• 若者たちをとりこにした反社会的青春映画

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Juvenile Jungle (Directed by NAKAHIRA Ko)

    This original story was written by the present governor of Tokyo ISHIHARA Shintaro, who is also a known novelist. Ishihara, who wrote the script, approved the making of the film on the condition that his younger brother, Yujiro, play the leading role. Shot on location in Zushi and neighboring Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, where the brothers spent their youth, the film depicts the lives of university students raised in a wealthy family, whose days are full of womanizing, fighting and sibling rivalry.

    TAKISHIMA Natsuhisa (ISHIHARA Yujiro) and his younger brother, Haruji (TSUGAWA Masahiko) are the main characters. In comparison, Natsuhisa is taller, more skilled at picking up women and at winning fights, while Haruji is more slender and serious, and tends to gets treated like a child among his brother’s friends. One day, on his way to one of Natsuhisa’s friend’s villa, Haruji finds himself attracted to a woman he sees at the train station.

    That same day, Natsuhisa and his friends plan an unusual party featuring a woman pick-up contest. Whoever brings the most attractive woman will be the winner. Haruji immediately thinks about the woman he met earlier that day. Then a few days later, while water-skiing, Haruji sees another attractive woman swimming just offshore.

    When Haruji realizes that the woman swimming is the same one he met a few days earlier, he gets nervous. Natsuhisa, in his suave manner, chats-up the woman and then carries her ashore. Later, by coincidence, Haruji sees her yet again at the station and, finally learning that her name is AMAKUSA Eri (KITAHARA Mie), he invites her to the party. Natsuhisa and his friends are surprised when the shy Haruji arrives at the villa with beautiful Eri.

    Haruji and Eri continue to date but he never learns her address because she keeps telling him that “My mother is quite strict.” One night, Natsuhisa discovers that Eri has an American husband, and threatens to expose her secret to Haruji unless she has sex with him. Natsuhisa is irritated to learn that Eri is still genuinely drawn to Haruji, with a pure heart, even after they had sex.

    One day, Haruji invites Eri to go camping. Natsuhisa gets to their meeting point earlier than Haruji and takes Eri to his yacht. After searching all night, Haruji finally finds them both. Haruji remains silent, but there is anger in his eyes. Eri, wanting to be with Haruji, jumps in to the water to swim to his boat, but without saying a word, he just runs her over. Then he rams into Natsuhisa’s yacht, breaking it to pieces, and just keeps going.

    Released in 1956, this movie greatly influenced many young Japanese people. With the earlier release of “Season of the Sun” (original story by Ishihara Shintaro) that same year, youth called “taiyouzoku” (sun tribes), who ignored common sense to live carefree lives, made Shonan Beach increasingly popular. Ishihara Yujiro, who became a big star following this movie, eventually married Kitahara Mie, who played his love interest.


    狂った果実(中平 康 監督)



    その日、夏久たちは、変わったパーティーを開く計画を立てる。それぞれがナンパした女性たちを同伴し、どの女性が一番かわいいかを競うというのだ 。春次の頭に昼間の女性が思い浮かぶ。数日後、春次は夏久とモーターボートを走らせて水上スキーをしている最中に、浜から離れて泳ぐ女性を見つける。





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  • 日常生活に欠かせないコンビニ

    [From May Issue 2010]

    “Konbini” or “convini” is the Japanese short form for convenience stores, the system of which was imported from the USA. They open from early morning to late at night, some remaining open for 24 hours. Japanese convenience stores do more than just sell daily items – they also provide a variety of other services.

    One of them is an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). Besides making deposits, withdrawals or bank transfers, you can also use them to pay your monthly gas, water and electricity bills. A photocopy machine is usually available, and you can also purchase movie and special event tickets there.

    The peculiarity of Japanese convenience stores is the high volume of lunch box (bento) purchases, which can account for 40% of a store’s total sales. The lunch boxes range from sushi to noodles to sandwiches, but among all edible items, onigiri is number one. However, you can not see an onigiri’s ingredients, and there is no written English description.

    If you want your lunch box or onigiri warmed up, at the counter just say, “Atatamete kudasai,” and the staff will heat your food into their microwave. There is also a large, hot and cold beverage selection, offering colas, teas, coffees, Japanese tea, alcohol and drinks made with nutritional supplements.

    In Japan there are some convenience stores that do not sell alcohol or cigarettes, outside of which there is usually a sign reading “酒、たばこ.” And, while the Japanese are fond of beer, the newest trend is for both low-malt and dai-san beers (beers made without highly-taxed barley). Furthermore, with more restaurants turning non-smoking, convenience stores have set up ashtrays for smokers next to their outdoor trash containers.

    Other store amenities include a magazine corner, personal hygiene items such as tooth brushes and health masks, and umbrellas for sudden downpours. Thus, convenience stores provide all kinds of goods and services necessary for daily life.








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  • 焼きさばすし

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Ingredients [Serves 2]

    • 1 mackerel (sliced into 3 pieces)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 2 shiso (green perilla) leaves
    • 10g sweet pickled ginger

    Sumeshi (vinegary sushi rice)

    • 1/2 cup of rice
    • 90ml water

    Vinegar mix

    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar


    • 2 tbsp vinegar
    • 2 tbsp water
    • Tezu: Vinegar-water solution to moisten hands, rice paddle and kitchen cloth, to prevent the sushi rice from sticking. Equal amount of vinegar and water is mixed together to make the solution.
    • 3-Piece Fillet: Cutting a fish into three pieces: upper, below and bone.
    1. Rinse the rice, and then add water (90ml). Let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
    2. Slice the mackerel into 3 pieces and debone. Take one piece and lightly sprinkle salt on both sides, then let sit for 10 minutes. Season with vinegar and leave for 5 more minutes.
    3. Turn grill on high. Place mackerel on grill skin side up. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until brown. Turn over and cook thoroughly. Let cool.
    4. Well-stir the “vinegar mix” ingredients. Once the rice is cooked, pour vinegar mix evenly over the rice. Use the rice spoon to blend using cutting motions.
    5. Moisten hands with the tezu, and mould the sushi rice into a roll.
    6. Spread a piece of plastic wrap (30cm x 40cm) vertically and then place the mackerel, skin-side down, at the center. Layer the shiso green perilla leaves, sweet pickled ginger and the sushi rice on top. Spread the sushi rice so that it entirely covers the mackerel.
    7. Firmly wrap and then shape the sushi into a small loaf. Twist the edges of the plastic wrap and then let sit for 1 hour so the flavors can blend.
    8. While still wrapped, cut the sushi into 8 pieces. Peel off the wrap, then place the sushi on a plate and serve.



    • さば(3枚におろしたもの) 1枚
    • 塩 小さじ1/2
    • 酢 大さじ1
    • しその葉 2枚
    • 甘酢しょうが 10g


    • 米 米用カップ1/2
    • 水 90ml


    • 砂糖 大さじ1
    • 塩 小さじ1/4
    • 酢 大さじ1


    • 酢 大さじ2
    • 水 大さじ2
    • 手酢:酢飯がつかないように、手やしゃもじ、ふきんをしめらせる酢水のこと。酢と水を同じ分量あわせて作る。
    • 魚を3枚におろすこと(三枚おろし):魚を上の身、下の身、中骨の3つに分けること。
    1. 米はとぎ、水(90ml)を加えます。30分以上おき、炊きます。
    2. さばは3枚におろします。(そのうちの1枚を使います)腹骨と小骨をとります。さばの身の両面に塩をふり、10分おきます。さらに酢をかけて5分おきます。
    3. グリルを強火で予熱します。皮を上にしてグリルにいれ、焼き色がつくまで5~6分焼きます。裏返して中まで火を通したら、さまします。
    4. 合わせ酢の材料をよく混ぜます。米が炊き上がったら、合わせ酢を全体にかけます。ごはんはしゃもじで切るように混ぜます。
    5. 手酢で手をしめらせ、酢飯を棒の形にします。
    6. ラップ(30×40cm)を横長に広げ、さばの皮を下にして中央に置きます。さばの上にしその葉、甘酢しょうがを順に並べ、酢飯をのせます。さばの大きさに合わせ、酢飯を広げます。
    7. ラップでしっかり巻き、形を整えます。ラップの両端をねじり、1時間おいてなじませます。
    8. ラップを巻いたまま、8等分に切り、ラップをとり、盛り付けてできあがりです。

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  • アジアの玄関口―福岡

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Fukuoka City is the biggest metropolis on Kyushu Island, and is considered to be one of Japan’s most vibrant cities. Just a mere 200 km across the sea from Busan, South Korea’s southernmost city, it is closer to both Korea and China than it is to Tokyo. To more warmly welcome its many non-Japanese tourists, signs in both Hangul and Chinese are everywhere across the city. The Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) connecting Fukuoka and Kagoshima in about 1 hour and 20 minutes, is scheduled to start operating in the spring of 2011.

    Kyushu Island offers many famous tourist destinations, including Aso, Yufuin, Kurokawa, Beppu, and Nagasaki. Fukuoka, the transportation hub and commercial center of the Kyushu region, is the perfect starting point for a deeper journey into Kyushu, with many interesting points along the way. It’s also a popular destination because of its easy accessibility, with both the international airport and the ferry terminal connecting to the city center by a quick, 15-minute, public transportation ride.

    A 30-minute train or car ride will take you either to Seaside Momochi, offering a beach overlooking Hakata Bay, or the scenic Abura-yama Shimin-no-Mori (Nature Observation Woods) where you can mingle with farm animals. Another possible day trip is to the historical Futsukaichi Spa, which dates back some 1,300 years. Such varied destinations allow tourists to enjoy both the city, as well as the area’s abundant natural surroundings.

    In Fukuoka, also referred to as “Hakata,” a strong, traditional culture still exists. There are many age-old shrines and temples to visit, including the Shofukuji Temple, Japan’s very first Zen temple. There are many famous festivals in Hakata, including July’s well-known, annual Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, where men kaku or carry 1-ton “Yamakasa (floats)” on their shoulders. There is also the 800-year-old “Hakata Dontaku Minato Festival,” Japan’s largest citizen’s festival, held during May’s Golden Week holiday.

    Displayed at the Kushida Shrine, fondly referred to by the locals as “O-kushida-san,” is a 10-meter high “Kazariyama” (decorated float) that can be viewed anytime of the year. Within the shrine grounds, visitors can reflect on Hakata’s long history while viewing the 1,000 year-old gingko tree, that has been designated both a prefectural and natural treasure, or, at the Hakata History Museum, where a shuinjou (official document) written by the famous feudal lord TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, is on display.

    A 5-minute walk from Kushida Shrine will take you to CANAL CITY Hakata, a commercial area offering shopping, a movie theater, and a performing arts center. Through it flows a canal approximately 180 meters long where visitors can enjoy an hourly water fountain show. With approximately 12 million annual visitors, CANAL CITY ranks up there with similar commercial areas in both Tokyo and Osaka, and is popular not only as a shopping destination, but also as an entertainment area.

    A 15-minute walk from CANAL CITY Hakata, you’ll arrive at Tenjin – Kyushu’s biggest commercial district. The area around Nakasu Kawabata is famous for its yatai culture. A yatai is a small, simple food stall that can be packed up and change location. In the evenings many of these carts, equipped with compact kitchens and limited counter space, line the streets and run along the riverside, where both locals and tourists enjoy visiting.

    A conventional yatai menu includes ramen and oden, but at either a Hakata or Tenjin yatai, you will find a variety of foods being served, including tempura, okonomi-yaki, Italian food, Okinawan food and cocktails. The most popular of them all is the Hakata ramen characterized by its thin noodles and tonkotsu (pork bone) broth. Stewing the pork bones over high heat for a long time makes the fat and flavor blend into the soup stock, thus creating the soup’s signature thick texture. This is especially popular with non-Japanese people who don’t often enjoy fish and soy flavors. The pushcart business, which started just after World War II, has grown to about 160 stalls in Fukuoka City alone, which is estimated to be roughly 40 per cent of all the pushcarts in Japan.

    The “Hakatakko (people who were born and live in Hakata)” are characterized as “taking in the new and valuing hospitality.” People are often seen conversing and drinking with strangers at yatai stands. An ippai (drink) at a Hakata yatai stand often consists of shochu rather than Japanese sake. Shochu is distilled alcohol made most commonly from sweet potato or barley and often has a strong aroma. Kyushu is the greatest shochu-consuming region in Japan.

    Shochu is usually made from sweet potato, buckwheat, and barley, but other unique ingredients such as sesame, brown sugar, and corn can also be used, with oyuwari (diluting it with hot water) being the most common way to drink it. The shochu found and fancied at yatai or izakaya can be purchased at liquor stores as omiyage (souvenirs) or on visits to local distilleries.

    After a scrumptious night out in Hakata, take a stroll over to the western beachside area of Fukuoka City, where you will find the 234-metre high Fukuoka Tower, Japan’s tallest seaside tower, as well as the Fukuoka Yahoo Dome. Shopping enthusiasts should not leave without visiting Marinoa City Fukuoka, the huge outlet-shopping/resort facility with a hotel proudly boasting, “The seaside outlet mall with a ferries wheel.”

    At Marinoa City Fukuoka, shoppers can purchase world-famous, brands-name merchandise at discount prices – some slashed down to 50% off. On weekends, it’s a very popular destination with visitors from all over Kyushu as well as many other Asian countries. Traditional culture, good food, and great shopping – just the right elements for traveling enjoyment – are all found in one compact, international city. That is the fascination of Fukuoka.

    Fukuoka Convention & Visitors Bureau
    Photo courtesy by Fukuoka City

    Text: YOSHIDA Akiko
















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  • 難民から会社社長へ

    [From May Issue 2010]

    The President of Metran Co., Ltd.
    TRAN Ngoc Phuc / NITTA Kazufuku

    Metran Co., Ltd., located in Kawaguchi City, Saitama Prefecture, is a medical equipment development company with great technology – especially for producing specialized medical instruments to treat premature babies. In 2009, the company received the Shibusawa Eiichi Venture Dream Award from Saitama Prefecture. Metran’s President is TRAN Ngoc Phuc (Japanese name is NITTA Kazufuku).

    Tran was born in Vietnam in 1947. He hardly ever went to high school spending most of his time watching movies and doing karate. “This may sound like an excuse, but we were in the middle of a war in those days. I thought I would be killed in the war sooner or later, so I did everything I wanted to do. I also read a lot of books on philosophy, because I wanted to learn about life and death,” he recalls.

    It was through both karate and philosophy that Tran became interested in Japan. “I still tell everyone that Japan has, to this day, preserved and passed on the treasures of Oriental philosophy like giri (a sense of duty) and ninjou (human empathy). That’s why I chose Japan when I studied abroad,” he says of his starting Tokai University in 1968.

    After graduation, he worked as a trainee at the Senko Medical Instrument Mfg. Co., Ltd., where he soon surprised everyone with his instrument-design ability. “The instruments of that time were more dangerous than (they are) now, and those who were not familiar with them often hurt themselves. So I revamped the instruments so that people wouldn’t cut their fingers,” he recounts.

    But other longtime craftsmen didn’t appreciate the way he worked. They thought their skills could only be mastered through injury and practice. Tran thought otherwise. “I needed to learn those skills in two years, before I went back to Vietnam. So I told them that I didn’t have time. But they got angry and called me names, saying things like, ‘Well, he’s a foreigner.’ But there were many others who praised me, happy that, ‘we don’t hurt ourselves anymore, thanks to you.’ ”

    In 1975 North Vietnam won the war, and Tran, who is South Vietnamese, lost his home. By then, he was already married to his Japanese wife Mitsuko, with whom he had been thinking about building a factory in Vietnam someday. But, they changed their plans and remained in Japan. By that time Tran became a full-time Senko company employee, everyone having already recognized his ability.

    In 1984 he went independent and established Metran. Using the benefits he received from his Senko retirement, he created a new instrument to help assist the breathing of physically weak babies. It quickly became a great success in the United States where it was hailed as “a wonderful device.” However, there were times when Tran wondered if it was ethical to keep alive by machine, babies who were so prematurely born that they could be held in the palm of an adult hand.

    Soon after that Japan fell into recession and a longstanding reseller of Tran’s instruments suddenly decided to stop any future orders. At that point, about 30 units had already been completed, costing several dozen million yen.

    “I got dizzy, having been betrayed by people I’d been doing business with for years. To make matters worse, the employees at that company didn’t know the real situation. They thought I’d betrayed them and made a deal with another company instead. They said, ‘We have been trying hard to sell your instruments. You’re a bad man.’ It was a very tough time,” he admitted.

    Through this experience, Tran came to realize that a small company cannot protect itself unless it has proprietary technology that other competitors can not imitate. He also learned “that people may only show giri and ninjou when they can afford to financially.” So he continued to work, harder than ever, and last year invented an instrument for people who stop breathing while asleep, of which Metran is the sole producer in Japan.

    In 1986 Tran returned to Vietnam for the first time in 18 years and got reacquainted with his parents and brothers, whom he had not seen since the end of the war. He now also owns a factory there. “Vietnam is the country where I was born, so I wanted to give something back. My family’s companies have provided about 1,500 people with jobs. This is the least I can do, and if there are more people I can help by doing this, I’m happy to do it,” he says, solemnly speaking about his feelings for his homeland.

    But these days Tran considers Japan his home because this is where he lives. “I care about the future of Japan because this is my country. I would like to help make Japan a better place,” he states. So, for its rapidly-aging society, Tran is now striving to invent instruments to help Japan’s elderly.

    Metran Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo
















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 観光対策は神社や寺の経営に学べ!

    [From May Issue 2010]

    While the Hatoyama cabinet is trying to increase the number of foreign travelers to Japan, their new task is learning how to convince tourists to spend their money once they arrive. Hiragana Times CIA interviewed tourism expert, Professor OHGAMI Manabu, to learn more.

    鳩山内閣は日本を訪れる外国人観光客を増やそうとしているが、観光客からいかにしてお金を使わせるかが課題となっている。Hiragana Times CIAは、その点について観光産業に詳しい大神学教授にインタビューした。

    CIA: What do you think about the government’s tourism policy?


    Prof.: With increased globalization, manufacturers in advanced countries now have factories in foreign countries where wages are lower. In the future, advanced countries will find it increasingly more difficult to depend solely on the manufacturing industry. Japan is a small country and has no natural resources. The best decision is for Japan to become a tourism-based economy.

    CIA: What should foreign tourists take interest in, in Japan?

    Prof.: Decades ago, Japan was called the country of “Fujiyama and geisha.” Women regularly wearing kimono were once a common sight, but hardly anymore. Japanese cuisine was once only available here, but now it’s everywhere. Foreign tourists used to be able to really sense the cultural difference of Japanese daily life. Now, common foods, clothing and music are universal, making it difficult for a country to provide a unique tourist experience. At present, Asian tourists are purchasing Japan’s high-tech products as souvenirs, but that trend won’t last long.

    CIA: Then what is Japan’s attraction?

    Prof.: Geisha have almost all disappeared, but the beauty of Fujiyama or Mt. Fuji will remain forever. There still is tourism value in Japan’s abundant nature, and its cultural assets, such as shrines and temples.

    CIA: Fortunately, Japan does still have many wonderful shrines and temples.

    Prof.: Yes, and the government should pay more attention to how they are run. Japan’s notable shrines and temples charge entrance fees, in addition to placing offertory boxes. Furthermore, they charge book and magazine publishers high publication fees for the permission to shoot and print photos of them.

    CIA: Can you blame them?

    Prof.: No. In fact, the well-known shrines and temples all have similar business structures to companies that sell the rights to famous characters. Some of them even branch out into other regions, just like franchise businesses. There are all kinds of business models seen in the management of shrines and temples. That’s why their business is everlasting. The tourism industry should learn their know-how in getting money from foreign tourists.

    One Comment from CIA

    In medieval Christian times, churches sold forgiveness to anyone who wanted to buy absolution from their sins. Here in Japan, the saying “Bouzu marumouke,” means that “Priests gain all the profits.” Therefore, if Japan’s tourism industry learns religious business practices, then Hatoyama’s tourism policy will be a complete failure. Why? A long time ago, religious institutions convinced the government to let them collect money tax free. So, if Japan’s tourism industry does similarly, making money without paying taxes, then how will the government ever make any money?

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)


    鳩山内閣は日本を訪れる外国人観光客を増やそうとしているが、観光客からいかにしてお金を使わせるかが課題となっている。Hiragana Times CIAは、その点について観光産業に詳しい大神学教授にインタビューした。












    カトリック時代の中世に、教会は罪から免れたい人にそれが許されるとされるお札を売っていました。日本には「坊主丸儲け」という言葉があります。それでもし、日本の観光業者が宗教ビジネスを学んだら、鳩山観光政策は大失敗に終わるでしょう。なぜかって? 宗教団体ははるか以前に政府をくどき、無税にさせました。日本の観光業者が同じことをして税金を払わなければ、政府はどこからお金を得るのでしょうか。

    * CIA(Cynically Insulting Agency /皮肉冗談局)

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  • 江戸時代から続くうちわ、扇子の製造

    [From May Issue 2010]


    Uchiwa (Japanese fans) are not only used to cool off during the summer time, they have other uses such as fanning away smoke while cooking and chasing away insects. Sensu differs from uchiwa mainly because of its compact shape when folded, making it easier to carry. It has long been incorporated into fashion where it was originally used to create a breeze. There are many varieties of sensu that are used for different occasions – for instance, a gold or silver sensu is for celebratory events such as weddings, a black sensu is for funerals, while others are used in classical Japanese dance and tea ceremonies.

    IBASEN CO., LTD. has a history that dates back almost 400 years. Initially it sold washi (Japanese paper) and bamboo products, but around the latter Edo Period it began trading in uchiwa-ukiyoe (fan woodblock prints), applying the woodblock prints to fans. “It was what you would call a printing company today. We had ukiyoe artists like UTAGAWA Toyokuni and Hiroshige draw the drafts, then we made them by coloring in the prints and adding patterns,” says the President, YOSHIDA Nobuo.

    The uchiwa-ukiyoe with picturesque scenery and characters gained much popularity, and soon the “Ibaya” store name became very well-known along Edo’s streets. Around the same time, when the era changed from Edo to Meiji, Ibasen started to trade sensu as well. “Uchiwa and sensu both use woodblock prints, so the same techniques are applied,” says Yoshida.

    Yoshida became president 33 years ago, at the age of 28. “I was not pressured about taking over a tradition. It is purely business, so I continue to think about what kind of products we manufacture, and how we can provide them to more customers,” he says. He started their internet shopping site about 5 years ago describing it as “a doorway for the customers to step into.”

    In fact, the company offers many more products than are listed on their site. Apart from the regular, company-designed items, custom-made fans using personal photos, illustrations and poems that are brought in by individuals are also popular. A majority of the customers who visit their store are in their 30’s and 40’s with many non-Japanese tourists also coming by to try the actual items and ask the store staff for advice before purchasing one.

    Apart from their own store, Ibasen products are also sold in department stores and, the company also actively participates in events that promote Japanese concepts such as “Wa (harmony, peace and balance).” “We hope to advance further into the Asian markets in the near future. For example, we would like to open a shop in Shanghai, China, and demonstrate our design skills, which is our pride and joy, to give it our best shot,” he says.











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  • 遠くに住んでいる人とコミュニケーションがとれる道具

    [From May Issue 2010]

    TSUJITA Hitomi of the Ochanomizu University Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, is developing tools to help couples who live far apart, better communicate with one another, such as pairs of trash bins and desk lamps. When a person uses one trash bin, that information is conveyed via the Internet, automatically opening the lid of the other bin. Likewise, when a person turns on their desk lamp, the other lamp also gets turned on. As a result, even when living far apart, you can know whenever your loved ones use the trash bin or turn on the lights.

    “We would like to communicate with our partners without being a nuisance. I thought it would be nice if we could do so through our daily appliances,” says Tsujita, who asked three couples to try these devices. The results showed that when the couples were quarrelling, the men frequently used the trash bin repeatedly to draw the women’s attention.

    “I, myself was living far away from my partner. So, I felt I would like to have a tool that would let me communicate with him, which led me to this study,” says Tsujita. Professor SHIIO Ichiro, Tsujita’s advisor, adds that: “Computers used to be very expensive, so they were only used in research, business, military, and other fields that were male-dominated. But, since computer technology has become very cheap, it is now used in daily products. From now on, I predict that computers will be utilized more in daily life in ways that are more in tune with the female intuition, like in this study.”

    Household appliance manufacturer Zojirushi Corporation is another company making a similar item – the “i-POT,” a tea pot that facilitates communication over great distances. When you push the button to pour water, an e-mail is sent to a registered address in the “Mimamori (watch over) Hot Line” system, informing the recipient that the tea pot is being used.

    The i-POT system allows children living far from their elderly parents to know if their parents are okay or not. In Japan, since older people tend to drink lots of tea, this system utilizes that custom as a tracking device. When parents go out, the “going out” button can be pushed, informing the children that their parents are out of the house, and not sick or in trouble.

    It was developed soon after a sad incident in 1996, where a sick son and his mother who were living together, were both discovered a month after their deaths. Learning from that, they installed the e-mail function and made the i-POT. “Now it is used by about 3,900 people. It is a tool not for ‘looking out’ but for unobtrusively ‘looking over’ old people,” says YAMASHITA Naoki, of Zojirushi Corporation’s Public Relations Department. According to him, Zojirushi received responses like, “I found out that my parent was sick with the help of this pot” and “I feel that this pot is like my child.”

    Amongst Japan’s aging population, the instances of older people living far from their children are increasing. Many people also live far apart from their families because of their jobs. These products are a reflection of this reality, and enable people to better communicate with one another, without becoming a nuisance.

    Zojirushi Corporation

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    文:砂崎 良

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  • 屋上菜園―東京の新しい農業

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Japan’s capital city of Tokyo is crowded with a population of approximately 13 million people, and a city-center crammed full of tall buildings. However, even within such a dense environment, the number of people promoting rooftop agriculture is increasing.

    Ginza is widely known as one of Tokyo’s upscale areas, full of luxurious boutiques and expensive restaurants. In 2006, a Ginza business executive, and community project leader, TANAKA Atsuo, started keeping honeybees on a local rooftop. “After hearing that you could keep honeybees in urban areas, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could gather honey in Ginza, so I started. The bees gather nectar from trees in parks more than one kilometer away, as well as from trees lining the streets,” says Tanaka.

    Tanaka thought that using the harvested honey could help better promote the area, so, he founded the “Ginza Mitsubachi (honeybee) Project.” “There are many wonderful chefs, bartenders and other food artisans in Ginza, so we’ve asked them to make food and confectionery items with our honey. We thought it could become the talk of the town and attract more shoppers, further enriching Ginza,” he says.

    Tanaka’s idea soon became a great success. The word about Ginza’s honeybees spread instantly and TV networks and newspapers started reporting on the area’s newest venture. Chefs soon also visited Tanaka’s bees and were very impressed by their dedicated work, as well as by the difference in taste among honeys collected from various kinds of flowers. With that in mind, the chefs started creating many, delicious, honey-based dishes that tasted so good, and that were so well-received, that a honey shortage almost ensued.

    Rooftop agriculture soon spread to other buildings around Ginza, with even the century-old Matsuya Department Store creating their own garden in 2007 where they started growing flowers and vegetables from which nectar could be gathered. They also invited people involved in environmental activities to an event where they served curry with summer vegetables that were grown on their rooftop.

    “During the summer, we had to water the plants many times a day. Some of them were even eaten by birds,” explains Matsuya PR staff member OOKI Yukio about the problems they had to overcome. “But the customers were pleased, and they kept telling us that they were looking forward to seeing the vegetables grow. Also, when we saw the honeybees coming, we felt like we were contributing to nature and so we started thinking more about the environment,” he added.

    Also in 2007, The Japanese Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Company started gardening on its Ginza head office building rooftop, growing rice from which they make sake. “None of our employees had any agricultural experience, so when we faced problems, we had to think and study, and solve them one by one. When the weather was bad, the rice plants became ill. Since we didn’t use any pesticide, they got attacked by harmful insects. We were surprised by the fact that any insect would fly to the rooftop of such a high building in Ginza. But, we were emotionally moved when the plants finally bore rice,” says ODA Asami, Senior section chief of the Tokyo branch office.

    “By growing rice we’ve widened our circle of friends,” says Oda, adding that “at harvest time, our employees’ families come along. When we make sake, we also invite people from outside the company as well.”

    “Through the Honeybee Project, community interest is growing,” says Tanaka. “When I’m taking care of the honeybees, I can see people taking care of their vegetables on the roof of the next building. Just by waving to one another, we become closer. The social bonds of people in the area have strengthened. On top of that, we started to think more about agriculture and the environment.”

    The non-profit Oedo Agricultural Research Society (OARS) is also trying to spread the concept of “roof planting” (rooftop plant growing). Their aim is to create gardens all around Tokyo using light, well-nourished soil specially developed for rooftop agriculture. To help, they advise people interested in starting gardens by holding workshops and teaching agricultural skills.

    One example of OARS’ success can be seen atop the Kitasenju Station Building in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, where only 10cm of topsoil could be laid. In spite of that, through advanced planning and careful soil care, they successfully harvested various kinds of vegetables, including turnips and cabbage. In 2009, they took up the challenge of growing watermelons and succeeded in producing more than ten.

    OARS also cooperates with other organizations, such as the Akihabara-based, Licolita NPO, who are themselves growing “Akiba-mai” (Akihabara Rice). This project has “maid-uniform-wearing girls, growing rice in buckets in Akihabara.” Now in their second year, they are also trying to grow strawberries and herbs.

    “Licolita is an organization that aims to connect ‘lico’ (self-interest) with ‘lita’ (altruism). So, to do something with “maids” connects to the concern with agriculture and food issues. We hope that young people will learn more about agriculture through Akiba-mai,” says OARS member MUKUNOKI Ayumi.

    “People living in cities will be able to better distinguish between good and bad vegetables. As a result, they will better appreciate farmers who grow good ones,” says TAKASHIO Kenji, OARS Chief Administrative Officer. “Now, many people have worries about food because of the widespread use of agricultural chemicals. Knowing that, we really hope that people living in cities will learn and think more about agriculture.”

    Ginza Honeybee Project
    Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Company
    Oedo Agricultural Research Society

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo

















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 日本のストリートパフォーマーの実情

    [From May Issue 2010]

    Musicians who perform in public near train stations and artists who draw portraits tend to attract passersby. While some artists sell poems written on pieces of thick paper that they arrange on the ground, it is the street musicians who are most popular, usually surrounded by many fans, especially young people.

    But eventually the police come to admonish them because performing in public, or selling things on the street, are prohibited in principle as they violate Japan’s Road Traffic Laws. As a result, few officially approved public performances ever take place.

    The “Heaven Artist” program, started in 2002 by Tokyo Governor ISHIHARA Shintaro, is a Metropolitan government-approved plan that supports street performers, or so-called daidou geinin. The program allows those who pass an audition to perform in public or near commercial facilities, mainly in and around Tokyo.

    Successful artists are permitted to perform at 49 facilities and 66 spots, including the Tomin Hiroba (Citizen’s Plaza) of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Marunouchi, and Ueno Park. But, while annual auditions do attract some 300 applicants, the screening process is so rigid that only about 20 get approved.

    Popular marimba duo Natsu & Kayo have been performing, mostly in Ueno Park, since 2006 as part of the Heaven Artist program. Both, professional marimba players who graduated from prestigious music colleges, captivate their spectators by playing classical pieces such as Vittorio MONTI’s Czardas and Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART’s Turkish March.

    “Because the Metropolitan government has given us a place to perform, we can play music with peace of mind,” says the duo, adding that the appeal of a street performance is that they feel closer to their audience than when they play in a concert hall. Typically, 4 to 8 different street performances are held one after another, each lasting about 15 minutes. Selling items such as CDs is prohibited, so the performers’ source of income comes from nagesen (money thrown by spectators/donations). The performers often invite people watching from afar to get closer, but shy Japanese people tend to stay back.

    TOMMY, the 2004 World Yo-Yo Champion, enjoys stunning his audiences with a variety of impressive tricks. While regularly appearing in Muscle Musical, a musical variety show where the performers use their physical abilities, TOMMY also performs, street shows saying that “it’s the place where I can express myself freely,” emphatically adding, “I find enjoyment and good times there. I love the close feeling with the audience and the live atmosphere. This thing I do is not just my job, but my existence itself.”

    Marimba duo Natsu&Kayo
    YoYo Paformer TOMMY

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko




    2002年、東京都の石原慎太郎都知事に よって創設された「ヘブンアーティスト事業」は、路上パフォーマンスを行う人たち、いわゆる大道芸人を支援する東京都公認の制度である。審査会で合格した人に、主に東京都内の公共施設や民間施設などを活動場所として積極的に提供している。


    2006年からヘブンアーティストとして上野公園を中心に活動を始めているマリンバデュオ、Natsu & Kayoは、華麗なマリンバ演奏で人気だ。二人とも有名音楽大学を卒業したプロの演奏家である。モンティ作曲のチャルダッシュやモーツァルト作曲のトルコ行進曲などのクラシック演奏で観客を楽しませている。



    マリンバデュオ Natsu & Kayo
    ヨーヨーパフォーマー TOMMY


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