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Judit Kawaguchi
For Judit Kawaguchi's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Dec 9, 2010
Hibiya Matsumotoro owner Tetsuro Kosaka
Tetsuro Kosaka, 78, is the owner of Hibiya Matsumotoro, one of Japan's most historical restaurants. A three-story building resembling a cozy country estate, Matsumotoro was designed to sit in the center of Japan's first Western-style park, Hibiya Koen, and it has been in business since the park opened to the public in 1903. Today, the restaurant continues to serve the same simple and inexpensive yōshoku (Western style foods) that made it famous 107 years ago, and guests can enjoy dishes such as omuraisu (rice omelet) and Japanese curry under a 400-year-old tree on the restaurant's terrace. It was in the Matsumotoro building that Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), often referred to as the Founding Father of the Republic of China, and his best friend Shokichi Umeya (1868-1943) — Kosaka's wife's grandfather — planned and prepared the 1911 Chinese Revolution to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. Today, Kosaka and his children keep Umeya and Sun's memory, as well as their incredible contribution to history, alive.
LIFE
Nov 28, 2010
Summiteering with Nobel peace laureates
Hiroshima is a beautiful city with cute trams cruising along its tree-lined streets.
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Nov 25, 2010
Showa Women's University President Mariko Bando
Mariko Bando, 64, is the president of Showa Women's University in Tokyo. She is also a best-selling author with more than 30 books under her belt, including "The Dignity of a Woman," which has sold over 3 million copies. An advocate of women's rights, Bando is director of the Japan National Committee of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women). Her distinguished career has had many highlights. She was the first woman to join the prime minister's office as a career bureaucrat in 1969, where she served the government for 34 years. In 1995, she became vice governor of Saitama Prefecture and in 1998, she was appointed consul general of Japan in Brisbane, Australia, the only woman ever to hold such a post. From 2001 until 2003, she was director general of the Bureau for Gender Equality in then-prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet. Bando is equally successful in her private life: She's happily married with two children, and is well-known for her mentoring skills, which have earned her the respect and love of people young and old.
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Nov 11, 2010
Aiai founder Chieko Awata
Chieko Awata, 68, is the founder of Aiai, a nonprofit organization that provides art education to autistic children and adults. For the past 46 years she has been teaching drawing, painting and social skills to children as young as 2 years old. Some of her students have remained with her for as long as 40 years. Awata is a graduate of the Aichi University of Education and since her senior year, her life's work has been to bring happiness and independence into the lives of autistic people and their families. It has been an exhausting challenge — although busy teaching, she also spends countless hours visiting companies in order to secure full-time designer positions for her talented artists. Awata's efforts are paying off and some of her students have the type of financial independence most artists can only dream about. Awata's own dream is still in the making: To build an atelier and museum in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, dedicated to autistic artists.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Oct 28, 2010
Ryokan owner Kazushi Sato
Kazushi Sato, 63, is the owner of Tsurunoyu Onsen, a hot-spring ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Akita Prefecture. Nestled within beech woods deep in the mountains, Tsurunoyu is surrounded by natural beauty — bears wander freely, feasting on mountain grapes, and edible wild mushrooms grow in enough abundance for Sato to pick them to serve at dinner. The ryokan's traditional wooden buildings date back more than 100 years, and were carefully restored by Sato and his wife 30 years ago when they took over the establishment, but the ryokan's history goes back further. It welcomed its very first guests in 1650. Between taking dips in the milky onsen waters, guests stroll among oil-lamp-lit thatched buildings and savor local dishes cooked in an irori (sunken hearth). It's a relaxing experience that the Satos take pride in, and Tsurunoyu has been ranked many times as Japan's most beautiful hot-spring resort. On a special Fuji Television program in 1998 about Japan's top 100 ryokan, it was voted as number one for its location, its architecture and its service. In 2008, it was made a Registered Cultural Property by the national government, and a year later it was awarded five stars by the travel publication Kanko Keizai Shinbun. Fame has not gone to the Satos' heads, however — the couple still humbly run around the grounds, keeping it clean and serving their guests.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Oct 14, 2010
Fashion retailer Choichiro Motoyama
Choichiro Motoyama, 89, is a pioneering Japanese retailer who has brought some of the most famous European fashion brands to the Far East. In the 1960s, he was the first to import Gucci, Hermes, Loewe, Ferragamo, and then later Etro, to Japan. Through constant study and travels, Motoyama developed an eye for stylish luxury goods and he filled his stores with design treasures such as Baccarat and Lalique crystal accessories, Patek Phillipe watches and Asprey jewelery. He relentlessly advocated elegance and is widely known as the man responsible for creating the demand and subsequent boom for foreign luxury goods in Asia. During the 1980s, when Japan was in its economic bubble heyday, Motoyama had more than 30 boutiques in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hawaii and Guam. However, when the fashion houses he stocked opened their own branches in East Asia, Motoyama decided to shutter most of his stores for good. Today only three shops remain, including the flagship Sun Motoyama in Tokyo's Ginza district. But Motoyama's love of good aesthetics is strong and lives on: Visit any of his remaining design havens and you'll find Persian carpets, European furniture, antique jewelry and designer clothing — all handpicked by the man himself.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Sep 23, 2010
Language teacher Kae Minami
Kae Minami, 32, is a bilingual language teacher. For the past seven years, she has had an outstanding record as a top Japanese juku sensei (prep school teacher). Her foreign students start out with virtually no knowledge of Japanese and almost all of them pass their Japanese university entrance exams, usually within one year of studying. And they are going places: In 2010, one-third of them got into ichi-ryu (top-tier) universities, such as the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Keio University, and all others have made it to very respectable second-tier universities. Minami loves learning as much as she does teaching. Since getting her master's degree in comparative culture from Sophia University, she's been on a roll, collecting certificates in education. But her real strength is time management: Not only does she teach Japanese during the day and English at night, but on the weekends she helps bring breaking news to Japanese audiences as the coordinator of a TVT Japan KK simultaneous interpreters' newsroom, which covers the BBC World News. Oh, and she's a translator, too.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Sep 9, 2010
Endocrine surgeon Dr. Koichi Ito
Dr. Koichi Ito, 52, is an endocrine surgeon and the best-known and most sought-after Japanese authority on the management of thyroid diseases. He is also the third-generation owner of Ito Hospital, ranked as Japan's most progressive thyroid-care medical center. Physicians all over Japan refer their patients to Ito Hospital in Tokyo's Omotesando for its world-class care. In 2009, out of the 277,471 outpatients, 10,000 were referrals. The workload here is heavy: On an average day, the 20 physicians and 18 nurses on duty might see 1,000 to 1,400 outpatients. Yet a visit to Ito Hospital is not a painful experience. While the staff work with lightning speed, supported by an efficient computer system, they are renowned for their kindness, and surely much of this must be down to three generations of the Ito family's humane attitude toward patients.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Aug 12, 2010
Chef Pierre Gagnaire
Pierre Gagnaire is one of the world's most famous chefs, whose Michelin three-star cuisine has been dazzling diners around the globe for decades. Gagnaire's masterpieces earned him his first Michelin star in 1976, and since then food-lovers and more stars have been gravitating his way. Today a total of seven Michelin stars shine over him. Gagnaire, at 60, is full of energy and in constant motion, endlessly moving between his 10 restaurants around the world, including one in Tokyo's ANA InterContinental Hotel. Guests at every Pierre Gagnaire restaurant are treated like royalty: They enjoy beautiful decor, magnificent cooking and impeccable service. It's the dishes themselves, however, that are the biggest stars in Gagnaire's galaxy — full of great stories, every bite has a punch line and every plate has a happy ending.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jul 22, 2010
Pharmacist Masaaki Goto
Masaaki Goto, 83, runs a tiny pharmacy in Tokyo. Japan has the highest number of prescriptions per capita in the world and, after the United States, it is the world's second largest pharmaceutical market. There are about 50,000 community pharmacies in the country, and large drug stores and convenience stores also sell medicine. About 15 percent of the world's population consumes approximately 95 percent of all pharmaceuticals, half of which is purchased in the U.S. and 20 percent of which is bought in Japan. It's no wonder that Japanese universities produce the most pharmacy graduates per head of population per year in the world. And that, coming after their U.S. counterparts, they are the second-highest-paid pharmacists in the world. Goto, however, is not one of them: He began helping his father in the pharmacy as a child and by age 19, in 1946, he was working fulltime. Too busy to go to university, in 1949 he got the basic pharmacist license that allows him to sell over-the-counter drugs, but not prescription medicine. Still, Goto is familiar with just about every common ailment and knows how to fix it. Neighbors stop by daily for a genki (energy) drink and a quick chat, which usually fixes whatever might be bothering them. Not much is sold here, but Goto doesn't mind — as long as everyone's healthy, he's happy.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jul 8, 2010
The Dalai Lama
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, 75, is respected by the Tibetan people as their temporal and spiritual leader. At age 2, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion and they embody wisdom, contentment, forgiveness and self-discipline. There's plenty to forgive: the brutal Chinese invasion of Tibet by Mao Zedong's People's Liberation Army in 1949 and the continuing oppression of the Tibetan people. So far over 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed and 6,000 monasteries destroyed. The violence is still ongoing. Forced to flee the mayhem in 1959, the Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India. For his message of peace and compassion, he has been presented with countless awards, including the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign for the liberation of Tibet.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jun 24, 2010
Home helper Takanori Kato
Takanori Kato, at age 68, is in his first year as a home helper in Tokyo's Chuo Ward. Last December, he graduated from a 4-month nursing course and immediately got a job at a nursing home. Since then, he's been learning the ropes of lifting the spirits of bedridden patients while taking care of their physical needs. Kato loves working: From age 19 to 60, he was a printing engineer for a newspaper; from 60 to 65, a quality controller at an ink company; and from 65 to 67, a database administrator. It was while working at this last job that Kato suddenly realized that he wanted to help the elderly. It was a calling that changed his life: Kato has never been happier and he wants to serve others for as long as he lives, which we hope will be for a few more decades.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jun 10, 2010
Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani
Toru Iwatani, 55, is the designer of Pac-Man, the classic video game that virtually kick-started the world market for the video-gaming industry. Released by Namco in Tokyo on May 22, 1980, Pac-Man made history as the first video game that appealed to both genders and to all age groups. Idea-man Iwatani, programmer Shigeo Funaki and sound and music whiz Toshio Kai developed the yellow dot-eating Pac-Man and the four colorful ghosts into such adorable creatures that kids and adults immediately ate them up. Even today, people around the world still love the game. When Google uploaded its Pac-Man Doodle to celebrate its 30th birthday on May 21, an estimated 505 million people played it within 24 hours. Clearly the leader of the "pac," Pac-Man has been mentioned several times in the "Guinness World Records" including being listed as the Most Successful Coin-Operated Game in 2005. Last Thursday, Iwatani attended a special ceremony to pick up his 2005 Guinness World Record certificate at the NLGD Festival of Games in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Since 2007, Iwatani has been a professor in the Department of Games at Tokyo Polytechnic University, where he's playing with the idea of the "win-win" situation and showing students that making people happy is what games and life are all about.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 27, 2010
Geisha Chikako Pari
Chikako Pari, whose stage name is Ichizuru, is the last geisha, also known as geiko, of a small town in Kyoto Prefecture. Her unusual last name, Pari — written in kanji — refers to the city of Paris and her French ancestry, although the details of her French great-grandfather's life were never revealed to her. Pari's happy childhood came to an abrupt end at age 12, when she was sold to a geisha house to pay off her father's debts. Though thrown into a vicious cycle of suffering and drama, both in her private life and as an entertainer, the ravishing and exotic Ichizuru managed to turn her situation into art and laughter. Today, she has plenty to smile about: She recently married a police officer who stole her heart 43 years ago, and the couple are still captivated by each other's charms.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 13, 2010
Antique dealer Kunihiro Iida
Antique dealer Kunihiro Iida, 66, specializes in tea ceremony utensils. His tiny corner shop, Iidakojitsudo, is just 500 meters from Tokyo Station's Yaesu side, in the historical district of Kyobashi. Built in 1971 by the famed carpenter Kisaburo Fujii — who studied under Ogi Rodo, the grandmaster of sukiya architecture typical of traditional Japanese teahouses — Iidakojitsudo's building stands on legendary ground. It was here, in Iida's father-in-law's house, that Maeda Nansai (1880 — 1956), the famous Edo craftsman, created his sashimono masterpieces: furniture and objects with mortise and tenon joinery. Iida is such a perfect fit for this shop, so saturated in the atmosphere of the past and frequented by legendary figures, that he himself is becoming a personality. Acclaimed as a walking-talking history book, other antique dealers often turn to Iida in their search for knowledge and the true sense of wabi-sabi.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 22, 2010
Meiji delivery people Masayoshi and Haruko Yoshikawa
Masayoshi and Haruko Yoshikawa (79 and 73) deliver milk and yogurt to homes in Tokyo's shitamachi (downtown). Every morning, except Sundays, the two make their rounds carrying dozens of old-fashioned, small glass bottles of Meiji milk to their faithful customers, many of whom have been drinking it daily from the time when Masayoshi was a toddler delivering with his father. While Masayoshi hops on and off his bicycle in front of apartment buildings, Haruko zigzags on foot from one alley to the next, dodging plants, cats and parked bicycles, as the two take away empty milk bottles from boxes placed outside entrance doors and leave fresh ones behind. With bottles clinking in sync, they circle the neighborhood, delivering a healthy dose of dairy calm for everyone.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 8, 2010
Taxi driver Shahidul Islam Khan
Shahidul Islam Khan, 40, is a cab driver at Royal Limousine in Tokyo. Born in Bangladesh, Khan moved to Japan in 1994 and ran a successful import business until 2008 when the economic downturn forced him to close shop and start driving instead. In the notoriously difficult Japanese cab system, Khan is special: Alongside a few Chinese and Koreans, he is one of very few foreigners driving cabs in Japan. Khan has always loved driving and now that he has managed to turn his hobby into a living, he can't stop smiling. As he says himself, "All roads lead to a new ride and another adventure," and, of course, to Mecca, where he hopes to take his whole family very soon.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Mar 25, 2010
Nail artist Chieko Ishijima
Chieko Ishijima, 25, is the manager of Brilliant Nail Shibuya, a salon next door to the Marui and Seibu department stores, smack in the middle of one of Tokyo's hubs of young fashion. She quickly painted and sculpted her way to the top of the highly competitive nail-art industry with intricately layered designs incorporating semi-precious stones and super-cute designs made from acrylic. Once on a customer's fingers or toes, her miniature flowers, bows and anime characters are works of art that speak for themselves. Ishijima herself says she just loves being face to face with customers and adorning their nails with some of her handiwork.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Feb 25, 2010
Albion Art President Kazumi Arikawa
Kazumi Arikawa, 57, is the president of the Albion Art Co. Ltd. in Tokyo. Arikawa is one of the world's top dealers and collectors of historical jewelry, from the Greco-Roman era to the Art Deco period. He specializes in tiaras and cameos of European monarchs, and jewels that adorned historical figures. The cameo that Napoleon I carried with him to his exile on the island of St. Helena in 1815, and the Diadem of Princess Marie Bonaparte, created by Cartier, are just the type of pieces that Arikawa falls in love with. And once that happens, he doesn't rest until he gets his hands on them. His formidable collection is frequently on display in museums around the world. In 2007 he was the biggest lender of jewels for the "Brilliant Europe: Jewels from European Courts" exhibition in Brussels, preceding even the Louvre Museum in Paris. And this January, he is again the top lender for the "Pearls" exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. For his contribution to preserving jewelry by historic French houses, such as Chaumet, Boucheron, Cartier, Mauboussin and Mellerio, in March 2007 he received the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Feb 11, 2010
Rights activist Chiyoko Tanaka
Chiyoko Tanaka, 81, is a volunteer lobbyist for the rights of disabled people in Japan. For the past 49 years, together with her daughter, Mariko, she has been working tirelessly to ensure that all people — regardless of the nature of their disabilities — have equal rights in education, housing, work opportunities and lifestyle choices. Tanaka and her husband, Kenji, love being parents and the family of three are often on the move, traveling around Japan by local trains and boats.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on