• 文房具好きな日本人

    [From May Issue 2012]


    The Japanese fiscal year begins in April. Many people will be purchasing the clothes, bags, and shoes they’ll need for work or study. Stationery is also something that sells well during this time of year. Stationery made by Japanese companies is said to be of high quality and comes in many varieties. Japan is a world leader especially when it comes to writing materials, and products have been developed here that make writing easier.

    Pentel was the first company to develop the fine 0.5 millimeter mechanical pencil lead, whereas PILOT invented a pencil holder that puts less stress on the writing hand. Mitsubishi Pencil came up with a mechanism to keep the mechanical pencil lead sharp at all times. There are even pens which use an ingenious kind of ink that can be erased. Since each brand of stationery sells writing instruments in a wide variety of colors and gradations of thickness, the stationery section in stores is a vibrant sight, packed with countless products.

    Before buying, customers carefully check the smoothness of use and overall performance of writing tools. Since Japan has a history of calligraphy, people are fussy about their pens and demand instruments that can write beautifully. High performance writing materials are in demand because to write intricate Japanese characters, the writer needs to be able to produce tome (stops), hane (flicks at the end of a stroke) and harai (sweeping strokes). Most customers test a product even when they purchase a cheap pen. That is why stationery departments provide scribbling paper.

    The abundance in variety of stationery supplies is due to the Japanese character trait of anticipating the desires of others and acting accordingly. Erasers are one example of this. It’s not unusual for domestically made erasers to be of extremely high quality with an erasure rate (ratio of pencil line erased) of over 95%, but in spite of this, new products are being launched one after another. This is because manufacturers closely follow consumer demand.

    One manufacturer realized that many adults and high school students used erasers while holding pencils in their hand. So they then developed a long eraser that people can hold together with a pencil. In response to those who disliked the black residue left by erasers, a manufacturer created a black eraser to make the residue less noticeable. One manufacturer removed the sharp edges of an eraser holder after receiving complaints that its sharp edges cut into the eraser.

    For users that are bothered by residue, there are erasers that produce less residue. In order to be able to neatly erase one letter at a time, there is an eraser specially constructed so that it always has a sharp edge. When one manufacturer makes a good product, other manufacturers tend to follow suit with a similar product.

    Competition between companies helps create high quality products; this can be seen in the case of correction tape. Unlike correction fluid, it’s possible to write on correction tape immediately after application and this is why many manufacturers develop and sell correction tape. Each manufacturer is pursuing similar goals of creating an easy to handle, smooth rolling tape holder that contains plenty of tape. For this reason successive products are introduced onto the market, such as tape cases that discharge tape when pushed or pulled and compact cartridges that can hold a large amount of tape.

    Other manufacturers strive to bring out unique kinds of correction tape, such as colorful and fashionable correction tape holders that resemble jewels or birds. These are Pentel’s “JEWELISH” and Midori’s “Swingbird.” On the other hand, there are also manufacturers that set their sights on developing high performance correction tape. One example is PLUS Stationery, the creators of the “non-transparent correction tape” which prevents erased sentences from being seen even on the reverse side of the paper. Since there are so many types of correction tape, some customers are completely confused when they go to purchase replacements.

    Notebooks and other paper products are also high quality. For example, Maruman’s “Kakiyasui (easy to write) Loose Leaf;” just as the product’s name suggests, it was created with the goal in mind of making writing easier. The loose leaf paper is made so that it can be written on neatly with pens, pencils, markers and other writing tools. Furthermore products come in a variety of sizes and types of ruled lines.

    One characteristic of stationery made in Japan is its compactness. Midori’s CL compact stapler has a length of a mere 66 millimeters. Carl’s hole punch has a height of approximately five centimeters, but when the handle is locked, the height is only approximately three centimeters. In Japan, where homes and offices tend to be smaller, compact products that take up less space are appreciated. Also, people who carry around stationery for work tend to prefer smaller items.

    In Japan, there is also a lot of stationery that is cute and fashionable. For example, the pop-inspired glitter ink of Sakura Color Products’s Ballsign Pen made the product a hit with teenage girls. Midori’s adorable animal-shaped paperclips are also popular. “Mecurikko” rubber finger tips (for sorting through paper) by Plus are popular with women who are into nail art, as they can be used by ladies with long fingernails and come in fashionable colors.

    “Japanese stationery manufacturers are good at creating petite, detailed, cute items,” says YAMADA Maiko, a PR representative for specialized stationery store GINZA itoya. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Japanese will only buy stationery made in Japan. If it’s to their taste, they will purchase stationery from other countries. Since customers are enthusiastic about stationery, both stationery manufacturers and stationery stores do their best to meet their needs.”

    The existence of customizable stationery is further proof of the Japanese love of stationery. Any stationery store will sell items that can be customized and there are also books and magazines that demonstrate how to customize stationery. PILOT’s HI-TEC-C coleto is a range of ballpoint pen holders and cartridges, sold separately, customers can match their favorite holder with their favorite color ink. In this way, people can get their hands on stationery that matches their needs and preferences with the minimum of hassle.

    Recently, electronic stationery such as King Jim’s pomera (a digital memo pad) and Pentel’s airpen (which transforms written brushstrokes into digital data) are also selling well. Memo pads that can archive smartphone picture data are also popular. On the other hand, interest in penmanship is enjoying a renaissance and as a result, there has been in increase in the numbers of people who buy high-end stationery and notebooks. Even in this information technology era, the Japanese people’s love of stationery is still going strong.

    GINZA itoya

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo














    日本人の文房具好きを感じさせるのは、カスタマイズ文房具の存在です。文房具店では、文房具をカスタマイズするためのアイテムが売られていますし、ノウハウを教える本や雑誌もあります。PILOTのHI-TEC-C coletoは、ボールペンのホルダーと芯を別々に販売している商品で、お客は自分好みのホルダーに、好きな色のインクを入れて買うことができます。このように、自分のニーズや好みに合う文房具を手に入れるためには、手間を惜しまないのです。




    Read More
  • 注目の「こうじ」、人気の秘密

    [From May Issue 2012]

    Furumachi Kouji Seizousho

    There is kouji boom going on in Japanese food culture. “Kouji” (aspergillus oryzae) is a kind of mold made by breeding microbes on grains of rice or barley. Although it is cotton-white and tasteless, it becomes sugar-sweet and mellow after adding water and fermenting.

    Kouji specialist store Furumachi Kouji Seizousho, opened their first shop in Niigata, Niigata Prefecture in July, 2009. Since they opened, the business has been so successful that in February this year they opened up new stores in Tokyo, in Jiyugaoka and Matsuya Department Store, Ginza. In addition to their salt kouji, drinks made with kouji and bottled kouji are popular.

    HABUKI Masayuki, representative director of Wakyou Shouten Inc., the parent company of Furumachi Kouji Seizousho says: “Responding to requests for an enterprise that utilized rice and raised public awareness at the same time, we started up the business as a way to revitalize Niigata Prefecture. When we opened our first shop, many doubted whether a business based on kouji could be successful.”

    Habuki has been interested in kouji for some time. “Kouji effectively gives rice a surprisingly sweet, rich and deep taste. In terms of delivering nutrition, it’s as effective as an intravenous drip. I really want to communicate the power of kouji to others”

    Many products made with kouji, such as ice cream and cookies, have been released on the market, but the one that has generated the most interest is salt kouji. Salt kouji is a product made by adding salt and water to kouji and then fermenting it. It has become so popular that it has been featured on TV and in magazine articles. Many cookbooks containing recipes that use salt kouji have also been published.

    Meat and fish marinated in salt kouji is softened and its umami (savory or meaty) flavors are enhanced. The reason it becomes soft is because the protein inside the food is converted into amino acid. In addition, the cleansing effect of its enzymes on the body results in beautiful and healthy skin.

    Salt kouji is sold at supermarkets but can also be easily made at home. Just put 200 grams of shredded kouji and 60 grams of salt together in a bowl and add 300 cubic centimeters of water. Pour it into a jar or similar container for storage. Stir once a day. Repeat for about ten days, and the size of each kouji grain will be reduced, making smooth salt kouji.

    YANAGISAWA Satoko, living in Saitama Prefecture, uses salt kouji in various dishes. “I got to know about salt kouji from TV. I had thought kouji was used in special cases, for making such things as miso or sake. I found out that salt kouji can be used instead of salt as seasoning for soup or with grilled vegetables. Everyday food became really delicious.”

    In Japanese food there are many fermented ingredients, such as miso, mirin (sweet sake), soy sauce and amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice), which are all made by fermenting kouji. Until recently, kouji had been used just an ingredient in food manufacturing and was not something that attracted a great deal of interest. The kouji boom has made Japanese reassess the value of this foodstuff.

    Furumachi Kouji Seizousho

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














    Read More
  • 日本の伝統文化を現代に伝える「OKIMAK」

    [From May Issue 2012]


    Vectculture Inc.

    These high quality book covers and eye catching pencil cases at first glance appear to be made of leather, but are actually made from washi (Japanese paper). Handmade, these products were developed by OKIMAK, a subsidiary of Vectculture Inc., Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

    OKIMAK refers both to the name of the brand and to the style of paper production. When you purchase a product from their website, it is delivered to your door wrapped in tenugui (a traditional hand towel made from cotton), rather than in paper. This form of packaging adheres to the Japanese tradition of wrapping items with extreme care before presenting them to someone. Another special feature of OKIMAK is that the company allows the general public to take part in the production process by attending a regular workshop.

    In Nara Era (8th Century) Japan, kamiko culture existed. Kamiko were garments made of paper crumpled to make the fabric soft, and painted with tree sap to make it strong and waterproof. They were worn by ascetic monks to keep out the cold and, in the Warring States Period (15~16th Centuries), by samurai as jinbaori – sleeveless jackets worn over armor. But, as western clothes became popular, the culture of kamiko disappeared.

    At the workshop, the method of production is roughly the same as that used to create kamiko; participants crumple paper, coat it with sap from a fir tree, dry it and apply the finishing touches using a sewing machine. Crumpling creates tiny creases that mark each work out as being unique. Applying the sap not only makes the fabric durable, but also creates a brilliant gloss.

    Director and designer ITO Taichi says, “The workshop is a place in which we can demonstrate the traditions, enjoyment and unexpected qualities of paper by creating something from raw materials. When participants see paper in a way they never have before, as a three-dimensional object, their interest is captured; it’s the best way to get through to people. I feel there’s been a shift in emphasis from ‘what is made,’ to ‘who made it’ and, in the future, ‘whom you make it with.’”

    Expressing the idea of a modern take on the kamiko tradition, the name OKIMAK was created by reversing the word KAMIKO. Ito says, “Paper is traditionally a medium used to convey messages. That’s why we wish to create items made of paper; by cultivating the art in cooperation with many people, we can get the word out. The important thing is to adapt to modern styles, not to just make paper by using the same methods and materials as in the olden days.”

    TANAKA Satomi, who participated in the workshop says, “By engaging in the same activity, we were able to communicate through the medium of paper. The sense of having created something new made the experience really worthwhile.”

    The company name Vectculture was coined by putting the words “vector” and “culture” together and has the meaning of “cultivating new directions.” The company hopes to revive valuable Japanese traditions and pass them on to future generations. Although it is only one year since the company was established, the various high-quality products made in the spirit of OKIMAK have inspired quite a response from the public and are being widely talked about.

    Vectculture Inc.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko














    Read More
  • 世界遺産の参詣道を歩く――熊野古道

    [From May Issue 2012]


    The Kumano-kodo are pilgrimage routes leading to sacred spots in the Kii Mountains of Wakayama Prefecture. As part of “the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range,” the paths were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, attracting a lot of attention. Depicted in the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), Japan’s oldest history book, this area is a holy place which first became famous after the retired Emperor Shirakawa paid visits to Kumano around the 11th century. Consequently, it became a popular site of worship for commoners as well.

    There are two main reasons why the routes became a World Heritage Site. One reason is that the Kii Mountain Range has three sacred sites which have all contributed to the development of Japan’s long religious history: Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan, Yoshino and Omine (all connected to the outside world by paths). Another is that these holy places and the old paths that took people there have remained unchanged to this day.

    Kumano Sanzan, located in the south western part of the Kii Mountain Range, collectively refers to a set of three temples: Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha. These are the main shrines of some 3,000 Kumano shrines across Japan. It is said that one can atone for all past sins by visiting the Kumano Sanzan shrines, thus achieving future happiness and passage to heaven when one dies.

    Koyasan was established by the monk Kukai in the early Heian period as the headquarters of the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism, with Kongobuji as its main temple. Having about 1200 years of history, it still houses some 120 temples. Yoshino and Omine, situated in the Omine Mountain Range, also known as “The Roof of Kinki,” is an important place for those pursuing enlightenment.

    The Kumano-kodo mainly consists of five pilgrimage routes: Kiiji, Nakahechi, Ohechi, Kohechi, and Iseji. These paths lie in the natural surroundings of the Kii Mountain Range that straddles the three prefectures of Wakayama, Mie and Nara. Walking along these routes allows you to discover the scenery of the ancient Heian period. Although some of the paths are quite steep, while walking on them you can encounter beautiful scenery and historical cultural assets.

    Kiiji is a route from Osaka to Tanabe, which has a tough steep section called Shishigase Mountain Path. It is said that FUJIWARA no Sadaie, a poet in the Kamakura period, was greatly grieved by its steepness. Yuasa-cho along the way, is believed to be the birthplace of soy sauce, and its old streets have been designated as an important conservation spot by the nation. The local specialty in the nearby town of Minabe-cho is nankou-ume plums, and some visitors take this route in order to buy them.

    Nakahechi is a mountainous path leading from Tanabe to Kumano Sanzan. It’s popular because it’s easy to walk on, with gentle up and down slopes. You can see the same mountain scenery as monks of Kumano moude (visiting shrines) would have seen as they walked along the route as part of their training. Climbing up Daimonzaka, an old, cobblestone path leads through a centuries’ old cedar forest, arriving at Kumano Nachi Taisha. Close to the shrine is Nachi Otaki, a waterfall that drops 133 meters, the highest in Japan. Kumano Hongu Taishai is a popular spot for hot springs such as Kawayu Onsen Sennin-buro (entry is free of charge. Open between November and end of February) and Yunomine Onsen Tsuboyu (entry for a fee), where footsore travelers can recharge their batteries.

    Walking along Kiiji and Nakahechi, you will come across a number of small shrines and stone monuments. Called “Kujuku Oji,” pilgrims are believed to have prayed for safe passage and rested their legs there. Kujuku (99) does not represent the actual number of the shrines, but indicates the fact that they are high in number.

    Ohechi is a route that runs along the coast from Tanabe to Kumano Sanzan. There are steep paths called Shijuhassaka at Tonda-zaka (in Shirahama-cho) and Nagai-zaka (in Susami-cho). Around Kushimoto-cho some paths command sweeping views of the sea and rice fields. Known for its bathing beaches, hot springs, and Adventure World – an amusement park with eight pandas – Shirahama is a popular tourist area all year around. The Katsuura Fishing Port near Nachi Taisha is well known as a tuna port and has many restaurants serving fresh tuna.

    Kohechi is a path connecting Koyasan and Kumano Hongu. Depending on the direction you’re headed, the same path is called by different names: walking from Koyasan it’s “Kumano-michi” and starting from Kumano Hongu it’s “Koya-michi.” It is a tough route going over a series of 1,000-meter-high mountains in the Kii Mountain Range. Scattered about along the way, you can see the moss-covered Sanjusan Kannon Sekibutsu (33 stone statues of Kannon).

    Iseji is a path that links Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine) in Mie Prefecture and Kumano Sanzan. It has become known to the public as a pilgrimage route for the common people, rather than as a route used by emperors and retired emperors. It is said that people made this pilgrimage when they visited Ise Jingu in Mie.

    To walk comfortably along the Kumano-kodo remember to choose an outfit that is easy to move in and easy to remove. That’s because with its steep slopes and narrow, rough paths, it’s more physically demanding than you may expect. Signposts and signboards placed at intervals of 500 meters allow you to check the route as you go along. They also indicate which areas have no cell phone reception. It’s advisable to check the route in advance on websites introducing the Kumano-kodo.

    As well as being a World Heritage site that symbolizes Japanese culture, the Kumano-kodo are roads on which people offer up prayers to the local gods. Hardly anyone drops litter and when they find it some people pick up trash off the paths for those who will walk along them next. There are rules for those taking the pilgrimage routes which every visitor follows as they walk. These rules consist of eight articles including: “We will protect mankind’s heritage” and “We keep the spirit of prayer passed on from the ancient times alive in our hearts.”

    To get to the Kumano-kodo you can take a one hour and 10 minute flight from Haneda Airport to Nanki-Shirahama Airport. From JR Tokyo Station to JR Kii-Tanabe Station, taking a shinkansen then special express train, it takes approximately four hours and 40 minutes. Access is also possible from JR Nagoya Station to JR Kii-Katsuura Station using a special express train, which takes roughly three hours and 30 minutes. From the airport or station, you can take a bus or a taxi to the starting point of each route.

    Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

    Text: SEKI Hideo, First Penguin








    中辺路は、田辺から山中を通る熊野三山までの道。適度なアップダウンが続いて歩きやすいので人気があり、かつての熊野詣の風景が見られます。樹齢数百年の杉木立の中にある石畳の古道「大門坂」を上ると熊野那智大社に到着。近くには日本で一番の落差133メートルの「那智大滝」があります。また、本宮には無料で入浴できる「川湯温泉 仙人風呂」(11月から2月末まで)、日本最古の温泉「湯の峰温泉 つぼ湯」(有料)があり、旅の疲れを癒してくれる人気のスポットです。









    文:ファーストペンギン 関 秀夫

    Read More
  • ラーメン探訪

    [From May Issue 2012]

    When I first started eating ramen, really eating the stuff, in the winter of 2008, it was all about food. Having just moved to the capitol, I was jobless and hungry. Short on money and long on free time meant I could wait in the longest lines to try the most popular ramen. What started as merely a search for a good lunch soon turned into a mission of grandeur; a mission to understand this food and the fascinating culture behind it. I found that ramen is so much more than just soup and noodles.

    Ramen is the ultimate Japanese comfort food. The umami-rich soup is enough to melt away even the worst stress. Hard day at the office? A rich miso is the cure. Sore muscles from running the Tokyo marathon? A simple shio ramen will replenish the salt and carbohydrates necessary for a speedy recovery. Hung over from an all-nighter in Shinjuku? Some creamy tonkotsu (pork broth) is better than any hair-of-the-dog.

    Ramen reflects local culture. No food in Japan is as diverse as ramen. From the southern tip of Kyushu, where local kurobuta (black pig) plays an important role, to Sapporo in the North, with its locally produced miso, shops have taken the best from the community and created memorable bowls that couldn’t be made elsewhere. Some started as gimmicks to attract tourists, like a maguro (tuna) ramen in Kanagawa’s port city of Misaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Others, like Kitakata’s shoyu (soy sauce) style in Fukushima Prefecture, were a result of the pure water, abundant in the mountainous part of Honshu.

    Ramen is for everyone, regardless of status. At a maximum price of around 1,000 yen, almost anyone can enjoy a bowl when the craving hits. The frugal student sits next to the billionaire CEO. Both get the same meal. There are no reservations, so they both wait in the same line. Even though they go home to very different homes, they are equals at the ramen shop’s counter seating; smiling ear-to-ear as they slurp away.

    Ramen is artistic; a beautiful thing to look at. A donburi porcelain bowl is a blank canvas that can hold a work of beauty. A perfectly charred piece of pork and specks of vegetable greenery top the noodle. A thin layer of chicken oil tints the soup a shade of yellow. Toppings, like a soy-soaked egg, draw the diner’s eye. A gorgeous bowl has more cell phone photos taken of it than most celebrities.

    Ramen is trendy. Anything is possible in a bowl of modern-day ramen. From rare, high-quality ingredients like imported Iberico ham, to illogical choices like tropical fruit juice, the only rule is the end product. If it is good eating, the ramen world will welcome you. If it isn’t, you won’t last long.

    The search for ramen can be intensive as there are so many different stores. Walking and eating can be taken to another level; with photography, blogging, and meeting groups of like-minded food lovers. I took my obsession of shooting food, paired it with the search for excellent ramen, and created a website. With hundreds of quality bowls in my past, and hundreds more in the future, I hope my passion will help bring as many ramen-craving individuals to their next meal as possible.


    Text : Brian MACDUCKSTON




    ラーメンは日本の究極のほっとする食べ物です。旨味たっぷりのスープはどんなにひどいストレスも解消してくれます。今日は仕事がきつかったですって? 濃い味の味噌が癒してくれます。東京マラソンを走って筋肉痛ですって? 早期回復に必要な塩分と炭水化物をシンプルな塩ラーメンが満たしてくれます。新宿で飲み明かして二日酔いですって? どんな迎え酒よりとろみのある豚骨がいいですね。

    ラーメンは地元の文化を反映します。日本にある食べ物でラーメンほど多様なものはありません。地元の黒豚が 重要な役割を果たす九州南端から、地元産の味噌がある北の札幌まで、ラーメン店は地域社会から最良のものを引き出して他ではできない忘れがたいラーメンを創り出しました。神奈川県の港町、三崎にあるまぐろラーメンのように観光客を呼ぶネタとして始まったものもあります。その他、福島県の喜多方しょうゆラーメンなどは本州の山間地で湧く豊富な純水を元にしてできました。




    あまりにもいろいろな店があるのでラーメン探訪は大変かもしれません。写真撮影やブログ、食べ物の同好会との出合いで、食べ歩きはまた別次元のものにもなり得ます。私は、 食べ物の撮影に関する自分の執念とおいしいラーメン探しを組み合わせてサイトを立ち上げました。過去に食べた何百ものおいしいラーメンと今後食べるであろう何百ものおいしいラーメンによって、私の熱意ができる限り多くのラーメン好きの人達を次の食事に導けるよう願っています。


    文: ブライアン・マクダクストン

    Read More
  • 性別と言葉の壁を乗り越えて

    [From May Issue 2012]


    Renee KIDA

    American Renee KIDA is the HR manager at the Kohoku IKEA in Yokohama, Japan. Her job requires Japanese every day, but despite having majored in Japanese, she could say little more than sumimasen (I’m sorry) and daijoubu (okay) when she first arrived. Getting to where she is now took skill and perseverance in the face of numerous obstacles.

    Usually talkative, Kida says her lack of Japanese left her feeling rather lonely at first. She tried taking language courses, but her real breakthrough happened on the job. Early on she found herself supporting a team whose members spoke no English. “Up until that point, I was around a lot of people who spoke some English, so as soon as I didn’t understand they would just switch to English and I never seemed to progress. Working with that team … I got over the psychological barrier about worrying about making mistakes.”

    Similarly, there was a period when Kida found herself responsible for the phones during the lunch break. “I remember my hands being sweaty, and not being able to eat my obentou (pack lunch) as I was so nervous,” she says. So she wrote a script and memorized it. “I learned to handle the phone through practice … Now I often find the phone easier than email.”

    Another obstacle Kida faced was gender roles in Japan. The HR director at her former employer even said once that if Kida planned to stay in Japan long term, she would need to find a Japanese husband. “I had to really monitor my way of communicating to not come across too strong, and had to struggle to be taken seriously.”

    Still, as she saw things, “I chose my job, so I had to figure out a way to still get credibility and make it work for me.” And the status of women was changing, too. “When I first got here it took a qualified woman 15 years to get her first promotion, and there were no women in sales. Not a single one!” These days, though, even the company where the HR director told Kida to find a Japanese husband has a female president.

    Kida’s final challenge was herself. Working in marketing at a medical device company, even with promotions, she felt stuck. So she quit her job, went back to school, got an MBA and also studied more Japanese. All the while she worked a part time job at a friend’s training company. Eventually, though, she began working at IKEA and has moved up over time to her current position. It’s a good company for women. “We have many women managers – close to 50%! And I feel our company culture is very women friendly, allowing us to contribute and grow in many ways.”

    Ultimately, Kida says, “Finding your right profession and, or, place to work is an art or refined skill, regardless of country.” And she seems to have mastered that art; in her heart, she loves her life here and says that she is grateful for it.


    Text: Gregory FLYNN









    来田さんにとって最後の挑戦は自分自身でした。来田さんは最初、医療機器の会社でマーケティングの仕事をしていましたが、何度昇進しても先がないと感じました。それで仕事をやめ、学校に戻ってMBAを取得し、日本語ももっと勉強しました。その間ずっと友人のトレーニング会社でパートとして働きました。しかしその後はイケアで働き始め、歳月を経て今の役職に昇りつめました。イケアは女性にとって働きやすい会社です。「女性の管理職が多いんです--およそ5割です! それにうちの企業文化は女性に好意的で、多くの面で貢献でき、成長させてくれます」。




    Read More
  • 女性の闘病生活と彼女を支えた男性の純愛物語

    [From May Issue 2012]


    DVD cover. 117 minutes. 1,890 yen
    「愛と死をみつめて <HDリマスター版>」
    発売:日活 販売:ハピネット


    Gazing at Love and Death (Directed by SAITO Buichi)

    Released in 1964, this movie portrays the pure love between KOJIMA Michiko, who suffers from a terminal cancer called chondrosarcoma, and her contemporary, TAKANO Makoto. It is based on the true story of OSHIMA Michiko and KOUNO Makoto, whose collected correspondence was published as a book of the same title.

    Michiko and Makoto get to know each other when they are both admitted to an Osaka hospital. Since they are both 18 years old and are both fans of the pro baseball team Hanshin Tigers, they soon become close. Before long they are discharged from hospital and are parted as they begin university life, with Michiko going to Kyoto and Makato to Tokyo. Despite this, they continue to write letters to each other. Unfortunately Michiko is readmitted to the hospital in Osaka as a tumor on her face reappears.

    With the money he makes from part time jobs and by pawning his camera and watch, Makoto manages to visit Michiko in the hospital in Osaka many times. They make a pact to visit Makoto’s native Nagano Prefecture to go mountain climbing when Michiko recovers, but Michiko is forced to leave her university in order to fight her illness. Being unsure of her future and taking into account the future of her friend, Michiko bids farewell to Makoto in a letter. However, Makoto is unable to accept this.

    The doctor in charge of Michiko’s case recommends that she undergoes an operation to remove tissue from half of her face. The operation is a success. With the left side of her face covered with gauze, Michiko maintains a cheerful disposition, becomes close with the other patients and soon becomes popular. While waiting for cosmetic surgery, she begins studying to become a medical welfare activist. Just then, Michiko discovers a tumor on the right side of her face.

    Michiko is once again put on the operating table, but her condition is so severe that the doctor halts the operation. Makato hears about this over the phone and yells at Michiko, “What are the doctors doing? What about the scientists? We can make A-bombs, but cannot even cure such a simple illness?” However, after regaining his composure, he gives encouragement to Michiko, as he used to.

    Putting on a brave face for Makoto, Michiko is inwardly preparing herself for death. One day, she cleans her bedside and takes a doll and other things that she has treasured to the incinerator. When asked by the manager whether the items are the belongings of somebody who has died, she quietly answers, “The person is about to die.” Looking up at the smoke coming out of the chimney, she mutters, “We all go up in smoke, don’t we?”

    The book this movie was based on was published in 1963 and became a best seller, selling 1.6 million copies. It was not only adapted into a movie but also into several TV dramas as well as a song and, after all these years, still has the power to deeply move audiences. Similar dramas that depict young people caught between life and death have been released in recent years and include: “Sekai no Chuushin de Ai wo Sakebu” (Crying out Love, in the Centre of the World – a story of true love and a fight against illness – and “Ichi Rittoru no Namida” (One Liter of Tears) – a series based on the diary of a woman who died at the age of 25 after struggling with an incurable disease. These two titles also became big hits.



    「愛と死をみつめて <HDリマスター版>」
    発売:日活 販売:ハピネット


    愛と死をみつめて(斎藤武市 監督)








    Read More