January 2024 INTOUCH Magazine

Page 1


Lapping It Up Club swimmers on morning workouts, wellness and Sky Pool camaraderie MAKING PLANS PLAYGROUND TO PODIUM PILATES POWER

Welcome Home

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Beyond perfecting strokes and shaving seconds, four Members find broader perks in the Club’s all-access Sky Pool Pass.


As he starts his third year as the Club’s representative governor, Jesse Green shares long-term plans for an even better Club.






















Ahead of her new Club class, former competitive runner Ilka von Witzendorff recounts how Pilates rekindled her passion for fitness.












Cover image of (l–r) Hiromitsu Miyamoto, Mike Foley, Yeon Sung and David Richardson by Yuuki Ide







Representative Governor Jesse Green (2025)

Darren Morrish

First Vice President Reiko Saito (2025) Second Vice President Ginger Griggs (2025)

ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER Business Suppor t Lian Chang

Secretar y Nils Plett (2025) Treasurer Rune Sølvsteen (2025)


Governors Trista Bridges Bivens (2024), Justin Keyes (2024), Mihoko Manabe (2024),

Facilities Toby Lauer

Tetsutaro Muraki (2024), Sam Rogan (2024), Dean R Rogers (2024), Edward Rogers (2024),

Finance Naoto Okutsu

Nathan Schmidt (2025), Vanessa Thomas—Connections president (2025)

Food & Beverage Suranga Hettige Don

Statutor y Auditors Koichi Komoda (2024), Paul Kuo (2025)

Human Resources Jason Dominici

Parentheses denote term limit.

Marketing & Communications Shane Busato Member Services Jonathan Allen


Nihonbashi Noriaki Yamazaki

Compensation Sam Rogan

Operations Thomas Zaleski

Culture, Community & Enter tainment Matthew Tappenden (Trista Bridges Bivens)

Recreation Susanna Yung

Finance Patrick McLeod (Rune Sølvsteen) Food & Beverage Mark Spencer (Nathan Schmidt)


House Adam Donahue (Justin Keyes)

Editor C Bryan Jones

Human Resources Ken Cogger (Sam Rogan)


Membership Justin Negron (Tetsutaro Muraki)

Communications Manager Nick Jones

Nihonbashi Geoffrey Bowman (Ginger Griggs)

Designer Kohji Shiiki

Nominating Grace Lee

Designer Clara Garcia

Recreation Shinji Yamasaki (Nils Plett)

Production Administrator Yuko Shiroki

Parentheses denote Board liaison.

CONTRIBUTORS Writers Meg Bather Helen A Langford-Matsui David McElhinney Matthew Miller Reiko Saito Photographers Clara Garcia Yuuki Ide Lina Raffone Takumaru Suzuki Kayo Yamawaki Illustrator Tania Vicedo

INTOUCH is printed on Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper, harvested from sustainably managed forests.



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All prices referenced in INTOUCH include consumption tax.




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I remember the first day I reached out to connect with a community at the Club. Embarking on a new life as a single parent and business owner, I was looking for a safe and supportive group. I joined one of the coffee mornings of the Women’s Group, as Connections was then known. That one event opened up an array of opportunities to volunteer, forge friendships and, ultimately, serve the membership as a governor. And one community in the Club continues to lead me to another. Last year, after becoming an empty nester, I joined one of the Sky Pool’s enthusiastic swim groups. The Club community, including our staff, has become one of the most important parts of my life. This “family” has nourished me and supported me through many challenging times. It was no surprise, therefore, to see the results of last year’s membership satisfaction survey and to hear the comments from the focus groups held by the Long Range Strategic Planning Task Force.

In both sets of feedback, Members told us the main reasons they joined the Club were for their family to have a place to enjoy activities together and to belong to a community. Even when we asked about dining, fitness offerings or the Club facilities, the words “family” and “community” regularly appeared. There is little doubt that the pandemic disrupted the Club’s sense of community, and we have spent the last year or two working to rebuild that. With some Members and groups losing contact with one another during the Covid period, there are now opportunities to figure out new ways to help Members connect and find their own communities within the Club. While last year was one of exploration and discovery for the task force and the Board, this year will be much more focused on building awareness of the many different interest groups in the Club and creating those moments for people to meet and grow their own networks in the Club. My own Club journey took me from a casual coffee morning to the Board. This year, we will launch a regular event for Members from diverse backgrounds interested in Club governance and perhaps getting involved in some way. It will be a chance to meet other Members while learning about the Club’s structure, history, challenges and plans. I look forward to welcoming new Members, meeting established Members and finding out about their own journeys in our wonderful community. Reiko Saito is the first vice president of the Club.

“The Club community, including our staff, has become one of the most important parts of my life.”




digest CHARIT Y

Spreading Seasonal Cheer “It was a really humbling experience,”

Blanka Kobayashi says of her visit to Kanagawa Children’s Medical Center in Yokohama last month. “I had to fight back the tears many times.” Dressed as a Christmas tree, she joined fellow Connections member Lina Raffone and Santa to put smiles on the faces of children with the delivery of around 400 Christmas gifts. “I had hoped to bring a smile to the children, but all the staff and parents also lit up,” explains Raffone. “As with all Connections’ community activities, we met people we would not normally encounter, and they gave us courage and warmth.” Hospital staff said the heartwarming visit brought some seasonal joy to the wards. Santa and his helpers also distributed presents at Tokyo’s Kyorin University Hospital. Both visits were organized by the Support Network for Nanbyo Children of Japan, a charity supported by Connections that organizes counseling and activities for children with intractable diseases and disabilities and their families. CBJ


Fresh Threads Charge into your New Year’s fitness

resolutions in style. Whether you’re hitting the court or heading outdoors, stay warm and look your stylish best this winter in Club-branded hoodies and polos from The Cellar. “Members have been telling us that they would like more gear to show off their love of the Club,” says Shane Busato, the Club’s marketing and communications director. “So we decided to create a fresh design for a new collection of goods.” The new selection of apparel is available in a range of sizes and colors, from classic black and white to vibrant indigo, red and pink. Top it off with a 100 percent-cotton cap from New York City’s Newhattan. Available in six shades, including a chic wintry blue mint. CBJ






From the Shelves When Vita Turrisi was in first grade, she read Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree with her mother. That first trip into the “Enchanted Wood” led to further adventures, and she has not stopped reading since. Now 11, Vita scours the shelves of the second-floor Library in search of new worlds to explore. What was your favorite early childhood book?

Quentin Blake’s Mrs Armitage, Queen of the Road and The Littlest Dinosaur’s Big Adventure by Michael Foreman. The Mrs Armitage books show how you can make it through harsh times, that there is no reason to give up and how you can do anything. They are also very funny. The Littlest Dinosaur is a heartwarming story about trust and friendship.

What inspired your love of books?

Ever since I was little, my parents always read me stories. The characters inside the books always did amazing things. It made me feel like I could do these amazing things, too, taking me into another world. Even now, books are a way for me to escape reality and go somewhere different.

What genre do you most enjoy?

I love fantasy and adventure fiction, but I also love realistic fiction. I love fantasy because you get to experience and live in a world where the impossible is possible. I enjoy realistic fiction because you can somewhat relate to the events and, if not, [at least] understand other people’s experiences.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga. It is a story about a 12-year-old girl called Jude, who has


spent her whole life in Syria. After an attack on her older brother’s apartment, Jude’s parents realize that it is too risky to stay, and she and her mother leave for America. Jude feels so out of place, but eventually she learns to accept change. The author captures all the emotions and experiences that the characters go through so well. When were you last unable to put down a book?

When I was reading The Murderer’s Ape. This young adult novel by Jakob Wegelius follows the story of Sally Jones, a gorilla who works on a ship and is trying to save the Chief after he is framed for murder. The plot is very gripping and filled with pure excitement as Sally travels around the world on her quest. I was reading it on the train and missed my stop! Image: Vita Turrisi


Spin to Win


The chances of snagging Japan’s year-end “jumbo” lottery are pretty remote. But everyone is a winner at The Spa this month. When you spend at least ¥7,000, you’ll have the chance to spin the “wheel of fortune” and win from a lineup of wellness-boosting prizes. You could receive a complimentary treatment, 20 percent off a rejuvenating therapy or facial or free Dermalogica skincare products. Through January 31, the odds are in favor of your finding refreshing tranquility at the Club’s fourth-floor retreat. CBJ JANUARY



digest R EC O G N I T I O N


Giving Thanks




Thanksgiving is a hectic time in the Club kitchens, with dozens of turkeys and other dishes being prepped for meals at the Club and delivery to Members’ homes. Scott Kihara, the Club’s chef de cuisine, says planning for the November feast starts in January, and his team works hard to ensure the holiday goes off without a hitch. This Thanksgiving, he was especially impressed by the American Bar & Grill’s Clarisse Ryla Baculi. “Her attention to detail and willingness to put in extra time to ensure the team was ready was superb,” he says. Baculi, who joined the Club as a chef in 2022, insists that the success of Thanksgiving was a team effort. “Juggling multiple responsibilities was really challenging for me and my teammates,” says the Manila native, “but working in a cohesive and helpful kitchen environment made things easier.” Her interest in cooking was sparked by a high school home economics class in which she learned to cook simple Filipino dishes. After a stint at the luxury Ritz-Carlton in California, she says she is proud to continue her journey at the Club. “I love that I get to work with people who inspire me to become a better cook,” she says. Kihara decided to highlight Baculi’s efforts in a Star card (an online system where staff can recognize one another for their work). “She is soft spoken,” he says, “but an absolute killer in the kitchen.” CBJ Members can recognize Club staff by submitting an online Tell TAC through the Club website.

Whether you’re enjoying January’s wintry chill in the city or on the slopes, it’s a month of hearty meals with family and friends. And since every good gathering deserves a fine bottle (or few), here are three Cellar recommendations that should complement any stew or roast. Altavins’ 2022 Ilercavónia is an award-winning white wine made from 100 percent Garnatxa Blanca in Spain’s Catalonia region. Aromas of pineapple and mango and notes of apple, melon and apricot linger long on the palate. Great value at ¥2,550. In 2017, Yarra Yering’s Sarah Crowe won Australian winemaker of the year, following her first vintage of Pinot Noir at the Victoria winery. Made from some of the valley’s oldest Pinot vines, this medium-bodied wine (¥9,300) boasts red cherries and violets on the nose with black cherries and a touch of spice on the palate. Wonderful. For many, Moss Wood’s Cabernet Sauvignon is Australia’s finest Cab. And who am I to argue? The 2017 vintage from the Margaret River winery is elegant and balanced, with layers of blueberry and blackberry fruit. And given the weak yen, awesome value at ¥13,500. Buy now to cellar for 20-plus years. Matthew Miller 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.

Image: Clarisse Ryla Baculi and Scott Kihara





What’s on in



Exhibition: Kiyoka Yamagata Kiyoka Yamagata has been creating art since the age of 5. But it wasn’t until 2009 that she felt comfortable enough to share her works with anyone else. Using art as a means to decipher and depict experiences in her life—both good and bad—Yamagata’s dreamlike landscapes, with titles like “Tomorrow” and “New Beginnings,” often feature motifs of hope, she says. Originally from Aichi Prefecture, Yamagata exhibits regularly at galleries and art fairs in the United States, Europe and Japan. Through February 5, Yamagata shares her works with Members at the Frederick Harris Gallery. CBJ

Moment I realized I wanted to become an artist. I had a vague notion of pursuing art for a long time. Then, after returning to Japan from New York City in September 2001, I decided to follow my instincts. What I would tell my 20-year-old self. There is so much to come in your life, but always believe in yourself. My perfect creative environment. A creative, energizing environment that makes life enjoyable. Artist, living or dead, I’d most like to share a meal with. Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, [American writer] Richard Bach and [costume designer] Eiko Ishioka. • Through February 5 • Frederick Harris Gallery • Artworks available for purchase through Member Services • Details online





New Year’s Day Closed on the first day of 2024, the Club welcomes back Members on January 2. • Details online


Winter Reading Challenge Young bookworms continue to rack up the reads on the way to team triumph and prizes. • Through January 17 • Library • Free • Ages 2–12 • Members only • Details online


1673 New Year Offer Host a business breakfast, working lunch or client dinner in the Nihonbashi Club’s VIP space and receive a dining voucher worth up to ¥30,000. Continues through March 29. • Details online


Cosmic Bowling


New Year, old promise to start working out. In a Forbes Health survey, 48 percent of people placed “getting fit” at the top of their list of New Year’s resolutions. Only 20 percent of those, however, said they managed to stick to it. But studies show that people who engage in group activities are more likely to stay the course. The Club will give Member resolutions a boost this month at its afternoon of health and fitness. Free sessions of Salsa, Strong Nation, Zumba, Karate Fit and Yamuna body rolling are among the workouts on offer. There will also be a chance to learn about the Fitness Center’s personal training service and try out a selection of self-massage tools. Member Yuka Goto is a regular at a number of the Club’s free fitness classes. “A major perk for me is that engaging in a variety of classes helps me maintain a balanced workout regime,” she says. “Initially, the classes weren’t free, and I wasn’t as active as I am now.” New to the lineup is Pilates for Beginners, which launches on January 16 and will be part of the Fitness Fair (instructor Ilka von Witzendorff shares how she was bitten by the Pilates bug on page 18). Goto, a fan of Pilates, encourages everyone to give a class or two a try. “It’s an excellent way to boost fitness and well-being in a welcoming environment.” CBJ

Fitness Fair

• 3–6pm • Gymnasium, The Studio • Free • Details online

Slip on your bowling shoes and prepare for an intergalactic evening of glowin-the-dark pins and supernova strikes every Friday. • 6–9pm • Bowling Center • ¥690 per game (kids: ¥580) • Details online


Introduction to Squash Club instructor Rico Cheung introduces families to the basics of squash during free sessions. • 4:30–6:30pm • Squash Court 1 • Free • Members only • Ages 6 & above • Sign up online

10 & 18

Ladies’ Squash Clinic Make 2024 your year of squash by learning the fundamentals or honing your game with Club pro Rico Cheung. • 9:30–11:30am • Squash Courts 1 & 2 • Free • Sign up online


Cub Scout Meeting At the year’s first meeting of the Club-sponsored Pack 51, elementary school-age kids learn about what’s in store for the months ahead. • 7–8pm • Toko Shinoda & Yukiko Maki classrooms • Details online






Winterwear Sale Send winter chills packing with stylish goose down jackets from Tatras at up to 80 percent off. • 10:30am–7pm (January 12 & 13); 10:30am–5pm (January 14) • Beate Sirota Gordon & Haru Reischauer classrooms • Details online


Book Lovers’ Group with Diane Hawley Nagatomo

• Daily & weekly sessions through March 8 • 9am–2pm • Childcare Center • Details online

“When I returned to my native village on account of spring vacation, Mr K Endo gave me one yen. So, in memory to this, I bought this book. 14 April 1914.” Author Diane Hawley Nagatomo found this inscription in an old copy of Johann David Wyss’ Swiss Family Robinson after rescuing books being thrown out at her university. “I always thought that I somehow wanted to include that in a story, and those words are actually in The Butterfly Café,” she says, referring to her debut novel, released last year. The semi-retired Ochanomizu University professor will be a guest at the Book Lovers’ Group’s first meetup of the year. She will read from The Butterfly Café and discuss the process of writing the story about a life upended in modern-day Tokyo. “I tried writing fiction about 25 years ago but gave up after a few attempts,” Nagatomo reveals. “Then I started my PhD, and I honed my writing skills through academic papers.” Returning to fiction required a period of adjustment. Her advice for budding writers? “Keep revising and making your manuscript better, but never give up.” CBJ


• 11–12:30pm • William Logan Jr Room • Free • Sign up online


New Year’s Daruma Workshop Decorate your own traditional daruma wish doll to keep that New Year’s resolution on track. • 2–3:30pm • Gymnasium • ¥4,950 (guests: ¥5,940) • Sign up online


Preschool Prep Featuring vocabulary-building games and other early-development activities, this program introduces youngsters to learning before the first school bell rings.

Club Study Hall: After School Students of all ages make new friends while exploring after-school programs designed to maximize their academic and problem-solving potential. • Daily & weekly sessions through March 8 • 2–6pm • Childcare Center • Details online


Toastmasters Luncheon Turn the year of the dragon into your year of podium presence by elevating your public-speaking skills at regular meetings of the Club’s cohort of Toastmasters. • 12–1:30pm • Washington & Lincoln rooms • ¥2,420 (guests: ¥2,900)


Men’s Golf Group Kickoff Party Whether you spent last year safe on the fairway or scouring the rough, join fellow golfers for an evening of awards and drinks to launch a new season of rounds. • 7pm • Washington & Lincoln rooms • Men’s Golf Group members: free (nonMen’s Golf Group members: ¥5,500) • Sign up online Image: Diane Hawley Nagatomo





Show & Tell Jamboree Ages 6 to 9 build confidence through self-esteem-boosting activities. Members Frederick Lin and Kai Vroland share why they love the program on page 19. • 1–2:30pm • Toko Shinoda & Yukiko Maki classrooms • ¥1,000 (guests: ¥1,200) • Sign up online


Youth Toastmasters Club Youngsters pick up tips on public speaking and how to engage an audience. Turn to page 19 to find out what one young Member enjoys about the monthly meetings. • 3–4pm • Toko Shinoda & Yukiko Maki classrooms • ¥1,000 (guests: ¥1,200) • Sign up online



Behind the Label Notes of leather, tobacco and forest floor. Velvety tannins. Rich mouthfeel. The language of wine can be indecipherable. But code-breaking help is at hand in the form of the Club’s Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 wine course, taught by Kanako Ijichi, the Club’s wine program manager. The internationally recognized course builds participants’ understanding of wine and how to describe it through a combination of theory and tasting, with a 60-minute exam at the end. Member Douglas Butcher completed the program in 2022. “It changed my perception of wine as being not only about my favorite varieties but also how different wines are made and their unique characteristics,” he says. “The most interesting thing was sampling a wide variety of wines, comparing tasting notes with other wine lovers and listening to Kana’s opinions.” Fellow Member Edmund Gehringer took Ijichi’s eight-session course last year. “Before, I had mostly stuck to the few types of wine that I was familiar with,” he explains. “But I have become more willing to try different types from different regions. I would recommend the class with her as a teacher anytime.” CBJ • Runs through March 26 • 6:30–8:30pm • Toko Shinoda & Yukiko Maki classrooms • ¥84,700 (guests: ¥101,640) • Limit: one guest per Member • Sign up online

Inspiring Young Minds in Fukushima As part of a longstanding relationship between the Club and Fukushima City, a group of “English ambassadors” heads to Tohoku prefecture for a weekend of community support, education and culture. • Details online


Squash Kickoff Party The Club’s squash enthusiasts launch the 2024 season with an evening of friendly games on the courts, followed by drinks and buffet eats. • 5–9:30pm • Squash Courts, Washington & Lincoln rooms • ¥3,300 • Members only • Sign up online


Cocktail Hour Budding mixologists learn how to craft a Negroni, the classic Italian aperitif, at this first Nihonbashi Club workshop of the year. • 5:30pm • Muromachi Bar • ¥2,200 • Members only • Sign up online

Check the Club website for the most up-to-date information on events and programs.




adver torial

A Grand Day Malvern College Tokyo marks its official opening with a gala event


ince its founding in Malvern, England, in 1865, Malvern College has established a long tradition of academic excellence, teaching future Nobel laureates, world leaders and cultural icons. It has also spread across the globe, having opened campuses in China, Hong Kong and Egypt. Marking a new milestone in this venerable tradition, Malvern College Tokyo—the institution’s 10th campus worldwide— opened its doors in August 2023. The school has already made impressive strides in offering a truly exemplary education to its students. It offers a holistic curriculum, encouraging learners to not only develop their academic and technical skills, but also crucial soft skills, while its inclusive learning model emphasizes playfulness and experimentation, inspiring children to become active problem solvers through a variety of hands-on activities.

GREAT PROGRESS These qualities and values took center stage when the school recognized the official commencement of its first academic year with a grand opening ceremony on December 4. The event was attended by




more than 300 guests from the fields of politics, education and business. Officiating guests at the event included Julia Longbottom, the British ambassador to Japan; Professor Roger D. Kornberg, Nobel laureate for chemistry and professor at the School of Medicine of Stanford University; Jacqueline So, cofounder and chief executive of Malvern College International; Keith Metcalfe, headmaster of Malvern College; and Mike Spencer, founding headmaster of Malvern College Tokyo. In his opening remarks, Spencer said that the school has made great progress in a short time, thanks to an inspired teaching staff. “In the three months that have passed since Malvern College Tokyo opened, I have been immensely impressed by the dedication and professionalism of our outstanding faculty. Their passion and enthusiasm are infectious, as is their desire to motivate and inspire our pupils every day.” So explained to the audience that Malvern College Tokyo will be a hub of diverse learning and personal growth.“This sanctuary of learning is not just another school, but a place where young minds will

be nurtured and inspired to embrace an international mindset, entrepreneurship, financial literacy, science, sports and environmental consciousness.” She continued, “Together, we will create an environment where curiosity is nurtured, creativity is unleashed and potential is realized.”

TRADITION AND INNOVATION Continuing a history of excellence is at the heart of Malvern College’s mission, and Metcalfe expressed his conviction that this newest campus would be a sterling expression of this legacy. “I have no doubt that in Malvern College Tokyo, the values, strengths and ethos of Malvern—fortified for the past 160 years—will continue to thrive,” he said. “My own experience has taught me that Malvern is truly defined by the qualities and relationships which bond people together—yesterday, today and tomorrow. I am sure this tradition, rooted in the power of relationships, will be carried on at Malvern College Tokyo.” Ambassador Longbottom, who cohosted the launch of Malvern College Tokyo at the British Embassy in February 2023, highlighted the potential for

the campus to be a bridge between two countries. “It is a school which can draw on the strengths of two distinct cultures as you look to extend the boundaries of international education in Japan,” she said. In his closing remarks, Professor Kornberg spoke about the school’s potential to be a nexus for the pursuit of scientific inquiry. “Malvern College Tokyo, with its stateof-the-art facilities and well-equipped laboratories, is poised to become a hub of scientific exploration and discovery. I am

thrilled to witness the passion for learning and the thirst for knowledge that exists within this community.” Punctuating the speeches during the event were musical interludes performed by students from Malvern College Tokyo, as well as its sister schools in Chengdu and Hong Kong. The event concluded with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a toast among the officiating guests. After the grand opening, Professor Kornberg led two masterclass sessions with primary and secondary students, where he

answered questions from children about the qualities it takes to be a scientist, his own scientific journey and the state of leading-edge research in biotechnology and medicine. It was clear from the questions the pupils asked and their engagement with the Nobel laureate that the spark of curiosity, from which all learning begins, is burning bright at Malvern College Tokyo.





Make tracks on the slopes of Appi Kogen The Appi Kogen Ski Resort in Hachimantai City, Iwate Prefecture, isn’t just acclaimed by local skiers and snowboarders—it is recognized around the world. In 2022 and 2023, the resort won the World Ski Awards, while the neighboring ANA InterContinental Appi Kogen Resort won the Luxury Hotel Awards in the same years. And this winter season, there are even more ways to make the most of Appi Kogen Ski Resort. A new high-end rental lounge, the first of its kind in Japan, has been opened at the resort, and a

Book Your Visit Today

new premium ticket—a Black Pass—has been launched. Exclusive pass benefits include priority boarding for lifts and gondolas, priority lane dining and seating for slope lunch as well as firsttrack service that allows guests to ski the slopes first thing in the morning. We are now accepting reservations for accommodation plans commemorating these awards, so we warmly invite you to come for an unforgettably luxurious snow stay at Appi Kogen Ski Resort.



Think figs and you probably imagine jam or baked tarts made with the succulent fruit. But the American Bar & Grill chefs wanted to give the fig a starring role at the start of the meal. The result is their prosciutto-wrapped roasted fig, stuffed with Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese from France’s Auvergne region. “To balance the local fig sweetness and the richness of the cheese, a slice of prosciutto brings saltiness to the dish, with acacia honey-roasted walnuts and a drizzle of vincotto grape must adding earthiness and crunch,” says Scott Kihara, the Club’s chef de cuisine. Available as a scene-stealing curtain-raiser to dinner at American Bar & Grill and Vista. • Prosciutto-wrapped roasted fig • ¥1,800




indepth pilates

BACK ON TRACK Ahead of launching her Pilates class at the Club, Member Ilka von Witzendorff shares how it represents a return to her true passion. WORDS C BRYAN JONES IMAGE CL AR A GARCIA

Ilka von Witzendorff has always loved sports.

In fourth grade, a classmate’s father watched her blazing around the track and asked her to join the running team he coached. Her career path, it seemed, was set. “I kept running through high school, doing a lot of competitions, and I really loved it,” the Club Member says of those years growing up in the German city of Bonn. “When I was in 10th grade, I went to Michigan and ran for the high school team there.” Von Witzendorff was even offered a track scholarship to the University of Michigan. Encouraged by her father “to do something in business,” she reluctantly hung up her running shoes. “Unfortunately, I put my passion aside,” she admits. But after moving to Canada in 2014, von Witzendorff discovered Pilates, a low-impact, muscle-strengthening form of exercise developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s. “Pilates was just starting to become very popular in Canada,” she says, “and I thought it sounded fun.”

In 2018, von Witzendorff earned her instructor certification through Body Arts and Science International. The program, she says, was intense. “It took me almost a year and a half,” she explains. “I was very close to dropping out because I felt my body couldn’t do it. ‘I’m too weak for this,’ I thought. And that really shocked me. But it also challenged me.” After leading her first Pilates classes in Canada, she continued to teach in Germany when she returned a year later. And from January 16, she will share her expertise with newcomers to Pilates at a free, weekly class at the Club. Despite, or perhaps because of, the physical challenges she experienced during her instructor course, von Witzendorff recommends Pilates to anyone looking to improve their well-being. She says Joseph Pilates explained the benefits best: “In 10 sessions, you’ll feel the difference. In 20 sessions, you’ll see the difference. And in 30 sessions, you’ll have a whole new body.” Her experience bears this out. “Pilates gave me a connection to my body which I’d never had,” she says. “When my trainer would ask, ‘Can you feel your big toe? Can you engage your left glute muscle?’ I would say, ‘No, I can’t.’ But now I can. Pilates gives you a certain awareness, and I think this is something very, very essential.” Members can also experience that awareness for themselves at this month’s Fitness Fair, where von Witzendorff will teach an introductory Pilates session. “Pilates gives you an overall good feeling,” she says. “It makes you more confident with yourself and your body.”

Pilates for Beginners • Every Tuesday from January 16 • 8:30–9:30am • The Studio • Free • Ages 16 & above • Sign up online

Fitness Fair • January 21 • 3–6pm • Gymnasium, The Studio • Free • Details online Image: Ilka von Witzendorff




indepth toastmasters


THEIR VOICES “I also learned tips for remembering what I’m going to “Words can have power,” 10-year-old Roseanna say without the paper,” he explains. Pendleton declares. “If you can really use words, then you The Show & Tell Jamboree meetings draw between can actually change things big time.” 10 and 15 kids. In addition to Thanks to the Swedish practical skills, friendships environmental activist Greta are developed at the Saturday Thunberg, Roseanna, who says she afternoon sessions. wants to help save the world, has Lee explains that Youth realized the enormous potential Toastmasters Club helps attendees of the spoken word. That’s why continue to grow as public she joined the Club’s Junior speakers through longer speeches Toastmasters program. and constructive feedback from Launched in 2020 by members peers and adult Toastmasters. of the Club’s Toastmasters group, “The first time I did it, I didn’t the program consists of Show & make eye contact enough,” Roseanna Tell Jamboree, for ages 6 to 9, and WORDS HELEN A L ANGFORD-MATSUI says. “The second and third times, Youth Toastmasters Club, for ages IMAGE KAYO YAMAWAKI because it was pointed out, I tried 10 to 18. harder to make eye contact with “This program was set up and everybody and project my voice to the back of the room.” is being run for the benefit of future generations to really To keep things interesting and fun, each meeting has leverage their voices,” says Member Pueyen Lee, who is in a different theme, with stickers and ice cream vouchers charge of the two groups. awarded for performance. The monthly meetings are designed to offer young A lover of ice cream, Roseanna explains that joining the Members tips on speaking in front of people while helping monthly meetings isn’t only about finding the right words them build confidence. to express big ideas. Kai Vroland, 8, says that he now speaks in a louder voice “I think Toastmasters sort of encourages your courage,” at the sessions. she says. “But it’s not just about changing everything. It’s “I’m not nervous anymore,” says the Show & Tell Jamboree member with a smile. “And now, I’ve learned how about having fun, too.” to use Keynote [software] to make presentations.” Children are encouraged to use props—whether a favorite Junior Toastmasters toy, book or slideshow—to augment their presentations, • January 27 • 1–2:30pm (Show & Tell Jamboree) & 3–4pm which generally run from two to five minutes. (Youth Toastmasters Club) • Toko Shinoda & Yukiko Maki Nine-year-old Frederick Lin, a fellow Show & Tell classrooms • ¥1,000 (guests: ¥1,200) • Sign up online Jamboree member, has also become more comfortable giving speeches in front of an audience. Image: (l–r) Roseanna Pendleton, Kai Vroland and Frederick Lin

You’re never too young to master your podium skills—as members of the Club’s Junior Toastmasters program explain.




indepth governance

Works in Progress The Club’s representative governor talks third-floor dining, maintenance and mapping out the Club’s longer-term future. WORDS NICK JONES

After two years at the helm of the Board of

Governors, Jesse Green was reelected to the Board and reappointed as the Club’s representative governor at November’s Annual General Meeting. While the American completed his second term with Member satisfaction at an all-time high, he confesses that the Board didn’t achieve all it set out to do in 2023. With the Club celebrating its 96th birthday in May, Green discusses this year’s goals and the task of defining the Club’s identity for the years ahead.

How successful was 2023 for the Club?

Green: It was quite successful. The Club’s finances are in some of their best health for a long time, and we have a rainy-day fund for maintenance. Recreation utilization was at an all-time high, and we will continue to build on that. At a macro level, we continued to market the Club’s value proposition, and the Club now has more Members than ever before. While the Board would agree that we are not entirely happy with our progress, we are getting things done that the membership wants us to focus on. On the whole, I would give us a B-plus.




Image: Jesse Green

Which areas require more attention this year?

Green: We didn’t complete our work on a flexible working space. There have been a number of Members who have complained about the computers and online meetings all around the Club, and they have asked for better delineation between business and community spaces. Another area where we continue to get complaints is the third floor [dining area]. The fact is Members are paying for access to the third floor, but Vista is not anything grand and CHOP has been closed for the better part of four years. The space being some version of a flexible working space is not jiving for our Members. Secondly, they are saying, “We don’t have a place to entertain formal clients.” So we will open an upmarket, Italian-American restaurant in that space in April. We do need to make some improvements to things like tables and dining ware, but we’re not going to make any holistic change until we’ve proven the concept works. Associated with this is the question of how we make the whole of the third floor more cohesive and usable. But those plans are not fully fledged yet. Another common complaint is that the locker rooms are overrun. We will pay closer attention to that this year. The Azabudai clubhouse turns 13 this month. How important was the approval of the increased monthly maintenance assessment at the Annual General Meeting?

It seems that some of that maintenance cost is down to the original, customized design of the Club.

Green: That’s the elephant in the room. A lot of the problems we face today are because the Club’s architects designed the Club in such a way that much of the infrastructure is custom-built. It means getting parts from around the world or retrofitting to more standardized pieces of machinery, which still has a significant cost attached to it. The solution we are aiming for is to limit the amount of customization in the Club and to take a more standardized, cost-efficient and energy-efficient approach to some of the equipment. The Long Range Strategic Planning Task Force was established last year. What can Members expect from the task force this year?

Green: The task force is reviewing a large amount of feedback from Members with the intention to identify whether we need to update or simply further “While the Board communicate our mission and vision. It’s been a long time since we really would agree that we looked at the Club’s mission and are not entirely happy vision. It’s about understanding why we were founded nearly 96 years ago, with our progress, how we evolved to who we are today we are getting and, more importantly, who we want to be tomorrow. What I would like to things done that the get to this year is a revised or agreed membership wants us mission and vision and a decision on the business model we would like to to focus on.” aspire towards.

Green: This is really a budgeting exercise. It could be that the Club continues to perform for another three, four, five, six more years without a lot of the equipment breaking down. It’s also entirely possible that the opposite is true. The intention here was to ensure that we have a sizable pool of money to draw from for the future. The fact is we have to balance valueadding projects like a flexible working space and CHOP with a significant amount of maintenance requirements. For example, last October, the Board approved ¥46 million to replace the AV [audiovisual] system for the [event and meeting spaces]. Remember, without AV, you don’t really have event sales. And that’s just one spend. We could have decided to simply maintain things and not add value to the rest of the Club for the foreseeable future, or—for an additional ¥18,000 a year per family—maintain the Club and continue to make improvements that a lot of our Members would like to see.

What other developments can Members expect to see this year?

Green: Members will see new coffee around the Club at the end of this month. We will see continued improvements in food quality and consistency and even more exciting and creative events. We expect to see the beginnings of the new club management system later in the year. After six years, we finally got to resolution on replacing the software platform that we have been keeping together with chewing gum and hairpins. It means we can solve many of our operational inefficiencies. So, for example, if you sign up for an event on the website, when it comes to billing, that information has to be uploaded to a different system. The new system will revolutionize the way we manage significant aspects of the Club.


What continues to drive you in your role as representative governor?

Green: Having grown up in the Club, it is quite literally a part of my fabric. So, if I and the Board can be passionate about the things that we are doing, as a Member, I get to enjoy the many fruits of our labors.




indepth aquatics


Water-loving Members share how the Sky Pool Pass offers much more than a chance to perfect their stroke. WORDS DAVID McELHINNEY IMAGES YUUKI IDE

Bad knees, two reconstructed shoulders and

three open-heart surgeries can’t keep Member David Richardson out of the water. “I am somewhat restricted to basically only being able to swim freestyle,” says the 61-year-old Australian. “I use a frontal snorkel to help me breathe.” Despite this, Richardson has reaped the rewards of long-distance swims and now regularly racks up more than 100 laps each time he heads to the Club’s glassdomed pool. The Sky Pool Pass has helped him reach that mark. Introduced last January, the all-inclusive pass gives Members unlimited access to all nine adult aquatic programs, from beginner, intermediate and advanced stroke development classes to the Swim Fit and Aqua Fitness cardio workouts. A pair of former Olympians even lead endurance and technique sessions.

“Since its inception, the Sky Pool Pass has amassed over 80 regular participants, which has made it possible for the aquatics team to provide a full year of courses without interruption, develop new courses and increase attendance,” says Nils Plett, a Club governor and a pool regular himself. “Most importantly, it has contributed to the growth of a larger, unified swimming community within the Club.” That sense of community helped former college swimmer Mike Foley overcome his hesitation about joining a cadre of swimmers again. “There was no pressure,” the American says, “just encouragement from the other swimmers.” Foley, 49, returned to the pool for health reasons. When he hit a “new personal weight record” of 120 kilograms, he decided to make some lifestyle changes. After swimming five or six days a week for the past few months, he’s back under 100 kilos.

Images (top): (l–r) David Richardson, Hiromitsu Miyamoto, Yeon Sung and Mike Foley; (right) Morning Masters class at the Sky Pool with coach Bruno Ortiz-Cañavate




He credits the coaches, who create workouts at “just the right intensity,” for his speedy weight loss. “But I will say, the 9am Swim Fit class on Fridays always has me scared to look at the workout on the board,” he admits. “I’m completely spent afterwards. When I graduated, I hung up my swim trunks and vowed never to wake up at the crack of dawn for swim practice. Now, here I am full circle doing it again.” It took a little longer for Hiromitsu Miyamoto to discover the benefits of group lessons at the Club. The 55-year-old had been a solo lap swimmer for three years, but the more he watched the Swim Fit class in the next lane, the more he realized how his endurance and technique would improve from structured practice. He now joins group programs three days a week. “It was my routine to swim every day when I was a child, but I struggled to stay in shape for 10 years after I stopped swimming,” he says. “Since I started using the Sky Pool Pass, my life has become healthier. I also think that swimming in the morning is a great way to start the day. After swimming, you are able to concentrate better, and it has positive mental effects.”

“We have fun both in and out of the pool, and the sense of community is wonderful.” Miyamoto competed at the Junior Olympics, as well as in high school and college meets. Now, as a keen masters swimmer, he is determined to end 2024 in the top three of the Japan Masters Swimming Association’s annual rankings for the 200-meter butterfly. With dreams of competing in a triathlon, Yeon Sung, 44, began swimming 20 years ago after moving from South Korea to Japan. “But then life happened,” she says. “And I didn’t do the triathlon.” In 2022, she returned to the water, only now her goals are about keeping fit, rehabilitating an injured hip and swimming faster than her kids, aged 10 and 12, both of whom swim regularly. Sung works out most mornings before work with coaches Bruno and Miguel Ortiz-Cañavate, brothers who represented Spain at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “I’m swimming a lot better than before,” she says. “And, frankly speaking, I wouldn’t be here without attending these classes. The camaraderie is so motivational, and I enjoy improving at something I’ve really just started learning at this age.” The Sky Pool Pass subscribers might have different motivations for signing up, but it’s the companionship that keeps them pushing their limits together. “The folks that swim are all amazing individuals in their own right,” says Foley. “We have fun both in and out of the pool, and the sense of community is wonderful.”

Sky Pool Pass Between January 2 and February 29, Members not already subscribed to the Sky Pool Pass can try out the lineup of adult classes for free.




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community wellness

I grew up in Brazil in a very active family. It was

always a big priority to practice sports, and my parents were always working out. My dad did a lot of marathons and triathlons. I was living in this world of races. But it was never for me. I liked to go to the gym, and I swam when I was young, but it was never for competitions or anything like that. Years later, my husband and I moved around a lot for work: Mexico, New York, Kansas. With each stop, I tried to find my tribe, my workouts, my gym. I was always looking for my goal. When we arrived in Tokyo in 2019, we joined the Club. Last year, my amazing friend and fellow Member Gabriela Rosa asked me to run a half marathon with her. I said, “Sure, why not?” As I started training, something lit up in me: “Oh, this is my goal!” It’s not just about running or working out in the Fitness Center. It’s something to look forward to, something that I want to work on, to become better at. Right after the half marathon, my friend was doing the World Triathlon Championship [race] in Yokohama. So, I joined her.

“You signed up for the short distance, right?” she asked, knowing it was my first time. I said, “No, the Olympic one.” She thought I was crazy. But I felt there was no point in training for the short one because I wanted a bigger challenge! I did the triathlon and I liked it. The thing I had watched my family do when I was a kid in São Paulo had finally become my thing. It’s also become our family thing. My husband has started running again, and we did the Chiba City Triathlon together in September. After the main race, they have a kids’ one, so our son joined. He’s 10. Afterwards, he said, “I want to do this again!” It was a really special moment to do that as a family. It also made me think back to when I was a kid. Having watched my parents, and now having kids of my own, I think that it is good to show them that sports is important. Maybe they don’t have to do triathlons, but they can learn that in whatever you do, you need to practice and have dedication.

Making Strides

Member Mariana Bechara Tasca explains how the Club helped her bring a family tradition full circle.

As told to INTOUCH’s C Bryan Jones. Image: Mariana Bechara Tasca




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communit y register

New Members



US A | Nilay Gami & Monika Sharma-Gami

S O U T H KO R E A | Jenna Lee

Kyowa Kirin Co., Ltd. (Head Office)

Bloomberg L.P.

“As this is our first international experience, we wanted to have a place where we could be active and have a sense of community. There is something for each of us at the Club, from the fitness facilities and restaurants to a place for the girls to meet friends after school. The Nihonbashi location offers another great option close to the office. We look forward to making lasting memories with new friends.”

“I joined Tokyo American Club Nihonbashi for the unique opportunity to connect with a diverse community in Tokyo and foster both personal and professional networks. As a Member, I aim to engage in enriching cultural experiences, build lasting relationships and contribute to a well-rounded and fulfilling life in this vibrant city through volunteering and charitable initiatives.”

Image: (l–r) Nilay and Diya Gami, Monika Sharma-Gami and Maya Gami

Image: Jenna Lee




Marco Venneri Philip Morris Japan Ltd.

Aitor Merino & Silvia Garcia Blanco Arait Multimedia

US A Ran Joo Bae & Duk Kil (Naoki) Kim (Kaneda) Ziva Energy Corporation Daniel Baioni & Paula Restrepo Regeneron Japan K.K. William Blair & Mahima Mathur Lockheed Martin Global, Inc. Scott Young Chung & Shiho Miyazaki Chung HJ Asset Management K.K. Thomas Giuffre & Keiko Hirose Hot Earth Enterprise Don & Misa Heath GloMed Solutions, LLC Tara Lawlor & Joseph Mokos U.S. Department of the Navy Stephen & Katherine Lofing Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC Cameron & Robin Cruz McClearn Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting LLC Michael & Jennifer Min Raytheon Missiles & Defense Arisa & Nobuaki Momoi Katayama Holdings Co., Ltd. Jin-Woo Bryan Oh EastBay Capital Michael Joseph & Theresa Marie Ryan Gartner Japan

Miyoko & Kazuhiko Shitara Alternative LLC Rick & Yuumi Soo Citigroup Global Markets Japan, Inc. Patrick & Karyntha Walsh Foot Locker, Inc.

AUST R A L I A Jeff Lu & Karen Luk Macquarie Asset Management

C A N A DA Robert Crane Japan Outsourcing Solutions K.K. Will Murray In Style Tokyo K.K.

CHINA Yan (Elsie) Zhang & Sibo Xie Korn Ferry

JA PA N Junsuke & Rika Fukuda J.P. Morgan Securities Ltd. Kensuke & Miki Harashima Viterra Japan Ltd. Shotaro Kobayashi Cyber Agent, Inc. Takahito Kobinata & Yua Hiyama Kobinata Doken Co., Ltd. Kenichiro & Emi Kono Indus Capital Advisors, Inc. Takanori Sano Deloitte Thomatsu Consulting LLC Akiyuki & Moe Tanaka Tanaka Sangyo, Inc.



Minsu Kim & Yoonha Lee Landmark AP Co., Ltd.

Edvard Vondra & Wakana Takahashi Vondra Crozen Co., Ltd.

Seongeun (Sherry) & Jongho Park Morpho Beauty Co., Ltd.

FRANCE Giulio Lilli BlueRise Partners K.K.

POLAND Kris Marszalek & Olive Chiu Crypto.com

TA I WA N Chi Tang (Gary) & Rika (Grace) Hung Peace Estate G.K.

TURKEY Baris Yalcin & Aylin Kolday Yalcin Japan Tobacco, Inc.

UK James & May Barnwell Maersk Broker Asia Brian & Kristin Doyle Nomura Holdings Philip & Holly Miller Novartis Pharma K.K.

NIHONBASHI JA PA N Osamu Okuda Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. Katsushi Terui Hewlett Packard Japan G.K.




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community voice


Excitement rushed through me as we emerged from the airport’s air-conditioned coolness into a hot stuffiness. A kind-looking man—our tuk-tuk driver for the trip—was waiting for us in front of the terminal. This was the beginning of a week in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s secondlargest city, and where I would experience culture shock like never before. Loud, smelly markets and streets abuzz with roaring motorbikes and beeping horns were a stark contrast with everyday Azabu Juban life. All my senses were alert. The thick, humid air hung with the aromas of spices and jasmine from the streetside food stalls. Having lived in Japan for most of my life, the smells were overpowering. I tried so many new dishes, from duck soup and fried banana to rice noodles and fruits I’d never seen before. My taste buds exploded with these sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavors. Everything was on display before me. There were people skinning frogs, stalls with pig heads and beautiful, rainbow-colored mounds of fresh veggies—as well as less-appetizing things like bowls of animal brains and frog heads. They were all foods you would never see in Japan. After the calm cleanliness of Tokyo’s

backstreets, I was a little intimidated by it all. It was a completely new environment. Something more familiar was in a nearby mall. Among its American shops and stores were Burger King, Domino’s, Starbucks and even Dairy Queen. They seemed to prefer American dollars, even though Cambodian money was available. I couldn’t believe they were selling Starbucks coffee mugs for $30, the same amount we paid our tuk-tuk driver to take us everywhere for an entire day. As the days went by, what struck me most was the friendliness of strangers. They greeted us with smiles, waves and genuine warmth. It was very different from Japan. The cashiers commented on my little sister’s plump cheeks and my countless freckles. When I had a stomachache, a random lady offered to give me a massage with a special healing ointment. No one seemed shy about asking us where we were from. They happily approached us and talked about anything. It was so interesting to experience such a different culture. I was so grateful to travel to this amazing country. It’s a big world. Where to next? Meg Bather is a sixth grader and a Member of the Club.




A new year deserves the best

Matured for seven years in American oak and Madeira casks in Seattle, Washington. Savored in Tokyo. Tokyo American Club x Westland Distillery Single Malt Whiskey Available online and at The Cellar.

community highlights

November 10 First Friday: Día de Muertos Multicolored skull faces were in abundance as Members celebrated Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival at a lively evening of mariachi music, food and, naturally, tequila. IMAGES YUUKI IDE




community highlights

November 12 Autumn Artisan Market Connections kicked off a three-day sale of handcrafted creations, dazzling designs and one-of-kind curios in the ballroom with a Member-exclusive evening of shopping. IMAGES YUUKI IDE




November 20 Tea Master Tastings For those eager to learn the secrets behind their favorite tea blend or how to make the perfect “cuppa,” Lalith Lenadora, tea master with the East India Company, revealed all. IMAGES YUUKI IDE




community highlights

December 1 Bonenkai Royale The band played, the drinks flowed and the good times rolled at the Club’s traditional, year-end bash, this time with a touch of Monte Carlo style and entertainment. IMAGES TAKUMARU SUZUKI




December 5 Clos du Val Wine Dinner The Nihonbashi Club welcomed Olav Goelet, third-generation owner of Napa’s famous Clos du Val winery, for an intimate evening of exceptional wines and cuisine. IMAGES YUUKI IDE




community pursuit



Tsukiji Outer Market The name Tsukiji is synonymous with fresh seafood. And while Tokyo’s bustling wholesale fish market, with its early-morning tuna auction, relocated to the Toyosu area in 2018, the backstreet stalls and eateries of Tsukiji Outer Market remain. This food-focused outing will be as much about eating as looking, as Members explore this lively quarter of Tsukiji on Connections’ first tour of the year. The plethora of stalls and restaurants sell everything from the freshest seafood (delivered daily from Toyosu) and vegetables to the finest-quality wagyu and sake.


Blanka Kobayashi & Ikuko Suzuki A passionate foodie with a love of history and culture, Blanka Kobayashi has been a member of Connections’ tour committee since 2018. She is joined by Ikuko Suzuki, a Nagano native who has taught Japanese for more than 25 years. “We will enjoy great food together while learning a little bit about the history of Tsukiji, the fish market and the produce sold there,” Kobayashi says. “We recommend Members come with empty stomachs, so they can try a lot of food!”

Tsukiji Outer Market Tour • January 16 • 9am–12pm • Meeting point: Kamiyacho Station • Connections members: ¥1,000 (non-Connections members: ¥1,100) • Sign up online




Image: Ikuko Suzuki and Blanka Kobayashi

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