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Judit Kawaguchi
For Judit Kawaguchi's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 27, 2008
Osamu Miyawaki
Osamu Miyawaki 80, is the founder of Kaiyodo, a world-famous maker of collectable figures and tiny statues that are the epitome of Japanese monozukuri ("making things," signifying superb manufacturing). Kaiyodo's super-deformed characters, many from manga and anime, are easily recognizable for their exaggerated features, vivid colors and incredibly accurate details. Miyawaki raised the level of omake, the tiny giveaway toys that come with sweets and soft drinks, from things that few kids ever wanted to high-quality works of art that adults collect. He was also the first to credit his artists, making them stars in their own genre: Shinobu Matsumura is famous for animals, Kazunari Araki for dinosaurs, Katsuhisa Yamaguchi for his Revoltech series of robots and Bome for his sexy figurines, including the one that he did for the artist Takashi Murakami, "Miss Ko²."
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 13, 2008
Ultraman creator Kazuho Mitsuta
Mitsuta, aged 70, is one of the creators of the Ultraman series, a science-fiction TV show that was a pioneer of the genre with its wildly imaginative mix of special effects with live action that brought to life hundreds of one-of-a-kind kaijus (monsters). Having produced and directed Ultraman for 44 years, Mitsuta still feels connected with his mentor, the late Eiji Tsuburaya, the father of tokusatsu (special-effects) entertainment who created the visuals for "Godzilla" in 1954 and produced Ultra Q, the predecessor of the Ultraman Series. Huge hits among children and adults for over four decades, the stories for the series depict overpowered humans fighting undefatigable monsters until the 40-meter tall outer-space hero Ultraman comes to save the day. The newest Ultraman movie, "Daikessen! Cho Urutora 8 Kyodai (Superior 8 Ultraman Brothers)" will hit Japanese theaters this September.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 29, 2008
Yasujiro Tanaka
Yasujiro Tanaka, aged 65, is a turnaround expert and volunteer guide in the city of Nagasaki, in Kyushu, where walking is often the only form of transportation. Born and raised in this beautiful port city famous for its steep hills and the winding steps that weave through its houses, Tanaka has always been passionate about his hometown. During his 35 years working as a bookkeeper at the Nagasaki Aquarium, he felt his main job was to save the place from going dry. With his coworkers he helped to keep the aquarium open by bringing in the crowds to events they designed such as penguin parades and character shows. Although not much of a cook, he turned a French restaurant into a thriving beer hall to the cheers of everyone in town. An expert on all things Nagasaki, it is Tanaka's contagious energy and positive view on life that make him such a great person to follow around.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 8, 2008
Tokkotai survivor Hideo Suzuki
Eighty-five-year-old Hideo Suzuki is a reluctant survivor. A former tokkotai (Special Forces Unit) member of the Jinrai Butai (Thunder Gods Corps), Suzuki volunteered to be the pilot of an Ohka, a manned rocket-powered aircraft, during World War II. For sailors on U.S. warships in the Pacific, the Ohka was the most feared suicide bomber. Suzuki became an Ohka pilot because he was convinced that the only way to quickly end the war (called the Pacific War in Japan) was to cause massive damage to U.S. military targets. His hope was that news of such attacks would enrage the American public, triggering antiwar demonstrations in the United States that would lead to the end of the war and save the lives of Japanese citizens as well as U.S. militarymen. Before Suzuki could fly on a mission, though, the war ended. Feeling great shame for having survived, he decided to honor his comrades by living long and dedicating himself to rebuilding Japan. Still passionate in his opinion about the war and its results, he keeps his fellow soldiers' memory alive, often visiting Yasukuni Shrine.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jan 29, 2008
Patricia Field
Patricia Field, whose boutique in New York City has been an inspiration for designers since opening in 1966, achieved worldwide fame dressing the characters for the HBO TV series "Sex and the City" and for the 2006 film "The Devil Wears Prada." The 65-year-old Field is an Academy Award-nominated, two-time Emmy Award-winning costume designer and stylist whose love of the Japanese aesthetic, attention to detail and fashion sense has been bringing her to Tokyo since the 1980s. She was recently in Japan to promote a collaboration with hair stylist Orlando Pita and J-pop superstar Namie Amuro on Vidal Sassoon Japan's "Fashion, Music, Vidal Sassoon" campaign. Always relaxed, Field prefers wearing jeans and just about anything from Shibuya's 109 department store, a version of which she dreams of opening in New York.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jan 8, 2008
Fashion pioneer Hanae Mori
Hanae Mori is one of the world's most celebrated fashion designers. A queen of style in France and in Japan, both of whose countries' governments have awarded her their highest cultural honors.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Dec 25, 2007
Natsuki Maeda
Shop clerk Natsuki Maeda, 19, is a charismatic fashion leader in Tokyo's world-famous Shibuya 109 building, the epicenter of cool threads for girls and for women who, regardless of their age, would like to look as young as they feel. Working in one of the 100 shops here is synonymous with celebrity status, as sales staff don't just sell clothes at 109 -- they create trends that are followed by millions, not only in Japan but all over Asia and beyond. All through high school, Maeda adored the clothes at baby Shoop, a brand known for its sexy hip-hop B-girl style. Now, having gotten a job at its 109 shop six months ago, she feels like she's in a dream that she has no desire to wake up from.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Dec 11, 2007
Tamegoro Sudo
Tamegoro Sudo, 50, is a movie producer and actor whose many friends in Tokyo's downtown Asakusa area provide him with the hilarious characters and plots in his movies. His five "Dekotora no Shu (Shu, the Dekotora Man)" movies star his favorite decorated trucks and his buddies, actors Sho Aikawa and Shingo Yanagisawa, while his latest feature film, "Enko Ereji (Asakusa Elegy)," shines the spotlight on Asakusa's young. A self-appointed ambassador for this old Tokyo neighborhood, in 2006 he created the Taito Shitamachi Film Festival to attract more people to the area. He is a nandemoyasan, a man who does any job that is not illegal to feed his moviemaking habit, including baking bread, selling tuna and bananas and organizing events where the popular Power Ranger characters entertain children. Before he became an independent filmmaker in 2000, Sudo played in over 1,000 movies in which he specialized in yakuza (the Japanese mafia) and bosozoku (bike gang) roles -- in real life, though, he is as sweet as the koppepan (soft bread rolls) he bakes.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Sep 25, 2007
Nobuaki Kakuda
Nobuaki Kakuda, 46, is a karate fighter with the Seido Kaikan organization and the executive producer of K1, the Japanese sport that matches up practitioners of a variety of martial arts, such as karate, kickboxing, kung fu, tae kwan do and boxing. One of the world's strongest fighters, Kakuda is in the 2001 and 2002 Guinness Book of World Records for breaking 27, and later 33, baseball bats within 1 minute, using only his right leg and super concentration. Although in the ring it was his punches that spoke volumes, in person he tells eloquent tales in fluent English and French. He also speaks Thai and Korean. Kakuda is a licensed high-school English teacher, an accomplished actor, singer and dancer of the tango and rumba who considers his memory his strongest point and credits his wife and two children for all his strength.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Sep 11, 2007
Toru Otsuka
Toru Otsuka, 67, is the president of Live Coffee, a coffee importer and roaster known for selling the best beans for the least dough. Otsuka is a treasure hunter: he handpicks only the highest quality from small growers around the globe, and considers his best finds the people who work with him. His blends are as original as the man himself, and his fans and employees think he should be packaged and sold as a model president. That he has opened six coffee shops and sold over 20 franchises in Japan is accidental, as is the fact that world leaders will be sipping Live Coffee's brews at the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit to be held at the lakeside Windsor Hotel Toya in July 2008. Hopefully they will wake up, smell the coffee, and resolve that fair trade and kindness should rule the world, not greed.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Aug 28, 2007
Shori and Kazumi Tanaka
Shori and Kazumi Tanaka might be the most well-known couple on the nightclub scene in Tokyo's famed Ginza district. Each night for the last 51 years, 73-year-old Shori rushed from club to club to entertain as a bilingual singer while Kazumi, 54, was sitting pretty as one of Ginza's top hostesses. Since their marriage 32 years ago, the two have been moving together as one, day and night, in business and in private, with only sleep parting them. Their small bar, Yuki, opened 5 years ago, is filled with regulars, many of whom have been fans of the couple for decades.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Aug 14, 2007
Sumiko Sakamoto
Sumiko Sakamoto, 70, is a singer and award-winning actress whose heartfelt performances have made her a favorite of the late film director Shohei Imamura. Imamura cast her in three of his films, among them "The Ballad of Narayama," winner of the 1983 Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, in which her brilliant portrayal of an elderly mother not only earned her a kiss from Orson Welles, but also the Japanese Best Actress Award from Nihon Academy. This year she celebrates her 50th anniversary in show business, but the role and performance she is happiest with is that of being a wife and mother who is so full of love that she thinks nobody can compete with her on the homefront. A believer that children are gifts that must be cherished, for the past 14 years she has devoted most of her time to running the Seibo Nursery and Kindergarten in Kumamoto, Kyushu.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jul 24, 2007
Hiroko Tsunoda-Shimizu
Hiroko Tsunoda-Shimizu, age 46, is director of the Department of Radiology at St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo, where she works with a team of 15 other doctors and 50 radiology technologists diagnosing and trying to eradicate various types of diseases. Tsunoda-Shimizu has been researching breast cancer since 1990 and specializes in mammograms and ultrasounds as a diagnostic radiologist at the Breast Center in St. Luke's. But while she loves decoding medical photos of her patients, she has no explanation for the mysteries of love that have kept her marriage picture-perfect for the last 19 years.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jul 10, 2007
Nobuo Hara
Nobuo Hara, 80, is the leader of Nobuo Hara and His Sharps and Flats, a 17-member big band formed in 1951 that helped to make jazz popular in Japan after World War II. Their sweet rhythms, which took the country by storm, have not lost any of their swing, and even today they keep audiences mesmerized with their hot live shows. Besides taking his band abroad regularly since their first overseas gig at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1967, Hara has also played with so many stars that he could easily form his own galaxy (one that would not only shine the brightest but sound the best). His playing partners have included Quincy Jones, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Jr., Perry Como, Henry Mancini, Silvie Vartan, Nat King Cole, Yves Montand, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, the list goes on and on...
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Jun 26, 2007
Minoru Inaba
Minoru Inaba, 63, is the director of the Meijijingu Shiseikan Dojo, a martial arts facility located in Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. He is a master of budo, an ancient Japanese fighting style that taught samurai to be versatile and supposedly invincible. Learning budo requires training in a myriad of martial arts, such as judo, jujitsu (judo's ancient form), aikido, sumo, kendo, iaido (the art of drawing a sword), kenjutsu (fighting with a sword), yari (handling a spear), and Japanese-style swimming. On top of all that, Inaba is also an expert in Kashima Shinryu, a 500-year-old martial art that focuses on the use of swords and spears. Besides teaching students of over 20 nationalities, he is also focusing his energy on how to revive the Shinto religion.
Japan Times
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Jun 12, 2007
Horiyoshi III
Horiyoshi III is revered by tattoo enthusiasts as possibly the world's greatest horishi, or full-body tattoo artist. (Horimono are tattoos done purely for fun, while irezumi are tattoos that mark criminals.) Friendly and too cool for words, the 61-year-old loves digging his needle into people — he definitely gets under their skin while doing his beautiful works. Although Horiyoshi considers the human body as his canvas, he has published 10 books of artwork on both paper and skin. His latest collection of drawings, "36 Ghosts," arrived in bookstores this month.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 22, 2007
Haruko Iino
Haruko "Big Momma" Iino, an independent public relations consultant, became one of Japan's first female advertising account executives back in the 1980s. Even before working at advertising agencies Chuo Senko and Dentsu Eye, the now 63-year-old Iino had understood the potential of the luxury fashion market and ultimately created phenomenally successful advertising campaigns for Ferragamo, Loewe, Bally, Givenchy, Porsche, BMW, and the like that helped generate the all-consuming brand boom that has taken over Japan. Having retired at age 60, she continues to take on advertising projects that make a difference to both consumers and herself, not in terms of profit margin but happiness quota. She says she has already received more than her fair share of bliss with the two daughters whom she raised alone and is still close to.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
May 8, 2007
Naoki Sakai
Naoki Sakai, 60, is a designer whose revolutionary ideas have made him an industry powerhouse. After designing Nissan's Be-1, the vehicle that in the late 1980s started the round-and-cute car boom, Sakai came up with concepts for three more popular cars from Nissan — the PAO, Figaro and Rasheen — as well as the SW-1 motorbike for Suzuki and the model for Toyota's Will concept car. Not only does he work with the auto industry, he's helped develop Olympus' O-Product, the camera that made the aluminium body a world standard; mobile phones for au by KDDI; and sofas for Cassina. As CEO of the design studio Water Group, he regularly nurtures great designers and is happiest when they are ready to leave the nest.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 24, 2007
Yuji Sato
Marine, a 5-and-a-half year-old black Labrador retriever, just might be one of the world's most unexpected heroines in the fight against cancer. Marine's nose is capable of detecting 18 different types of cancer on a person's breath and has already been mechanically replicated as a sensor the size of a mobile phone to detect breast cancer. The manufacturer, Seems Inc., is hoping to have the product on the market within six months and for under 10,000 yen. Marine's supersensitive nose was discovered by her owner, Yuji Sato, 60, whose adoration for the dog opened his eyes to her incredible potential. Sato's insatiable desire to experiment, matched with Marine's love for him, have resulted in one of the more unusual, and fun-loving, research teams on earth.
Japan Times
COMMUNITY / Our Lives / WORDS TO LIVE BY
Apr 10, 2007
Takashi Yamada
Takashi Yamada, 59, is an official at Shikoku's Kagawa Products Association, a public entity with offices in Takamatsu City's beautiful Ritsurin Park. Yamada promotes the prefecture's arts and products, including its famed bonsai, udon, olives and the artwork of more than 100 local artisans. An enthusiastic baseball fan, he loves the Hanshin Tigers, Ichiro Suzuki and straight talkers who can throw him a curveball.

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