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Free number 32 - June 2015

All the latest news & exclusive articles on today’s Japan

Architecture

Welcome home ! Jérémie Souteyrat for Zoom Japan


news

It is no exaggeration to say that Western culture is fascinated by Japanese architecture. We recognize that Japanese architects’ designs are not only bold and daring but also take into account those who who will use and enjoy their buildings. Without a doubt, this may be why Japanese architects regularly win some of the most prestigious awards, such as the Pritzker prize. So this month, Zoom Japan turns the spotlight on Japanese architecture and its main practitioners, who tell us what inspires them and how they imagine the Japan of tomorrow. They are full of great ideas.

ThE EdIToRIal TEam info@zoomjapan.info

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yen. That’s the amount of interest per share that nissan will pay its investors this year, a record high that takes the manufacturer back to pre-crisis levels (In 2007 it was 40 yen). This is great news for Renault, who holds a 43.4% stake in the Japanese’s company.

In ThE EyE of ERIc REchsTEInER shinjuku ward, Tokyo.

© Eric Rechsteiner

EdIToRIal Ambitious

The staff from the Tokyu bus company, like most Japanese employees, can sometimes feel the need to demonstrate that they are unhappy. But it’s not just about how many people you can get out onto the streets, rather how loud and and vigorously you express your discontent. With so many impressive banners, it’s hard not to pay attention to their demands.

debate

has a knack for business

while Japan congratulates itself on listing 23 industrial sites that played an important part in its industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century as national heritage, south Korea is up in arms at the proposal, as they recall that some of these locations were used to exploit forced labour. It’s obvious that this will not be the last time that the past will poison relations between seoul and Tokyo.

A very thorough study of 2.6 million Japanese companies reveals that, across the archipelago, men whose first name is Hiroshi are the most likely to head up their company. There are 45,533 CeOs with the name Hiroshi, like Mikitani Hiroshi, the head of Rakuten. The name Takashi comes in second place with 32,102 - and Kenji with 24,425 takes third place.

hERITagE Historical

TREnd Hiroshi

Cover: Jérémie Souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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This photo taken in the Ebisu district of Tokyo demonstrates that the Japanese capital is far from just a skyscraper heaven.

welcome home! Japanese houses are not just works of art to be stared at in confusion on the pages of coffee-table books.

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hat 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 such a high population density that you’ll have difficulty believing that Japan has been called the “archipelago of the home". You don't have to leave the centre of Tokyo or any other big city, however, to discover that this epithet is true, and amazing houses can be found right there.  They are an integral part of the city, more so than in some European capitals, where owning a house is only achieved with a great deal of effort or a fat wallet. This is not a new trend in Japan; as far back as 1937, the German architect Bruno Taut was interested enough to write about it in his milestone book: Houses and People of Japan (English translation out of print).  In this major reference work, Taut endeavoured to give his readers the opportunity to discover local culture 4 zOOM JApAn number 32 june 2015

through houses, as he recognized that they were homes for people first and foremost, rather than just works of art, although these famous "Japanese houses" are often presented as such in the glossy pages of beautiful books. Shown off in the best possible light by talented photographers, they appear like still-life paintings you might see while visiting a museum on a rainy day. Life is absent, despite the fact that these houses were designed to be lived in. They represent innumerable examples of how people live in the city, and it is precisely all the different ways they are lived in that demonstrate the skill that went into their design. It is this sense of life and the lived in that we intend to present in this month's feature on Japanese housing and it's architecture. It also coincides with an exhibition about Japan called “the archipelago of houses” taking place between the 24th of June and 7th of September at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris (1 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016, Paris). The Japanese house is much more than just a roof and walls. It is a way of life that has most certainly evolved over time, and began to conform to wes-

tern standards around the start of the 90s. Today, it seems as though there is a return to basics and the desire to create spaces where individuals, who have tended drift apart from one another, can rediscover the pleasure of being together. This need arose after the financial bubble burst, causing widespread insecurity, and was reinforced by the tragic events of the 11th of March 2011. The concept of “Houses for all” (Minna no ie), for which Zoom Japan is one of the sponsors, has brought together many Japanese architects in an attempt to create places “to bring people together” and is an example of this evolution. All the architects we have met for this feature emphasized that this trend will only increase in a country where an ageing population is a big issue. Consequently, Japan can be considered as an architectural laboratory from which other industrialized societies, in the process of experiencing the same phenomenon, can find inspiration or at least learn some lessons. Let’s hope this article can change preconceptions of Japanese architecture somewhat, and that peoples views about it will become less prejudiced.  ODAIRA NAMIHEI


Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

The Kiritoshi House in Chiba designed by Sugawara Daisuke.

From left to right: You can find Komazawa House by Hasegawa Go in Tokyo, but you need to go to Zushi to see the Window House by Yoshimura Yasutaka june 2015 number 32 zOOM JApAn 5


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Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

ExpERIEncE

The capacity to adapt

abroad after finishing my studies in Paris. Back then, I already enjoyed Japanese contemporary literature and cinema, but had limited knowledge of its architects. Two exhibitions in Paris, one on Ando Tadao and another on Shinohara Kazuo, both mostly about private homes, had a huge impact on me and encouraged me to leave. In the early 80s, Ando was becoming known for his concrete houses (a rather despised building material in France) that appeared austere, abstract and inward-looking, although this was nothing like the case for Shinohara. Despite the strange beauty of Shinohara’s houses - some with  slopping floors, made of earth, with underground spaces, or bold formal collages - I did not understand them, although I did not doubt they that had a pertinence that passed me by, masked by their exoticism. My curiosity was piqued, and in other publications I discovered the post-modern and alluring work of Maki Fumihiko. I met him in 1986 when I was a Phd student on a scholarship, and then later as a masters student in the research laboratory he ran at Tokyo University. This was unusual for a French student, but fascinating for me as my interests lay as much in research as in the practical, especially as Maki encouraged his students to enter the many international competitions he was invited to participate in. Besides these opportunities to engage in incredible projects with a fine master, I think I learnt two things: a love for making models and an open mind.  Modelmaking - the art of precision, as I would call it on which we spend many long hours in Japan, helps visualize and communicate ideas. As for an open mind, it became a habit and is mainly about not always considering one solution to be better than another. Indeed, before choosing a certain direction, Maki took into consideration every possibility and never came to a decision until it had been checked visually. The new centre for EFEO in Kyoto was designed by Mikan, the architectural practice to which Manuel Tar- My wife, Kamo Kiwako, and I completed our dits belongs. first projects at Célavi Associates, which we set up in the early 90s. The economic bubble led to Manuel Tardits has lived in the archipelago even today, when choosing to live in the Far East, an excess of construction work, but was also an for many years, and shares his fulfilling but also how architecture is practiced there. What opportunity for young architects to launch themexperiences as an architect there with us.  is an architect’s goal other than to find a harmonious selves. As well as other projects, we had the opbalance between theory and aesthetics, and oversee portunity of working, over a period of ten years, “Does the imagination grow weaker or stronger their translation into the real world with all its on several stages of the renovation of the Frenchwhen it confronts reality ?” Japanese Institute in Tokyo. This building is empetty constraints? My imagination, when confronVictor Selagen ted with the real Japan where I have lived, taught, blematic of Japanese modernity after the Second built and written for more than 30 years, far World War and was designed by one of Le Corhis quotation from the French writer Se- from getting weaker, keeps on growing stronger busier’s famous disciples, Sakakura Junzo. It is a galen, a specialist in orientalism, seems to as the days go by.  meeting between France and Japan, in which I capture admirably the destiny of a foreign I don’t remember precisely when I first thought discovered a number of “characteristics” of the architect in Japan. The aphorism not only describes of coming to Japan. That was in the early 80s, franco-swiss architect that I had previously learned the change of scenery that will be experienced, when I was thinking of getting more experience about while studying history books on modern

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Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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Manuel Tardits in the Kata House he designed with his wife Kamo Kiwako.

architecture, and that I was now able to see with my own eyes. The next stage of my journey into Japan's architecture started unexpectedly in 1995 when we formed the agency Mikan, and continues today. I work as a foursome with my colleagues in the practice: Sogabe Masashi, Takeuchi Masayoshi, and Kamo Kiwako. We are all graduates of TIT (Tokyo Institute of Technology) where one of the long time teachers was… Shinohara. As a team you need to take into account everyone’s ideas, especially if that team is to last in the long term, something that is more rare in Japan than people thane might think, especially in the creative arts where ego is king. Mikan started in 1995 so we could combine our skills in order to participate in a competition set up by NHK, with a view to building its new regional offices in Nagano for the Winter Olympic Games of 1998. The competition, which we won, was exceptional in that it was open to all kinds of architects. Unfortunately, Japan is not the paradise for creators that Westerners often mistakenly think it is. The status of architects is not held in high esteem, and the large consultancies monopolize access to the larger building briefs. Architects who work here will one day find themselves confronted with the cliched idea of “Japaneseness". Connected to the Japanism movement, the term was invented during the second half of

the 19th century, and describes the original cultural shock when Japan and the West (re)discovered each other after two centuries of Japanese isolation. But the notion is skewed, even irritating. Sejima Kazuyo will tell you that she produces Japanese architecture because she is Japanese! No answer could be more to the point. An architect, whether Japanese or not, is an original creator first and foremost. Would you ask a French architect what makes his architecture French? Surely not. For us - for me - above all, it is about finding an appropriate response in a particular cultural, historical and physical context. It is all about which references, materials, proportions and technologies to choose. We pay attention to the direction the wind blows, to the afternoon sun, to the trees, to the seasons as well, but also to function and to the neighbours, to the sound of cicadas as much as to the rumble of the motorway. As creators we are as multisided and complex as all places and people. Once we drew up the plans for a temporary tea pavilion and then built up a sweat alongside some young carpenters, in order to construct it with our own bare hands. It was inspired by the well-known Joan built by Oda Uraku in 1618, set in the mountains above Kobe. More recently we built a new centre for the Far East French School in Kyoto, with a timber structure based on traditional measures of ken/ma, all the while adhering to today’s standards

of economy and sustainability. We also build houses and schools in Tokyo entirely from in concrete and steel. All this makes up our Japanese identity. In the physical context, you cannot forget the city, as Japan is one of the most urbanized countries in the world and Tokyo the largest metropolis on the planet, with 37 million inhabitants. Even if Shinohara’s architecture intrigued me, while leaving me to guess at its elusive logic, I could not accept that this city, my city, so chaotic in appearance, should be devoid of such logic.                  This beautiful quote from Georges Perec continues to strike a chord within me: “ There is nothing inhuman in a city, other than one’s own humanity”. I wrote the book "Tokyo, Portraits and Fictions" (Le Gac Press, 2001) as the culmination of this interest in the urban, alongside what I have observed on numerous work sites and while travelling and moving house, backed up by my long and careful research. Maki, my old master, paid me a very perceptive compliment: “I’m very pleased that you did not try to draw an obvious conclusion from your research,” he told me. To express oneself with clarity, without affirming anything with certainty; to leave the question open ended. Maki has strengthened my belief in creative doubt, or perhaps in the case of an architect that would be "constructive doubt"! MANUEL TARDITS june 2015 number 32 zOOM JApAn 7


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A simple question of balance

Maeda Keisuke champions the ideal of architecture working in harmony with the surrounding landscape

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Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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ID (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 Japanese government. Since then, this studio, based in Fukuyama in Hiroshima prefecture, has received a lot of praise for its approach to architectural design, which is both contemporary and rooted in historic Japanese architecture and its focus on integration with the landscape. “The Western idea of architecture is to shield the space with walls and floors, while Japanese architecture connects to nature,” Maeda says. Like a lot of contemporary Japanese architecture, his geometric shapes fit perfectly into the natural environment as part of it, creating poetic spaces where people can interact with the surrounding landscape. Each one of Maeda’s projects starts with a careful investigation of the topological features of the area and the local flora and fauna, in order to create a natural relationship between the building and its environment. This relationship is defined by the fact that both exist simultaneously. “Rather than connecting the two simply by opening a window in a wall, I think about how to create a structure that exists as one landscape element within the indivisible whole of the environment,” he says. In this sense, the interior functions not as a space cut off from the land by walls, but as an extension of the outside; a living space linked indivisibly to the earth.  Whenever Maeda tackles a new project he values his own intuition. “Architecture is about creating an environment in a certain place, and that’s not something you can do just by drawing up a blueprint,” he says. “The blueprint serves as my basic guide, but I also remain aware of the unique characteristics of the place and value the intuitive decisions I make as I work, because those decisions are what ultimately lead to the creation of a comfortable environment. What I mean by “intuitive decisions”, for instance, are the on-site adjustments to shape and dimensions that I might make to a nursery school approach as I imagine the various scenarios that will take place there: the children and teachers and pregnant women who will use it, the people pushing baby carriages or carrying children, the parents walking along holding hands with their child, the caretakers coming to pick up and drop off kids”. “What I’m aiming for is not to maximize the

Maeda Keisuke’s +node project perfectly illustrates his search for balance with the environment.

convenience and functionality of the space, but rather to create an environment that fills people with a sense of wellbeing and comfort in the casual, everyday moments of their life”. The studio’s close collaboration with contractors and factories is an important part of this process, as it allows Maeda and his team to achieve a high level of precision and expression that in turn is the key to creating a sense of continuity between the exterior and interior spaces. An outstanding example of this approach is +node, a family residence whose upper level terminates in a dramatic cantilever that hovers 10 metres above the ground

and is pierced at the end to allow a tree to grow up through the structure. Many of Maeda’s homes are the product of the overlapping and integration of two levels, one consisting of the cement forming the base of the home and another created from the wood above it, such as the floor and the external walls that act as a bridge to their natural surroundings. In the end, Maeda’s main preoccupation is how best to organize space and reach the optimal balance between function, nature and human relationships. JEAN DEROME


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Long live the community

The reinterpretation of tradition is fundamentally important to the work of Atushi and Mayumi Kawamoto.

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Atsushi says. “In that kind of reinterpretation I think some kind of originality can happen”. While in the West many architects pay great attention to a structure’s outward appearance and the way it fits in with the surrounding buildings, the Kawamotos, like many other Japanese architects, have approached home design from completely the opposite direction. “Instead of turning our eyes outwards to the vastness of space, we prefer to focus inwards in order to achieve serene and subtle living environments that are difficult for Western eyes to appreciate at first glance”. The Kawamotos hold a profound belief in the importance of creating functional homes specifically designed to take into account and satisfy the needs of the residents. “Everything we design is about human activity,” Atsushi says. “We are interested in what people want to do in our buildings”. As far as the social role of architecture is concerned, the Kawamotos think that the critical role of the architect today is not to generate rational structures dependent on economics or policies, but rather to create spaces for daily life that appeal to individual sensibilities. They sum this up in the statement that “Our ultimate aim is to reflect how residential architecture can be tailored to embrace both the needs of the individual and the wider community”. J. D.

Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

tsushi 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 apparent in their approach to architecture. According to the Kawamotos, the most important thing whenever they work on a new project is how to integrate the structure into a particular environment. “Considering each box as a house, the empty spaces in between can be seen as paths or plazas and remind us of a small town enclosed in light,” Atsushi says. “The empty spaces, which affect the distances between people, are intermediate spaces for the residents, as well as elements that connect the interior to the outside”. “Human beings”, Mayumi adds, “are supposed to be able to cope with the natural world around them. Regardless of the place we live in, we should be able to make use of the surrounding environment as it is. Of course, most people want to change nature so they can live comfortably all the time, but we’re not usually able to do that, so we need

to adjust to that particular environment”. Location is also important, because each area has a clear influence on the way a certain architectural style prevails over another. “We are very interested in traditional Japanese architecture,” Atsushi says, “not as an image, but in the basic concept of space. Traditional Japanese architecture does not have thick walls, but many thin walls or layers to control distance from both inside and outside, to protect or to open up. We can choose in which layer to dwell and the different degrees of protection or privacy we want, depending on such things as the season or situation. All this is based on the interrelationship between architecture, nature and people, and these are all aspects that we can reinterpret in a contemporary way”. “One of the characteristics of Japanese architecture is its simplicity. Sometimes it is too minimalistic, but at the same time this kind of simplicity is rooted in traditional Japanese culture. Japanese architecture is also sometimes very conceptual. This can be both a strength and a weakness, as it is often only understood in a limited way”. Their relationship with tradition affects the Kawamotos’ idea of originality. “I think just copying the surface of things is not interesting, but copying the deeper concept, reinterpreting that spirit in a new way or a new shape, is a very creative thing,”

“Instead of looking outwards towards the vastness of space, we prefer to focus inwards,” explain the mA-style architects. june 2015 number 32 zOOM JApAn 9


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sugawara, a connected builder

Keenly aware of the challenges facing our society, Sugawara Daisuke shares his architectural vision with us.

connecting people and their environment is central to a brief. Moreover, we’ve noticed that it’s now local councils and smaller companies, rather than the state or large companies, that are offering contracts, and that they are less likely to be for large urban developments, but rather for smaller buildings, or even renovation work, in the provinces.

Has your perception of architecture changed since the earthquake on the 11th of March 2011? SugAWArA Daisuke: Far from changing the way I think, the 11th of March 2011 has convinced me that I was right. Since the financial bubble burst in the early 90s, I get the impression that architecture has been considered like some kind of game, where you can see competition on the level of form and ideas. In the world of Japanese architecture, my concept differed greatly from the norm. It was more about “creating a building to live in”, something that had nothing to do with the game the others were playing. When it concerns living space, in my opinion, it is essential for architecture to enable people, the inhabitants of this region, to live comfortably. The earthquake has not changed the way I think. On the contrary, it has given me comfort that my approach to architecture is the right one. Among the many challenges that Japan will have to face, the ageing population is one of the biggest. How do you think architecture should respond?  S. D.: One of the difficulties in an ageing population is what is known as “the isolated elderly person”. Living far way from their families and having lost their friends, the possibility of getting out is limited, especially in the case of injury or illness; someone can die at home without anyone noticing. To overcome this problem we should design houses that fit into a local community, and I believe architecture has a role to play. During the period of strong economic growth, people developed a dislike for family and local ties, which led to building places suited to the nuclear family, shut off from the rest of society. However, now that the economy and concerns for superficial things are in retreat, all people, not only the elderly, are experiencing a kind of anxiety that compels them to seek out human contact. The development of social networks like Twitter or Facebook illustrates this further. Consequently, it is now possible to open up the house, or at least a part of it, to wider society or the community, and people, not only the elderly, will be able to build a society in which individuals are able to form connections. In the context of an ageing population, it is a great way to encourage a healthy lifestyle and create relationships between “isolated elderly 10 zOOM JApAn number 32 june 2015

SuGAWArA Daisuke, January 2013.

folk” and the local authorities. Such an approach can be found in the master plan for the Rikuzentakata temporary housing project that I worked on. If you compare the last few decades, does Japan’s difficult economic situation influence your work as an architect? If it does, then in what way? S. D.: As a result of the decline in the population and the economic changes that followed, I get the impression that what is required from an architect is also changing. Until recently, success for an architect was a museum, a theatre, a library or a state commission; what was required was beautiful spaces and impressive style. Today, those kinds of buildings do not answer the needs of a country where the population is decreasing. Most of those buildings were actually built by architects who are now in their sixties.  What is now required of a young architect is not large ambitious buildings, but buildings with more humble dimensions that fit into their surroundings, and represent the region and the local community they are part of. In other words, we have moved to the idea that

What kind of projects are you working on? S. D.: Currently I am working with local developers on a residential project called “The connected House”. It is not about planning one house at a time, but thinking about the space between each of them, to plan communally shared streets and pedestrian routes. In a small town in Akita prefecture, I’m looking into renovating some old houses to turn them into a community coffee shop. The project is not limited to this one specific site, but aims to encourage social interaction by creating connections between this location and the rest of the city. I’m also in charge of creating a brand image for the project to help in its development. Lastly, in Yamanakoko in Yamanashi prefecture, a town where bus use is very high, I am designing a bus-shelter that will enhance the locality and create a connection between the travellers and their surroundings. If you had unlimited technical and financial means, what kind of project would you like to work on?  S. D.: A declining population is not a problem specific to Japan; it concerns all industrial societies. I would like to work on designing new models for regional planning to take this phenomenon on board, so that cities can remain attractive places to live in. Since the country’s modernization and a period of strong economic growth, physical elements such as buildings and cities have increased in size. In a society based on the idea of growth, all technical skills were utilised  to respond to every need, and proved very efficient once they were integrated. Nevertheless, in a society in decline, we found it was easier to modify previous ideas and to reintroduce them on a regional level.  In a society where we produce more than is needed, we should focus on technology that helps produce just what is sufficient, rather than supporting mass production. This question is of great interest to me, but does not only affect Japan. It could become a working model for the rest of the world.  INTERVIEW LED BY O. N.

Jérémie souteyrat for Zoom Japan

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CuLTuRe dVd

More of Oda’s winning formula

The mangaka has supervised the making of One Piece Z. The result reflects his involvement.

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s they are sailing towards the New World, Luffy and his crew save a mysterious person from drowning. He hides behind sunglasses, sports a mechanical arm, and is only referred to as “Z”. The man is in fact a former naval admiral and the leader of the Neo Navy. Harbouring a deep hatred for all pirates, Z wants to obliterate them with the help of the Dyna Rocks, a weapon that is said to be as powerful as the ancient devices of destruction familiar to those who know the One Piece mythos. One Piece Z is the twelfth feature film in the Straw Hat Pirate’s saga, and the second directed by Eiichiro Oda, the series creator, who once again chooses to produce a story that fits into his creative universe perfectly. After the success of Strong World, it was natural for him to take up the challenge of directing again, and he has scored another great success with this new animated feature film that has beaten all box office records. This new instalment could just be considered a minor story in the saga, with Oda not having time to develop the story, as he did in Strong World. This is noticeable in the somewhat familiar story of revenge being sought after defeat by an enemy, as here with Luffy and his crew, but also the fact that Z is closely linked to the different characters in the story, but their interactions do not affect the ongoing storyline of the manga series. As this film is only a sideline to the story in One Piece, there’s no expectation of it advancing the saga, but it will easily find its place alongside

RefeRenCe One piece z by Tatsuya nagamine. Manga entertainment. DVD £14 , Blu-Ray £17.75

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the rest of Oda’s work. For this reason alone the film is interesting and promises to be enjoyable. The introduction sets the tone: we are dealing with a blockbuster that is ambitious, superbly realized and with a strong visual identity. The film opens with Z singing a sad song before unleashing his anger when faced with a defeated navy fleet. Right from the start, a whirlwind of action overwhelms us before any of the heroes even make it onto the scene! Z plays an important role throughout the film, and as it unfolds we learn about his past and what drives him. We discover his connection to the navy and to its most distinguished members, and it is this that makes the film all the more compelling. He’s an authentic and well fleshed out adversary as is so often found in this renowned series. It was also a good idea for Oda not to limit the story to the Straw Hat Pirates themselves, but explore a whole crowd of characters from the universe. For example, the charismatic Aokiji returns to play an important role in this new movie. Although there are other great characters in the Navy, their roles are less developed, but they help the audience find their way through the saga. There are no

holds barred in the fight scenes in One Piece Z; the battles are really impressive visually and the action has been crafted with great care. In the end, it’s not the hero Luffy's battles that are the most astonishing, although they carry more emotional weight; favourites Zoro and Sanji take that honour with two excellent duels that are very accomplished examples of animation. We were literally glued to our seats while they are taking place. This raises the question of a small fault in the film: once again, the minor characters such as Usopp, Nami, Franky, Chopper, Robin and Brook only have secondary roles, although they they all cry out to be given more of the limelight. If there is another criticism, it is the predictable outcome of the final showdown. Of course, the audience is expecting Luffy to win, but for the second time in his big screen outings the Straw Hats’ captain overcomes a fugitive that even the navy and its invincible admiral Kizaru is unable to apprehend. Consequently, watching Luffy triumph in this way is rather annoying if you are familiar with the ongoing story of the series and saw him powerless against characters of ostensibly similar ability such as Akainu. Nevertheless, the twist at the end of the film makes up for this small fiasco by offering us a deeply emotional conclusion that stands out on its own, and restores Z’s image that had proved lacklustre up to this point. One Piece Z is definitively a good movie in the Straw Hat Pirate saga, and Oda Eiichiro's contribution to its cinematic adaptations is, as always, a good one. However, one has to regret that this film is not as inventive as Strong World was and has some faults, such as the lack of originality in Z’s backstory, or the fact that this is always the same characters on the winning side. Nevertheless, it’s one of the best of the One Piece films and great entertainment for all the fans of the series.


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Tokyo Ghoul, a nice surprise

Ishida Sui's first published work is a success. It particularly critiques our prejudices and our rejection of what is different.

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romoted as part of the zombie manga genre, Tokyo Ghoul portrays a type of monster that isn't quite one of of the living dead: a ghoul. This creature comes from Arab folklore and differs from modern zombies that are often associated with biological infection, whereas ghouls are mystical creatures. In the famous tales of The Arabian Nights, ghouls are considered to be demons similar to sirens who appear in the guise of seductive women and devour travellers. This is how we meet the first ghoul in the story, when Lize seduces Ken before having him for her evening meal. Just like zombies, ghouls feast on human flesh, but hunting humans for food is the only trait shared by these two species. Ghouls have their own free will, great intelligence, and are capable of melting into a crowd of mortals. In Tokyo Ghoul, some of these creatures even run a coffee shop (the only human beverage they can stomach) that serves as a meeting place for them and their human partners. These creatures are also said to have the power to paralyse, although this doesn't get mentioned in the manga. Ishida bestows each ghoul with their own particular weapon, known as a Kagune, that manifests in many different terrifying forms, such as a sting, tentacles, or butterfly wings. Unlike other stories where the survival of the human race is under threat, Tokyo Ghoul doesn't allude to a large scale epidemic. On the contrary, ghouls appear sparingly in the series,

RefeRenCe Tokyo Ghoul by Ishida sui, Book 1, VIz Media LLC, £8.99

even though they are present in every district in Tokyo. The adventure starts in a quiet neighbourhood and develops as several powerful ghouls meet together in ever more risky places. Similar to Metamorphosis, Kafka's famous novel where a man wakes up one morning to find himself living in the body of an insect, Ken wakes to find he is trapped in the body of a hybrid being. He finds his monstrous nature unbearable, and his irrational urge to eat human flesh terrifies him. He completely rejects his new nature and tries cling on to his previous life. But of course, it’s quite impossible. Ken’s new life is a descent into hell from the very first step. Nevertheless, once he's reached rock bottom, his eyes are opened to new possibilities; some ghouls are dangerous, but others only wish to live in peace. Even better, some will even help him survive. 

This metamorphosis brings him a new perspective on these creatures, although the rest of mankind continue to view them as a threat. The murderous activities of the ghouls have encouraged men to set up an elite task force to hunt them down. The team is made up of humans with exceptional strength and armed with mysterious weapons to help them complete their mission. Many of these fanatical hunters have seen innocent people perish at the hands of ghouls and would now do anything to avoid any further tragedies. They refuse to imagine that ghouls can have a conscience, as was the case for Ken to begin with. Furthermore, some sadists among the team kill ghouls purely for pleasure, blindly repeating the bloody hunt, so evil is not necessarily just on the side you think it will be. Standing midway between these two of species at war, Ken ends up revising his ideas about ghouls. He also understands that his misfortune  has made him a unique being, perhaps the only one capable of understanding the irresistible, even vital urge, for human flesh, while still maintaining his essential humanity. Meanwhile, his former fellow human beings invent new ways of detecting ghouls and invest more energy into their annihilation, so hastening their eventual eradication. Can Ken be their salvation? Tokyo Ghoul demonstrates that you can still talk about the living dead without employing stereotypes. Ishida addresses issues of otherness and society's misconceptions within a horrific universe  that he portrays with excellent drawing skills (especially as this is his first published work), using very dark inking and the most sinister visual character representation. The ghoul-on-human and human-on-ghoul hunts provide a good dose of action for a well rounded manga. Here's a novel you must try!  ODAIRA NAMIHEI

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eATInG & DRInKInG


eATInG & DRInKInG


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The Tokaido highway starts at Nihonbashi. The wooden bridge that gives the area it's name has disappeared, but this still represents the starting point.

dIscoVERy

In Hiroshige’s footsteps

Several sections of the famous road that links Edo to Kyoto are accessible. We travelled along one of them.

A

meeting place was agreed on: Nihonbashi in Tokyo. Built more than four centuries ago, this bridge, initially made of wood, was the starting point for the main routes travellers had to take to reach Kyoto. The “Japan Bridge” symbolized the starting point of the Tokaido and Nakasendo roads that led to the imperial capital, the first running alongside

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the Pacific Ocean, with the second passing through more mountainous landscape. These two roads were part of the Gokaido, the name given to the five principal routes the shogunate authorities planned and marked out to connect Edo to the rest of the country. The task of uniting the archipelago was difficult to accomplish, and it was important to maintain roads, especially as the mountainous topography made it problematic to travel around. The journey of around 500 kilometres that separated the two cities would take two to three

weeks depending on the weather conditions, and sometimes certain sections were completely inaccessible. Each of these routes had “way stations” where travellers could stop to rest and have some food, although long stays were strictly prohibited. As specified in a 1686 decree: “All travellers will be checked. It is permitted to stop for one night at an inn, but it is forbidden to stay any longer. Everyone, including migrant workers and individuals who behave suspiciously, will be reported”. In other words, tourism was forbidden, despite the surroundinding landscape being


extraordinary, as illustrated in Utagawa Hiroshige’s engravings after his journey along the Tokaido in 1832. In his famous series called the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, the master painter offered an astonishing graphic representation of the mythical road whose origins date back to the 11th century, to all those who have not seen it. With the arrival of railroads at the end of the 19th century, the world changed radically. Since July 1889, the Tokaido route has become synonymous with the railway, and it entered a new era when the Tokaido shinkansen express train between Tokyo and Osaka came into service in October 1964. The journey now takes two hours rather than two weeks, and we hardly have time to enjoy the landscape. You might catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, but most of the stations the train passes through do not have anywhere near the same charm as those alongside the original route. That’s why, on this beautiful early spring morning, we have decided to go back in time to rediscover the joy of the old road, in the manner of the walking tours that are now all the rage in Europe. Instead of taking the route of Santiago de Compostela, we chose to travel along the Tokaido, or at least to follow some of it. Just like travellers before us, we decided to meet up at Nihonbashi. Unfortunately, the wooden bridge has disappeared and was replaced in 1911 by the present-day structure that is almost hidden from view by an elevated motorway. To see what the first bridge looked like, you need to go to the Edo-Tokyo museum where there is a reproduction of part of it. Or if you have the time, go to the Toei studios in Kyoto where they have an accurate copy used for films set in that epoch.  From Nihonbashi it takes just ten minutes on foot to get to Tokyo station to catch a train to leave the capital. The orange and green carriages of the JR Tokaido line are easy to spot. The trip will take around 2 hours and 30 minutes, but only 1 hour 30 minutes if you choose to get the

gabriel Bernard

TRAVeL

The Hiroshige Museum of Tokaido is the only establishment entirely dedicated to the master painter.

shinkansen to Mishima instead, and then take the main line to Yui station - the starting point of our journey on foot. In the Edo era, it took four hours to reach this place. If you haven’t had breakfast, you can buy an ekiben (a lunch box sold in the stations) that you’ll be able to savour while enjoying the view, especially when the scenery improves dramatically after passing through Ofuna station. On catching sight of the majestic shape of Mount Fuji, you’ll know that the train will be arriving soon. Yui station is the second stop after Fuji station, and the starting point of the JR Minobu line, which is also worth a ride. The first walking stage of our journey is about two kilometres to the east. It’s a small detour as our final destina-

tion, Okitsu, is located east of Yui, but the short trek there and back is worthwhile, as it takes you to the former Yui station (Yuishuku), the sixteenth out of fifty-three stations that were once situated the length of the Tokaido. The old waypoint is very pleasant and the old buildings in the style of the period recall a time when travellers were able to stay in one of the thirty two inns in the vicinity. In the park surrounding the old fortress of Yui (Yui honjin koen), you’ll find Miukitei (open 9am to 5pm, except Mondays, entry: 150 yen) where the emperor Meiji once stayed, but it’s the Hiroshige museum (9am to 5pm, closed Mondays, entry: 510 yen) that attracts the most visitors. This is the only establishment with a col-

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TRAVeL

The Satta Pass, as depicted by Hiroshige in his Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.

lection entirely dedicated to the master engraver. Its official name is the Hiroshige Tokaido Museum (Tokaido Hiroshige Bijutsukan), and there are 1,400 works on display here, a great number of which, of course, depict the Tokaido. With the image of all these beautiful pictures in your mind, it is time to take to the road again, back towards Yui station. On your way, you’ll notice the harbour and the cooperative shop where you can buy delicious sakura shrimps, a speciality of the region. However, unless you are properly equipped to keep them fresh, it might be better to eat them in one of the many restaurants you’ll pass on your journey. One of the most hospitable is Kurasawaya (11am to 3pm and 5pm to 9pm, closed on Mondays, call 054-375-2454), just 25 minutes away from Yui station. This delightful eatery can prepare the shrimps in thousands of different ways for just 1,836 yen. If you don’t appreciate shrimps, don’t panic, the sashimi platters are sure to please too. Before taking a well-deserved break, don’t miss out on the Little Museum of Light (Tokaido akari no hakubutsukan) and its incredible lamp collection (open 10am to 3pm, closed Mondays, 500 yen).  Full of energy after a delicious breakfast, continue heading west towards the orchards of mandarin trees. Depending on the season, you can purchase

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TO GeT THeRe

180 years later, the same spectacular view is your reward if you put in a little effort.

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The walking trip described here starts at Yui station on the JR Tokaido line. It will take 2 hours and 30 minutes starting from Tokyo, but it’s possible to reduce this time if you take the shinkansen. This will require a change at Mishima Railway station, but will spare you an hour of travelling, which is not insignificant when you wish to complete the walk in one day. Ideally, it’s best to get there the night before to get to know the local cuisine and have a good night’s rest before the 3 hour and 30 minutes to 4 hour trek that awaits you. On your way back, a stop at Atami or Hakone is also recommended.


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TRAVeL

Fifteen minutes away from Yui station, the Tokaido akari no hakubutsukan is truly enlightening!

bags of mandarins (100 yen) to take with you as you climb up the Satta Pass, so beautifully depicted by Utagawa Hiroshige while on his visit to Yui. The slope is steep, but the spectacular view is well worth it. Opposite you stands Mount Fuji, with an impressive view over the Pacific Ocean. The only drawback is the presence of a motorway a little lower down, but it still doesn’t succeed in spoiling the enjoyment of the scenery. The pine trees that appeared in the famous print by Hiroshige have given way to mandarin trees, and the white sails he drew have disappeared, but you are still bound to be won over by the beauty of the place, just as the master was on his visit. This pass was first opened in 1655, and before then travellers had to follow the coastline and were unable to take advantage of this incredible view where mountain and sea intermingle. At the time, the coast road had a reputation for being dangerous due of its proximity to the waves of the Pacific

Ocean. The opening of the Satta Pass combined the practical and the enjoyable, even though the climb requires some effort. At the end of this long pause to admire the sleeping volcano, listed as a Unesco World heritage site in 2013, the trip continues westwards towards Okitsu where you’ll find a train back to Tokyo. Make sure you leave three quarters of an hour to get there, or a bit longer if you take the time to visit the town itself, notable for the Munakata temple dedicated to one of the principle deities who protects sailors. For the whole length of this long walk, you’ll be following in the footsteps of men and women who have taken this route through the centuries in all weathers. After such exertion, one excellent way to recover is to spend the night in a hot-spring resort near Atami, on the JR Tokaido line, rather than returning straight back to Tokyo. GABRIEL BERNARD

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Profile for A Concept Limited

ZOOM Japan No32  

ZOOM Japan No32  

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