• 日本について話すたびに日本を好きに

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Karine LIEBAUT,
    Wife of the Belgian Ambassador to Japan
    My husband came to Japan on the 16th of March, 2011, five days after the East Japan earthquake, because he felt that it was then that it would provide moral support to the Belgian community in Japan. For practical reasons I came to Japan one month later, in April. It was terrible to come at that time and see what had happened. I had never experienced an earthquake and there were still aftershocks, but I got used to it gradually.
    Language is the only problem for me in daily life in Japan. The transportation system is very organized. Once you have your PASMO (IC card), a plan of the metro and know all the lines, it’s no problem. In the stations, there’s always somebody who can help you. They speak a little bit of English and know enough to explain to you which train to take. Shopping is not a problem. In the supermarket, sometimes, the lack of English is sometimes a little difficult. But many times, Japanese people understand what we are asking.
    Regarding Japanese people, a lot of people might think that Japanese people are very reserved. It’s true, but they are also very open. I can talk to my Japanese friends about anything. It’s not like they are holding things back, so for me, this is an aspect I haven’t experienced.
    Then there’s the civic sense of Japanese people. In Japan, there is a huge respect for everything: for people, society, rules, and for things in general. They show respect for other people by not throwing litter on the floor, thus keeping the environment clean. This is something we’ve lost in Europe.

    Christmas in Brussels © www.milo-profi.be/Visit Flanders

    Christmas in Brussels
    © www.milo-profi.be/Visit Flanders

    I would say that one thing Japan could learn from us is how to have a more relaxed atmosphere in schools: the schools children go to here are too strict. In Europe, it’s a little bit more relaxed.
    I certainly think that the security in Japan is wonderful. In the West, in some parts of our major cities, there is a growing feeling of insecurity. Here, I feel there is 100% security. I think this comes from having a respectful attitude to others.
    In Belgium people are very nice. They like to go out, they enjoy life, and they’re hospitable. I think we’re generous. We don’t open our doors right away, but once we know people, we’re very open. As we speak two or three languages, this facilitates communication with other cultures.


    Historic buildings overlook the river in Ghent
    © Joost Joossen

    The center of our cities have beautiful terraces and museums. When you think of the Flemish artists, some of the best artists in the world come to mind. We excel at modern art and modern dance.
    We are a very creative country. We have good architects and beautiful modern design. So for a small country with 11 and a half million inhabitants, we really have a lot to offer. Also, in certain respects, we have two cultures: part Flemish and part French. These two cultures make the country richer.
    Home to the EU, NATO and numerous embassies, Brussels is an international city. You can hear a wonderful mix of languages in Brussels, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, as well as French and Dutch. This creates an international atmosphere. It has a very international cultural life because there are plays in Dutch, English, and French. All movies are shown as soon as they’re released. Food is one of the Belgium’s top attractions.
    The housing is very beautiful. You can live in a wonderful villa just outside of Brussels and commute every day. It’s a small country so we can go to Germany, France, and Holland. Paris is just one hour, 20 minutes by train. People can travel all over. One problem in Belgium is the traffic. A lot of trucks pass through the country in transit.


    The Great Market Square of Antwerp
    © Antwerp Tourism & Congres

    We have a lot of nice little cities. Of course Bruges, which is like walking through a museum. I think a lot of Japanese people don’t know Ghent; a city not far from Bruges and Brussels. This university city, where I studied, is very lively. It has canals, beautiful houses and paintings.
    Antwerp is beautiful with its cathedrals, and the house of Rubens. Antwerp has a different mindset from other cities; because it has always been an important port, people are a bit more cosmopolitan and open.
    The south of Belgium is the French speaking part. Namur is a beautiful little city. It is hilly and very green. The food is great; you can eat game in small restaurants in season. It’s nice to do sports and hunting there.
    The coastline and the sea are beautiful. It’s a grey sea with white beaches. There, you can cycle. A lot of apartments have been constructed along the coastline. I think all Belgians are especially fond of the coast, because it’s where many people spend their summer holidays.
    In the end, I realize how much I love Japan when I talk about it. I take lessons in ikebana and sumi-e. I like flower arranging myself, so I enjoy going to the flower shop and making my own arrangements for the house. I hope Japanese people appreciate what a wonderful country they have.
    Photos courtesy of Tourist Office for Flanders & Brussels, Belgium
    Interview:TONEGAWA Masanori[2014年11月号掲載記事]





    Read More
  • 女性がDIYにはまる理由

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    These days, more and more women are taking up DIY as a hobby. DIY is an abbreviation of “Do it yourself”, but is often translated into Japanese as weekend carpentry. Compulsory “technology/home economics” classes in junior high school were once taught separately according to gender; with boys learning “technology” which included woodwork and engineering, and girls learning “home economics,” which included cooking and sewing. People therefore have an image of weekend carpentry as being a male hobby.
    Tools used for DIY are quite different from those in the past. Home centers have lots of safe and convenient tools such as compact saws and lightweight electric screwdrivers. They have become such familiar objects that even 100-yen shops have DIY sections. Tools made especially for women are on the market, including pastel-colored tool boxes and hammers with flower patterns on the handle.
    The “DIY Joshi-bu®” is a social circle for women actively involved in DIY. Since its foundation in March 2011, the number of members has been increasing every year and they now have over 1,800 people registered. Besides its Tokyo headquarters, there are three workshops in Japan and one overseas – these have become places for DIY-loving women to communicate. Lectures are given there on such topics such as how to make things and how to use tools.
    Vice President MUTA Yukiko says, “The appeal of DIY lies in the fact that you can create a finished product with a size and appearance that suits your own tastes. Since women almost invariably add some cute touch to the basic form, their personality will show in the product.”
    The “DIY Joshi-bu®” has a good reputation for the quality of its work, so they sometimes get commissions from companies. “As consumers, we make products that we really want, from the point of view of businesses this allows them to target the needs of today’s era and develop products. Truly excellent products become essential to the user’s life. In the future, we’d like to help create (more) workshops and environments where anyone can enjoy DIY without traveling far. We’d like to provide social support not only for women, but also for the elderly and children so that through DIY they can get a taste for the enjoyment of creating things and gain a sense of accomplishment,” says Muta.
    ISHII Akane, a housewife living in Saitama Prefecture got started with DIY when she decided to make a piece of furniture because it was too expensive to buy. She’s now reconstructing everything in her house – not only the furniture – to her taste, remaking interior doors in an antique style and changing the wallpaper to patterns of her liking.
    Ishii says, “I often use books on interior design and homes in other countries as a reference. Rather than making simply functional shelves or tables, women want to find beauty in them. DIY is a way of realizing your ideals.”

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko[2014年11月号掲載記事]

    近頃DIYを趣味とする女性が増えています。DIYとは「Do it yourself」の略ですが、日本ではしばしば日曜大工と訳されます。中学校の必修教科である「技術・家庭」は、かつて、木工や機械などの「技術」は男子、食物や被服などの「家庭」は女子というように男女別々に学んでいました。そのため日曜大工は男性の趣味というイメージがあります。


    Read More
  • ロリータファッションでまちおこし

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    The city of Otaru in Hokkaido is known for its beautiful streets. A new type of tourism event called the “Otaru Kawaii Tea Party” was created there. Aimed at fans of Lolita fashion, it’s been held since last year.
    Lolita fashion is about clothing with frills and lace attached that resembles the outfits once worn by modern Western women. Young women started up the Lolita fashion trend, which is characterized by its antique design. As part of Japanese pop culture, it’s been gaining fans around the world.
    In 2012, a contest was held in Sapporo City for business ideas that might revitalize the city. The winner was a plan to make use of the Lolita fashion trend. Lolita fashion goes well with the historical cityscape of Otaru. Putting this idea into practice, a decision was made for the city of Otaru and the local tourism association to host events.
    This year, 73 people took part. They strolled along a canal and through old streets, all the while enjoying photo opportunities. A fashion show – eating cakes and so forth – took place at a nearby stone warehouse which had been repurposed as a live music hall. Many participants expressed a wish that the event would continue in the future. The participants weren’t only young Japanese women; men and foreigners also took part.
    “Many people told me they were happy there was a new place to enjoy Lolita fashion,” says MITSUHASHI Asako, head of the Lolita fashion brand “Kita Loli,” which helped to organize the event. Otaru City’s aim is to spread awareness of Otaru’s scenery alongside Lolita fashion. With this in mind, they’re hoping to spark the interest of many other kinds of people.
    “Just as people try on maiko (trainee geisha) costumes when they go to Kyoto, I’d like people to try on Lolita outfits when they come to Otaru. I’d like to firmly establish it as part of our interactive tourism,” says NAKANO Hiroaki of the Sightseeing Promotion Room of Otaru City. In the city hopes have been raised that Otaru’s sweets and fashion will also be promoted.
    These days, there are more and more inquiries not only from domestic media, but also from Chinese media and French media. In Hong Kong, too, more people are paying attention to Lolita fashion. Hokkaido is already a popular tourist spot with South East Asians. In the future, Lolita fashion may end up becoming one of Hokkaido’s tourist attractions.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi











    Read More
  • トヨタ産業技術記念館

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    This memorial museum utilizes the Meiji era factory where Toyota first originated. A total of 13 buildings and artifacts were designated in 2007 by the Japanese government as part of the country’s Industrial Modernization Heritage. Starting with the invention of the weaving loom and including its endeavors with domestic automobile production, it’s possible to learn about the company’s history. A violin performance by the Partner Robot, which made its debut at the Shanghai Expo, is also popular. Because there are cafes and kids’ areas, both children and adults can enjoy the facility all day long.
    Access: Three minute walk from Sako Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Line
    Admission: Adults 500 yen / junior and senior high school students 300 yen / elementary school students 200 yen
    Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (admission until 4:30 p.m.)
    Days museum is closed: Monday (Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday), year-end, and New Year’s holidays
    Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2014年11月号掲載記事]

    観覧料金:大人500円 中高生300円 小学生200円

    Read More
  • 無添 くら寿司

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    This conveyor belt sushi chain has more than 330 restaurants. A characteristic of the store is that no additives, such as artificial flavorings, are used with their ingredients. Seventy kinds of sushi can be eaten there for just 100 yen a plate. Besides sushi, the menu offers such items as ramen and tendon (tempura and rice in a bowl), made with well-prepared fish stock and other ingredients. After the meal, you can enjoy a cup of freshly ground coffee and a wide variety of desserts.

    [No. 1] Cured Natural Tuna: 100 yen

    Both time and effort goes into the curing process, thus bringing out the umami flavors of the tuna. This is popular both among men and women of all ages.

    [No. 2] Salmon: 100 yen

    This is especially popular with women and children. It’s also popular with hot cheese sauce or sliced onion on top.

    [No. 3] Yellowtail: 100 yen

    The method of preservation and mouthfeel are adjusted to suit the palates of local residents. In addition, on delivery, the fish is sliced in-store.
    Additive Free Kurazushi[2014年11月号掲載記事]


    【No.1】熟成【天然】まぐろ 100円


    【No.2】サーモン 100円


    【No.3】はまち 100円


    無添 くら寿司

    Read More
  • 美食の国ベルギーを知ってほしい

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Paul De CONINCK
    In Sapporo City, Hokkaido, Paul De CONINCK runs Paul’s Cafe, an establishment that specializes in beer from his native Belgium. This often prompts people to ask him the following question: “What is your favorite beer?” Paul replies: “I don’t have one. When, where and with whom will you drink beer with? That’s a very important factor. I choose completely different beer based on that information.”
    It is said that there are over a thousand kinds of Belgian beer. While the Japanese tend to place importance on how it slips down the throat, the attraction of Belgium beer is that the way it is drunk varies greatly according to the brand. “When I drink with friends, I gulp down beer with a low alcohol content, but when it’s winter and I’m tired, I might choose a strong beer that satisfies after one glass,” Paul says. At Paul’s Café, there are always about seven kinds of draft beer available, as well as some 70 kinds of bottled beer.
    Besides beer, the shop’s menu includes waffles, frites (French fries), and typical Belgian dishes that use ingredients such as mussels. Out of these, Paul’s chicken comes highly recommended. Imported from Belgium, this rooster is roasted whole.
    Paul first came to Japan in 1988, as coach of a Belgian children’s baseball team. When he came back the next year, he visited Sapporo and loved it there. “I wanted to hang out in Sapporo for a year, so I took a leave of absence from the company I was working for,” he says. “Since then, for the past 25 years, I’ve been living in Sapporo.”
    As a student at a hotel school in Belgium, Paul learned various things about the hotel industry; including food preparation, hospitality and management. From the age of 14, he was involved in food-related work for restaurants and catering services. Taking advantage of that experience, he worked at restaurants and hotels in Sapporo. In 2000 he set up a business on his own and started selling Paul’s Chicken – which even today is still his shop’s signature dish. Then, in 2003, he opened Paul’s Cafe.
    Since his shop opened, the number of customers has been increasing steadily; these days beer lovers from Honshu (the main island of Japan) even visit. He has been asked to open branches in Tokyo and Osaka, but isn’t eager to expand, saying, “Only the shop I’m in can be called Paul’s Cafe.” Former employees of Paul’s Cafe have set up businesses themselves, so there are now more shops in Sapporo serving Belgian beer.
    These days craft beer (regionally made beer) has been gaining popularity in Japan. Large-scale beer events are held in Sapporo, too. Paul’s shop has benefitted from the fact that more people are drinking a variety of different beers. Paul, however, is going to suspend a big Belgian beer event he has held annually since he opened the shop. From now on, he wishes to organize events to inform the public about other aspects of his native country, including its food and culture.
    Belgium is located roughly in the center of Europe, and its capital Brussels has sometimes been called “the capital of Europe.” In the past, its convenient location unfortunately caused the country to be used over and over again as a battleground, but after each war, soldiers from the countries involved left behind something of their own culture. Paul thinks that the fusion of these influences created the gourmet culture of today’s Belgium. “I’m paying back the kind support I’ve received from the people of Sapporo by introducing them to the gourmet culture of Belgium.” He welcomes customers with a smile every day.
    Paul’s Cafe
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年11月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • 朱肉のいらないはんこの代名詞「シヤチハタ」

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Shachihata Inc.
    Outside Japan, important documents such as contracts and certificates are generally signed by the relevant parties. In Japan, a seal rather than a signature is called for in such situations. A seal has the same power as signature to guarantee the authenticity of the individual or the corporation. Seals for corporations are square-shaped and for individuals, round-shaped. They are stamped on documents in red ink. For individuals, there are ready-made “stamps” in addition to made-to-order seals.
    Besides seals used for official documents, stamps that require no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are also used. Released in 1965, Shachihata Inc.’s “X Stamper” is one such seal. In particular, the pre-inked stamp, released in 1968, is so well known that similar stamps made by other companies are also called “Shachihata.”
    Stamps requiring no inkpad or cinnabar ink paste are commonly used nowadays, but the development of the X Stamper was beset by difficulties at first. The company had been considering the idea of ink-saturated rubber stamps for years. For a stamp to be used repeatedly, it was necessary to develop a spongy rubber that the ink could seep into.
    After many failures, its developers came up with a method using salt. First, rubber is mixed together with salt. If left in hot water for one day, the salt dissolves. Once the salt dissolves into the water, countless minuscule holes are left behind. The ink is stored in these holes. The result was that the right amount of ink would flow from it when the stamp was pressed.
    Funabashi Shokai, Shachihata’s predecessor, was founded in 1925 as a manufacturer of inkpads. This company had developed a “permanent inkpad” that could be used without refilling. In those days, ink immediately evaporated from inkpads. They had to be soaked in ink every time they were to be used. The permanent inkpad was a sensation because it eliminated the need to do this.
    “Our predecessors were thinking of using the rising sun from Japan’s national flag for the logo of this permanent inkpad. However, because of trademark issues, they chose a rising sun design with a shachihoko (mythical carp with the head of a lion and the body of a fish) inside it. This is because it was a symbol of Nagoya where our predecessors came from. Because of this, the product came to be named “Permanent Inkpad with a Shachi-Flag Logo,” NIWA Makiko, a member of Shachihata’s PR Department, says, explaining the brand’s origins. In 1941, the company was renamed Shachihata (Shachi-Flag).
    Other than the X Stamper, the company has developed many unique stationery products, including a pen that doubles as a name stamp. Shachihata has gained a reputation in recent years for manufacturing unusual products like the “Kezuri Cap;” a pencil sharpener that can be mounted and used on an empty PET bottle.
    Shachihata Inc.
    Text: ITO Koichi
    * Official company name シヤチハタ (Shiyachihata) are pronounced シャチハタ (Shachihata) despite its Japanese spelling.


    Read More
  • Coming to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    Ada TSO
    “I came to Japan on a working holiday scheme and I’m enjoying working and traveling,” says English language teacher Ada TSO. “I’d recommend working holidays to people who’ve just graduated from college and to those who want to start a completely new life. I myself quit a job to come to Japan because I wanted to live and work here while I was still young.”
    Ada was born in Hong Kong and grew up in New Zealand. “Every day I communicated in Cantonese and Mandarin with my family and Chinese immigrant neighbors, while speaking English at school,” she recalls. “When I was a child, my older brother often watched Japanese cartoons translated into Cantonese and I enjoyed ‘Doraemon’ and other programs with him. That’s how I came to be interested in Japanese anime and manga. I love ‘One Piece,’” she says with a smile.
    Ada took Japanese language courses in high school and university. While still in university, she came to Japan on an exchange program and studied at Sophia University for half a year. “It was a marvelous experience,” she says nostalgically. “So many Japanese students wanted to be friends with foreigners. We traveled a lot together. Some of them came all the way to New Zealand to visit after I returned home.”
    After graduating from university, Ada worked for a radio station in Auckland. “I worked as a news reporter and also as a moderator in public debates before elections.” She left that job after two years and returned to Japan for a year.
    “It’s a pity that because I teach English, I don’t have much opportunity to speak Japanese,” she says with a wry smile. She doesn’t attend a Japanese language school. “That’s why, when I get the chance to speak Japanese, I try practice my conversation as much as possible. On my days off, I memorize grammar and words with study-aid books. Unlike my student days, I now work full-time and it’s hard to maintain my motivation for studying. To spur myself on, I’ve made a goal of passing the N2 grade (of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before the end of this stay in Japan.”
    Ada sometimes works as a narrator in English and Cantonese. Most companies, however, don’t want to hire foreigners with a working holiday visa. “That’s why the majority of people here on a working visa have no choice but to become English teachers,” Ada says regretfully. “People who want to improve their career prospects, would do better to obtain a working visa by finding a Japanese employer before entering Japan,” she says.
    “Prices are high in Japan, but there are ways to save money. I found this site called tokyocheapo.com and discovered there were cheap shops like 100-yen shops and Matsuya,” says Ada. She now lives in a shared house to save on her rent. “The lower cost isn’t the only benefit of a shared house. You also get to know people from different countries, so you can make friends to go sightseeing with around Japan.”
    Ada visits cafes in her free time. “For me, the ideal confectionary does not only taste good, but looks good and also smells good. I’m researching exceptional confectionary by taking photographs. After returning to New Zealand, I want to work and save money in order to have a cafe of my own one day. I think the experience of tasting sweets and green tea in Japan will be useful then,” she says.
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年11月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • 二人のヒロインの恋と友情物語

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]


    © 矢沢漫画制作所/集英社
    NANA, Cover of issue 1.
    Written by YAZAWA Ai. Published by Shueisha Inc.

    Brought up in a normal family, KOMATSU Nana’s (nicknamed Hachi) sole aim in life is to fall in love. OSAKI Nana, however, has led a lonely existence since she was abandoned by her mother when she was young. This is the story of the friendship that develops between two girls named Nana who strive to live their lives to the fullest despite getting wounded in love.
    Hachi first encounters Nana on the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo; Hachi is going to stay with her boyfriend, while Nana is hoping to make it big as a vocalist in a punk band. Since they are both 20 years old and have the same name, they hit it off and decide to share a flat together. Nana starts a band, but Hachi gets deeply hurt by the betrayal of her boyfriend. With Nana’s support Hachi recovers, and the bond between the two deepens.
    The two main characters influence one other. Nana used to go out with Ren – who was in the same band and is now the star of a popular band. After they split up, they lost touch. Hachi who has been dependent on love and is spoiled by those around her, begins to stand on her own two feet after meeting Nana. Nana meets Ren again with the help of Hachi. They reaffirm their continuing affection for one another.
    Supported by Hachi, Nana channels her passion into her band’s live performances. As the lovers get back together, collaboration between the two bands begins. For Hachi, who was originally a fan of Ren’s band, it feels like a dream.
    Nana is narrated with the present day drama being carried out alongside flash-forwards into the future and flashbacks of the past. Nana portrays its protagonists as real life women with weaknesses and a selfish side. In the story, just when each of them finds happiness, ironically a crisis is visited on their friendship. The people around them get caught up in this, leading to an unexpected development.
    Serialization of this manga began in 2000 in the magazine Cookie; subsequently 21 volumes were published. In 2005 the live-action adaptation was a big hit with more than three million people going to see the movie. Since translated versions were released in the United States, Germany, France, and other countries, it has gained ardent fans in many countries. Its broad appeal seems to be in its universal themes of strong friendship and disappointment in love that surpass differences of language and culture.
    Serialization was halted by the sudden illness of the author in 2009, so the story has not yet concluded. This May, a short comic based on the original story was published. This has raised hopes among fans that this will provide the impetus for the story to be resumed.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2014年11月号掲載記事]

    © 矢沢漫画制作所/集英社


    Read More