which is now a popular photo location. This huge cedar attracts attention not because of its size – the tree is 37m high with a trunk circumference of 6m – but because of the shape of its roots. They rise above the ground and resemble octopus legs, thus the name “Tako Sugi.”


    Long ago when people were trying to maintain the route to the approach of the temple, this huge cedar was in the way. Legend has it that when the tengu tried to take it down with its special powers, the tree decided that being cut down would be painful and used its roots to move itself, allowing the people to clear the trail. The sight of the thick roots entwined around the trunk makes the legend convincing.

    Mount Takao with its verdant wildlife is still home to musasabi (flying squirrels) which visitors can see jumping from tree to tree after dark. Long ago when there was less light after sunset, people may have confused the musasabi with tengu. As a familiar avatar of the gods, the tengu of Mount Takao have watched over the lives of humans with kindness and diligence.

    Photos courtesy by Hachioji City Tourism Section
    Photos courtesy by Takao Tozan Dentetsu Co., Ltd.
    Photos courtesy by Takaosan Yakuoin Temple

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo




















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  • 「絵心なしでもマンガが描ける」ソフトの可能性

    [From July Issue 2011]

    TANAKA Keiichi

    For those who’d love to draw manga, but aren’t very good at it, the software package “Comipo!,” released in December 2010, is a dream come true. More and more books related to this topic are being published. In April, the software won the Excellent New Technology/New Product Award for Small and Medium-sized Businesses for its innovation. It’s the talk of the town.

    Web Technology Corp’s TANAKA Keiichi who planned and produced this software, is also a professional cartoonist who’s created five manga series for magazines. These days more and more cartoonists produce their work on computers. But Tanaka is a member of the old school and prefers to draw manga by hand.

    The reason why Tanaka created Comipo! was that he saw that images and speech bubbles are the basic components of manga. “What cannot be communicated with words alone can be understood immediately with images and speech bubbles. Until now, only those who had talent for drawing had that option.” So they developed software with built-in images and frames allowing the user the freedom to create the rest.

    Comipo! is very simple to use. First you choose a layout and put characters in it. That’s all. Then you make them pose, change their facial expressions and type in the speech bubbles. The main characters are good-looking girls, but you can “transform” them into, say, old women by changing their hair-do and adding wrinkles. Since the characters are 3D models, you have the freedom to change the point of view; it’s fun to feel as if you are choosing a camera angle for a movie shoot.

    When this software was released, other cartoonists gave it a chilly reception. They were afraid of the increased competition and they thought cartoonists should create their own characters. Editors at manga publications believe that someday Comipo! manga will be submitted to their magazines. But they worry whether these easy to create images can be called manga.

    However, Tanaka feels this type of reaction is similar to when digital music first came on the scene. Some complained that sounds made without real musical instruments couldn’t be considered music. “Hand-drawn manga and those created by Comipo! have completely different merits. Hand-drawn manga will still be around even if Comipo! becomes the norm in the future.”

    Because of its capacity to illustrate points visually along with speech bubbles, Comipo! is used for business applications such as presentations and product explanations. To revitalize the local economy, the city of Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture used this software on its yuzu-ponzu (citrus-based sauce) packaging. Based on the philosophy that Comipo! is just a tool. Each work will have a personal touch despite the similarity of images and the copyright of the images created using Comipo! belongs to the creator entirely.

    The scenes are limited basically to schools and the characters are mainly good-looking girls, so so far, users are mostly male. The software still has many challenges to meet, such as attracting more female users by offering a wider variety of images. But there are already some user communities who exchange 3D creations or image data. An English version will be launched this summer. How will the tool be utilized by overseas users who are only used to reading manga? New developments are expected.


    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo













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  • お腹をすかせた人を救うスーパーヒーロー物語

    [From July Issue 2011]

    Soreike! Anpanman: The Tear of the Shining Star (Directed by NAGAOKA Akinori)

    “S oreike! Anpanman,” (Go! Anpanman) was the first movie (1989) from the Anpanman anime series which has been broadcast on TV since 1988. This summer, the 23rd Anpanman movie will be released. The TV series, with over 1,000 episodes broadcast, was recognized in the 2009 Guinness World Records for having the highest number of characters in an anime series – the show has featured more than 1,700 characters. Anpanman, one of Japan’s most popular anime characters, appeals to young children, boys and girls alike.

    Ninety-two-year-old YANASE Takashi, the creator of Anpanman, experienced food shortages during the Second World War; as a result, Anpanman lets hungry people bite off part of his head which is made of anpan (bread with sweet bean paste). When most of his head has been eaten, Anpanman can regain his strength by having his father, Jam Ojisan, bake him another anpan head.

    A spaceship that has been struck by lightning crashes into the forest and Anpanman gets Jam Ojisan to fix a broken robot he has found inside. The robot, which calls itself Marude Hender, says that it has come all the way from planet Shining Star with Princess Nanda Nandar in order to recover The Tear of the Shining Star jewel stolen by the evil King Doronko. The jewel has magical powers: it will bring peace if someone with a pure heart possesses it, but it will bring darkness to the world if it falls into the hands of an evil person.

    With his friends Currypanman and Shokupanman, Anpanman goes to look for The Tear of the Shining Star. Along the way they rescue Princess Nanda, who’s being held captive on Baikin UFO, Baikinman’s ship. Anpanman rips some anpan off part of his head to give to the hungry Princess Nanda. She hasn’t eaten anpan before and is grateful for Anpanman’s kindness.

    Anpanman and his friends find the giant evil King Doronko. But the king, who is protected by the jewel’s power, is so formidable that they don’t stand a chance against him. However, Jam Ojisan arrives on Anpanman-go (a car made in the shape of Anpanman) and shoots flames at Doronko. Finally, Princess Nanda, who has been watching the battle, faces the Evil King Doronko herself, but unfortunately she gets tangled up in his long snake-like arms.

    Princess Nanda is moved to tears as Anpanman and his friends continue to fight despite taking a beating from the evil King Doronko. As her tears fall on The Tear of the Shining Star, which is located on the head of the Evil King Doronko, the power of justice flows out of the jewel and the king melts to his death. Having recovered the jewel, Princess Nanda thanks Anpanman and the others and then flies back to planet Shooting Star.



    それいけ! アンパンマン キラキラ星の涙(永丘昭典 監督)

    1988年からテレビ放映されている「それいけ! アンパンマン」シリーズの劇場版映画第1作目(1989年)。この夏には23作目が上映される。テレビ版は2009年、放映回数が1,000回を超え、1,700以上のキャラクターが登場する「最もキャラクターの多いアニメシリーズ」としてギネス世界記録に認定された。男女問わず、子どもが最初に親しむアニメキャラクターの1つとしても人気がある。






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