iNTOUCH Apr 2012

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April 2012

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i N T O U C H

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Culinary Capital

本 体 七 七 七 円

Issue 564 • April 2012

Workout Grab Bag

The Club kicks off its new CrossFit program

Club Member Yoshiki Tsuji and other epicurean experts ponder Tokyo’s position at the top of the food table

Picture Perfect

Visit the Nagano valley that inspired a filmmaker

Wine Wingdings

Tastings from California, Oregon and Oz at the Club

東京アメリカンクラブメンバーの方限定で、The new Audi A6 Avant のクオリティと走りを体感いただける特別試乗会を 3 月に引き続き、 4 月も開催いたします。この機会にぜひご体感ください。 ご試乗の予約は下記店舗にご連絡ください。※本キャンペーンは下記 2 店舗のみの開催となります。

Experience the thrill of the new Audi A6 Avant by test-driving one today. To make the most of this exclusive offer for Tokyo American Club members and reserve your test-drive, please contact Audi Roppongi or Audi Forum Tokyo. (This limited-time campaign is available only at Audi Roppongi and Audi Forum Tokyo) ■ 試乗期間:2012 年 4 月 27 日まで

■ Test-drive campaign: until April 27, 2012

■ 対象車種:Audi A6 Avant ※他の車種も受け付けておりますのでお気軽にご連絡下さい。  ■Featured car: Audi A6 Avant (other models also available) ■ 試乗開催場所:Audi 六本木/ Audi Forum Tokyo

■ Test-drive location: Audi Roppongi/Audi Forum Tokyo


Missteps and the City


Set to appear at the Club this month, American expat and former iNTOUCH contributor Karen Pond explains how her early gaffes in Tokyo inspired a book.

talking heads



Academic Tests As Japan’s universities struggle to fill seats, Club Member and academic Stephen Givens weighs the future of the country’s higher education institutions. inside japan

Creating Keepsakes in Tohoku


For membership information, contact Mari Hori:

Editor Nick Jones

Designers Ryan Mundt Nagisa Mochizuki Production Assistant Yuko Shiroki Assistant Editor Erika Woodward

Tokyo American Club 2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8649

Communications Manager Matthew Roberts

Cover photo of Yoshiki Tsuji by Kayo Yamawaki.

6 Board of Governors

7 Management

8 Food & Beverage

24 Women’s Group 03-4588-0687

20 Recreation

When it comes to serving up Michelin-starred cuisine and palatepleasing eats for any wallet, Tokyo outdoes the rest of the world. So what is the city’s recipe for earning the global culinary crown? iNTOUCH talks with restaurant professionals and dedicated foodies to find out. 03-4588-0976

4 Events

18 Committees

Top Tables

To advertise in iNTOUCH, contact Miyuki Hagiwara:

16 DVD Library



2 Contacts

12 Library

Confronting the tragedy of last year’s earthquake and tsunami, two photographers set about creating family photo albums—and new memories—for Tohoku survivors. feature


26 Feature

32 Talking Heads

34 Frederick Harris Gallery

36 Member Services

38 Inside Japan

40 Out & About

42 Event Roundup

48 Back Words

Bob Sexton General Manager

Shuji Hirakawa Human Resources Director

Lian Chang Information Technology Director

Mutsuhiko Kumano Finance Director

Darryl Dudley Engineering Director

Scott Yahiro Recreation Director

Brian Marcus Food & Beverage Director

Getting in Touch Department/E-mail Phone American Bar & Grill

(03) 4588-0676

Banquet Sales and Reservations

(03) 4588-0977

Beauty Salon

(03) 4588-0685

Bowling Center

(03) 4588-0683

Café Med

(03) 4588-0978


(03) 4588-0307

Childcare Center

(03) 4588-0701


(03) 4588-0262


(03) 4588-0675

DVD Library

(03) 4588-0686


(03) 4588-0699


(03) 4588-0222

Fitness Center

(03) 4588-0266

Food & Beverage Office

(03) 4588-0245

Foreign Traders’ Bar

(03) 4588-0677

Guest Studios

(03) 4588-0734

Human Resources

(03) 4588-0679

Information Technology

(03) 4588-0690


(03) 4588-0678

Management Office

(03) 4588-0674

Membership Office

(03) 4588-0687

Member Services Desk

(03) 4588-0670

Pool Office

(03) 4588-0700

Rainbow Café

(03) 4588-0705

Recreation Desk

(03) 4588-0681

Redevelopment Office

(03) 4588-0223

The Cellar

(03) 4588-0744

The Spa

(03) 4588-0714


(03) 4588-0671

Women’s Group Office

2 April 2012 iNTOUCH

(03) 4588-0691

from the


Visiting Japan for the first time, British comedian Charlie Brooker quickly discovered two truisms about local TV: one, that it’s pretty dull and two, that it’s full of programs about food. “Seriously, it’s all food, food, food. People eating food, answering questions about food, sometimes even just pointing at food and laughing. It’s as if they’ve only just discovered food and are perpetually astonished by its very existence,” Brooker wrote in The Guardian newspaper in January. He’s right, of course. Even after last year’s disaster in northeastern Japan, it didn’t take too long for TV channels to switch from continuous reporting on rescue efforts in Tohoku and Fukushima’s ongoing nuclear crisis to its usual staple of shows that feature minor celebrities sampling various local dishes and shrieking their approval with a jubilant “Oishii!” But it shouldn’t be that surprising that TV shows are overflowing with items on food and recommended dining spots, particularly after the recent Tabelog scandal. Late last year, it was revealed that the rankings on the popular restaurant review website had been manipulated by online advertising companies in a practice known as stealth marketing. In Japan, the line between reporting and advertising is a little more blurred than elsewhere. Another reason for the abundance of grub-related segments on TV is that the nation is obsessed with food. The subject dominates conversations at all levels of society and it’s the cornerstone of the Japanese ritual of buying souvenirs for friends, family and coworkers at the end of any kind of travel. Naturally, such a discerning infatuation with ingredients and produce means that you can dine on superb examples of pretty much every type of food you can imagine in Japan. This has been reinforced in recent years by the sprinkling of coveted Michelin stars on some of the country’s eateries. In particular, Tokyo has accumulated a constellation of stars and the title of culinary capital. But is Tokyo the best place in the world to eat out? In this month’s cover story, “Top Tables,” on pages 26 to 31, Rob Goss grabs a menu and finds out. If you have any comments about anything you read in iNTOUCH, please e-mail them to, putting “Letter to the Editor” in the subject title of the mail. For this month's letter, turn to page 48.

contributors Rob Goss

Originally from Dartmoor in southwest England, Rob Goss is a freelance journalist and editor. His work has appeared in more than 40 publications around the world and on the Internet. He writes on a range of subjects but has a special interest in Japanese society and travel. Most recently, he worked on the latest version of the Rough Guide to Japan. Goss arrived in Japan in 1999 after a spell in Oslo and now lives in Tokyo with his wife and young son. For this month’s cover story, “Top Tables,” he delves into the world of cuisine and finds out whether Tokyo, the recipient of the largest number of Michelin stars, really is the best place on the planet to eat out.

Lisa Jardin

Currently on her second stint as a Tokyo resident, American Lisa Jardine has lived in Japan for a total of six years. She is a mother of four and frequent contributor to CNNGo Tokyo, the online city guide, and iNTOUCH magazine and has written for The Japan Times newspaper and Metropolis, Tokyo’s English-language listings magazine. An active member of the Women’s Group, she has taken on a number of different roles since joining the organization. As her stay in Japan draws to a close (she and her family are set to leave in June), Jardine reminisces about her time spent volunteering for the Women’s Group on page 25.

Find Us on Facebook and Twitter Join the Club’s social network and keep tabs on news, photos from events and announcements, take part in lively dialogues and so much more. Look for the Tokyo American Club page on Facebook and Twitter and discover endless ways to connect with your fellow Members!

Words from the editor 3

What’s happening in April 1








Youth Baseball Kickoff Another exciting season of curveballs and homeruns kicks off for the Club’s young fans of the bat and glove. To learn more, check out the Health & Recreation section of the Club website.

Toddler Time A fun half-hour session of engaging stories and activities await preschoolers at the Children’s Library. 4 p.m. Free. Continues April 10 and 17.

Meet the Author: Katie Van Camp Former ballet dancer Katie Van Camp reads her two popular children’s books, Harry and Horsie and CookieBot!, at a fun session for kids and their parents. 10:30 a.m. Turn to page 14 for the details.

An Architectural Walking Tour of Ginza Architectural historian Deanna MacDonald leads a fascinating jaunt through three Tokyo districts and their colorful histories. 10 a.m. ¥4,500. Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk.







Wednesday– Thursday


Ken Wright Cellars Wine Dinner Oregon winemaker Ken Wright uncorks some bottles of scintillating Pinot Noir from a state renowned for its examples of the notoriously fickle varietal. 7 p.m. Page 10 has more.

Youth Basketball Kickoff Former basketball pro Dan Weiss pilots his young ball-playing protégés through another fun season of honing hoop skills. For more on the program, flip to page 23.

Curry Night at Rainbow Café Rainbow Café offers up a smorgasbord of curries from around Asia. 5–8:30 p.m. Adults (12 and above): ¥1,950; juniors (7–11 years): ¥1,200; children (4–6 years): ¥700; infants (3 and under): free. Continues April 18 and 19.

Youth Volleyball Kickoff Young spikers convene on the court for a few energy-infused games of volleyball and a lot of fun. For more, turn to page 23.






Michael Mondavi Family Estate Wine Dinner Join the son of wine pioneer Robert Mondavi when he hosts a dinner of fine food and handcrafted beauties from the family vineyards. 7 p.m. Find out how to reserve your seat on page 8.

4 April 2012 iNTOUCH


Get Creative! Young Author Writing Contest Deadline Don’t miss this chance to see your own piece of prose in print. For details on this creative competition, flip to page 19.


Coffee Connections Whether you’re new in town or want to meet new people, drop by this Women’s Group gathering. 10:30 a.m. Haru Reischauer and Beate Sirota Gordon classrooms. Contact the Women’s Group Office to organize free childcare.


Gallery Reception “Recycle artist” Shoichi Sakurai launches his exhibition of illuminated sculptures and wearable art at a casual reception at the Frederick Harris Gallery. 6:30 p.m. Flip to page 35 to learn more.










Easter Buffet at the Club Celebrate with a sumptuous spread. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–8:30 p.m. New York Ballroom. Adults (18 and above): ¥7,000; juniors (7–17 years): ¥3,250; children (3–6 years): ¥1,050; infants (2 and under): free. Reserve at 03-4588-0977.

Family Spring Festival Ring in spring with an exciting egg hunt, Easter Bunny meet and greet, petting zoo and more. 10 a.m.–3 p.m. ¥1,575. Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk.

Monthly Luncheon: A Taste of Japan with John Gauntner Rediscover Japan’s signature drink when American sake guru John Gauntner returns to the Club to host an enlightening Women’s Group luncheon. 11:30 a.m. Flip to page 24 to find out more.

Gallery Reception French artist François “Darius” Bourdon launches his exhibition of intriguing sumi paintings at a casual reception at the Frederick Harris Gallery. 6:30 p.m. Learn more on page 34.









Youth Futsal Kickoff Youngsters learn the skills and strategy of this fast-paced, indoor version of soccer from an experienced instructor. Details on page 23.

Western Australia Wine Tasting Find out why wine connoisseurs can’t get enough of Western Australian varietals at this notto-be-missed Wine Committee tasting. 7 p.m. Learn more on page 9.

Diet Tour Wander the corridors of power on this Programs and Events Committee-organized tour of Japan’s parliament building in Nagatacho. 10 a.m. Free. Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk.

Library Book Group Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff is up for discussion at this month’s gathering of literature lovers. 12–2 p.m. For more information, contact the Library.






Nagatoro and Shibazakura Tour Head to the historic Saitama Prefecture town of Nagatoro for a breathtaking boat ride on the Arakawa River, before admiring a carpet of blooms in Hitsujiyama Park on this Women’s Group tour. Check the Club website for more.

Coming up in May


Meet the Author: Karen Pond American expat and former iNTOUCH contributor Karen Pond talks about Getting Genki in Japan, her collection of anecdotes and Tokyo tales. 7 p.m. Turn to page 12 for more.


From Self-Publishing to Sherlock: A Talk by Hugh Ashton Japan-based British author Hugh Ashton drops by the Club to talk about his writing career and his two recent collections of Sherlock Holmes tales. 7 p.m. Details on page 24.

12 Mother’s Day Scavenger Hunt 19–20 Aizu Wakamatsu Tour 13 Mother’s Day Buffet 22 Nearly New Sale


Still Jammin’ for Japan In a follow-up to last year’s hugely successful fundraiser, Jammin’ for Japan, the Club hosts a glamorous evening of opera and runway fashion in aid of the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. 6 p.m. More on page 19. 25 Salvation Army Charity Drive 27 Tre Venezie Dinner

Noteworthy dates for the month 5


Change at the Top by Hiroyuki Kamano


hen running for the Board of Governors in 2010, I promised to work for a successful transition of the Club’s status as a nonprofit organization (NPO). I believe that the Club’s application to change its status from shadan hojin to ippan shadan hojin will be approved by the public interest corporation commission soon. Once approval has been granted, there will be a number of changes to the Club’s system of governance. First, instead of Members directly electing the president every two years, the president will be chosen by the Board of Governors. Of course, the governors, from which the president will be selected, will still be elected in the normal election process. Under the new system, which will be mandatory under Japan’s 2006 nonprofit organization law, the Board will choose a “representative governor,” who will effectively become the president. I believe that this change will improve the way in which the Club is governed and place it in a better position for the future. Low voter turnout in past elections meant that the president usually won with a small number of votes, which seemed to reflect the candidate’s personal relationship with voters. In my opinion, it is vital that the future of the Club—rather than personal favors—is placed at the center of all elections. This new method of electing the president should also lead to incumbent governors’ paying closer attention to the qualifications of all candidates for the top job. Also, under the revised Articles of Association, those Members with voting rights who neglect to vote at the Annual

6 April 2012 iNTOUCH

Board of Governors Lance E Lee (2012)—President Brian Nelson (2012)—Vice President Mary Saphin (2013)—Vice President Ann Marie Skalecki (2012)—Vice President John Durkin (2012)—Treasurer Deb Wenig (2013)—Secretary Kavin C Bloomer (2012), Norman J Green (2013), Paul Hoff (2013), Hiroyuki Kamano (2012), Per Knudsen (2012), Gregory Lyon (2012), Jeff McNeill (2013), Hiroshi Miyamasu (2013), Steve Romaine (2012), Dan Stakoe (2013), Ira Wolf (2013), Shizuo Daigoh—Statutory Auditor (2012), Ginger Griggs—Women’s Group President

General Meeting (AGM) will have their voting rights suspended for 13 months. Since the NPO law requires that a majority of voting Members attend the AGM, it is hoped that this approach will help the Club meet this obligation, which has never been achieved before. Voting is an essential element of Club governance, and I hope that all voting Members will fully appreciate their responsibility. Another change will involve the Club’s statutory auditor, who will have substantial authority and responsibilities. The auditor will be obligated to attend Board meetings and monitor the activities of all governors. Additionally, if the auditor discovers any kind of misconduct by a governor, he or she will be required to report it to the Board. In short, I think such changes will help to strengthen the governance of the Club. These reforms, though, were kept to a minimum to ensure a smooth transition of NPO status. Further improvements in Club governance will be left for future discussions. In this regard, I would like to see a discussion on reducing the number of Club governors from 15 to 10. Such a move, I believe, would allow the Board to hold more fruitful and intensive deliberations. o


Exploring the Possibilities by Bob Sexton


e hope that you are making the most of our Find Your Groove campaign, which was launched last month to both celebrate our one-year anniversary in Azabudai and, more importantly, encourage Members to try out new services and facilities at the Club. You should have received your Find Your Groove game card by now, so now’s the time to sign up for something new. How about the 19th Hole? In fact, you don’t even have to play golf there. You can book the golf simulator for playing movies. Talk about a big screen! And the more you participate in activities around the Club, the more rewards you earn. Members and guests arriving at the Club will soon be welcomed by our new “front ambassadors.” These staff will stand at the front entrance of the Club during the busiest times of the day to organize taxis, help Members to load and unload their cars and welcome people to our magnificent home. Our domestic helper program has been running for a year now. This scheme, which is for parents who employ somebody to assist with their children, allows domestic helpers to accompany their young charges to the Club when the parents are busy. If you would like more information about the program, please contact the Membership Office. Those with young children might also be interested to learn that the Childcare Center now hosts fun activity sessions to help improve early-learning skills. To find out more, visit the Childcare

Bob Sexton

General Manager

Center or the Activities & Amenities section of the Club website. Two of our more popular annual buffets—Easter and Mother’s Day—are approaching. Attendees will notice that we have switched from having seating times to continuous seating. This change has meant that we can now cater to more people (well over 700 people enjoyed our Christmas spread), the buffets are far less crowded and the service is much improved. With the search for a new general manager approaching a conclusion, this may be my last column for iNTOUCH. Although I don’t know my exact departure date right now, I will be retiring in the near future. Accordingly, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the Membership and Club staff for their support during the more than seven years I have been at the Club. Since the Club needed a more experienced assistant general manager to help Mike Bumgardner during the Redevelopment Project, I was asked to join the Club. Having been a general manager in California for 20 years and consulted for seven, I was asked by my friends in the industry why I would return to club management as an assistant. That was easy: I was joining one of the largest clubs in the world at its most exciting time—and I got to live in Japan. Thanks to all of those whom I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with over the last few years. TAC is a fantastic club, which will continue to develop and grow in its extraordinary facility. o

Executive remarks 7



Continuing the Cause by Wendi Onuki


t seems hardly surprising that Michael Mondavi ended up making and selling wine. After all, he grew up with California wine pioneer Robert Mondavi as his father and the cellar master as his babysitter. But there was a time when he considered a career as a pilot or architect, a move that could have altered the course of California wine history. The younger Mondavi eventually returned to his family’s roots, working with his esteemed father to establish the Robert Mondavi Winery business in 1966. He served as the label’s winemaker through the late 1970s, when he shifted to sales management and his brother took over as winemaker as the business swelled into a prime Napa Valley destination, lauded for its supple, sophisticated Cabernets and Chardonnays. “The legacy actually begins before my father, with his father,” says 69-year-old Michael, who will be uncorking wines from his own vineyards at a Club dinner this month. “My grandfather realized there was an opportunity after prohibition to get involved in the wine business….Then my father realized that instead of just wine to chug, we could make wines to compete with some of the best wines in the world.” As Mondavi’s reputation for producing high-caliber wines grew, the company launched the Woodbridge line of inexpensive, easy-to-drink table wines and went public in 1993 to fund its expanding operations. The focus increasingly turned away from the finely crafted, upscale labels, and the family grew unhappy; Michael resigned less than a year before his father’s namesake business was sold to Constellation Brands for more than $1 billion. “I decided that that was a beautiful book that we’d written together, and it was now completed,” says Michael. His new business, Folio Fine Wine Partners, which he started with his wife, son and daughter, features a collection of small wineries from around the world. In addition, the family makes limited batches of wine under several labels, including I’M, Oberon and Hangtime, at the Michael Mondavi Family Estate in Carneros Creek. “I was able to get back to the part of winemaking that I love: the wine, the people,” he says. “I am convinced that the best wine will be produced by family-run and family-owned wineries. The big companies are under constant pressure to produce good earnings. Mother Nature doesn’t care about the earnings.” As for the well-known label bearing the name of his father, who died in 2008 at age 94, Michael has surprisingly few regrets on the outcome. “My father loved the limelight and wanted to create a large business,” he says, “and he was very successful in doing that.” o Onuki is a Chicago-based freelance journalist.

Michael Mondavi

8 April 2012 iNTOUCH

Michael Mondavi Family Estate Wine Dinner with Michael Mondavi Saturday, April 21 7 p.m. New York Dining Bridge ¥15,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk



or more than 40 years, Western Australia has enjoyed a mining boom. And the wealth created from pulling vast amounts of ore and minerals from the earth has helped to establish world-class vineyards in the southwestern part of Australia’s largest and most sparsely populated state. With more than 26,000 acres under vine (an area equivalent to the size of Paris), Western Australia has nine distinct winegrowing districts, which stretch from 60 kilometers north of Perth (the Perth Hills and Swan Valley) to 400 kilometers south of the state capital (the Great Southern region). While the Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest wine-producing area, the Margaret River wineries are renowned internationally for their well-crafted varietals. Popular wine blogger Gary Vaynerchuk acknowledged this in 2010. “Margaret River, with their Cabernets, Rieslings and Chardonnays, need to become more of the conversation…. Margaret River is a place you need to

explore more in Australia,” he said in one of his episodes of Wine Library TV. This month’s Wine Committee tasting will, naturally, feature wines from this famous region, but also from the lesserknown Great Southern and Peel regions. The wines of such acclaimed Margaret River makers as Leeuwin and Cullen will be compared with the varietals of some smaller wineries and viticultural rising stars. Through a sampling, attendees will gain an insight into the outstanding styles of Chardonnay and SemillonSauvignon Blanc and Cabernet-Merlot blends being produced in this remote pocket of Australia. o



Go West by Craig Saphin

Western Australia Wine Tasting Wednesday, April 18 7 p.m. Washington and Lincoln rooms ¥9,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

Saphin is a member of the Wine Committee.

Club wining and dining 9



Pinot Panache by Wendi Onuki

Karen and Ken Wright Ken Wright Cellars Wine Dinner with Ken Wright Tuesday, April 10 7 p.m. American Bar & Grill ¥15,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

10 April 2012 iNTOUCH


uscious, notoriously fickle Pinot Noir is as much a trademark of Oregon as the state’s mesmerizing scenery and hazelnuts. “There are only a few areas on the planet where Pinot wants to be great,” says Ken Wright, the owner of Ken Wright Cellars in Willamette Valley. “We have one of them. All other varieties are second tier and less distinctive in my mind and competing with an ocean of similar quality wine.” This focus on sublime Pinot led Wright to discover the virtues of singlevineyard production in the mid-1980s, a fairly novel idea at the time. His winery team searched for five years for Oregon’s ideal growing locations, finding in their wake “a pattern of aromatic and flavor profiles from specific areas that were consistent from year to year,” according to Wright, 57. The winemaker is often credited with single-handedly fueling Oregon’s wave of vineyard-specific wines in the early 1990s. “[The trend] was very helpful in teaching not only the public, but the industry itself, about the qualities that we could associate with site,” says Wright. “The connection of place became our mantra.” After first acquiring a taste for the grape as a young waiter in Kentucky, Wright packed his bags for California. He studied winemaking at the University of California at Davis before spending the next decade making wine for big-name producers in the 1970s. “I kept my mouth shut and my ears open,” he recalls of his work alongside experienced winemakers. During that time, a friend began working at a winery in Oregon, and

frequent visits across the state border led Wright to the notion that Willamette Valley possessed the irresistible combination of growing conditions that would allow him to create “riveting” Pinot Noir. Wright’s ambitions never wavered as he carved out a name for himself among Oregon’s estimated 400 wineries. While growers tinker with a range of varietals, Pinot Noir comprises the bulk of the state’s $2.7 billion wine business. “The limitation of suitable sites will forever keep us as a smaller producer in terms of volume,” Wright says. “But that is also a great asset in that we attract people who are passionate about producing Pinot Noir of very high quality, rather than corporate, volume-focused companies.” As the appetite for top-notch Pinot grows (sales of Pinot Noir rose 10.5 percent last year in the US, compared with around 6 percent for Cabernet Sauvignon), visitors flock to the vineyards owned by Wright and his neighbors. “Our strength is that we are a community of owner-operated vineyardwineries,” Wright says. “We don’t want people to experience the mind-numbing tasting experience that is so common in Napa. When you visit our area, you most commonly meet the people who made this area what it is. They convey their stories of discovery, disappointment and, ultimately, success.” Members can hear Wright’s own tale of triumph when he uncorks a selection of his much-touted Pinots at the Club this month. o Onuki is a Chicago-based freelance journalist.

Missteps and the City Meet the Author: Karen Pond Wednesday, April 25 7–8 p.m. Yukiko Maki Classroom ¥1,575 Sign up online or at the Library


here is always a story to tell. Admittedly, for me, some of my stories about living in Japan have been awkward. One day I was a magazine copywriter for an apparel company in America and then, a few weeks later, I was desperately pantomiming for poultry in a grocery store in Tokyo. I discovered that chicken was relatively easy to act out but frozen turkey, well, that proved to be quite the challenge. “Why did the clerk walk away from me?” I gobbled to my friend while in character. “I am being the best frozen turkey that I can be. I haven’t moved in minutes.” “I am pretty sure the clerk thinks you are just trying to take an afternoon nap in aisle six,” she said. Some tales have been bewildering: “I sense a disturbance in the force—a flush disturbance,” I said, slowly waving my hand around the washlet like a Jedi knight. “The flush force is strong with you, young Toto. Show me the truth. Show me the sensor. Show me the right button to push or at least an escape route out of this restaurant.” Some have been ludicrous: “What did I say?” I asked a Japanese friend after I noticed the group of women around me start to clutch their handbags. “Karen-san,” she said, “You need to be more careful with your Japanese pronunciation. You just introduced your husband as your prisoner.” “I don’t mind,” said my husband, “but I am hoping for early release for good behavior.” There is always a story to tell, and I enjoy sharing mine. My e-mails to family and friends back home became blog entries, which became magazine columns, which are now stories in my book, Getting Genki in Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo. Sharing my family’s trials and tribulations helped me as I tackled a steep learning curve that steadied with successes (“Yeah, Mom, you found milk! We no longer have to drink yogurt.”), but would unexpectedly twist, turn, loop and derail. “Hey, Mom, the pizza delivery guy is here.”

12 April 2012 iNTOUCH

Ahead of her appearance at the Club this month, Karen Pond explains how her early cultural slipups in Tokyo became iNTOUCH columns then a book, Getting Genki in Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo. “Great! I am so proud that we were able to order pizza over the phone.” “Um, Mom, I don’t think he understood the order. He doesn’t have a large pizza; he has a cookie. He is at the door with a cookie.” Writing about our experiences also helped me through the various phases of culture shock: Phase 1: Seat 32E

This stage doesn’t feature in the book, but let’s just say that a long-haul flight can have a strange effect on people. Fighting for possession of the armrest and additional seat space in economy class can transform a mildmannered mother of three into a fed-up flier (envision a Samuel L Jackson character). Phase 2: Clueless (also referred to as the sumimasen stage)

This stage was about trying to settle in, memorizing the way home, trying new foods, meeting new people, pointing and paying for groceries and saying “Sumimasen,” that incredibly useful Japanese word for all situations, everywhere. During this stage, I accidentally applied glue to my armpits one morning because I couldn’t read the package and thought that the glue stick was a travel-size stick of deodorant. Phase 3: Tokyo Is Not for the Timid

This is when I started each day feeling much smarter than the day before. Phase 4: Mama’s Getting Genki

My current stage. I now know how to bring my “A” game to take on Tokyo, even though I don’t always know all the rules of the game and my life still occasionally feels like a game show. I do occasionally get lost in stores, on subways and in conversations, but I’m genki and absolutely loving the unexpectedly memorable, wondrously extraordinary and incredibly special Japan. o Getting Genki in Japan: The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Family in Tokyo is available at the Library.

Irwin Wong


Karen Pond

Literary gems at the Library 13

off the


Tales of Life, Loyalty and Unconditional Love by Julie Ennis


enry is a little boy without any brothers or sisters, and he lives on a street with no other children. Mudge is a small puppy that Henry persuades his parents to bring home for him. The puppy, which grows quickly into an 80-kilo slobbering dog, becomes Henry’s loyal companion and unwitting life teacher. With bright illustrations and simple storylines, the Henry and Mudge stories by American children’s author Cynthia Rylant can be great starter books for emerging readers. Children will enjoy the illustrations and the relationship between Henry and his faithful pooch, who, like a real dog, eats things he is not supposed to eat and falls asleep when he is bored. The stories are simple and reflect everyday situations and are a great way for beginners to flex their reading muscles. The chapters are short and the stories are entertaining with just the right amount of humor, without the situations becoming too silly. The lessons are gently learned, not hammered home, by the affectionate relationship between the boy and his dog.

A prolific writer, Rylant, 57, has written more than 100 books since her first title, When I Was Young in the Mountains, in 1982. Aside from the Henry and Mudge stories, she has penned the Poppleton and Mr. Putter and Tabby series of books for beginning readers, as well as the Newbery Medalwinning Missing May (1992), A Fine White Dust (1986) for older readers, which won a Newbery Honor, and two Caldecott Honor-winning picture books. Rylant bases much of her writing on her childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. Her characters are often portrayed as introspective, compassionate young people who seem to be somewhat isolated from their peers. As well as her beginning reader books, she has produced contemporary novels, historical fiction for young adults, poetry, collections of short stories and two autobiographies. o Ennis is a member of the Library Committee. More than 40 Rylant titles are available at the Library.

Meet the Author

Katie Van Camp Canadian children’s author Katie Van Camp will read her two award-winning illustrated books, the intergalactic adventure Harry and Horsie and its sequel, CookieBot!, before talking about writing kids’ books at a fun session for youngsters. During this event, children will be able to work on Harry and Horsie activity pages after the reading. Harry and Horsie

Katie Van Camp

14 April 2012 iNTOUCH

Saturday, April 7 10:30–11:30 a.m. Yukiko Maki Classroom ¥1,050 Sign up online or at the Library



reads The Godfather of Kathmandu by John Burdett

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

When Bangkok police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep is confronted with the most grisly murder of his career, he embarks on a captivating search for answers through the labyrinth of Thai customs. This latest page-turner in the popular detective series is peppered with humor and full of intrigue. JT

Follow one young man’s pursuit of self-discovery and transcendence in the American wilderness. In this 1950s-set novel, Ray Smith gives up the luxuries of domesticity at the urging of friends to live outdoors with nothing but the bare essentials. JT

The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

In this fourth installment starring Poke Rafferty, the American street-smart travel writer is forced to hunt a serial killer after a figure from his wife’s secret past as a star of Bangkok’s famous red-light district resurfaces for revenge. JT

In this thrilling novel that explores the hypothetical hazards of 21st-century technology, an unassuming former Iowa farmer creates a multibillion dollar online role-playing game and soon becomes the target of hackers, who unleash a virus that sparks a technological world war. JT

Savages by Don Winslow

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Two Laguna Beach buddies, Ben and Chon, run a successful high-class marijuana business, but their posh lifestyles are threatened when a Mexican cartel encroaches on their pot-producing Californian paradise. Expect nothing less than a fast-paced, in-your-face narrative that is Winslow’s trademark style. JT

In this new twist on the old Cinderella story, Cinder is a cyborg and the best mechanic in New Beijing. In fact, she’s just the person the prince needs to fix his android. Cinder can’t believe her luck when she gets to meet royalty, but soon her world starts to fall apart. EK

Reviews compiled by librarians Joe Tashiro and Erica Kawamura.

member’s choice Member: Kai Lee Title: Harry and Horsie by Katie Van Camp

What’s the book about? The book is about how Harry plays with his bubble gun and loses [his stuffed animal] Horsie.

What did you like about it? I liked it because Harry goes into space.

Why did you choose it? Because the author wrote it with a lot of imagination.

What other book(s) would you recommend? I would recommend CookieBot!, also by Katie Van Camp.

Literary gems at the Library 15




e comes from the land of Katroo, has unruly hair and dresses rather plainly. But worst of all is his name, given to him in 1951 by his originator, Dr Seuss: Nerd. And so was born a humiliating label for awkward students everywhere—and the potential for some box-office success. Enter Revenge of the Nerds, the 1984 classic college comedy about three foureyed freshman outcasts who revolt against their frat boy tormentors, gaining confidence, self-respect and, ultimately, the

admiration of their (cooler) peers. Delivering the nerds’ timeless battle cry, the star of the film, Gilbert Lowell (Anthony Edwards), unabashedly pronounces at a campus pep rally, “I’m a nerd. I’m pretty proud of it…. Join us ’cause no one’s gonna really be free until nerd persecution ends.” So, in recognition of the sometimes maddening yet fulfilling journey toward adulthood, our Club critics offer their picks for cinema’s best college flick. (And remember, no matter how bad you had it, at least your name isn’t actually Nerd.) o

“Animal House has been the college party movie since it was released in 1978. With its nonstop politically incorrect humor from Bluto (John Belushi) and the other unforgettable crazies in the cast, Animal House has been referenced in countless other movies and TV shows. While the film triggered a plethora of forgetful imposters, none of them came close to capturing the craziness of Animal House. Of the more recent releases, The Hangover (2009) peddles that same kind of outrageous comedy. Directed by John Landis, who also made The Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London, Animal House is a true classic and should be seen by everyone at least once.”

“The 1973 Oscar-winning classic The Paper Chase is a window into the angst, anxiety and enthusiasm of first-year law students at Harvard. The movie follows the bright and naïve James Hart (Timothy Bottoms) as he struggles to balance the intense demands of school and his intimidating law professor, Charles Kingsfield (John Houseman), with his relationship with Susan Fields (Lindsay Wagner), who, he discovers, is Kingfield’s daughter. Houseman’s portrayal of the haughty, ego-deflating professor (‘You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.’) won him an Oscar for best supporting actor. This nostalgic flick might feature afros and bellbottoms rather than smartphones and laptops, but the message remains the same: pressure and competition never change.”

“Maybe it was the fact that I was a recent college and grad school graduate, or it could have been the wonderful banter that reallife friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote for their characters, Will and Chuckie. It might have been the great coming-of-age performances by Matt and Ben or even their brilliant Oscar-winning screenplay. Perhaps it was Robin William’s Oscar-winning role as Will’s psychologist, who helps him realize that life is about making choices to live and not about what happened to you as a child. Whatever it is that makes Good Will Hunting a favorite of mine, it continues to hold its own as one of the best college movies of all time.”

Best college flick: Animal House

Best college flick: The Paper Chase

Best college flick: Good Will

Club critic: David Fujii

Club critic: Diane Harris

Campus Classics


Club critic: Abby Radmilovich

All titles mentioned are either available at the DVD Library or on order.

16 April 2012 iNTOUCH

DVD LIBRARY He is Club President Lance E Lee. She is Yuko Akisato, manager of the DVD Library.


Jack and Jill Apart from the fact that this movie boasts numerous fun-towatch celebrity cameo appearances, it’s a mediocre Adam Sandler comedy. Most of the funny scenes appear to be forced and the humor falls apart. In particular, Al Pacino’s scenes drag pointlessly.

give it a go


Unless you’re a huge fan of Adam Sandler, you should probably skip this comedy about a successful LA advertising exec, Jack (Sandler), who is forced to entertain his brash identical twin sister, Jill (also played by Sandler), at Thanksgiving. Even Al Pacino is a letdown.

Johnny English Reborn Not quite as good as the first movie, but this well-paced, easyto-follow comedy has plenty of laughs right the way through. This film should particularly appeal to fans of the cool MI7 gadgets.

After years of intense training in a remote part of Asia, MI7’s top spy, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson), returns to take on a group of international assassins. Although I’m not a fan of the first film or Atkinson’s Mr Bean character, this is a really good comedy.



J Edgar Another truly inspiring film, with spectacular cinematography, from Clint Eastwood. Admittedly, it takes a while to get into this film and parts of it are a little long, but Leonardo DiCaprio produces a stellar performance as J Edgar Hoover. A movie put together by the best.

A mesmerizing movie, with an excellent Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, about the private and public lives of one of America’s most powerful and controversial figures, J Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI. This film also stars Naomi Watts and Judi Dench.



Tower Heist Forget trying to scrutinize this film’s storyline and characters— just sit back and enjoy this funny action movie. Directed by the man behind the Rush Hour series of flicks, Brett Ratner, Tower Heist brings together a great collection of comedy actors, including Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller.

An entertaining caper flick about a group of men who decide to take revenge on a Wall Street crook (Alan Alda) who ripped them off. Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead an all-star cast.



Footloose When teenage rock fan Ren MacCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves from Chicago to a small town where rock music and dancing are banned, he leads a battle of the bands in hopes of helping uptight townies get their groove on in this remake of the ’80s classic.



other new titles... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigates the 40-year-old disappearance of a missing girl with the help of a computer-hacking, tattoo-sporting femme fatale, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), in this film based on the best-selling novel by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson.

Like Crazy Anna, a British student, falls in love with a fellow California university undergrad, Jacob, but when she decides to violate the terms of her visa for extra snuggle time, she becomes embroiled in a legal battle that tests their relationship. Fans of farfetched romances, all aboard the crazy love train!

Columbus Circle Abigail is not the kind of neighbor who would lend you sugar. In fact, the agoraphobic, wealthy heiress has been hiding in her swanky Manhattan digs for two decades, until the murder of her neighbor prompts the cops to come knocking. Starring Selma Blair.

The Skin I Live In In this Pedro Almodóvar-directed, Spanish-language film, Antonio Banderas plays a megalomaniac plastic surgeon, Dr Robert Ledgard, whose ulterior motives are discovered when he comes dangerously close to creating flawless skin that can’t be blemished.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy In this bleak Cold War-era thriller, based on John le Carré’s 1974 novel, veteran intelligence officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman) comes out of retirement to find the Russian mole that botched his last mission. Starring John Hurt, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy.

All movies reviewed are either available at the DVD Library or on order.

TV and film selections 17

Aesthetic Aims by Nick Jones


or 25 years, Yumiko Sai’s life revolved around numbers. As an equity analyst and fund manager for a Boston-based investment firm in Tokyo, she looked after the fortunes of several international mutual funds. Between the high-powered meetings and high-pressure deals, there was little time to breathe. Until, in 2008, America’s fourth-largest investment bank collapsed and triggered a worldwide financial crisis that affected millions. Sai’s office was closed and the Tochigi native opted for early retirement. It was time for a change of pace. Not long after, Sai joined the Genkan Gallery Committee, which oversaw the Club’s regular exhibitions. Working with artists to organize their shows at the Club put her in contact with a group of people with an entirely different outlook from those in the industry she had left. “[Artists] look happier,” she says with a laugh. “Investment management is time critical and you need to make decisions fast. But an artist is not connected to time in the same way, [so] you can live in your own world. That’s good.” When the founder of the gallery and committee chair at the time, Fred Harris, passed away in November 2010, Sai was asked to take over. “I was not sure at that time that I could fill his [shoes],” says the

Yumiko Sai

longtime Member, referring to the former Club president and prolific artist after whom the gallery was renamed when the new Azabudai Club opened last year. But she says that a Keio University night course on exhibition management she took while working has proved a boon in her role. “It has been useful,” she says, “especially when amateur artists sometimes want to get advice from the committee.” Established in the late 1960s, the Club gallery’s original aim was to showcase the works of established Japanese artists to foreign Members. With new spaces in the B1 Formal Lobby and first-floor Family Lobby, the gallery has a new mission, according to Sai. “The key is diversity,” she says. Besides introducing Japan- and overseas-based artists and non-traditional Japanese art to the Membership, Sai says that the committee is keen to promote young, up-and-coming talent.

This July, DanDans, a group of exciting young Japanese artists, returns to the Frederick Harris Gallery, while the following month sees the Club host an exhibition of works by artists with learning difficulties. “They are so talented,” Sai says, “and I think we can promote their talent to more people.” Since the Club earns a 30 percent commission on each sale at the gallery, a major consideration for the committee when selecting artists to exhibit is whether the quality of the works is good enough to sell, says Sai. Although last year was a difficult one for the gallery, the Club still made almost ¥4 million from art sales. Ultimately, though, it’s all about the art for the committee. “Our mission,” Sai says, “is to continually provide good exhibitions.” o For information on this month’s Frederick Harris Gallery exhibitions, turn to pages 34 and 35.

Stacks of Services at the Club

JTB Sunrise Tours



André Bernard Beauty Salon

Enjoy a 5 percent discount on all package tours and start making unforgettable memories. Tel: 03-5796-5454 (9:30 a.m.–8 p.m.) E-mail:

The Club’s professional shoe repair and polishing service. Tel: 03-4588-0670 The Cellar (B1) Sat: 1–4:30 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Weekday drop-off: Member Services Desk

Through April 13, for the US tax season, Members may courier documents at a discount. For details, visit the FedEx counter. The Cellar (B1) Mon–Fri: 1–5 p.m. (closed Sun and national holidays) Sat: 12 p.m. (pick up only)

Hair care for adults and kids, manicure, pedicure, waxing and more. Tel: 03-4588-0685 Family Area (B1) Tue–Sun 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

18 April 2012 iNTOUCH


A Meeting of Maestros by Erika Woodward

Young Scribe Contest


ast year, the Club hosted a partyperfect musical extravaganza for the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami. Now, get set for act two. On April 27, don’t miss Still Jammin’ for Japan, an evening of glamour, music, including gospel, opera and other styles, and fashion from top designer Junko Koshino to support the ongoing recovery of northeastern Japan. The night of merriment and generosity will kick off with cocktails and continue with a four-course dinner with wine, dancing, prizes, silent and live auctions and a raffle. All the while, partygoers will be captivated by the breathtaking voices of the likes of opera talents John Ken Nuzzo and Sai Yan-Guang and Koshino’s avantgarde creations. “I hope it will be a significant evening of cultural exchange through music and fashion,” Koshino says. “I believe the evening will not only continue but extend the connections we have made, and I hope it will encourage the people of Tohoku.” Nuzzo, meanwhile, will wow attendees with his powerful renditions of operatic classics like “Nessun Dorma” and such


alling all budding young writers! Now’s your chance to pen a piece of creative writing and get it published in iNTOUCH. For the inaugural Get Creative! Young Author Writing Contest, Members, ages 12 to 18, are invited to write between 400 and 600 words on an inspiring book they read, explaining why they liked the book and how it exhilarated or energized them. Entries should be e-mailed to Reina

popular ballads as “You Raise Me Up.” “[I am] happy to be able to sing again for Tohoku and my American Club friends,” says the Japanese-American tenor, who performed at last year’s fundraiser, which also featured Speech of the hip-hop act Arrested Development. Last year’s nearly 250 generous partygoers raised more than ¥12 million for the Club’s relief fund. Those donations have helped support a multitude of bighearted efforts and projects in various communities. This year, the Club aims to break its phenomenal fundraising achievement while partying even harder. But to do that, you’ve just got to be there. o

Still Jammin’ for Japan Friday, April 27 6 p.m. New York Ballroom ¥22,000 (non-Members: ¥25,000) Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk Sponsored by the Programs and Events Committee

Collins at, with “Young Author Writing Contest” in the subject title of the mail. The winning essay will be chosen by the Library Committee by Monday, April 30, and published in the June issue of iNTOUCH. o

Get Creative! Young Author Writing Contest Essay submission deadline: Sunday, April 22 Sponsored by the Library Committee

Joining a Committee Members interested in joining one of the committees listed should contact its chair or inquire at the Management Office. Names in parentheses denote Board liaisons.

Food & Beverage Subcommittee Wine Mark Baxter

Recreation Tim Griffen (Ira Wolf) Recreation Subcommittees Bowling Crystal Goodfliesh Fitness Sam Rogan Golf Steven Thomas Library Melanie Chetley Logan Room Diane Dooley & Cathleen Fuge Squash Martin Fluck

Finance Gregory Davis (John Durkin)

Programs & Events Barbara Hancock (Ann Marie Skalecki) Programs Community Relations Donald Soo Culture Miki Ohyama Entertainment Matthew Krcelic Frederick Harris Gallery Yumiko Sai

Food & Beverage Joe Purcell (Mary Saphin)

House Jesse Green (Gregory Lyon)

Swim Jesse Green & Alexander Jampel DVD Abby Radmilovich Youth Activities Narissara March Compensation Brian Nelson

House Subcommittee Facilities Management Group Gregory Lyon Human Resources Jon Sparks (Steve Romaine) Membership Mark Ferris (Deb Wenig) Membership Subcommittee Branding Mark Ferris Nominating Nick Masee

Cornerstone of the Club 19

Getting Fit for Life by Erika Woodward Photos by Ayano Sato


locking his student’s third round alternating between the rowing machine and jump rope, CrossFit instructor Nicholas Pettas dares the sweating rower to give in. “If you need to take a break, go ahead,” says the former heavyweight karate champion. “Of course, real men don’t take breaks.” As a Reebok CrossFit ambassador, Pettas has been encouraging fledgling enthusiasts at the Club since February. Created in 1995, the workout method focuses on improving stamina and overall health with high-intensity exercises. The hour-long classes kick off with a warm-up and continue with skills training that may include anything from squats to handstands, before concluding with strength training, such as overhead lifts. Participants never do the same routine twice. These varied movements, done in short intervals, are designed to push the body to its limit for maximum results, says Pettas. “If you’re spending 45 minutes walking on a treadmill, you could get the same power output and the same benefit from doing three minutes of a sprinting exercise,” he says. “So there’s no point in spending long, long hours building the body that you’re dreaming of…when you don’t know what you’re doing.” Although he does various sports, including running and karate, Club Member Wayne Jarm says that things have changed since he began attending the Reebok-sponsored CrossFit sessions in February. “You get ready, you get hyped for it, you work out and it’s satisfying,” says the father of two, ahead of his third class. “[Pettas] is great. He’s very motivational….Even in a couple of classes he has 20 April 2012 iNTOUCH

helped me think about the way I move round every day.” While encouraging his students to work up a sweat, Pettas, 39, discourages them from measuring their success by what they see in the mirror. “We’re not going for a look….We’re going for health and fitness,” says the Tokyo resident, sitting outside the Gymnasium before the start of a Wednesday evening CrossFit session in February. Pettas, who left his native Denmark as a teenager to train with Kyokushin karate founder, Masutatsu Oyama, credits CrossFit “100 percent” with helping him recover from the hip replacement surgery he underwent about two years ago. Only the second non-Japanese to complete Oyama’s legendary 1,000-day training course, Pettas has enjoyed much success throughout his nearly two-decade-long career, first in competitive karate then in the mixed martial arts sport of K-1. So, when it came to recovering from surgery, he thought he knew what to do. “I know my body and I know how to rehab through all the injuries I’ve had in my life,” says the former professional fighter of a docket that includes a broken arm and shin bone. “But the hip, I just couldn’t get over it. Every time I started running or working out, the stabilizing muscles weren’t there and I couldn’t get them back and I was stuck.” A friend turned him onto CrossFit, and last April he traveled to Okinawa for a concentrated two-week course at the program’s first official gym in Japan. Since then, he’s been doing it six days a week. “Because it’s a core-strengthening system, there’s not a specific


A new Club exercise program develops stamina and strength while grooming the body to perform at its peak during life’s routines. exercise for any part of the body,” he explains. “That’s why I can tell you that this helped me….We do movements that mimic what you do in daily life.” For Jarm, 44, that’s what keeps him coming back for more. “The focus here is building a fitness level for regular, daily activities, as opposed to doing other sports….This part you can appreciate when you’re in the office,” says the Kiwi. “Today, I was picking up a computer and it was quite heavy. I didn’t do it the regular way, I did it the way [Pettas] taught me, so that helped….I feel a lot lighter; my posture’s a bit better.” That simplicity of movement is what makes CrossFit ideal for anyone at any fitness level, says Pettas, whose three children do it. “This is what I’ll say to people who are going, ‘OK, I’m kind of scared. It’s kind of intimidating because it’s intense….There’s no way I can do that.’ Everyone says that and it’s not true,” he says. “CrossFit is applicable to anyone. We can work out with our mothers, our fathers, our children in the same class doing exactly the same programming, except everything is scaled according to fitness level and strength level.” Pettas—forever the consummate motivator—serves up a challenge that’s hard to refuse: “Come on in. Check it out. I mean, seriously, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.” o

For more information about CrossFit, visit the Recreation Desk or the Health & Recreation section of the Club website.

Nicholas Pettas (right)

Fitness and well-being 21



Your Club Needs You


he Club needs the help of its internationally minded young Members to create an exciting and engaging community for under 21s at the Club. Join the next monthly meeting and tell us what you think. o

Student Council Meeting Last Sunday of each month 10–11 a.m. Teen Lounge For more information, e-mail Reina Collins at

class focus Hula-Hoop An exercise and playtime tool for thousands of years, the hoop has certainly grown in popularity since the 19th century, when British soldiers, who enjoyed the hip-wiggling dancing they encountered in Hawaii, added the word “hula” to its name. This high-energy class covers basic dance techniques before moving onto the joy of hoop dance and a calorie-burning workout that evokes memories of recess. This class runs every Wednesday (10–11 a.m.). Visit the Recreation Desk to find out more.

Kana Mikogami

The Instructor Experienced instructor Kana Mikogami calls hooping a “miracle” workout that develops fitness through fun. “Remember the feeling you enjoyed when hooping as a kid? It can still bring laughter, smiles and lots of good energy,” she says.

Yukari Ohno

The Student “While I realize that hooping is hard, it’s so much fun. You will be totally absorbed in hooping and you will think that the one-hour lesson passes so quickly.”

22 April 2012 iNTOUCH


Step It Up

Treasure Quest

Put your body through its paces in this weekly Step & Sculpt aerobics and strength-training class. Mikako Takemura leads Members of all fitness levels through entertaining workout sessions designed to firm and condition.

Children and their moms take to the streets of Tokyo for a lively race to uncover hidden clues and win prizes. Expect a day full of laughter and surprises in honor of the world’s tireless caregivers.

Step & Sculpt Every Tuesday 7:15–8:15 p.m. Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk

Mother’s Day Scavenger Hunt Saturday, May 12 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (includes light lunch) Sign up at the Recreation Desk For more information, e-mail Reina Collins at

Yoga for Youngsters Yoga is not just for stressed-out adults anymore. Families partner up for poses, massages, song and dance during fun yoga classes that foster togetherness. Instructor Minako Suzuki also engages parents and children with games, catchy rhymes in English and facial exercises perfect for playing peek-a-boo. Family Yoga (six classes) Every Saturday 10–11 a.m. Adults: ¥9,450; children: ¥6,300 Toddler and Mommy Yoga (six classes) Every Wednesday 2–2:45 p.m. ¥11,340 Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk

Sports for All

Kettlebell Conditioning

The Club’s array of youth sports bring together fitness and friendly competition for sessions of athletic fun with expert instructors.

Mark Atkinson guides those who want to get in shape fast through a vigorous core workout not for the fainthearted. Develop total body strength, flexibility and durability while simultaneously burning fat and building cardiovascular endurance. Kettlebell Workout April 8–May 20 (no class: May 6) Every Sunday 11 a.m.–12 p.m. Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk

Youth Basketball April 11–June 10 Youth Volleyball April 13–June 10 Youth Futsal April 14–June 9

For more information, e-mail Reina Collins at

Spring Spa Specials To welcome the season of warmer weather and awakenings, The Spa is offering three invigorating and detoxifying treatment combos for the whole of April. Age-Defying Pampering Enjoy a refreshing 90-minute Anti-Aging Body Wrap and Head Bath (¥17,450). Revitalizing Care Package Indulge in a soothing 60-minute Body Polish and Head Bath (¥10,750). Reflexology Wrap-Up Treat yourself to a recuperative 90-minute dose of Reflexology and a Radiance Facial (¥17,450).

Tel: 03-4588-0714


Fitness and well-being 23



Sake Schooling by Nick Jones


t a time when the makers of Japan’s iconic rice beverage struggle to capture new enthusiasts, John Gauntner’s passion for sake seems to know no bounds. Despite being the only nonJapanese certified master of sake tasting, the American says that there is still so much to learn about the drink. “Be it flavors and aromas, history, culture or brewing technology, there is no end, and it is endlessly interesting to me,” he says. “I have but scratched the surface.” While Gauntner, 49, is modest about his sake expertise (he is also a National Research Institute of Brewing-certified sake expert assessor), he will share his knowledge of the beverage at a special lunch and sampling this month at the Club. “Basically, after leaving the seminar,” he says, “[attendees] should feel confident to go out and sample and enjoy sake the next day.” And there’s little doubt that the industry could do with a few more devotees. Sake has been losing drinkers for decades, as Japanese opt for other libations like the popular distilled spirit shochu and wine. Gauntner, who has lived in Japan for almost 24 years, says that the sake breweries also suffer from high rice prices, particularly when compared to the cost

Working with Words by Nick Jones

24 April 2012 iNTOUCH

of grapes or barley. Promoting their products is another challenge for many of the familyowned companies. “The biggest thing that they need to do is to cooperate on marketing, I think,” he says. “And while this is no secret to anyone, the scale of operations of the companies in the industry is quite polarized—either huge or tiny. While both are fine, their interests and goals John Gauntner are very different, so it is hard to get them all on the same page.” Don’t miss this opportunity to taste a variety of different styles of sake while learning about an alcohol that has been used in rituals, toasts, ceremonies and for oiling the wheels of conversation for centuries. o

John Gauntner’s Sake World

Monthly Luncheon: A Taste of Japan with John Gauntner Monday, April 9 Doors open: 11 a.m. Program begins: 11:30 a.m. Manhattan I Women’s Group members: ¥3,150 Non-Women’s Group members: ¥4,200 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

It’s not often that a social networking site can serve up publishing success. But thanks to a relationship forged through Facebook, Hugh Ashton found a publisher for his Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD and More from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD have been well received. “The author has followed the approaches of the original Doyle stories to the extent


Thanks for the Memories

Kayo Yamawaki

by Lisa Jardine

Lisa Jardine


ot many people get a second chance. So when I returned to Tokyo in 2008 after an 11-year absence, my motto was carpe diem. When I last called Japan home, I worked full-time and saw very little of the country. The closest I came to exploration was the neighborhood park. This time, I vowed, would be different. One of the first things I did was to join the Women’s Group. It was August, school had not begun and I was in need of instant friends and something to do. Within days, I received an e-mail from the Women’s Group Office asking for writers for iNTOUCH magazine. I was an aspiring writer, having had to leave a master’s program in New York when we moved, so this call to write couldn’t have been timelier. I jumped in, volunteered to write a feature and was suddenly surrounded by women much like myself who had the writing bug. Friends: check; something

meaningful to do: check. Once inside the supportive Women’s Group environment, the opportunities for fun and exploration continued. First up on the calendar was registration for the upcoming fall classes. I remember signing up for Yuriko Hirayama’s touring Tokyo class, a pottery class held off-site and a Japanese cooking class with Reiko Yoshikawa at her studio in Tsukiji. Skills were learned and more friends made. Next up was the International Bazaar— my first experience with the famous POS (point of sale) machines. While intimidating at first, once I got the hang of it, I was entering sales receipts like mad. The year continued, with stints working at the Carpet Auction and Asian Home Furnishings Sale and, of course, writing for iNTOUCH. As I spent more time volunteering, I started to meet interesting, dynamic women

that these could have been easily included in the original works,” writes Darold Simms in a review of Ashton’s first collection of tales on the Amazon website. “The biggest disappointment to my mind was realizing when the book was running out of pages.” In a talk at the Club this month, Ashton will discuss his writing career, from penning reports on business and finance to selfpublishing three novels (his first book, Beneath Gray Skies, was released in 2009)

to his most recent literary triumph with Doyle’s famous fictional detective. Born in Britain in 1956, the Cambridge University graduate moved to Japan in 1988 to work as a technical writer at a Japanese company. He now lives in Kamakura, southwest of Tokyo. o

and the opportunity for fun increased dramatically. By the end of my first year in Tokyo, I was asked to take on the role of director of programs, which couldn’t have been a better fit for me. As director of programs, I had the chance to oversee all of the classes and tours, as well as the popular biannual Tokyo: Here & Now orientation program. The avenues for discovery were wide open and I took advantage of many opportunities to get out and see and do all that Japan had to offer. My learning curve was steep but fruitful, and the time I invested in the Women’s Group seemed small compared to the bounty I received in exchange. My passion and curiosity served me well, and my knowledge of this beautiful and diverse country exploded. All of this led to where I am now. The writing continued over the years, and I gained confidence to write for outside publications. I’ve been able to couple my desire to write with my love of adventure by writing short articles for CNNGo, the online city guides, about Japan. I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming several new “freshman” classes of expats to Tokyo through my position as chair of the Tokyo: Here & Now program, and count many of them as friends. I’ve taken tons of classes and have been on some of the most interesting tours imaginable. My four years here have been so full I feel as though I’ve been here for a decade. The time has come to pass the torch to new members of the Women’s Group. And to those of you who have not yet volunteered, the best advice I can give to anyone living here is to jump in and give the Women’s Group a try—it’s a wonderful launching pad for your Tokyo experience. o Jardine and her family leave Japan in June.

From Self-Publishing to Sherlock: A Talk by Hugh Ashton Thursday, April 26 7 p.m. Committee Rooms ¥1,500 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

Hugh Ashton

An interactive community 25

Takahiko Numata

26 April 2012 iNTOUCH


TOP TABLES From Michelin-starred haute cuisine to traditional Japanese staples like ramen noodles and yakitori skewers, Tokyo has eats for every palate and budget. But is it the world’s best food city? by Rob Goss

Top Tables 27

Kayo Yamawaki


t’s 5 p.m. on a February weekday at the Club’s Decanter restaurant. As the winter light begins to fade outside, the subtle glow of the third-floor dining space lighting softens the vivid pink upholstery to a reddish hue. The only movement is the flickering reflections of light in the votive candle glasses set on each table. As the evening’s diners start to order their appetizers in about an hour from now, the kitchen will become a hub of chopping, searing, steaming and garnishing. For now, a lone chef measures out herbs and seasoning in the brightly lit room. Behind him, a broth simmers away in a large pot. It’s all a picture of calm before the nightly culinary storm. When Decanter opened last November, it joined the ranks of restaurants in what the Michelin Guide has declared the world’s finest culinary city. That same month, Michelin awarded restaurants in Tokyo more of its prestigious stars than any other metropolis, its 247 starred restaurants comfortably eclipsing its nearest international rivals, Paris, with 70 stars, and New York, with 62. Of those 247 in the 2012 guide, 16 establishments were awarded coveted three-star status, far exceeding second-place Paris’ 10. Aside from briefly relinquishing its crown to the Kansai region last fall, Tokyo has come out on top for five consecutive years. High praise indeed, but can a city’s dining scene be judged by its Michelin stars alone? For Tokyo-based food blogger Dominic Carter, Michelin is a good gauge, but it isn’t everything. “The number of stars is certainly a reflection of the quality of the whole dining scene,” says the 37-year-old Australian during a chat at his offices in Aoyama. “Maybe Michelin is a bit too free in giving out stars in some respects. There are starred restaurants I’ve been to that have disappointed me, but there are

craftsmanship,” says Tsuji. “A true craftsman is on a road with no end. He always has something new to learn. Even with the simplest form of cuisine, there’s so much to grasp and perfect.” Japanese chefs’ reputation for fastidiousness and dedication is what brought Decanter chef David Ueno to Japan. The native New Yorker had previously worked in Italy and in his home city, where he oversaw dining at four hotels and catered privately to A-list celebrities. “I came to Japan to elevate my career,” says Ueno, 44, during an afternoon break in the Decanter kitchen. “In New York, you can let your standards down and get away Bulgari Il Ristorante

also lots of great restaurants that really should have stars but don’t,” he says. Another passionate food blogger and fellow Australian, Terry White, agrees. “Michelin is a very strong brand, and every young chef ’s ambition, whether in Japan, New York or Paris, is to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant,” he says. “The standards are applied internationally and are easy to understand, so it really is the ultimate barometer.” The guide’s weakness, the 53-year-old Club Member says, is its coverage. Although the 2012 guide for the Japanese capital was expanded to include the Yokohama and Shonan areas of Kanagawa Prefecture, White says that restaurants “away from the center of Tokyo are under-represented.” While it might appear that only more

amenities and equipment or the availability of valet parking. Nor is the price of ingredients taken into account; a restaurant does not have to serve caviar or foie gras to earn a star.” Club Member Yoshiki Tsuji, president of the Tsuji Culinary Institute, which operates cooking schools in Osaka, Tokyo and France, says that while the Michelin Guide isn’t perfect, it does provide a global standard. “Of course, Michelin makes some inappropriate evaluations,” the 47-yearold says. “I’ve been to restaurants before that I couldn’t agree with the guide on, yet Michelin is by far the most objective guide; the inspectors go through intensive training and they have helped to discover and highlight many young, talented chefs at a time when they needed encouragement.” But what makes Tokyo such a magnet for those esteemed stars? Part of the answer, according to White, lies in Japan’s cultural traditions. “There’s a Japanese word, shokunin, which translates to craftsman, although, in reality, it has a much deeper meaning,” he says. “Japan has a deep tradition of shokunin in many things; in sword making, theater and many other areas, there’s a tradition of living your craft. And there’s certainly a strong sense of shokunin among many restaurant chefs in Tokyo.” Tsuji says that his institute’s motto, “docendo discimus” (we learn by teaching), reflects the essence of this craftsmanship. “When you look at it, there is obviously a cultural hierarchy between Japanese cuisines, but each level has its worth and its

Sometimes the ambience in the US feels a little insincere....Even though people aren’t incentivized by tips in Japan, they still, on the whole, give great service. expensive places make it into the “red book,” Michael Ellis, director of the Michelin guides, says that stars are awarded based on the quality of the ingredients; the skill used in preparing them and combining flavors; how the chef ’s personality is revealed through the cuisine; value for money; and the consistency of culinary standards. “Stars reflect what’s on the plate and only what’s on the plate,” he says. “In other words, [an] award does not take into consideration the restaurant’s décor, the quality of its service,

28 April 2012 iNTOUCH

FEATURE “It’s only about one in a thousand restaurants that gets in the Michelin Guide and that’s not taking into account the threestar places, where it’s closer to one in 10,000, so, in that sense, it’s not extraordinary that Tokyo gets so many stars,” White says. Restaurant-goers, too, contribute to Tokyo’s premier gastronomic status, according to food blogger Carter, who says that the Japanese have a greater level of food knowledge than diners overseas. “There are more people here writing food reviews on sites like Tabelog and lots of people like me who tweet or talk on Facebook about everything they eat,” he says. “Combine that kind of critical customer with

dedicated and obsessive food providers and a high level of competition, and it drives the level up across the board.” Pay $10 for lunch in the United States and you might expect to fill up, but you probably wouldn’t expect to be wowed. Japan’s so-called “B-grade gourmet” dishes like okonomiyaki savory pancakes, ramen and gyoza dumplings, as well as its variety of lunchboxes and restaurant lunch sets often provide quality at reasonable prices. “I had a really good ¥900 lunch set today,” says Carter, pulling out his phone to show a photo of a hamburger steak and crab croquette drizzled in a caramel-colored sauce. “You couldn’t buy anything like

Kayo Yamawaki

with it. In Japan, even if you go to your local ramen shop, it’s going to be good. There is no complacency. Japan has made me a more conscientious chef, without a doubt; it’s given me a greater appreciation of what I do and of my relationship with the customer.” To better understand the success of Tokyo’s dining scene, White says that you have to consider the sheer volume of restaurants in the city. “Tokyo has almost 150,000 licensed eating establishments [compared with about 25,000 in New York and fewer than 15,000 in Paris]. With that, there’s a need for them to be competitive to survive and thrive, so they have to strive to offer a good product,” he says.

(l–r) Decanter’s Hide Ohata, Hide Iinuma and David Ueno

Top Tables 29

Conrad Tokyo’s China Blue

that in, say, Sydney for around ¥1,000, but the quality and value of lunch sets here is amazing. Even the quality and variety you find at the convenience stores here is better. Even the McDonald’s experience is better.” Michelin’s Ellis says that Tokyo’s position in the gastronomic world is due to Japan’s long and storied culinary tradition. “The Japanese, much like the French, are very sensitive to the quality of ingredients, cooking technique and visual presentation of dishes,” he says. Few would disagree that in addition to the food, service is a crucial ingredient in any good dining experience. And Japan knows how to serve, according to White, who describes service here as “universally good.” This is not necessarily the case on

30 April 2012 iNTOUCH

the other side of the Pacific, says Carter. “Sometimes the ambience in the US feels a little insincere. Staff can be all over you, working too hard to get their tip,” he says.

in Tokyo, how does a restaurant ensure that it stands out from the crowd? With his experience working in high-end restaurants in Tokyo and Europe, Decanter manager Ashley Thredgold knows what is necessary. “With such a glut of great restaurants in Tokyo, new restaurants need to be highly focused on a specialty of some kind,” says the 36-yearold Aussie. For Decanter, that means steaks, chops and wine. “With the wines, it’s the amount, vintages and quality that sets us apart,” he says. “We have 5,000 bottles here and another 20,000 to 25,000 in storage, lots of which were

In Japan, even if you go to your local ramen shop, it’s going to be good. There is no complacency. “Even though people aren’t incentivized by tips in Japan, they still, on the whole, give great service. I also find staff here tend to have a better knowledge of what they are serving you, which all goes to add to the overall experience.” With such a high standard of competition


Saying No to Michelin While most restaurateurs and chefs view a Michelin star as the ultimate accolade, not everyone is enamored by such attention. A number of Japanese dining establishments declined to be included in the Michelin Guide’s first Japan edition in 2008. Since three of the guide’s five undercover judges were non-Japanese at the time, some Japanese chefs complained at being evaluated by foreigners, who, they claimed, couldn’t fully appreciate Japanese cuisine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, a man not known for his diplomacy, was a vocal critic of Michelin. But food blogger and Club Member Terry White says that there are rational reasons for saying no to Michelin. “You want to

by Rob Goss

appear more exclusive by not being in it; you are happy with what you’ve got and don’t need the extra business; and, in some cases, maybe they decline because they know they aren’t good enough to get in the guide, anyway,” he explains. Fellow Club Member Yoshiki Tsuji, whose Japanese restaurant in Manhattan was awarded a Michelin star the same year it opened, says that there may be other reasons why restaurants refuse stars. “Many chefs don’t want to be compared with other chefs, and they don’t want any form of promotion,” he says. “They are content, as craftsmen, with the living they make serving their regular customers. And that relationship between a chef and his or her customers is extremely important.” o

Two Rooms

purchased in auctions, so they aren’t the kind of wines you can normally buy.” As for the cuisine, Decanter focuses on local, seasonal produce, combined with top-quality meat from the US, including certified grain-fed Angus beef from Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. The restaurant, which has already received a number of glowing reviews in the local Japanese and English-language media, sees Michelin recognition as a possibility. “Michelin certainly conveys to the customer a guarantee of quality and service, and it is on our agenda,” Thredgold says. “But we aren’t kidding ourselves that we will get it soon. We will be looking into it next year, but for now the focus is on what we are doing here, including Decanter’s

newly launched teppan [grill] dining area, and thinking about introducing certain themed nights.” For chef Ueno, creating a memorable dining experience always comes first. “Lots of Michelin restaurants are, of course, great, but they aren’t the meals I remember most,” he says. “In Fukui, I remember incredible cold soba [noodles] served with wasabi—so simple, but just incredible. In Kamakura, I had the most amazing kakigori [shaved ice] with strawberry sauce. None of these dishes are high-end or Michelin starred, but they are made with a lot of love, care and attention by honest cooks. It’s experiences like those that inspire us to want to take our guests somewhere special.” o

Goss is a Tokyo-based freelance journalist. Follow Decanter restaurant on Facebook at Tre Venezie Dinner The executive chef of the Michelin-starred Bulgari Il Ristorante in Tokyo, Luca Fantin, showcases the flavors of northeast Italy at a special dinner, complemented by wines selected by Bulgari sommelier Lucio Artico. Sunday, May 27 7 p.m. Decanter ¥25,000 per Member and guest Limited spaces available Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

Top Tables 31

Academic Tests

32 April 2012 iNTOUCH

TALKING HEADS In January, Japan’s top seat of learning, Tokyo University, announced a plan to shift the start of the undergraduate academic year from spring to autumn. The university said that the move to align its academic year with that of institutions abroad was designed to make it more internationally competitive. Todai, as the university is commonly known, hopes that the reform, which it will introduce within five years, will help to attract greater numbers of foreign students while encouraging a more global outlook among its Japanese student body. But critics say that the change is merely cosmetic. With Japan’s more than 700 universities fighting over an ever-shrinking pool of high school students, the colleges are under pressure to internationalize and offer quality education. A corporate lawyer, Stephen Givens is also a law professor at Aoyama Gakuin University and lectures at both Keio Law School and Sophia University. iNTOUCH’s Nick Jones talked to the Club Member about the future of higher education in Japan. Excerpts:

Stephen Givens

iNTOUCH: What are your thoughts on Todai’s announcement? Givens: In the universe of problems confronting education in Japan, when the academic year starts is a very minor problem. Todai is advertising this as a kind of magic bullet that is going to make Todai students international, tough-minded, critical-thinking people. But I think to accomplish that goal requires a much more significant [and] radical change of the whole educational apparatus here. The ideal of having exchange between Japanese universities and foreign universities is a nice ideal, but, in reality, there is very little exchange. The chief stumbling block is that very few Japanese speak functional English, and so Japanese students who go abroad never really benefit from the experience as much as they should, especially compared to students from other parts of Asia. The number of Japanese academics who can teach in English is miniscule…and so there are very few foreign students who come here to study something that doesn’t have to do with Japan itself. iNTOUCH: How would you describe the state of Japanese universities? Givens: They’re in very serious shape, first of all demographically. There are going to be fewer and fewer students. The passing grade on the entrance exams is creeping down because they have to fill the seats. There’s also the problem of what kind of graduates they are producing. Are they competitive in the world? I think it is a great shame that most students waste four years of college here not learning anything. The first two years, people maybe casually attend [classes] and the third and fourth years are spent either interviewing

for jobs or doing so-called club activities. Meanwhile, back in China, Korea and India, university students are really working and learning. What the process turns out is nice Japanese kids who know how to socialize and network with other Japanese, who will fit into a Japanese company, who will do what they’re asked to do, but who don’t have the skills you need to compete in the world today. iNTOUCH: What changes, therefore, are necessary to solve these problems? Givens: As a first step, Japan has to become serious about English-language education. That is a key to becoming competitive in the world. iNTOUCH: Is increasing the number of foreign students at Japanese universities a legitimate way to improve Japanese students? Givens: The more critical thing is attracting foreign students who aren’t interested in Japan as such. What does Japan have to offer them? The answer is not very much. Until that changes, there are not going to be significant numbers of foreigners coming. Beyond that is the fact that the level of Japanese academics is much, much lower than it is elsewhere. iNTOUCH: Are you saying that Japanese universities are not good enough to attract large numbers of foreign students? Givens: If you are a student in Singapore, India, Korea or the United States and you want to be at the top of your field in scientific, technical or medical subjects, you probably want to go to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]. And only if you can’t get into MIT, do you begin to think about alternatives. I think Japan is fairly low down.

iNTOUCH: The number of Japanese students going abroad to study is in decline. How important is it that this trend is reversed? Givens: It is a bad symptom because it points to lower levels of academic achievement, lower levels of intellectual curiosity, lower levels of interest in things foreign [and] trends toward passivity and insularity. iNTOUCH: Are we likely to see more Japanese head overseas to study? Givens: If so, I think the catalyst has to be the employers. When the employers begin to demand students who can speak English, compete internationally and think outside the box, then that demand will create the supply. The problem is that that demand still doesn’t exist. Japanese companies have their head in the sand and don’t realize that the whole playing field has changed because of globalization. iNTOUCH: What are your thoughts on the moves by some universities here to introduce programs entirely in English? Givens: You have to start somewhere. [But] I think a series of small crises are coming anyway…and Japan will necessarily have to change. Whether Japan reacts in a way that really turns things around remains an open question. iNTOUCH: What does the future hold for universities here? Givens: There are going to be more and more failed institutions. Those that want to survive will remake themselves as a way to stand out. There will be more pressure from employers for students to have actually learned something while they were at university. o

Member insights on Japan 33

All exhibits in the Frederick Harris Gallery are for sale and can be purchased by Membership card at the Member Services Desk. Sales of works begin at 6 p.m. on the first day of the exhibition.


by Erika Woodward Sumi ink paintings may be black and white, but if experience has taught artist François Bourdon anything, it’s that there’s nothing simplistic about creating them. “The problem with sumi painting is…to know when it is time to stop blackening the page,” says Bourdon, who paints under the name Darius, of the ancient Chinese art that demands that he not lift his brush from the work until it’s completed. “This is a permanent quest for the ideal balance, especially with this medium, which does not allow any suppression or modification.” Bourdon, 53, was first introduced to painting in a measured style as a student in the drawing class of renowned artist Pierre Lebigre at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Caen, France. There, he painted in the “Matisse way,” beginning his work with a single line on the paper that could not be corrected. About 10 years ago, while working for a large atelier, the former photographer and oil painter was inspired by the signature ink, brought to Japan in the 13th century, when he visited the country for the first time. “For me, sumi also requires the control of the gesture, of the energy of the body in movement,” says Bourdon, who will display a selection of his work this month at the Frederick Harris Gallery. “But it is also a wonderful medium for any sorts of experiments.” To push the limits of the ink, traditionally used for calligraphy, and his imagination, the Frenchman paints with tools as diverse as windshield wipers on everything from washi paper to more modern, coated paper. A decade on, and after exhibiting in a handful of Europe’s premier galleries, Bourdon says completing a painting is still as exciting as when he began. “Finishing a work is a starting point to new experiences, new surprises,” he says.

Exhibition April 9–22

Gallery Reception

Monday, April 9 6:30–8 p.m. Frederick Harris Gallery (B1 Formal Lobby) Free Open to invitees and Members only

34 April 2012 iNTOUCH


Shoichi Sakurai

by Erika Woodward Shoichi Sakurai transforms obsolete, discarded and underappreciated old metal and aged wood into illuminated sculptures and even wearable art, earning him the label “recycle artist.” “The materials I use have a past life—discarded pieces, with their history recorded in their scratches and scars,” says the 50-year-old Tokyoite, who works with a variety of items, including old tools and appliances. “Instead of being looked upon as unsightly, I want those elements to be taken in as part of the character of the piece and as a compliment to their intrinsic beauty.” Around 20 years ago, Sakurai lived in California and worked as a buyer of vintage memorabilia. It was during this time that his eyes were opened to the beauty of Japan and its traditions. In 1995, while backpacking in Asia with his American wife, Colleen, he was inspired, again, by the unique crafts they encountered on their travels. Returning to Japan, he opened a workshop, focusing on melding Japanese aesthetics and craftsmanship with his own modern spin. “I look at an abandoned piece and it speaks to me. I then go about translating what I hear,” says Sakurai, who, exhibiting for the third time at the Club, will display a new line of wearable sculpture this month as part of a wider show titled “Rebirth.” Having taken his inspired artwork to galleries across the world, Sakurai still enjoys discovering new uses for recycled materials he hasn’t worked with before. “Don’t waste. Recreate. Redefine,” he says. “Life and value don’t have to be measured in what was.”

Exhibition April 23–May 13

Gallery Reception

Monday, April 23 6:30–8 p.m. Frederick Harris Gallery (B1 Formal Lobby) Free Open to invitees and Members only

Exhibitions of Art 35

yokoso Kerry & Joanne Purcell New Zealand—IBM Japan Ltd. James & Yuko Vigil United States—North West Shelf Liaison Co., Pty Ltd. Leo Lee & Yuki Sun United States—Allergan Japan K.K. Emil Kim & Mia Jeon United States—Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. Dean Cowan & Linda Schnetzer United States—MetLife Alico Mark & Annette Beiderwieden United States—Amway Japan Ltd. Tetsutaro & Yuriko Muraki Japan—Tokyo AIM, Inc. Yoichi & Mai Takemura Japan—JP Morgan Securities Japan Co., Ltd.

Brenda Murphy United States—MetLife Alico

Tim & Christine Covington United States—Exxon Mobil Y.K.

Akihiko & Eri Asami Japan—Medical Institutions, Emei-Kai

Andrei & Tatiana Soroka Russia—Nihon Tetra Pak K.K.

Takashi Notoh Japan—Eastman Chemical Japan Ltd.

Christopher & Sarah Carter United States—Nomura Securities Co., Ltd.

Jack Azose United States—Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu LLC

DeLu & Anna Jackson United States—Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Lie Yen Ng Indonesia—Philip Morris Japan K.K.

Michael & Laurie Nelson United States—Google Japan

Shunichi Shibuya Japan—Marsh Broker Japan, Inc.

Kaber Mclean United Kingdom—Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd.

Takamitsu & Tamie Matsunaga Japan—ACE Insurance Ruriko & Minoru Saito Japan—Saito Dental Clinic Kazuhiko & Maya Suzuki United States—Itochu Corporation Miki & Yoshihiro Koya Japan

Andrew Gardner & Sarah Burke Ireland—Invesco Asset Management (Japan) Ltd.

Drago Azinovic & Beatriz Alvarez Spain—Philip Morris Japan K.K.

Ernst Arndt & Gabriella Cantagalli-Arndt South Africa—Intervet K.K.

Yasuhiro & Akiko Kawate Japan—Tokyo Star Bank Ltd.

Yutaka Akutsu Japan—Leasing Management Consulting Co., Ltd. Paul Suzuki United States—MRI International, Inc. Steven & Jill Joroff United States—IBM Corporation Adam & Sakurako Cunneen Australia—Government of Victoria Adrian & Eriko Jones United States—Oracle Corporation

sayonara Robert & Lisa Bell Brad Bennett & Bolormaa Ganbaatar Christopher & Nicola Bradley Mark Deveno & Andrea Thomas Scott & Leigh Garrison Robert & Aiko Grondine Andrew & Jennifer Harford Prue Holstein

36 April 2012 iNTOUCH

Kuniomi Honda Akihiko Ijiri Sang Hyuck Lim & YiSeul Park Kurt & Ziba Lindahl Andrew & Ulrica Marshall Laurie McAllister & Sara Katarina Stuart & Elizabeth Milne Joseph Montemaggiore & Rosa Batista

Teck Keng Neo & Swee Choo Lee Yuki & Kenji Okazaki William & Carrie Reepmeyer Ryomin & Yasuko Seino Sakumi Stern Machiko Sugiyama Masato & Ryoko Tamura Joseph Venetico



of the month

Reina Sakagawa-Collins by Nick Jones


ike an amnesiac slowly regaining lost memories, Reina Sakagawa-Collins pieces together her cultural identity one experience and conversation at a time. Despite being Japanese, with Japanese parents, until last September, the 31-yearold had never lived in Japan. “I had a lot of culture shock adjusting to things here,” says Sakagawa-Collins, who joined the Club’s Recreation Department as programs coordinator in October, “but it’s been fantastic.” After more than a decade in the United States, part of that acclimatizing has meant becoming comfortable with having less cat-swinging room in Japan. “I used to commute to work and sing in the car,” she says. “The personal space is so small when you commute [by train here].”

Born in New York, Sakagawa-Collins moved with her family to Taiwan just two years later. After attending a Chineselanguage kindergarten (she is fluent in Mandarin, as well as Japanese and English), she entered a small Japanese school in Taichung, Taiwan’s third-largest city, where she lived. By her teens, she felt drawn to the country of her birth. “I begged my parents to send me to an American school,” she recalls. Her year at a boarding school in Tacoma, Washington, though, was far from enjoyable. “I learned so much but I cried so much because I was so homesick,” she says. Returning home to attend a local American school, Sakagawa-Collins headed back across the Pacific for college. She majored in

tourism management at Central Washington University before joining Seattle’s historic Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Now, in her current role, SakagawaCollins helps organize various Club events, including the annual Super Bowl party and Father-Daughter Dinner Dance, and youth programs. February’s Employee of the Month says the job is a good fit. “It’s so me,” she says, adding that she’s looking forward to trying out some new ideas—when she’s not deciphering the local culture. o The most recent Employee of the Quarter award was won by the Human Resources Department’s Maki Minegishi. Joining the Club in 2007, she was October’s Employee of the Month.

New Member Profile

New Member Profile

Why did you decide to join the Club?

Why did you decide to join the Club?

(l–r) John, Phoebe, Esmé and Eleanor Stanton

(l–r) Max, Teresa, Sam, Mike, Zack and Brock Linder

John & Esmé Stanton United Kingdom—British American Tobacco Japan Ltd.

“We moved to Tokyo from the UK in January with work and are keen to settle into life in Tokyo as quickly as possible. TAC has been invaluable as a great place to meet new people. We all love the amazing rooftop swimming pool, the outdoor climbing frame is a big hit with our daughters and the Fitness Center is removing any excuse not to lose some excess weight from Christmas.”

Mike & Teresa Linder United States—Aegon Sony Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

“We have been expats in Tokyo for two years now and it has been quite a journey. We have four boys and they would go to TAC as guests of friends a lot. As any parent knows, on a long trip, your kids always ask, ‘Are we there yet?’ For two years, however, our kids would ask, ‘When are we going to join TAC?’ Well, we finally have and, dare we say, we have finally ‘arrived’ in Tokyo.”

Services and benefits for Members 37

Creating Keepsakes in Tohoku Two Tokyo-based photographers are helping Tohoku disaster victims recover—one family snapshot at a time. by Erika Woodward Photos by Irwin Wong

38 April 2012 iNTOUCH


rian Scott Peterson points to a snapshot of an elderly couple holding a baby. The photo was taken more than six months after last year’s tsunami ravaged their hometown of Ishinomaki. “We learned the granddaughter survived and the mother didn’t,” he says, sitting at a table in a Tokyo café in February. The Oklahoma native photographed the family on his second trip to Tohoku for Photohoku, an unconventional charity he launched in September with his project partner, Yuko Yoshikawa, to


create family photo albums for the victims of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Armed with two Polaroid-style cameras and 8,000 pictures’ worth of peel-apart instant film donated by Fujifilm, the team travels monthly to the hardest-hit cities, snaps photos of families they meet then slips them into albums that they give away on the spot. “It’s a whole new way for me to be a photographer, to just take photos and then give them to people,” says Peterson, who

has been shooting for more than a decade. “I’m 35. I’m at a halfway point. I realize the first half of my life was really spent gratifying myself, just being selfish and never sticking my neck out for anybody. But when I started doing this project, it gave me a sense of service.” Peterson says that when he handed the elderly couple their new album, the grandmother, who confessed to have cried every day since her daughter’s death, was surprised to see what he had captured. “She said to us, ‘This photo album that you’re giving us is really special. I can’t believe I’m looking at myself smiling. I thought I’d never see myself smile again,’” Peterson says. Besides giving people who lost everything that freezing Friday afternoon last year something to call their own, Peterson and Yoshikawa encourage families to continue documenting their history, sometimes by visiting a second time to give them a camera. So far, Photohoku has created and distributed about 100 albums for families in Ishinomaki, Onagawa and Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture and Shinchi in Fukushima Prefecture. Tokyoite Yoshikawa, 28, says she had the idea for Photohoku after a one-time fundraiser she helped organize last May left her feeling unfulfilled.“I wanted to be responsible,” she says. “Sometimes, just sending money…we don’t know how it will be [used to help] the people of Tohoku.” The photo agency owner reached out to her former colleague and together they launched Photohoku. One Saturday in late September, they left their homes in Tokyo before dawn and drove more than 400 kilometers to Ishinomaki. They worked from 10 a.m. until sunset, returning home before dawn the next day. Since then, about 13 photographers have taken part in the project, including American Allison Kwesell, a photojournalist studying conflict resolution at the International Christian University in Tokyo, who knew Yoshikawa. The 28-year-old graduate student from Tennessee says the project has taught her the value of breaking photographic conventions. “When I was taking pictures, I was mostly taking people to the trees, because I thought this is what they would want for their photos, not to remember the disaster,” she says. That was before a family requested to be photographed in front of their transitional home. “‘This will show what we have gone through and will give us reason to

overcome,’” Kwesell says of the family’s explanation. “Just somewhere in my mind I thought family albums should be of good memories, but really, for some of these people, overcoming is a good memory.” But enticing people who are recovering from one of the world’s worst disasters to present themselves willingly to strangers’ lenses requires a little illusion. “We call it the magic camera,” says Peterson, picking up his 1970s Konica Instant Press that prints on silk film. He explains that kids instinctively search for a digital screen but don’t find one while parents touch and smell the photographs. “They don’t make photos like this anymore,” he says of the test snapshot in his hands. This year, Photohoku has set a goal of distributing 800 albums. But the project, its founders say, is more valuable than the numbers. “It’s about giving something personal to people who need it,” says Yoshikawa. “Because we’re using film, they have a feeling that [the photos are] going to be only for them. So, it’s truly a gift; there’s just one in the world. It connects them to now, the future and [the] past.” Peterson agrees. “It’s a real treasure when you get these people in these incredibly, not vulnerable but emotional moments where they want to share and they just make for these great photos and then you give them away….” he says. “We’re going to walk away and [these families] are going to forget our faces, but they’re going have this album forever.” o Photohoku

(l–r) Allison Kwesell, Brian Peterson and Yuko Yoshikawa

A look at culture and society 39

Nagano Dreamland by Tim Hornyak


rom Shibuya’s riotous neon and giant video screens to the rock gardens of Kyoto’s temples, Japan can seem to the traveler like a collection of movie sets. Cityscapes can have the surreal quality of a computer-generated fantasy film, and where the countryside has been spared from urban sprawl and reckless development, visitors can feel part of a bygone age. It was no wonder that legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa settled on Azumino, a broad, picturesque valley north of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture, when he was scouting for locations for the final sequence in his iconic movie Dreams. In “Village of the Watermills,” a tranquil, rustic village, with a collection of waterwheels, is where the film’s profound themes of death and environmental catastrophe are resolved. Ironically, the watermills were built for the 1990 production, but seem perfectly suited to the pastoral landscape at the foot of the Japan Alps. The land here rushes with clear streams that are ideal for growing wasabi and, in fact, the mills are part of the Daio Wasabi Farm, the largest in Japan. This singularly unusual attraction is a short ride by rental bicycle from Hotaka Station on the JR Oito Line, and getting there is half the fun. With the Japan Alps as a backdrop, you can crisscross lanes running along rivers and fields until you reach the farm, whose flooded fields produce 130 tons of horseradish annually. While the farm is perfect for wandering amid limpid streams and learning about all things wasabi, its culinary offerings are of interest: those who enjoy the root’s bitter taste can feast on wasabi ice cream, wasabi soba, wasabi tempura and even wasabi croquettes—all washed down with green wasabi beer. You’ll never look at this humble sushi condiment in the same light.

40 April 2012 iNTOUCH

As the snow on the Nagano peaks begins to melt, a whole range of destination possibilities open up in the picturesque prefecture.

Aside from exploring the surrounding fields, there are few other attractions in Azumino, but one is the Rokuzan Art Museum. Born in Azumino in 1879, Rokuzan Ogiwara was a sickly but pioneering sculptor, whose bronze works have invited comparisons with those of his mentor, Auguste Rodin. Ogiwara’s work “Woman” capped his brief life and was hailed at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition as the first example of modern sculpture from Japan; it’s said to be inspired by his friend’s wife, whom he secretly loved. The museum, a 10-minute walk from the train station, has a church-like central building and garden presenting the sculptures of Ogiwara and a few of his contemporaries. There’s a restaurant outside the museum that offers steaming bowls of another local specialty: soba. Azumino can easily be visited with a day trip from the castle town of Matsumoto, but one of the best reasons to visit is to spend the night at a mountain onsen. In fact, the area hosts one of Japan’s best hot springs, Nakabusa Onsen. Located near the top of a winding road in the mountains west of the valley, it’s only open from late April to November, after which snow makes the road impassable. The one-hour drive from Hotaka meanders above spectacular gorges and exploding colors in autumn. The inn itself consists of a ramshackle, somewhat institutional honkan old wing, which is unchanged from the 1960s; guests are woken at 7 a.m. with a loudspeaker announcing breakfast. The newer bekkan wing has more comfortable rooms. The main draw here, however, is the amazing assortment of bathing options. Nakabusa has been called the Disneyland of onsen for its various indoor and outdoor waters. There are about a dozen in all, including outdoor rotenburo baths in old wooden, shed-like buildings, sunaburo sand


Around two hours, 30 minutes by Super Azusa limited express from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station. Transfer to the JR Oito Line for the 30-minute journey to Hotaka Station.

Explore Azumino!

Daio Wasabi Farm (Japanese only)

Matsumoto City

Rokuzan Art Museum (Japanese only)

Go! Nagano (Nagano Prefecture Official Tourism Guide)

Nakabusa Onsen (Japanese only)

Azumino City (Japanese only)




baths on the hill above the inn and even a nekkoburo, a tub carved out of a hollowed-out tree stump. Some of the waters can be scalding, but bathers can go from one bath to the next like a tub-hopping Goldilocks and find the perfect spot; fans of konyoku mixed bathing will find several options for couples here. If you fancy getting your blood up before relaxing, though, it’s possible to begin an ascent of the 3,180meter Mount Yari—the Matterhorn of the Japan Alps—from Nakabusa. As with all hikes in Japan, be sure to have adequate equipment and transport info,

as the climb is remote and challenging. Another popular local hike is the trail up Mount Jonen (2,857 meters), which begins in the verdant gorge of Ichinosawa, about 30 minutes’ drive from Hotaka Station. The summit offers a spectacular view of the Hotaka mountains, including the knife-like peak of Mount Yari and Mount Oku-Hotaka, and the ideal spot to ponder some of the deeper questions of life and nature, just like in the Kurosawa epic Dreams. o Hornyak is a Montreal-based freelance journalist.

Explorations beyond the Club 41

For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.

Clubhouse Rock: Dinner with Elvis February 3

More than 100 fans of the king of rock and roll enjoyed an evening of glitz, glam and renditions of the singer’s legendary hits when Elvis impersonator Dwight Icenhower performed at the Club. Photos by Yuuki Ide

1. (l–r) Ricky Sarani Segawa, Keizo and Hiroko Taguchi and Yoshiko Sarani Segawa 2. (l–r) Karen White, Christa and John Rutter and Thomas White 3. Elvis impersonator Dwight Icenhower 4. (l–r) Colonel Mikael Mineur, Lynn and Captain Justin Cooper and Kanji Yamagishi 5. Hiroko Taguchi and Elvis impersonator Dwight Icenhower 6. Yuriko Hagiya Opitz and Jared Opitz 7. (l–r) Miki Ohyama, Matthew Krcelic, Women's Group President Ginger Griggs and Dieter Haberl





42 April 2012 iNTOUCH





Snapshots from Club occasions 43

For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.

Super Bowl XLVI at the Club February 6

More than 350 exuberant football fans descended on the New York Ballroom on a Monday morning to watch the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots 21-17. Other winners included Harald deRopp and Leon Tucker, who both won airline tickets from among the many prizes. Photos by Yuuki Ide

1. Harald deRopp 2. Matthew Krcelic and Thomas Whitson 3. James Mueller and Leon Tucker 4. (l–r) Linda Border, Corrine Thygeson, Trish Anderson and Allison and Matt Susser 5. Paul Ramos (front)



44 April 2012 iNTOUCH





Father-Daughter Dinner Dance February 11

Dressed in their party best, little princesses and their fathers shared a magical evening of food, dancing, gifts and photo keepsakes at this hugely popular annual tradition. Photos by Yuuki Ide 1

1. (l–r) Olivia Border, Hannah Gibson, Eva Merlino and Kennedy Easterling 2. (l–r) Brighton, John and Peyton Solheim 3. Ryan and Savanna Napoerski 4. Michael and Olivia Border




Snapshots from Club occasions 45

For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.

Mardi Gras at the Club February 13

It was a night of New Orleans merriment in February when more than 50 Members and their guests enjoyed Cajun cuisine, carnival-inspired revelry and the Southern tunes of Mississippi musician Steve Gardner and his band. Photos by Yuuki Ide


1. (l–r) Catherine Noyes, Christian Howes and Joyce and Christopher Knight 2. Steve Gardner 3. (l–r) Christa Wallington, Jackye Lawless, Sandra Isaka and Hiromi Sato 4. (l–r) Rita Rani and Kamalesh Dwivedi and Miki Ohyama




46 April 2012 iNTOUCH


Early Literacy Skills Program for Parents February 17

Eighteen parents picked up tips from reading specialist and Library Committee member Julie Ennis on how to encourage pre-reading and reading skills in their children during an edifying workshop at the Club. 1

Photos by Yuuki Ide

1. Julie Ennis 2. Linda Mueller and Tamara Ahlberg 3. (l–r) Cecilia Lee, Janice Ishizaka, Therese Cowled and Karine Havard 4. (l–r) Izumi Shaw, Bonnie Humphrey and Julie Ennis




Snapshots from Club occasions 47


48 April 2012 iNTOUCH

For this month’s Back Words, we delved into the archives of old Tokyo American Club publications and unearthed this front page from the April 1972 issue of The Tokyo American.


第 四 十 七 巻 五 六 四 号


毎 月 一 回 一 日 発 行

April 2012

ト ウ キ ョ ウ ア メ リ カ ン ク ラ ブ

i N T O U C H

イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 一 二 年 四 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 0 0 円

Culinary Capital

本 体 七 七 七 円

Issue 564 • April 2012

Workout Grab Bag

The Club kicks off its new CrossFit program

Club Member Yoshiki Tsuji and other epicurean experts ponder Tokyo’s position at the top of the food table

Picture Perfect

Visit the Nagano valley that inspired a filmmaker

Wine Wingdings

Tastings from California, Oregon and Oz at the Club

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