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JAPANTODAY’S PREMIER ENGLISH DIGITAL WEEKLY MAGAZINE

TRAVEL BUSINESS

Trips into the Chubu region: Mt. Ontake Advertising Japan: beacon communications k.k.

FAMILY LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER

A theme park wonderland for young and old; devour the day in a world of lego and be kid all over again. Read the review on INSIGHT: FAMILY

LIFESTYLE

Moon meets water at Conrad Tokyo’s Mizuki Spa

ENTERTAINMENT OPINION

Tommy Lee Jones meets The Shirato Family

Ishihara and Fukushima

ISSUE 06 / VOLUME 01 / SEPTEMBER 2012


INSIGHT ISSUE 6


INSIGHT ISSUE 6

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INSIGHT ISSUE 6

3


TRAVEL

TRIPS INTO THE

CHUBU REGION While Mt. Fuji is the most famous destination for most mountain climbers in Japan, there are many others to choose from. The Chubu region (located in the central region of Japan’s main island, Honshū) has many of these mountains, and one of the best locations is Mt. Ontake on the border of Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

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INSIGHT ISSUE 6


TRAVEL

BY PAUL KOEHLER

The mountain is 3,067 meters tall and is also one of the holiest mountains of Japan. Despite the height, it is a relatively easy mountain to climb and is accessible from Nagoya either as a long day trip or a multi-day stay, depending on your itinerary. The history of the mountain goes back to the first known climb in 702 during the

Asuka period, while Ontake Shrine was established in 925. As such, it is a popular

destination for pilgrims, who make regular visits to the mountain wearing traditional

garb. For climbers, it is also an extremely popular destination as it is possible to get to the summit in a little under four hours.

Mt Ontake can be accessed from either the Nagano side or Gifu side, but for visitors from Nagoya, the most convenient access will probably be to start from Tanohara

TOKYO OSAKA

NAGOYA

SHIZUOKA

Nature Park. The park is situated at an altitude of 2,180 meters and can be accessed by bus from Kiso-Fukushima station on the JR Chuo Line. The route to the park is a

very windy road through the mountains, but the scenery on the way there makes up for the trip.

The trail to the top of the mountain

One of the most appealing points about

leads to the first summit, Otaki Chojo,

isolation of the mountain. While climbers

By limited express train from

a standstill while waiting behind a long

by bus to Tanohara.

from the Tanohara Nature Park initially at 2,936 meters, and an additional climb of 30 minutes from that summit leads

to the very top of the mountain, known as Ontake Kengamine. This is the main

destination for most climbers, although there are several lakes around other

parts of the mountain. Accommodation is available in small mountain huts on the mountain or at inns near the mountain

for those wishing to make a multiple day trip, and there are several hot springs

around the area where you can relax after a difficult climb.

climbing Mt Ontake is the relative

How to get there

tackling the summit of Fuji often come to

Kiso-Fukushima Station and

line of people, the paths of Mt Ontake

are relatively open even during the busy climbing season. The mountain is also

host to the Ontake Sky Race, which hosts

high-altitude runners attempting to tackle

the summit and come back in record time. If you enjoy mountain climbing and would like to do it in a beautiful environment,

Mt Ontake is one of the best choices not only in the Chubu region, but also in all of Japan.

INSIGHT ISSUE 6

5


BUSINESS

The first impression you get as you walk into the offices of advertising company beacon communications k.k. is that it must be a fun place to work. Each floor is designed with a different color scheme, and the seats in the waiting area are anything but ordinary - they are giant balls. The company set up an office in Japan in January 2001, although beacon first

entered the Japanese market in 1976 as a branch of Leo Burnett.

Currently, it is 66% owned by the Publicis Groupe and 34%

owned by Dentsu. Clients include McDonald’s, Procter

& Gamble (SK-II, Ariel, Pampers, etc), Philip Morris,

Lenovo, Symantec, Kellogg’s, Emirates, AXA Life

Insurance, UBS, Nike, Coleman and many more. Heading the operations in Japan is Nicolas Menat. After graduating from business school in Paris, Menat started his career at Havas Dentsu Marsteller in 1987. He then joined Leo Burnett France (today a subsidiary of the Publicis Groupe) in 1989, and has since built his career within the Leo Burnett Group, spending 11 years in Paris, 2 years in Chicago and 3 years in Frankfurt prior to NICOLAS MENAT (PRESIDENT AND REPRESENTATIVE DIRECTOR) BEACON COMMUNICATIONS K.K.

coming to Tokyo in 2005. He

was appointed president and representative

director

of

beacon communications k.k. in January 2007. Under

Menat’s

supervision,

beacon has become one of the

most creative agencies in Japan,

winning many prestigious awards

including the Promo / Activation

Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Lions,

the Grand Prix in Lotus Roots and the

Innova Lotus at 2010 Adfest, and the Grand Prix at The Cup in 2011.

Japan Today visits Menat to hear more.

Q: It looks like a fun place to work NM: We try to provide a fun environment because you need

that to stimulate creativity, and that’s what we are all about.

Q: How’s business this year? NM: This year has not been too bad. The advertising industry in Japan is extremely large and has been shrinking more than anywhere else around the world since the 2008-2009

Lehman shock. Overall, the industry in Japan has lost almost 20% of its size which is gigantic, but we’ve done OK.

Q: What are your strengths? NM: One of our strengths is that we are a foreign company but we also have Japanese

roots thanks to having Dentsu as a partner. We believe in creativity and the work we do

for companies like McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble is seen as extremely inspiring and 6

INSIGHT ISSUE 6


BUSINESS

this helps us win more business. And for the execution we benefit from the support

from Dentsu in the media area for example, as our recommendation can be purchased at best rates by Dentsu.

Q: How do you market your company? NM: Creativity is the essence of what we are doing and creativity has the power to

They don’t. They are commuting, they

brands, they look at campaigns and see how they drive consumer behavior and then

with friends. So for them, TV will adapt

change people’s behavior and drive business. In our industry, people look at successful they call us. We grow through good PR. When we win awards, we try to make sure people know about it.

Q: What is your approach to advertising? NM: We understand people, often even better than

clients. We have many tools that we use in our

strategic planning approach to make sure that we find the right way to create a dialogue between the brand and the consumer.

One such tool is a real life measure of consumers through an iPhone app,

called HumanLab, that tracks where

are online nonstop or hanging out

and migrate to mobiles. On the other hand, there are many older, wealthy consumers who still watch TV.

Q: What characteristics are unique to the Japanese advertising market? NM: One is to use celebrities in Japanese advertising. There used to be a lot more foreign celebrities but now Japanese

celebs are more in demand. Many nonJapanese may not understand this

they are, their perception and how

use of celebrities. The TV ads are

they interact with products and

much shorter in Japan, usually 15

brands in their daily life. When

seconds, even for big brands. That

we see something going on in

is extremely short if you want to

one category, we look at what

tell a story. However, Japanese

can it mean for another category.

people usually know exactly

Then we transform all that into a

what celebrities are about. They

creative idea that will go through

all the multi-channels we have now – digital, mass media, events and retail.

Q: How is the media landscape changing? NM: In the last five years, there

have been more changes in the

media landscape than in the

previous 25 years. TV is still

the most popular medium for

advertising. Newspaper advertising

is still doing OK, but magazines are

suffering. Japan is still a conservative

market with little risk-taking with big

brands. Newer brands can benefit from the

new tools, especially digital media. Here in Japan,

you have the most advanced consumers in terms of

how they interact with social media. In most campaigns,

we have found that a combination of different media is the

most effective strategy.

Q: What about tracking? NM: Tracking online advertising is improving with new tools. Clients go

where consumers are and that has never changed, despite the technology.

When TV started, people said that it would be the end of radio, but it wasn’t. Then as social media took off, they said TV would go, but it hasn’t.

are endorsing a product that

matches his or her values. It’s

not just about taking the money.

One campaign we do for P&G’s

prestigious skincare brand SK-

II features well-known Japanese

actress Kaori Momoi who has been

using the product for almost 30

years, and still has beautiful skin.

That resonates with consumers, and

in 15 seconds, you can tell that story.

Q: Who decides which celebrity to use in an ad campaign? NM: Sometimes clients make a request but it’s usually our job. We start by

asking the client what the core message is they want to communicate and then

identify the best celebrity to support that message. For example, we use former

soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata for Lenovo. Nakata matches what Lenovo wants to

be - to help people do what they want

to do – because he is involved in many

activities helping people to do what they want to do, so it is a perfect match.

The key is to understand the balance. When I see young urban males at university

or starting their career and look at the way they live, I think when do they watch TV? INSIGHT ISSUE 6

7


BUSINESS

Q: How do short product cycles affect the business?

Q: Where are you hands on and where do you delegate?

NM: Product cycles are short because Japan’s market is

NM: I tend to be hands on for everything

build a brand, so that even if an ad campaign is short, as

and organization. For what we do for our

very heavily driven by product innovation. Our job is to

long as it is part of the umbrella communication for the

brand, then every single product contributes to making the brand bigger, even though they don’t last for very long.

Q: Are global campaigns changed to allow for cultural factors? NM: Understanding cultural factors is the very beginning of

everything that we do. There are some campaigns that are truly global and work everywhere around the world. Sometimes you have an idea which can travel, but the execution of the idea

needs to match the cultural aspect of the consumers. We have

many brands such as McDonald’s, Marlboro, Nike, Lenovo, P&G,

where sometimes an idea is developed overseas and then we take the essence and adapt it for Japan. You have to localize it and for that, you need to go back to understanding cultural behavior.

Q: What ads have impressed you? NM: I’m more impressed by digital work than ads on TV. Most TV ads seem to be a bit noisy to me and often, I don’t know what they want to say. On the other hand, digital programs are extremely relevant. I think Uniqlo’s work is brilliant.

Q: Tell us about your team NM: We have about 320 people working here on five

floors, each one designed differently. We have the right

size today giving us flexibility for what we need to do with TV, digital and retail work. We have all the skills in house to answer all clients’ needs. It’s a fairly young staff.

Q: What characteristics should a person have to be successful in this business? NM: What I value the most is passion. I want our people to

be passionate about what they do, what the brands stand for and who the consumers are. They must be happy to work

with a team and create the best. They must have energy and

enthusiasm. No prima donnas. Everything we do in this business is never done by one person; it is done by a team of people.

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INSIGHT ISSUE 6

related to the beacon brand, the strategy clients, while I know about everything going on, I delegate to my team.

Q: How do you like to relax when you are not working? NM: I travel a lot in Japan. I like cycling,

running, going to the gym and I especially love cooking. It’s a good way to relax. beacon communications k.k. JR Tokyu Meguro Building 12F (Reception) 3-1-1 Kami Osaki, Shinagawa-ku Tokyo 141-0021, Japan Tel: +81 3 5437 7200 www.beaconcom.jp


INSIGHT ISSUE 6


FAMILY

LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER Keeping the theme of finding somewhere to escape from the heat with the kids for a few hours; just opened this summer in Odaiba is Legoland Discovery Center Tokyo.

Lego is one of those timeless things

cityscape made from nearly 1.5 million

on the test track. For the girls, there is

we were kids, and continues to be

present, such as Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo

the latest series with the same name.

that we have all played with when

as great as it was for us for the next generation. A fantastic way for kids

to explore their imagination, building and designing their own creations,

playing with their favorite characters

from Disney and beyond—all the while improving their motor skills, sensory

perception and just having plain old fun! The center boasts a nice mix of innovative displays and attractions as well as hands-on activities for the kids.

First thing that will make quite an impression with young and old is

Miniland, a miniature model of the Tokyo

bricks. Famous Tokyo landmarks are all Tower, Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba

area, as well as fun additions such as

Shibuya’s scramble crossing and even a sumo tournament, to name a few.

The Kingdom quest is a Lego themed

laser shoot-em-up ride, where you have

to shoot the ghosts and trolls and rescue

the princess. Afterward, you can compare your score with your friends. It‘s not

Disneyland‘s level but fun all of the same. A new ride will open in October—Merlin’s lot more sophisticated and engaging. At the Lego factory you can meet

Professor Brick O’Brack, who will show bricks, and there is a fun play area

called Fire academy and construction

site with large soft bricks to build with, slides, crawl spaces and a crane and

operating cabin. By far, one of the most

entertaining attractions is the 4D theater. Wondering what 4D is? While you are

watching the mini-Lego film in 3D (which is pretty cool in itself), it suddenly starts snowing, the extra sensory experience being the extra 4th dimension.

There are three areas for kids to actually sit down and play with the Lego: The first is the Lego Racer: Build and test

area, where kids (mainly boys) can build their own Lego race car and try it out INSIGHT ISSUE 6

Finally, for the younger builders, the

Duplo section has the large-piece easy to handle Lego ideal for younger kids. When the fun is done or a break is required, the cafe area offers cute

themed food such as Lego-shaped

sweet bread and Lego cups, and a large and reasonably priced shop offers

plenty of “omiage” options, with all the different Lego series available to buy.

Apprentice—which looks like it will be a

you how plastic is turned into finished

10

the Friends area, where they can try out

When to go As the center is quite new, weekends are extremely busy, so weekdays are the first choice, but even weekdays can pull a crowd, particularly in the afternoon/early evening.

Admission: From 3 years and upwards (including adults) ¥2,000.

*Book online for ¥500 discount Hours Open 10am - 9pm daily (last admission 7pm) Website www.legolanddiscoverycenter.jp/ tokyo/en/


INSIGHT ISSUE 6


LIFESTYLE

MOON MEETS WATER AT CONRAD TOKYO’S MIZUKI SPA BY MAKI YASUDA “Mizuki,” meaning “water and moon”

in Japanese, is the signature spa of the Conrad Tokyo, occupying the top 28th to 37th floors of a skyscraper in the

Shiodome area, overlooking Tokyo Bay and the beautiful Hamarikyu gardens.

Mizuki is on the 29th floor, and can be

used as a day spa by outside guests; hotel guests and members also have access to the fitness area and pool area, which are uplifting spaces filled with natural light.

The studio offers free yoga, boxercise and other classes for groups, which is a nice

activity to fit in when staying at the hotel. The “moon and water” theme is evident in the spa’s interior, with rounded hallways, circular spaces and curvaceous angles all

around, and alcoves decorated with small sculptures with lunar motifs. Natural

warm wood tones and neutral shades of beige and brown are comforting with a distinctly Japanese feel.

The “Heat and Water Experiences” is

an optional “treatment enhancement” referring to the area with steam and

dry saunas, showers, jacuzzis, vanity and lounge. The jacuzzis consist of

four adjacent mini “personal” jacuzzis

where you lie down with your backs to each other, which I thought would be better if they had one big impressive

bath feature, but I suppose some people would appreciate the relative privacy.

The saunas are functional and pleasant. I assume most day spa guests would

opt to use this area for the extra 3,500

yen, as a spa experience would not feel complete without a bath or at least a

shower (for those who opt just for the

treatment, there is a dressing room to use for changing before and after the 12

INSIGHT ISSUE 6

treatment). Of the 10 treatment rooms,

four are suites equipped with a bathtub

Hot Stone Rituals (90 minutes) Price: ¥30,000

and shower, in which case one might

forgo the Heat and Water area. There are

two suites for double occupancy, of which the Mizuki Room has an amazing hinoki

bath by floor to ceiling windows. The 10

treatment rooms all have a Shiodome city view, a futuristic view of gleaming tower facades and neighboring skyscrapers. The spa uses products by the well-

Spa & Afternoon Tea Plan Body or Facial treatment at Mizuki

(80 minute)

Afternoon Tea at Twenty

Eight Bar & Lounge

(14:30-17:00 Mon-Fri /

13:00-17:00 Weekends & Holidays)

Price: ¥28,000

known Italian brand Comfort Zone for all their treatments. Developed by a team

of spa professionals and dermatologists headed by a pharmacist, the brand’s

formulas are rooted in phytotherapy as

well as advanced biochemistry, merging nature and science to get results. The

brand only offers one kind of massage

oil from their “sacred nature” line, used

in all the massage treatments at Mizuki. You don’t have the fun of choosing a

personal aromatherapy concoction, but nevertheless, the “sacred nature” oil is very functional, highly absorbable and

effective in nourishing the skin with anti-

aging properties, and you will be pleased with its effectiveness.

I had the 90-minute Hot Stone Ritual

(30,000 yen), in which heated volcanic stones are placed along the spine, on the abdomen and other points of the

body, and also used to massage with

gentle to medium pressure strokes. The treatment is more for relaxation than

easing muscle tension, but the therapist

will accommodate any trouble spots you may have for direct massaging by hand.


LIFESTYLE

I pointed out my usual stiff neck and shoulder area, which was

well taken care of in between the stone massage. This warming

massage may be particularly good for the summer, as we actually tend to get more chilled than we realize, sitting around in air-

conditioned rooms all the time. It is a sensational experience to feel the heat from the stones transferred directly to the body,

and the soft clicking of the stones coming into contact with each other is soothing and hypnotic. I drifted off during the treatment and needed to be woken up when it was over.

After the treatment, you are led to a lounge that is a circular

room with comfortable long chairs. The room has a communal

feel, with the long chairs placed in a circle along the curving wall, with all the ends facing the center. The lounge is for both men and women, so this would be the meeting point for couples if

they had their treatments separately. With the dim lighting and the effects of the treatment, it is a nice place to drift off again. Some tea and a dessert prepared by the hotel’s pâtissier are

offered there, a welcome refreshment after a long massage. My

dessert was Japanese plum jelly, a delicious healthy treat to top off a relaxing visit.

The Conrad is highly notable for its gourmet scene, so

for those who want a little more indulgence with the spa, the Spa + Afternoon Tea plan would be just the thing.

An 80-minute body treatment or facial plus the hotel’s signature afternoon tea at the Twenty Eight Lounge would be a heavenly way to spend an afternoon.

Mizuki Spa at the Conrad Tokyo 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, 105-7337

Tel: 03 6388 8000 (Hotel) / 03 6388 8620(Spa) Email:

mizuki.conradtokyo@conradhotels.com Hours: 9:00 am to 10:00 pm (Daily)

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SECTION NAME ENTERTAINMENT

TOMMY LEE JONES MEETS THE SHIRATO FAMILY WATCH THE CM YOUTUBE

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ENTERTAINMENT

‘Shirato Family’ star alongside Tommy Lee Jones in Boss-SoftBank crossover commercials.

deadpan comedy characters in 36

Odyssey.” The commercial sees Jones

2006. His character—“Alien Jones”—is

enjoying the peace and quiet, to a

The popular cast of characters known as

The Shirato Family, which includes a

the “Shirato Family” in SoftBank Mobile’s ads are appearing alongside American actor Tommy Lee Jones’ Suntory Boss character in a series of collaborative

commercials that have been made to

coincide with the drink manufacturer’s 20th anniversary campaign.

Jones, who turns 66 next month,

is reportedly a big fan of Japanese

culture and a regular visitor to the

country. He has starred as a host of

Boss canned coffee commercials since an extraterrestrial who takes the form

of a human being to learn more about life on Earth (in particular, Japan).

mother played by Kanako Higuchi, 53, a father played by a single 8-year-old

orbiting a CGI Earth in a spacesuit and soundtrack of “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss. His reverie is

interrupted by the appearance of a space shuttle from which the Shirato Family’s canine father, also in a spacesuit, emerges to confront him.

Hokkaido breed dog, a son played by

In another commercial, Jones plays a

daughter played by Aya Ueto, 26, have

busying himself around the house.

American actor Dante Carver, 35, and a made 136 commercials in the last five

years. “It feels like we make a new one every week,” says Higuchi.

One of the new ads takes its inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space

family man who wears an apron while Higuchi said of Jones, “He really suits that apron. He would make a great househusband. I’d love for him to

become a permanent member of the Shirato household.”

INSIGHT ISSUE 6

15


OPINIONS

OPINIONS Ishihara aims to go out with a bang, not a fizzle.

already has. China doesn’t

posturing, most evident in a

Ishihara wants a legacy, and

off. Governor Ishihara’s

survey mission that wasn’t

BY JOHN MATTHEWS

even able to land on the

Show (thejapanshow.com)

government denying them

Ever-controversial Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara turns 80 this

is his attempt to force either

National Public Radio (NPR) Reporter and creator of The Japan

month; if “This is Your Life” were to have a Japanese incarnation,

soon-to-be-octogenarian Governor Ishihara’s episode would be something worth DVRing onto its own hard drive and preserving in a sealed glass case to keep it through the ages. Although Ishihara won’t be making the leap from analog to digital before his circuits fail, he’s already led such a full life that anyone could be jealous. Being a member of Japan’s upper house for four years

and its lower house for 23 (!) years, governor of Tokyo for 13

uninterrupted years, and novelist, you might imagine Governor Ishihara isn’t exactly the unmotivated type.

Ishihara’s move toward the Senkakus (Diaoyu to the Chinese) is perhaps his biggest gambit yet; having amassed almost $20

million worth of private donations, he’s looking to take the

disputed Senkakus and present them to the national government on a silver platter, completely free of charge. In a conversation

with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Ishihara offered to hand the

islands over for free to Kasumigaseki for administration, although

he’s said he would like certain structures developed on the islands. Only this past weekend, more than two dozen Tokyo officials circled the islands for “survey purposes,” although the man himself behind the plan was conspicuously absent.

Ishihara’s purchase offer is already trumped by a Japanese national government counteroffer

of 2.05 billion yen for the island to a private

citizen living in Saitama, but the big question is “does all this actually matter?” China, longtime claimant of the Diaoyu/Senkakus, denies

establishes any legitimacy over Tokyo’s claim to the islands, and by extension any Japanese citizen. Given that these islands were said to be worth billions by a U.N. report in the late 1960s due

to rich natural resources, China will not particularly care how fancy the bill of sale looks between any Japanese citizen and the

Japanese government; from the outside, it may as well be a shill

bid. The only tangible effect to this circus is the growing tension between Japan and its larger, toothy neighbor to the southwest. National pride aside, these islands represent one of the most

contentious issues between the two countries; when resources INSIGHT ISSUE 6

islands due to the national permission (good call fellas), Tokyo or Beijing’s hand and

shape the politics of the East China Sea. Neither nation is willing to commit to a

want to risk conflict. Governor the Senkakus may be his last

big hurrah if the Olympics fall through. But then, hosting

dignitaries and athletes from every corner of the world is

nothing compared to starting a small cold war with your

biggest, angriest neighbor. //

proper conflict; Japan and

China have just established

stronger financial ties, cutting out the dollar as a currency

for direct trades between the two nations. Speaking of the U.S., continued presence by

its military will keep a lid on open conflict; being a true

artist at provoking people of

all kinds, Ishihara knows this gives him a wide berth when

trying to dictate foreign policy from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building. The

offer to turn over the islands

National pride aside, these islands represent one of the most contentious issues between the two countries; when resources are at stake, the gloves come off.

that Japan’s continuing administration and patrol of the islands

16

are at stake, the gloves come

to the Japanese government

for free hints further that he’s not looking for an investment in anything tangible aside

from his own political clout. The final question is “who

moves first?” Cooler heads in

the national government does not want to sour relations

with China any more than it

What the loss of a farmer’s land in Fukushima really means. BY TETSUNORI KOIZUMI

Director of the International

Institute for Integrative Studies To a farmer, the land he

cultivates and lives on carries a special meaning not only

as the place of his livelihood but also as the source of his sense of belonging,

connectedness, and continuity. With a few acres of his family farm to attend to, a farmer can indeed be a model of

the happy man that appears in “Ode on Solitude” by

Alexander Pope (1688-1744): “Happy the man, whose wish

and care, A few paternal acres bound, Content to breath his

native air, In his own ground.” Developing, as he does, a

strong sense of attachment to his native air and land,

it is natural that a farmer,

when forced to abandon the land of his wish and care


OPINIONS

and move to a new place,

— steamy hot summers and

counselors themselves are

people from Okuma, the place

devastating and traumatic.

inland city surrounded by

stress of adjusting themselves

idyllic farms cultivated by and

finds the experience quite

Such is indeed the case with

the farmers and their families of Okuma, a coastal town in Fukushima Prefecture. They

were forced to abandon their lands in the wake of the

massive earthquake that shook northern Japan on March 11,

2011. Unlike the residents in

other coastal cities and towns, it was not the destructive

power of the tsunami that

forced the people of Okuma to abandon their homes.

Their misfortune was that

the town was the host to four of the six ill-fated nuclear reactors at the Fukushima

Daiichi nuclear power plant. The evacuation of the people of Okuma, which started two days after the quake, is an

ongoing saga that continues to this day. By now, most of about 11,000 people from Okuma have settled down in cities and towns which

are safe-distance away from the nuclear power plants. However, “settle down” is

clearly a misnomer to describe the situation the people from Okuma find themselves in their new settlements, for

they are living with a whole array of hardships that all contribute to their stress.

Having to live in a new and

unfamiliar environment is, in itself, a source of stress. In the case of the city of Aizu

Wakamatsu, which is home

to the largest settlement of the people from Okuma, a

harsh natural environment

damp cold winters — of this mountains is a major source

of their stress. Moreover, the temporary houses provided

for the people from Okuma, although equipped with the

basic necessities of life such

as utilities and appliances, are too small and too crowded

compared with the comfort and security of the houses

refugees going through the to live and work in a new

environment. At least, they are lucky to have their jobs, unlike the elderly farmers who have given up their hope to work

and live on their own farms.

allowed to visit only on

designated days but are not allowed to go back to live.

More than anything else, it is

the mental stress that is taking the heaviest toll on the people from Okuma. While they all

look for a day when they will be able to go back to their

homes, that prospect looks

very bleak, especially for the

elderly, considering that their contaminated houses back

home will not be fit for living for at least 30 years. “There

are just two options left for us: go back alive to Okuma or go

back dead to be buried,” goes one line in a song the people from Okuma composed out of dejection and self-pity. The town government in

exile does provide counseling services to those who are in need of them. However, the

number of qualified counselors is too few relative to the

need for their services. To

make the matter worse, the

inherited from their ancestors perhaps comes closest to their idea of Pure Land in

this world, the land they wish to return to one day to be

reunited with their ancestors.

Even religion fails to provide

That Pure Land, now

security for the people from

radioactive particles, is lost

the sense of comfort and

“There are just two options left for us: go back alive to Okuma or go back dead to be buried.” back home that they are

they have left behind with

contaminated with deadly

forever as far as the people

from Okuma are concerned. //

Okuma leading their daily

lives under stress in a new

and unfamiliar environment.

In fact, what is intended to be kind and encouraging words

to cheer up the people living

in their temporary houses can become a source of irritation — even anger — for them

unless the words are delivered with due consideration and true understanding of the

situation they are in. Words such as “this is your new

home now” and “you must

find happiness, living here and now” fall on deaf ears as these people continue to dream of a day when they will return

to their native air and land. “Jigoku ichinyo” (Hell is

inevitable), the words ascribed to Shinran (1173-1263), the

founder of the True Pure Land

sect of Buddhism in Japan, may best capture the sentiment of the people from Okuma who

are going through the agony

and pain of having abandoned

their native air and land out of no fault of their own. For the

INSIGHT ISSUE 6

17


INSIGHT ISSUE 6


Insight Issue 6-Vol.1-2012