• 子どもにも大人にも人気の職業体験

    [From July Issue 2013]


    KidZania is a “city in which the children are the stars” where they can challenge themselves to try any job they fancy. Everything in the building is two-thirds of its normal size in order to suit children’s field of vision and height. Faithful replicas of familiar institutions, including a department store, hospital and police station, line the city streets. Children can try out more than 90 professions and receive services as customers themselves.

    There are 13 KidZania located in ten countries around the world. The first facility opened in Mexico. All their facilities incorporate jobs typical of the local culture. For example, Japan had the first “door to door delivery” pavilion. Mexico has “shoe shining” and “archeological dig” pavilions and Indonesia has a “tea factory” pavilion.

    “At KidZania Tokyo, some children choose familiar workplaces, such as the bakery or pizza shop, while others go for professions that are easily identifiable by their uniforms, like pilot or fire fighter.” UEDA Hiromi of the PR and Marketing Department says. “Besides occupations such as fashion model or beautician, many girls opt for dynamic jobs at the construction zone or gas station.”

    Recently, there’s been a buzz about companies that offer work experience not just to children, but also to adults. Launched in 2011, Shigoto-Ryokousha Co., Ltd, embraces the philosophy of “experiencing a variety of occupations as a traveller.” As part of a day tour, the company offers work experience for a range of some 60 occupations including fisherman, plasterer, waiting staff at an inn and bartender.


    Experiences by Shigoto-Ryokousha


    The cost is between 8,000 and 20,000 yen and tours run from half a day to two days, depending on the profession. Forty percent of the participants are male and 60% female. The largest age groups are in their late 20s to 30s. All kinds of people take part: casual workers, small business owners and those in full time employment.

    The reasons people have for participating varies greatly from simple curiosity, to a desire to find a suitable career for themselves, to those who want to learn more about a certain industry because they are contemplating a change of career.

    TANAKA Tsubasa, the company’s representative, says, “These days being a florist, Japanese language teacher or director of traditional crafts is popular. Florist has always been a popular profession with women and many take part in the Japanese language teacher program because they think it’s an easy career switch. As for the director of traditional crafts, some participate because they are interested in crafts, but most have no ambition to become an artisan; they prefer to be involved with traditional crafts for other reasons, one of which is to see which craft is most popular with the majority of people and another is to find out what kind of traditional craft would have suited them as a trade.

    For the future, Tanaka is planning to expand into offering work experience in real businesses and into offering work experience packages for groups. Though their numbers are few, there are also foreign participants who enjoy typical Japanese professions, such as being a director of traditional Japanese crafts or being a sushi chef.

    KidZania Tokyo
    Shigoto-ryokou Co., Ltd.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi














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  • 雨粒をはじいてぬれないかさ、ヌレンザ

    [From July Issue 2013]


    The Hokuriku region is located on the island of Honshu, facing the Sea of Japan; there they have an old saying: “You can forget your lunch, but never forget your umbrella.” In Hokuriku the weather is changeable and it is not unusual for it to suddenly start raining when up until that moment the weather had been fine. That is why it is important to always keep an umbrella handy when travelling in the Hokuriku region.

    For this reason, Fukui Prefecture in Hokuriku was home to many companies that manufactured umbrellas. Parts such as the frame, cloth and handle are separately manufactured by different companies and then assembled to make a complete umbrella. Fukui Yougasa Inc. is a major umbrella manufacturer in Fukui; the finished product is made by gathering together all the components, inspecting, cutting and sewing the cloth, assembling the parts, putting on the finishing touches and completing a final inspection.

    However, because of a steady influx of cheaper umbrellas from foreign companies, the number of local companies gradually fell, and now Fukui Yougasa is the only company remaining in the region. The president, HASHIMOTO Hajime says, “If we cease to exist, the umbrella industry will disappear from Fukui Prefecture, so I decided to create an umbrella users want.” So, Hashimoto developed two products: “umbrellas that don’t get wet” and “difficult to lose umbrellas.”

    The umbrella that doesn’t get wet is made so that it stays dry when it’s folded up and when it touches the body. Therefore, to make the cloth that covers the umbrella frame, a special material called “super high-density polyester thread weaved by a special method” was jointly developed with a local textile company. Just like big lotus leaf, this material repels rainwater.

    Therefore, even when raindrops fall on the umbrella, with just one shake, moisture flies off and the umbrella returns to its original dry state in a matter of seconds. This umbrella was named the “Nurenza,” a play on the word “nurenai” which means “doesn’t get wet.” At 30,450 yen, the Nurenza is quite expensive for an umbrella. However, they are so popular that, after an order is placed, it takes about two to three months for the umbrella to arrive.

    “Difficult to lose umbrellas” alludes to the fact that umbrellas are often forgotten on street corners and in trains. Hashimoto thought, “The reason why umbrellas are forgotten is because of a problem with the way the handle is shaped.” So rather than having a handle made to be gripped, he designed a cowhide belt loop that would fit snugly into the hand. Its advantage is that the handle can be hung from the arm.

    Not only does this handle make it harder to lose, but also it is easier for people who are physically challenged – the elderly and people with a weaker grip – to use. It is a sort of universal design. Hashimoto, who hopes that umbrellas with this kind of handle will become popular, says, “Any product that makes it easier for those who have physical difficulties to use, is sure to catch on.” Of course, this handle can also be used with the Nurenza.

    Fukui Yougasa Inc.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • ジェルネイルにはまる若い女性

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Recently, “gel nail” is trending, especially with young women. Gel nail is a type of gel applied to nails and hardened with a special light. Lasting from three weeks to a month, simple to intricate designs with a decorative element can be enjoyed.

    The appeal of gel nail is that it can be done at home, dispensing with the need to go to a salon, and lasts much longer than a conventional manicure. “Even if you’re doing housework such as washing things with water, you do not need to worry about it coming off,” says KOBAYASHI Misaki, an office worker who has been into gel nail for about a year. “They are not only fashionable, but also strengthen the nails of people with thin nails and correct misshapen nails,” she adds.

    Nail salons charge upwards of 5,000 yen for one visit. But self gel nail kits can be purchased online for approximately 3,000 to 10,000 yen. Kobayashi says, “Until you get used to it, it is difficult to apply the gel with your non-dominant hand (left hand if you’re right handed), but after repeating it a number of times, you get better at it.”

    Once you’re done, nobody will have exactly the same nails as you. Because there are so many lovely colors and designs, the overall effect is stunning. Kobayashi says she is encouraged when people admire them saying things like: “it’s pretty,” “it’s stylish,” and “it’s feminine.”

    However, nails that are too long, or designs that are too flashy do not necessarily go down well with family members and men. In addition, compared to conventional polish, it is slightly more difficult to remove, taking about an hour to shave the gel off with a nail file and remove with a special liquid.

    Even so, on the plus side it’s fun to apply it while watching TV at home, listening to music, or casually together with friends. In addition, coming up with an original design and creating it oneself delivers an enjoyable sense of achievement and pleasure, which is why many women are captivated by it.

    Women enjoy adapting their clothes, hairstyle and makeup according to the season or mood, and in the same way they enjoy changing up nail designs as part of their own style. In addition, caring for one’s nails is an essential part of personal grooming.

    Text: TAKAHASHI Reiko











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  • 日本の象徴、富士山が世界遺産に登録

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Mt. Fuji, located between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture, has been designated as a World Heritage Site. At 3,776 meters high, Mt. Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain and is known for the beautiful symmetry of its coned shape. Mt. Fuji appears to soar particularly high because there are no other tall mountains around it. Its majestic appearance has made it an object of spiritual worship for Japanese as well as an inspiration for artists. According to UNESCO, the mountain is a symbol of Japan, blending religious and artistic traditions.

    Mt. Fuji was not registered as a natural heritage site, but as a cultural heritage site. Since ancient times Mt. Fuji has been regarded as an object of worship, so there are many shrines around its base as well as one on the top. Many people climb up to the summit. The highlight for them is to see the sunrise from the summit. During the summer climbing season, it is as crowded as streets of Tokyo.

    Since the view of Mt. Fuji changes daily and each moment has its own particular beauty, some photographers take photos of the mountain every day. They shoot a variety of different scenes, such as “diamond Fuji,” with the sun rising from its summit, and “upside down Fuji,” of the mountain reflected in a lake. In the Edo period, artist KATSUSHIKA Hokusai drew the famous “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” which included “Red Fuji.” Mt. Fuji has always inspired artists.

    Many people say that Mt. Fuji is more beautiful when it is viewed from a distance. There are some superb spots from which to view Mt. Fuji at resorts such as Hakone and Enoshima. “Miho no Matsubara” in Shizuoka Prefecture is known as one of the most beautiful spots from which to view Mt. Fuji and has been designated as one of “New Three Famous Sites of Japan,” and as one of the “Three Scenic Pine Groves of Japan.” It was requested that it be considered to be part of Mt. Fuji in the application for world heritage designation. Though since it is located 45 kilometers away from Mt. Fuji, it was excluded.

    Although Kamakura applied at the same time as Mt. Fuji to be registered as a cultural world heritage site, its application was rejected. Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, next to Tokyo, Kamakura was the location of the feudal government from the late 12th to 14th century, in spite of this, there was insufficient evidence to prove its universal cultural significance. Japan now currently has 17 registered World Heritage sites: 13 cultural and four natural.

    Uneasy Aspect of Mt. Fuji

    Mt. Fuji is a volcanic mountain and might possibly erupt in the future. The last eruption occurred in 1707. This eruption created a large crater and lump (Houeizan) on the base.

    At the foot of the mountain there are five lakes, but recently the water level has fallen. Some people say that this is a sign that there will be an earthquake or an eruption, but this cannot be verified.

    Since there are so many climbers, garbage dropped on mountain trails has been a problem. However, it is likely that this will improve now it has been registered as a world heritage site.












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  • 秋田県――日本の素朴な原風景に出あえる

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Facing the Sea of Japan, Akita Prefecture is located in the Tohoku region of Honshu Island. Because daylight hours are shorter there than in other prefectures, there are many beautiful women with fair skin; the expression, “Akita bijin,” refers to attractive women from Akita. In Yuzawa City, a legend persists about the incredible beauty of ninth century poet, ONO no Komachi.

    Hachiko (Sir Hachi), the loyal dog who continued to wait at the train station for his dead master to return, is from Akita. Although the bronze statue of Hachi in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo is famous, Odate City also has numerous monuments and plaques honoring Hachi. Recently, Akita was featured in the popular Korean drama series “Iris,” and an increasing number of tourists come to visit locations used for the show.

    In Akita you can enjoy the changing seasons. In spring, you might want to visit Bukeyashiki-dori in Kakunodate, Semboku City. The avenue is lined with shidarezakura; these weeping cherry trees are often seen in tourism posters. It is said that these trees grew from three seedlings that were part of the trousseau of a Kyoto noblewoman 350 years ago; now 153 trees line the avenue. In Kakunodate you can also find cherry trees growing for about two kilometers alongside the Hinokinai-gawa River.


    Cherry trees at the Bukeyashiki-dori in Kakunodate
    Cherry trees at the Hinokinai-gawa


    A forest of beech trees formed about 8,000 years ago, ranging from the north of Akita Prefecture to Aomori Prefecture, covers the Shirakami Mountains. The mountains were designated as a World Natural Heritage site in 1993. The symbol of this area is a 400-year-old beech tree. Normally beech trees live for about 300 years, but this one has survived much longer than that. To better appreciate the scenery, a guided tour is recommended. There are some guides who speak English and Korean.

    Besides Shirakami Mountains, there are numerous other mountains and waterfalls where it’s possible to go trekking. Shishigahana wetlands are a 40 minute walk along a trail from Nikaho City. Large patches of “choukai marimo” moss are worth a look. You can also see “mototaki fukuryuusui,” which is the sharp contrast between the rich green moss and white spray on the river bed, as well as “Agariko-daiou,” a deformed beech that is the thickest tree in Japan.

    Yasuno-taki (Yasu Falls), located in Kita-Akita City, was designated as “one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.” There are many other small and large falls in this area. The Kazuno Forest Therapy Road in Kazuno City is paved with woodchips, making it easy to walk on. It’s come to be recognized as a therapeutic forest.


    Mototakifukuryuusui / Yasuno-taki


    Akita has two large lakes. Straddling the border between Akita and Aomori prefectures, Lake Towada is known for its picturesque fresh green leaves and autumn foliage. At 423.4 meters, Lake Tazawa is the deepest lake in Japan, and its iconic landmark is a statue of Princess Tatsuko, who is believed to have been transformed into a lake goddess, as a result of her search for eternal youth and beauty.

    Summer in Akita is short, but to make up for this, numerous festivals are held and people get quite fired up. Drawing over one million visitors each year, the Kanto Festival, held annually from August 3 to 6 in Akita City, is one of the three great festivals of the Tohoku region. Kanto poles, each with 46 lanterns hanging from them, are lifted up in the night sky by performers called “sashite.” The sight of more than 250 poles rising up all at once is spectacular.

    Other festivals attracting huge crowds are Noshiro-yaku-tanabata, held in Noshiro City in early August and Hanawabayashi in Kazuno City on August 19 and 20. At either festival you can hear flutes and drums and see beautiful street stalls and lanterns lining the streets. The All Japan Fireworks Competition takes place on the fourth Sunday of every August. First-class pyro technicians from around the country compete to be the best in Japan.


    Hanawabayashi / The All Japan Fireworks Competition


    In Akita, where it snows a lot, festivals and events are held to celebrate this fact. More than 100 kamakura (small snow houses) are constructed in Yokote City. This event has a 400 year history and is dedicated to the God of water. Inside the kamakura, it’s warm, and amazake (sweet sake) and rice cakes are served. Lamps are lit in numerous other small kamakura, illuminating the town.

    Namahage is another winter event; it’s said that Namahage descends from the mountain once a year to get rid of evil and disease, bringing good fortune and a rich harvest. This god wears a demon mask and goes from house to house, yelling: “Are there any naughty kids? Are there any crybabies?”

    Known for promoting beautiful skin, Akita has many hot spring resorts, but the most popular is Nyuutou Onsenkyou in Semboku City – a hot spring with its characteristic milky-white water. You can buy a yumeguri-chou (a card that allows you to use designated hot springs at a discounted price) and visit seven hot springs, enjoying the waters at each place. Kawarage Ooyutaki in Yuzawa City is a unique hot spring. The spring cascades down from a height of 20 meters into a pool that functions as a bathtub.

    With a supply of clean water, Akita is particularly known for its delicious rice and sake. The Akitakomachi rice brand is sold across the country. Local dishes include: kiritanpo, which are pieces of pounded rice on skewers grilled over charcoal; inaniwa udon noodles; hatahata (sandfish); and shottsuru seasoning made from hatahata. Butter rice cakes and yokote yakisoba stir-fried noodles, which won a B-1 Grand Prix (local cuisine tournament), are also popular.


    Namahage / Akita ginsen-zaiku


    “Magewappa,” or bent wood, that uses the wood grain of Akita cedars to best effect, is a well-known local product. Other traditional crafts include: bouzaiku, crafted from the skin of cherry trees; and handmade Akita ginsen-zaiku accessories made from fine 0.2 millimeter thick silver threads. Kawatsura lacquer ware has an 800 year history, and there are about 200 lacquer ware stores lining the streets of Kawatsura-cho, Yuzawa City.

    It takes approximately four hours to get to JR Akita Station from JR Tokyo Station on the Akita Shinkansen. From Haneda Airport in Tokyo, you can fly to Akita Airport in about one hour.

    Akita Prefectural Tourist Federation























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  • 流れに逆らわず、チーム力で獲得した栄冠

    [From July Issue 2013]


    ASANO Shigeto

    Have you heard of rafting? It is an outdoor sport involving teams of six riding in a rubber raft and paddling skillfully as they are pulled down rivers on strong currents. River currents are not always gentle; sometimes there are big surges and rapids with steep drops. Sometimes, rafts can flip over, or members can be thrown out.

    ASANO Shigeto, an athlete who became interested in this competitive sport, formed Japan’s national team in 1999. The first time he participated as a coach and athlete in an international event, his team came 15th out of 16 teams, but in 2010 and 2011, his team won the championship. What was the secret behind the team’s sudden ascent to the position of best in the world?

    Rafting is popular in countries such as Brazil, the Czech Republic, the United States, and Italy. There was a big difference in experience and physical strength between Japanese athletes and athletes from other countries. That is why it was said that: “It will take 50 years for Japan to become best in the world.” Asano overturned such conventional wisdom; he surprised people in the industry both at a domestic and international level, by becoming world champion eight years after putting together a professional team – just ten years after he made his debut.

    Asano cites “the power of teamwork” as one of the reasons for the team becoming world champions. “During the race, team members become both rudder and engine. Therefore, we cannot reach our full potential unless the feelings of our team members are united.” Since the condition of the river, which sets the stage for the competition, changes from moment to moment, “it is important to always be of one mind in order to make decisions in an instant.”

    During the actual race, “when the current flows against us around rocks, we intentionally do not fight against it, but instead just drift along with it. On the other hand, if there is a chance to advance, we aggressively take full advantage of it,” Asano divulges. “For this reason, there is no substitute for the sense of accomplishment that comes with adapting to a situation that can vary from moment to moment. This excitement buoyed me up, allowing me to become world champion.”

    The World Championships are held once every two years, but the location and date varies. The next championships will be held in New Zealand in November this year. “Team Japan will attempt to win their third consecutive victory, however, I will not participate, but rather work on supporting the team,” says Asano. After withdrawing from the front line, by making use of his experiences, Asano has energetically put his energies into teaching through workshops and lectures.

    The attraction of rafting lies in being thrown into violent currents, traversing dangerous ground time after time through great effort, and adapting to a variety of changes; a skill set that can be applied to work or study. Attitudes developed through rafting, such as “proactively adapting to change, “at times going with the flow,” and “valuing teamwork,” might also be useful skills for people to apply to their own lives.

    Website of ASANO Shigeto

    Text: ITO Koichi



    浅野 重人さん

    ラフティングという競技を知っていますか? 6人が1組となってゴムボートに乗り、かいを巧みに操って、はげしい流れの川を下るアウトドアスポーツです。川の流れはいつもおだやかではなく、川とは思えない大きな波や落差のある滝にも見舞われます。ボートがひっくり返ったり、そこから投げ出されたりすることもあります。









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  • 数々の事件を解決していく国民的推理コミック

    [From July Issue 2013]


    Detective Conan (Case Closed)

    First published in 1994 in the “Weekly Shonen Sunday,” “Detective Conan (Case Closed)” is an ongoing manga mystery series. It depicts the life of KUDO Shinichi, a high school student and detective, whose body has been shrunk by a mysterious organization. Going by the name of EDOGAWA Conan, Kudo solves difficult cases one after the other. So far, 79 volumes of the comic have been released. The TV animation that began in 1996 is still being broadcast and there have also been animated film versions and TV dramas. It’s a series popular with both children and adults.

    One day, Shinichi goes to an amusement park with his childhood friend, MORI Ran. There, he observes the mysterious organization (the Black Organization) making a deal. The members detect his presence and force him to swallow some poison. When he comes to, the poison has taken effect and he has the body of a child. Believing that if this becomes public knowledge, it will put the people around him in danger, he begins to hide his true identity and goes by the name of Edogawa Conan.

    In order to gather information about the organization, Conan goes to stay with Ran and her detective father, MORI Kogoro. Helped by inventor AGASA Hiroshi – who knows Conan’s true identity – he uses the tools that Agasa has developed, such as a bowtie-shaped voice changer and a wristwatch-shaped tranquilizing gun, to solve case after case, in Kogoro’s place, in order to get to the heart of the mystery surrounding the Black Organization.

    Besides Agasa, Conan’s true identity is also known to: Shinichi’s parents, HATTORI Heiji, a high school student detective from Osaka, and HAIBARA Ai, a former member of the Black Organization, who, just like Shinichi, was transformed into a child after being poisoned. Just like Conan, Haibara was enrolled in the same first-grade class at Teitan Elementary School. She carries out research into antidotes at Agasa’s. She’s the only person with whom Conan shares the same fate.

    Sometimes Conan teams up with his classmates to form a five-strong detective team: with the bubbly YOSHIDA Ayumi; TSUBURAYA Mitsuhiko, whose powers of reasoning put adults to shame; KOJIMA Genta, a headstrong muscular guy; and Haibara. When the FBI and the CIA turn up in pursuit of the Black Organization, or interesting characters, such as Conan’s arch enemy, Phantom Thief Kid, appear, things get even more exciting.

    Many episodes deal with the love affairs of people close to Conan, including detectives in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The affair between detectives TAKAGI Wataru and SATO Miwako is a recurring theme. Though Tagaki and Sato are in a relationship, Sato is so popular with male colleagues that they are always trying to get between them. The writer himself describes the series as a “murder mystery romantic comedy manga.”

    Detective Conan is so popular that a movie adaptation has been released in theatres every year since 1997. These movies are always big box-office hits. The 17th movie version, “Private Eye in the Distant Sea,” was released in April. Can Conan reveal the true identity of the Black Organization? Will Shinichi return to his normal size? And where is his relationship with Ran going?

    Text: YAMASHINA Saori












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