• 動物のおしりがブーム

    [From September Issue 2014]

    People like videos and photos of cute animals. Recently many of them have been drawing attention to animals’ behinds. It seems that animal bottoms exposed to the elements are so adorable that they lighten people’s hearts and for this reason looking at them has become a trend. The boom began in Japan and is spreading around the world.
    At Kobe Oji Zoo, Hyogo Prefecture, the special exhibition “Animals Seen From Behind” is being held until October 31. To let visitors learn through experience, the zoo has had plushy versions of animal behinds made. The shape of the buttocks and tail of an animal is closely related to the creature’s way of life. The appeal is that you can acquire knowledge through entertainment. “Since many children like bottoms, we thought we could get them interested in animals by starting with their behinds,” says head of public relations MANABE Daiki.
    Although it started out as a project aimed at children, it’s been popular with adults, too. “On entering the exhibition, the bottoms of zebras, bears, snow leopards and more are displayed side by side. Children are delighted and cry out, ‘Wow, bottoms!’ Many families chat with each other while looking at the exhibition,” says Manabe. Having a photo taken of yourself while wearing a bottom costume is also popular.
    Sekai Bunka Publishing, Inc., released a collection of photos of hamsters’ bottoms titled “Hamuketsu (hamster’s butts) – Cute Enough to Make You Pass Out.” The collection gained popularity through the Internet and sold out soon after it was released. As an unusual Japanese phenomenon, the foreign media, including the Wall Street Journal and CNN, picked up the story.
    Afterwards at the suggestion of a member of staff, Sekai Bunka Publishing, Inc. adopted a hamster named “Sebun-chan” as a pet. “He’s the star of the office and is now popular among the followers, too, because we introduced him on Twitter. There are also many fans of Sebun-chan’s bottom pictures,” says MINAMI Yukako, of the media-marketing department. Responding to calls from readers, such as “I want to see more hamuketsu” and “Aren’t you going to make a sequel?” they are going to release a desktop calendar in late September.
    KAMIYA Hiroko, a housewife who likes reading blogs written by hamster owners, says: “I would like to have a hamster at home, too, but since my child is still small, I cannot do that for fear my child would hit the animal. So I enjoy looking the pictures on these blogs. I think pictures of bottoms are especially cute.”
    As a result of the boom, a site specializing in animals’ bottoms has been created and merchandise is being sold. It’s not only small animals that are popular. Photo collections of the rear ends of birds and large animals are also being published. Creative types are also making bottom mascots out of woolen felt. Variety goods stores are putting on exhibitions of merchandise related to animal behinds. It could be that animal bottoms provide comic relief for tired people. The end of the bottom boom is not yet in sight.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年9月号掲載記事]

    世界文化社は今年4月、ハムスターのおしりの写真集「かわいさに悶絶 ハムケツ」を発売しました。写真集はインターネットをきっかけに人気に火がつきました。発売後、すぐに売り切れてしまったほどです。日本での珍しい現象として海外の「ウォール・ストリート・ジャーナル」やCNNでも取り上げられました。


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  • 目指すのは身近に使われる伝統工芸品

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Made out of wood, kokeshi are dolls with round heads and cylindrical torsos. They are said to have originated in the Tohoku region during the Edo era (17 – 19th centuries) as toys made for farmers’ children. They later came to be sold as souvenirs in spa resorts around the country. These days, most people buy them as ornaments.
    Founded in 1926, Kijidokoro Satou (Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) is a workshop manufacturing kokeshi. The family of four – SATOU Seikou, a second generation master, his wife Mikiko and their sons Hideyuki and Yusuke – are all kokeshi craftsmen. All four of them won a prize in 2010 at the National Kokeshi Festival Competition, one of the country’s three major kokeshi contests.
    Seikou worked as a crew member on a merchant ship until his father Makoto – a kokeshi artisan – passed away. Although he eventually followed in his father’s footsteps, he confesses he had never been taught how to make kokeshi. “My teachers were the tools my father left for me. I learned how to make them (kokeshi) through trial and error and by consulting literature on how to use those tools.
    After 20 years of making kokeshi his own way, Seikou started to wish that kokeshi had a more immediate impact. He tried to create something that was not only decorative but also useful in real life. His first attempt was a kokeshi that could act as a receptacle for a stamp. However, it wasn’t particularly popular in the traditional world of kokeshi. “I didn’t make many, so it didn’t cause much of a stir,” he smiles at the recollection.
    In the last ten years Kijidokoro Satou’s “useful kokeshi” have begun to attract attention. On becoming a third generation master Seikou’s son Hideyuki created a website that has had a part to play in this. Their range has widened to include kokeshi-shaped stamps and accessories that fit into smartphone ear jacks. Seikou says, “I’m happy with the casual and natural way people use our kokeshi in their daily lives, regardless of the fact that they come from a long tradition.”
    Seikou says that the interesting side of kokeshi is that he can end up making something that surprises himself. Nowadays he makes most of his traditional kokeshi to order. They take shape as a result of consultations with customers. “Rather than being something I create, it feels as if they come into being themselves. When I was young, I would try to create what I had in mind, but now I let my brush do its work without thinking much about the result. “Kokeshi may appear expressionless, but upon closer inspection, you see that each one has a different look and is brimming with personality.
    What Seikou is now pouring his passion into is making extra small (about 4.5 centimeter tall) traditional kokeshi. He began making them because bigger kokeshi took up so much space. However, it’s harder to make the small ones balance and they require more attention to detail. “It’s that difficulty that’s exciting for a creator.” Even so Seikou, now 67, says, “I enjoy my work, though it’s begun to take a physical toll on me, there are still many other types of kokeshi I want to create.”
    Kijidokoro Satou
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[2014年9月号掲載記事]


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  • 家族を大切にするエジプト人と日本人


    Hisham EL-ZIMAITY,
    Egyptian Ambassador to Japan
    “I once asked someone why the Egyptian vegetable tussa jute or molokhia is so popular in Japan. She answered, ‘because Tussa jute contains umami, a taste Japanese are fond of.’ Egypt is a distant country from Japan, but there are some things we have in common,” smiles the ambassador Hisham EL-ZIMAITY.
    The ambassador came to Japan in September 2011. “I soon got used to life in Japan,” he recalls. “I like to try out foods from different countries. Japanese dishes are all delicious. My big favorites are teppan-yaki (cuisine fried on a hotplate) and sushi. Kobe beef is also great,” he says. “The Japanese language is hard, though. I don’t have enough time for study, so unfortunately I still can’t speak it.”
    The ambassador has visited many places in Japan including Nara, Kyoto, Osaka and Fukushima. “Wherever I go, I’m impressed with people’s self-discipline. In addition, Japanese people are capable of acting as a group. Such virtues were apparent at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake and when the stadium (stands) were cleaned up by Japanese supporters after the World Cup soccer matches. I think Egyptians could learn something from this,” he says.
    The ambassador has also been to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Those atomic bomb tragedies should never happen again,” he says with a sad face. “In Egypt, our Foreign Minister releases a statement every August 6 saying that it’s important never to use nuclear weapons again. We’d like to work alongside Japan in order to abolish nuclear, biological and chemical weapons,” he says.


    The sphinx

    “I also like the honest hardworking spirit of the Japanese,” says the ambassador. “And Japanese people don’t hesitate to venture out into the world to learn about other cultures. Japanese are among the world’s best violinists and pianists in classical music. This is also impressive.”
    “Japanese and Egyptians have some things in common,” says the ambassador. “For example, we all cherish family values. I’ve heard that Japanese children often don’t leave their parents’ home until they are married. It’s the same in Egypt. When I go out to restaurants on weekends, I see young people who come to enjoy their time with their parents. I’ve also witnessed situations in which everyone listens respectfully once an older person starts talking. I think it’s just like that in Egypt.”
    According to the ambassador, good hygiene is another thing Japanese and Egyptians have in common. “Cleanness is important for Muslims, so we wash before prayers five times a day. I’m under the impression that it’s important also for the Japanese.” He says they’re also alike in the way they incorporate different cultures into their own. “In Japan, people wear all kinds of fashions. Some, however, try to preserve traditions by wearing kimono.”
    “In Egypt, more people wear Western clothes in urban areas, but in the countryside, people still dress traditionally,” says the ambassador. “People wear a garment called the jellabiya in the Nile Delta. On the Sinai Peninsula, their outfits resemble those worn by the Jordanian and Palestinian Bedouins. Western Egypt has a Libyan-influenced brownish costume. And in the very hot region of Nubia they wear white. I enjoy wearing something similar to the jellabiya on ceremonial occasions and suchlike.”


    The sea front at Alexandria

    With its numerous ancient sites, tourists flock to Egypt from all over the world. “Our country had the oldest kingdom in history,” says the ambassador. “Right now, the Great Egyptian Museum is being built near the Giza pyramids with help from Japan. When it’s completed, it’ll be a wonderful place where you can admire the long history of Egypt from the times of pharaohs, to Roman times, to Christian times, through to the Islamic era, finishing off with a panoramic view of the pyramids.”
    An issue for the tourism industry of Egypt is that (the country) has so many superb ancient sites that few people visit other tourist spots. “You can go diving in the Red Sea. You can enjoy fishing and all kinds of seafood dishes on the Mediterranean coast. Siwa, an oasis town in the middle of the desert, is believed to be the place where in the Temple of the oracle, Alexander the Great received the order from the god Ammun to rule Egypt and the rest of the world; and Queen Cleopatra enjoyed her baths. Also famous is the Ecolodge hotel, where you can experience the ancient lifestyle.”
    “Tourists spend a week in Egypt on average,” says the ambassador. It takes two days just to see the Valley of the Kings and other sites near Luxor, so we are now trying to come up with a strategy to encourage visitors to repeat their visits. We’d like them to visit ancient sites on their first trip and enjoy leisure activities and see Egyptian lifestyles on their subsequent trips.”
    In Egypt, you can sample dishes that were eaten in the times of pharaohs. “Onion, carrot, lentil beans, cabbage … these ancient vegetables are painted onto temple walls,” says the ambassador. “One of the common main dishes is Coshari – rice mixed with fried onion and macaroni. My suggestion would be kofta – ground meat grilled on metal skewers. The fava-bean paste we eat on Ramadan nights makes us full. I’d also recommend our dates.”


    The Suez Canal

    Besides tourism, one of Egypt’s main industries is the manufacturing of aluminum and cement products. Egyptian cotton is also well-known. “The tolls for the Suez Canal are important for Egypt. The bridge – which looks like “rainbow bridge” – Japan built in 2001 over the Suez Canal is helping us. Japan is also cooperating in the construction of a subway line.”
    The ambassador enjoys listening to music in his spare time. “I listen to a lot of rock, jazz and soul music. I often go to the jazz club called the Blue Note,” says the ambassador. “I also like reading. I’m now reading about Japanese history and trying to understand why the Meiji Restoration was achieved without much violence. I feel I understand today’s Japan better by learning its history.”
    “Egypt has been politically unstable for the past few years, but things have now returned to normal. Please choose Egypt as the destination of your next vacation,” concludes the ambassador. “We are looking forward to welcoming Japanese visitors along with people from around the world.”

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo






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  • 竹田城跡

    [From September Issue 2014]

    This ruined castle sits at the summit of a mountain 353.7 meters above sea level. A stone wall made at the end of the 16th century runs north to south for 400 meters and east to west for 100 meters. On fine days from autumn to winter a morning mist makes it look as if the castle is floating in the clouds. It is also known as the “The Heavenly Castle” and “Japan’s Machu Picchu.” Because the road that leads to the castle site is steep and the site of castle is not paved, visitors are advised to go wearing sports shoes. The site is often used as a film location.
    Transportation: 20 minutes on the Tenku bus from JR Takeda Station to Chufuku Chushajyo (parking lot halfway up the mountain). Approximately 20-minute walk from the parking lot.
    Address: 169 Takeda-aza Kojozan, Wadayama-cho, Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture
    Admission: Adults (high school age and over) 300 yen, free for children of junior high school age and younger
    Admission dates and times:
    March 20 – September 20 / 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
    September 21 – December 10 / 3:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Asago City[2014年9月号掲載記事]

    3月20日~9月20日 午前9時~午後4時
    9月21日~12月10日 午前3時~午後4時

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  • ローソン

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Founded in 1975, Lawson was the first chain of convenience stores to open branches in every prefecture in Japan. Currently, it has over 10,000 stores nationwide and another 500 stores overseas. Especially popular is the “Uchi Café SWEETS Premium Roll Cake” series, which Lawson started selling in 2009. There are also “Natural Lawson” stores that focus on healthy and environmentally-friendly products.

    [No. 1] Pure Roll Cake 152 Yen

    This cake features a very fine spongy texture, a subtle sweetness and exceptionally thick and full bodied fresh cream. Only domestic ingredients are used.

    [No. 2] Bran Rolls (Two-Piece Set) 116 Yen

    Catering to health conscious customers concerned about their sugar intake, these bread rolls are made from wheat bran. Versions are also available with cheese and chocolate fillings.

    [No. 3] Rice Ball Shop “Seared Salmon Steak” 138 Yen

    As if it were handmade, this rice ball is plump and soft. The taste of the fatty salmon can be enjoyed from the very first bite.

    1975年創業。コンビニ業界で初めて日本国内すべての都道府県に出店したコンビニエンスストア。日本全国に1万以上の店舗が、世界に約500店舗がある。2009年から販売する「Uchi Café SWEETSプレミアムロールケーキ」シリーズは特に人気。健康や自然に配慮した「ナチュラルローソン」もある。

    【No.1】ピュアロールケーキ 152円


    【No.2】ブランパン2個入 116円





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  • 日本企業のインド進出をサポート

    [From September Issue 2014]
    Venugopal TENKAYALA
    President of Shinko Advisors
    “Japanese companies have great technology. In spite of this, when it comes to expanding into India, many people lose their way due to fear of risks and partly due to hesitation. I wanted to lend a helping hand to such companies,” Indian Venugopal TENKAYALA says, explaining why he started his business in Japan.
    Tenkayala came to Japan in 2000. “At first, I was thinking of eventually moving on to the United States, but I decided to stay because I liked Japan. I appreciated the safety and cleanliness of things like the water, air, and the excellent infrastructure.” He continued to study, while at the same time gaining business experience in a foreign bank, after which he got permanent residency in Japan.
    “I wanted to have a business of my own one day. I gained an MBA in finance in 2010 at McGill University in Canada and that was the impetus for me to begin preparations for starting up a business.” Tenkayala hoped to build on his business experience in Japan. In 2011, he founded Shinko Advisors, a consulting firm, to help Japanese companies expand their businesses into India.
    “I recently took about 20 Japanese companies with me on a visit to India, showing them around various cities over the space of four months. In relation to their plans for expansion, I answered their questions on safety, infrastructure, management possibilities and finding local business partners,” he says, explaining part of the work he does. His company now has offices in Chuo Ward, Tokyo Prefecture, as well as in Bangalore in the state of Karnataka, India.
    “The strength of Shinko Advisors lies in a good understanding of the business environment in both Japan and India,” says Tenkayala. “Just to give you an example, Japanese companies tend to regard India as a country that has a homogenous culture. In actual fact, India is an immense country in which the culture and laws vary from one region to another. The difference is so great between the north and the south in particular that it’s better to consider them as two countries,” he explains.
    Another side to Tenkayala is his teaching career. He’s Vice Chairman and visiting professor at the Shree Institute of Technical Education, a private school in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. “I’m good at logically breaking down issues that are difficult to understand. When I’m dealing with a client that’s consulting, with students it becomes teaching. For me, consulting and education is practically the same thing. In the future I plan to concentrate my efforts on the business of educating Japanese employees in India.”
    “India not only has a large market, but it’s also a country that can be a base from which to sell products to the Middle East and Africa. Although many Japanese companies are sending employees to India these days, there are times when I feel that their international business training is inadequate. I want to train and support such employees, to help Japanese companies launch their business in India more efficiently,” he says.
    Shinko Advisors KK
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年9月号掲載記事]


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  • 常に新規事業に挑戦する社風

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Sewing machine, typewriter, facsimile, printer and online karaoke system: all of these products make our lives convenient and comfortable. Brother Industries, Ltd., in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture has produced all of these items. Founded in 1908 as Yasui Sewing Machine Co., the company repaired imported sewing machines.
    Before he died, YASUI Kanekichi, the founder of the company, stated in his will to Masayoshi, the eldest son of his ten children, that “you should cooperate with your brothers.” Masayoshi took the opportunity to change the company name to “Yasui Brothers Sewing Machine Co.” and joined forces with his brothers to complete a domestically-made sewing machine. Since then they have used the brand name “Brother.” Brother was later used in their company name, too.
    Brother Industries’ defining characteristic is its corporate culture of being up for a challenge and unafraid to fail. For instance, in 1986 the company put the TAKERU, a vending machine for PC software on the market, but in the end the product failed. However, using the technology acquired through developing the machine, an online karaoke system was developed. The system is now known by the name of JOYSOUND and has become one of the top brands in the karaoke business.
    Brother Industries has not stuck to one product, but has changed the focus of its business along with the times. For instance, the PRIVIO NEO series was developed using a revolutionary method to create a combination printer-copier-scanner-fax machine that anybody would want to own. Its most unique feature is that to slim down the product, the A4 size printout comes out the front vertically, not horizontally. However, printing vertically made the paper curl. In order to prevent this, the developers put tiny vertical waves in the paper. And that’s how they came up with such an innovative product.
    Brother Industries does more than develop original products. The company has used its resources to support victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in the Tohoku region. For example, company employees started up an initiative to make sandbags – which are indispensable for growing seaweed. At first, volunteers got together and made 200 sandbags using their sewing machines both at work and at home, then sent them to Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture.
    The response from the fishermen was that they wanted more. So, 150 additional sandbags were sent. This became an annual activity and, in 2013, 850 sandbags were made. This year, 1,000 sandbags are to be sent. The company canteen has been serving up dishes made using the seaweed as an ingredient for a limited period. The business that started out with sewing machines has ended up bringing together staff and the people of Tohoku in a collective effort that has borne fruit.
    Brother Industries, Ltd.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2014年9月号掲載記事]

    ブラザー工業は一つの商品にこだわらず、時代に合わせて主力事業を変えてきました。例えば複合機、PRIVIO NEOシリーズは、従来とはまったく異なる方法で、誰もが欲しくなる複合機を目指して開発。最大の特徴は、奥行を短くするために、印刷されたA4サイズの紙を手前に、縦向きでなく横向きに取り出せるようにしたことです。けれど、横向きだと紙がカールします。そこで、開発者は紙に小さな縦波をつける工夫でこれを防止。これまでの常識を覆す製品を完成しました。

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  • たくさん話ができるこの仕事が好き

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Rukshona ESHPULATOVA
    “When I can explain in beautiful and courteous Japanese, customers are pleased and say, ‘I’ll buy another one,’ or ‘Please help me next time, too.’ That makes me glad and gives me a sense of purpose; the more customers I’m put in charge of, the more my salary increases,” says Rukshona ESHPULATOVA. Rukhshona came to Japan in April 2013, and joined Somo Japan Inc. this January. She is in the car exporting business.
    Rukhshona is from Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia. When she was a child, she encountered Japanese tourists and became interested in Japan. Then she learned the Japanese language from Japanese teachers at the Samarkand College of Tourism. “There are a lot of tourist attractions in Samarkand. I took the teachers there and guided them in Japanese,” Rukhshona says, reflecting back.
    However, she later enrolled at the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages, which in those days did not have a Japanese studies department. Rukhshona studied in the English department and became a tour guide after graduating. “Because my major was English, I could not obtain the necessary qualification to become a Japanese-speaking guide. Before long I had forgotten Japanese,” she says regretfully.
    Rukhshona thought of going to Japan to study the language once again. Her older brother who lived in the United States helped her out financially. “I watched online videos of the classes provided at the various language schools in Japan. Out of them, I thought that the Academy of Language Arts in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was a good fit for me. Most importantly, the teachers are friendly and cheerful. In addition, they let the students speak a lot while incorporating information useful in everyday life. I thought that their teaching methods were good,” says Rukhshona.
    Because prices in Japan are high, she had to start working part time as soon as she arrived. On weekdays, she would go to school from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and then work afterwards at a restaurant until 11:00 pm. “Because I also worked on Saturdays and Sundays, I was very busy and it was tough. So I used to review the expressions that I learned during class at work the same day. In order to learn the words I did not know, I asked ‘kore wa nan desuka’ (what is this?) to my fellow part-timers,” Rukhshona laughs.
    Rukhshona was brought up in an environment where Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian were used. “Because I studied Japanese and English after I grew up, I use Uzbek as a reference when I speak Japanese since the word order is similar. English is close to Russian, so I use Russian as reference when speaking in English,” says Rukhshona. “Also, when I used to do guide tours in English, I learned to check if I was speaking well by observing the reactions of the person I was addressing, as well as ways to control my uneasiness when speaking in a foreign language. This experience has now come in handy with my Japanese study.”
    Currently, Rukhshona uses Japanese, English, and Russian for work. “I often explain things in Russian to customers as I read Japanese documents. English words written in katakana like ‘support’ and ‘inner panel’ were very difficult. However, as with difficult kanji, if I use it for work, I can remember it. Also, since I like talking, I love this job because I can talk to customers. I am very happy because I have a job that I love doing,” she smiles.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年9月号掲載記事]



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  • 激動の時代を懸命に生きる人々の物語

    [From September Issue 2014]

    Rurouni Kenshin (Wandering Swordsman Kenshin):
    A Romantic Tale of a Meiji Swordsman
    Set in the closing days of the Edo period (19th century), the main character is HIMURA Kenshin, a master swordsman widely feared as Hitokiri Battosai (Battosai the Killer Swordsman). The tale is set in a dramatic period when the governing Shogunate is overthrown by force and political machinations, bringing about a dramatic change from the Edo period to the Meiji period (the 19th to 20th centuries). This series was published in Weekly Shonen Jump between 1994 and 1999, and it was also adapted into a variety of media, including movies and novels. It’s popular both in Japan and overseas.
    “Rurouni” is a coined word that means “aimless wanderer.” Having carried out assassinations as an anti-Shogunate swordsman, Kenshin is forced to quit because of an unfortunate incident. When the Meiji period arrives, he vows to never kill again, instead becoming a wanderer who travels around the country.
    One day, Kenshin saved a girl named KAMIYA Kaoru in downtown Tokyo. Kaoru has inherited the dojo of Kamiya Kasshin School from her father, however, it is just about to fail financially. Kenshin and Kaoru develop feelings for each other. Now living in Kaoru’s home, he becomes good friends with MYOJIN Yahiko and SAGARA Sanosuke, spending his days peacefully in their company.
    However, his past as a killer relentlessly comes back to haunt him. Because of an incident, Kenshin’s ability becomes known to the authorities, and he began to receive requests to escort military officials. Eventually he is challenged to a duel by UDO Jin-e, a man obsessed with perfecting his deadly swordsmanship. Though Kenshin wins this duel to the death, Jin-e tells him with his dying breath that Kenshin is a killer at heart.
    After some heavy fighting, Kenshin discovers that his instinct as a killer swordsman is reawakening. While fearing that he might lose sight of himself, he resolves to do battle against SHISHIO Makoto, who is plotting to wage war against the Meiji government.
    Just when it seems as if Kenshin has conquered his fear of losing control of himself and going on a killing rampage – that he has finally freed himself from the past – a man named YUKISHIRO Enishi appears. Enishi is the younger brother of Kenshin’s deceased wife, Tomoe. Enishi saw Kenshin kill his sister in the confusion of battle. Determined to take his revenge Enishi kidnaps Kaoru. Kenshin must once again come face to face with his greatest sin – of having lost his lover by his own hand.
    Set at the historic turning point from the Edo period to the Meiji period, the tale introduces characters that really existed and events that really happened at that time, giving the drama a realistic appeal. The characters in the tale, while being thrust into the upheaval of the times, struggle to live life to the fullest according to their own principles.
    Text: HATTA Emiko[2014年9月号掲載記事]


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