• 日本の流行を動かす女性の力

    [From June Issue 2011]

    Annually, the publisher Jiyu-Kokumin-Sha selects its popular word of the year and awards the “You-Can New Word/Popular Word Grand Prix” prize to the individual or organization that coined it. For 2010 the winner is, “joshi-kai” (girl gatherings) which refers to parties or leisure gatherings for women only.

    The “Monte Roza” chain of izakaya (Japanese pubs) helped to popularize the word by creating a special, women-only party menu called “Wara Wara Joshi-kai All-You-Can-Eat-and-Drink Plan” that was launched in November, 2009 at one of their Wara Wara pubs. KAWABE Sunao, a member of the company’s administration department, says that, “On average, some 50,000 customers per month order the joshi-kai plan at about 370 Wara Wara pubs. And at some izakaya, 80% of all week-end parties are for women only.”

    In Japan, there’s a misconception that izakaya are only for men. “As a matter of fact, we still get more male patrons,” says Kawabe. “But the number of females and women-only parties began to increase several years ago with more parties for female work colleagues and leisure gatherings of housewives. We noticed that there weren’t many of those happening considering the economic power of women today. So we had the idea of creating a menu specifically for them,” he adds.

    The word “joshi” means young girls, but also refers to a women involved in sports, such as joshi soccer or joshi singles. “We thought ‘joshi’ was a more inspired word than ‘josei.’ That’s how we settled on the name ‘joshi-kai.’ Taking into account Japanese women’s social nature, we offer them more time to enjoy chatting. We also try to emphasize our desserts,” Kawabe explains.

    With the success of “joshi-kai,” many women have started going to izakaya without worry. And, more and more of them are also taking their kids along. They’ve realized that an izakaya’s private room with its tatami or straw mats is a good place for children to play or sleep. This new fad is being called “izakaya Mom parties.”

    The word “yama girl” (mountain girl) was initially used in fashion and other similar magazines circa 2009. It refers to women who mountain-climb wearing fashionable outdoor outfits as well as to those who just enjoy wearing that clothing. “Mountain climbers used to be mostly middle aged and male,” says YAMAGISHI Yuko, business manager at Sakaiya Sports. “Then, around 2006 we started getting more female customers.”

    “It’s probably because some nearby mountains have become popular with beginner climbers, such as Yakushima’s world heritage site and Mt. Fuji during the summer,” analyzes Yamagishi. “Also, manufacturers started designing more stylish clothing such as mountain climbing skirts (which are worn with tights or leggings). And that’s how the mountain girl boom started.”

    “Most mountain girls like to climb for fun, with ease and in style. They climb only with other women, to enjoy lunch, some chatting and to take beautiful pictures. They are mostly single and in their 20s and 30s,” says Yamagishi. “It seems that they do little day-to-day training. One day, one of them even asked me if sneakers would do, so I told her it would be risky.”

    That said, these days more mountain girls do have full climbing gear and can also read maps, impressing Yamagishi with their ability to be “active and strong.” “Most of them have jobs like men. So even if they are told it’s a male pastime, they still give it a try as long as they think it could be fun. Once they take a liking to the mountains, they get better and better as they learn and vigorously train. Their outfits are quite expensive, so they also want to wear them out on the town. They have that practical side to them,” she admits.


    Photography is yet another popular pastime among women these days. Called “camera girls,” finding a female who can use a complex camera isn’t that rare anymore. “It used to be that those who bought high functionality cameras were mostly men. Women only bought them if they were professional photographers,” says MATSUDA Haru of the “camera girl” department at Biccamera Inc. “The number of female customers has really shot up. There are all kinds of women, from students to company employees to housewives, with the largest age group falling in their 20s to late 30s.”

    “Most women today have a compact camera,” adds Matsuda. “Having a camera hung around their neck has caught on. And since mobile phones come with cameras, taking photos has become part of their daily lives.”

    “There are many reasons why women graduate from using a compact camera to an SLR. Some want to take more beautiful pictures of their children while others want to put photos on their blogs. There’s also an influence from entertainers who use SLRs. Besides, manufacturers have stylized cameras, and thanks to technological advances, they offer SLR cameras which are not too heavy for women to use. I definitely think that’s another factor,” she explains.

    “Generally speaking, male customers long for big, heavy, black cameras with lots of functions while ladies prefer cute, easy-to-use, lighter ones. For “camera girls,” the camera is partly a fashion statement. More stylish camera bags and straps are more available now than ever before. “Camera girls” enjoy coordinating them beautifully with their clothes. Besides, regardless of their age, women adore cute things. And, it’s become much easier to find information about items they’re interested in via the Internet, so I think those factors are also behind women’s current, brisk spending sprees.”

    In Japan, women are participating in more and more areas that were once considered male-dominated. This social movement is greatly influencing pastimes across the country. Their source of trend-setting power seems to stem from their insatiable curiosity and a genuine keenness to try anything that’s fun.

    Monteroza Inc.
    Sakaiya Sports
    Biccamera Inc.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo

















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 見て美しく楽しい「飾り巻き寿司」

    [From June Issue 2011]

    In recent years, sushi roll art and design has become popular in Japan. Upon slicing through an uncut sushi roll, you may find in the cross section images of animals or popular Japanese animation characters. It’s said that these beautiful and fun-to-eat sushi rolls are greatly appreciated at celebrations and parties.

    AOKI Mizue is the director of the Sakura Sushi School and teaches sushi rolling and fish slicing techniques to people at home around Tokyo and across Japan. About three years ago, she introduced these artfully designed sushi rolls as part of her lessons, which she now gives to many students, mostly women, but increasingly to tourists as well. It helps that she can draw on the English language skills she acquired while living abroad.

    One of her students, GOTO Takako, took her friend UKON Ryohei to his first Saturday lesson where the three themes were: the popular Japanese animated character Anpanman, the newly arrived and much anticipated Ueno Zoo pandas, and their favorite food of bamboo leaves. On that day, a smiling Aoki told her students that, “these are difficult themes, but don’t worry. I’ll go slowly, one by one.”

    The training begins after everyone introduces themselves and the lesson objectives are explained. The students then start to work with the ingredients Aoki has prepared for them. Dried gourd shavings are usually used for the eyes and mouths while fish sausages are used for noses. Aoki’s assistants are there to help, but the students are encouraged to slice and arrange the ingredients themselves. Photos are taken at different intervals so that students have images to refer to when they try again at home.

    About three hours later and their sushi was ready. Goto remarked that she was happy to have succeeded in making Anpanman, her favorite of the day’s three themes. And even though Ukon is a good enough cook to host house parties, he also remarked that, “You really can’t do this without taking lessons.” In designing sushi rolls, he enjoyed the creative side that isn’t easily found when making dishes where seasoning and adjusting the heat are the main tasks. Here, students can also take their sushi home.

    The Tokyo Sushi Academy, where students are trained to become professional sushi chefs, offers courses that technically qualify people to design sushi rolls. The easiest 3rd degree is for the one-day course in which beginners create three types of designed sushi rolls. The intermediate 2nd degree is more difficult in which students must master 12 different designs in two days. The professional 1st degree, which you can only attempt after passing the intermediate level, is a two-day course where you learn seven different types of intricate sushi roll design as well as basic skills including vinegar rice preparation.

    Upon completion of each course the students receive a Japan Sushi Instructors Association certificate. They can then use what they have learned for international cultural exchanges or to earn some extra money on the side. Additionally, the Academy also offers courses for non-Japanese chefs individually or as restaurant administrators.

    KAWASUMI Ken, the Academy’s chief instructor and an authority on sushi roll design, says, “Whether Japanese or foreign, many people learn Japanese culture and spirit through sushi making lessons. And many of those who leave Japan are happy they received our Academy’s certificate. We also provide business support to our graduates.”

    Sakura Sushi School
    Tokyo Sushi Academy











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  • 衝突前に止まる車と少ない水で火を消せる消防車

    [From June Issue 2011]


    Vehicles made by Japanese car manufacturers are not only used in Japan but also elsewhere around the world. This is because their technology is highly

    In 2010, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. launched its “EyeSight Ver.2,” an innovative driver-assist system for collision prevention. It helps prevent crashes or reduces crash damage by using an automatic braking system that determines whether a collision is highly likely, either with the vehicle in front or with other obstacles, including pedestrians. Two car-mounted cameras monitor the road ahead while a computer analyzes the images to calculate the distance from obstacles or pedestrians.

    The EyeSight Ver.2 system applies the brakes when a driver starting his car steps on the accelerator without realizing there’s an obstacle there. It also helps prevent accidents when a driver shifts into the wrong gear or when he mistakes the accelerator for the brake. The system can further detect a car’s drifting and can trigger an alarm if the driver dozes off. It also has the ability to compute the preceding car’s direction and speed so that your car can automatically follow it. With this kind of assistance, driving becomes easier and safer in a traffic jam.

    SEKIGUCHI Mamoru, who manages the Electronics Engineering Department, says that “To protect people’s safety, we’ve been developing camera-based driving systems for about twenty years. We’ve had a hard time designing one that gives priority to the driver’s maneuvers so that he won’t be overly-dependant on the system.”

    Morita Corporation is a fire truck manufacturer with the largest market share in Japan. One of its fire trucks, the “Miracle CAFS car,” is equipped with a device called CAFS (Compressed Air Foam System). This system mixes together water with a fire extinguishing chemical and compressed air.

    As the surface area of the water increases, the CAFS puts out fires more efficiently. Six hundred liters of water with roughly two liters of fire extinguishing chemical can do the work of six tons of water. The system not only extinguishes fires more quickly, but also prevents the soaking of neighboring houses in crowded areas because less water is used.

    “Fire trucks are like moving tool boxes,” says KAWAHIGASHI Homare, one assistant manager of the Designing Section. “They are equipped not only with water pumps but also with all kinds of tools to deal with different situations at disaster sites. It was very difficult to accommodate tools for regular fire trucks along with the CAFS in the smaller Japanese models.”

    “Fire fighters are the ones who work at disaster sites risking their lives. We only make tools for them. We’ve developed this new fire truck in the hope of helping those fire fighters, any way it can,” adds KUMASHIRO Hitoshi, another assistant manager in the same section. “I was overjoyed when one fire fighter told me he put out a fire in a matter of seconds.”

    So, it seems that there is at least one thing those involved in automobile manufacturing have in common – the wish to protect people’s safety.

    Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.
    Morita Corporation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo




    富士重工業株式会社は2010年「EyeSight Ver.2」を売り出しました。これは、衝突事故を防ぐ機能をもつ、画期的な運転支援システムです。前方の車や歩行者などの障害物と衝突する可能性が高いとEyeSightが判断したときに、システムが自動でブレーキをかけて衝突を回避または衝突被害の軽減をします。車に載せられた2つのカメラで前方を撮影し、その映像をコンピューターで判断して、前にある物や人との距離を判断するからです。

    また発車のとき、前に物があるのにドライバーがアクセルを踏むと、Eye Sight Ver.2がブレーキをかけます。ですからシフトを入れ間違えた場合や、アクセルペダルをブレーキペダルと踏み間違った場合の事故を防ぐことができます。ドライバーがいねむりしたときに車のふらつきをEyeSight Ver.2が感じとってアラームを鳴らしたりもします。そのほか、前を走る車の速さや方向を判断して、それに合わせてついていく機能もあります。この機能を使うと、渋滞のときドライバーはより楽に、より安全に運転することができます。


    株式会社モリタは消防車メーカーとして日本のトップシェアを占めている会社です。この会社が開発した消防車の1つ、「Miracle CAFS Car」には、CAFSという装置がついています。これは水と、火を消す薬剤を混ぜ合わせたものに、圧力をかけた空気を送り込んで泡立てるシステムです。






    文:砂崎 良

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  • 平和と歴史に彩られた街――長崎

    [From June Issue 2011]

    Nagasaki City is located in the south-western end of Japan’s main island. During the Edo Period and through the port of “Dejima,” it was the gateway to Japan and greatly influenced by both European and Chinese cultures. Its numerous remaining historical buildings help create its unique city landscape, and as one of only two cities to have ever suffered from a thermonuclear attack, Nagasaki became a city of peace – one that strongly communicates its anti-war message to the international community.

    With a moderate climate, Japanese medlar fruit and potatoes are some of the area’s major agricultural harvests, while fishing is also a staple in this city surrounded by the sea. Nagasaki is also where Portugese Castella (sponge cake) and Chinese Champon (noodles) were nationally introduced. Both are popular across Japan and many tourists to the area enjoy eating these authentic delicacies while traveling or purchasing them as souvenirs.

    “Saruku” means “to wander about” in the Nagasaki dialect, and in recent years, “Nagasaki Saruku” has become a popular activity among both tourists and the locals. A special booklet helps guide sightseers around Nagasaki’s landmarks, of which one of the most popular is the city tram sightseeing tour. With a flat rate of 120 yen for adults and 60 yen for children it is a fun and easy way to get around.

    To take the train, first go to Oura Tenshudo Shita station located in Nagasaki City’s southern end. The Oura Tenshudo Catholic Church is Japan’s oldest wooden cathedral, built by Japanese in 1864 to commemorate the martyrdom of 26 saints. Its beautiful Medieval European gothic architecture and stained glass is breathtaking. Oura Tenshudo was designated a National Treasure in 1933, and was additionally included, along with the “Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints” on the UNESCO World Heritage Provisional List under the category of “Christian Heritage and the Christian Churches of Nagasaki.”

    The “Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints” is located near Nishizaka-machi, close to JR Nagasaki Station. In 1597, six foreign missionaries and 20 Japanese Christians who all practiced their faith despite its strict ban throughout Japan, were captured and executed on Nishizaka Hill where currently, bronze, life-sized memorial statues of the saints now stand.

    Adjacent to Oura Tenshudo stretches the Glover Gardens where beautiful flowers bloom throughout the year. Thomas GLOVER was a Scottish merchant who played an integral role in Japan just after the nation’s isolation from the rest of the world ended. Six foreign residencies are located in the area, including the Glover Mansion, of which the first gated entry can be reached from Oura Tenshudo Shita station. Alternately, visitors can take the long, outdoor Glover Sky Road escalator to reach the gardens by taking the second gate just beside Ishibashi station.

    Dejima Island (or Exit Island) is manmade in the shape of a fan. During the Edo Period, Japan’s national isolationist policy enforced a ban on Christianity everywhere except for this area, which at the time, was the country’s only international port where trade with the Dutch and several other countries took place. Furthermore, the Dutch were permitted to live and take part in daily life on Dejima. Today, after much restoration, an island resource center has finally been established.

    Taking a 7-minute tram ride from Dejima you’ll arrive at Shokakuji-shita, where Sofukuji Temple, Japan’s oldest Chinese-style temple, is located. Built in 1629 by Chinese nationals living in Nagasaki, of the 21 cultural assets located within, the Daiyuu-houden (main hall) and Daiippou-mon (first gate) have both been designated as National Treasures.

    Just a 10-minute walk from Sofukuji Temple is Megane-bashi (the Spectacles Bridge), which crosses the Nakashima River. It received the nickname “Spectacles Bridge” because its two stone arches and their reflection in the water below create the image of a pair of reading glasses. Seventeen bridges of many shapes and sized cross the Nakashima River, were all built by Buddhist monks and merchants who flourished during Japan’s isolation. Appreciating the views of these stone bridges along the riverbank can help conjure up what Nagasaki must have been like back then.

    On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Now, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum by the Hamaguchi-machi is just a tram ride away from Kokaido-mae, near Megane Bashi. There, many photos and exhibits show the timeline of events that lead up to the atomic bombing and the resulting devastation. Here, visitors can get better understanding of the real threat of nuclear weapons while deeply contemplating peace on earth.

    Just an 8-minute walk from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is Peace Park. On its north side stands Peace Statue which symbolizes Nagasaki as a peaceful city. The statue further represents the strong hopes for global peace, as well as to remember the victims. Annually, on August 9th, the day of the bombing, a memorial ceremony is held during which a declaration for peace is read just in front of this statue.

    In Nagasaki, the best spot to enjoy a night view of the city is atop Inasayama, a 333-meter high mountain located in the city’s west end. Its panoramic view from the mountain-top observatory is said to be one of Japan’s three most beautiful “night views worth 10 million dollars.” A free, 30-minute shuttle bus runs to Inasayama from both JR Nagasaki Station and central Nagasaki. Transfer to the Nagasaki Ropeway and enjoy the sky view while ascending to the mountain top.

    Hashima (a.k.a. Gunkan-jima or Battleship Island), is nationally acclaimed and located just off the coast of Nagasaki City. While uninhabited today, it was once a bustling coal mining facility and was nicknamed “Gunkan-jima” because its unique buildings resembled battleships. It has also drawn attention for its historical value. In 2009 it was added to the World Heritage Provisional List, which further increased its popularity, resulting in various tours around or directly on to its shores.

    Access by air from Tokyo to Nagasaki takes approximately 2 hours from Haneda to Nagasaki Airport. By train, take the JR Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakata (Kyushu), then transfer to the Kamome Express. Total travel time will be approximately 8 hours.

    Photos courtesy by Nagasaki City

    Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko


















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  • 日本中に眠る品質のいい雑貨を発掘したい

    [From June Issue 2011]


    Opened in October 2010 and located in Jiyugaoka, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, “katakana” is the name of a “souvenir shop that sells everything cool from across Japan.” “We call it a souvenir shop because we want our customers to shop lightheartedly for their friends and for themselves, even if it’s for something simple like a pen,” explains KAWANO Junichi, a store representative, who adds that katakana is really more of a sundries shop that offers quality Japanese items than it is a real souvenir shop.

    The shop was named katakana after a part of Japan’s mixed writing system. The connection is that katakana is “a type of character made by arranging existing kanji, which originally came from China,” and which symbolizes the modern Japanese lifestyle of continuously adopting parts of other, foreign cultures. In fact, every item the shop sells is something used daily in Japan. However, katakana forgoes stocking other typical stylish Japanese sundry items such as washi (high quality Japanese paper) and traditional lacquer ware.

    On display are items ranging from a 60-yen erasers to jackets costing tens of thousands of yen. Kawano chose each store item himself using the simple criteria of, “Is it worth the price?” and “Will it still be usable after ten years?” Having previously worked in the apparel industry, he doubted the tendency to quickly rotate items at low prices just to follow seasonal trends. So instead, at katakana he decided to have stock that carried “constant value,” choosing items with importance, at reasonable prices and with enduring design appeal.

    Of course, they do also sell traditional crafts, but only on the condition that such items fit with modern Japanese life and can be comfortably used. For instance, Kawano stocks “mage-wappa,” an old-style lunch box made by bending thin cedar boards from trees grown in Akita Prefecture, because of the good taste it brings to rice once placed inside. Although rather expensively priced at 9,450 yen, he decided to sell it because he judged its overall value to be worth it.

    The shop doesn’t overtly advertise selling items “collected from around Japan,” but Kawano says that “I would be thoroughly glad if our customers just think that our shop is selling attractive items.” He adds, “If they happen to notice that everything is conceptualized here and end up feeling that Japanese goods are of quality, then that’s fine too.”

    Items sold at the shop are also well-received by non-Japanese who are looking for quality indigenous goods. Although Kawano has ideas about opening shops overseas sometime in the future, his first goal is to make katakana the hub of Japan’s sundries community. With Tokyo being the city where most people from around Japan gather, he wants to use his advantageous location to fulfill his dream of “Making our shop a place where people from around the country can introduce their local items, a place where good things from around Japan meet.”


    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo











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  • 震災で焼け残ったゴルフバッグから生まれた実話

    [From June Issue 2011]

    Arigato (Directed by MANDA Kunitoshi)

    This feature film is based on real events that took place following the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. The story unravels around FURUICHI Tadao, a senior professional golfer, and the strength of his family’s bonds as the city and its people tried to recover from the devastation. The educational value of the film’s subject matter was approved, and it was eventually chosen as one of the Selected Works by, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). It was first released in 2006.

    On January 17 at 5:46 am, a big earthquake rocked Furuichi Cameras, one of the many shops sitting along the Nagata-ku shopping avenue in Kobe, Japan. Furuichi Tadao and his wife and two daughters were fast asleep in the residential part of his shop. Once the severe jolts stopped, Tadao and his wife quickly verified their family’s safety. Meanwhile, the arcade covering the shopping avenue had collapsed, as so too did many shops and houses around them.

    The fire that broke out in the distance gradually approached the shopping avenue like sea of flames. Confusion gripped the neighborhood as people just stood there panic-stricken – some pushed others aside while they ran for their lives, while others tried to rescue those desperately in need. Tadao, a member of the local fire fighting squad, instructed his wife and daughters to evacuate while he and his squad members tried to rescue people, pulling them out from beneath the rubble.

    At a mass funeral nineteen days later, Tadao proclaimed to everyone in attendance that “The earthquake was no one’s fault. Natural disasters happen. We must rebuild the city to be more disaster-proof. That is what we can do on behalf of all the people who lost their lives.” Tadao then started to help the people rebuild their city.

    Two years later, the Furuichi family has resumed their lives in a new house. But rather than work, Tadao continues to help rebuild the neighborhood, while relying on his wife and daughters to support their family. Finally, his wife implores him to “start thinking about ‘restoring’ his family,” after which he shows her one of the only things to have survived the fires – a golf bag. Passionately he tells her, “God left me this for a reason. So now, I’m going to become a professional golfer.”

    The professional golf certification exam is extremely competitive. Usually, only 50 out of 1,800 applicants pass, with most of those still in their 20’s. At close to 60, the odds of Tadao turning pro were extremely slim. But he didn’t give up and trained vigorously. His wife tells him that while she doesn’t agree with his decision, neither will she stand in his way. But quietly she keeps watch over him.

    Eventually Tadao makes it to the final round. He tells himself to “make a miracle,” as he heads onto the green. At the final hole, a problem occurs as his ball lands in the woods, but taking his caddy’s advice Tadao hits a miraculous shot to fulfill his destiny of becoming a professional golfer. He calls his wife to tell her the good news, but she just dryly replies: “good for you, but our phone bills are expensive, so I’ll hang up now,” after which she quietly starts to cry.


    ありがとう(万田邦敏 監督)








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