Sake Archives 2003

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Hosoya Enterprises Plays with Fireworks
As a result, a singed work coat and hands darkened with carbon are standard in this family business, started by Joji's grandfather's grandfather nearly 100 years ago. But such byproducts of the work are no secret; there is a family saying that has been passed down through the ages which insists that one must first wash their face with fire in order to become a hanabishi.

September 15, 2003

Keeping the Tradition: Brewing Koshigoi Yoshino Sake
First, the random spider webs are parted from between the branches and an offering of rice is carefully placed inside the shrine's wood gate. "Then we gather with the workers to pray for good sake for the year," says Shinichi Yoshino, the soon-to-be heir to the family-run brewery Koshigoi Yoshino Shuzo, located an hour and a half by train from Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture.

August 31, 2003

Yakatabune Tradition: From Samurai to Salaryman
Mano remembers one young passenger, a new-hire in his early twenties, who was being encouraged repeatedly by his boss to take the plunge as the boat circled in front of the man-made peninsula of Odaiba . "I warned him not to do it, but while I was back in the galley tending to the propane stove...We rescued him, but I was so mad. We have to keep watch all the time."

August 25, 2003

Hanshin Tigers Prowling for the Pennant
Preparations are being made, supplies readied, and safety measures taken in anticipation of the explosion of mayhem, the uncontrollable mobs that will take to the city's streets as a result of something that hasn't happened since 1985: the clinching of the Central League pennant by the beloved Hanshin Tigers.

August 19, 2003

Tokyo Hostess Interview Series (Part VII)
To be sure, she did see her share of gifts (western clothes and even a car), and she fondly recalls buying a piano and television with some of her wages during her early days. Marriage proposals, too, were common offerings.

July 31, 2003

To Puff in Peace: Japan Tobacco Adds Style
The sleek silver "SmoCar" sits in the center of the Otemachi financial district in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. It is a converted camping trailer - which sells tobacco paraphernalia and offers a small lounge area - concocted by Japan's tobacco behemoth, JT ( Japan Tobacco Inc.), as a refuge for smokers threatened by the ward's recent ban on outdoor smoking.

July 25, 2003

Dr. Strangelove, His Bombs and Blondes
I first met the man I came to know as Strangelove at Charleston's in Roppongi. It was early evening on January 20, 1986, a memorable day because it was the same day I enrolled in Japanese school. But more remarkable in that from that point on I could never stop wondering if the man I'd just met was sometime going to set the world on fire.

July 12, 2003

From Crime to Christ: Former Yakuza Sees the Light
"My tattoos and missing pinkies are my handicap," he says from his office in between services on a recent Sunday. "I always tried to hide that fact. However, I stopped hiding it after I became Christian. [Before] I led a life of lies. But after I met Jesus and came to know the Lord, I wanted to live with my true self." Now he uses his past as the ultimate icebreaker, bringing people of all walks of life to fill the roughly 100 foldable seats in his church. Here, they find a smiling man of confidence, a sharply dressed example of a life that has made a turn for the better.

June 30, 2003

Pop Goes the Dream: A J-Pop Diary
Fully naked early one morning, she swam freely - and unseen - in the pool of her Los Angeles apartment complex. This young woman from Sapporo had never felt such freedom in her life, let alone in her new career as a Japanese pop singer.

June 24, 2003

Dubbing Godzilla: All in a Day's Work
"You can't go wrong with a suit," explains Rogelio Kahlon of the rather formal wear he selected on his first day of spring training in Florida as interpreter for Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees.

June 8, 2003

Japan's Animators: On the Cutting Room Floor?
Since it can almost never be a position of great recognition, an animator enters the anime field because of a love of drawing - a dream of adding dashes of hundreds of colors and lines for storylines that unfold in surreal settings of fantasy. For Oshima, that was his reason for entering the animation fray 28 years ago.

May 31, 2003

Nagano Rice Farmers Plant for Piece of Mind
Cascading down the steep hillsides that comprise the village of Yasakamura in Nagano Prefecture are numerous other rectangle-shaped black reflecting pools of mud cut horizontally into the land. Satchels are slung over shoulders as farmers wade shin-deep in the muck, planting seedlings that will eventually turn to 80-centimeter high rice stalks.

May 18, 2003

Tsukiji Fish Wholesalers Under the Knife
His stall at the Tsukiji Fish Market on the banks of the Sumida River is surrounded with steel trays swimming with small shrimp of a half-dozen varieties. Crustaceans are his business, he says. And Katsumi's business has been going rather well; his customers are primarily posh Tokyo restaurants. But Katsumi and his crustaceans are becoming a rarity in Tsukiji.

May 8, 2003

Assemblyline Gospel: Japan's Foreign Wedding Pastors
Prior religious training for the role of wedding pastor is usually nil. Prospective pastors with reasonable Japanese skills can be trying on their robe inside of two weeks after studying a ceremony script and observing a few real weddings. Though the language of the ceremonies is usually Japanese, the scripts are in romanji (roman letters) to allow for easier pronunciation.

April 30, 2003

Wado-Ryu Karate Founding Family Fights On
Even though injuries in karate are typically broken front teeth and noses, this incident wasn't significant for its severity - there isn't even a scar today - but rather the lesson: maintaining composure and eliminating fear at all times is vital in the martial arts.

April 24, 2003

Wakamaru Makes the Robot Dream a Reality
Promotional videos show Wakamaru gliding freely on "barrier-free" carpets and wood floors, and not tatami. Nakajima admits that Wakamaru's wheels do tend to tear the centuries-old woven Japanese home interior hallmark but points out that Western-style flooring is slowly becoming the preferred option in new Japanese apartments . "Wakamaru really is then for those thinking in terms of the future," he laughs.

April 10, 2003

Fads Fuel Cosplay Boom
Resting on a wall rack are two different kinds of medieval-era swords; one is of plastic, the other of darkened wood. Just across the aisle hang olive officer uniforms with red trim. Beyond them in the next row are pink nurse outfits carefully wrapped in plastic and complete with matching headpieces.

March 31, 2003

Brand Name Fakes Follow the Fashion
The ball is one of dozens of examples of originals and fakes - handbags, wallets, key rings, and watches - spread out over a table. From this selection, determining the real thing from a copy is tough, even for experts trained in the field. Zippers, stitch patterns, buckles, tags, labels, and logos match their counterparts nearly exactly. "Even I can't tell the difference," Matsuyama admits.

March 21, 2003

That's Where the Money Is: Japan's ATM Robberies
After all, the destruction of an atm with an excavator is not exactly a sound of silence. And in these times of economic despair, the demolition of one and subsequent pillaging of its contents is getting to be the easiest way to get one's hands on some cash - and fast.

March 6, 2003

Manga Artist Interview Series (Part III)
Her manga career is a relatively recent venture, beginning six years ago after a friend suggested she put her skills gained from studying toward drawing manga. She is now working on a feature for the magazine Dejiru that will profile the complications a mother faces in dealing with a soon-to-be-married daughter.

February 26, 2003

New Breed Taxi Drivers Emerge in Japan
What came next though surprised even this 4-year veteran of Tokyo's streets: A pair of rather muscular arms appeared from around the back of either side of his seat, massaging his chest. With one nervous eye on the road and the other peering into the rearview mirror, Yoshida then realized that she was instead a he.

February 16, 2003

Old Guard Taxi Industry Finds Tough Times in Japan
On any given day in Kanagawa Prefecture's city of Fujisawa, multiple lines of customer-seeking taxis - some exceeding 50 cars - snake away from both sides of the main train station and on down side streets. In between inching forward small increments as each passenger is picked up at the front, drivers can be seen slugging down canned coffee, reading newspapers, or jotting down notes in logbooks.

February 9, 2003

Manga Artist Interview Series (Part II)
Like most artists, Oshima has a trademark, or signature, for which he can be easily identified by his devotees: women with extremely large, round breasts. To be a little more specific, Oshima's rendering of the female mammary carriage usually takes the form of a pair of gravity-defying Christmas tree bulbs on steroids.

January 31, 2003

Tokyo's Sagacho Says Sayonara
"I think the old nature of the building made it more effective to the visitor," explains Taro Nasu, head of Taro Nasu Gallery , one of four galleries exhibiting at its closing. "The building had a special atmosphere, which would take the visitor beyond the time when they shared the space with art there."

January 24, 2003

Tokyo Hostess Interview Series (Part VI)
During the course of the year, Mayu Orihara might find herself at a shrine praying that the companies employing her hostess club's customers will not go out of business. This will hopefully ensure continued patronage to her club, and, as a result, an increased chance that it will stay in business.

January 14, 2003

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