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No.27
Culture, No.27  May. 28, 2015

The region is a stage. Yosakoi Soran Festival (Sapporo, Hokkaido)Pageant of Lights and Sound — Witness the power of group dancing, and the moment when human bodies shine.

The parade along Odori Avenue runs north to south through central Sapporo.

The final stage in Odori Koen Park played host to twelve teams that had won a series of tournaments. Each team gave a riveting and spectacular dancing performance when they took the stage, which transformed into a powerful pageantry of people, sound, and lights that echoed across the sky. It didn’t take long for the spectators to become increasingly drawn in by the performances, just like when people watch an exciting game. They roared in delight upon seeing the performers quickly change their original costumes in unison. They were not merely watching dancing performances. All of them had been unconsciously brought together and made to take part in a contest that would determine this year’s winner. ]]> ... [Read more]

No.26
Culture, No.26  May. 28, 2015

Sudoku of the World and the Originator’s JoyThe godfather of the numerical puzzle in great demand in the west and in the east

One day, on my way home on a train after losing money in a horse race, I opened up an American magazine of puzzles I had been carrying around. What caught my eye was a numerical puzzle called the Number Place puzzle. I am not great at reading English. After jotting down numbers without even reading the instructions, I was able to solve it. Isn’t this fun? I bought a bunch of back issues at Maruzen and proceeded to solve one puzzle after another. Just as an experiment, I tried creating a puzzle of my own and I was able to make one. This is how I came to publish this puzzle in a magazine issued by my company, Nikoli, for which I am the president, in 1984. I coined this puzzle – which is about filling each box in a row or a ... ... [Read more]

No.25
Culture, No.25  May. 22, 2015

The Changing Flavors — and Drinkers — of Sake

The sake industry is booming — at least in one sense. Many of the varieties produced by small and medium-sized breweries have become hard to obtain. And what is notable is that sales of sake produced by the smaller breweries are being driven not just by middle-aged and elderly men, the traditional market for the sake industry, but also by women and young adult consumers. This fact was conspicuous at the annual Wakate-no-Yoake (“Dawn of the younger generation”) sake-tasting event in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward October 2014, when more than 2,000 people gathered to sample the wares of thirty-one up-and-coming breweries, many of those visitors being women and young adults. “We are seeing more and more young people and women attend these events every year,” says Watanabe Koei, president of the exhibiting Ippaku Suisei brewery, confirming the trend. Events such as Wakate-no-Yoake, where visitors can ... ... [Read more]

No.24
Culture, No.24  Apr. 20, 2015

Special Feature: Shared Japanese CultureManga Will Surpass Korin

Recently, I have started reading various books and research papers — whatever I can lay my hands on — relating to the French Revolution. Having said that, it isn’t that I’m actually trying to research the history of the Revolution itself. The thing that I’m interested in is the fact that the manner in which the Revolution is discussed changes with the times. Indeed, the way that the Revolution was talked about during the mid twentieth-century, and the way it has been discussed since the end of the twentieth-century ]]> ... [Read more]

No.24
Culture, No.24  Feb. 25, 2015

Studio Ghibli on a New Journey After Departure of a Giant — Interview with Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director, Screenwriter)

Yonebayashi Hiromasa (Director, Screenwriter)

Four years from the release Arrietty, Yonebayashi Hiromasa completed his second directorial work, When Marnie Was There. This work comes from a piece of British children’s literature and is a fantasy story of two girls meeting from a twist of fate. The production of the movie had its genesis when Yonebayashi told producer Suzuki Toshio that he wanted to direct a film. “After finishing Arrietty, I reflected back on what I had done. The work on Arrietty had started with Miyazaki Hayao already providing a script and several concept arts. I felt that I really wanted to be involved in writing the script from scratch. There was another thing though: Arrietty is a story ]]> ... [Read more]

No.20
Discussions, Culture, No.20  Apr. 11, 2014

The First Three-Way Conversation Coinciding with the Thirtieth Anniversary of Studio Ghibli Miya-san, why don’t you make another movie?

Miyazaki Hayao (left), Suzuki Toshio (center) and Takahata Isao Photo by Nicolas Guérin

The release of The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and then, Miyazaki Hayao’s announcement of his retirement: 2013 was truly the year of Ghibli. Read about their works and this country in an in-depth conversation that lasted for three hours by two master directors and a famous producer.   Suzuki: This is the first three-way conversation consisting of these members. And this might be the last. [Laughter] The year 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Ghibli. Last year was a busy one, with the releases of The Wind Rises by Director Miyazaki Hayao, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya by Director Takahata Isao, and in addition, Miya-san [Editor’s note: Miyazaki] announced his retirement. So the aim was to have the three people get together and talk.  [Facing toward the direction of the editing team] Do you have anything you ... ... [Read more]

No.19
Culture, No.19  Mar. 10, 2014

Japan Is Entering a Period of 10 Million Visitors: The Growing Competition to Attract Tourists — A company that has seized the business opportunity of increasing inbound visitors

Don Quijote (“Donki”), Osaka

The number of foreign visitors to Japan is expected to reach 10 million this year. And this number will likely grow further with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. What do businesses need to do in order to succeed in this growing market? What are the issues? We undertake a multilateral analysis.   As a nation for tourists, the government needs to develop rules  The number of inbound visitors to Japan rapidly increased during the period from January to September, and is expected to reach 10 million by the end of the year. While this trend is riding the tailwind of a weaker yen and visa deregulation, could Japan continue to increase its inbound visitors to double or triple the current number? The Ginza store of Don Quijote (“Donki”), a discount store that is open twenty-four hours a day, is known to be teeming with ... ... [Read more]

No.18
Culture, No.18  Jan. 30, 2014

INTERVIEW: WASHOKU, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese

A traditional ichiju-sansai Japanese meal featuring steamed rice and miso soup (front), three main dishes (two vegetable dishes and one of fish), and pickles (top left) All photos: Courtesy of Professor KUMAKURA ISAO

Traditional Japanese food is collectively known as washoku. Under the title, “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese,” the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered washoku on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on December 4, 2013. Discuss Japan spoke with Kumakura Isao who spearheaded the campaign for convincing UNESCO to add washoku to its intangible cultural heritage list. ―― UNESCO registered washoku on its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We would like to start this interview by asking how you feel about this.  Kumakura Isao: If nothing else, as a member of the team that worked hard for this registration for two and a half years, I was extremely grateful for and delighted by the outcome. I think we can take great pride in this achievement as Japanese because our country’s washoku was registered on ... ... [Read more]

No.17
Discussions, Culture, No.17  Dec. 1, 2013

Hosoda Mamoru + Azuma Hiroki — Animation for Parents

Azuma (left) and Hosoda. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GENRON CO., LTD.

In 2012, director Hosoda Mamoru scored a big hit with a movie called Wolf Children. Unlike conventional animated movies, it was full of messages aimed at families raising young children. On September 25, while the movie was in theaters, Hosoda’s first child (a son) was born, thrusting the director right into the heart of child raising himself. He met up twice with the genron etc.’s Editor-in-Chief, who himself has a daughter in elementary school, for an in-depth discussion regarding the hidden messages in Wolf Children and the isolating effects of becoming a father. Where does being a parent start? And where does it end? Hosoda Mamoru: I didn’t have children when I was making the movie. Although my wife and I had always wanted to be parents, we just hadn’t been blessed with a child at that point. We started going to the hospital ... ... [Read more]

No.17
Culture, No.17  Dec. 1, 2013

Symposium Commemorating the Opening of the Great East Japan Earthquake ArchiveMotivation and Effort to Preserve the Records of the Great East Japan Earthquake

A scene from the symposium PHOTO: COURTESY OF The Digital Information Distribution Division, Digital Information Department of the National Diet Library

The National Diet Library officially published the National Diet Library Great East Japan Earthquake Archive (a.k.a. HINAGIKU) on March 7 for the purpose of passing records and lessons learnt from major earthquake disasters to the next generation to be used for projects to restore/recover disaster-hit areas and for future disaster prevention and reduction measures. HINAGIKU is a portal site that cooperates with various institutions and groups within Japan and overseas to collate, store and allow the unitary search and use of audio, video, photographs, web information and other digital data related to the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as academic research findings from research institutions and related document information. On March 26, 2013, the National Diet Library, together with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), held a symposium titled “Motivation and Effort to Preserve the Records of the Great East Japan ... ... [Read more]