• 本好きなら一度は行きたい読書会

    [From September Issue 2013]


    More and more people are attending book clubs and getting together to exchange opinions with each other about a book they’ve brought along. A variety of groups exist, including those that read a designated book by an appointed date and then discuss their impressions of that book, and clubs where members introduce their favorite books. Some clubs are held for just one hour on a weekday morning, and other clubs meet for longer on the weekend. The size of a club can range in scale from ten or under, to larger organizations with hundreds of members.

    Alice KENNEY, an American living in Tokyo, started up a book club named Better Read Than Dead about five years ago. She had attended a different book club, but she wanted to create a book club with a more welcoming atmosphere. Currently there are 10-12 regular attendees and many attendees of various nationalities. The club gathers once a month and members vote to decide on the book they’ll discuss.

    “In the States, book clubs used to have an elite or un-cool image,” says club assistant organizer Daniel SIMMONS. By making them more informal and fun, Oprah WINFREY, a famous TV personality in the U.S., helped to popularize book clubs. “Oprah’s Book Club” was established and books she reviewed became bestsellers. This meant that the number of book clubs dramatically increased nationwide.

    “We discuss books in English, but we have some Japanese members,” says Simmons. “Since it is not easy to get English books in Japan, some members download digital versions. Also, members do not always have to read the designated books in English. For example, when the designated book was Anna Karenina by TOLSTOY, some Japanese members read the Japanese translation. We also enjoy Japanese books, too, such as MURAKAMI Haruki’s Norwegian Wood.”

    Not only do book clubs discuss books, but some also host lectures by the author. HORI Tetsuya invited bestselling author, MATANO Narutoshi – who wrote a book aimed at businessmen named “Things you Ought to Know by Your Third Year of Entering a Company: a Professional’s Textbook” – to give a lecture to his book club. The participants discussed the book and many people shared the view that the event was “a great opportunity to rethink the way I work.”

    “The reason I started these lectures is because when I discussed books at my book club, I had a strong desire to ask the author questions,” says Hori. “I feel like it’s worth it after hearing that the attendees enjoyed hearing directly from the author.”

    Book clubs are attractive because they can allow us to open up to new viewpoints by discussing the book with others. It’s possible to meet people of different ages and professions, people you’d never come into contact with during your everyday life, and, because there is a common subject, people meeting for the first time can have an animated discussion.

    Better Read than Dead

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi




    アメリカ人のアリス・ケニーさんが、読書会Better Read than Dead をはじめたのは約5年前です。最初は別の読書会に参加していましたが、もっと気軽に参加できる雰囲気の読書会をつくりたいと思いました。現在、常連は10~12人ですが、さまざまな国籍の人がたくさん参加します。課題本は多数決で決め、一ヵ月に一回集まります。



    本について話しあうだけでなく、作者による講演会を行っているところもあります。堀哲也さんは今年5月、ビジネスマン向けのベストセラー「入社3年目までに知っておきたい プロフェッショナルの教科書」の作者である俣野成敏さんを招きました。参加者が本の内容について話しあい、「自分の働き方を見直すきっかけになった」という意見が多く交わされました。



    Better Read than Dead


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  • 「全日本製造業コマ大戦」を制したZION


    [From September Issue 2013]

    Shion Limited Company

    From precision parts used for airplanes and cars, to fountain pen nibs, Shion Limited Company in Mino City, Gifu Prefecture manufactures a variety of metal items. Particularly in the case of parts made for aircrafts and automobiles, it’s necessary to use specialized equipment that can only be operated by highly skilled technicians.

    Drawing on their technological knowhow, the firm has produced a spinning top that can be spun on a fingertip. The spinning top was originally made not to be sold, but to be entered into the All-Japan Manufacturing Industry Spinning Top Battle. Coming top out of 200 participating companies, the company won the second ever contest held in February. On display in the entrance to their factory are the “spoils of war,” i.e. the spinning tops of conquered opponents.

    The All-Japan Manufacturing Industry Spinning Top Battle is held so that small businesses, which make up the majority of Japan’s manufacturing industry, can showcase their technological competence. As long as the top is 20 millimeters in diameter or less, there are no other restrictions on materials, weight or shape. Tops are pitted against each other in a “ring” made of synthetic resin which is 250 millimeters in circumference. The rule is that a top wins if it either nudges the other one out of the ring, or keeps spinning for longer – even if it’s just by one second.

    The company’s winning top “Zion” was chosen from over 100 prototypes. It was refined during in-house contests and regional trials. “The night before the final, I practiced spinning the top so much that the fingerprints on my right thumb and index finger were rubbed smooth,” says president YAMADA Ken, reminiscing about the intensity of the battle.

    Zion is 19.8 millimeters in diameter. Characterized by its heft and low center of gravity, the top was made from durable metals like heavy alloy and tungsten, and is extremely tough. Speaking about the manufacturing difficulties they encountered, Yamada said: “We made holes to make the center lighter and made the tip slippery so that it wouldn’t get caught on the edge of the ring. Also we did our utmost to design a shape that would keep spinning for as long as possible.”

    Zion not only has an unusual shape. An extremely thin substance – of a thickness of only 0.05 millimeters – called “skin gel,” has been applied to its outer edge. Because skin gel halts an opponent’s spinning top, any contact works in Zion’s favor. As long as the top meets the requirement of being 20 millimeters or less in diameter, it’s not against the rules.

    “It’s easy to do projects that have predetermined production techniques and materials, but it’s not much fun. In this way, making spinning tops offers us the perfect opportunity to indulge in our enthusiasm for craftsmanship, as we’re involved in every step of the process, from brainstorming and designing, to producing and experimenting. Through this experience, many employees have come to realize that manufacturing is enjoyable and have become prouder of what they do,” said Yamada, who believes that the contest was also useful for employee education.

    Shion Limited Company

    Text: ITO Koichi













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  • 目元を美しく見せたい日本の女性たち

    [From September Issue 2013]

    Eyes are one of the most alluring features of a woman. Women are always looking into ways to make them appear even more appealing. Recently many women favor tsukematsuge, a simple way to make eyelashes look thicker. Tsukematsuge are artificial false eyelashes that are applied along the line of the eyelash using special glue.

    There are many kinds of false eyelashes on sale: long eyelashes, thick eyelashes or curled eyelashes, for instance. You have to remove them every day, but on the plus side, there’s a style to fit any time, place, or occasion, and you can use them to match your mood: neat and clean, natural, or extravagant.

    There are many websites specializing in false eyelashes. There are even sites that rank the popularity of different false eyelashes. There are sites that have explanatory videos aimed at beginners. False eyelashes have now become an essential item for women. False eyelashes are sold by mail order from 100 yen. They are also sold in 100 yen stores. Their unique selling point is that they look completely natural.

    Recently, decorated eyelashes are drawing attention. They come in colorful shades like pink or red, are made from sparkly lame, or have hearts or flowers attached. Used for parties or events, they make a flamboyant impact.

    Eyelash extensions, which are attached in stores, are also popular. Once applied, you have to wait until they fall off, or ask the shop to remove them. Since extensions need to be replaced, it’s necessary to take good care of eyelashes. They require a serious amount of upkeep and cost more than false eyelashes.

    In addition there is also mascara which makes eyelashes appear longer. The problem with mascara is that it easily runs from tears or sweat. Meanwhile, it has become easier to get cosmetic surgery to create double lidded eyes.

    It has been said that Japanese women’s eyes, compared to those of Western women, are small and narrow, but now women’s eyes look even bigger and more beautiful, thanks to such things as false eyelashes. Some people say their eyes resemble those of the girls that appear in anime.

    Photos courtesy by Matsuge no Matsuma~Decored lashes~

    Text: TAKAHASHI Reiko










    写真提供:まつげのまつま~Decored lashes~


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  • 安倍政権が目指す日本の方向

    [From September Issue 2013]


    Following on from their success in the elections for the House of Representatives last December, the Liberal Democratic Party led by the 96th Prime Minister, ABE Shinzo, won another resounding victory in the elections for the House of Councilors this July. Because of this, the new coalition government, formed with the New Komeito party, now occupies the majority of seats in both houses. Advocating policies that prioritize bringing an end to deflation, Prime Minister Abe has set out to revive Japan’s economy. In addition, he’s decided to participate in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement) – an agreement that covers 40% of global trade.

    Aiming to expand trade while protecting domestic agriculture, the Abe government’s negotiations for the TPP have exceeded the expectations of the USA and of other member countries. Meanwhile, the regime is promoting the export of social infrastructure construction, such as nuclear power stations and railroads. However, with the cleanup phase of the Fukushima nuclear power accident still not complete, many citizens have doubts about exporting nuclear power stations and about restarting nuclear power plants for economic gain.

    In diplomacy, in order to deal with the ongoing tension with China, Abe is strengthening friendly relations and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries. With an eye to the security of Japan, he is also trying to strengthen ties with the USA. In connection to this matter he has a powerful desire to amend the constitution in order to evoke the right to collective self-defense, converting the self-defense force into a national defense force. However, this is strongly opposed.

    A rise in consumer taxes is expected next year, but many people are anxious about this as it might lead to a downturn in trade. Though the Abe government faces many difficult issues, it won a landslide victory. The reason for this is the current electoral system and the fact that people prioritize economic recovery. In fact, in the single-seat constituency elections for the House of Councilors, there were fewer votes for the ruling parties than for the opposition parties.

    According to a survey by Asahi Shimbun conducted after the elections for the House of Councilors, only 17% people believed that “approval of the LDP” was the reason for the LDP’s landslide victory. Conversely, 66% stated that, “The opposition parties were not attractive.” In the elections for the House of Representatives four years ago, the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), won a historic victory. If Abe’s government fails to rebuild the Japanese economy, it will share the same fate as the DPJ.

    Prime Minister Abe’s Roots

    Prime Minister Abe was born into a renowned political dynasty. His father is ABE Shintaro who was a foreign minister. Vital in deciding the fate of Japan during the cold war between East and West, the amendment of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was successfully carried out by his grandfather, KISHI Nobusuke the 56th and 57th prime minister. Historic demonstrations strongly opposing the revision occurred, but he persevered in his belief saying, “A silent voice kept me going.”

    His granduncle SATO Eisaku was the 61st – 63rd prime minister. Sato received the Nobel Peace Prize for upholding the three anti-nuclear principles, i.e. non-production, non-possession and non-introduction of nuclear weapons, in Japan. He brought about the restoration of Okinawa from America and served the longest consecutive term as prime minister in history.

    Prime Minister Abe was sworn in as the 90th prime minister in 2006, but suddenly resigned after about one year for health reasons. This is his second attempt and demonstrates his intention to resurrect a “strong Japan.” Diplomatically he takes a hardline stance.












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  • 茨城県――最先端科学技術と自然と歴史の地

    [From September Issue 2013]


    Ibaraki Prefecture is located in the northeast of the Kanto region, with its eastern flank facing the Pacific Ocean. The inland area is abundant in nature and Mito City, located in the center of the prefecture, boasts a number of historical assets. To the south is the university town of Tsukuba City, one of the leading centers of technology in Japan. Though many people say “Ibaragi,” the correct way to pronounce it is “Ibaraki.”

    The capital of the prefecture, Mito City, thrived in the Edo period (17th – 19th centuries) as a castle town run by the Mito Tokugawa family (relations of the Tokugawa shogunate), one of the top three branches of the Tokugawa family. MITO Mitsukuni, second in charge of the Mito Domain, is well known by Japanese because of the popular historical TV drama “Mito Komon.” Affectionately known as Komon-sama within Ibaraki, bronze statues of this familiar figure can be seen in front of train stations and at other locations. The Mito Komon Festival is held in early August every year.

    Designated as one of the three great gardens of Japan, Kairakuen is a historic garden opened in 1842. One of its main attractions is 3,000 plum trees of 100 species, and in spring it’s bustling with crowds. In addition, against the backdrop of Lake Senba, you can enjoy its vistas of blossoms and greenery that change according to the season. Mito is also a mecca for artists from both home and abroad. Curated by OZAWA Seiji, the Mito Geijutsu-kan (Art Tower Mito) has a symbolic 100-meter-tall tower. The museum houses a concert hall, a theater and a modern art gallery, allowing visitors to experience different forms of art.




    Kasama, to the west of Mito, is known for Kasama-yaki pottery. To get to Kasama Geijutsunomori Park from Kasama Station, take a stroll down a street lined with cafes and galleries displaying the work of Kasama-yaki artists. Within the park is Kogei no Oka (Crafthills Kasama), where you can try your hand at pottery making, as well as the Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum. A visit to Shunpuu Banri-So is also recommended. Moved from Kamakura and rebuilt here, it’s the former residence of the artist KITAOJI Rosanjin. Its gardens are also a delight.

    Tsukuba is another side of Ibaraki; home to research institutions covering various fields from astronomy to agriculture, it’s a town on the cutting edge of science. In order to stimulate people’s intellectual curiosity, 50 research institutes hold science tours that allow visitors to have a look around and get a hands on experience. At Tsukuba Space Center, you can visit the Astronaut Training Center and the control room for “Kibo,” Japan’s first manned space laboratory. Another popular spot is Science Square Tsukuba, where you can encounter the most advanced robots.


    Exibition Hall of JAXA Tsukuba Space Center
    © JAXA


    Science tour buses that connect one institution with another run on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays (except during the year-end and New Year holidays) and other special days. Buses depart from the Tsukuba Center (Tsukuba Station) Bus Terminal. A 500 yen ticket for an adult gives you unlimited bus rides for the day. After the tour, you can stay at Mt. Tsukuba Hot Spring. With cable cars running up the majestic form of Mt. Tsukuba, it’s possible to enjoy an easy hike.

    Tsuchiura, situated to the east of Tsukuba, faces Kasumigaura, the second largest lake in Japan. It flourished as a castle town in the Edo period, and on Nakajo-dori Street traces of these old days remain. At Kijo Park, located where Tsuchiura Castle used to stand, a gate built in the early Edo period can be seen. At Kasumigaura, sailboats are in service from late July till late November. On the lake, the sight of white sails billowing in the wind is strikingly beautiful.

    There are a number of attractive towns along the Pacific coast. Kashima, home to the J. League team Kashima Antlers, boasts not only a stadium but also the Kashima Soccer Museum, a popular place with fans. Believed to have been built in 660 BC, Kashima Shrine is not to be missed. Dedicated to the god of war, the shrine was venerated by samurai governments in the Edo period, and today athletes are amongst its visitors. The shrine buildings are all important cultural properties of Japan.

    With its beaches and outlet malls, Oarai, to the north of Kashima, is a resort area. Aqua World Ibaraki Prefectural Oarai Aquarium is home to about 580 kinds of creatures. It keeps over 50 species of sharks, including the largest species in Japan. Crossing Naka River, you will come to Nakaminato fishing port. At Nakaminato Fish Market, you can enjoy dishes of fresh seafood at reasonable prices.


    Hitachinaka Seaside Railway Minato Line


    The Hitachinaka Seaside Railway Minato Line, a local line stopping at Nakaminato Station, still uses trains from the Showa era (1926-1989) that only have one carriage. This peaceful train journey through the countryside has recently been attracting some attention. Hitachi Seaside Park, a government-managed park built on the seashore where you can enjoy vistas of fields of seasonal flowers throughout the year, covers an area of 190 hectares.

    The route running from the Isohara coast at the northern end of the prefecture along to the Izura coast makes for a fantastic drive. Standing beside green pine trees and blue sea, the red-walled Izura Rokkaku-do retreat was designed by artist and philosopher OKAKURA Tenshin in 1905. Washed away by the tsunami in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, it was rebuilt in 2012. Kitaibaraki is known for anglerfish fishing, and the fish is often eaten in a nabe (hot pot). Between November and March is the best time to eat. The fish contains ingredients that promote beautiful skin.

    Situated on the border between Tochigi and Fukushima prefectures, Okukuji Prefectural Nature Park contains numerous sightseeing spots. You can look at the beautiful V-shaped gorge that the Ryujin River runs through, and then cross the pedestrian-only Ryujin Great Suspension Bridge, which passes over the Ryujin Dam. At a height of 100 meters and a length of 375 meters, the bridge is breathtaking. Counted as one of the three best waterfalls in Japan, Fukuroda Falls are beautiful waterfalls made up of four sections, through which the water flows down. Izura, Fukuroda and Daigo are also hot spring resorts.


    Ryujin Great Suspension Bridge


    When it comes to gourmet food, Ibaraki is known not only for its seafood, but also for other famous food brands. In terms of meat, there is tender Hitachi beef, healthy and richly flavored Okukuji shamo (gamecocks), and the finely textured, supple Rose pork. Soba noodles, known as Hitachi aki-soba, are also widely produced. Kenchin soba, a combination of those noodles and kenchin-jiru soup, is a local dish of Ibaraki. Nattou, or fermented soybeans, from Mito make a good souvenir.

    Ibaraki is easily accessible from the Tokyo metropolitan area. From Ueno you can get to Mito by JR Joban Line Limited Express in 65 minutes. It takes about 45 minutes to travel from Akihabara to Tsukuba with a Tsukuba Express rapid train. If you take an expressway bus departing from Tokyo Station, it takes roughly two hours to arrive at Kashima-Jingu Station. If you’re using the JR train network, you can take a Sobu Line rapid train from Tokyo and transfer to the Narita Line at Narita; the whole trip takes approximately two hours and 20 minutes.

    Tsukuba Space Center, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
    Ibaraki Navi
    Tsukuba Tourist and Convention Association

    Text: YAMAZAKI Yuriko























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  • 100年使ってもらえる木のおもちゃ作りへかける思い

    [From September Issue 2013]


    Hokuju Co., Ltd.

    In 1989, KAN Yoshinori founded Hokuju Co., Ltd. in his home town, Kitami City, Hokkaido. It was in the latter years of the economic bubble and a lot of money was circulating in society. Constructing studios and stereos, Hokuji were specialists in audio equipment made of wood. At this time, there was a person named ITO Eiji, who was promoting the merits of carpentry to children.

    Ito, who was once Kan’s junior high school teacher, established his own private workshop and invited children there so they could have an opportunity to get a feel for carpentry. Kan’s children also visited Ito’s workshop. Kan says that in those days, “I believed that wooden toys were not a viable business proposition.” But seeing how dedicated Ito was about getting children to have more opportunities to work with wood, Kan began to think that he would support his efforts.

    “I would like it if he was better known in society.” He began to give Ito the backing of his company. Hokuju’s support made it possible for Ito to create some large scale playground equipment, thus widening the scope of Ito’s activities. He began to hold events all around Japan.

    The collapse of the bubble economy was a turning point for Hokuju, however Hokuju’s wooden toys had become well known through these events. This perfect timing allowed the company to weather the crisis. One of their most popular products from that period is their “wooden ball pool.” A wooden frame is filled with wooden “kikkoro” balls of a diameter of approximately three centimeters. In March 2013, the product was installed at nursery schools and the like in 121 locations around Japan.

    Each of the handmade kikkoro, has a slightly different shape and size and is pleasant to the touch. Lying down on them, your body is buoyed up, giving you a wonderful sense of stability and security. Enchanted by this sensation, some people have specially ordered beds filled with kikkoro.

    Most of the toys made at Hokuju are made from broadleaf trees. Although coniferous trees are easier to process, they easily splinter or break. It became clear that they were not suitable as a material for children’s toys. It takes 100 to 200 years for a broadleaf tree to grow thick enough to be used. That means you have to make toys that will last for a hundred years. This is the philosophy that Kan has always held about toys.

    Since forestry is one of the main industries in Hokkaido, they are committed to using trees grown in the area, but that means higher prices. Some people are surprised when they see the price of large scale playground equipment and comment, “You can buy an expensive imported car with this money!” Nevertheless, Kan is reluctant to rely on imported material just because it is cheaper. He is worried that the skills of forestry and woodworking, which once thrived in the area, are now being lost because the number of people active in the industry is now decreasing. For this reason he continues to run his business using local resources, thus keeping people employed.

    A few years ago, Kan bought a mountain covered with broadleaf trees. He is looking forward to the day he can make products using those trees. “I’ve been part of this industry for 46 years. I have always dealt in wooden items and have been able to live in my local area. Being able to contribute to the development of local industry has given me great satisfaction,” says Kan, looking back on what he has achieved up to now. Although Ito passed away last year, his dedication to carpentry continues to live on in Kan.

    Hokuju Co., Ltd.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo














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  • 苦難に立ち向かい成長する少年たちの物語

    [From September Issue 2013]


    Fullmetal Alchemist

    Serialized in the monthly boy’s magazine “Gan Gan” from 2001 to 2010, this story mainly takes place in the imaginary country of Amestris. It is a popular work with over 61 million copies printed in book form. The issue of the magazine that ran the final episode sold out, despite the fact that 20% more copies were printed than usual. The same episode was reprinted two months later for those who missed the chance to buy this issue.

    The protagonists, siblings Edward ELRIC (Ed) and Alphonse ELRIC (Al), are both alchemists. In the story, alchemy is a form of technological research founded on advanced theory. This theory is based on the law of equivalent exchange. As it’s impossible to get something for nothing, in order to get hold of something, you must exchange it for something of equivalent value; this is the main theme of the story.

    Through their training in the art of alchemy, Ed and Al learn this principle. But their real goal is to bring their mother back to life. Resurrection of a human body is forbidden and their attempts end in failure. Having exceeded the alchemist’s law of equivalent exchange, Ed loses his left leg, and Al loses his entire physical body in compensation. In addition, Ed loses his right arm in order to bring Al’s soul back and house it in a suit of armor.

    Devastated, Ed is advised by MUSTANG, a member of the Amestrian State Army to try to become an alchemist for the state. Mustang says that the privileges granted to a state alchemist will come in handy as in order to recover his own body, Ed must obtain the Philosopher’s Stone and gain a deeper knowledge of alchemy. But this also means that Ed is enlisted in the army. If war breaks out, he will be obliged to fight as a human weapon.

    Strengthening his resolve, Ed becomes a state alchemist. After this, he replaces his lost arm and leg with prostheses called Automail (automotive armor) and is granted the title of “Fullmetal Alchemist.” Ed and Al will face up to the homunculi (cyborgs), a man who targets State Alchemists, as well as to foreign citizens who want to get hold of stones. Soon they find out that the Philosopher’s Stone is made from human souls, and the two become caught up in a great

    It all began a long time ago with the accidental creation of a homunculus in the kingdom of Xerxes. “It,” was simply a black substance in a flask, but through alchemy it acquired the Philosopher’s Stone and a body in exchange for Xerxesian citizens. After this, over a long period, the homunculi attempted to gain divine power by using alchemy in exchange for all the souls of the Amestrian people.

    In order to thwart their plan, old enemies and people from various walks of life join forces with Ed. Many people are sacrificed in the midst of the battle until at last Ed faces the homunculi on his own. Throughout the story the law of equivalent exchange is put into practice and against the odds, Ed has to rise to the occasion numerous times. He is devastated when he makes a mistake and loses a close friend, but bounces back stronger than ever. This is an ambitious work that paints a portrait of the suffering boys face during the process of growing up.

    Text: HATTA Emiko











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  • 日本語がうまくなるコツは「好きになること」


    [From September Issue 2013]

    Fredrik NYBERG

    Fredrik NYBERG has been studying the Japanese language for just ten months. Arriving from Norway in October 2012 at the age of 23, he enrolled in a Japanese language school called Yokohama International Education Academy. “Japan is fun because it’s so different from Norway,” he says, his eyes lighting up.

    It was manga that piqued his interest in Japan. “In Norway, English translations of Japanese manga are sold in bookstores. I started reading them when I was about 20 and began dreaming of coming to Japan.” Worried about the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster, his mother tried to dissuade him, but he managed to convince her by explaining that “it is safe now.”

    Working as a car mechanic since the age of 17, Fredrik had savings of 2.5 million yen. Though he isn’t currently employed, he gets by on his savings and a monthly scholarship of 48,000 yen from the Japan Scholarship Foundation, an independent administrative corporation. He lives in a one room apartment in the school’s dormitories.

    “I need about 120,000 yen a month,” says Fredrik. “My rent is around 60,000 yen. Other than that, I spend roughly 60,000 yen on leisure and eating. I almost always eat out, so it ends up costing a little bit too much.” However, since he found himself a Japanese girlfriend he’s been cooking more frequently. “She comes to my place on weekends. I cook Norwegian, she does Japanese and we eat together.”

    Fredrik lives in Yokohama, but he often spends his free time in Tokyo. “In Tokyo, I like places such as Ueno, Akihabara and Shibuya. I like Minato-Mirai in Yokohama. There are many other places I like.” He’s been on domestic trips, too: to Matsumoto (Nagano Prefecture) and Atagawa (Shizuoka Prefecture).

    He’s enjoying his life in Japan, but even so, there are some things that bother him. “Japanese dishes often have seafood in them. I can’t eat them because I am allergic.” Also, when he wasn’t familiar with Japanese customs, he was shocked to see Japanese slurping ramen. In addition, he was reprimanded at a hot spring resort for breaking one of the rules.

    How did he make such rapid progress in Japanese in only ten months? “I have four hours of class a day at school. Recently we’re mainly preparing for exams. I also study for about an hour at home,” says Fredrik. His hobbies have been useful for his studies. “I learned kanji reading novels and manga. I like TEZUKA Osamu and ‘Ashita no Joe’ manga, and I love MURAKAMI Haruki’s novels. As for anime, I love works by Studio Ghibli. I love and often watch variety programs on TV. I have difficulties with grammar, honorifics and especially the difference in particles between, “は, が, を, に,” so I’m listening to recordings on my iPod.”

    In the future, Fredrik says he wants to study game or web design. “I’d like to obtain the N1 level of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before graduating from my Japanese language school, but it’s unlikely,” he says, scratching his head.

    Yokohama International Education Academy

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo














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