JAPANTODAY’S PREMIER ENGLISH DIGITAL WEEKLY MAGAZINE
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
Moon meets water at Conrad Tokyo’s Mizuki Spa
Tommy Lee Jones meets The Shirato Family
Ishihara and Fukushima
ISSUE 06 / VOLUME 01 / SEPTEMBER 2012
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
Editor in Chief
Art Director/Designer Thong Van Contributors Paul Koehler
John Matthews Maki Yasuda
Account Managers Kieron Cashell Peter Lackner Advertising
Schools and Family News Tokyo International School (TIS)
Health and Beauty Tsuruki Mita Clinic
Hotels and Japanese Inns ANA InterContinental Tokyo Hotel Okura Tokyo
Oriental Hotel Hiroshima The Peninsula Tokyo
Outdoors and Sports
Tsutsujigaoka Country Club
firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher GPlusMedia Co., Ltd. 105-0011
3-1-1 Minotomi Bld. 3F Shiba-koen, Minato-ku Tokyo (Japan)
Tel: +81 3 5403 7781
Fax: +81 3 5403 2775
Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron (TSPS)
Restaurants and Bars Bulldog BBQ
Hei Fung Terrace
Kimono Wine and Grill Peter
The Irish Times
What The Dickens!
Language Teaching Professionals
Italian Chamber of Commerce in Japan The British Chamber of Commerce in Japan
Insight Magazine is published
weekly online and can be read and downloaded to your PC or tablet for free.
Content may not reproduced in
whole or in part without written permission from GPlusMedia. ÂŠ2012 GPlusMedia Co., Ltd.
Cover Illustration courtesy of Legoland Discovery Center
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
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.
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
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
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
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
beacon communications k.k. in January 2007. Under
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Afternoon Tea at Twenty
Eight Bar & Lounge
(14:30-17:00 Mon-Fri /
13:00-17:00 Weekends & Holidays)
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.
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:
email@example.com Hours: 9:00 am to 10:00 pm (Daily)
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
SECTION NAME ENTERTAINMENT
TOMMY LEE JONES MEETS THE SHIRATO FAMILY WATCH THE CM YOUTUBE
INSIGHT ISSUE 6
‘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
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
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
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
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
INSIGHT ISSUE 6