Japan Italy Bridge interviews: KUDEN - Part 1

Japan Italy Bridgeの新しいイニシアチブ『Japan Italy Bridge Interviews』唯一無二の日本企業を紹介企画です。このプロジェクトを皮切り取材はGerbera Design株式会社のCEO佐藤貴浩氏のインタビューです。

デザイン会社のGerbera Designが大成功を収めた「Samurai Mode Jacket」のKickstarterキャンペーンを実行したアパレルブランド「KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO」を運営しています。このキャンペーンは大成功で、資金目標を1000%を超えまして、世界中のさまざまなメディアから多くの注目を集めました。今回、この暴走成功の推進力CEO佐藤貴浩氏に彼の物語、ブランドの未来、そして日伊についてのことを訊きました。彼の感想を聴きましょう。

 

ーー まず、自己紹介と事業内容をお聞かせてください。

こんにちは。佐藤貴浩です。KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO(以下、KUDEN)のDesignerです。Gerbera Design株式会社(以下、Gebera Design)のCEOも勤める経営者の側面もあります。みなさん。よかったらTakと呼んでください。

私が経営しているGerbera Designは一度会社を破産させた経験や長年にわたりゲームや玩具などのエンターテイメント企業での新規事業を立ち上げきた経験を活かして、企業の新規事業の顧問として、事業へのコンサルティングを行いながら、そこで発生するクリエイティブを制作する会社です。

私は離れて暮らす軽度知的障がいと自閉症の息子と将来一緒に働ける事業を作るべく、Gerbera Designの新規事業として、海外へ向けてアパレルブランドのKUDENを立ち上げました。

 

ーー ビジネスを始めるのきっかけは?

私が最初に起業したのが2007年にデザインを受託する会社を設立したのが経営者としての出発点でした。父と母が同時に癌になってしまい、両親の看病をする必要があって、当時大きな玩具メーカーのグループ会社に勤めていた私は、会社を辞めて起業したのが経営者になった切っ掛けです。

その経営していたデザイン会社を、私はハードワークがたたって、倒れてしまい会社を一度畳んでいます。 その時の従業員やお客さまに迷惑をかけて、愛する家族とも離れる事になったダメな経営者でした。

そんな大きな失敗をした私が経営者として再挑戦を決意したのは、離れて暮らす軽度知的障がいで自閉症の息子と、将来一緒に働く場所を作ろうと決意したからです。現在のGerbera Designの経営コンサルティング+クリエイティブの事業では、障害者雇用を産むには適した事業ではないと感じ、そこから、新しい事業を模索する日々が続いていました。

新規事業を模索する中で、これからの時代に望まれている物で、私がデザイナーとして何が出来るか?デザイナーとしてモノを大切に使う。ロングライフデザインを私は好むし、そういうデザインを世に出す事業を始めたいと考えていた時に母親の遺品のキモノをみて、キモノをインスパイアした現代にあったキモノに再定義、再起動したら面白いし、「自分が着たい」と素直に感じたことがSamurai Mode Seriesをデザインした切っ掛けになりました。そしてこの服をKUDENとして世界に向けて出すことに決めました。

海外をメインターゲットにブランドを展開している理由は、障害ある息子と働く場所を作るためには障害者雇用などにも取り組んでいく為の戦略です。

これから人口が少子化で激減する日本国内の景気を考えると、健常者と呼ばれる私たちの年金や社会保障がどうなるかと言われている中で、私の息子のような個性の子供たちの支援が自然に手厚くなっていくでしょうか?

その懸念から国内だけに頼らず、海外向けで稼げる状態をなんとしても作らないとせっかく雇用できた子供たちを路頭に迷わすことになってしまいます。そのためにスタートアップから海外向けを強く意識して事業を組み立てています。

まだまだ、遠い道のりですが、息子との唯一の約束なので、必ず果たしてから死のうと思ってます。

 

ーー 経営をする中で特に意識しているところは?

私が会社を一度潰した経験から、経営者として再挑戦で心がけている信念は一言でいえば、スタッフや顧客、パートナー企業などの「人をとことん大切にする経営」と言う事につきます。それは、短期の業績や勝ち負けではなく、継続を第一義に、関わる人々の幸せを追求し、そのことに努力し続けることです。さらに将来的には、障がい者や高齢者などの社会的に弱い立場にある人々の幸せづくりへの思いも強く持ち、雇用や取引などを通じ、それを実践をしていくことの決意を表しています。

なぜその信念なのかについてですが、それには私自身の苦い体験が元になっています。ここ数年の日本では、長時間労働が社会問題になっています。私も自分が過労で倒れて会社をたたまざる得ない経験をし、元の奥さんに苦労をかけてしまい離婚を経て、障害ある息子と離れて暮らす現実を経験し、これじゃいけない、家族や従業員を守るために働いて居たはずなのに、何もかも失ってしまった。そんな後悔の思いが強く残っています。長時間労働で体壊して家族を失った経験をスタッフやうちのお客様にして欲しくない。そういう思いから、前の会社での経験を元にして、新しい働き方や稼ぎ方を改革していきました。

弊社は出社義務は週4日で、仕事が終わっていれば毎週三連休にも出来る働き方をしています。弊社のスタッフの中にはその休みを活かして、初めての子育てに時間をかける父親、金曜日毎週パートナーとディズニーランドに通う人、声優の夢に向かって週末レッスンする人、私の様に離れて暮らす障害ある息子をいつでも何時でも受け入れる事が出来る様に備えたい人、それぞれ仕事だけではなく人生を見つめながら生きて欲しい。そんなことを実現できる稼ぎ方と働き方を試行錯誤で進めています。それが実現出来たのも、デザイン会社では普通にある受託の仕事を減らして、経営コンサルと同時にクリエイティブを提供するビジネスモデル変換したからです。

前の会社潰した時に倒れて運ばれた病院のベットで色々分析してたら、ほとんどの売り上げは上位数パーセントのお客様で達成されていた事に気付いて、喜んでお金を払って価値を認めてくれたお客様だけを徹底的に喜ばせよう。という方針に変えたからこの働き方が可能になりました。働き方の上流の稼ぎ方を根本的に時代に合わせて変えないと、長時間労働などの働き方を改革できないと痛感し、小さいながらですが、心あるスタッフと共に試行錯誤で実践しています。

「人をとことん大切にする経営」の次のステップとして、新規事業のKUDENを展開し、縫製工場をはじめとしたものづくりの職人と障害者雇用を結び、関わる人全てを大切にする経営をさらに突き進めていきたいと挑戦しているところです。青臭いと笑われるかもしれませんが、真剣に取り組んでいます。

(参考資料)
経営しているGerbera Design株式会社(旧佐藤創作デザイン事務所Gerbera)の働き方改革が、2016年12月にの東京新聞の朝刊の一面と作家で働き方評論家の常見陽平の著書である「なぜ、残業はなくならないのか(祥伝社新書) 」に中小企業の実践例として紹介されています。

【探訪 都の企業】<働き方改革編>(上)出社週4回、8時間勤務 会社の稼ぎ方変える

【なぜ、残業はなくならないのか(祥伝社新書) 】

ーー 国際市場はKUDENをどのように見えていると思いますか?そして、KUDENはどのような印象を世界中に残されたいですか?

国際市場から見たKUDENは、ファッションに敏感な層がメインでは無く、日本のアニメ、漫画、食、ものづくり、禅(ゼン)や芸術などの文化に触れ、そこに自身の価値観と共感する人々がKUDENを愛してくれていると思います。

今回のSamurai Mode Jacketを予約販売していく中でも様々な苦難がありましたが、購入してくれているお客様から、ジャケットを待ち遠しく思ってくれている連絡や、息子のために挑戦している私をあなたは侍だと励ましてくれるメッセージが世界中から届いてスタッフと感激しているんです。

ただの服を好きな人々ではなく、KUDENというブランドの持つ誠実さ、意思の強さ、私達はそれを「凛とする」と呼んでいて、英訳では「thoughtful life」(思慮深い生活)と名付けてます。そんなブランドの世界観や「職人の後継者不足と障害者雇用をデザインで結びたい」という、私のビジョンに共感してくれている世界中の優しい仲間たちに出会えたと感じています。

そんなKUDENの世界観やビジョンに共感してくれている人の期待を裏切らない様にさらに努力を重ねていきたいと思います。

 


それはCEOの佐藤貴浩氏の親密なインタビューの前編でした!読んだ後、どう思ってますか?どう感じますか?Japan Italy BridgeのFacebookでご感想をシェアしてください!

また、今、インタビューに言及されたのSamurai Mode Jacketは新作商品のSamurai Mode Shirtと共にオンラインストアで発売しております!それ以外、豪華なビンテージ着物と羽織もストアで販売しておりますから、是非チェックしてください!

そしてKUDENの話はまだまだ終わっていませんよ!ブランドアプローチと将来の計画についての話は後編なるので、お楽しみにしてください!

 

<お問い合わせ>
メール: support@ku-den.jp

<関連リンク>
ウェブサイト:https://ku-den.jp/
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/kudenjp/
Instagram:KUDEN by TAKAHIRO SATO | haoru by KUDEN


Japan Italy: Japan 4 L'Aquila

The friendship between Japan and Italy is getting closer and closer as the years go by. Today we are happy to present you an event that brings together our countries even more: Japan 4 L'Aquila.

From Mount Fuji to the Gran Sasso, a path that crosses the globe and reaches us, in a city that has much in common with Japan. In these areas where life is being reborn and returning to normal after the great earthquake of April 6, 2009, the Japan Association in Abruzzo from Fuji to Gran Sasso has organized this free cultural event to promote interculturality and solidarity between Italy and Japan.

Between 30 and 31 March, you will have the opportunity to attend four events, four artistic souls that from the Rising Sun will come to make their own contribution to the cultural renaissance of the city of L'Aquila. A voluntary and solidarity initiative that strongly highlights the sense of belonging and the pain caused by such devastating natural disasters, in Italy as in Japan.

The appeal of Japan 4 The Eagle has been received by several people, who, having learned of the initiative, have done their best to participate in it and give the city of L'Aquila a sign of hope of rebirth and overcoming pain.

Two days full of events to bring our two cultures closer together. The first event will be held on March 30th 2019 from 6.30pm at the Basilica of San Bernardino, Armonie d'Argento (The Eagle). A singing event performed by three choirs, two Italians and one Japanese. Here it will be possible to listen to the Aquilano Choir "Armonie d’Argento", the "Francesco D'Urbano" Choir of "Fara Filiorum Petri" and the Japanese "en" choir of pianist Mami Odagiri. Each of the three choirs will perform pieces from their repertoire to then join in the performance of "Furusato" a Japanese song and Inno "A San Bernardino da Siena" at the end of the concert.

A concert as a sign of friendship to commemorate and pray together for the victims of the earthquakes in L'Aquila and the grinding earthquake of the Tohoku region, hit hard in March 2011 by an earthquake that generated a violent Tsunami, causing the accident at the nuclear power plant of Fukushima.

This initiative thus becomes a bridge, a symbol of friendship and hope that unites Italy and Japan that without borders have experienced the same tragedies.

As a sign of solidarity and brotherhood with the post-earthquake boys from L'Aquila together with the children of the Izumi Kids Camp, Iwaki elementary schools, they created and painted 99 okiagari-koboshi for the city of 99. The okiagari-koboshi are dolls of papier-mache typical of the Japanese tradition, symbol of perseverance and resilience. Their characteristic is to fall and stand up again immediately. The dolls, held on display in the days of the exhibition at the Palazzetto dei Nobili, will be donated to the Dante Alighieri State High School in L'Aquila as a sign of solidarity among children of the same age who have suffered the same experiences with the wish of get up and keep smiling.

We then continue with the Japanese artist Ayami Noritake, with his artistic project "Roman Kobo Ren". On Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March 2019, the works will be exhibited in the rooms of the Palazzetto dei Nobili, where the artist Ayami Noritake will also show her working techniques and the creative process linked to her works.

Thanks to the use of the chigiri technique-and the artist Noritake uses rice paper, typical of the Japanese tradition, to create three-dimensional paintings where a material, light and inconsistent like paper, take new forms.

On the 30th afternoon, the Japanese documentary film Yoshizaku Kaneyama, entitled "Sukagawa, a step towards reconstruction" (須賀川、復興への歩み) will be broadcast with Italian subtitles.

We can never forget the great earthquake of Tohoku that hit Japan in March 2011. The earthquake caused a violent tsunami that, in addition to devastating entire cities and wiping out thousands of lives, also caused the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Through his "docu-film television", the director Kaneyama addresses the complicated theme of this terrifying earthquake in the city of Sukagawa. It tells the various passages from pain to the rebirth of the Sukagawa community, documenting how, even in a country like Japan, used to strong and constant earthquakes, it is slow and complicated to activate a collective mechanism that leads to the rehabilitation of a city/society, affected from a natural disaster.

The event will then end in great joy thanks to the "Vaiwatts" who will hold a free concerto on the evening of March 30th!

The group, composed of musicians and vocalist Tama and Pierrot Ken, decided to give the city of L'Aquila an evening of his 2019 European tour, as a sign of solidarity and sympathy. The duo will also be joined by guitarist Daisuke Chiba, who has been working with them for years now.

From 2014 to 2017 they held solidarity concerts for Tohoku and decided to continue this experience of solidarity, arriving in L'Aquila with their passion and the hope of being able to approach two peoples through their music.

If you are in the surroundings of L'Aquila, we strongly advise you to attend these events, a wonderful opportunity to deepen the culture of Japan and be able to bring solidarity to our two nations hit so hard by catastrophes like the earthquake.


Japan Tradition: Saigō Takamori

photo credits: jpninfo.com

Saigō Takamori (1828-1877) is remembered both for his important role in the Meiji Restoration which overthrew the shogunate in 1868 and for his failed rebellion against the new government less than a decade later. Although he died a renegade, a government pardon rehabilitated his reputation and 150 years after the Meiji restoration, the spotlight is again on the last samurai.

Saigō's rise to power began in 1854 when he was recruited by Shimazu Nariakira, the daimyo of the Satsuma domain (now Kagoshima prefecture), to accompany him to the capital of Edo (now Tokyo). As a low-ranking official, Saigō was involved in bridge construction projects and roads. He managed to capture Nariakira's attention with a series of memoranda on the agricultural administration that he submitted to the provincial government. Officially he was employed in Edo as a gardener, but his duties went beyond plants. While in the capital, Saigō made contact with the main personalities who opposed the shogunate. The outdoor work offered a comfortable cover for Nariakira and Saigō to meet and talk, avoiding the obstacles they would face due to their large difference in rank.

photo credits: yabai.com

Saigō quickly built a network of loyalists from Mito (now Ibaraki Prefecture) and other domains. He won the trust of Nariakira with his simple and emotional nature, and over time the daimyo came to look for the opinions of the younger people. However, the situation began to change from 1857 when Abe Masahiro died. He elderly shogunate adviser who had helped ensure the succession of his close friend Nariakira as Satsuma daimyo. Nariakira himself died the following year and the power in Satsuma passed to his younger brother Shimazu Hisamitsu. Meanwhile, the conservative politician Naosuke had taken effective control of the shogunate, launching an important crackdown on the reformists.

Suffering from the loss of Nariakira and facing difficult political prospects, Saigō was determined to follow his teacher to the grave but was persuaded by Gessho, the chief priest of a Kyoto temple, to flee with Satsuma. However, once there, they threw themselves into the sea in Kagoshima Bay and Gessho drowned, but Saigō miraculously survived.

Over the next five years, Saigō suffered periods of exile on the islands of Amami Ōshima and Okinoerabujima. On Amami he was given some freedom and married a local woman. However, After a brief respite on his return from Amami, he was again exiled to an island after angering Hisamitsu. This period of imprisonment became an opportunity for serious reflection on his life and shaped his personality as a caring man of firm principles.

Iechika Yoshiki, Saigō’s biographer and researcher, argues that, unlike most people, he was not afraid of death. Having lost many people he loved and respected, including his parents, Nariakira and Gessho, he was not terrified of dying and saw it as a way to be reunited with his loved ones.

photo credits: nippon.com

Iechika says that Saigō believed that heaven had spared his life for a reason and that he would live to complete his divine call. This philosophy is linked to his famous motto “keiten aijin”, which means "Respect the sky and love people". According to Saigō, the questions of life and death were above human consideration and had to be left entirely to fate.

In 1864 Saigō reconciled with Hisamitsu and returned to the Kyoto political center as commander of the Satsuma army. After rejecting the anti-shogunate forces from the Chōshū domain (now Yamaguchi Prefecture) while attempting to enter the city, he was promoted to the rank of high officer. The event, known as the Hamaguri Gomon incident, was Saigō's first battle experience with an army. The same year, he became chief of staff of the shogunate army sent to punish Chōshū. In 1866, however, Satsuma and Chōshū entered an alliance mediated by Sakamoto Ryōma. Saigō took charge of the opposition forces that would eventually become soldiers of the new Meiji government.

In 1864 Saigō reconciled with Hisamitsu and returned to the Kyoto political center as commander of the Satsuma army. After rejecting the anti-shogunate forces from the Chōshū domain (now Yamaguchi Prefecture) while attempting to enter the city, he was promoted to the rank of high officer. The event, known as the Hamaguri Gomon incident, was Saigō's first battle experience with an army. The same year, he became chief of staff of the shogunate army sent to punish Chōshū. In 1866, however, Satsuma and Chōshū entered an alliance mediated by Sakamoto Ryōma. Saigō took charge of the opposition forces that would eventually become soldiers of the new Meiji government.

In January 1868, the imperial loyalists led by Satsuma and Chōshū proclaimed the restoration of power from the shogun to the emperor. The resistance of the shogunate supporters triggered the Boshin war later in that month. Although the conflict dragged on until the following year, a key victory for the Meiji troops came with the surrendering of Edo Castle in the spring of 1868. With the city and nation in danger and fighting in Edo, Saigō entered the stronghold of the shogunate with only a handful of followers, wanting to try negotiation. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, he faced the prospect of murder. The discussion and cooperation between Saigō and the leader of the shogunate Katsu Kaishū led to the peaceful delivery of the castle, as a "bloodless delivery".

photo credits: nippon.com

In Japan, Saigō Takamori, Ōkubo Toshimichi and Kido Takayoshi are considered the three great figures of the Meiji Restoration. However, according to Iechika, Saigō's success at Edo Castle was something the other two members of the trio could never have achieved. He claims that without Saigō, the Meiji Restoration would never have happened and that people today see the event favorably because of this. On the contrary, if the movement had caused a bloody civil war, it is likely that public sentiment would have been very different. Although Saigō was not the astute politician that Ōkubo was, he had a love and a spirit that the other could not match.

In 1871 Saigō joined the Meiji government and in 1873 he became an army general. However, he resigns a few later after losing a debate about his support for a military expedition to Korea. He returned to his home in the prefecture of Kagoshima, where he spent his time cultivating and hunting. However, In 1877, he was convinced to lead an army of dissatisfied Samurai in the Satsuma rebellion. Driven by government forces in the battles on Kyūshū, the army reached the last position at Shiroyama in Kagoshima. Saigō committed suicide after his soldiers were defeated. He was 49 years old.

Saigō is the likely inspiration for Katsumoto Moritsugu - played by Watanabe Ken in the 2003 film The Last Samurai. The film complains of the passage of bushidō (the way of the Samurai) through Katsumoto, as noted by the Civil War veteran Tom Cruise, Nathan Algren (the character has no direct historical equivalent).

Saigo's association with traditional values in a modernized Japan is why he was called "the last Samurai". Just 12 years after his failed rebellion, he was pardoned by the Meiji government and in 1898 a statue of Saigō and his dog was erected in Tokyo's Ueno Park. Almost a century and a half after his death, it remains a popular historical and cultural icon.

photo credits: madmonarchist.blogspot.com


Japan Travel: Ginza

Ginza: expensive, elegant and luxurious

Located in Chuō, Ginza (銀座) is Tokyo's most famous shopping area. This luxurious district was once part of the ancient Kyobashi district, which, together with Nihonbashi and Kanda, formed the core of Shitamachi, the original center of Edo-Tokyo. Built on an ancient reclaimed swamp during the 16th century, Ginza owes its name (Silver Mint) to the establishment of a silver coin mint (Silver Coin Mint) on this land in 1612.

photo credit: wikimedia.org

A devastating fire destroyed much of the area in 1872. Following this incident, the government decided that reconstruction was to use fireproof bricks to erect new buildings, and the roads should be improved and enlarged. At the same time, they should be able to connect Shimbashi station to Tsukiji. This new version of Ginza was designated as a "model of modernization" and the Irish architect Thomas Waters was given the responsibility of designing the area. In the following year, a long western-style shopping street rose with two- and three-storey Georgian brick buildings reaching from the Shinbashi bridge to the Kyōbashi bridge.

However, the high cost for both the purchase and the lease of these new buildings prevented their long-term occupations and at the same time, an issue regarding the climate arose; such buildings were not suitable for the weather conditions unique to Tokyo. To add to the issues, the design of this area contrasted with the traditional Japanese style, and as such it was not quite appreciated by visitors who were much more interested in an Edo-style town and rather than something "similar to Broadway", as described in the words of the English tour guide writer, Philip Terry.

Despite stylistic problems, Ginza managed to flourish as a symbol of "civilization and enlightenment", becoming famous for its rich shop windows. In the period between the two world wars, the habit of spending time and walking through Ginza, even with no purpose, grew very popular. As time passed, most of the European-style buildings have disappeared. Among those remaining is the Wakō building, originally built by Kintarō Hattori, with its iconic Hattori Clock Tower and its luxurious gold objects inside.

photo credits: japantimes.co.jp

Not only shopping

A key stop for shoppers in Ginza is definitely Ginza Six. Opened in the spring of 2017, it is the largest shopping complex in the district. In addition to numerous cosmetic and fashion floors, there are floors dedicated to food and interior design, a large Tsutaya bookstore specializing in art publications, a pleasant rooftop garden and a Noh theater in the basement.

No less famous is the store of the chain Mitsukoshi. While this store opened in 1930, its history dates back to 1673, when it was first established. It offers products and services on twelve floors. Fans of the brand Uniqlo will find satisfaction in this 12-storey building which offers the widest range of products in the world of this brand.

Ginza, however, is not just limited shopping. For Kabuki representations, the best place is found in this part of town. It is the Kabukiza Theater. Do not miss a trip to the Yurakucho Gado-shita Dining as well. It is one of Tokyo's most interesting dining options, located under the sky train tracks, north and south of the Yurakucho station (In Japanese: Gado-shita, "under beam"). Dozens of restaurants are integrated into the brick arches below the Yamanote line which extend for over 700m. Here you can taste world-famous Japanese cuisine, or sip special wines in the luxurious French wine shops.

photo credits: harv.world


Japan Folklore: Nippombashi Street Festa

photo credits: jnto.go.jp

In Osaka, anime and manga come to life

Every year since 2005, between early days and mid-March, the streets of Den Den Town located between Ebisucho Station and Nihonbashi are closed to car traffic for the biggest cosplay event in all of Japan: the Nippombashi Street Festa (日本橋ストリートフェスタ).

Den Den Town is the electronic district of Osaka that, thanks to its toy stores, video games stores and computer stores, has begun to attract a large number of manga and anime fans, soon turning into one of the "sacred" destinations for Otaku. Each year the festival is enhanced by attracting not only the local but also a more international audience!

photo credits: reddit.com

The Festival begins!

Preparations for the event start around 11:00 am with the roads closing to traffic. Here, above the street the main stage on which guests, cosplayers and sponsors alternate throughout the day is built.
The opening ceremony begins at 12.00 pm when a road is created for the parade of the 1,000 best cosplayers from around the world. After the show, cosplayers perform and pose for all those wishing to approach their favorite character. Many of them take advantage of the event to promote their socials accounts, writing their address on whiteboards or signs placed next to them while they are immortalized in the poses studied in advance.

Obviously the event is not open only to professionals, but hundreds and hundreds of people wear their own costume. It doesn’t matter if this belongs to pop culture, anime, manga, video games or even cartoons and characters from American comics (especially Marvel, Adventure Time and Star Wars), almost 10,000 people a year turn into their own hero! Of course, the festival is free, but if you want to participate in the parade, an entry fee of around 1,500 yen is needed.

The event is also the perfect opportunity to find unique designs by Nippombashi Street Festa and exclusive goods.

photo credits: nippombashi.jp

The cultural exchange project between Japan and France and an exceptional ambassador

From 2018, year of the 160th anniversary of friendship between France and Japan, the 「Japan-France pop culture Exchange project」was promoted in order to deepen the cultural exchange between manga, animation, music and other aspects of Japanese pop culture with the France in collaboration with the「Japan Expo」.

To disseminate the event and make it even more alive, KAMIJO, the talented Japanese artist who became particularly famous in France, was chosen as the project's ambassador.

This year the Nippombashi Street Festival will be held on March 9th and will be the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself not only in the magical world of fantasy, but also in the musical world!


Japan Tradition: Hinamatsuri

photo credits: mcasiwakuni.marines.mil

Doll’s Day

There is a special celebration held annually on the third day of the third month in Japan known as Hina-matsuri (雛 祭 り), also known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day. During this celebration, the misfortunes of girls are transferred to the dolls and the family members pray to the gods for their daughters’ good health and beauty.
This festival dates back to the Heian period (1650) and in Japanese culture, dolls have always been believed to have the capacity to contain evil spirits. During the Hina-Nagashi (雛 流 し, The floating doll) ceremonies, straw dolls will be placed along the course of a river to take the evil spirits away with them. This ritual is still carried out in some parts of Japan.

photo credit: monchhichi.net

The Dolls of Hina-dan (雛 壇)

The hina-dan is a platform of 7 steps covered by a red carpet with a rainbow stripe at the bottom, called hi-mōsen. The hina ningyo, ornamental dolls passed from generation to generation, are placed on this hina-dan.
On the first step, the highest step, are the dolls representing the imperial court of the Heian period, the position of emperor and the empress, behind them a small golden screen and two lanterns of paper or silk on the sides.
On the second step there are three court ladies serving sake and separated by two small round tables (takatsuki), on which seasonal sweets are displayed.
On the third step there are five male musicians who are arranged from right to left and based on the instrument they hold in this order: a musician seated with a small drum, a standing musician with a large drum, a standing musician with percussion, a sitting player with the flute and, finally, a singer seated with a fan in his hands.
On the fourth step there are two ministers: the younger is placed on the right, the elder on the left. Both of them are equipped with bows and arrows while separated by takatsuki.
Three samurai, protectors of the emperor and the empress, are placed on the fifth step. They each hold a rake, a shovel, and a broom with respective expressions of weeping, of laughter, and of rage.
On the sixth step there are the objects that the court uses inside the building.
On the seventh and final step, the lowest tier, are the objects the court uses when they are far from the building.

photo credit: trend-blog-site.com

Between kimoni, hishi-mochi and amazake

During the festival, girls wear their most beautiful kimonos or dress up like dolls. There are numerous themed parties where shirozake, a special sweet and non-alcoholic sake based on amazake (甘 酒, a sweetener obtained from the fermentation of rice), arare (あ ら れ, crackers composed by glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce) and the traditional sweet of Hina-matsuri, hishi-mochi (菱 餅 ひ し も ち) are served.
Hishi-mochi is a cube-shaped glutinous rice mixture made up of three colored layers. Each layer holds special meanings. Green represents the grass and symbolizes health; white represents snow, a symbol of purity; and finally, rose represents the plum blossoms fighting malignancy. Together these three colors indicate the arrival of spring, when the snow melts, the grass grows and the plum blossoms start to bloom.


Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 01 - Alberto Moro

Here we are with the first episode of our new series『Bringing Japan to Italy』dedicated to Alberto Moro, Giappone in Italia Association's President.

Some weeks ago we met him during the finissage of his exhibition "Il mio Giappone" that, as he said himself, it's a great act of love towards this Nation, the Japanese culture and people.

With this first video, we are launching our new series dedicated to all those people that promot the Japanese culture and the world surrounding Japan in our Nation. Japan Italy Bridge, wants to promote this Nation on an even deeper level, together with its companies and all that concernes the land of the Rising Sun.

Enjoy!


Japan Folklore: Versailles no bara, the best-selling manga

photo credit: nefariousreviews.com

In 1972, Riyoko Ikeda created what became the manga and, later, the most famous anime of all time: "Versailles no Bara" (ベルサイユのばら, The Roses of Versailles, known in Italy as Lady Oscar). The talented mangaka, whose meticulous and elegant style has come to stand out and be considered the Shōjo Teacher, had to face her own publisher before seeing her published idea. The publisher was in fact convinced that a biographical manga starring Marie Antoinette could bore readers. Riyoko Ikeda undertook to prove otherwise and in May 1972 the first instalment of "Versailles no Bara" appeared on Shukan Margaret issue number 21, published by Shūeisha, on a weekly basis for a total of 82 episodes ended in 1973.

Between 1972 and 1974, 15 million copies were sold, thus electing Riyoko Ikeda as the queen of the historical manga.

photo credit: supereva.it

The history of the roses of Versailles and the wind that swept over them

In the last years of the Ancien Régime, the young Marie Antoinette of Austria was promised to marry the French dolphin, Luigi Augusto, nephew of Louis XV but his cousin, the Duke of Orleans plotted to kill him and usurp the throne. At the head of the Royal Guard was Oscar François de Jarjayes, a young noblewoman raised by her father, General De Jarjayes, as if she were a boy because he wanted a male heir. Alongside Oscar was a young attendant, André Grandier, nephew of the housekeeper of the Jarjayes family, to whom the General had entrusted the task of serving and protecting her. Covering her role, Oscar foiled many plots that aimed to kill the two princes, thus leading to being esteemed and considered a friend by Marie Antoinette. The capricious future queen, escorted by Oscar at a ball court, met the Swedish count Hans Axel von Fersen, of whom both women fall in love.

At the death of the King, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI became sovereigns of France and, since the slander on a presumed relationship between Fersen and the Queen did not take long to spread, the count abandoned the country to avoid scandal and enlisted in support of the revolutionaries of America. Marie Antoinette, more and more unhappy and lonely, allowed herself to be influenced by the Countess of Polignac, an ambitious woman who became her favourite and urged the queen to squander money in frivolity. After a few years, the Count of Fersen returned to France and inevitably went back to Marie Antoinette, who, unable to control her feelings, was on the verge of a scandal. Once again the count left the country and the queen, following the birth of the heirs to the throne, decided to move away from the life of the court and retire with her children in the Petit Trianon, arousing the hatred of the high nobility. In the meantime, the famous "Deal of the Necklace" broke out, which threw the first shadows on the public reputation of the queen. Shortly after, Fersen returned from America and during a court ball, Oscar showed up in disguise dressed for the first and only time as a woman but, dancing with Fersen, realized that she could never replace the queen in the heart of the Swedish count and she decided it was probably better to live forever like a man. Following the case of the Black Knight and the further attempt to discredit the royal family in the eyes of the nobility, Oscar abandoned the command of the Royal Guard obtaining from the queen the post of commander of the French Guards regiment of Paris. André, despite being rejected by Oscar after declaring her love, he remained by her side anyway.

General Jarjayes realized that he had made a mistake in allocating his daughter to a military career and began to wish that she would marry, so the second of Oscar in the Royal Guard, Girondel, made her a marriage proposal, but Oscar did not accept, preferring her new soldiers and attempts to earn their respect. The French revolution was at the door: Oscar, who understood to love Andrè, sided with him on the side of the people and together died during the riots of the storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789. The years of the revolution lasted until Marie Antoinette’s execution on the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

photo credit: romaspettacolo.net

One series is not enough!

Twelve years after the mother series, Riyoko Ikeda decided to publish a 4-episode miniseries entitled Versailles no bara gaiden (The Roses of Versailles - Gothic Stories) whose protagonists are Oscar, Andrè and the little Loulou de La Lorencie, Oscar's niece. The episodes narrated are placed between volumes 7 and 8 of the original manga. In 1987 Eikō no Napoleon-Eroika (栄光のナポレオン-エロイカ, The glorious Napoleon - Heroic) also appeared as the official sequel, whose title "Eroika" refers to the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicated to Napoleon. These 12 volumes narrate the events of Napoleon immediately after the French Revolution: his empire, the Italian campaign, the campaign of Egypt, the battle of the Nile, the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire and the French invasion of Russia. in the course of the narration, some of the already known characters will reappear, but only through flashbacks.

In 2006, Riyoko Ikeda decided to take the pencil again to create "Berubara Kids": an amusing reinterpretation in coloured stripes in which the characters of Versailles no Bara reappear in "chibi" version in key scenes. The small parody was published weekly on "Be", a supplement of the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun".

photo credit: pinterest.it

Roses die in beauty

The fascination of Versailles no Bara pushed many musicians to reinterpret the famous "Bara wa utsukushiku chiru" original song of the anime, but Riyoko Ikeda recognized the LAREINE version with license. The first CD came out on October 1, 1998 and in limited number of copies: only 500 with serial number of which the first 4 were owned by the members of the group. Fortunately, in 1998 it was re-edited and Bara wa utsukushiku chiru officially became the fourth single of the band. On February 9th 2000 the most valuable CD edition was released, containing only two audio tracks in which Riyoko Ikeda herself participated as a soprano singer and took care of the graphic design, also designing the costumes of the band for the music video.