January 2021 INTOUCH Magazine

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JANUARY 2021

INTOUCH

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TOKYO AMERIC AN CLUB

An English-speaking concierge who helps you book a table

毎月一回一日発行 第四十七巻六六九号 トウキョウアメリカンクラブ インタッチマガジン二〇二一年一月一日発行 平成三年十二月二十日第三種郵便物許可定価八00円 本体七四一円

Time for an upgrade Time for MORI LIVING

TOKYO AMERIC AN CLUB

Year of Hope Community leaders set course for Club recovery JANUARY 2021

ARTISTIC TOUCH + SMELLING THE ROSES + BACKGAMMON GURU


Communicating with people, creating the city

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Contents 20 CLUB REVIVAL

KAYO YAMAWAKI

FOLLOW US

Michael Benner, the Club’s newly selected representative governor, discusses the challenges and lessons from 2020 and forging a path to recovery in the coming year.

5

LE ADER SHIP

6

DIGE ST

10

AGENDA

AKIRA YAMAGUCHI

INDEPTH

15

COMMUNIT Y

17

CU LT U R E

19

NIHONBA SHI

20

FO CU S

17 HIGH ROLLER

Ahead of his visit to the Club this month, the world’s top-ranked backgammon player explains his love for the dice and his climb up the leaderboard.

COMMUNITY

25

WELLNE SS

27

REGISTER

ST YLE AND SUBSTANCE

29

VOICE

30

HIGHLIGHTS

36

E S C APE

From paintings to pottery to multimedia collages, no creative impulse was overlooked in the assembly of the art collection for the upcoming Nihonbashi Club.

YUUKI IDE

19

COVER IMAGE OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS’ EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (L–R: JEFFREY BEHR, SAM ROGAN, MICHAEL BENNER, KENJI OTA AND TRISTA BRIDGES BIVENS) BY KAYO YAMAWAKI

JANUARY  | 1


TOKYO AMERIC AN CLUB

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

INTOUCH

Representative Governor Michael Benner (2022)

Editor Nick Jones

First Vice President Sam Rogan (2022)

editor@tac-club.org

Second Vice President Trista Bridges Bivens (2022)

Assistant Editor Owen Ziegler

Secretar y Jeffrey Behr (2021)

Designer Kohji Shiiki

Treasurer Kenji Ota (2021)

Designer Clara Garcia

Governors Michael Alfant (2021), John Flanagan (2021), Anthony Moore (2022),

Production Administrator Yuko Shiroki

Tetsutaro Muraki (2022), Catherine Ohura (2021), Alok Rakyan (2021)

GENERAL MANAGER

Heidi Regent (2021), Dean R Rogers (2022), Christina Siegel (2022)

Anthony L Cala

Statutor y Auditors Koichi Komoda (2022), Paul Kuo (2021) Parentheses denote term limit.

ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGERS Business Operations Wayne Hunter

CLUB COMMITTEE CHAIRS

Business Suppor t Lian Chang

Compensation Anthony Moore Culture, Community & Enter tainment Miki Ohyama (Jeffrey Behr)

DIRECTORS

Finance Joe Moscato (Kenji Ota)

Recreation Susanna Yung

Food & Beverage Kristina Wright (Sam Rogan)

Member Services Jonathan Allen

House Douglas Hymas (Catherine Ohura)

Membership Mari Hori

Human Resources John Y Sasaki (Tetsutaro Muraki)

Interim Food & Beverage Suranga Hettige Don

Membership Risa Dimacali (Trista Bridges Bivens)

Finance Naoto Okutsu

Nominating Ray Klein

Facilities Toby Lauer

Recreation Nils Plett (Christina Siegel)

Communications Shane Busato

Risk Control Justin Keyes (John Flanagan)

Tokyo American Club Nihonbashi

TAC Digital Member-Engagement Task Force Jeffrey Daggett

Nori Yamazaki

TAC Nihonbashi Task Force Ginger Griggs (Alok Rakyan)

CONTRIBUTORS

TAC Sustainability Task Force Trista Bridges Bivens

Writers

Tokyo 2020 Olympic David Hackett (Dean R Rogers)

Brendan Morris

Parentheses denote Board liaison.

Kenji Ota

SUBCOMMITTEES

Betsy Rogers

Community Relations

Photographers

Frederick Harris Galler y

Donna Beeman

Golf

Yuuki Ide

Squash

Ken Katsurayama

Swim

Noriyuki Yamamura

Wine & Beverage

Kayo Yamawaki Illustrator

Subcommittee chairs to be confirmed.

Tania Vicedo

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membership@tac-club.org

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All prices referenced in INTOUCH exclude consumption tax.

2 | INTOUCH


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LEADERSHIP

C Road to Recovery WORDS KENJI OTA IMAGE KAYO YAMAWAKI

lose Member friends of mine recently enjoyed a three-week stay at the fourth-floor Guest Studios. Over dinner at the Club, they raved about the friendliness of the staff, the great facilities, the room’s private terrace with its spectacular view of Tokyo Tower and the overall sense of safety provided by our Azabudai home. Comments like those remind us how blessed we are to have such a wonderful Club and community. The Board receives weekly reports on Member usage of the Club, and utilization is 20 percent higher than the period just before the Club’s temporary closure. It’s possible that the tumultuous year, with all its challenges, reinforced to Members how much the Club means to them. Last year was about coping with a rapidly evolving situation and then safely restarting Club life. It was also about steadying the financial ship through government subsidies, cost-cutting and some service-level reductions. It’s true that not everything went the way we would have hoped, and we discovered areas that we need to improve. But through an enormous effort by so many Members and with the support of management, we managed to kick-start Club life and stabilize our finances. The coming year will be about striking a new balance between Member satisfaction, Member safety and ensuring the Club’s longterm financial health. This will, no doubt, involve compromises along the way. Satisfying Member demand while staying financially prudent and adhering to safety protocols will be a balancing act, but we are determined to help the Club flourish. Some initiatives don’t involve trade-offs. For example, the New Revenues Task Force, led by John Flanagan, has been working on a number of business ideas to boost both revenue for the Club and Member satisfaction. The Board will be examining their potential this year. In the spring, we will launch our Nihonbashi home, the first satellite facility in the Club’s history. It will provide significant Member benefits as a downtown venue in which to dine, relax and work out. And at no cost to the Club. The project task force, chaired by Ginger Griggs, has done an incredible job. We’re looking forward to the Nihonbashi Club’s momentous opening. Of course, as we proceed through the year, we will need Member feedback on all these efforts and initiatives. After weathering last year’s storm, the Club’s recovery is in all our hands.

“IT’S POSSIBLE THAT THE TUMULTUOUS YEAR, WITH ALL ITS CHALLENGES, REINFORCED TO MEMBERS HOW MUCH THE CLUB MEANS TO THEM.”

Kenji Ota is the Club’s treasurer.

JANUARY | 5


D I G E ST E D I TO R

Change at the Top

Close Encounters

YUUKI IDE

GOVERNANCE

Michael Benner (pictured) was selected as the Club’s representative governor at the Annual General Meeting on November 17. He was chosen by the new Board of Governors at its first meeting following the Board election. In other Board positions, Sam Rogan and Trista Bridges Bivens were named first and second vice president, respectively, with Jeffrey Behr taking up the role of secretary and Kenji Ota becoming treasurer. All members of the Board’s executive committee serve a one-year term. In total, seven Members were elected to the Board for two-year terms. On page 20, the Club’s new representative governor discusses the challenges of 2020 and the year ahead. NJ COMMUNIT Y

DONNA BEEMAN

Helping the Helpers

Connections has earmarked ¥5 million for local charities hit hard by the ongoing pandemic. The Club group selected eight charities adversely affected by the crisis, including Second Harvest Japan food bank, Sanyukai homeless shelter, TELL counseling services and Resilience, a women’s support group. “Without the support of Connections, these organizations cannot fully support all of the pressing needs in our broader community,” says Connections President Heidi Regent. “The pandemic has sharply cut into their funding and financial stability.” The other groups set to receive funds raised by Connections are A Dream A Day in Tokyo, Animal Refuge Kansai, Family House and the Salvation Army Japan (pictured). NJ

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Bernardo Bustillo wasn’t the first person to fall foul of a webcam, and he certainly won’t be the last. But after inadvertently broadcasting himself taking a shower during a morning online meeting last summer, the Spanish councilman no doubt took a crash course in computer hardware. With so much of the world pivoting (or stumbling) to technology to stay connected and working last year, teething issues were inevitable. But it’s also surprising how quickly people adopt new lifestyles and lexicons (had anyone actually used Zoom before 2020?). By the summer, the word “hybrid” was being applied to a lot more than eco-friendly cars. The Club’s own Toastmasters group embraced this new approach to meetings early on, with some Members choosing to attend in person and others joining virtually from their living rooms. Like much of the hospitality industry, the Club’s own event and meeting business ground to a halt last spring. But the Club’s event-planning team swiftly adapted to the demands of the day and began offering hybrid meeting packages with robust measures to keep attendees safe. As Michael Benner points out in his first interview as the Club’s new representative governor, the Club has established a reputation as a “safe and spacious” location. The couple who celebrated their wedding at the Club last year thought so. Exactly when people will feel comfortable enough to host larger meetings, get-togethers and parties is anyone’s guess. What is more certain is that our online interactions will continue. Just with fewer webcam mishaps.


L I B R A RY

From the Shelves hooked as soon as I learned to read, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

KAYO YAMAWAKI

What genre do you most enjoy? I am a reader of catholic tastes. In the past, I favored nonfiction, with a focus on history (classical, Chinese and American), behavioral economics, financial markets and, above all—and particularly during the current pandemic—travel writing. More recently, I have discovered some of the many marvelous crime writers around the world, such as Pierre Lemaitre, Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Leonardo Padura, Mick Herron, Tana French, Keigo Higashino and, my current favorite, Michael Connelly. Christopher Lewis

With every January comes the annual set of ambitious resolutions and goals we set ourselves. But promises to “read a book a month” or “revisit the classics” won’t be on the list of Member Christopher Lewis, who is already a regular browser of the Library shelves. What was your favorite childhood book? No one particular book, but I have fond memories of Enid Blyton (Secret Seven and Famous Five series), Arthur Ransome (Swallows and Amazons series) and Richmal Cromp-

ton (Just William series). I also enjoyed a second reading childhood when I introduced my sons to the hilarious Roald Dahl and the Harry Potter series. What inspired your love of books? In the words of fantasy writer George RR Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives. The man who never reads lives only one.” There is no other pastime that is not only relaxing and entertaining but also affords opportunities to learn, to escape reality and to transport yourself to another world. I was

What are you reading now? As usual, one nonfiction book and one novel: CEO, China, Kerry Brown’s account of the inexorable rise of Xi Jinping, and the delightfully titled The Concrete Blonde, one of Michael Connelly’s earlier Bosch novels. When were you last unable to put down a book? It happens all the time, particularly with a great thriller. The novel that I not only find unputdownable but also return to regularly is Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s black humor masterpiece about the absurdity and futility of war.

S PA

New Year Freebies

KAYO YAMAWAKI

After the challenges of the last year (and the excesses of the holiday season), The Spa is inviting Members to kick-start 2021 with some well-deserved pampering. Plus, when you spend at least ¥7,000 on a rejuvenating or revitalizing treatment session with one of The Spa’s expert therapists, you’re automatically entered into a drawing that could see you win free facials and other treatments, steep discounts and even Dermalogica skincare products. Talk about putting 2020 in the rear-view mirror. OZ

JANUARY | 7


Ski & Snowboard Group Lessons For Kids & Teens We’ve been teaching children to enjoy the slopes for over 20 years! Join us in Hakuba this winter and improve your skiing and snowboarding, whether it’s your first time or you’re a little ripper!

New Year & Winter Wonderland Snowshoe Tours Explore the winter forest by day or night. Featuring Evening Chocolate Fondue, Stargazing, Tranquil Forest Trails, Mulled Wine and much more!

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Scan Here & Book Your Hakuba Winter Experience Today! With three dedicated Winter departments and over 20 years experience, we guarantee we’ve got something for you this holiday season in Hakuba, Nagano, Japan.


D I G E ST E V E N TS

WINE

Fresh Starts

Uncorking New Flavors WORDS BRENDAN MORRIS

NORIYUKI YAMAMURA

IMAGE KAYO YAMAWAKI

“Out with the old, in with the new.” Never has an expression been more relevant than now. But how best to make a clean break from the year that was and turn toward a new one full of promise and potential? With the Club’s New Year party packages, turning the page on 2020 has never been easier—or more satisfying. Featuring myriad culinary options, free-flow drinks and the Club’s safety-first venues, plans starting at just ¥11,000 per person might be just the way to bid adieu to a tumultuous year while welcoming 2021 in style. For more information, contact 03-4588-0308 or banquet@tac-club.org today. OZ

SAFET Y

Pool Comforts

Swimmers can say goodbye to the poolside shivers this winter. Now that the Sky Pool’s glass, sliding doors are closed for the chillier months, the Club can better control the movement, humidity and temperature of the air in the fifth-floor facility. This means not only more efficiently filtered air but lower energy costs for the Club, too. According to Toby Lauer, the Club’s facilities director, having the doors closed also prevents the accelerated evaporation of pool chlorine, which helps to destroy viruses. Sounds like Members will be diving into a warmer—and safer—winter of pool pleasures. NJ

Since a new year calls for new experiences, why not try the following trio of North American wines from The Cellar? While the Zinfandel grape originated in Croatia, it is more commonly associated with California. Castoro Cellars’ 2016 Estate Grown Zinfandel (¥2,300) is a good-value example. Exuding plum, berry and herbal tones, this Paso Robles red pairs well with grilled meats and spicy tomato sauce pastas. Heading south to Santa Barbara, Hitching Post Wines’ 2017 Cork Dancer Pinot Noir (¥4,900) is a remarkably full-bodied Pinot that is still low in tannins. Since the winery’s vineyards are just outside Buellton, home of Andersen’s famous split pea soup, try it with this comfort food classic or umami-style dishes. Many people think ice wine is best paired with desserts, but it is more versatile than that. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Tawse Winery has been voted Canada’s winery of the year several times and its 2013 Icewine Riesling (¥5,000) is a sweet indulgence that restaurants often pair with foie gras. It is also delightful with richer blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and Roquefort. Happy New Year and all the best for 2021! Brendan Morris is a member of the Club’s Wine & Beverage Committee. For the month of January, receive a 10 percent discount on purchases of at least three bottles of any of these recommended Cellar wines.

JANUARY | 9


AG E N DA

Events in January 1

New Year’s Day Closed on the first day of 2021, the Club welcomes back Members on January 2.  Details online

2

Winter Reading Challenge The Library’s perennially popular reading challenge continues with a January of wintry reads, page-turning competition and spectacular prizes.  Through January 20  Library  Free  Ages 2–12  Details online

13

2 & 12

Bowl Season at Traders’ It hasn’t been the usual college football season, but it all ends as expected with just one school crowned the national champion on January 12 and live on the Traders’ Bar screens.  10:45am (January 2); 10am (January 12)  Traders’ Bar  Details online

4

Culture Connections Share snippets of your home culture and New Year customs with other Connections members at this casual get-together.  10am  Free  Connections members only  Details online

4–8

Camp Discovery: Winter Edition When the temperature drops, Camp Discovery’s days of games, crafts and counselor-led fun are just heating up.  ¥45,000 (¥10,000 per day)  Ages 3–12  Sign up online

6

Wednesday Storytime Youngsters pick up a lifelong love of reading at this inspiring session of children’s tales. Runs every Wednesday.  4–4:30pm  Children’s Library  Free  Ages 2–6

10 | INTOUCH

TAC Talk: Timon Screech When it comes to the story of the first foreigners to visit Japan, Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit priests and Dutch merchants often take center stage. “Those are a part of everyone’s textbooks and the English don’t fit,” says historian Timon Screech (pictured, left, with former UK Ambassador Tim Hitchens). “They’ve fallen out of the picture.” A professor of history at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Screech, 59, visits the Club this month to expound on the littleknown journey of two English ships told in his newest book, The Shogun’s Silver Telescope: God, Art and Money in the English Quest for Japan. Sent by King James I to the court of the then-retired shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the centerpiece gift, a silver-gilt

9

Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour Members usher in good luck for 2021 during this tour of temples associated with Japan’s seven gods of good fortune in the fascinating Tokyo districts of Yanaka and Ueno.  10am–1pm

telescope, was meant both as a present of ornate renown as well as a political tool to undermine Protestant England’s Catholic rivals who were still teaching a geocentric model of the solar system. “The point about a telescope is that anyone using it can see that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around,” Screech says. “The English are basically telling the Japanese: ‘All these things the Jesuits have been telling you for the last 50 years are all wrong.’” The evening promises to be a voyage of discovery for history buffs and lovers of a good tale alike. OZ  7–8pm  Washington & Logan rooms  ¥1,500 (virtual attendance: ¥500)  Copies of The Shogun’s Silver Telescope available for ¥3,700  Sign up online

9

DIY Comic Book Club Creative kids craft their own comic book with the Library’s Drew Damron. The fun continues every second Saturday of the month.  11:30am–1:30pm  Teen Connection  ¥2,000  Ages 6–14  Sign up online


9, 16 & 23 Coding Club

There’s no limit to the tech fun at this gaming-inspired look into the world of programming, coding, animation and more.  1–3pm  Beate Sirota Gordon & Haru Reischauer classrooms  ¥1,000  Ages 8 & above

10–11

NFL Playoffs at Traders’ The road to Super Bowl LV begins with expanded, wild-card round action. Catch all the games in Traders’ Bar, your home of sports.  Wild-card round: January 10–11; divisional round: January 17–18; conference championships: January 25; Super Bowl: February 8  Details online

13

Gallery Exhibition: Toshinori Munakata

12

Cocktail Connections Mingle with friends over happyhour drinks during this first meetup of the year.  5–7pm  Traders’ Bar  Connections members only  Details online

16

Show & Tell Jamboree Ages 6 to 9 build confidence while learning how to wow a crowd at this afternoon of games, music and selfesteem-boosting activities.  2–3pm  Brooklyn II & III  ¥1,000  Sign up online

18

Connections: New Year Registration Peruse upcoming enrichment classes, discover volunteering opportunities and find your newest passion for the new you in 2021.  9am–7pm  Family Lobby (1F)  Free  Details online

20

Toastmasters Luncheon Members of the Club’s Toastmasters kick-start the year with a luncheon of inspired speeches and myriad learning opportunities.  12–1:30pm  Manhattan III  ¥2,200  Sign up online

Master ar tisans often require decades to reach the pinnacle of their vocation. Particularly in Japan, where trainees usually hone their skills under an established mentor for much of their lives before venturing out on their own, accomplished artists in their relative youth are a rare sight. At just 35 years of age, Toshinori Munakata is already a master of the kiln. A ninth-generation ceramicist f r o m Fu k u s h i m a P r e f e c t u r e , Munakata’s works exude a grace and complexity that belie his years. Members will have a chance to attest for themselves at an exhibition of his wares at the Frederick Harris Gallery this month. OZ Moment I realized I wanted to become an artist. Ma k i n g p o tt e r y h a s b e e n my

family’s business for generations. When I started studying pottery in Kyoto 15 years ago, I was impressed [with the craft] and wanted to carry on the tradition. What I would tell my 20-year-old self. Always keep trying and stay curious. My perfect creative environment. An environment where I can calmy concentrate surrounded by nature. Artist, living or dead, I’d most like to share a meal with. Tawaraya Sotatsu [cofounder of the 17th-century Rinpa school of Japanese painting].  Through February 8  Frederick Harris Gallery  Details online

21

22–24

Club bibliophiles share their lingering literary thoughts at this first meeting of the new year.

Dreaming of warmer weather? Get a head start with a brand-new grill and accessories from the American cookout mainstay.

Book Lovers’ Group

 11am–12:30pm  Vista  Free  Sign up online

Weber Grill Sale

 10:30am–7pm  Beate Sirota Gordon & Haru Reischauer classrooms  Details online

JANUARY  | 1 1


AG E N DA

20

Azabudai Anniversary Spectacular

YUUKI IDE

Raise a glass to 2021 and the 10th birthday of the Club’s Azabudai home at an evening of high-energy festivities. T his Ne w Year celebration features a lineup of traditional shinnenkai entertainment, including a kagami biraki sake barrel-breaking ceremony, a shishimai lion dance and a colorful performance of kagura, a form of Shinto theatrical dance. With the Club marking a decade this month since the US ambassador at the time, John Roos, formally opened the Azabudai facility (pictured), the Library’s Drew Damron highlights the Club’s milestone moments over

the last 10 years in a short presentation and Ginger Griggs provides an update on the next landmark event: the launch of the Nihonbashi Club. Celebratory sake, a selection of savory delicacies and the smooth jazz vibes of Kevin McHugh and Monique

Dehaney complete what is sure to be a memorable start to the year. NJ

23

26

30

After a 2020 of stay-at-home inertia, set yourself on the road to wellness at this 80s-themed day of demo classes, workout ideas and wellness tips from the fitness pros.

Explore the historical Tokyo area of Ryogoku, sumo’s spiritual home and the location of the endlessly fascinating Edo-Tokyo Museum.

New Year Fit Fest

Ryogoku: Sumo’s Mecca

 10am–3pm  New York Ballroom  ¥1,000  Ages 15 & above  Sign up online

 Connections members: ¥3,000 (non-Connections Group members: ¥3,300)  Fee includes chankonabe lunch  Sign up online

25

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Coffee Connections Start the year as you mean to go on by meeting old friends and making new ones at this monthly get-together of Connections members.  10am  Connections members only  Details online

25

Backgammon Clinic Masayuki Mochizuki, the world’s No 1 backgammon player, visits the Club for an evening of dice, chips and good-natured competition. Read more about Mochizuki’s rise to the top on page 17.  6:30–8:30pm  Manhattan III  ¥1,500 (guests: ¥1,800)  Details online

12 | INTOUCH

Château Pontet-Canet Wine Dinner Noé Tesseron hosts an online dinner of stupendous pours from this venerable Bordeaux winery, which was acquired by Guy Tesseron in 1975. The evening concludes with a 50-year-old Tesseron cognac.  6:30–9pm  Manhattan I & II  ¥30,000 (guests: ¥36,000)  Limit: one guest per membership  Details online

30

Saturday Storytime Kids jump into the weekend with a book-inspired morning of magic, adventure and laughs.  11:30am–12pm  Children’s Library  Free  Details online

 7–8:30pm  New York Ballroom  ¥3,000 (guests: ¥5,000); walk-ins (if space): ¥4,000 (guests: ¥6,000)  Adults only  Sign up online

Father-Daughter Dinner Dance The Club’s annual ball for dads and their princesses (ages 5 to 13) returns with an après-ski-inspired party of comfy sweaters, music to move to, a feast of mouthwatering winter favorites and photo keepsakes. Also on February 6.  5–8pm  New York Ballroom  ¥8,500 (guests: ¥10,200); each additional daughter: ¥6,950  Sign up online

31

New Year’s Daruma Workshop Wondering how to stick to your New Year’s resolution in 2021? Do as the locals do and make your own daruma wish doll at this instructor-led workshop. Modeled after Bodhidharma, an ancient Buddhist monk, the daruma is a symbol of perseverance and luck in Japan.  10am–12:30pm  Gymnasium  ¥3,500 (walk-ins: ¥4,200)  Sign up online


27

TAC Talk: Greg Story Aristotle had it easy. When the polymath and philosopher was formulating his three pillars of persuasion for public speaking, he wasn’t concerned whether his arguments would be able to overcome the lure of the smartphone. For any modern presenter or speaker, the battle for an audience’s attention is infinitely harder than in ancient Greece. “We are presenting in the age of distraction,” says Member and veteran speaker Greg Story (pictured). “Your opening is competing with the mobile phone and an escape route to the Internet. If you don’t have the audience’s interest in the first few seconds, you’ve lost them.” But help is at hand. At his Club talk this month (his 543rd time in front of an audience), Story will highlight 12 common presentation mistakes and offer tactics for avoiding them.

The Australian, who is president of Dale Carnegie Training Japan and the author of Japan Sales Mastery, says any good speech starts with knowing your audience. “First of all, who am I talking to? And what is the purpose of this presentation or talk? Am I here to inform people? Inspire? Persuade? Entertain?” says Story, a longtime resident of Japan. Story also advises presenters to summarize what they want to say

in one concise “takeaway for the audience” to simplify the process of crafting their speech or presentation. “People think it’s about them and what they want to say,” he says. “In fact, it’s about the audience and what they want to hear.” NJ  7–8pm  Washington & Lincoln rooms  ¥1,500 (virtual attendance: ¥500)  Includes one drink  Copies of Japan Sales Mastery available for ¥1,900  Sign up online

29–31

Norikura Winter Wonderland NORTHSTAR LODGE

Japan has no shortage of stunning ski resorts. Niseko most often caters to an international crowd. Gala Yuzawa treats the Tokyo day-tripping crowd to a few hours on the slopes. But the Norikura Highlands, straddling the border between Nagano and Gifu prefectures, are perfect for a multiday alpine experience. On this Connections-sponsored winter tour, Members travel by private bus to the Southern Japan Alps for a twonight stay at Northstar Lodge, a cozy, family-focused retreat. Whether you’re an experienced skier or snowboarder or prefer a slower way of taking in the

picture-postcard scenery, this getaway promises something for everyone. “There are enough lifts for every sort of ability,” says tour organizer Christa Wallington. “There are English ski and snowboarding lessons and cross-country tours all in English.” After the day’s outdoor excitement, families can unwind over warming,

hearty dinners, games of table tennis and foosball, climbing-wall workouts or chats around the fireplace. “It ’s a friendly atmosphere,” Wa l l i n gt o n s ay s o f t h e l o d g e . “Everybody speaks English and it’s warm and comfortable.” OZ  Sign up online by January 5

JANUARY  | 13


A DV E RTO R I A L

Ahead of the Curve TUJ Continuing Education nurtures future-proof skills in Tokyo’s lifelong learners

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s many of us recall from our time spent at university, it provided the chance not just to learn, but to meet people from different backgrounds and be a part of a thriving community. Now, even though we may no longer be undergraduates, it doesn’t mean there still aren’t opportunities to be a member of a diverse group of lifelong learners, while preparing ourselves for a rapidly changing economic situation. This is exactly the opportunity that Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) Continuing Education provides. TUJ’s parent campus in Philadelphia was founded in 1884, and, from its very beginnings, has been dedicated to providing an excellent education to older students and those of traditional college age. In the 1980s, Temple was one of many American universities that came to Japan to set up campuses—however, most did not stay. TUJ now stands as the oldest and largest foreign university in Japan. Its near 40-year history allows the school to develop a deep, institutional understanding of the culture and history of Japan while still holding true to its American roots. REAL-WORLD LEARNING TUJ offers undergraduate and graduate programs, but most appealing to working professionals or people with busy schedules is their Continuing Education program, which provides courses in everything from marketing and project management to Japanese and English language to ikebana (traditional Japanese flower arranging) and photography. As Dr. Justin Sanders, director of Continuing Education at TUJ, explained, one of the things that makes the program stand out is the professional back-

14

|

INTOUCH

grounds of the instructors: “Our marketing instructors, for example, own and operate their own firms in Japan. Legal studies courses are taught by practicing lawyers, English courses by instructors with advanced degrees in linguistics and language learning, and accounting courses by experienced chartered accountants. We have several executive coaches on our team as well.” While taking classes at TUJ, students can make the most of the new campus in Sangenjaya. Its library boasts one of the largest English-language collections in Japan, and it also offers green spaces— which can be a rarity in Tokyo’s urban sprawl. But the benefits go beyond just the improved facilities, Sanders added: “Being in a single building with lots of shared space and close proximity to one another has really strengthened the sense of community at TUJ and increased opportunities for collaboration.” RAISING THE BAR Of course, drastic adjustments to teaching methods were needed in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, and TUJ responded quickly, switching to online learning in the middle of their spring 2020 semester and providing extra training to their

instructors to ensure that they could provide excellent instruction in a virtual environment. They’re currently operating on a hybrid basis, with plans to return to primarily in-person classes in 2021. However, they will keep a portion of their courses online and build out their online options via a partnership with one of the United States’ leading providers of online courses, which will allow TUJ to introduce on-demand, self-paced classes that can be taken by students around the world. As the global economy recovers from the pandemic, those who have taken the time to prepare will be in demand. Paul Kuo, CEO of Edinburgh Enterprise and a member of TUJ’s Board of Overseers, explained that this is exactly where TUJ comes in: “As an investor focused on advising, mentoring and investing in venture capital start-ups, a big part of what I look for is not just whether someone has a good idea, but also whether that individual has the necessary skills and capabilities, as well as the habit of continuous learning and improvement. Continuing education programs like TUJ’s are a great place where people can both acquire skills and demonstrate their commitment to lifelong learning.” www.tuj.ac.jp/cont-ed/index.html


INDEPTH | COMMUNIT Y

Husbandry and Hope

Supported by Connections, one Rwandan social worker explains how she plans to use the skills she’s learned in Japan to benefit her community. WORDS OWEN ZIEGLER

D

ays started early for Murorunkwere Saidath. A native Rwandan and devout Muslim, she’d rise before dawn for morning prayers, followed by a meeting with her fellow students at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI). From there, they’d divide the chores; some would care for the livestock while others would tend the crops. Only when that work was done, would Saidath sit down at 8:15am for breakfast. “I have already learned many things about organic farming, about livestock, about leadership,” says Saidath during a recent Zoom call. “Leadership is my biggest [priority].” A social worker in her hometown of Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, Saidath recently spent 10 months living and working at ARI’s rural Tochigi Prefecture campus. Part school, part working farm, ARI has operated as a nonprofit since 1973 when it welcomed its first class of students from across the world of developing nations. Now, Saidath, who completed her course at ARI last month, is one of its most recent graduates thanks to a gen-

Murorunkwere Saidath

erous ¥1 million charitable grant from the Club’s Connections group. “I think now I can be a good servant leader,” Saidath says of the institute’s approach to hands-on teaching that she hopes to replicate back home in Rwanda. “When I go back to my community, I’ll also try to teach them and show them examples [of organic and sustainable farming].” Since the country’s 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been slowly rebuilding its society and economy. According to World Bank figures, poverty declined from 77 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2017, and life expectancy improved from 29 in the mid-1990s to 69 in 2019. Saidath says she is keen to help women and children in Kigali find sustainable ways to provide for themselves and their communities. Since many of the children Saidath comes into contact with during the course of her work are orphans, they have few viable ways to make ends meet. “[At] my organization,’ she explains, “we [first] try to teach them how to make a kitchen garden.” Conditions are dire at times, and

there is often little Saidath can offer to so many she meets, but that was all the more reason for her to enroll in the ARI program in March 2019 after learning about it from a Japanese woman volunteering in a neighboring district. “She encouraged me to come [to ARI],” Saidath says of that first chance meeting. It was not only Saidath’s first visit to Japan but also her first time to travel outside Africa. While she was initially hesitant to attend a nominally Christian organization, her nerves soon melted away when she realized that everyone at ARI was pulling the rope in the same direction. Thanks to ARI’s practical approach to learning, Saidath feels equipped to return home and begin revitalizing her community. “It’s time to share ideas,” she says. “It’s time to give to other people and understand them very well. That’s why I say leadership is my biggest [lesson] here.” For more information on Connections-supported charities, visit the Club website.

JANUARY  | 15


EURO MERICAN

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suits from $450; blazers from $300; tuxedos from $650; overcoats from $750; trousers from $150; shirts from $69 (minimum of four shirts) Other superfine quality suits from $650 to $3,900

Prices in US dollars (excluding shipping); delivery in three weeks

For trip schedule visit: www.euromerican.com


I N D E P T H | CU LT U R E

High Roller

Set to appear at the Club this month, the world’s top-ranked backgammon player talks dice, trophies and lady luck. WORDS OWEN ZIEGLER IMAGE YUUKI IDE

Masayuki Mochizuki

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hree things refuse to obey my will,” 12th-century Japanese emperor Go-Shirakawa quipped in the seminal war chronicle The Tale of the Heike. “The waters of the Kamo River, the fall of the backgammon dice and the monks of Enryakuji Temple.” For the emperor, backgammon may have seemed just another uncontrollable force. But for Masayuki Mochizuki, mastering the game has been a matter of practice. “I see thousands of games,” he says. “I have so many patterns in my head, like, good combinations and bad combinations. Good structures and bad structures. I’m using all those weapons.” A slender, dark-suited Mochizuki is sharing his thoughts during a November visit to the Club to play with a handful of Members. Chance plays a large part in any game of backgammon but watching Mochizuki move his chips about the board makes it seem like he has every eventuality figured out. Since winning the world championship of backgammon in Monte Carlo in 2009, the 41-year-old has been a

constant presence among the world’s best players. According to the biannual rankings of Giants of Backgammon, Mochizuki has topped the charts in all but one of the official lists since his 2009 championship. “You cannot be lucky for 10 years or even one year,” he says. “[Luck] doesn’t really matter to me.” As the roll of the dice determines both how many chips can be moved and how far, elite-level pattern recognition and an appetite for risk can separate an average player from a great one like Mochizuki. Fortunately, Members have the chance to learn from the best when Mochizuki hosts a backgammon clinic at the Club on January 25, organized by Members John Koonmen and Alok Rakyan. Lucky rollers will even get the chance to test themselves against the world No 1. After all, nobody starts at the top. Mochizuki’s own journey began the same year he failed his university entrance exams. With plenty of time on his hands, a friend from his high school shogi chess club introduced him to backgammon.

Suddenly, Mochizuki recalls, studying for the following year’s exams seemed much less important. “Backgammon really just fit in,” says Mochizuki. “Like, ‘Oh, this is my game.’” After winning Japan’s national championship in 1999, Mochizuki traveled the world to study with the best backgammon players of the time. First came a stint in New York, followed by training with Denmark’s finest. Mochizuki then set his sights on the game’s biggest prize. “I already knew that I was very high level,” Mochizuki says of his 2009 world championship victory. “That just proved it.” Nowadays, Mochizuki is biding his time until he can travel to international tournaments again. In the meantime, he’s happy to take requests for exhibition matches—so long as you have the stomach (and wallet) for it. “I can play smaller stakes,” Mochizuki says, “but I usually play $500 per point.” BACKGAMMON CLINIC  January 25  6:30–8:30pm  Manhattan III  ¥1,500 (guests: ¥1,800)  Sign up online

JANUARY  | 17


David Stanley Hewett is one of the most well-known foreign artists in Japan. He first came to Japan in 1988 and has made the country his home. Hewett has held major exhibitions in New York, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

DAVID STANLEY HEWETT KARUIZAWA GALLERY Nagano-Ken, Kita-sakugun Karuizawa-Machi, Nagakura 3945 info@hewett.jp

In November 2017, Hewett’s painting MAJIME was selected as the gift from Akie Abe, the wife of then Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe, to the First Lady of the United States. In 2019 the painting was inducted into the National Archives Collection of the United States. His works can be seen in the permanent collections of the Imperial Hotel, Oakwood Premier Tokyo, The Okura Hotel, The Peninsula Hotel, as well as numerous public and private collections around the world. The Hewett Art Studio and Gallery are located in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, and may be viewed year-round by appointment by writing to info@hewett.jp.

www.hewett.jp • www.facebook.com/davidstanleyhewett


INDEPTH | NIHONBA SHI

AKIRA YAMAGUCHI

Style and Substance

Much more than just frames on the wall, the Nihonbashi Club’s art collection symbolizes everything the facility aspires to be.

W

hen the Club’s Nihonbashi satellite facility opens this spring, it will be more than just a place to eat, drink and exercise. For many Members, it will be a home away from home. And like any inviting home, the Club will feature all the artistic accoutrements that help turn a space into an inviting retreat. “One of the key points around [the Nihonbashi Club] is creating an atmosphere of what I call ‘urban sophistication,’” says TAC Nihonbashi Task Force member Terry White, who spearheaded the first-ever art collection curated for the Club. “And art is a key component of that.” At least 29 works of art, from acrylics on canvas to pieces of pottery, will adorn the Nihonbashi Club. Selected by the curatorial team at Arts Initiative Tokyo (AIT), the collection represents a bridge between cultures, just like the Club itself. “We’ve managed to select artists that contribute to this sort of story,” says

WORDS OWEN ZIEGLER

Roger McDonald, a founding member of AIT. “[The collection is] cross-generational, across time and across space, going from the United States to Japan.” Alongside his colleagues at AIT, McDonald worked with White and the task force to select artists with ties to both the US and Japan. In many cases, this came in the form of Japanese artists who studied or trained in the States at some point. But there are also American artists who honed their craft under Japanese masters. One Japanese artist, despite having never visited the US, bases her paintings on scenes from American movies and culture, further solidifying that link between the two countries and cultures. “I think that immediately brings a kind of tight focus to the whole project,” says McDonald. “I think it is a fairly one-of-a-kind collection.” That exceptionalism will greet Members the moment they arrive at the Club. Hanging near the entrance will be two prints by Akira Yamaguchi. Depicting the area’s famous landmarks

of Mitsukoshi department store and the Nihonbashi Bridge, the works will serve as a stunning interior touch. “It’s almost like manga but it’s a contemporary ukiyo-e sort of style,” McDonald says of Yamaguchi’s unique approach. “[The prints] are something which you walk up to and look at closely and you sort of get lost in.” “What [they] always inspire are conversation and [reflection],” adds White. In a matter of months, Members will be able to view the full collection for themselves. Though with something as subjective as art, White is under no presuppositions that praise will be unanimous—and perhaps rightly so. “Some people are going to love the work we selected and some people are going to absolutely hate it,” he says. “But I’m good with that. That’s what art should always be about.” For more information on Tokyo American Club Nihonbashi, visit nihonbashi.tokyoamericanclub.org.

JANUARY  | 19


I N D E P T H | FO CU S

With the Club still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, community leaders prepare for a year of challenges and milestones.

CLUB REVIVAL KAYO YAMAWAKI

WORDS NICK JONES

20 | INTOUCH

Michael Benner


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hings were meant to have been different. Drastically different. This month should have seen the Club basking in the success of a momentous 2020. Memories to last lifetimes should have been forged during the Club’s hosting of Team USA’s Olympic athletes last summer, while the newly opened Nihonbashi Club would have just celebrated its first holiday season. But a new strain of the coronavirus laid waste to those plans. With governments around the world imposing lockdowns and states of emergency in an effort to stem the spread of the deadly virus last spring, the Board of Governors decided to temporarily close the Club. As treasurer and a member of the Board’s executive committee throughout the uncertainty of last year, Michael Benner, 54, knows better than most the impact of the pandemic on Club coffers. After being selected as the Club’s new representative governor following his reelection to the Board last November, the American discusses the events of 2020 and the path ahead.

INTOUCH: How did the executive committee approach the situation at the beginning of the pandemic? Benner: It was very difficult to predict anything at that time. First of all, the Board empowered the executive committee to be able to take independent decisions quickly when the Board wasn’t meeting. The committee started meeting regularly to analyze lots of information and plan for possible situations. Our priority was keeping Members and our staff safe. In the end, the Club always needs to be sensitive to the greater society around us and we can’t be seen to be making decisions that run counter to society. INTOUCH: How tough was it to decide to temporarily close the Club? Benner: It was a very difficult decision. We had to think about the viability of the Club if we shut down for a period of time. Also, if employees left for their own reasons, that would also impact us. We also had to be sure to provide value to Members in any way we could and revive services as quickly as possible when we reopened. You don’t want to go too draconian and find you can’t rebound quickly.

INTOUCH: You were Club treasurer a year ago. What kind of shape was the Club in then? Benner: It depends through which lens you look at things. Obviously, it was a very exciting time in terms of the events that were planned leading into the Olympics and then the expected launch of the Nihonbashi Club. We had built up a lot of social events as well. Under a financial lens, we felt that 2020 would be a good year to revamp some things.

INTOUCH: Do you think the Board struck the right balance? Benner: I think we did. The shutdown was perfectly in line with the government guidelines and we reopened quickly. We still did not know how transmittable the disease was and so we erred on the side of safety and then gradually relaxed [measures]. On the whole, the membership has been very supportive and understanding.

INTOUCH: But then the pandemic hit. Benner: That brought a whole new set of challenges. The initial estimates were that we would lose upwards of ¥800 million for the year. We were able to significantly reduce that to a more manageable number through a combination of government subsidies, tax deferrals and a better managing of our costs. We ended up in a stronger position in September than we had initially expected to.

INTOUCH: Is there anything you think could have been done better? Benner: I think some of the communication that we had with Members as we reopened the Club and tested the waters over financial options for the Club’s future could have been more thorough and interactive. It was a very important learning process for us. There was a lot of pent-up emotion that we didn’t fully consider. Based on that, one of the initiatives we will be

“WE WANT TO GET BACK TO OFFERING MORE PROGRAMS AND EVENTS AND A FULLER DINING EXPERIENCE, AND WE WILL DO THESE THINGS GRADUALLY AS THE PROTOCOLS ALLOW US TO DO SO.”

JANUARY | 21


YUUKI IDE

I N D E P T H | FO CU S

Michael Benner at the June 2020 town hall

undertaking this year is a focus on communications and, specifically, digital communications. INTOUCH: At what point did you become concerned about the possible financial impact of the pandemic on the Club? Benner: As transmission rates began to pick up in Japan, it became clear that there would be a significant impact on the Club. As a backup procedure, we decided in March to open negotiations with our lender [SMBC]. INTOUCH: The subsequent Board proposal for the Club to take out a line of credit for up to ¥1 billion was narrowly rejected in two votes. How surprised were you by the results? Benner: We were quite surprised that not everyone could see the benefit of having access to additional cash for worst-case scenarios. A broad team of us had done a lot of work negotiating with SMBC and putting together a structure that was flexible and low-cost. We were not obliged to take out extra debt. As it happens, through Japanese government subsidies, tax deferrals and cost reductions, our position is better, at least in the short term. We put to-

22 | INTOUCH

gether cost-reduction initiatives for the current financial year and achieved something in the order of ¥600 million in reductions from the 2019 operating budget. Needless to say, though, it is clear that there is no breathing room in that budget and no pockets of cash to draw upon. INTOUCH: What does this mean for Club services? Benner: We’re currently operating with reduced services and offerings, which we think are appropriate at this time. Things like the Childcare Center and CHOP Steakhouse have been shut down, but we’re keen to reopen these venues as soon as is prudent. Naturally, we have to balance safety issues with perceived demand. INTOUCH: What are Club usage levels like now? Benner: Interestingly, utilization levels are actually very good. The reports we get show that those levels are above where we were just before the Club closure. We want to get back to offering more programs and events and a fuller dining experience, and we will do these things gradually as the protocols allow us to do so.


Board Executive Committee

Michael Benner

Sam Rogan

Trista Bridges Bivens

Jeffrey Behr

Kenji Ota

Representative Governor A Club governor since 2015.

First Vice President Serving his second term as a governor.

Second Vice President First elected to the Board in 2018.

Secretary Halfway through his first two-year Board term.

Treasurer Former secretary and a second-term governor.

INTOUCH: What was highlighted last year was the importance of the Club’s private event and meeting business to the Club’s overall finances. How do you see this business recovering? Benner: We have forecast the recovery quite conservatively. I believe we’re looking at a 50 percent recovery by the end of this financial year. But I’m quite hopeful that we can do much better than that. As the solutions for the pandemic evolve, we should be in a good position to enjoy those benefits. Right now, we’ve tried to continue the business on a variable-cost basis, marketing the Club as a safe and spacious venue. INTOUCH: How did last year affect the way you see the Club’s business model?

Benner: We need to take a step back and reevaluate the fundamental principles upon which the Club’s business model is built. For example, the Club’s [private event and meeting] business subsidizes the food and beverage business. While they share some common infrastructure, they are two separate businesses and I believe they should be measured individually. Anyway, we will look at these principles—taking into account the long-term financial requirements of the Club—and create a TAC 2030 vision. In rebuilding the overall financial plan, we need to figure out our funding requirements and determine where that funding should come from. At the same time, we need to operate efficiently and be vigilant of cost management. INTOUCH: What else will the Board focus on this year? Benner: Quite critical to this year is the launch of the Nihonbashi Club. That deal is structured extremely well and will be a huge benefit for Members of the Azabudai Club. And we’ll be adding Members to the Club community. The

project also created an opportunity for us to distribute our cost structure in a way where we could retain our staff. We’ll be transferring around 50 staff to Nihonbashi, which will significantly reduce our Azabudai operating costs. And as revenues pick up, we can reopen services and perhaps hire additional staff then. Another issue I want to focus on is environmental sustainability. We will launch a task force looking at areas like the Club’s carbon footprint, supply chains and where we source energy. I think this is part of the greater brand that the Club represents. INTOUCH: The Club was meant to host Team USA as USA House during the nowpostponed Tokyo Olympics. What is the situation now? Benner: We are continuing a dialogue with the [United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee], and if that evolves into a concrete request for the use of this facility in some form, I anticipate it would probably be reduced from the grandiose scale we had originally planned. INTOUCH: How much of a challenge is this year likely to be? Benner: There are a lot of unknowns, but we have a very strong Board this year and we have a lot of continuity from 2020, with governors who learned from the year’s experiences. We need to keep an eye on the ball with respect to Covid-19 and steer the Club safely and viably out of the pandemic. For the Board, it’s really about getting the Members excited and enthusiastic to participate for the betterment of the Club, restarting all Club services and initiating new Member experiences. If there is a positive from last year, it’s that it reaffirmed to Members the importance of the Club community in their lives.

“IN REBUILDING THE OVERALL FINANCIAL PLAN, WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT OUR FUNDING REQUIREMENTS AND DETERMINE WHERE THAT FUNDING SHOULD COME FROM.”

JANUARY | 23


Chef-crafted brunch boxes, a cash bar and NFL’s showcase event.

FEBRUARY

8

The best seat in the house is right here at the Club. New York Ballroom | ¥1,200 (walk-ins: ¥1,700) | Details online Traders’ Bar | Details online


C O M M U N I T Y | W E L L N E SS

Cecilia Delgado

Taking the Plunge

Having never learned to swim as a child, Member Cecilia Delgado decided to confront her fears at the Sky Pool. IMAGE KAYO YAMAWAKI

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started to learn how to swim last January. A friend of mine was already taking lessons at the Club and encouraged me to try it. I started because of her. In my home country of Cuba, we didn’t have swimming lessons when I was growing up. That was not part of the system at school. I wanted to swim but I was afraid to try. Then, when I became an adult, it felt like it was too late. When I started lessons, I was afraid of the water. And when I swallowed water, it felt like I was dying. But thanks to my teacher, Benni [Edriansyah], one month after I started taking lessons, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. Because Benni could sense I was afraid, he sometimes got in the water to help me relax and show me there was nothing to fear. That helped me to start enjoying swimming.

I’ve been taking two lessons a week with Benni since January. When I started lessons again after the Club’s temporary closure, I really began to enjoy it because I could see myself swimming, even if it was only 10 or 20 meters. It was a very happy moment for me. I felt like I could really do it. Even swimming just a few meters showed me that I could actually swim. A few months before, I thought it was impossible. I realized that if you try things, you can achieve them. I want to continue taking lessons until I can enjoy all the different strokes. Even if I don’t use them, I want to prove to myself that I can do them. The toughest part was my age. I was 24 when I started and I could see young kids already swimming perfectly. But I realized that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about my age. Age is

irrelevant. The other challenge was just being able to relax in the water. In the beginning, I was not confident at all that I could do it. Benni has taught me not only how to tread water and different swim strokes, but also about communication, particularly as my English is not so good. I’m grateful for that. Even if I don’t understand everything, I feel like we are communicating. Last summer, I went to Wakayama and could enjoy swimming in the sea. I was so happy and wasn’t worried about being in deep water. I could f inally enjoy being in the sea like other people. This experience has been a life lesson. I realize it’s not about being unable to swim. Everybody can swim. It’s about taking the opportunity to try. I want to share my experience with my relatives and friends who can’t swim and help them to achieve the same thing I did. I enjoy being in the water and how I feel afterwards. It’s a great experience every time I go. It’s like having a good cup of coffee. You never tire of that. And I feel the same way about the pool. As told to INTOUCH’s Nick Jones.

JANUARY | 25


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C O M M U N I T Y | R EG I ST E R

Arrivals

Up Close

US A Hokulani Honda Na Hoku O Hawaii Co., Ltd. John Suzuki & Chen Ji Colliers International Anatole & Yukiko Varin The Plant K.K. Jennifer White Amazon Japan G.K.

CHINA Chi Ieong Kong Landmark Real Estate Tokyo K.K.

JA PA N Yoshikazu Azuma

US A |

Two, Inc.

Christopher & Nanae Battin

Uber

Shun & Shion Kanegawa

“After nearly 10 years in Japan, we finally decided to join Tokyo American Club to give our son the chance to be part of a diverse international community. The facilities are wonderful, and we are looking forward to participating in the Club’s many seasonal events and to meeting more families.”

Taiyo, Nakajima & Kato Takayasu Kato Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. Daishi Miyao Accenture Japan Ltd.

(l–r) Nanae, Asher and Christopher Battin

Hana Mizuno IBM Japan Junko & Kazuya Mori Amazing Japan, Inc. Yuriya Naito Carbon Free Consulting Corporation Kazuo Okumura Sun Melx Co., Ltd. Ayu Rachinov Eriko Sakurai Dow Chemical Japan Ltd.

Departures Marco Antonio & Paula Araujo

Sonoko Kokubu

Chee Tong Chia & Miki Murakami Chia

Venkatesh Maninarayanan & Meenakshi Trichur Ramasubramanian

Steve & Barbara Dewire

S O U T H KO R E A |

Kilwoo Ahn & Kyung Jin Park

ANBI Shinjuku Dental Clinic

Rene Jensen & Christina Bluhme

Charles Stewart-Cox & Jacqueline Donaldson

Hitoshi Kiuchi

Kaede Toh

“I have good childhood memories of people living happy lives at the Club. Membership was on my bucket list when I returned to Tokyo last year. Now we have long Club to-do lists, such as enjoying get-togethers with friends, playing sports and having business meetings.”

Harold C & Naoko Kobrak

Takeshi & Kyoko Wakamatsu

(l–r) Kilwoo, Yijin and Wujin Ahn and Kyung Jin Park

Lisa Gilbert Hirohiko & Nakako Inanami

Matthew Mitchell Mitsunaga & Judith Ogawa

A new sake to savor Tokyo American Club x Hakkaisan Available from the spring | The Cellar

JANUARY | 27


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C O M M U N I T Y | VO I C E

My Side of the Mountain WORDS BETSY ROGERS ILLUSTRATION TANIA VICEDO

I

grew up in a house abutting a state park filled with winding bicycle and horse tracks and meandering rivers and streams. Each spring, my brother and I would explore the thick forests on the lookout for jack-in-the-pulpits peeking through latent April snows. My vocabulary of the season was rich in the smells of fresh mud, daffodils and broken robin eggs on footpaths. The green buds on once-barren bushes offered us cover from which to watch—and then chase—passing does and their fawns. More than two decades since I last watched Mother Nature awaken in all her Technicolor glory, I had the chance to do it again last April. Cooped up in our apartment, feeling an uneasiness not experienced since 2011’s Tohoku earthquake, I thought it would be healthier to escape eerily empty Tokyo and head for the mountains. With Japanese and international schools temporarily closed, we had installed Wi-Fi throughout our apartment to meet the broadband demands of four children and two working par-

ents. Our two eldest had returned from boarding school in the United States, which meant online classes in the wee hours. A change of environment would be good. A weeklong reprieve from the Tokyo silence became more than four months among the pristine mountains of Nagano. My youngest brought his best friend from Japanese school for three weeks. We chopped wood for warmth, wandered mountain paths, discovered a bird’s nest fashioned from strands of plastic and trudged through stubborn snow to out-of-the-way hot springs in our sneakers. Being woken by the warbles and calls of mating birds or by baying, nocturnal foxes was part of our new norm. I struck up friendships with local farmers who showed me where to find edible spring leaves and the rather bitter fukinoto butterbur shoots (best enjoyed as tempura). I soon obsessed over these spring sprouts scattered on the side of the road. Until, that is, I met a neighbor while out for an afternoon stroll. The farmer offered me some mountain wisdom.

“In the winter, they salt the road and the chemicals and salt seep into the soil,” she said. “Eat the ones farther from the roadside.” My two feet or a bicycle were my main modes of transportation. On occasion, I rented a car for the day to explore possible cycling routes or to splurge on groceries that exceeded the capacity of my backpack. As spring gave way to summer, our daily rhythm felt in synch with our Nojiri surroundings. I was working remotely and was not missing Tokyo’s sprawl in the least. I had embraced this luxuriously simple life and I wondered if I would be able to enjoy urban living again. In September, we left our piece of rural paradise and returned to Tokyo. Surprisingly, it felt energizing to be back among friends, with familiar foods and new places to explore. What’s changed? Well, we have more plants in our apartment now. Although if the schools ever close again, you know where you’ll find me. Betsy Rogers is a Club Member.

JANUARY | 29


November 26 Thanksgiving Celebration

Club families kicked off the holiday season with a traditional Thanksgiving spread of turkey, pumpkin pie and other classics in the New York Ballroom. IMAGES KEN KATSURAYAMA

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COMMUNIT Y | HIGHLIGHTS

November 29 Christmas Storytime

Youngsters enjoyed a morning of festive stories and crafts at this annual Library event and launch of the Club’s Animal Refuge Kansai donation drive. IMAGES YUUKI IDE

JANUARY | 31


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COMMUNIT Y | HIGHLIGHTS

December 1 Season of Giving: Celebrate with Style

Connections welcomed renowned fashion designer Zarny Shibuya to the group’s year-end luncheon of toasts, raffles prizes and mingling with friends. IMAGES YUUKI IDE

JANUARY | 33


December 4 Friday Night Live Special

Singer Keisuke Arita and his troupe of talented flamenco musicians and dancers wowed the New York Ballroom crowd at this Spanish-themed fiesta. IMAGES YUUKI IDE

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COMMUNIT Y | HIGHLIGHTS

December 9 TAC Talk: Paul Martin

The former British Museum curator offered Members an insight into the world of the Japanese sword and craftmanship during this hybrid event. IMAGES YUUKI IDE

JANUARY | 35


COMMUNIT Y | ESCAPE

CLASS

The Japanese Tea Box

In this era of upcycling and repurposing, give a traditional Japanese tea box, or chabako, a creative makeover. Students select one of three different sized boxes, purchase fabric or washi paper and learn how to turn a cedarwood container into a handmade interior gem.

INSTRUCTOR

Reiko Takahashi (pictured left)

While Reiko Takahashi became a licensed kimekomi dollmaker in 1965, she has expanded her creative repertoire beyond the kimono-fabric dolls that originated in Kyoto. After teaching a kimekomi class last semester, she reveals the potential of the tea box this spring.

STUDENT

Mesee Greene

“Arriving in Tokyo in 2018, I was mesmerized by all of the wonderful Japanese crafts and customs. The chabako box caught my attention as a place to store my various Japanese treasures, so after taking Reiko-san’s kimekomi doll class, I had to take her chabako class.”

THE JAPANESE TEA BOX  April 14, 21 & 28  10am–12:30pm  Beate Sirota Gordon & Haru Reischauer classrooms  ¥13,500 (materials fee: based on selected fabric and tea-box size)  Sign up online

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KAYO YAMAWAKI

Storage with Style


Navigate the new normal. We can help. Custom Media wishes Members and Staff of Tokyo American Club a very happy and healthy New Year!

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inquiries@custom-media.com


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JANUARY 2021

INTOUCH

at one of the city’s hottest restaurants. On-site gym and

TOKYO AMERIC AN CLUB

An English-speaking concierge who helps you book a table

毎月一回一日発行 第四十七巻六六九号 トウキョウアメリカンクラブ インタッチマガジン二〇二一年一月一日発行 平成三年十二月二十日第三種郵便物許可定価八00円 本体七四一円

Time for an upgrade Time for MORI LIVING

TOKYO AMERIC AN CLUB

Year of Hope Community leaders set course for Club recovery JANUARY 2021

ARTISTIC TOUCH + SMELLING THE ROSES + BACKGAMMON GURU


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