• 人形に見る日本人の感性

    [From March Issue 2011]

    March 3rd is Hina Matsuri (the Japanese Doll Festival) or Girl’s Day. This day of celebration is to pray for young girls to grow up healthy, during which it is also customary to display a set of traditional dolls, called hina-ningyou, along with peach blossoms and sweet sake. Behind this custom lies the belief that the dolls will absorb all of life’s suffering, such as illnesses and injuries, instead of the young girls. In some regions, small, simple hina dolls, made out of paper or grass, are put afloat into rivers or the sea.

    Typical hina dolls usually include a couple clad in gorgeous garb from the Heian period (794~1192). They share a multi-level display, which resembles a short staircase covered with red cloth, on which not only they stand, but also musicians and a variety of other dolls and some daily tools. And while less expensive dolls sets are available, it’s not unusual for the average household to spend upwards of 100,000 yen for a set.

    “The Doll Festival began in earnest in the Edo period (1600~1867),” recounts YOKOYAMA Hisatoshi, assistant administrative manager at Kyugetsu Co., Ltd., a doll manufacturer with almost 170 years of history. “During that period, there were hina-ichi, markets where hina dolls were sold, all across Edo (present-day Tokyo). Even in Asakusabashi, where Kyugetsu’s main store is now located, there was once a hina market,” he says. And today, Asakusabashi’s Edo-dori is still lined with a number of doll shops.

    March is not the only time during the year when dolls are displayed. On May 5th (the day of tango no sekku) Gogatsu ningyou (May dolls) are put on display as part of the ceremony during which people pray for boys to grow up healthy. To further ensure a boy’s health, a samurai suit of armor (protective battle gear) may sometimes accompany the dolls. During the New Year’s holidays, hagoita rackets with accompanying dolls may also be seen. Furthermore, it is also customary for Japanese grandparents to give their grandchildren dolls as presents.

    “New Year’s, the Doll Festival and tango no sekku (the Boy’s Festival) were originally all celebrations of sekku (the change of seasons),” says Yokoyama, adding that “At the turn of each season, the Japanese have long displayed dolls to pray for their good health and safety.” Yokoyama, who is in charge of hina doll design, explains his process: “I consider what kind of hina doll to make, and then decide on every detail one by one, such as its countenance, the colors and textures of its clothes, and the design of the accompanying tools. When I studied old documents and reproduced the costume colors of the old days, I was quite surprised to find out that their finish was mostly modern pastel colors.”

    Bunraku is traditional Japanese puppet theatre, during which puppets are manipulated to the tune of old songs. Bunraku puppets are about 120 to 150 centimeters tall, and require dexterity to handle them. For example, a puppet that plays an integral role is usually manipulated by three people. One person moves the body and the puppet’s right hand, another moves the left hand, and a third manipulates the legs.

    Bunraku puppets are meticulously designed to mimic human movement. Some puppets’ necks and eyebrows can even be articulated using special strings, while others have two faces so that they can transform into different characters. Depending on its role, a puppet may even wear different costumes and hairstyles, and sometimes its face is also painted different colors. Because of their detailed expressiveness, bunraku puppets have been registered on UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

    The Japanese obsession with refined movement is also found in their karakuri ningyou (automata or mechanized puppets). Modeled on mechanical clocks from Europe, these puppets were designed by craftsmen of the Edo period to move using wheels and gears. For example, if you put a small, tea-filled cup in the hand of a mechanized puppet, a gear stopper would release and the puppet would start moving. These automata were featured in puppet theatres of the entertainment business during the Edo period.

    Japanese children sometimes create teru teru bouzu dolls when they are going to wish for good weather. Shaped like a badminton shuttlecock, this doll is made by stuffing cotton or some other material into white paper or cloth and then tying it up with a string. It is said that if you hang one outside your window and pray, the weather will be fine the next day. However, it is also said that if you hang one upside down, then the following day will be rainy.

    Kokeshi are the dolls that ordinary Japanese people have long been familiar with. Originating from the Tohoku region (the northernmost part of Japan’s main island), they are made by shaving down a piece of wood on a rokuro (or lathe). Around the late Edo period, kokeshi were sold as souvenirs at hot spring resorts in the Tohoku region, and then gradually became familiar children’s toys. The craft of creating traditional kokeshi has been handed down from skilled craftsmen to their apprentices, thus maintaining uniquely regional styles, of which there are about 11 presently available.

    After the war (from 1945 onward), traditional kokeshi, as well as new “sousaku kokeshi” (creative kokeshi) were being made. Soon, people started appreciating the kokeshi’s artistic quality, which created more national interest. As a result, the All-Japan Kokeshi Festival of Naruko-Onsen, Osaki City that started in 1953, and the All-Japan Kokeshi Exhibition in Shiroishi City that started in 1959, have both been held annually in Miyagi Prefecture.

    “When we were children, we weren’t that well-off, so our parents couldn’t buy us hina dolls for the Doll Festival. Instead, we celebrated the occasion by arranging kokeshi dolls,” says TAKAHASHI Yukie of the Nihon Kokeshi-kan (Japan Kokeshi Museum) located in Miyagi prefecture. “The charm of kokeshi is its simple shape. And because traditional Japanese houses are made of wood, I think Japanese people feel at ease with them,” she adds.

    There are even temples and shrines in Japan that hold memorial services for dolls. Some Japanese customarily burn and pray for their dolls to show their appreciation and affection for their unconditional friends, rather than merely discarding them. So, it can be said that the Japanese attitude toward dolls reveals their notion that objects also have a life to live.

    Kyugetsu Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 女性だけの集まり、女子会がブーム

    [From March Issue 2011]

    The demand for “joshikai” is booming. These are women-only events. Joshikai members eat out, go shopping, travel, throw home parties and do much more. This new phenomenon is currently being widely reported on in magazines and on TV.
    And more restaurants are expressing their interest by offering “joshikai sets” which include many vegetables dishes and desserts that women find pleasing. Any group of like-minded women can get together for a joshikai. But why is this kind of a women-only event gaining such popularity?
    On one weeknight, a joshikai of eight women in their 30s was held at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo. They are like-minded colleagues who all work at the same company. The moment a pizza arrives at the table hot from the oven, they devour it. “We want to eat delicious food to our hearts’ content. With men present, it is hard to satisfy our appetite because we become self-conscious around them,” they explain.
    SERIKAWA Nako, who was in charge of the dinner arrangements, says she was most careful in choosing the right restaurant. “Women attach importance not only to the taste of the food but also to the atmosphere of the place. When it is a women-only event, we also feel like getting dressed up. So, I tried to choose a place with an upmarket feel.”
    Weekend joshikai are usually held at someone’s home. The women go shopping for ingredients, prepare the food and cook together. AKASHI Asuka, who hosted an event at her apartment, says “It’s fun to get together and cook. It brings back childhood memories of girls playing house.” The women discuss many things, including romance, fashion and gourmet meals.
    According to the “Survey of Joshikai,” carried out by the Macromill Inc. research company in March 2010, about half of the working women aged 20~49 living in the Kanto region participate in at least one joshikai per month.
    One participant says, “In these women-only situations, we can really be ourselves, sympathize with each other and be encouraged. I would say that men would never understand these kinds of feelings. To tell the truth, I have more fun at joshikai than when spending time with men. It is a very pleasant diversion.”
    In January of this year, the Silky Style Company launched “jo4-kai.com,” a joshikai service information and reservation website. The director, YAMADA Naoko, says, “Many women felt empathy for the American movie ‘Sex and the City’ which described the friendships and lives of four women in their 30’s. I think the movie greatly influenced joshikai. They were reassured about their friends’ importance, about being able to share stories about their unhappy and hard days, and then have their friends help revitalize them for the next day.”
    Text: MUKAI Natsuko[2011年3月号掲載記事]


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  • たくさんの便利な機能―日本のケータイ

    [From March Issue 2011]

    Most people in Japan, young and old alike, own a keitai (a mobile phone, where keitai means “to carry around.”) Some people use it constantly, every day. This is because Japanese mobile phones offer so many functions.

    Three of the most standard functions on any given mobile device include an “e-money application,” a “One-Seg (mobile digital TV broadcasting) service,” and “infrared data transaction” abilities. And while text messaging and taking photos are the most basic functions offered, some mobile phones can also play music, or download it to set as a personal ringtone.

    In December, 2010 NTT Docomo Inc. released the T-01C, a.k.a. the REGZA Phone. This smart phone has the three standard functions, but is also waterproof. And since it is a Japanese custom to take nightly, long, hot baths, mobile phones that can be used in the bathroom have become very popular.

    The T-01C also comes with an extremely high-resolution, 12.2 mega pixel camera. “A mobile-phone camera is a handy device for capturing life’s everyday moments since people always carry it around. And sharing photos helps strengthen communication among friends. This is why high resolution photos and movies are so popular, and therefore, it pushes us to continue developing better keitai cameras,” says SASAHARA Yuko, an NTT Docomo Product Division representative.

    In November, 2010, the KDDI brand au released its IS03 model ketai. As expected, this smart phone also comes with the three standard functions. But, it also includes a permanent LCD clock display and an option to play music stored in-phone on a car’s audio system using an FM transmitter.

    Another IS03 feature is the Skype communication application. “Computer and iPhone users can communicate using Skype via the Internet. However, on an au keitai, Skype communication can be made over our high quality mobile phone network,” reports MONJI Keiko, a KDDI’s PR department representative.

    Softbank Mobile Corp. released the GALAPAGOS SoftBank 003SH in December, 2010. This keitai not only has the standard three functions, but it also comes with a 3D movie player for which no 3D glasses are needed. Furthermore, it comes with a business card reader that stores information by merely clicking the built-in camera.

    “Mobile phones in Japan are developed so that ‘anything can be done on one keitai device,’” says FURUKAWA Masako, a member of Softbank’s Mobile Corp. MD Management Department. “This is why Japanese mobile devices now include built-in cameras and various other functions such as television, an e-wallet, a train pass, computing power, games, books and newspapers,” she adds.

    In Japan, even novels are written on mobile phones, while contests are held for the best mobile phone photo accompanied by a haiku poem. And, it is thanks to such high-technological mobile phone functionality that Japan has developed such a phenomenally rich ketai culture.

    NTT Docomo Inc.
    KDDI Corporation
    Softbank Mobile Corp.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo




    株式会社エヌ・ティ・ティ・ドコモは2010年12月にREGZA Phone T-01Cを発売しました。このケータイには定番の3機能がついています。その他防水性もあります。日本人の多くはバスタブにお湯をためて長時間お風呂に入るので、お風呂場でも使えるケータイは、人気があります。




    ソフトバンクモバイル株式会社は2010年12月、GALAPAGOS SoftBank 003SHを発売しました。このケータイには定番の3機能のほか、専用の眼鏡をかけなくても3Dの写真や動画が見られる機能がついています。また名刺を撮影してその情報をケータイに記録する機能もあります。




    文:砂崎 良

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  • 国際協力のプロ育成を目指して

    [From March Issue 2011]

    Director General of Earth the Spaceship
    YAMAMOTO Toshiharu

    Doctor YAMAMOTO Toshiharu had been dispatched to both West Africa and Afghanistan to work as a doctor. While stationed there, his personal goal was to ensure that the locals could continue to provide medical care among themselves after he and the other staff left, but he gradually began to feel that “there was only so much one doctor could do.” This realization led him to establish a nonprofit organization in 2004 called “Earth the Spaceship.”

    The first time Yamamoto visited a foreign country was when he was in the sixth grade of elementary school. “My father, who was an oculist, had to go to South Africa for work, so I accompanied him for about two weeks. It was during the time of apartheid, and when I arrived at the airport, I was shocked to see that the gates for white people were separate from those for colored races,” he recalls. Later, Yamamoto went on to medical college planning to take over his father’s clinic, but because he wanted more control over his own life, he decided to major in both internal medicine and pediatrics.

    Working as a doctor after graduation, Yamamoto earned a Doctor of Medicine degree while also engaging in gene therapy research. Before long, he became the Director of the general hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture, but felt conflicted about pursuing this career path, despite deciding to forego the family clinic. It was then that Yamamoto recalled the situations he witnessed in the developing countries he had often visited to take photographs, a hobby he enjoyed even after becoming a doctor.

    “Even if an international cooperation organization builds a hospital, once they leave, it just ends up a concrete box,” he says. So he soon left the hospital’s directorship and registered with five international cooperation organizations as a doctor to be dispatched to developing countries. In 2001, he traveled to Sierra Leone, West Africa on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. After that experience, he supplied medical help in five other countries, including Afghanistan.

    At present, while continuing to work as a doctor in Japan, Yamamoto spends most of the year on Earth the Spaceship activities. One of its main projects is increasing the number of professionals engaged in international cooperation. “International cooperation tends to be seen as voluntary, but a U.N. or government sponsored program pays over 8 million yen, which is double the average annual income of a Japanese worker. I would like it to be seen as a career path,” he says. In recent years, he has been cooperating with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in offering special classes at elementary and middle schools to introduce the possibilities of international cooperation offer.

    Another ETS project is holding “drawing events” where people around the world draw “the things most important to them.” “Children in Africa draw water, children in Nepal draw schools, and children in Cambodia draw life without war and landmines. Through these drawings, you can see the problems those countries have,” he says, explaining that to date, more than 70 different countries have already participated in this project. “Our goal is to have 200 countries and regions participate,” Yamamoto says.

    Earth the Spaceship


    宇宙船地球号事務局長 山本敏晴さん








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  • 豚肉のくわ焼き

    [From March Issue 2011]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 160g (4~5mm thick) pork loin slice
    • 1+1/2 tbsp potato starch
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil


    • 1/2 tbsp sugar
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking)
    • 1 tbsp sake (cooking wine)

    side dish

    • 80g green asparagus
    • 80g pumpkin
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil


    Originally made by farmers who cooked wild fowl on their kuwa (or hoe) as they worked their fields. While chicken is most common for this recipe, pork is also very tasty.

    1. Asparagus: cut off roots and hard skin then slice diagonally into 5cm pieces, pumpkin: cut into 7~8mm thick wedges, sauce: mix ingredients (sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake), pork: lightly powder with potato starch, shaking off any excess.

    2. Stir-fry asparagus and pumpkin separately, each in 1/2 tbsp cooking oil, then set them aside.

    3. Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a pan then fry pork over medium heat until brown on both sides.

    4. Pour sauce over pork.

    5. Dress pork with sauce and turn off heat before sauce thickens.

    6. Serve on a plate with vegetables on the side.



    • 豚ロース肉(厚さ4~5mm) 160g
    • かたくり粉 大さじ1+1/2
    • サラダ油 大さじ1


    • 砂糖 大さじ1/2
    • しょうゆ 大さじ1
    • みりん 大さじ1
    • 酒 大さじ1


    • グリーンアスパラガス 80g
    • かぼちゃ 80g
    • サラダ油 大さじ1


    昔、 農作業の合間に取った野鳥を、くわ(畑を耕す道具)にのせて焼いて食べたことから、くわ焼きと言われます。鶏肉がよく使われますが、豚肉でもおいしくできます。

    1. アスパラガスは、根元とかたい皮を除き、5cm長さの斜め切りにします。かぼちゃは7~8mm厚さのくし形に切ります。たれは、材料(砂糖、しょうゆ、みりん、酒)を合わせます。豚肉はかたくり粉をつけ、余分な粉をはたいて落とします。

    2. フライパンに油大さじ1/2ずつ、アスパラガスとかぼちゃをそれぞれいためて取り出します。

    3. 油大さじ1を熱し、強めの中火で豚肉を両面焼きます。

    4. 肉によい焼き色がついたら、たれを入れます。


    6. お皿につけ合せと豚肉を盛りつけ、出来上がりです。

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  • 愛し合った二人が交わした10年前の約束

    [From March Issue 2011]

    Calmi Cuori Appassionati [Between Calmness and Passion]
    (Directed by NAKAE Isamu)

    This feature film was adapted from the 1999 bestselling novel of the same name. TSUJI Hitonari and EKUNI Kaori ran alternating stories in a monthly magazine, from the points of view of a man and woman in a relationship together. TAKENOUCHI Yutaka and Hong Kong actress Kelly CHEN starred in the 2001 movie version. The film was shot in Tokyo, and in the Italian cities of Florence and Milan. The screenplay was a mixture of three languages – Japanese, English and Italian, effectively portrayed by the cast of characters.

    AGATA Junsei is apprenticing at a workshop in Florence, Italy, hoping to become a fine art restorer – a Restauro. Recognizing his talent, his master entrusts him with restoring a Cigoli painting. His life, and his relationship with Japanese exchange student Memi, seems to be going perfectly. However, in his heart he still has feelings for his ex-girlfriend, Aoi.

    One day, Junsei finds out that Aoi is in Milan. He goes to see her, only to find out she has a boyfriend named Marvin. She tells Junsei: “I’m over the past. I’m happy now.” Heart-broken, Junsei sadly returns to Florence. There, he learns that someone had sliced through the Cigoli painting. Without any suspects, the workshop is temporary closed. Depressed, Junsei returns to Japan.

    Junsei and Aoi had attended the same college, where, at the time, she was an exchange student from Hong Kong. For some reason, Junsei was attracted to this lonesome girl, and soon an intimate relationship developed where they understood each other’s feelings, even when silent. One day Aoi suggest that they promise to climb to Florence’s Duomo cathedral together, on her 30th birthday, in 10 years time. But soon after making their promise, they broke up.

    While the criminal who damaged the painting has not yet been found, the workshop reopens. Junsei, unable to let go of his feelings for Aoi, breaks up with Memi and returns to Florence. On Aoi’s 30th birthday he climbs alone to the top of the Duomo. Aoi also arrives, and they end up spending the night together in each other’s arms. But Junsei, who believes that Aoi is still with Marvin, regrets their reunion.

    Meanwhile, as Aoi leaves his apartment, she tells him how grateful she is that he was a part of her life. After she’s gone, he realizes that Aoi is no longer with Marvin. He then jumps on to the next express train for Milan to catch up to her. On the Milan-bound train Aoi cries, but then sees Junsei looking for her on the station platform, smiling and waving. Relieved, Aoi returns his smile as the film comes to its end.


    冷静と情熱のあいだ(中江 功 監督)







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