• グローバル化の波と日本のおもてなし

    [From May Issue 2011]

    “That’s the difference in hospitality between Japanese and non-Japanese people, I realized,” says TORIMOTO Masao, the Executive Director of the Kagaya Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. “It was when I visited Nishosei Kagaya in Taiwan, the first Kagaya Ryoken that we opened abroad. I was thirsty and waiting for a cup of tea to be served. But the Taiwanese employee didn’t do anything. I called her over and asked, ‘Why haven’t you served me tea.’ And she answered, ‘Please tell me when you’d like some tea. I’ll be happy to make it for you anytime.’”

    Located in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kagaya is a hot spring inn almost a century old, with room rates starting at 33,750 yen per person per night. It can accommodate up to 1,400 people a day, it houses a theater, a spa and several souvenir shops, and its staff has the reputation for great hospitality. It has also been chosen No. 1 overall for 31 consecutive years in the Ryoko Shimbun-Shinsha Co., Ltd’s yearly travel agency questionnaire which helps recognize “the best 100 hotels and inns in Japan as selected by industry professionals.”

    Kagaya’s room attendants are well-trained to attend to their guests’ individual needs. For example, they eyeball a guest’s height and then prepare just the right-size yukata (a kimono worn when relaxing), or, when a non-Japanese guest is not enjoying sashimi (raw fish) they will bring over a “nabe” pot so those who don’t like eating it raw can cook it like shabushabu (a method of lightly cooking ingredients in boiling stock).

    “The important thing in offering quality hospitality is to put yourself in your guest’s shoes,” says Torimoto. “For instance, if I were a guest, I might be thirsty by now. If you keep that in mind when you look at your guest’s facial expressions and gestures, you can get a sense what they really want. It’s a matter of course to serve your guest tea after being asked to. But, you should try to read their minds and serve them before being asked,” he suggests.

    Kagaya opened in Taiwan last December. Explains Tomimoto: “For a Taiwanese worker to be hired, they had to have passed the second level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. We thought that those who took an interest in learning Japanese would be able to better understand Japanese hospitality. But in reality, it’s just not so. Furthermore, some of our Taiwanese guests think it’s enough for our staff to just do what they are asked to. At times I wonder what to do about it, but my policy remains that we should stick to the Japanese hospitality model.”

    There are even some companies that are trying to instill the values of Japanese hospitality into particular countries so that it takes root there, such as the Japanese convenience store chain, FamilyMart. With the third largest share of Japan’s convenience store market, FamilyMart operates 8,248 stores at home and 9,350 stores abroad, as of February 28, 2011.

    Japanese convenience stores really are very convenient, with many of them open 24 hours-a-day all year long. Mainly carrying food, drinks and daily necessities, these stores provide small services such as warming o-bento (boxed meals) in microwave ovens and bagging food and daily necessities separately. Moreover, they provide photocopy and fax services, accept utility bill payments, and you can even send and receive packages there, as well as many other convenient services.

    “As lifestyles become more varied, customers’ needs become more diversified as well, and as a result, more individualized services will be required,” explains ITO Shiori, a member of public relations department. “There are many convenience stores in Japan today, so customers choose the ones they can most comfortably use. We would like to be known as the one chosen for its better hospitality.”

    “Since ours is a company born in Japan, I think we have a sense of hospitality unique to our own country,” says Ito. “We see the customers who come into our stores as guests visiting our homes. For example, some of our stores provide customers with dry towels on rainy days, while others have small shopping carts for children to use.”

    Ito continues: “We also respect the local sense of hospitality. So, rather than just offering typical Japanese products as they are, we include local customs and ideas so as to provide better hospitality. For instance, when selling oden (a Japanese winter dish) in China we alter the flavoring and ingredients to suit the local palate. We even sell it skewered as well.”

    Meanwhile, there is one non-Japanese who is also trying to inject some Japanese hospitality into the hospital where he works. John WOCHER, the Executive Vice President at Kameda Medical Center in Chiba Prefecture, says, “I think that the hospitality offered at Japanese hotels and stores is amazing. But at hospitals, the quality of hospitality extended to patients is very low.”

    “Hospitals in Japan impose too many restrictions on their patients,” points out Wocher. “Take visiting hours for example. Why can’t patients be visited freely, or why can’t their family members sleep in their rooms? What’s more, for patients who are not on a restricted diet, why can’t they eat their favorite food or drink some alcohol? And getting a private room is usually out of the question.”

    “Japanese doctors and hospital staff have traditionally thought that they were more important than their patients,” analyzes Wocher. “So they don’t have the right mentality to offer hospitality to their patients. They hardly give any explanations and act as if patients should just shut up and believe whatever they say. On the other hand, hotels and stores have a higher regard for their customers. That’s why they offer such great hospitality.”

    “The hospitality that we believe in helps create a warm and comfortable atmosphere, one of doing for others what you would want done for yourself, the offer of having something done for you rather than having to ask for it. Both our Japanese and non-Japanese staff share this same sensibility,” affirms Wocher. “As a company, we make every effort to provide general patients with private rooms, and they can usually choose their meals. I hope that our hospitality will become the standard for all the hospitals across Japan.”

    As globalization broadens, Japanese hospitality seems to be changing right along with it.

    FamilyMart Co., Ltd.
    Kameda Medical Center

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo













    「日本の病院は患者に制約を設けすぎです」とウォーカーさんは指摘します。「例えば面会時間です。なぜ自由に友だちと会ったり、家族を部屋に泊めたりしてはいけないのでしょうか? それに、食事に制限のない患者なら、好きな料理を食べたりお酒を飲んだりしてはいけない理由は何もありません。個室でないことは論外です」。





    文:砂崎 良

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  • 東京の二大タワーが競演

    [From May Issue 2011]

    A new transmission tower is currently under construction in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. The TOKYO SKYTREE®, as it is known, is the world’s tallest freestanding tower with a total height of 634 meters. Though it is scheduled for completion this winter, and due to open to the public next spring, it has already become a very popular tourist attraction.

    One of the more popular things to do when visiting it is taking photos. Visitors can photograph themselves with the tower in the background using several parabolic, street-level mirrors, or capture its reflection in the river while standing on a nearby bridge. There are even special photo opportunities listed on both internet sites and through magazines, while some professional photographers are advising people through their blogs about when the best times and what the best angles are to take great photos.

    On March 18, 2011, The TOKYO SKYTREE reached its apex of 634 meters and on hand to witness and record this great event were many fans and members of the media. Some people were so excited that they celebrated the day by carrying handmade signs reading “634 Meters.”

    The Hato Bus Co., Ltd. has prepared a variety of tours, including a bus ride around the TOKYO SKYTREE area, a TOKYO SKYTREE river boat excursion and a 600 meter-above-the-ground TOKYO SKYTREE helicopter ride. “The entire Japanese population is looking forward to the completion of the TOKYO SKYTREE,” says NAGAI-MONROE Mari, from the Hato Bus’s PR office. “The sight of the tower getting taller and taller was something that you could only witness during that time. I think people enjoyed gathering to watch the process.”

    Tokyo already has the famous, 333-meter high Tokyo Tower located in Minato Ward. With construction started in 1957 and completed the following year, it has since become a very popular tourist attraction, receiving approximately 3 million visitors annually. Now, tourists can enjoy them both, either visiting each of them on the same day, taking photos of them from particularly good vantage points or looking out on TOKYO SKYTREE from Tokyo Tower.

    “I think people are already reminiscing about Tokyo Tower,” says IGARASHI Kengo, a member of the Nippon Television City Corporation’s Planning Division. “It has been more than 50 years since Tokyo Tower first opened, and each generation has its own memories. Older people have memories of Tokyo Tower being a symbolic image of hope and encouragement while younger people remember the excitement of being on its observation deck and sharing the view of Tokyo with their parents. I think seeing the new TOKYO SKYTREE brings back many of those wonderful memories.”

    For Japanese people, especially now, the TOKYO SKYTREE is a new marvel of architectural ingenuity and hope, one that will create everlasting memories while also strengthening family bonds.

    Hato Bus Co., Ltd.
    Tokyo Tower

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo










    文:砂崎 良

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  • 曲面を実現したディスプレイ

    [From May Issue 2011]


    With giant video display monitors in Shibuya, Flat Screen TVs in many storefronts and the proliferation of high-resolution cell phone cameras, daily life in Japan is replete with continuous imagery. And advanced Japanese technology plays an essential role in making all of this possible.

    Located in Odaiba, Tokyo, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) will be newly exhibiting a giant, spherical video monitor. Named Geo-Cosmos, it has a diameter of approximately 6 meters and will be suspended from the ceiling, hanging from the sixth to the first floor. On it will be shown images of the earth taken from outer space as well as various other data collected in observation of our planet.

    “This display was born from Director and astronaut MOHRI Mamoru’s idea,” explains Operational Division member JINGU Rie. “Our director says that he was moved when he saw Earth shining out there in dark space and remarked to himself that, ‘There are living beings there.’ His desire was then to ‘share images of the earth as seen from outer space’” she says.

    Weighing roughly 14 tons, Geo-Cosmos is made mainly of aluminum. Its surface is covered by 10,362 organic electroluminescent (OEL) tiles, each measuring 96 mm squared and placed just 3 mm apart. Its total resolution is more than 10 million pixels.

    “Upon Geo-Cosmos viewers can see that the earth is boundless. We will also show simulated images of the planet’s changes due to global-warming. We hope people will become more aware of earth’s current reality and think more seriously about its future,” says Jingu.

    In the departure area of Osaka’s Kansai International Airport there is another large video display monitor measuring 3 meters long by 4 meters high. With a thickness of only 1 mm, this film-type monitor is unidirectional, and can be placed in many different positions, such as being wrapped around a pillar as a digital sign board. Furthermore, it is easily portable.

    The company that developed SHiPLA, the Shinoda Plasma Co., Ltd., is located in Kobe’s Hyogo Prefecture. To do so, they lined 1 mm glass tubing with electrode-embedded film through which emanate red, blue and green colors, creating an extremely thin display surface. “We came up with this idea in 1998 and acquired the basic technology in 2003, but it was difficult to make tubularly-even structure,” explains Director ISHIMOTO Manabu.

    “Since there has never before been a way to display images on a bendable surface, people are in awe when they first see it,” he says. “People who have seen our flexible display remark that, ‘It looks as though the images are being displayed from within a transparent pillar.’”

    While Geo-Cosmos uses small, flat tiles, SHiPLA’s uses a shaved panel to realize its flexible display. So, in shapeable display monitors you not only find high-tech gadgetry, but also an infusion of the technician’s spirit.

    National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
    Shinoda Plasma Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo













    文:砂崎 良

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  • 見どころいっぱいの歴史の島――佐渡

    [From May Issue 2011]

    Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture draws on a rich and distinctive history. Once considered suitably wild and remote enough to make it a place of exile for former emperors, outcast men of religion and common criminals, the island later became the site of an Edo-era gold rush. Today, it’s known as much for its tempestuous beauty and performing arts as it is for its past.

    An hour’s hydrofoil ride off the coast of Niigata, Sado is a fairly large island, almost 30km across at its widest, with two low mountain ranges protecting its central plain from the brutality of the Japan Sea. In winter the weather is harsh and unforgiving, yet in summer it can swelter – so it’s of little wonder why a stint in exile here was considered punishment. But Sado can be spectacular whether rain or shine.

    For many visitors, a jaunt to Sado begins with Konpon-ji Temple, the most compelling remnant of Nichiren, founder of the eponymous Buddhist sect and his time in exile on Sado from 1271 to 1274.

    The calming temple compound, defined by its thatched roofs, oversized wooden gateways and giant, robed statue of Nichiren, was built by his followers not long after he was allowed to return to the mainland. It is one of several worthwhile temples in central Sado with connections to this influential monk.

    In Sado, noh performances remain popular, where more than 30 distinct noh stages make up roughly half of the total number across Japan. Noh’s history is also tied to yet another one of Sado’s illustrious exiles: Zeami. Credited with formalizing noh theater in the 15th century, Zeami spent the last eight years of his life on Sado, after having fallen from grace at court. Annually, about 20 noh performances are hosted by the islanders. However, especially fantastic are the evening performances of takigi noh which have become quite popular among foreign tourists.

    Located in the Mano district is the Sado History and Traditional Museum. Here you can see real-looking, life-size robot replicas of Zeami, Nichiren and several Buddhist monks. And while they move only slightly, they help explain the island’s extreme historical importance.

    Leaving the central plains behind, many then head to the tiny southern coastal village of Ogi. This is where, every August, Sado hosts their Earth Celebration, a three-day festival attracting percussionists from around the world, bringing the village’s otherwise sleepy streets to life with pulsating, primeval rhythms.

    The event is organized by the island’s world-renowned Kodo Drummers whose dynamic taiko performances are a highpoint of any island visit. You may even be inspired to try your own hand at taiko through one of the regular workshops held by drummers at the Sado Taiko Experience Exchange Hall (Tatakou-kan).

    While in Ogi you may also encounter one of Sado’s more unusual traditions: tarai-bune. Taking to the water in what resembles a half-cut Kentucky whiskey barrel might not seem like the steadiest way to stay afloat, yet for centuries these distinctive boats were the vessel of choice for islanders collecting seaweed and shellfish along the treacherous, jagged shorelines. Today, Ogi’s fisherwomen earn their living by taking visitors out on the water for 10-minute spins.

    For something less touristy, venture to the calmer northern coast, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning coastal vistas including Futatsugame, as well as ample opportunities for picturesque cliff-top walks. Although these days it is quiet, the population of northern Sado rocketed to almost 100,000 after gold was discovered in the former hamlet of Aikawa in 1601, just two years prior to the onset of the Edo era.

    Now, with the gold gone Aikawa slumbers once again and one of the former mine shafts has become the Sado Kinzan Museum, where the only prospectors are mechanical robots who offer a glimpse at the horrific conditions Sado’s largely convict miners were once forced to endure. Fortunately, more than 400 years later, today’s conditions on this beautiful island are far more appealing.

    From the port of Niigata, take either a 1-hour hydrofoil or a 2.5 hour passenger ferry ride to eastern Sado’s port of Ryotsu. Once there, you can reach most destinations on the local buses which crisscross the island. Alternatively, the Ryotsu tourist office can also suggest several car or bicycle rental options.

    Niigata Prefectural Government
    Sado Tourism Association

    Text: Rob Goss
















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  • 着物柄のアロハシャツで、先人の技を今に伝える

    [From May Issue 2011]

    Kamedatomi Corporation

    Located in Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City, the Kamedatomi Corporation started out as a dyeing factory for kyou-yuuzen (delicate patterned fabric) kimonos in 1919. Today, Kamedatomi is regaining popularity for their Hawaiian aloha shirts made using traditional kimono patterns. Initially, over 100 employees worked at the factory when kimonos were still in demand. But as the kimono-wearing population decreased, so too did their business start to diminish, and from around 1989, 100% of their factory-dyed fabrics were used for western clothing.

    Kamedatomi Corporation president KAMEDA Kazuaki’s long-term goal was to revive the several thousand treasured designs now being stored in the company’s collection. So, after learning about Japanese immigrants in Hawaii who started making aloha shirts from their old kimonos, he decided to try it out for himself. “When I wore it to the Kamogawa Noryo festival, my shirt got a lot of attention,” he explains. And thus began the aloha shirt manufacturing business, his tough road to success.

    Kamedatomi Corporation sometimes uses over 20 different color shades to express its intricate kimono designs. The dyeing process starts when his craftsmen measure the exact amount of dye and glue to be used for keeping the color intact. Next, the cloth is laid out on a nasendai, or dyeing table, where a stencil is used to hand dye the colors. Endurance and perseverance are necessary as the dying process for a full, 30-meter piece of material restarts for each newly added color. Additionally, over Japan’s scorching summers this process usually takes place in rooms where temperatures can reach more than 40 degrees Celsius.

    Prices for silken aloha shirts, which range in size from SS to LL for both men and women, start from 18,900 yen. They are not mass-produced because they are all hand-dyed, and are currently only available in stores, not online. Each shirt comes with an explanation about its own pattern or symbolic design, including ryuujin (dragon god).

    This homage to kabuki style further gave Kameda the opportunity to host a hand-drawn performance, in English, of the “Sukeroku Yukari-no Edo-zakura” (Flower of Edo) at a Singaporean Isetan store. The images, created by employees of the Kamedatomi Corporation, were positively received by the audience of both young and old alike. During the summer, Kameda’s good fortune continued as a film director helped recreate a full-sized haunted mansion set, which was then opened for free to the public. Kameda wanted the haunted mansion to be more than just scary, he wanted it to be artistically enjoyable, so he covered the walls with yuuzen-dyed fabric.

    Kameda has also organized many other events including a fashion show at a car dealership. This past January, he and fashion designer KATSURA Yumi co-designed an evening dress which was then submitted to the Paris Collection Haute Couture.

    Says Kameda, “I am most concerned with how we can satisfy our customers and not how we can sell our products.” Kameda believes that the sky’s the limit when it comes to the idea of mixing traditional and contemporary techniques.

    Kamedatomi Corporation

    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko












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  • 6年のときを経て再び結ばれる夫婦の物語

    [From May Issue 2011]

    The Yellow Handkerchief (Directed by YAMADA Yoji)

    This is director YAMADA Yoji’s film adaptation of a New York Post newspaper column written by American journalist Pete HAMILL. It was awarded the 1977 First Japan Academy Prize for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role, among several others. The actual movie location is still preserved and the leading character’s red car can be seen on exhibit in Yubari, Hokkaido. In 2008 the movie was remade independently starring William HURT.

    Kinya, who is disappointed with love, quits his job and buys a red car with his retirement money, in which he takes a ferry ride to Hokkaido. There, he unexpectedly meets Akemi with whom he enjoys a drive down to the beach. Upon their arrival, they ask Yusaku, a recent ex-convict, to take their photo. After doing so, he joins them on their ride.

    They invite Yusaku, who has no immediate plans, on a trip to a hot spring. Slowly, the rashness of Kinya’s character comes to light while Akemi gradually becomes more talkative. Conversely, Yusaku seems reticent and preoccupied by something. Accidentally, Kinya and Akemi are given the same room in which he makes a pass at her, unsuccessfully. Akemi resists and starts crying. Yusaku then enters to scold Kinya for his actions.

    Although they quarrel, the three continue traveling together. A few days later, Kinya gets attacked by a lowly thug, but the three escape by car with Yusaku driving. However, they are soon stopped at a police check point where it was discovered that Yusaku doesn’t have a driver’s license and that he also just got out of prison. Finally, Yusaku explains his past.

    Yusaku used to work in a coal mine and had a wife named Mitsue. When she had a miscarriage, he became very distraught, started to drink heavily, eventually fighting with and killing a man. For that, he was imprisoned. A few days before the end of his six-year sentence, he wrote to his estranged wife. His message was simple: “If you will take me back, please hang a yellow handkerchief from the pole in front of our house.”

    Kinya and Akemi decide to help a fearful Yusaku find out her answer by taking him to Yubari. Once there, on a high pole in front of the house that Yusaku and his wife once shared, they see dozens of yellow handkerchiefs all fluttering in the breeze. As he walked towards the house from the car, he sees Mitsue waiting for him. Then, with tears rolling down her cheeks, she helps him with his bag, as the film comes to an end.


    幸福の黄色いハンカチ(山田洋次 監督)







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