• ケータリングでパーティーやイベントを演出

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Recently, more and more people in Japan are holding parties at home. After hosting several parties, many people want to create an atmosphere that is a little different than normal. Because of this, caterers have been attracting attention. Besides house parties, they also cater corporate events.
    Futaba Fruits, in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, is a catering service that deals with fruits. The company originally sold fruit retail, but when regular customers requested that they provide fruits for events and parties, this prompted them to launch their service. Seventy percent of their customer base is female.
    At the turn of the seasons, there are more exhibitions by clothing manufacturers. In the summer, they often set up shop at outdoor festivals, and at the end of the year, the number of company parties they cater to increases for the bounenkai (forget the hardships of the year) party season. A colorful reminder of the changing seasons, fruit is reputed to create pleasing decorative effects at parties.
    IWATSUKI Masayasu, a spokesman for Futaba Fruits says: “We started out as a retailer, so we didn’t get the opportunity to witness our customers consuming our fruit. However, since we started our catering service, we’ve had increasing opportunities to see the smiles on our customer’s faces as they consume our fruit, telling us they find it delicious.”


    Tokyo Masala Boys’ curry

    TAKAGI Shintaro and HATSUMI Ken run a weekends-only, Tokyo-based curry catering service called Tokyo Masala Boys. The two used to cook as a hobby. One day, when they made an authentic Indian curry to eat with friends and family, the consensus was that it was really delicious. Takagi says that making curry requires an in-depth knowledge both of spices and Indian cooking.
    “I simply liked curry, so I wanted to make more of it. If I think that a curry is delicious, it makes me happy when other people find it delicious, too,” says Takagi, with a smile. They offer a set meal for 2,000 yen a head that consists of two kinds of curry, two side dishes and a portion of rice. Another reason for their popularity may be the reasonable price of their catering.
    They’ve catered at a variety of different venues: not only at typical house parties, but also at flea markets, discussion events aimed at regenerating local areas and at youth hostels for backpackers.
    ONO Daisuke, who has tried the catering service, says: “They devise a menu tailored to your budget and the dishes, made by professional cooks, create an exotic atmosphere. They take care of the tableware and so forth, so I wasn’t caught up in preparing for the event. Despite being the host of the house party, I was able to enjoy it, too.” Allowing both organizers and guests to have a good time, caterers may become even more popular in the future.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年6月号掲載記事]




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  • 効率よく観光できるバスツアー

    [From June Issue 2014]

    This year is the 65th anniversary of Hato Bus – one of Japan’s best-known sightseeing tour bus companies. It not only offers tours to Japanese customers, but also runs a variety of tours aimed at foreign tourists. The guides on foreign language tours are all state licensed interpreters.
    A popular option is “Dynamic Tokyo;” a tour of the metropolis with an English language guide. You can take a walk in a Japanese-style garden and try out a version of the tea ceremony that has been simplified for non-Japanese. Also, you can enjoy food cooked on a steel plate made with lava from Mt. Fuji. Everything is a highlight; from the Imperial Palace, to a cruise on the Sumida River to the final destination in Asakusa. The attraction of Hato Bus is in the efficient way it tours round the major sightseeing spots.
    HASHIZUME Mai has nine-year’s experience working as a tour guide and says, “Trying to book the itinerary yourself would be too much even for a Japanese person.” If you go by car, it won’t be easy to find a parking space. You can save time with Hato bus because we have our own private parking spaces. If there are foods you can’t eat, because of allergies, or for religious reasons, or if you are vegetarian, we can accommodate you if you let us know in advance.”
    Time spent travelling can be a good opportunity to learn about Japan’s culture and history. Mexican Hemia CISNEROS, who participated with a Japanese friend, says, “It’s a good thing that I can learn about today’s Japan through the bus window. Tokyo is a big city and I don’t understand the language. Visiting many places by bus is far more practical than planning and going on my own.” It’s the best way to show friends from abroad around, as the guides, who possess an in-depth knowledge of Japan, can comprehensively answer their questions.
    The one-day “World Heritage Mt. Fuji & Hakone tour” tour of Mt. Fuji – registered as a World Heritage Site in 2013 – and its surrounding area is also popular. Other than Mt. Fuji, you can also enjoy a pleasure cruise of Lake Ashi and a Western-style buffet lunch at Hakone Hotel Kowakien. In summer, you can climb up to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji to enjoy a magnificent view.
    Canadian Jacques BOUCHER, who went on a tour with his wife and son, says, “I came because I wanted to compare Mt. Fuji with a mountain we have in Montreal. It’s spectacular and graceful. The best view I’ve had in my life.” Guide INABA Atsuko says, “I make it a rule to talk about things we Japanese see in our everyday life, such as clean streets.”
    There is also a half-day tour of Tokyo and a tour to enjoy Tokyo Skytree tower. Shuttle services are also available to pick customers up from their hotels in Shinjuku, Shinagawa, and other parts of Tokyo Prefecture, to be taken to the departure terminal in Hamamatsu-cho. It’s possible to enjoy a safe, pleasant trip that will give you a sense of Japanese-style hospitality.
    Hato Bus Co., Ltd.
    Tel: 03-3435-6081
    Text: IZAWA Taiichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


    Tel: 03-3435-6081

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  • 地域をより知ることができる民泊

    [From June Issue 2014]

    “Private lodging” – accommodation in a private residence – is getting an increasing amount of repeat custom. Many start out as regional exchange or development schemes to supplement the incomes of families whose livelihood is based on the farming, fishing or forestry industries. Recently they’ve been attracting attention because of their charm; they provide something that can’t be found on a typical sightseeing trip.
    “The charm of private lodging lies in becoming better acquainted with a region through interactions with locals,” says KAWAGUCHI Susumu, “Shiosai-juku” in Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture, has been operating for three years. Made with local produce, his regional dishes are extremely popular. Another big attraction of private lodging is the real-life experience you have with locals.
    Since Goto is next to the ocean, fishing and messing about on the beach are popular activities to experience. While visitors to Shiosai-juku are mostly in their 50s or 60s, more and more schools are giving children the opportunity to get a taste of staying at a private residence as part of an educational program. For children who have no opportunity to spend time by the seaside in the course of their everyday lives, finding out about the diversity of sea creatures can be the catalyst for raising awareness about the Earth’s environment. Visitors from overseas are still rare, but Kawaguchi expects that the number of Korean tourists will increase if the Catholic church in Goto is registered as a World Heritage Site.



    At “Yururiya” and “Tomaryanse” residential lodgings, in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture, roughly half of the visitors are Japanese and half foreign. Owner ERA Yoko says she wants them to come with the mindset of someone who’s about to do a homestay.
    She sometimes has a hard time communicating in English. “One winter’s day, I thought the bathroom was too cold, so I left the shower running in order to warm it up before some high school students from Singapore took their bath. They must have thought it was customary in Japan to leave the shower running. They left it running for a long time after their bath. It was very difficult for me to explain this later,” Era laughs.
    A popular activity is to get a hands-on experience of farming by doing things like harvesting rice and vegetables. If it’s not possible to do any farming because of the rain, visitors prepare food – sushi wrapped in rolls of seaweed, and so forth – with her. Foreign visitors are especially pleased to get the chance to experience making Japanese dishes. Era says she feels very sad when people who have stayed for more than two days leave, as they begin to feel like family. She often continues friendships with them by swapping email addresses.
    As well as being cheap, private lodgings provide foreigners with a chance to get a taste of the Japanese lifestyle, and for this reason they may become popular in the future. They also offer Japanese city dwellers an invaluable experience.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年6月号掲載記事]




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  • 町工場の技術を生かした「痛くない注射針」

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Injectors are medical devices that come into contact with our skin. The majority of injectors consist of a syringe filled with medicine and a needle. Many people hate injections due to the moment of pain experienced when the needle penetrates the skin.
    A routine blood test or flu shot may be just about the only time healthy people require an injection. Children with type one diabetes, however, need to inject themselves with insulin several times a day. With this problem in mind, MATSUNO Takao, formerly the person in charge of research and development for Terumo Corporation, wondered whether they could develop a needle that would make injections as painless as possible.
    Matsuno and his fellow engineers understood that “in order to reduce the pain, it would be necessary to make the needle thinner.” The thinner they make the needle, however, the harder it became to get the medicine to flow through it. In order to minimize pain and maximize the flow of medicine, they came to the conclusion that it was necessary to design a needle with a narrow tip and a wide shaft. But they had a hard time finding a company that would collaborate with them on this project.
    In order to find a company that could manufacture a tapered needle, Terumo Corporation’s engineers contacted and visited about a hundred companies. Finally, a small factory, Okano Manufacturing Corporation in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, agreed to take on the project. Normally, injection needles are made from a long pipe cut into a certain length. At Okano Manufacturing, however, they came up with a method of rolling individual sheets of stainless steel one at a time into a tube. So that liquids can flow through unimpeded, the inside of the needle is carefully polished. This production method can only be carried out by Okano Manufacturing.
    In 2005, by developing the world’s thinnest needle, “Nanopass” – which has a 33-gauge (0.2 millimeter) tip –they achieved what no other company had managed to before. In 2012, they broke their own record for thinnest needle by constructing an even thinner one with a 34-gauge (0.18-millimeter) tip. This was made possible by Okano Manufacturing’s press-working expertise and Terumo’s needle manufacturing technology.
    To reduce the pain of injections even further, they not only made the tip of the needle thinner, but also gave considerable thought to its design. In order to avoid that sharp twinge of pain felt the moment the needle punctures the skin, rather than simply making the tip sharper, they made it asymmetrical, so that the edge of the blade would slice into the skin.
    Those with diabetes have to have injections several times a day and this adds up to over a 1,000 injections in a year. Nanopass has been widely used to moderate the physical and emotional pain these patients go through every day. “I am glad to contribute to their medical treatment by alleviating just a little of their pain,” says Matsuno.
    Terumo Corporation
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • リニア・鉄道館

    [From June Issue 2014]

    This is an interactive railway museum that both children and adults can enjoy in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture. Focusing mostly on the Tokaido Shinkansen; from steam locomotives to magnetic levitation trains, there are 39 original vehicles on display. The shinkansen driving simulator allows you to experience operating a train in a life size driver’s cab while watching a big screen (Users are selected by lottery). The railway diorama is one of Japan’s largest and is both impressive and popular.
    Nearest train station: Take the Aonami Line at JR Nagoya Station and get off at “Kinjo Futo Station.” Then it’s a two-minute walk from the station.
    Admission: 1,000 yen for adults. 500 yen for elementary, junior and high school students. 200 yen for small children (preschool children over three).
    Opening hours: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm (entry allowed up until 30 minutes before closing time)
    Closed days: Every Tuesday (the following day if Tuesday is a national holiday). December 28 – January 1.
    SCMAGLEV and Railway Park[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • セブン‐イレブン

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Seven-Eleven was the very first convenience store in Japan. The franchise has expanded and now there are over 16,000 stores all over the country; approximately double the number of stores in the United States. One of the hit products is onigiri (rice balls). Seven-Eleven was the first in the industry to start selling temaki (DIY hand-rolled) onigiri, and they currently sell 1.88 billion onigiri annually. Their original products are also very popular.

    [No. 1] Gu Tappuri Temaki Tuna Mayonnaise (Hand-rolled Tuna Mayonnaise With a Generous Filling) 102 yen

    A long time favorite product first put on the market by Seven-Eleven. Particular care is taken over the freshness of the eggs used in the mayonnaise.

    [No. 2] Temaki Onigiri Beni Shake (Hand-rolled Red Salmon Onigiri) 130 yen

    Though salmon is a standard filling, this onigiri is filled only with natural red salmon for a rich umami (savory) flavor. A lot of time and effort is devoted to making this product; after seasoning the salmon with salt to bring out the umami flavors, it is baked slowly and carefully, and then crumbled by hand.

    [No. 3] Jikamaki Omusubi Torigomoku (Wrapped Rice Balls Mixed with Chicken and Vegetables) 112 yen

    This product is brimming with the umami taste of chicken and vegetables. Prepared to have a salty-sweet flavor, the rice is wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. Many customers are fans of this signature product.


    【No.1】具たっぷり手巻ツナマヨネーズ 102円


    【No.2】手巻おにぎり 紅しゃけ 130円


    【No.3】直巻おむすび とり五目 112円



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  • 間伐材を使った杉のわりばし

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Receiving a bowl of noodles from across the counter with one hand a customer uses the other to split apart a pair of chopsticks he’s been holding between his teeth and proceeds to vigorously slurp up his noodles. This familiar scene at standing soba and udon shops might one day disappear. That’s because disposable chopsticks are gradually starting to disappear from the counter.
    Plastic and lacquer chopsticks are increasingly replacing disposable ones. These days disposable chopsticks are rarely seen at family restaurants and Japanese-style bars. There are two reasons why disposable chopsticks have become less popular. The first reason is that there is a preconception that cutting down trees to make them leads to deforestation. The second is that more and more people think it’s a waste to use disposable chopsticks, because they are thrown away after only one use.
    Responding to the view that disposable chopsticks are a bad thing, YOSHII Teruo, president of Yoshiishoji, a company that sells chopsticks wholesale in Nara Prefecture, says, “Using domestically produced disposable chopsticks helps protect the environment.” Yoshino Japanese cedar is produced in the Yoshino region, where the company is located. This area is also said to be the region where disposable chopsticks originated. Originally, disposable chopsticks were made from the wood shavings created in the production of cedar sake barrels.
    Today, they are made by effectively using lumber from “forest thinning” (removing certain trees from an overcrowded forest), and “wood shavings” from timber used for construction materials. No wood is wasted. In short, the production of Yoshino chopsticks is unrelated to deforestation. “Forest thinning effectively encourages the growth of surrounding trees,” Yoshii argues. “Therefore, making chopsticks with wood from forest thinning serves the purpose of preserving and cultivating timber resources.”
    Mr. Yoshii explains the benefits of using disposable chopsticks: “Over the 20 years after they are planted, the cedar and cypress trees used for making chopsticks absorb a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide from the air. In other words, the mountain forests we humans carefully cultivate play a big role in protecting the environment we live in. It’s been calculated that a reduction of 16 grams of carbon dioxide per year is generated by using one pair of chopsticks.”
    In response to the view that disposable chopsticks are a waste, Mr. Yoshii has this to say: “Plastic or lacquered chopsticks are certainly convenient because they can be used over and over again. However, there is a cost involved in the water and detergent needed to wash them. It is important to consider this total cost, rather than the cost of a single pair of disposable chopsticks. We should also take into account the effect draining water has on the environment.”
    Disposable chopsticks are produced in other regions, of course, but the production process is mostly mechanized. However, most of the workers in the Yoshino region still continue to make them by hand to this day. Emphasizing the benefits of wooden chopsticks, Yoshii says, “Not only are chopsticks a tool for eating, but by using them, old customs and traditions are preserved. For this reason, because of their unique aroma, feel and texture, cedar chopsticks are best.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 食をテーマに人生を描く

    [From June Issue 2014]

    In the 1980’s when the food service industry really got established in Japan, a gourmet boom got underway, with people becoming increasingly particular about ingredients and recipes. “Oishinbo” (The Gourmet) was one of the driving forces behind this boom. The series started in the manga magazine, “Big Comic Spirits” in 1983 and continues even today. It is a popular series with over 100 million volumes in circulation; in addition to movie adaptations, animated and live action adaptations have been televised.
    Reporters, YAMAOKA Shiro and KURITA Yuko, take up the challenge of creating the “ultimate menu” which will showcase the pinnacle of Japanese food culture for the hundred year anniversary of their newspaper. However, a rival company is planning a “supreme menu,” and this triggers a culinary battle between “the ultimate” and “the supreme.” KAIBARA Yuzan is a consultant for the supreme menu, and is also Shiro’s father. The two have been at odds for a long time over the death of Shiro’s mother.
    As well as being a brilliant artist, Yuzan is a gourmet. His uncompromising attitude covers just about everything and spills over into his private life. On discovering that his son has an extremely sensitive palate, in preparation for adulthood, he gives him a through grounding in the basics of cookery. However, Shiro rebels against this strict upbringing and, when his mother dies of heart disease, destroys all of Yuzan’s artwork, before leaving home.
    Shiro continues to nurse a grudge against Yuzan because he feels that by forcing his mother to continue working while she was sick, he was responsible for her death. He uses his mother’s maiden name “Yamaoka” in order to sever relations with Yuzan. The classic theme of father son conflict, overlaps with the cookery showdown and adds depth to the story.
    Shiro’s feelings about his parents’ unhappy marriage cast a shadow over his life. While he is attracted to his colleague, Yuko, he is unable to make the first move. But by confronting Yuzan through the cookery showdown, Shiro gradually begins to face his past. When he brings about the marriage of a woman, he is inspired to propose to Yuko.
    However, Yuko’s pregnancy makes Shiro anxious again. Shiro is afraid that he will be unable to love his own child because his father did not show any affection towards him, giving him no warm family memories. But when Yuko suffers from morning sickness, Yuzan teaches Yuko a dish that he had made for Shiro’s mother. Shiro becomes aware of Yuzan’s love towards Shiro’s mother and by extension, towards himself; this prepares Shiro for fatherhood.
    The carefully drawn dishes are beautiful and the work also introduces ingredients in profound detail as well as the rich food culture of various regions. All the characters, including Shiro, learn to relate to one another through food and come to understand that “to eat” is “to live.”
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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  • 関心のなかった日本が好きに

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Dongi USENG LAFI
    “To tell you the truth, I used to have no interest whatsoever in Japan,” says Dongi USENG LAFI from Taiwan with a wry smile. “Many people in Taiwan love Japan and sightseeing trips to Japan are very popular. But I never participated in any. Having an interest in Europe, I studied German in college.”
    However, Dongi came to Japan in October 2012 when her boyfriend was transferred there for work. “I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and on top of that my parents were very concerned because it was after the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, I’d made up my mind to go along with my boyfriend.” Since coming to Japan, Dongi has taken quite a liking to the country. “Everywhere you go in Japan the streets are clean. Trains operate on time. The people are all polite and well dressed. Waste is properly recycled. I think we Taiwanese should learn from this side of the Japanese.”
    She’s been won over by Japan’s culture and nature. “I’ve always been fond of flowers, so I’m practicing ikebana (flower arrangement) and kokedama (moss ball making). While pursuing those activities, I’ve come to acquire a powerful sense of the beauty of flowers. When I saw cherry flowers in full bloom for the first time in the spring of 2013, I was moved to tears.”
    Dongi has also come to like Japanese cuisine. “My boyfriend hated nattou at first. But he liked yuzu chili paste, so I put it in nattou for him. Then he just fell in love with nattou,” she says. “On special occasions, we look forward to eating Kobe beef. We also often go to a chanko-nabe restaurant near our place.”
    She also finds some things problematic. “I was shocked by the high prices in Japan. They are about three times as high as in Taiwan,” says Dongi. “The house we live in now is close to a station and convenient. It gets a lot of sunshine and it’s a good house, but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard how much the rent cost. In winter, electricity for heating is quite costly.”
    Dongi started studying the Japanese language as soon as she came to Japan. “Thinking that if I was going to live in Japan, it would make sense to study Japanese, I enrolled at the Evergreen Language School (Meguro Ward, Tokyo). School fees are about 700,000 yen a year. I study Japanese for three and a half hours in the morning and work part-time in the afternoon. At night, I study Japanese until late at home. The good thing about Evergreen is that there are never any more than eight people per class. Right now there are five people in my class and we are able to talk a lot.”
    Dongi enrolled in April 2013 and passed the N2 (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in July. “Next time, I want to take the Japanese Business Proficiency Test,” she says, explaining her goal. “Even though I’m pretty busy with work and Japanese studies, I’m enjoying life in Japan. Japan has lots of shops selling well-known brands second hand. I’m glad I can buy good quality items cheaply. My Taiwanese friends ask me, ‘Have you become rich overnight?’” she laughs.
    Evergreen Language School
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年6月号掲載記事]


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