For Judit Kawaguchi's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Feb 20, 2015
Hisako and Ryoichi Maeda (66 and 67) are the proprietors of Torisue, a tiny take-out-only yakitori shop in the Bontan area of Tokyo's Koto Ward, just a short walk from Monzen-Nakacho Station. Torisue is famous as a B-kyu (B-grade) gourmet favorite and fans from near and far will line up outside on Kiyosumidori Street until their chicken is grilled to perfection over the charcoal.
Oct 17, 2014
Mitsuo Tsuchida, 65, is a bilingual tax accountant and the founder of Tsuchida & Associates in Tokyo. He and his team help people of various nationalities file Japanese and U.S. tax returns, regardless of which country they may live in. As an enrolled agent of the IRS, he has the privilege and right to represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service of the United States. Tsuchida's wide range of services, however, go beyond filing tax returns: He and his team also assist clients from the cradle to the grave with financial advice.
Aug 15, 2014
Jun 27, 2014
Artist Kengo Nawashiro, 26, loves drawing buildings and towers. His beautifully colored paintings of the Tokyo Skytree are printed on postcards and sold at art events. Nawashiro credits his success to renowned art educator Chieko Awata, who is a specialist in nurturing the talents of autistic children and adults. Nawashiro was diagnosed with autism at age 4, and his parents immediately began looking for creative outlets for him. He played the piano and tried various sports, but it was drawing that proved to be Kengo's favorite activity and definite forte. He also has a cleaning job at a factory cafeteria.
May 23, 2014
Makoto Kai, 62, is the founder and CEO of Hatagoya Co., which operates Japan's only motel chain. Kai, an avid biker, started the business in 1994 out of frustration with the lack of comfortable and inexpensive accommodation across the Japanese countryside. After traveling around the United States and staying at motels there, he was sure that many Japanese would appreciate the freedom and service they provide. Time proved him right and today 45 Hatagoya motels offer a good night's sleep to drivers and their passengers — including furry ones, as a few rooms in each motel are reserved for those traveling with their beloved pets.
Feb 27, 2014
Chikao Muratani is a veterinarian and owner of Anima Animal Hospital in Tokyo's Chuo Ward. Having worked in the United States for years, Dr. Muratani is fully bilingual and his spotless and beautifully designed clinic is known as a neighborhood hangout. People with pets are encouraged to pop by weekly for a chat and to measure their furry companions' weight in order to keep a constant check on their health. Pets are treated to healthy snacks and a bit of playtime. Muratani adores animals, and the feeling is mutual: On the streets around his clinic, dogs on their daily walks can be spotted whisking their humans to see their friend, who happens to be their doctor, too.
Sep 24, 2013
Masaaki Katabami is a content producer working in Tokyo. Besides producing manga and mascot design for clients, Katabami publishes Burgeon, a biannual free manga magazine aimed at a female otaku (geek) readership. Available at Tokyo's Comiket (Comic Market fair), the magazine is in its sixth year. In 2012, Katabami wrote two books on two of Japan's biggest cultural exports: the manga "One Piece" and the idol group AKB48. "What One Piece's Words Tell Us," published in February last year, sold 50,000 copies, and "What AKB48's Words Tell Us," published later in October, passed the 10,000 mark. Katabami lives and works in Akihabara, which he considers the center of Japanese subculture and loves as if it is the center of the universe.
May 22, 2013
Kazuhiro Shiraishi, 66, is a guest-house manager in the Izu-kogen Highlands, a famous resort area on the Izu Peninsula of Shizuoka Prefecture. Looking out onto the Pacific Ocean, and just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo, Izu has a warm climate all year round and a gorgeous coastline dotted with open-air hot springs. Shiraishi has been working for Izu's hotels and ryokan (traditional guest houses) since age 22, and few can beat his knowledge of the region. Always full of enthusiasm to share the beauty of the area, he enjoys taking visitors to scenic spots where the prettiest flowers happen to be in full bloom.
Apr 24, 2013
Mar 27, 2013
Japanese kite artist Tetsuya Kishida, 89, has been creating and flying kites since the age of 6. He used to be a salesman for the steel industry and he later sold bonsai. In his late 40s, he finally turned his hobby of painting kites into a profession. His artistic repertoire is inspired by images from musha-e, a genre of ukiyo-e (floating world images) that depicts samurai in battle scenes. He also paints Japanese heroes the from the Heian Period (794-1185) to the Edo Period (1603-1867), including kabuki stars. Although kite painting is his greatest passion, flying them comes a close second. Five days a week, weather permitting, he goes out with four similarly minded friends, and they fly their kites.
Feb 26, 2013
Jan 22, 2013
Kei Ochiai is a rag-and-bone man for the Kanto region. He drives his small truck through neighborhoods in Tokyo and Yokohama, circling the areas while sounding his pitch with a loudspeaker: "Furniture, bikes, fridges, anything big and heavy, I'll take it." His jovial demeanor instantly wins him hearts and lots of business. He helps people get rid of the things that they would otherwise find difficult to throw out. As he flexes his communication skills — along with his arm muscles — he's straightforward about his colorful past that has included both great hardship and high points. He's suffered drug abuse, been to parties in Ginza clubs, worked as a member of the yakuza — and has even spent time in prison. Twenty years ago he finally made a clean break from crime and has been on the right track ever since.
Dec 25, 2012
Midori Sawato is a benshi, a unique kind of performer who provides live narration to silent films at the movie theater. The benshi brings the characters in films alive using different voices and vocal expressions. They sit to the side of the screen, watching the movie with the audience and using their versatility and talent to act out each character. Benshi often work with a small orchestra, which provides the musical accompaniment. In Japan, there are probably 10 benshi still active and Sawato is by far the most famous among them. For her fantastic performances she has received many accolades, among them the Japan Film Pen Club Prize in 1990, The Japan Movie Critics Award Golden Glory Prize in 1995, and in 2002 the Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs' National Arts Festival Award. In 2010 she was named Master of Sound by the Japan Audio Society. Sawato's repertoire includes more than 500 of the greatest silent films from all over the world. This year, she celebrates 40 years of acting and will share some of her favorite roles in a keenly awaited performance at 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Kinokuniya Hall in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
Nov 27, 2012
Reiko Yoshimura is the owner of Aoyagi, a tiny bar in the basement of Tokyo's Shimbashi station. Built in 1966, the retro Shimbashi Ekimae Biru Ichigokan (Shimbashi Station Building No.1) is home to dozens of inexpensive drinking establishments that cater to salarymen and the occasional salarywomen who stop by for a beer and a bite on their way home. At Aoyagi, Yoshimura's simple menu comprises 25 snacks, all priced between ¥400 and ¥700. Besides nuts and sliced cheese, she serves cold boiled vegetables and bowls of hot oden (stewed vegetables and fishcakes). Her house specialty, however, is nikudofu (simmered meat and tofu), which her regulars love to munch on as they drink.
Oct 23, 2012
Chizuru, 58, and Fumio Nishioka, 59, are samurai-armor restorers. Among the handful of such specialists in Japan, they are the only ones who use the same techniques as artisans historically did in the past. Whether 900 or 150 years old, a samurai's armor reveals its history through its layers of skilled craftsmanship. Chizuru and Fumio carefully restore such masterpieces to their original glory. Chizuru is the only person in Japan who still uses the ancient art of Japanese loop braiding, a technique to create intricate silk threads that was common after the eighth century to hold together and decorate armor.
Aug 28, 2012
Shoji Kuramochi, 73, is one of Japan's few surviving hunters, and he may be the only one with 100 trained hunting dogs. Besides being a hunter of wild boars and deer, he's also an expert at the traditional Japanese art forms of bonsai cultivation and the breeding of beautiful and rare types of kingyo (goldfish).
Jul 24, 2012
Noriko Hama, is a Japanese economist, the Dean of Doshisha Business School in Kyoto and a contributor to The Japan Times. Well known for her candid television commentaries, popular columns, she is completely absorbed in the world of economics, and utterly unfazed by its ups and downs. Hama has never been interested in making money, however, only thinking about it — a lot. And talking about it, eloquently and often.
Jun 26, 2012
Lin Qing Xiang, 33, is the social-media manager of the "The Ruby Alan Show" (also known as "The RA Show"), a video blog that explores both Singaporean and Japanese culture. Lin creates travelogues of his journeys around Japan and also films Japanese-culture events in Singapore. A die-hard fan, he loves sharing his knowledge and love of all things Japanese, whether it be cosplay, anime, music or games.
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