Letters from DAIBA FujiTV English Blog

1st Sazae-san Cafe

Apr 22, 2014

Dear friends,

Last Saturday, the very first “Sazae-san” anime related café, “Lien de SAZAESAN” opened its doors in Sakura-shinmachi of western Tokyo, the town where Machiko Hasegawa, the creator of Sazae-san used to live.

Sazae-san is the cheerful housewife living with her entire family of three generations in a Japanese style home. Heart-warming episodes surrounding her family are aired every Sunday from 6:30pm that has garnered a great number of Japanese fans since 1969 until now. The show was recognized by the Guinness Worlds committee as the world’s longest running animated TV series. 

From the nearest station, the Sazae-san family welcomes you here and there.

Bronze statues of the entire family.

A giant panel of the family dressed as TV crew.

The café is located on Sazae-san Street, and the entrance to the street can easily be recognized by this sign and flag.

Continue down the street passing the sushi restaurant with Sazae with her father Namihei in kimonos

and you will find this woody café.

“Lien” means “Bond” in French. The café was named in hopes that it could be a place where viewers can feel the world of Sazae-san and learn about various related programs or events. “Lien de SAZAESAN” aims to be a place where people become connected and create bonds of friendship.  

I recommend you to taste this pretty café latte with Sazae-san’s face stenciled on top, with a pancake served on a unique Sazae-san hair style shaped wooden plate. So cute! 

You can also enjoy the memorial scenes from this beloved series displayed on the wall.

5th Oct 1969 The anime series began airing.

20th,27th Aug 1972 Sazaesan family traveled abroad for the first time to Germany.

Sep 2013  Recognized as the longest running animated TV series in the Guinness World Records.  Actress Midori Kato, who plays the voice of Sazae received the award on behalf of the show .

These are just a few examples. By viewing different scenes from this family-friendly series, you will be able to learn about historical events of this country as well.

Don’t forget to check out the footprints of their cat Tama on the wall as well as himself lying on the handrail of the second floor.

Why not taking those pretty souvenirs that are original of the shop for your friends.

For those who are not so familiar with Sazae-san, please refer to my previous post for further details on the show.




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An Oyster Cultivator after 3.11

Jun 28, 2013

Dear friends,
At the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, I was a programming director for our nightly news program who was bound to conveying news in Tokyo but after witnessing what had happened, I couldn’t resist and went to look around the stricken area on my own two weeks after the disaster. As for the Great East Japan Earthquake, the images of the tsunami from 3.11.2011 were so dreadful that it took me more than two years to visit the affected area.
Thanks to Takuo, the anchorman of Sendai Television, our affiliate station in Miyagi Prefecture, we had a chance to go out to the sea of Minamisanriku on a fishing boat owned by Masami Chiba, an oyster cultivator he referred us to. This is a post by Takuo from last year about him. http://blog.fujitv.co.jp/airmail/E20120319002.html
Masami managed to save his “Takuyomaru” from the tsunami by heading out to sea. The sea was so calm that we couldn’t imagine the raging waves that occurred on 3.11.

However, we could recognize that some banks had eroded and a bridge had collapsed. 

“The black buoys you see over there are the cultivation rafts. All were taken by the tsunami but here they are!” he explained to us. Masami  is the only oyster cultivator who resumed the job.
He stopped the boat and lifted up his beloved oysters to show us.

“Oysters sell better shelled. But there is no hope for the processing factory to reopen. 
The authorities do not subsidize when you are the only person to make a request. Now that all the other oyster cultivator decided to quit their job, I wonder how I am to go through with this.” he laid his bare heart before us. I suppose the conditions required are set to prevent deceptions, but we all wished that either the government or local authorities could find a way to support the fishermen who strive to go forward.

Masami kindly invited us to his home, a temporary housing.

He made us taste his oysters first. How tasty!! He said that the food sanitation standards
of the Kesennuma region are so high that people can rely on their safety. 

He then served us wakame seaweed. Since he can’t expect to earn his living only by
oyster cultivation, wakame seaweed forms a part of his income. 

  His wife Kazue also prepared local crabs as well as some dishes of ice gobies that shecaught herself.

 “We hope that everybody is prepared for future disasters learning from what has happened to us. You should reconsider where to run to, where to relocate to and so on. The other day, some people from Hokkaido came and said their village was planning to move the residential area up to the hill. I was happy that our experience proved to be useful.“ Masami told us. Though they won’t see any concrete resolution to promote their oyster business, the couple cares for others. I’m afraid I won’t be able to be as broad-minded as they are.
  I was also moved by the way many volunteers helped them. This log house named “Guest House of Utatsu”, next to the temporary housing of the Chiba family, is handmade by volunteers. For the “residents”, who used to live in more spacious house of their own, needed a place to get together to chat, relax, and share their actual circumstances. 

  Masami and Kazue’s son Taku, often plays guitar here. He sung us several songs that he wrote by himself. The most impressive song for me was about his worries over the gigantesque seawall plan. His words went: I love the scenery of Minamisanriku with the sea and mountains, abundant in delicacies of the land and sea. What would be of my hometown with the huge concrete walls? Is that what we hand down to our children? Who would come to visit here? What would be our future?” You can imagine how touching his song was. I’m sure it represents all the survivors’ feelings from the bottom of their hearts. They are so resilient. I must add that his guitar was swept away by tsunami, but came back to him after several days and a volunteer found somebody to repair it with its original body. 

Takuo guided us to go see the Kyotokumaru, a huge ship left abandoned on land. I knew about it from a  photo but came to know that the place where it lies used to be the main street of a railway station. The owner of the ship says they are going to remove it, but whether to leave as is to not forget about the tragedy or to remove it for people to step forward is still in discussion. 

This is the situation of Minamisanriku after two years and two months. I must admit that what we saw and heard is just a small part. I know that efforts are being made in every aspect. Still, we couldn’t imagine what would be of the area in five or ten years. We sincerely hope that things move along faster according to the resident’s wishes.

Your comments will be forwarded to Chiba’s family and Takuo.

Posted by.Isabelle | | Comment (0)

Tohoku, two years from 3.11

Jun 18, 2013

Dear friends,
Last month I visited Minamisanriku, one of the damaged areas by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami for the first time after two years and two months. Takuo, the anchorman of Sendai Television, our affiliate station in Miyagi Prefecture, who kindly reported to us the situation a year from 3.11.2011, guided us to the area. We were a group of five, three from Fuji TV, one from Kansai Telecasting who experienced the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 which caused 6,434 victims, and one from Tokai Television covering the area where another greatearthquake is predicted in the relatively near future.
Firstly we stopped by Hotel Kanyo, where we were going to stay that night. You wouldn’t be able to imagine the ferocious tsunami from the calm sea you see over the lobby’s big windows. 

Though their first and second floor were flooded, they offered their facilities and rooms in the upper floors to hundreds of refugees.

We had Minamisanriku Kirakira bowl for lunch which was revived last year after almost one year’s interruption. Kirakira means “sparkling”. Both the salmon roe bowl and the sea urchin bowl remind us of the area known as the treasury of fish.

Later we headed to Shizugawa area on the other side of the bay.

More than two years have passed but we couldn’t see any visible restoration here. No sign of new construction but a few buildings that remain as debris.

This red-colored three-storied steel skeleton used to be the Crisis Management Center of the town, which is supposed to ensure safety against serious disaster. Ironicall, only ten could have survived the overwhelming tsunami by reaching the rooftop and grabbing onto either the fence of the emergency stairs or the pole. We lost words witnessing the twisting pillars that described the irrestible power of tsunami which swept away more than 40 lives. This includes a young woman who continued the evacuation announcement from the speakers until her very last minute

This building retains such a story that it serves as a symbol of the disaster and a lot of people come here to see what has occurred either with flowers or folded tsuru.

The town has compeletely changed its scenery and they have no concrete plan of reconstruction so far.

Takuo then took us to the Minamisanriku SunSun Shopping Village. The statue of Moai presented for the second time by Easter Island of Chile shows the friendship between the two regions having gone through serious tsunami. Knowing that the head of the previous statue was swept away, Chile quickly decided to sculpt a new one.


Coming back to the shopping village, the shops vary from fish market to a photo shop or a barber.

One of our purposes of the trip was to spend money. We ate grilled scallops or ice cream commemorating the revival of the Moai statue. There, people seem to look forward.

People recognized Takuo. We were happy to know that he is loved by local viewers.I think people casually talk to him not only because he is on TV everyday but because his sincerity permeates through to viewers. 

He had planned 
to show us both sides to the area. What remained untouched and what things were being reconstructed. Takuo took us to Utatsu station where he has kept watch over these two years. 
The rails are gone, half the platform was destroyed. Thus we see no sign of restoration of JR Kessennuma line which used to transport people.

But beneath the hill of Utatsu station, you see the sign saying Utatsu station, which takes on a form of a bus station. JR East proposed BRT or bus rapid transport as a temporary substitution. The bus partly runs their exclusive “road” made by removing railway tracks and partly the road shared with other vehicles. It takes more time than the railway since the bus has to stop at each signal and the schedule varies due to the traffic jam. Still, it’s nothing other than a step forward. Whether the railway can retrieve its former style depends on the restoration plan which seem to take time for decisions to be finalized.  

At Isatomae Fukkou Shopping Mall near Utatsu station, many flags were waving in the sky. They were offered by Japanese professional football teams or by individuals who responded to the idea of cheering up the mall. They fit the mall’s name Fukkou which means “restoration” and at the same time, means luck and happiness by using Chinese characters. 

I will write about the fisherman Mr. Chiba who Takuo frequents next. 

Posted by.Isabelle | | Comment (0)

Encounter with Karatsu-Ware

Jun 4, 2013

Dear friends,
Travelling is always fun in discovering new things. For us, this squid sashimi we had in Yobuko was really something. Its transparency proved how fresh it was to such an extent that although cut in pieces, each piece was twitching in soy sauce.
To be honest, I had to call up my courage somehow to put it into my mouth, but it turned out to be more than delicious.
We selected this restaurant “Manbou”, highly respected by visitors for its squid quality and location as if it is floating in the middle of the bay near Yobuko Big Bridge. We were lucky to be able to taste them on that day since weather conditions sometimes prevent them from serving their squid due to a poor catch.


We had the most popular squid-course: aside from sashimi, there were squid dumplings, tempura and grill upon request. 

It was a well-deserved half an hour drive from Karatsu city where we spent the night that evening. I’m sorry that I’m unable to show you its beautiful castle in detail since we didn’t have any time to go sightseeing.
Known for its sturdiness, simple style with earthy and natural color, Karatsu-ware look completely different from Arita or Imari porcelain. Homuro, a shop dealing Katatsu pottery from 35 kilns, helped us to figure out our favorite ceramists. They affix a seal of the number representing the creator on each piece and explain to us what the characterics are of his or her work.

Among a variety assortment of little dishes, these ones made by Taeko Kajihara caught my heart.

What is nice about this shop is that when you buy tableware, they give you the profile of the artist as well as the contact address, map of the kiln and his or her message. Taeko’s says “May my works be loved in daily life”.
Wanting to see more of her works, we called to ask if we could visit her kiln. Though it was a Sunday, she kindly accepted our visit. Taeko studied pottery in Kyoto and came to Karatsu on her marriage with her classmate who was from the region.
Look how sophisticated her “show-room”is! The big ancient wooden boxes serve as stands which fit the taste of her works perfectly. To tell you the truth, I personally imagined Karatsu-ware as something rather rough. But we felt so comfortable here in this Japanese style and museum-like space which reflects the delicacy of her creation itself. 

I’d been looking for a long rectangular plate for grilled saury for quite some time, which I finally came across and bought after long consideration. Additionally, I bought two twin-colored little plates that I use most often as a soy sauce plate lately.
Let me conclude my serial ceramics trip posts by showing you the healthy tofu-course lunch: 

sesami tofu, 

mashed tofu salad,

hot tofu milk, 

zaru-tofu or tofu served on bamboo colander, 

fried tofu (surprisingly tasty!!), 

miso soup of tofu, 

tofu rice porridge 

and tofu blanc-manger.

You might guess that I was 150% satisfied with my trip to Saga.



Posted by.Isabelle | | Comment (0)

Journey to Imari Porcelain

May 17, 2013

Dear friends,
Preparing our ceramic trip to Imari in Saga prefecture,a forty-five minute drive from Arita which I introduced to you in my last post, one photo remained in my mind deeply. I carefully studied its composition and took this picture from the same spot. 
The red brick chimney with rugged mountains as a background seems to show what it used to be, but it is actually present-day Okawachiyama village. The Nabeshima Clan, who were ruling the area back then selected this place for its special kilns to make porcelain masterpieces for the Shogun Dynasty in 1675, since its location suited their intentions to avoid leakage of technique, being enclosed on three sides by mountains. They were so nervous that they even built a checkpoint. This explains why Okawachiyama is referred to as the  “Village of Secret Kilns”.
It was in 1989 that this bridge at the entrance of the village was created with decorated Imari porcelain to welcome tourists. Countless pieces covering the railings as well as the big vases on top represent the colors unique to Imari. 


Area map is also made of porcelain.

More than 30 kilns still exist here keeping tradition and techniques alike. It’s so nice to stroll around the village looking into show windows and stopping by.

From display to the variety of merchandises, each kiln was making efforts to attract customers. Taichiro kiln presented a replica of its kiln and entertains us by its decoration.  

Hataman’s shop is very modern but they stay true to the colors and designs of Imari. 

At the same time, they seem to appeal that their works are not to be appreciated as art but to be used in daily life. As a matter of fact, before planning our trip, we felt that Arita or Imari ceramics cost a little too much for us to afford. However, not everything was expensive and we could sympathize with their ideas. 

Tourists from Canada were enjoying witnessing their works.

As for myself, I bought this incense plate here. So cute!!

When you’re tired, have a cup of coffee in a tearoom. My friend Iku had a Belgian waffle and I had coffee. As you see, a simple coffee with fine ceramics makes you happy. 


Here is what I purchased during the two days. My heart-shaped collection was enriched!


Iku got the gratin dish and the one-plate dish.
I must add that Imari beef was just amazing! It was the most delicious beef I had in my life! They were using mostly Imari ceramics of course but the thick plate for the steak was Karatsu pottery, which we would search for in continuing our trip.



Posted by.Isabelle | | Comment (0)

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