In This Corner of the World

No47 [Production] Creators under threat

In This Corner of the World saw the light of day thanks to crowd-funding. In order to realize new projects, producers now need to be financially creative as well. There are times when the best ideas remain unrealized due to a lack of funds and support. Particularly in the film world, it is often har[...]
Genocidal Organ

No47 [Business] It’s all an adventure

Unlike many other anime, Genocidal Organ allows the viewer to concentrate on the characters. Anime production is not easy. Yamamoto Koji talks about some of the difficulties faced in the making Genocidal Organ. It’s tough being an animator. Although Japanese animation is currently having a lot of [...]
tatoo, hatsune miku

No46 [Focus] Tattooing in all its forms

During the past few years the nature of tattoos has changed. Fans of manga and anime do not hesitate to sport images of their favourite characters. Though it is more accepted abroad, the practice of tattooing is still challenged by the Japanese authorities. They’re all around us. They live in our [...]
horiyoshi, tattoo

No46 [Encounter] A lifetime to achieve excellence

Horiyoshi III in his studio in Yokohama. At 70 years of age this unrivalled master tattooist continues to practise his profession in the traditional way. The last grand master of traditional tattooing, Horiyoshi III recalls his long life in the profession. It is 9 a.m., and Hanasakicho is still asle[...]

No46 [History] An art endangered by secrecy

Tattoos were closely linked to the underworld in films during the 60s and 70s. After almost falling into oblivion tattooing has regained recognition across Japan, but tastes have changed. Perception of tattoos in Japan is paradoxical. The archipelago has inherited a long tradition that fascinated th[...]

No46 [Evolution] With a touch of kawaii

Once or twice a week Aki Bonten is asked for tattoos inspired by manga or anime. Aki Bonten is certain that otaku culture will help irezumi emerge from the shadows. The future of Japanese tattooing is hidden behind an unmarked apartment door just a ten-minute stroll away from Yokohama Station. The g[...]

No46 [Book] All about the art of tattoos

This book covers all aspects of tattooing in Japan. Always at the top, Tuttle publishing has recently brought out an excellent book about irezumi. Since Donald Richie’s 1980 book first piqued western readers’ interest in Japanese tattoos, many books of differing quality have been published on th[...]
Teatro for Dayz, nissan, tokyo motor show

No45 [Cars] Tomorrow’s already here!

Nissan’s Teatro for Dayz presented at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2015. The prototype of a user-friendly, connected car. Once everyone dreamed about cars, then they lost some of their appeal. Now they’re back in style. In the first manga magazines in the 1950s and 60s, it wasn’t unusual to find se[...]
Hitachi, ADAS, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

No45 [Advance] A question of intelligence

In a few years time, roads will be filled with cars that are intelligent, interconnected, and safer. In the last couple of years Automated Driving (AD) has become the New Frontier in car technology development and Hitachi Automotive Systems has been in the thick of things. In February, for instance,[...]
suzu, kiriko

No45 [Experience] Suzu dreams of a driverless car

Suzu is a city full of tradition. Each year, it celebrates Kiriko, a festival dating back more than three centuries With its ageing population and its lack of public transport, this small city has plans for the future. At the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil, the presence of Shin[...]
Leaf, Nissan

No45 [Research] Nissan on the front line

Huge success for the EV Leaf. The company has made innovation its number one priority in anticipation of its future clients’ expectations. one of Japan’s foremost car manufacturers, Nissan is working hard to develop new vehicles that are safer, more environmentally friendly, and will always offe[...]

No44 [Focus] In the shade of the tea leaves

The Japanese really know how to enjoy tea, and cultivation knowledge gained gradually over time has become a true art form. How do you make your guests happy with one sip of tea? He’d thought long and hard all his life to find the most pleasurable way of drinking it”. This passage from the novel[...]

No44 [Taste] New approach to an old tradition

Sakurai Shinya, a lover of green tea, encourages his clients to rediscover the traditions surrounding this beverage. I t’s hard to be a traditional cultural asset in Japan these days. Take sumo, for instance. It may still officially be the country’s national sport, but it has long been replaced [...]

No44 [Retail] A matter of taste

Eleven years ago, Stéphane Danton went into business selling tea. It turned out to be a great adventure. Long-time readers of Zoom Japan already know Japanese “tea merchant” Stephane Danton, as he was featured in our eighth issue. As it happens, he was interviewed just before the triple disaste[...]

No44 [Farming] Mr. Harima’s winning gamble

Choosing to go into organic farming was a game-changer for this farmer from Ujitawara. Under the blazing August sun, the deep green of the tea plants contrasts with the lighter colours of the rice stems swaying gently in the breeze. Surrounding the village of Ujitawara, located to the south of Kyoto[...]

No44 [Atmosphere] A taste of sweetness

There’s nothing like Japanese confectionary to accompany a cup of tea. Don’t miss out on a visit to Higashiya. Talk about Japanese green tea and wagashi immediately come to mind. After all, these beautiful and exquisitely made traditional sweets complement the beverage perfectly. Though wagashi [...]

No 43 [Pop culture] A recipe for success

Dance music and tonkatsu: an original combination which many manga and anime fans are going mad about. Young Katsumata Agetaro is the thirdgeneration heir-apparent of a Shibuya tonkatsu restaurant, but lacks the enthusiasm to follow in his father’s footsteps; so much so that his contribution to th[...]

No43 [Focus] For the love of Tonkatsu

Nowadays considered to be one of the country’s favourite dishes, a look at the history of tonkatsu reveals that it wasn’t always so. About 130 years ago, amidst great upheavals, Japan opened itself up to the western world. For those Japanese wanting to embrace western culture as rapidly as p[...]

No43 [Tokyo] Our top ten tonkatsu treats

The next time you travel to the Japanese capital, think about visiting one of these top tonkatsu restaurants. Ask any ten people what their favourite sushi, ramen or tempura restaurant is and you will probably get ten different answers. Tonkatsu is no different. To give you an example, for most peop[...]

No43 [Accompaniment] Western roots, japanese taste

One would never think of enjoying tonkatasu on its own. To enjoy the dish at its best, you need a good sauce. Fans of tonkatsu like to talk about the best cuts of meat and discuss the finer points of deep-frying, but for some people tonkatsu is really all about the sauce. In fact, some go so far as [...]

No43 [A good idea] Tonki sets the ton(e)katsu

This restaurant, situated in the heart of Meguro, is considered to be one of the best. You have to hand it to the Japanese: When it comes to cooking, simplicity is their forte. While a French or Italian chef will try to amaze you with a multi-dish menu, the Japanese have enough confidence to put a s[...]

No42 [Discovery] Bicycles and beer forever

Though public transport in the capital city is very efficient, nothing beats riding around it by bicycle. Tokyo’s Roppongi district on a Saturday morning is a rather quiet place. This is, after all, one of the city’s premier nightlife spots, and most of its regulars are at home still sleeping or[...]

No42 [Adventure] Three men on a bike

43 days travelling from the north to the south of Japan. An amazing journey undertaken by a group of friends. over the years accounts of travelling across Japan on foot have become a sort of subgenre in travel literature. Beginning with Alan Booth’s The Road to Sata (1985), a few daring (some woul[...]

No42 [Focus] To cycle or not to cycle…

Contrary to appearances bicycles are ubiquitous in Japan. But there is more to be done. The word “Japan” conjures up many different images: from kimono-clad geisha and sushi to martial arts and otaku culture. Bicycles, however, are definitely not among them. When it comes to cycling the first pl[...]

No41 [Interview] In the shadow of the superheroes

after playing the key character in Ultraman’s first series, kurobe Susumu still remains very popular 50 years later. Since the beginning of the Ultraman saga 50 years ago, many actors have played Ultraman’s human alter ego, but few people can compete in popularity with Kurobe Susumu, aka the[...]

No41 [Memory] Q-chan, or the testimony of a fan

Since the character was first shown in 1966, the various Ultraman series have enjoyed a unprecedented level of popularity in Japan. The good folk who live in Soshigaya, a quiet district in the Tokyo suburbs, can sleep peacefully, as Ultraman watches over the neighbourhood. The superhero’s red and [...]

No41 [Focus] Happy birthday Ultraman!

Ultraman, a hero created by Tsuburaya Productions, inspires nostalgic memories in Japan. At a time when Hollywood superheroes are increasingly invading our screens, to the extent that some of them even appear to be fighting among themselves now, Japan is about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of it[...]

No40 [Trend] A simple return to basics

The incredible success of Muji, both in Japan and abroad, expresses a desire to return to basics. Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has often been synonymous with affordable, no-frills, quality products. While Japanese manufacturers used transistor radios to make inroads into Western mark[...]

No40 [Encounter] The man who sees only white

The celebrated potter Kuroda Taizo has travelled far in his search for simplicity. Todai moto kurashi (lit. it’s dark at the base of the lighthouse, i.e. you don’t see what’s under your nose) is a popular Japanese proverb which seems to fit many local artists, and Kuroda Taizo is no exception.[...]

No40 [Focus]The design of everyday objects

Japanese products are well-known for their quality and beauty. We found out how it all began. The “Zakka – Goods and Things” exhibition currently taking place in Tokyo (see related article) is a riot of steel, plastic, wooden, and paper products of all different shapes and sizes. However, ther[...]

No39 [Focus] Decline? No thanks!

Though there are numerous indications that the situation in the Japan’s provincial regions is worsening, there are still signs of resistance. When travelling through the streets of certain Japanese provincial cities, one is overcome with a feeling of sadness. Last year we regrettably noted how[...]

No39 [Yamanashi] Misawa Ayana has a keen nose

In a region deep in crisis, winemaking has proved to be the best way to escape the current rural decline.  I wanted to prove that both my father and grandfather were right,” says Misawa Ayana in a calm yet determined voice. She pauses before adding that, “Koshu is a grape variety that is found [...]

No39 [Tourism] An el Dorado called minpaku

In the face of an expected shortage of tourist accommodation in the regions, there’s a growing interest in renting out rooms in private homes. The Japanese National Tourism Office reported that nearly 20 million foreign tourists visited the country in 2015, a leap of 47% compared to the previous y[...]

No39 [Imabari] Organic farming to the rescue

This town’s farmers have found a winning recipe in their search to promote local growth and supply good quality food.   These days everybody seems to be talking about Imabari. The second largest city in Ehime Prefecture is home to a large number of maritime facilities, but it’s not its trad[...]

No39 [Hiroshima] Onomichi revisits its past

A victim of population decline, this port city has been rejuvenated through innovative ideas to present its heritage. Last September the town of Onomichi, in Hiroshima Prefecture, grabbed headlines around the world with its Cat-Street-View project (see ZOOM 54, October 2015). However, this Google-st[...]

No39 [Miyagi] Onagawa rises up to the challenge

This port city is being rebuilt five years after the ravages caused by the tsunami, thanks to the commitment of the local inhabitants. On the slopes of Onagawa hill you will find the belvedere of the hospital that overlooks the city, and from there you can see an amber coloured tongue of land that s[...]

No39 [Future] Hopes for a horizontal revolution

For years the Japanese government has sought to revitalize the country’s regions, but their methods are outdated. At the end of 2014 the Abe administration proposed creating new types of subsidies that local authorities would use at their own discretion to promote measures for stopping populat[...]

No38 [Discovery] A divine encounter at jab

The owner of a certain Jazz bar in Fukuoka entices his customers in with a selection of the best black American jazz artists. In the Tenjin district, across from Nakasu Island where the Fukuoka Jazz festival takes place every year, a branch of the river leads you to a red shopfront where the letters[...]

No38 [Memory] The legendary Yoshida Mamoru

To experience the Japanese enthusiasm for jazz, one only needs to pay a short visit to Chigusa jazz cafe.    If you find yourself in the Tokyo/Yokohama area and want to soak up some of the local jazz atmosphere, you can choose from among many dedicated bars, cafes and live venues, each one with it[...]

No38 [Talent] ‘Cherchez la femme’

Of course, jazz is not just a man’s world, so here is an overview of the most renowned Japanese women involved in the genre. When one thinks of music, women and Japan together, most of the time it’s the names of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu or the members of AKB 48 that come to mind, stars of Cool Japan wh[...]

No38 [Sound] Pitch perfect for Dominique Fillon

This French jazzman found not only inspiration in the archipelago, but also the desire to share his musical knowledge. For over 28 years, Dominique Fillon, pianist and colourful jazz composer, has enchanted us with his music inspired by African and Brazilian rhythms. Yet it’s in Japan, a world awa[...]

No38 [Music] In the Land of Rising jazz

Jazz music remains a vibrant symbol of freedom in the Land of the Rising Sun, where it is still greatly appreciated. One of the clichés about Japan is the idea that the Land of the Rising Sun is a country of imitators. It’s been said about cars, cameras and even culture, especially concerning mus[...]

No38 [Guide] A jazz adventure in Yokohama

This Japanese city port is famous for its jazz music. Here are some tried and tested venues.   The Sakuragicho district on the Yokohama waterfront is very popular with sightseers.Most people visit the shopping malls and amusement park in the Minato Mirai 21 area to the east of Sakuragicho Stati[...]

No37 [Focus] Once a biker, always a biker?

Whether you like it or not, motorbikes are synonymous with Japan, if only because of the pivotal importance of Japanese motorbike manufacturers. Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha have all left their mark worldwide. Nonetheless, these machines have lost their appeal for Japanese bikers, who now pref[...]

No37 [Manga] Crazy hub caps

Since the 1960s, motorcycles have played a considerable role in the world of manga as any manga. Fan knows, Japanese comics are famous for covering every conceivable subject – often in unexpected ways – and motorcycles are no exception. Manga artists’ love affair with two wheels began in the 1[...]

No37 [Experience] How to negotiate the bends in life

Biker culture is changing in Japan. It needs to adapt to an ageing population. For many people around the world, Japanese motorbikes are still synonymous with two things: MotoGP racing and bosozoku biker gangs. However, many things have changed. Zoom Japan had a chance to talk to Okabayashi Michinor[...]

No37 [Movie] World of Bosozoku

God Speed You! Black Emperor by Yanagimachi Mitsuo is an unusual film that bears witness to a bygone era. Since the end of World War II, biker culture has been synonymous with youth, freedom and rebellion, and cinema has wasted no time in chronicling and even exploiting the phenomenon. Starting with[...]

No36 [Tourism] The low down on Onomichi

To attract more tourists, the local council has invited Lala the cat to help visitors discover the town from a new angle. The small port town of Onomichi, 70 kilometres to the east of the city of Hiroshima, has long been known for its cats. Locals even refer to it as “the town of cats and hills”[...]

No36 [Discovery] Aoshima has stopped purring

A little island lost in the middle of the Inland Sea has become a tourist attraction for cat lovers, but the locals aren’t happy… As the boat that connects the islands of Shikoku and Aoshima, situated in the west of the Japanese archipelago, draws into the little port, cries of “Look at al[...]

No36 [Focus] No one can resist a cat

Not everyone is allowed to keep pets, but the Japanese have found a way around the problem. An acute sense of alienation and isolation is one of the unwelcome by-products of modern urban life, and Japanese cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya see extreme examples of the problems many people face whil[...]

No35 [History] Publishers at work

Tokyo Metropolitan Library Hokusai’s talent would not have gained such great recognition without the help of the publishing houses. One cannot talk about artists such as Hokusai without mentioning the publishing houses that played a major role in distributing their work. As commercial enterpri[...]

No35 [Portrait] The incredible Sugiura Hinako

©Hinako Sugiura・mS.hS ©Masaya Suzuki Thanks to her talent and her wide knowledge of Edo culture, this mangaka’s work has become a point of reference. Born in Tokyo to a traditional family of kimono makers, Sugiura Hinako became quite passionate about drawing, design and Edo era Japan. As a f[...]

No35 [Destiny] Portrait of a woman with a brush

© 2014-2015 hinako Sugiura – mS.hS / Sarusuberi film partners The work of O-Ei, the main character in Miss Hokusai, remains little known. We investigated in order to tell you more. So who exactly was Katsushika O-Ei, also known as Katsushika Oi, the star of the film Miss Hokusai and the famou[...]

No34 [Kitchen] A rice cooker named desire

Since it first appeared on the market in the 1950s, this appliance has become a musthave for all those who love eating rice. Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 feature film “In the Mood for Love” showed Mrs Chan’s husband traveling abroad for work and often being requeste[...]

No34 [Trend] Returning to your roots

In Kamagawa, southeast of Tokyo, one organization is preserving the increasingly rare terraced rice fields, with no help from grants or subsidies. For those who love traditional Japanese landscapes, and especially for those who live near Tokyo, the terraced rice paddies of Oyama Senmaida are a sanct[...]

No34 [Focus] Rice in search of a new lease of life

For several years now, the consumption of this millennia old food has been decreasing across the Japanese archipelago. Can we even begin to imagine Japanese people no longer eating the rice produced in Japan? This may sound like a strange question, although it is an increasingly relevant one, but th[...]

No33 [Gunma] Ancestral tradition under threat

The combination of an ageing population and a rural exodus is threatening the existence of matsuri in the provinces. As summer approaches Iwai Toshio gets out his blue vest decorated with traditional patterns from his cupboard – a special costume worn at matsuri – and gives it a good shake. A pr[...]

No33 [Kumano] Celebrating paintbrushes

The spirit of the paintbrush is celebrated annually just twenty kilometres from Hiroshima. In the soft morning drizzle a dozen men and women line up before an altar-like mound of stones where a small fire crackles and hisses. Each person in turn throws a handful of old brushes into the blaze. Collec[...]

No33 [Tokyo] Even the yakuza are here…

The matsuri is a communal event which unites all Japanese, whatever their origin. In his office in the heart of the old Asakusa district Watanabe Takeshi is preparing for the Sanja Matsuri, the three-temple celebration. He has tied a scarf around his neck and over his white clothes he has put on a t[...]

No33 [Focus] Festivals!

Whatever the season or the region there is always a traditional festival to go to. Here is a short guided tour. You can’t imagine visiting Japan without experiencing a matsuri, one of those frequent traditional festivals that punctuate Japanese life throughout the year. Don’t imagine that you’[...]

No32 [Concept] Long live the community

The reinterpretation of tradition is fundamentally important to the work of Atushi and Mayumi Kawamoto. Atsushi and Mayumi Kawamoto – the husband-and-wife partners who founded mA-style studio in 2004 – are based in quiet Shizuoka prefecture, and the peaceful surroundings of that region are appar[...]

No32 [Project] A simple question of balance

Maeda Keisuke champions the ideal of architecture working in harmony with the surrounding landscape. UID (an acronym for Universal Innovative Design) was founded by architect Maeda Keisuke 12 years ago. His first project – a private residence – won a prestigious Good Design Award from the Japane[...]

No32 [Experience] The capacity to adapt

Manuel Tardits has lived in the archipelago for many years, and shares his fulfilling experiences as an architect there with us. “Does the imagination grow weaker or stronger when it confronts reality ?” Victor Selagen This quotation from the French writer Segalen, a specialist in orientalism, s[...]

No32 [Focus] Welcome home!

Japanese houses are not just works of art to be stared at in confusion on the pages of coffee-table books. What kind of images come to mind when you think of Japanese architecture? What do you imagine when you describe Japanese cities? Most of the time you think of skyscrapers, narrow streets and su[...]

No31 [Focus] 31 ways to read about japan

To celebrate our thirty-first issue, we would like to invite you on a journey of discovery into 31 books related to Japan. There are many sources of information about Japan at your disposal. First and Foremost, there’s Zoom Japan, bringing you the latest news about all aspects of Japan every month[...]

No30 [Focus] Yamada Yoji, champion of a timeless japan

Immensely famous film director in Japan, but little known abroad, here is Yamada Yoji. When I was young I thought that Ozu’s movies were boring,” confessed Yamada Yoji in January 2013. That year, the director released Tokyo Kazoku (Tokyo Family, 2013) in Japan, a remake of Tokyo Monogatari ([...]

No29 [Future] The railway’s battle has been won

Four years after the tsunami that destroyed everything, including the railway, getting the service going again has been greeted with great enthusiasm locally. It took four long years to restore the JR Ishinomaki and Senseki lines before the locals could, once again, see the familiar silhouette of th[...]

No29 [Encounter] Raw emotion

Many wounds inflicted by the disaster remain unhealed. They need to be treated before people can move on. It was raining in the city of Ishinomaki when we got into the taxi, and the driver was muttering: “We’ve had enough of the the rain here”. In his opinion, the ground level in Ishinomaki sa[...]

No29 [Regeneration] Watch out, construction in progress!

Four years have passed since the earthquake on the 11th of March 2011, and the city is starting to get back into shape once again. It is four years since the great earthquake struck northeastern Japan on the 11th of March 2011. Less than a year later, the government established the Reconstruction Ag[...]

No28 [History] A girl called Yokota Megumi

Abducted in November 1977, aged 13, her parents have been fighting for 37 years to bring her back to Japan. In a small living room next to the main door of a building in the suburbs of Tokyo, we are waiting for the Yokota family. This is where reporters from around the world come to interview the co[...]

No28 [Focus] Japan has lost its way

Relations between Japan and North Korea are complex, and the situation weighs increasingly heavily on Japanese society. On the 13th of January, TV news programmes featured a couple named Mr and Mrs Yokota (see page 8-9). For 37 years, Shigeru and Sakie have been fighting for the return of their daug[...]

No27 [Encounter] King of small cars

Hardly known outside Japan, Suzuki Osamu has still succeeded in exporting his brand around the world. The motor industry has always been dominated by larger-than-life tycoons whose vision has lead their companies in new directions and into uncharted territory. Japan’s political and economic world [...]

No27 [Focus] Pleasing the ladies

Aware of the importance of attracting female customers, Nissan has put together a new concept called Ladies First. Cars and engines are usually thought to be a man’s domain, but according to recent surveys, 80 percent of car-buying decisions are influenced by women and 65 percent of car purchases [...]

No27 [Focus] Small but sturdy

Keijidosha are all the rage, now making up 30% of all car sales throughout the nation. In most countries, car licence plates give useful information about certain aspects of that particular country. In the United States they are often decorated according to the State the drivers come from. For a lon[...]

No26 [Encounter] Advice from Mr Yamazaki

The head of the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park reminds us of a few common sense rules. According to the Japanese government, the chances of a powerful earthquake striking Tokyo in the next 30 years is as high as 70%. Seismologists’ predictions are even grimmer, but dates aside, everybody ag[...]

No26 [Experience] Prevention is better than cure

Vulnerable to the whims of nature, Japanese people learn to prepare for the worst through fun and games. Living in Japan is like sitting on a ticking time-bomb that could go off at any moment. Not only is this country one of the most earthquake-prone places in the world, we also have tsunamis, flood[...]

No26 [Focus] An Archipelago of volcanoes

Despite the danger they sometimes present, these mountains of fire still have a powerful attraction for the Japanese. On the 27th of September, a few hundred people who were looking forward to enjoying the first colours of autumn set out to climb to the summit of Ontake-San. The weather was perfect [...]

No25 [Testimony] The world according to Shirato

A kappa, as imagined by Katsumata Susumu, an extract from issue 67 of Garo, October 1969. collection Claude Leblanc Yomota Inuhiko was a long standing contributor to Garo. He recalls the monthly magazine’s influence on society. The creature known as Garo could be a spectre standing on the sid[...]

No25 [Focus] A thorn in the side called Garo

First published just fifty years ago, this magazine has not only had an impact on the world of manga, but also on Japanese society as a whole. Just fifty years ago, Japan was ready to move on and leave it’s past behind. Tokyo was about to host the Olympic Games and launch the first fastest tra[...]

No24 [Tips] The Best of Tokyo’s Depachika

When you next travel to the Japanese capital, don’t forget to visit these magical places. here are some we recommend. Tokyo is the depachika capital of the world. There are so many scattered around the city’s sub-centres (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ginza, Nihonbashi, Tokyo Station) that if yo[...]

No24 [Focus] The Food paradise

Set off on an adventure to discover one of Japan’s best-kept secrets: the basements of large department stores. According to some foreign visitors, Japan’s so called “depachika” are among the country’s best-kept secrets. The word “depachika” is made from “depaato&[...]

No23 [Focus] Characters who serve the public interest

In Ishinomaki, in the region ravaged by 2011’s tsunami, mascots are a source of comfort. They have been the height of fashion lately, and one can bear witness to the birth of an increasing variety of mascots in Japan. Not only are there mascots for each prefecture, but also for different citie[...]

No23 [Focus] Mascot planet

After becoming Japan’s favourite little characters, the rest of the world is now falling for this army of cheerful town mascots. You simply cannot miss them. Mascots are everywhere. Kyara (from the English word “character”), as they are known in Japan, have invaded the urban landscape, TV and [...]

No22 [Luxury] The Orient Express made in Japan

Since last October, you can discover Kyushu Island while on board an exceptional train designed by Mitooka Eiji. For the last ten years, the island of Kyushu has become a sort of paradise for train buffs in Japan – and now even from abroad. The southernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Kyushu, [...]

No22 [Discovery] Their originality is their strength

Yufuin no mori With an exterior that is curvaceous and rounded. This is a train that you immediately want to climb aboard when you see it. It serves two completely different spa towns and the first, Yufuin, gave its name to this green train. It’s a lovely little town to wander around. You will soo[...]

No22 [Focus] The railway world renewed

The idea of special excursion trains was first developed on Kyushu Island. They are now multiplying across the rest of the country. Travelling by train is always a pleasure in Japan. Trains are punctual, clean and convenient. Trains will take you everywhere, including places where there are no other[...]

No21 [Museum] A memory failure

In Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, the Yushukan Museum reveals its own version of the Second World War. Many countries try to arouse their national pride through their military cemeteries and museums, but when it comes to glorifying an aggressive past, even to the detriment of historical truth, few place[...]

No21 [Focus] Which version of history ?

A visit to Yasukuni Shrine and provocative declarations means that the past never ceases to create waves. On December the 26th last year, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo travelled to Yasukuni Shrine, where the memory of those Japanese who died for their country is honoured. Amongst them are 14 Class-A war[...]

No20 [Development] An inseparable destiny

The Tohoku region is not only famous for its sake; the excellence of its fishing is also well proven. The areas hit by the tsunami are also known for the excellence of their fishing. “Our sake goes well with our fish! They are inseparable!” is what you often hear in the sake breweries. According[...]

No20 [Experience] Kashiwa Daisuke at his best

Master-brewer at the Otokoyama brewery, this former salesman carries on the tradition out of a deep love for his city. Otokoyama’s high quality sake brewed in Kesennuma, in Miyagi Prefecture, has received many top awards in prestigious competitions. Synonymous with high quality, Otokoyama is a res[...]

No20 [Resistance] The post-Fukushima antidote

In Kitakata, the Yamatogawa brewery produces a 100% guaranteed alcohol while supporting the region’s producers. Situated at the extreme northwest of Fukushima, on the border with Yamagata and Niigata, Aizu province is known for the taste of its water, its rice and it’s sake. Although spared by t[...]

No20 [Sake] Sake, the soul of Tohoku

Badly damaged by the tsunami of March 2011, the region is being rebuilt, partly thanks to this drink of the gods. If I were asked to characterize the spirit of Tohoku I would tell you to look at the local sake breweries. I would probably also add that sake has been part of the Japanese DNA for the p[...]

No19 [Revolution] A reinvented bookstore

Not only is it architecturally remarkable, Tsutaya Daikanyama also owes its success to its original business model. This place made the Flavorwire website’s list of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world. While probably not as amazing and eye-catching as most of the other shops featured on [...]

No19 [Youth] The happy dream factory

Created by a group of mothers, the Kodomo no honya bookshop’s reputation now stretches beyond the capital. Sometimes the best places in Tokyo are tucked away in a quiet corner of the suburban sprawl and finding them turns into a treasure hunt. Kodomo no Honya is such a place. Actually getting to t[...]

No19 [Idea] A bold initiative by Nakajima

The manager of Post has chosen to promote one publisher at a time to enable their work to become better known. If you are tired of the usual bookstores and want to try something different, we suggest you explore the residential backstreets south of Ebisu Station. Here you will find Post, a shop spec[...]

No19 [Discovery] Treasures galore

To give one the time to stop and think; this is the aim of the founders of Cow Books.   Naka-Meguro is considered a hip destination for the local gourmets and fashion-conscious youth, but if you are more interested in food for thought then take a walk along the Meguro River. Just a few minutes from[...]

No19 [Focus] Tokyo, bastion of books and bookshops

In 2013 there were 1,675 bookshops in the capital of Japan, compared to only 802 in London. Just as in other parts of the world, Japan is going through a paper related crisis. Nowadays the Japanese spend more time tapping on their cell phones and tablets than reading, but just a few years ago you co[...]

No18 [Journey] Through the tower of delights

Even someone not often inclined to go shopping cannot resist the appeal of Tokyu Hands. Being someone who doesn’t like shopping and whose idea of hell is a day at a mall, most stores leave me cold. One of the very few exceptions in Tokyo is the mighty Tokyu Hands, the unfortunately nicknamed “Hi[...]

No18 [Discover] Tokyu Hands, a place of wonder

Located in the young district of Shibuya, this department store is a unique place frequented by a wide range of curious customers. To visit Tokyo without checking out Tokyu Hands is like going to Paris without seeing Galleries Lafayette, or travelling to London without stopping off at Harrods, even [...]

No17 [Experience] Ramen forever

Noodle soups are a synonym for success. Here are two examples in Singapore and New York. Even purists do not consider ramen (noodles in broth) a proper part of washoku, but its growing influence as an ambassador for Japanese cuisine across the world cannot be denied. This is particularly true in Asi[...]