• マスメディアからパーソナルへ変化する日本のメディア

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Mass media began with the invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th Century. Until recently it had a vital part to play in human history. However, in modern day Japan, a phenomenon is occurring where people are distancing themselves from “mass media” such as TV, newspapers and magazines.

    This tendency is stronger in the younger generation, and according to the results of the Japanese Time Use Survey conducted in October 2010 by NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, the time men and women in their teens to 30s spend viewing TV each day has decreased during the 15 years between 1995 and 2010.

    Furthermore, the survey results show that the younger the age group, the fewer the hours they spend watching TV. The average viewing hours calculated according to age group on Sundays, show that the average teen watches around two hours and 37 minutes, whereas the average person in their 70’s watches around five hours and 32 minutes. This means that there is a difference of approximately three viewing hours between the younger and older generations.

    The overall national average has been almost the same for 15 years, this is the result of senior citizens spending long periods of time watching TV. Data shows that the younger generation is watching less television, so it can be inferred that the average national viewing hours may eventually take a downturn in the future.


    Meanwhile, newspaper circulation in Japan continues to decrease. According to research data from The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, from 2000 to 2011 over 5,300,000 fewer copies are being printed daily, a decline of approximately 10%. The magazine industry is in an even tougher spot. According to an independent organization called Japan Audit Bureau of Circulations, in the past five years, it was not unusual for sales of some magazines to sharply drop by more than 20%. Many magazines have gone out of print.

    The Internet has drawn many people away from mass media. Towards the end of the 1990s, websites began to pop up and now some wield as much power as existing forms of mass media. According to a White Paper on Information and Communications in Japan by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Internet use by private individuals grew from 9.2% to 78.2% in the period between 1997 and 2010.

    Net media took a very important role during the Great East Japan Earthquake, and it accelerated this trend. For 24 hours, a freelance journalist streamed online an unedited version of Tokyo Electric’s press conference regarding the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The net media, which is able to report directly on the spot, was in the spotlight.

    Ustream was the video streaming service provider which was used to relay the press conference mentioned previously. Anyone with access to an Internet connection and a video camera can upload and stream videos for free. You don’t even need to have a camera connected up to a computer; videos can be streamed to the world by using iPhone or Android smartphones.


    Ustream’s website


    NAKAGAKI Naoyuki, a spokesman for Ustream Asia, says, “Around the time the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster unfolded, special reports and the unedited version of the Tokyo Electric press conference were shown, and this was the trigger for Ustream to reach a wider audience. But we weren’t the ones distributing this as media. All we did was to provide a platform for others to stream their videos.”

    “After we established our service in Japan, we continued to improve our service for the Japanese people by cooperating with Twitter, Facebook and mixi. Now we are expanding all over the country with our 30 Ustream Studios; a project that advances our business by providing facilities for users who do not have streaming equipment or suitable premises. We hope there will be further practical applications for official use, such as the transmission of local information or broadcasts from the Diet,” says Nakagaki.

    The largest video sharing service provider established in Japan is niconico (previously known as Niko Niko Douga). Users need to sign up in order to view or stream videos, but this website has a unique feature in which comments by viewers appear on the video. Recently, there was a huge buzz about a live broadcast of OZAWA Ichiro (“the People’s Life First Party” leader), answering questions.

    SUGIMOTO Seiji, the President of niwango, inc., which operates niconico says, “We tried out various methods for sharing information and impressions. Having comments appear onscreen is the most effective and instinctive way to connect with viewers. I feel our site functions as a way for users to ‘express their thoughts’ without putting up their own content or streaming images.

    “niconico itself is not media. Rather it is a place provided exclusively for users to upload, receive and share information with each other. Each user essentially becomes the media themselves because they are a channel through which information flows. All we try to provide to our users is a basic and stress-free service,” says Sugimoto.

    The great earthquake caused serious damage. However, it is also a fact that this earthquake has brought about a huge change in the negative perceptions of Internet media. Suitable for accumulation and diffusion of information, the Internet is about to be recognized widely as a new form of media. Each individual is both the distributor and the recipient of this media – in other words, we ourselves are the media.

    NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute
    Ustream Asia
    niwango inc.

    Text: HATTA Emiko











    Ustream Asiaの広報担当、中垣直之さんは話します。「東日本大震災が発生した当時、報道特別番組、そして東京電力の記者会見がノーカットで配信されたことは、Ustreamが広く認知されるきっかけになりました。でもこれは私達がメディアとして発信したのではありません。あくまで動画配信のためのプラットフォームを提供しているだけです」。

    「日本でのサービス開始当初から、TwitterやFacebook、mixiと連携し、日本人向けサービスの充実を心がけてきました。現在は全国30ヵ所に展開しているUstream Studioを拡大して、配信用機材をもっていないユーザーに設備と場所を提供する事業を進めています。地域情報の発信や、議会中継といった行政による活用も増やしていただきたいです」と中垣さん。





    Ustream Asia株式会社


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  • 海外にも広がる、日本流の社内資格制度

    [From October Issue 2012]


    In Japan, more and more companies are adopting their own in-house qualification systems lately. Although qualifications obtained may only be useful for selling goods or providing services at a particular company’s facilities or stores, they are said to be highly effective in ensuring customer satisfaction and enhancing workers’ motivation. Also, many companies give preferential treatment to those with in-house qualifications.

    For example, major retailer Aeon Retail Co., Ltd. introduced their “Advisor Education System” which provides a total of 28 in-house qualifications. This is because having someone knowledgeable about products on the sales floor can improve customer satisfaction. “Enabling staff to meet customers’ needs helps raise their motivation as well,” explains a company spokesperson.

    The spokesperson acknowledges the benefits of this system, saying, “Sales clerks with expertise win the trust of customers. As a result, this leads to more sales.” Moreover, it delights customers, “If they get advice on the features of products and how to handle them, they can choose what’s most suited to them, rather than if they were selecting items on their own.”

    OZAWA Hajime, manager of the Mihama Saiwaicho store of Aeon Bike, who holds the qualification of “cycling advisor,” applied for the system because cycling is his hobby. Speaking about what he finds rewarding about his job, he says, “When I serve customers, I always try to help them by addressing their problems and concerns, rather than just selling things to them. Having customers appreciate my knowledge and skills is really encouraging.”

    Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd. has introduced a “Black Apron” qualification. To acquire this qualification, employees have to complete an in-house “coffee program” and take an annual test. The test comprehensively evaluates the employee’s knowledge of coffee beans and their ability to describe coffee flavors as well as their day-to-day performance at the store. In 2011, 487 employees obtained the qualification and the best of these is called a “coffee ambassador.”

    Describing the effect the introduction of the qualification has had, spokesperson TANAKA Aki said, “The qualification contributes to enhancing employees’ passion for coffee. As a result of their passion for coffee, coffee seminars given by Black Aprons are held more frequently and attended by more people each year.” One of the staff who holds the Black Apron qualification says, “If you attend a coffee seminar, the coffee you make at home will taste different.”

    The Black Apron system (coffee master program) was created in the USA, but it was given its trial run in Japan. Based on the success of this program, it was introduced to the USA. Improving employee motivation and giving precedence to those with certain levels of skills and ability, these in-house qualification systems developed in Japan will surely spread to other parts of the world through the overseas expansion of Japanese companies.

    Aeon Retail Co., Ltd.
    Starbucks Coffee Japan, Ltd.

    Text: ITO Koichi












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  • イチローのヤンキース移籍と野球のルール

    [From October Issue 2012]


    This July Ichiro, the Japanese star player for the Seattle Mariners, was suddenly traded to the New York Yankees. Baseball evolved in the USA, but, together with soccer, it is the most popular sport in Japan. So this news surprised Japanese.

    Ichiro won seven consecutive batting titles in professional Japanese baseball. After moving to the Seattle Mariners, he did extremely well, scoring 200 hits a season for ten consecutive years, a record number in the history of major league baseball. He hasn’t been on top form these past couple of years, but is still a big star in the major league. Besides Ichiro, a few other Japanese players, such as pitcher DARVISH Yu, who joined the Texas Rangers this year, are doing well.

    In Professional Japanese baseball there is the Central League and the Pacific League with six teams in each league. From around April to around October there are 144 matches in both leagues; the winning team becomes the league champion. Besides that the top three teams in each league compete against each other in a separate round of matches (the Climax Series) and the winner from each league qualifies for the Japan Series. The team that wins four games out of seven games in the series becomes the Japan Series Champion.

    In Japanese baseball the Central League, in particular the Yomiuri Giants, has been popular for a long time. Thanks to superstar players NAGASHIMA Shigeo and OH Sadaharu, the Giants once won the Japan Series nine consecutive years in a row. However, in recent years the teams are more evenly matched and the franchise system has been widely accepted, so that each team enjoys its own popularity.

    Baseball is enjoyed by both children and adults. Come spring and summer, NHK broadcasts the National High School Baseball Championships and the whole nation gets caught up in the excitement. In addition to this, baseball matches between universities or cities are also held. The standard of Japanese baseball is high; in the World Baseball Classic held once every four years, Japan has won twice in a row.

    Baseball rules

    Baseball fields are fan shaped. The outfield zone is covered with turf and the infield zone bare dirt, which marks out a square shape with a base placed at each corner. Nine players in a team are selected for a match. Teams play offence and defense nine times each and the team scoring the most amount of points wins. For offence, players go up to the batting box and hit the ball the pitcher throws.

    If a player hits a ball that cannot be caught by the defense, it becomes a “hit” and that player goes to first base. If the ball is hit well, players can advance to second or third base. Points are scored when a player returns to home base. Points are also scored if the ball goes over the fence into the spectator’s stand and becomes a home run. If the ball is a “grounder” (the batted ball rolls or bounces along the ground) the player runs to first base. If the player can reach the base before a defensive fielder can arrive there with the ball, this constitutes a hit and the player is able to stay at first base.

    Offence play continues till three players are out. When the batted ball goes out of the field, the player takes his turn again. When the pitcher’s balls do not fly over the home base four times, the batter walks to the first base. If the batter doesn’t take a swing at balls passing over the strike zone, or fails to connect with the ball even if he swings three times, he is out.












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  • たくさんの文化施設を楽しむ――上野

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Ueno, located in Taito Ward, Tokyo, is a sight-seeing area the Japanese are well acquainted with. A five-minute train ride away from Tokyo Station, Ueno Station is a railway terminus at which a number of trains, including bullet trains stop at. A number of songs have been written about the fact that it has been the gateway to the Tohoku region for about 20 years.

    Located right by Ueno Station, Ueno Onshi Koen (Ueno Park) is a spacious green park. Built at the suggestion of Anthonius Franciscus BAUDUIN, Holland’s surgeon general, at a time when the word “park” didn’t even exist in the national vocabulary, it was the first ever park in Japan. The park often appears on the news and on other TV programs as a place bustling with activity, with live broadcasts of events such as cherry-blossom viewing being shown. One of the most photographed spots in the park is a bronze statue of SAIGO Takamori, known to tourists as “Ueno no Saigo-san” (Mr. Saigo of Ueno). A historical Japanese figure, Saigo is typically depicted with a dog by his side.

    In the park is a zoo, a shrine and a number of museums. The Tokyo National Museum houses 110,000 items ranging from archaeological documents to arts and crafts works, including 87 designated national treasures and 631 important cultural assets. The National Museum of Western Art contains the Matsukata collection and other art works dating from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The National Science Museum is also known for its unique exhibits, such as its models of outer space and dinosaur skeletons, and is the only national science museum in Japan that covers all scientific disciplines. Because so many important cultural assets are on display, these national museums are well worth checking out.


    The Ueno no Mori Museum (The Ueno Royal Museum) exhibits works donated by members of the public, and also holds special exhibitions to display items borrowed from art museums in other countries. At the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, internationally and domestically renowned performances of classical music, opera and ballet are held. On top of all of this, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which opened in 1926, has just been reopened in April after two years of renovation work.

    Opened in 1882, Ueno Zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan. Housing about 3,000 animals of 500 species, the zoo is famous for keeping rare animals and giant pandas. With its pond, rocks and bamboo groves, the renovated panda house is an environment that closely resembles the natural habitat of pandas. At “The Sea of Polar Bears and Seals,” you can watch seals and polar bears in action from every angle as they swim about the tank.

    Passing by the children’s amusement park located opposite Ueno Zoo, you can see Ueno Toshogu Shrine in front of you. Designated as a national important cultural property, at Ueno Toshogu Shrine, TOKUGAWA Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa shogunate is worshiped as a god. Known as a good spot for viewing cherry blossoms in spring, and the changing colors of leaves in autumn, the shrine can get crowded, especially during the New Year holidays with tourists visiting the shrine for the first visit of the New Year, or with people coming to see peonies that bloom in winter. It also attracts those who pray for good luck or success in entrance examinations, as well as a number of people interested in Japanese architecture from abroad as an example of authentic Edo period architecture.


    There are a number of famous spots inside the park, one of which is Shinobazu Pond. When an inlet of Tokyo Bay was reclaimed, part of it remained to form the pond. Two kilometers in circumference, the pond consists of three sections: U no Ike (the Cormorant Pond), Hasu Ike (the Lotus Pond), and the Boating Pond, which gets crowded with couples and families. In spring, cherry blossoms blooming around the pond are reflected in the water, and in summer lotus flowers, for which the pond is famous, bloom over its surface.

    At the southern end of the park, beside Shinobazu Pond, you will find Suijo Ongaku-do (the Waterfront Concert Hall). There are various events held there according to the season, such as classical concerts in spring and Japanese drum performances in summer. Some concerts cost only 500 yen while other events can be enjoyed free of charge.

    If you’re looking for a place to eat in Ueno Park, then Ueno Seiyoken and Ueno Inshotei, both have views out over Shinobazu Pond. Loved by Japan’s great literary figures, Ueno Seiyoken offers authentic French cuisine. Opened in 1875, Inshotei is a restaurant with a long history that serves kaiseki-ryouri (traditional Japanese cuisine consisting of a number of small dishes). Dishes are made using ingredients that vary according to the season.


    Inside the park, there’s a traditional Japanese sweet shop called “Shin Uguisutei.” The shop opened in 1915, and the most popular item on its menu are delicious uguisu dango dumplings made from sweet red bean paste and pounded rice. There you can also enjoy seasonal sweets, such as shaved ice in summer and oshiruko (sweet red-bean soup with rice cake) in winter. For a light meal or to buy souvenirs, you can go to Ueno Green Salon, a cafe right next to the entrance of Ueno Park. Panda-themed merchandising and dishes are popular there.

    The Shitamachi Fuzoku Shiryokan (Downtown Museum), located by the Shinobazu Pond, exhibits quite a few precious items that bring back memories of the good old days. Many houses collapsed during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and in the war in 1945, but here you can see lost scenes from the Edo period. In addition, antique fairs, where old tools and coins are sold, are held regularly near the museum.

    Besides the park, there are other popular tourist spots in Ueno.Walking from Ueno Station toward Okachimachi, you come to a shopping street called Ameya Yokocho. Also known as Ameyoko, the street is lined with more than 400 shops, and around the end of the year it gets crowded with customers stocking up on food for the New Year holidays. The shops carry not only domestically produced items, but also imported items, and are known for selling food products, such as fish and dried goods, clothing, jewelry and shoes. Known for its cheap prices, the shopping street is popular with tourists from abroad too.

    Ueno Tourist Association
    Tokyo National Museum
    The National Museum of Western Art
    National Museum of Nature and Science,Tokyo
    Ueno Zoological Gardens
    The Ueno Royal Museum
    Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

    Text: BOTAMOCHI Anko

















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  • 天然のよい香りのする日本のキャンドル

    [From October Issue 2012]

    Whereas Western-style candles are usually made from paraffin, Japanese traditional candles are made of wax extracted from the berries of the hazenoki (rhus) tree. The wick is made of Japanese paper.

    As the materials used are derived from plants, the smoke produced by Japanese candles is less oily and the melting candles give off a natural, pleasant scent. Unlike Western candles that use strings as wicks, the Japanese candle produces a large, bright flame that is not easily extinguished. Real aficionados of Japanese candles use special scissors to trim the wick while it is burning in order to maintain a perfectly shaped flame.

    Candles with the typical “ikari” shape are narrow at the bottom and flare out at the top. Traditional Japanese candles are made of red or white wax. They are often used in temples, shrines and at festivals. These candles are often found in Japanese households and hand-painted candles are growing in popularity both in domestically and abroad. Flowers or Chinese Zodiac symbols are popular motifs. These can be colorful or drawn with black Japanese ink.

    As ash from the wax adheres to the surface, natural Japanese candles lose their sheen over time. In the case of red or white candles this gives the candle a beautiful matte finish. Colored ones can simply be rubbed with a cloth to restore their sheen. Industrially-produced Japanese candles have been treated with chemicals so that they always look shiny, but lack this natural beauty.

    Japanese candles are most beautiful on a traditional cast-iron stand. The dark black iron creates a nice contrast against the red or white color of the candle.

    Japanese candles have a long history. The first candles to be introduced to Japan were made from beeswax and came over to Japan from China in the Nara Period (8th century). Production of Japanese-style candles increased and peaked during the Edo Period (17~19 century). Nowadays there are only a few artisans that produce handmade Japanese-style candles.

    Matsui Candle Atelier was established in the Meiji Period (19~20 century), and MATSUI Noriaki is the third generation owner. His daughter Hihiro creates the paintings on the candles. Mr. Matsui learned how to make candles from his father. In order to stay true to the tradition of candle making, he makes sure that he sources organic materials that are free from chemicals. His passion for creating candles with a perfect flame even led to a joint research project with Nagoya University.


    Text: Nicolas SOERGEL











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  • ツイッターで有名になったネパール人シェフ

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Pradahan VIKAS

    “Actually, I did not know what Twitter was,” confesses Pradahan VIKAS honestly. “And still, I do not understand how it really works.” Vikas, originally from Nepal, is a chef. He runs a restaurant located in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo. Because Vikas’ restaurant is famous on Twitter, customers visit from all over Japan, forming a queue in front of his restaurant.

    “The reason why my restaurant is doing so well is all thanks to the kindness of the Japanese people,” says Vikas. When he opened the restaurant, there were hardly any customers. His tweets like, “I hand out fliers, but no customers come,” and “What will become of Vikas if this keeps up?” elicited sympathetic comments and were retweeted over and over again. As a result, his followers grew to almost 80,000 and huge numbers of customers began to show up.

    Vikas came to Japan in 1995 and started working at an American restaurant. “When I was in Nepal, I heard that jobs in Japan were very easy; that all the hard labor was done by machines. But the reality was completely different. Yes, there was a dishwasher, but Japanese people pay close attention to detail, so even the smallest speck left on a dish is not tolerated. That’s why the dishes need to be rinsed off before putting them in the dishwasher. I was washing dishes from morning till night. It was really tough.”

    After a few months of this he finally said that he wanted to quit. Then the head chef apologized for making him just wash dishes and began teaching him how to cook. “If I had not met the head chef, I probably would never have become a chef. He never got angry, but taught me by telling me, ‘it’s delicious;’ by encouraging my efforts,” Vikas reflects.

    As a result of his hard work, Vikas became so good that soon people started to say, “We can’t trust anyone but Vikas when it comes to cooking meat.” One day, someone said, “You can make curry since you are Nepalese, right?” So he was suddenly called upon to make curry. The curry was popular with customers and became a regular item on the menu.

    Before long the head chef left. Then Vikas soon became a victim of bullying. He could not take it anymore, so he too left the restaurant. “Thanks to that, I was able to work at a different restaurant and gain more experience. So, I think the bullying was all part of God’s plan for me,” says Vikas.

    In 2010, Vikas opened his own restaurant. “Everyone has a small dream. When that dream comes true, people work hard to achieve their next dream.” Vikas’ Japanese friends who were concerned about Vikas tweeted his comments and created a logo and website for his restaurant. The restaurant got back on track, and he was able to open a second restaurant in Harajuku this May.

    Vikas named his restaurant “Daisuki Nippon” (I Love Japan). The walls of the restaurant are decorated with messages from customers like, “Mr. Vikas has a wonderful personality,” and “His warm Tweets are very comforting.” Vikas, who loves Japanese, is loved in turn by many Japanese people.

    Daisuki Nippon

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo





    「うちの店がうまくいったのは日本の人たちがやさしいからです」とビカスさんは話します。開店したころ、ほとんどお客が来ませんでした。「ちらし くばりましたが おきゃくきません」「このままだと びかす どうなっちゃうだろ」というビカスさんのツイッターが同情的なコメントと共に何度もリツイートされました。その結果、フォロワーが8万人近くまで増えてお客がたくさん来るようになったのです。









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  • 貧しい人々のための医療施設を描く人間ドラマ

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Red Beard (Directed by KUROSAWA Akira)

    This is a human drama set in Koishikawa Yojosho, a free clinic built for the poor in 1772 by the Edo government. The film opened to the public in 1965. Winning a prize at the Venice International Film Festival, it was highly regarded not only in Japan, but also abroad. The film is based on a novel whose protagonist is the doctor who put forward the idea of building Yojosho. The novel has been adapted into TV dramas many times.

    The film was directed by KUROSAWA Akira and the part of NIIDE Kyojo – affectionately nicknamed Red Beard – was played by MIFUNE Toshiro, an actor who often appeared in Kurosawa films. The film is also known for being the last Kurosawa work in which Mifune starred. The plot develops through the eyes of YASUMOTO Noboru, a young man who sets out to learn how to be a physician from Red Beard. Yasumoto is played by KAYAMA Yuzo, an actor who was known for appearing in a series of comedies about campus life.

    Having just finished his studies in modern Western medicine in Nagasaki, Yasumoto’s future as a top physician at a government medical institution is guaranteed. However, while he was pursuing his studies in Nagasaki, his fiancée fell in love with another man, so Yasumoto finds himself in the depths of despair. In this state of mind he reluctantly visits Yojosho after being ordered by the government to go and meet Niide.

    Instructed by Niide to practice medicine in a small room packed with patients wearing filthy clothes, Yasumoto takes offence. So by taunting Niide – breaking the rules by drinking alcohol on the job and taking naps when he should be treating patients – he tries to provoke Niide into kicking him out, but these tactics do not work.

    One day, Yasumoto was ordered to accompany Niide on a house call and is told to take care of a twelve-year-old girl, his first patient. After being forced to work in a brothel she’s suffering both mentally and physically. At first she refuses to have her temperature taken or to take any medicine, but as Yasumoto devotes himself to caring for her, she begins to open up her heart and her health improves. This gives him confidence as a physician and he begins to admire Niide who sweats blood for the poor.

    Meanwhile the younger sister of Yasumoto’s former fiancée visits again and again to apologize on behalf of her sister. Touched by this gesture, feelings of forgiveness towards his ex-fiancée begin to take root. His parents then advise him to marry this younger sister and he finally accepts the suggestion after giving it some hard thought. Around the same time, the order comes in from the government to go and work for a medical institution. When Yasumoto comes face to face with both sets of parents for yuinou (exchanging engagement gifts), he tells them about a decision he’s come to.

    Built inside Koishikawa Oyakuen, a garden in which the Edo government cultivated medicinal herbs and other plants, Koishikawa Yojosho was known as being a medical facility for treating the poor for some 140 years, up till the end of Edo era. Today Oyakuen is a postgraduate botanical research facility of Tokyo University and under the name of Koishikawa Botanical Gardens it is open to the public. A well that has been kept in good condition since the Edo era was used to provide citizens with drinking water in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.











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