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iNTOUCH December 2008

i N T O U C H

イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 〇 八 十 二 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

Festive Fifty

本 体 七 七 七 円

Tokyo Tower celebrates its golden anniversary

Issue 525 • December 2008

Gallic Greats

Cultural Cocktail

Hoop Dreams

A Club celebration of French fizz and renowned reds

Kanazawa blends old-world heritage with modern allure

One Member’s journey from teen novice to basketball pro


women’s group

Comfort Zone

recreation For kids with nothing, one Women’s Group-aided children’s home in central Tokyo opens its doors and offers a compassionate chance at a fresh future.

talking heads


The Real Estate Rollercoaster As housing markets worldwide fold under financial duress, one Member in the property business offers an intriguing insight into real estate trends in Japan.


4 Events 6 Board of Governors 7 Management 8 Food & Beverage 12 Library



16 Video

Memories Maketh the Man

18 Committees

From his first trip to the Club in Marunouchi to drinking scotch with Sinatra, longtime Member Al Jones has a treasure trove of memories of his time in Japan.

20 Recreation



Urban Legend In honor of Tokyo Tower turning 50 this month, iNTOUCH delves into its history as one of Tokyo’s most recognizable icons, as well as the adversity it likely faces in the coming years as competition surfaces and broadcasters go digital.

24 Women's Group 28 Feature 34 Genkan Gallery 36 Talking Heads 38 Redevelopment

40 Member Services 47 Contacts 48 Inside Japan 50 Out & About 52 Event Roundup 56 Tokyo Moments

iNTOUCH Editor Nick Jones

Designers Ryan Mundt Jasmine Lai Production Assistant Yuko Shiroki Editorial Assistant Wendi Hailey Design Assistant Miki Amano Communications Manager Matthew Roberts Management Michael Bumgardner General Manager Bob Sexton Assistant General Manager Lian Chang Information Technology Director Darryl Dudley Engineering Director Alistair Gough Project Director Shuji Hirakawa Human Resources Director Linda Joseph Administrative Services Director Mutsuhiko Kumano Finance Director Michael Marlay Food & Beverage Director Scott Yahiro Recreation Director

To advertise in iNTOUCH, contact: 03–4588–0976 For Membership information, contact Mari Hori.

03–4588–0687 Tokyo American Club 4–25–46 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108–0074

2 December 2008 iNTOUCH

from the


I admit it. I’ve never surveyed the capital from one of Tokyo Tower’s viewing platforms. To be honest, I’ve never really had the urge to ride the elevator up through the steely beast’s belly. And while I have gazed down on the city from the 52nd-floor observation deck of Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, once I’d gotten over the short-lived excitement of recognizing landmarks and streets from such an unusual vantage point, I realized that Tokyo doesn’t lend itself particularly well to a bird’s-eye view. It’s an up-close-and-personal city, to be experienced for all its higgledy–piggledy charm on the ground. Although many Tokyoites took pride in the fact that their tower was taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris when it was completed in 1958, the significance of the structure’s opening was less about its record-breaking feat and more about the conditions in which it was constructed. With Japan rebuilding itself from the ashes of World War II, Tokyo Tower became a very visible symbol of a new, reconstructed country in a postwar era. As Tokyo Tower celebrates its 50th anniversary in December, Brett Bull, writing this month’s cover story, “Urban Legend,” explores the history of the iconic structure and finds out that a dark cloud hangs over its future as a TV and radio transmitter. Just as the Eiffel Tower was eclipsed half a century ago, so a young upstart in Sumida Ward will upstage Tokyo Tower in 2011. But that shouldn’t signal the death of Tokyo Tower, whose relevance today is as an important piece of history rather than a place from which to peer on the city’s forgettable skyline. 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.

contributors Brett Bull

Originally from Newport Beach, California, Brett Bull made the jump across the Pacific nine years ago to work for a Japanese construction company. Now, when he’s not working as an engineering consultant in Tokyo, he contributes stories to Variety, Sports Illustrated, CNN Traveller and Metropolis magazines as well as to The Japan Times newspaper. His latest venture, “The Tokyo Reporter” (, is a news Web site that focuses on short, offbeat articles. As Tokyo Tower celebrates its 50th anniversary in December, Bull ponders the icon’s past and future in this month’s cover story on pages 28 to 33.

Barrie Sherwood

Barrie Sherwood was born in Hong Kong in 1971 and moved to small-town Canada when he was 8. Having lived in Nara for two years in the mid-1990s, he returned to Japan for another two years in 2000, the same year his first novel, The Pillow Book of Lady Kasa, was published. His four years in Kansai and Fukuoka proved the inspiration for his latest book, Escape from Amsterdam, which was published last year. Sherwood, who is currently a lecturer in literature at York St John University, England, explains the background to one important element of the book on pages 12 and 13. For the latest Club news, schedule of events, class registration and more, check out the new Tokyo American Club Web site. And remember, you can read this month’s iNTOUCH as well as previous issues there, too.

Words from the editor 3

1 What’s happening in




Meiji Shrine “Behind the Scenes” Tour Catch a rare glimpse of the history and inner workings of this famed shrine on an exclusive tour. 10:20 a.m. WG members: ¥2,640. Non-WG members: ¥2,900. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.



Parent-Child Book Group Children and their parents can meet to chat about Nadia Aguiar’s The Lost Island of Tamarind, a fascinating island tale. 4 p.m. To get the lowdown, turn to page 14.

Holiday Happy Hour Bundle up and head down to Traders’ Bar this month for festive specials that include complimentary eggnog and holiday cookies. 5 p.m. See page 11 for details.



Ladies’ Golf Group Luncheon Likeminded women golfers can mingle, swap tips and set new challenges during this afternoon get-together. 12–2 p.m. Banquet Rooms. Sign up at the Recreation Services Desk.




Winter Recreation Sale Now is the perfect time to prepare for a fit, active 2009. Pick up an array of sports gear, including UVprotection shirts, wetsuits, swimwear and Nike apparel. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Recreation Services Desk.

Artist’s Reception Vietnamese contemporary art has earned global recognition with its excellence, originality and affordable prices. Discover for yourself this unique blend of Eastern and Western influences during this exhibition. Read more on page 35.



Santa’s Arts and Crafts Factory Little ones can delight in an imaginative, merry session of making their own holiday creations. 10–11:30 a.m. ¥3,675 (includes materials). Sign up at the Recreation Services Desk.





Artist’s Reception A colorful exhibition of children’s book illustrations should enchant children and adults alike this month at the Genkan Gallery. Flip to page 34 for more.


Champagne Tasting Indulge in a glass or two of exquisite bubbly during this annual tasting, hosted by reps from Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon. 7 p.m. Find out more about the fizz being served up on page 9.

Monthly Program: British Embassy Choir Hear your favorite classic carols sung by the gifted voices of the British Embassy Choir during this festive Women’s Group luncheon. 11 a.m. Learn more on page 26.


4 December 2008 iNTOUCH





Seasonal Toddler Time Enjoy holiday classics, crafts and other fun stories at this special session with a very exciting guest—Santa! 10:30 a.m. Library. Free. No sign-up necessary. Continues December 18. Flip to page 14 for details.



Châteaux Léoville-Barton and Langoa-Barton Bordeaux Dinner An impressive lineup of vintages from two acclaimed Barton estates in Bordeaux are spotlighted at this month’s wine dinner. Read more on page 8.




Sapporo Snow Festival Preview Tour Register for this popular Women’s Group tour to the northern island of Hokkaido for three days of snow sculptures, skiing, fresh seafood and more from the end of January. Read more on page 27.



Tuesday– Thursday

Family Christmas Dinner Show Escape the chilly temperatures when Tema Production’s annual holiday show sends Santa to the Caribbean for sun, sand and song. 6 p.m. New York Suite.


Visit with Santa Santa Claus is coming to town early this year to see for himself who’s been naughty or nice. Don’t miss your chance to tell Santa what you want for Christmas. For more, see page 19.



New Moms and Babies Get-Together Qualified nurse Ann Tanaka fields questions about the first years of motherhood at this lively meet and greet. 3:45–5:15 p.m. ¥2,000. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.



Holiday Break The Women’s Group Office closes for the holidays. It will reopen on January 6.


Wednesday Tuesday

Spring Enrichment Class Registration Get in shape this spring with a new hobby or fitness routine. A range of classes, from aikido and circuit training to Pilates and jazz dance, are on offer. Online registration begins at 8:30 a.m.



Saturday– Sunday



Christmas at the Club Gather with friends and family within the warm, cozy atmosphere of the Club to enjoy a full spread of holiday dishes. Get the details on the Club’s traditional brunch and dinner on page 11.


Letters to Santa It’s your last day to make sure Santa gets your wish lists in time for Christmas. Drop them in the special mailbox set up in the Family Lobby. Check page 19 for more.


China Pete’s Tour Browse for last-minute holiday gifts, including ceramics, figurines and crystal, during an expedition to this venerable Okinawa-based chain shop in Kanagawa Prefecture. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.



ABCs and 123s Pottery Festival of Mashiko Tour Tots can learn their alphabet, This unique festival of more than numbers, shapes and colors during 100 local potters and their finely this lively session at the Library. Get crafted wares is not to be missed. the details on page 14. WG members: ¥5,000. Non-WG members: ¥5,250. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.

Gingerbread Factory This popular holiday event lets kids and grown-ups decorate their own miniature yuletide houses with a festive assortment of gingerbread, icing and colorful sweets. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.




Visit with Santa Be sure to book your spot on Santa’s knee as old Saint Nick makes the second of two trips to the Club before flying back to the North Pole. Get the full details of his visit on page 19.



Christmas Catering Don’t let kitchen stresses overwhelm you this Christmas. Instead, let the Club fully cater your lunch or dinner, leaving you free to relish every moment of the holiday meal. More on page 11.

Coming up in

January 10 Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour 22 Annual Golf Kickoff Party 28 International Preschool and Kindergarten Fair

Noteworthy dates for the month 5


Shinagawa Scout Board of Governors

by Amane Nakashima

Dan Thomas—President (2008) Lance Lee—Vice President (2008) Jerry Rosenberg—Vice President (2009) Thomas Brown—Treasurer (2009) Steve Romaine—Secretary (2008)


he area in which the current Club is located—Shinagawa— is a fascinating spot and rich in history. Even as a resident of Shinagawa, I still see it as a remarkable place, perhaps partly because all of it was once under water. Before the Edo period (1603–1867), Tokyo Bay, as it is now called, extended up to where the Imperial Palace (formerly Edo Castle) stands. The castle’s residents were afforded sweeping views over the bay. A similar view today would take in the office blocks and high-rise residences of Ginza, Shinbashi and Shinagawa. But under the Tokugawa shogunate large swathes of the bay were reclaimed and developed as trading markets for merchants of agricultural products and fish. The famous Tsukiji fish market is located in this part of modern-day Tokyo, as is Shinagawa market with its many meat vendors. Similar markets for flowers, vegetables and fruits can be found in Ota Ward’s bayside area. I grew up and spent most of my life in Yamanote, the largely residential area that traditionally stretched west of the Imperial Palace. As a boy, whenever I heard the name Shinagawa I immediately imagined a bustling complex of markets and warehouses. But modern Shinagawa has two very different faces. While east Shinagawa was recently developed into a state-ofthe-art business and residential hub, the western side of Takanawa and Shirogane has traditionally been an upscale neighborhood of private houses. The Club’s neighbor, Kaitokaku, for example, is the former home of the Iwasaki family, the founders of the Mitsubishi group of companies. There are homes of imperial family members in the area as well.

Tim Griffen (2008), Frederick Harris (2008), Thomas Jordan (2009), Hiroyuki Kamano (2008), Nicolaas Masee (2008), Jeffrey McNeill (2009), Amane Nakashima (2009), Brian Nelson (2008), Rod Nussbaum (2008), Mary Saphin (2009), Jewell Weatherly (2009), Ira Wolf (2009), Masayoshi Yamazaki—Statutory Auditor (2008), Betsy Rogers—Women's Group President

Interestingly, Shinagawa Station itself is not actually in Shinagawa Ward, but on the southern edge of Minato Ward. Although some people might perceive Shinagawa as remote and containing little of interest, the area is full of delightful little historical and cultural nuggets. It’s also one of Tokyo’s fastestdeveloping districts. Since the Club won’t be situated in Takanawa forever, I urge you to make the most of its current location to take in the locality. The staff at the Member Services Desk should be able to offer you a few tips on where to visit around the Club. As we get set to mark the one-year anniversary of the Club’s arrival in Takanawa, I would like to express my appreciation to the Club’s management, particularly Redevelopment Director Alistair Gough, for all their efforts in helping keep the Redevelopment Project on track, especially during such trying economic times. So while construction of our fabulous new home in Azabudai continues, let’s enjoy our time in Takanawa. o

Ayano Sato


6 December 2008 iNTOUCH


by Wendi Hailey

A gaping hole where the Club once stood in Azabudai may have had onlookers this fall wondering if a new five-story building was being constructed or if a manmade canyon was in the works as demolition of the Main Building’s underground structure drew to a close. “The excavation is progressing deeper and deeper,” site manager Ryota Sekiguchi says. “This site began to look like a dam construction site.” The site crew expanded its temporary office building by one-and-ahalf times for improved efficiency and brought in several sets of drilling machines for earth retention. Workers dug at a brisk pace to make up for slight delays triggered this summer. The work zone is also now fully exposed to buildings near the Club, creating the need for extra diligence and care. “The site has become wideopen to the neighbors,” Sekiguchi says. “We can see them, but they can see us as well. We try to be as neat and good as we can.” ®


Your Home for the Holidays by Michael Bumgardner


ith Thanksgiving celebrations complete, the busy holiday season next takes in Christmas and New Year. As usual, your Club can help you with all the necessary festivities. Whether you’re planning to throw a party at the Club, the office or at home, our banquet and catering professionals can take the worry out of it all. Flip to page 11 to find out how we can help. The Club’s own celebrations kick off with the perennially popular Family Christmas Dinner Show, from December 2 to 4, continue with Santa’s annual visits to the Club on December 6 and 13, and culminate on December 25 with the traditional Christmas brunch and dinner. For details on these and other events at the Club this month, check out pages 4 and 5. There is no lack of opportunity to celebrate this festive season at your Club. To those traveling overseas, we wish you a safe and pleasant journey. Your Club will be here to welcome you back upon your return. And to those spending the holidays here in Tokyo, be sure to look out for the special holiday operating hours posted around the premises. We frequently receive inquiries from Members during the holiday season on how they can show their appreciation to the Club staff. As tipping is not allowed in the Club and individual gifts can be expensive and awkward, the appropriate way to express thanks to those staff members who have served you over the year is by a donation to the staff morale and welfare fund. Donations are greatly appreciated and will be recognized both internally to the staff and externally in a future issue of iNTOUCH. Should you wish to donate, please contact the Member Services Desk or the General Manager’s Office. October saw Members complete the biannual satisfaction survey, and we received the second-largest number of returns since the survey was started. For the first time, this survey allowed Members to write specific comments on Club matters. The volume of comments—both critical and complimentary—we received was overwhelming. Although the huge amount of feedback prevented us from replying to each person, we sincerely appreciate all of you who took the time to tell us what you think.

Michael Bumgardner General Manager

It appears that most Members are very aware that our time in Takanawa (next month marks the one-year anniversary of our move here) is only a stepping-stone to our new facilities back in Azabudai. They also recognize that, under the circumstances, the Board, committees and staff are doing a remarkable job. That doesn’t mean, however, that we will stop improving our services and products while here in Takanawa. The critical comments received were carefully considered and many have become the catalyst for change. The recent launch of our impressive new Web site followed a great deal of feedback from Members. Be sure to take a look at This user-friendly site allows you to stay abreast of Club news, events and programs. o

Executive remarks 7



hosted by Jeff Renshaw and Eizo Imagawa of the wine distributor Orca International. Included in the evening’s impressive lineup of second-growth vintages— highly regarded for their full-bodied power, massive concentration and reasonable prices—will be the Château Léoville-Barton 2000. Earning a stunning 96 points from The Wine Advocate, it was described by Parker as “one of the greatest wines ever made at this estate.” The Barton family established itself in Bordeaux in 1722 when Thomas Barton arrived from his native Ireland. First setting up a wine trading company, he hose who make wine their passion later bought Château Le Boscq in Saintand business rarely find themselves Estèphe. Subsequent Bartons consolidated depicted on the silver screen. But the family’s position as a Bordeaux that is exactly what is likely to happen to merchant and producer of classically Bordeaux wine producer Anthony Barton crafted wines. should a film about the life of wine guru Yet despite the years of investment, when Robert Parker end up in movie theaters. Anthony Barton took over the business According to Decanter magazine, the from his uncle, Ronald, in 1984, he found biopic has received the green light in very little profit or global recognition. “It Hollywood, with British actor Hugh was just unknown in the industry,” he Grant set to play Barton. says. “I just thought it was terrible.” Barton The Irish-born owner of Châteaux brought in Léoville-Barton and a new team its neighbor Langoaand set about Barton in Saint-Julien m a k i n g in the Médoc is no much-needed stranger to attention, adjustments to though. Just last year, he modernize the was named Decanter’s winemaking Man of the Year, an process. The award previously changes have bestowed upon such brought the legendary figures Anthony Barton (right) and his wife, Eva winery both as Robert Mondavi worldwide (1989), Angelo Gaja acclaim and a healthy bank balance. (1998) and Miguel Torres (2002). “I was But judging by Barton’s sharp criticisms rather surprised,” Barton, 78, says in his cutof the négociants and importers who, he glass English accent. says, have driven up the price of Bordeaux But it’s the comments from Barton’s peers to unrealistic levels, it’s obvious that he’s not that reveal the most about him. “I can’t think motivated by money. After almost 60 years of a wine producer in France who is better working in pursuit of fine wines, Barton says company,” said renowned wine critic Jancis the attraction of the job lies in the people. “They Robinson in her tribute to the man who love the product,” he says of his peers. “You has been running the two Barton estates can’t get excited by screws or ball bearings, can for almost 25 years. “Affable, decorative, you? [The wine business] attracts genuinely informative, extremely helpful and—most nice people.” ® important—always amusing. Oh, and his wines are pretty good, too.” Jean Hugel of the Alsatian producer Hugel Châteaux Léoville-Barton and & Fils was equally complimentary. “Anthony Langoa-Barton Bordeaux Dinner Barton is a true gentleman of the wine world, Friday, December 19 who is as universally respected and admired 7 p.m. as his wines, and I am privileged to count him Vineyards among my close friends,” he said. ¥25,000 This month, Members will be able to find Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk out just what it is about Barton’s wines that inspire such laudatory words at a special dinner

Bordeaux’s Gentleman

Winemaker by Nick Jones

 December 2008 iNTOUCH




evelers at this year’s traditional Champagne Tasting are in for a particularly special seasonal treat as the exquisite bubbly of one of the world’s most venerated Champagne houses—Moët & Chandon—takes center stage. People have been popping the corks of Moët & Chandon since 1743 when Claude Moët, an Epernay wine trader, established the company. Today, it produces more than 2 million cases of Champagne a year and boasts Queen Elizabeth II among its esteemed clientele. This month’s event at the Club, hosted by Eric Simonet for Moët & Chandon and Gregoire Poitevin for Dom Pérignon, features stellar Champagnes from both labels. From the Moët & Chandon stable, Members will enjoy Brut Impérial, Rosé Impérial and two Grand Vintage Champagnes. With its balanced assemblage of three grape varieties, Brut Impérial’s elegant sensations are complemented by a fresh maturity and refined lines. Rosé Impérial, too, is a blend of three varietals, with an emphasis on Pinot Noir. For many years the star of the Moët & Chandon range, Grand Vintage was reborn under charismatic chef de cave Benoit Gouez. Grand Vintage 2003—to be sampled in its Blanc and Rosé forms at this tasting—is a solar vintage. The hot summer that year

destroyed half the harvest and created a ripe, rich grape that was high in sugar content. When the young monk Pierre Pérignon became the cellar master at the Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers in 1668, he was determined “to make the best wine in the world.” As the spiritual father of Champagne, Pérignon’s name lives on in the hugely successful Dom Pérignon brand. Established in the late 1920s, Dom Pérignon’s vintages are now crafted by chef de cave Richard Geoffroy. Making an appearance for Dom Pérignon will be Vintage 2000, which took seven years to reach perfection, the eight-year-aged Rosé Vintage 1998 and OEnothèque Vintage 1995, made from the small portion of each vintage that is kept on the lees for at least 10 years. With such a premier selection of fizz on offer, the evening promises to be the perfect start to the festive season. ®



An Evening

of Effervescence by Roberto Barbieri and Nick Jones

Champagne Tasting Wednesday, December 10 7 p.m. Vineyards ¥12,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk

Wines of the Month Red Treana Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Paso Robles, Central Coast, California Made in an Old-World style, this wine’s aromatic complexity is approachable, balanced and elegant. Blackberry brambles, layered with dark cherry, chocolate and cassis, combine in a way typical of Cabernet Sauvignon in its purest expression.

White Tahbilk Chardonnay 2005, Nagombie Lakes, Victoria, Australia The bouquet and palate exhibit a stylish mixture of spicy, new French oak and American oak, layered with lemon and peach fruit flavors, for a background complexity from one of Australia’s oldest wineries.

Bottle: ¥4,000 Glass: ¥800

Club wining and dining 


Mixing and Matching by Wendi Hailey


ven the most leisurely consumers of wine know that, as a basic rule of thumb, red is best paired with dark meats and white suits poultry and fish. But what goes best with a mushroom and spinach strudel drizzled with roasted garlic mousse and pinenut foam? Or how about pan-seared foie gras with hazelnuts, brioche and smoked pear chutney? Through the launch of its autumn menu and a brand-new concept, Vineyards skillfully pairs these and many other small-plate dishes with a harmonious glass of vino. While other restaurants categorize their dishes by salads, appetizers, entrées and the like, Vineyards has formatted its menu by seven wine types, from Champagne to rich, full-bodied reds. “Now we have changed the menu because of many Member requests,” says Vineyards manager Minjee Roh, 30. Members, he explains, were frequently confused about the restaurant’s former character. After much planning, the notion was born for gourmet coffees, café-style lunches and light dinners matched with wine. “This is our concept,” he

10 December 2008 iNTOUCH

says. “It’s very unique.” To build the menu, Roh sat down with a team of the Club’s top culinary and wine experts. Together, they sampled the entire bill of fare dish by dish until their collective palates had discerned the most pleasing couplets. “It was very fun and very interesting for me,” says the South Korean, who lived in Australia for three years before moving to Japan in 2000. Along with the rest of his staff, Roh has been studying the intricacies of wine, recently completing a six-month course and visiting two Australian wineries to witness firsthand the vinification process— a far cry from when he first arrived in Japan and drank only shochu and beer. His confidence in discussing vintages has expanded with experience, and after nearly eight years at various Club restaurants, Roh now delights in passing the time with his diners. “Many people like to come and relax and talk about wine,” he says. “I just love wine. I love to talk about wine with Members.” Along with his maturing knowledge of the grape, Roh hopes to become better versed in the range of specialty coffee on offer at Vineyards by attending barista school. “As I know more about coffee, I can explain more,” he says. Whether sipping brilliantly cultivated flavor, aroma and texture by the cup or glass, Vineyards’ new vision—enhanced by the professional knowledge of Roh and his team— offers a dining experience full of appetizing aliments yet free of difficult decisions. ® Discover the delights of food and wine pairings daily at Vineyards.

Ayano Sano

behind the


Christmas at the Club Enjoy a full seasonal spread of yuletide fare with friends and family within the warm, familiar atmosphere of the Club. Thursday, December 25 Brunch: 11 a.m.–1 p.m./1:30–3 p.m. Dinner: 5–9 p.m. American Room and New York Suite Adults: ¥7,000 Juniors (7–19 years): ¥3,250 Children (3–6 years): ¥1,050 Infants (2 and under): free Reservations at 03-4588-0977

Holiday Happy Hour Traders’ Bar brings good will to all Members this holiday season with two hours of complimentary eggnog and cookies each evening. Until December 25 5–7 p.m. Traders’ Bar

Seasonal Stress Solution Wave goodbye to kitchen stress this December 25 and let the Club take the strain. Call 03-4588-0307 or check out the new Web site to arrange for your fully catered Christmas lunch or dinner. And remember, the Club will even do the washing-up!

did you know... that The Cellar’s festive wine selections for the holiday season can be ordered on the Club Web site and delivered straight to your door?

Club wining and dining 11

Ruins and Ruminations Author Barrie Sherwood explains how a chance encounter with an abandoned hotel on the Kyushu coast not only made its way into his novel Escape from Amsterdam, but changed the way he viewed Japan as well.


n August of 2002, I drove out to Karatsu with my wife and daughter in search of a beach. Somewhere in the labyrinthine valleys of Kyushu’s Saga Prefecture we came upon a quaint teahouse and a shrine with crimson torii gateways snaking up the mountainside. At that time, I was still in thrall to everything that fulfilled my ideal of what was quintessentially Japanese; with my digital camera I framed up one photo after another of this perfect site. With the benefit of hindsight and some reading, I understand now that the camera’s function back then was to document everything that was not actually real. The photographs of what was all too real would have been of my bank statement in the third week of each month (¥0), my apartment of almost Sovietera ugliness, the bucket that served as a shower, the overpriced wine and mouse-sized wedges of blue cheese that my French wife could only ogle in the supermarket, the telephone rattling across the table at 3 a.m. (the preferred hour of the collection agency to whom I still owed five figures), the thermometer that my daughter seemed intent on testing, the all-night karaoke bar next door, the milk that turned out to be yogurt, the pain au chocolat that was actually full of bacon, the green ice cream that was never pistachio. I had a young family, a low salary, beginner’s Japanese and little

12 December 2008 iNTOUCH

job satisfaction. For me, the camera was, as the American writer Susan Sontag put it, “a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.” I didn’t create an imaginary place—your average Konica is too honest an instrument for that—but I performed a careful triage of reality, convincing my future self of an idealized past. The result is a very lovely photo album. The road to the beach at Niji no Matsubara crosses the bridge in front of Karatsu Castle and winds into the pine forest, until, at length, a corroded sign (a yellow parasol on a green background, leaning slightly back, as if disassociating itself from the very thing it indicates) appears. The beach was wide and crowded and—apart from the concrete tetrapod reef—reminiscent of the subtropical beaches in Hong Kong where I spent my summers as a child. Kite sails whirled and dipped. Couples clung to blow-up orcas. Boys practiced scissor kicks in the forgiving sand. At a beach cabana, we bought cans of Yebisu beer and toasted the summer. High above, a shard of glinting silver cut the sky in two with twin vapor trails. When my eyes returned to earth they settled upon the Hibiki Hotel, brooding on the headland at the north end of Karatsu Bay. Around this time, I was reading the works of WG Sebald,

LIBRARY whose prose is a kind of macédoine of the picaresque, local history, travelogue, photo album, memoir and documentary—all of it a meditation upon the history of destruction and the effects of that destruction on those who survive. Though Sebald did little to change my (generally optimistic) outlook on life, or help me solve the problems that really concerned me, it did change the way I took photographs. Similarly, Russian novelist Vladamir Nabokov once remarked that after reading the works of Nikolai Gogol “one’s eyes may become gogolized and one is apt to see bits of his world in the most unexpected places.” The Hibiki Hotel was a huge concrete ruin alone at the cusp of the bay, with the sea on one side and orange grovecovered hills on the other. Looking at it, I was reminded of a line from Sebald’s Austerlitz: “…we gaze…in a kind of dawning horror, for somehow we know by instinct that outsize buildings cast the shadow of their own destruction before them, and are designed from the first with an eye to their later existence as ruins.” I spent all afternoon exploring the hotel—destroyed by fire

many years before—and for the first time the camera became a real “tool of power.” No longer was I taking pictures in a spirit of apology for the shortcomings of real experience. The excitement I felt when taking the photos was the same sense of surreptitious agency that I felt when eavesdropping on a conversation or writing a character sketch of some unknowing patron in a Fukuoka café. Moreover, these photographs and others I took subsequently— of tetrapods, concrete embankments, fortified riverbeds, theme parks, dams, playments (a combination of playground and pavement) and stabilized seashores—were some evidence of the destruction of the landscape that I was witnessing on a daily basis. It wasn’t long after my trip to Karatsu that I received an invitation from a friend to visit Huis Ten Bosch, the Monaco-sized, Dutch-themed city that looks as promising now as the Hibiki Hotel once did. I took my camera and my “Sebaldized” eyes there, too, and Escape from Amsterdam began to crystallize. ®

I had a young family, a low salary, beginner’s Japanese and little job satisfaction.

Escape from Amsterdam is available at the Library.

Yen Loans for Japanese Property Stop Renting Own it!

Literary gems at the Library 13



Junot Diaz by Michelle Arnot Brown


rom the Dominican Republic springs the desperate, fast-moving tale The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by award-winning author Junot Diaz. The book, which won both the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and 2007’s National Book Critics Circle Award, traces the short life of the author’s teenage alter ego—a blob of a Dominican boy in a female household—as he braves the tough streets of New Jersey. Academically gifted yet socially inept, Oscar copes by plunging himself into fiction. The source of his bad luck, he is convinced, is the curse that has plagued his homeland since the Spanish landed and enslaved its natives. For readers unfamiliar with the history of this country of less than 10 million people, Diaz includes detailed footnotes that describe the regime of Rafael Trujillo. From 1930 until his assassination in 1961, “El Jefe”

(“The Chief”) ruled with an iron fist, leaving a bloody trail of broken people. Clearly, Diaz escaped the curse. With the support of three women, beginning with his mother, he has achieved much in his 40 years. He was 6 when his family arrived in New Jersey from the Dominican Republic and his older brother was diagnosed with leukemia. Hiking six kilometers to the local library, Diaz found refuge in books. The second woman to nurture his talent was literary giant Toni Morrison, who took him under her wing during his

undergraduate days at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Finally, there was a girlfriend who submitted an application to Cornell University on his behalf. Thanks to her, he earned his master’s degree in 1995. In 2003, he received the US-Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently fiction editor of the Boston Review, Diaz now teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ® The Library stocks The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

kid s' co rn e r

a preview of what’s on for the Club’s young, inquiring minds

Seasonal Toddler Time by Erica Kawamura

No matter how chilly it is outside, be sure to make it to the Library’s warm and inviting surroundings for December’s holiday Toddler Time sessions. Enjoy seasonal classics and other fun tales for the holidays, followed by some Christmas craft making. And even though he’s pretty busy at this time of year, Santa will be making a special appearance! Tuesday, December 16, 10:30 a.m. Thursday, December 18, 4 p.m. Library Free No sign-up necessary

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ABCs and 123s Learning English is so much fun at the Library’s weekly sessions of games, songs and crafts for children with English as their second language. Numbers, letters, shapes and colors are just some of the exciting elements of this entertaining curriculum. Children must be accompanied by a parent. Wednesdays 4–4:30pm Library Free No sign-up necessary

Parent-Child Book Group Children in grades three to six and their parents discuss Nadia Aguiar’s The Lost Island of Tamarind, a spellbinding tale about a fantastical island cut off from the outside world. Sunday, December 7 4–5:30 p.m. Recreation Room Free Sign up at the Library



reads The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Blindness by José Saramago

Bestselling author Gregory presents a unique view of Mary Queen of Scots, who, trusting Queen Elizabeth I’s promise of sanctuary, finds herself imprisoned as the “guest” of the Earl of Shrewsbury and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. A semi-historical tale full of suspense, passion and political intrigue.

A profound yet horrifying story about a plague of blindness that strikes an unnamed European city. Panic ensues. All those affected are taken to a heavily guarded, abandoned mental hospital. Saramango explores the book’s themes of social disintegration in extreme situations with sensitivity and humanity.

Deadly Intent Lynda La Plante

Gold by Dan Rhodes

Alexander Fitzpatrick, a dangerous and wanted man who acquired his wealth through drug trafficking, hasn’t been seen for 10 years. When a former police officer is murdered, Anna Travis is pulled onto the case. As the body count rises and the investigation twists and turns,

Rhodes’ humorous story follows Miyuki Woodward, a half-Japanese lesbian who, while on holiday in a small village on the Pembrokeshire coast, finds a rock and decides to paint it gold. The consequences of her doing so make for a sweet, quirky read.

suspicion falls on Fitzpatrick.

Homework for Grown-Ups by Beth Coates and Elisabeth Foley Don’t know your isosceles from your equilateral? Are you left scratching your head when your children ask you what “quid pro quo” means? Fret no longer. This brilliantly informative and entertaining book covers everything from mathematics and geography to Latin and history, and will amply prepare you for your kids’ homework questions.

Antony Gormley: Blind Light by WJT Mitchell, Susan Stewart, Anthony Vidler and Antony Gormley This richly illustrated book about an exhibition at London’s Hayward Gallery by Gormley—the man behind such sculptures as the “Angel of the North” in Gateshead and “Another Place” on Crosby Beach— examines the artist’s place in the British contemporary art world through essays and interviews.

member’s choice Member: Efrot Weiss Title: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

What’s the book about? It’s a historical adventure that traces the intriguing journey of a 15th-century Hebrew manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah.

What did you like about it? It was a really great read. As the protagonist, Hanna Heath, delves into each of the book’s clues, the reader is transported back in time to a particular moment and set of events. A fascinating book.

Why did you choose it? A few years ago, I read Brooks’ Nine Parts of Desire about Islam and Muslim women, which is also fascinating.

What other books would you recommend? Julia Child’s account of how she developed a love for French cooking in My Life in France; The Ditch Digger’s Daughters by Yvonne Thornton, the true story of how a poor, uneducated father raises his five daughters to become doctors (three eventually did); and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Literary gems at the Library 15

The Comeback Kid by Mary Glasser


here have always been bad boys (and girls) of Hollywood, and no one has exemplified that image more than Robert Downey, Jr, who, from 1996 through 2001, was in the public eye as much for his repeated arrests and seemingly unconquerable addiction as he was for his work as an actor. Downey’s performances before and during that period, while always solid, produced only a few extraordinary roles. His astonishing embodiment of Charlie Chaplin in Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic garnered him a best actor Oscar nomination; his portrayal of Wayne Gale, the television tabloid journalist who transforms two serial killers into media stars, in 1994’s Natural Born Killers, exhibited controversial crassness; and his depiction of the editor Terry Crabtree in the clever Wonder Boys (2000) was an impish foil for the fractured characters of Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire. Since his “comeback” around 2003, though, Downey’s work has not only eclipsed nearly all of his earlier roles, but also consistently drawn upon his troubled history to bring gravity (sometimes) and levity (generally) to his films. From Harry Lockhart, the bumbling thief-turned-actor of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), to Paul Avery, the newspaper reporter obsessed with a serial killer in last year’s Zodiac, to the alcoholic school principal, Nathan Gardner, in Charlie Bartlett (2007), to his biggest role to date, Tony Stark in this year’s Iron Man, many of Downey’s recent characters deal directly with the actor’s own past demons. With three more Tony Stark films contracted and a turn as the great detective in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming Sherlock Holmes, Downey is no longer on a comeback—he’s here for good. ® Besides the titles mentioned above, the Video Library stocks a large number of other movies starring Robert Downey, Jr.

t v

s e r i e s

How I Met Your Mother

by Mary Glasser

Loosely based on the lives of its creators, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, the Emmy-winning sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” stands out for its great writing, wonderful cast and interesting twist in the way the story is told. Told via flashbacks in the year 2030, an off-camera dad (voiced by Bob Saget) explains to his kids how he and their mom met. The series returns to the present-day, where Ted (their future father, played by Josh Radnor) feels compelled to find true love and settle down as his two best friends, Marshall (Jason Segel of Knocked Up and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan of the American Pie franchise), get engaged. While Ted and his theoretical true love Robin (Cobie Smulders) are the romantic leads, it’s their peculiar, single friend Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris (“Doogie Howser, M.D.”), who steals every scene. ® The Video Library stocks the first three seasons of “How I Met Your Mother.”

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give it a go abort

When wealthy industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr) is captured in Afghanistan and forced to build a missile, he constructs an armored suit and decides to use it to fight evil. Downey’s excellent performance is worthy of an Oscar in this fun, fast-paced movie.

The jumble of Matrix-type special effects, Rockystyle training sessions and incomprehensible storyline make for a messy movie. Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) plays an office worker in a deadend job who, under the guidance of Fox (played by an anorexic-looking Angelina Jolie), becomes an assassin.

A frustrated office clerk, played by James McAvoy, learns that he is the son of a professional assassin and has inherited his father’s superhuman killing abilities. A wellmade action flick that goes a little overboard with the violence.

Despite the star-studded cast, this film is hampered by its unrealistic plot and zero chemistry between Diane Lane and Richard Gere. The way Lane’s rude daughter (played by Mae Whitman)—bitter towards her mother for not forgiving her cheating husband—patches things up with her mother is incredibly far-fetched.

A doctor (Richard Gere), on his way to meet his estranged son, stops off at a North Carolina inn where he meets an unhappily married woman (Diane Lane). A magical weekend ensues. This is a somewhat predictable chick flick.

Starring Scarlett Johansson, this touching comingof-age movie is about a nanny’s relationship with Grayer, a 5-year-old boy neglected by his wealthy parents. A film that emphasizes how we learn through experience and how interaction with people from different backgrounds and cultures helps us find our path in life.

A college graduate (Scarlett Johansson) working for a rich Upper East Side family has to deal with dysfunctional parents, a new romance and a spoiled 5-year-old. This flick should appeal in particular to New Yorkers, anyone with a nanny and Johansson fans.

smokin' give it a go abort

She is Yuko Akisato, manager of the Video Library.


A briskly paced and engaging action movie with Robert Downey, Jr superbly portraying Tony Stark, a wealthy playboy genius. The smart storyline and magnificent graphics bring this movie to life. A truly fantastic flick!


He is Video Library Committee chair Lance Lee.



new titles Comedy Get Smart Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway star in this big-screen remake of the 1960s zany detective TV series. Fred Claus This cookie-cutter Christmas flick follows the estranged older brother of Santa Claus as he deals with yuletide troubles in Chicago and the North Pole. Space Chimps A fearless group of computer-animated primates blasts off on a dangerous mission to save the universe and have a little intergalactic fun. Priceless A philandering jewel thief, forced into hiding from the Russian mafia after botching a heist, unexpectedly rekindles an old flame.

Family Wall-E In Pixar’s latest feature, a forgotten robot journeys across an imaginative future galaxy, discovering friendships and more than a few surprises along the way.

Action Hellboy II: Golden Army This stylish anti-superhero sequel pits Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his posse against a barrage of menacing creatures threatening to dominate the world.

Drama This Christmas A warmhearted holiday movie that gives a realistic look at family ties, with plenty of laughs to boot. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Four close friends begin drifting apart after their first year away at college as they explore separate career paths, romances and interests.

TV and film selections 17


committee spotlight

Lance Lee


here are almost 30 committees in the Club, covering every aspect of operations. Members volunteer their time on each of the committees to discuss and implement new ideas, programs and policy. This month, Lance Lee talks about his work as chair of the Video Committee, a subcommittee of the Recreation Committee. How long have you been a member of the Video Committee? Lee: Unofficially, from its inception in 1988, when one of the Members, working out of a room in the Recreation Building, asked Members to bring in videos for her to copy for other Members to rent. She charged ÂĽ500 for membership. I officially joined the committee in 1997.

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Why did you decide to join? Lee: Because of my love for movies and to help the committee decide which films and TV series to purchase. What does the Video Committee do? Lee: Basically, it reviews, selects and places orders for DVDs of movies and TV series. What do you enjoy about being a part of the committee? Lee: I enjoy our monthly meetings and having the chance to review a movie or TV series completely new to me.

What does the Video Committee have planned for the future? Lee: This is only speculation on my part, but I believe that within the next five to six years Club Members will be able to download movies on demand from a dedicated Club server. What would you recommend about being part of a committee at the Club? Lee: You have an opportunity to contribute to the Club in ways that are only possible through being a committee member. I also believe that committee membership allows you a greater insight into Club activities and opportunities. ÂŽ


Santa’s Stopover at the Club


ell Santa what you’re hoping to find under the tree this year when he leaves his North Pole workshop in the safe hands of his elves to visit the Club on two separate Saturdays in December. Jolly old Saint Nick will chat with kids and pose for photographs before pointing his sleigh back home to finish up his holiday preparations. For children who are unable to whisper their wish lists in Santa’s ear, the Club has set up a special mailbox to express deliver letters to the North Pole. Drop your letter to Santa in the postbox located in the Family Lobby and await a very merry Christmas morning. ® Visit with Santa Saturday, December 6 and Saturday, December 13 2–4 p.m. Gym ¥525 Sign up at the Member Services Desk Letters to Santa Through Sunday, December 7 Santa’s mailbox: Family Lobby For a personal reply, pick up a registration form (¥525) from the Member Services Desk, Recreation Services Desk, Childcare Center or Library


a Committee

Members interested in joining one of the committees listed should contact its chair or inquire at the General Manager’s Office.

Committees Recreation Lance Lee (Rod Nussbaum) Recreation Subcommittees Bowling Pam Jenkinson Fitness Jerome Rosenberg Golf Steven Thomas Library Laura Charron Logan Room Linda Eagan & Jean Williams Squash Peter Cohen Swim Jesse Green & Lydia Woodard Video Lance Lee Youth Activities Monica Hobbs Community Relations Scott Hancock Community Relations Subcommittees Distinguished Achievement Award Jeff McNeill Independence Day Sportsman of the Year Jeff McNeill Culture Shizuo Daigoh (Fred Harris) Culture Subcommittees Genkan Gallery Fred Harris

Entertainment Barbara Hancock Finance Akihiko Mizuno Food & Beverage Craig Saphin (Amane Nakashima) Food & Beverage Subcommittee Wine Mark Baxter (Steve Romaine) House Mark Schwab (Thomas Jordan) House Subcommittee Architectural Peter Jay & Michael Miller Human Resources Victoria Muir (Steve Romaine) Membership Mark Saft (Nick Masee) Nominating Thomas Whitson

Names in parentheses denote Board liaisons.

Cornerstones of the Club 19

The Accidental Player One Member describes how he progressed from learning the rudiments of basketball to playing the game professionally in Japan—in only a handful of years. by Nick Jones


hen Brian Nelson strode down the corridor on his first day at the American School in Japan (ASIJ), his future basketball teammates must have thought they had struck gold. At a towering 1.96 meters tall, the 16-year-old newcomer was an obvious candidate for the school team. That was until somebody put a ball in his hands. “Having not played before, I grabbed it with two hands and threw it overhand at the backboard—like a throw-in in soccer— and it slammed off the backboard and back to where I was on the court, and they looked at each other and said, ‘Well, we’ve got to work on a few things—but you’re still tall!’” recalls Nelson, who has since gained another 4 centimeters. Having grown up playing football and volleyball and surfing breakers along Southern California’s sun-drenched coast, Nelson had a lot to learn about basketball. Figuring he could do worse than learn from the very best in the sport, he pored over videotapes of NBA games his father brought back to Japan from the United States. He was dazzled by the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Magic Johnson as they racked up the points for the Los Angeles Lakers. “I would basically take all the things that they were doing on the court and mimic that,” says Nelson, 41, sitting in Traders’ Bar one

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midweek evening. “But there’s always a problem with trying to mimic someone who is professional when you have no skill set, so I would try and do some things on the court—sky hooks and things like this—that didn’t make a lot of sense.” Surrounded by some prodigious talent, Nelson went on to become a star center on the ASIJ team and played against sides from across Asia. Writing on his Web site, Okinawa-based sports writer Dave Ornauer singled out Nelson and two of his teammates as “incredible individual talents during an utterly incredibly competitive [1986] season.” Not bad for someone who had barely been playing the game two years. After a rather adventitious start in basketball, Nelson’s relationship with the sport continued in much the same extemporaneous fashion. There was no master plan to secure an athletics scholarship to university, and yet he ended up playing at a Division I college in the US and then professionally back in Japan. “I never would have seen that coming in a million years,” the Club Member says of his threeyear stint in Japan’s Industrial League. In fact, it was a friend who urged him to apply to college in the first place. Arriving at the small liberal arts college of Whittier in California, he thought he’d try out for the freshmen team. “We traveled and had a lot of fun, beat a lot of teams,” he says between sips of white wine. “I

RECREATION think that year we only lost two games the full season and did very well.” Following his entrepreneurial instincts, Nelson transferred to the nearby University of Southern California for his sophomore year and enrolled in the business program. “I had no expectations whatsoever to play basketball, but some of my friends said, ‘Why don’t you give it a go?’” This time, though, he would be among the NBA stars of tomorrow, players on scholarships who had been scouted in high school. A Pacific-10 Conference(Pac-10)team,the Trojans had recently hired renowned coach George Raveling from Iowa State. Raveling was offering one walk-on spot on the team to a player who hadn’t been recruited through the usual channels. For two weeks, more than 100 hopefuls, including Nelson, were put through their paces. Raveling arrived on the final day. Nelson was given the nod. “At that time, I still couldn’t dribble left, but I think [Raveling] probably saw in me drive,” Nelson says. “He knew I wouldn’t give up. He knew that I’d try really hard.” Although he spent much of his time on the bench, coming on for three or four minutes here and there, he got to play and practice alongside such talents as Chris Munk, who went on to play for the Utah Jazz in the NBA. After failing to secure a scholarship for the next season, Nelson decided to concentrate on his studies. Graduating in 1990 with a degree in business administration, he flew to Japan, where the game he thought he was done with was about to make another unannounced appearance in his life. It was while working as

an agent hiring players from North America for Japan’s Industrial League that he was offered a contract with the team of Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance. The recruiter had become the recruited. But Nelson had a less-than-auspicious start. During one of his first practice sessions, he made a no-look pass to a teammate—with disastrous results. “I hit the guy in the back of the head,” he recalls. “The coach blows the whistle, pulls me out, sits me on the bench and starts yelling at me, ‘What the hell are you doing? You hit the guy in the back of the head—that’s not very friendly—and you should look where you’re passing—it’s a fundamental rule.’” Individual skills on the team did improve, however, and Nelson, who is now the president and CEO of the Tokyo-based affiliate marketing company ValueCommerce, describes his time playing pro basketball in Japan as a “blast.” But after seeing how an injured teammate was unceremoniously let go, he decided it was time to quit and look for a more permanent career. While no longer running the length of the court, Nelson, who helps coach the Club’s Youth Basketball Program in which his two sons play, says the sport gave him a lot more than a repertoire of passes and shots. “If you try hard enough, you’ll probably get what you want—that’s what I took away from the game.” ®

The Club’s Youth Basketball Program runs from January through March. Ask at the Recreation Services Desk or check online for details. Brian Nelson

Fitness and well-being 21

Power Abs The Class This 45-minute class is a workout for those oft-neglected abdominal and core muscles. Beginning with a warmup, the weekly sessions use such exercises as planks, leg raises, crunches and spinal rotations, as well as a range of innovative fitness equipment, to strengthen those hard-to-reach muscle areas. ”This class is perfect for those who want to work their abs but don’t have the motivation, ideas or knowledge to do it by themselves,” says class instructor Kristina Shuellermann. Classes run every Tuesday (10:50–11:35 a.m.). Contact the Recreation Services Desk for more information or to sign up. The Instructor Kristina Shuellermann has been a personal trainer and fitness instructor, teaching aerobics, dance, indoor cycling, yoga and Pilates, for more than 10 years. She has been teaching at the Club for five years. Originally from Germany, she moved to Israel in the 1990s to attend a one-year aerobics and dance course at an international college. A certified aerobics and group exercise instructor and personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, Shuellermann is also a certified RevMaster indoor-cycling instructor. Besides Power Abs, she also teaches Body Sculpting and Cardio Step classes at the Club. The Student “I love Kristina’s Power Abs class! Not only does she work on your abs and back muscles, but she also strengthens your entire core for good body posture. Everybody can do it, and the class is great for all fitness levels. Kristina offers variations of her exercises according to your strength. And because she changes the equipment every week, you don’t get bored or hit a plateau. I’ve been doing this class for almost two years now and look forward to it every week.” (Susie Coenen)



by Jackie Wright

Don’t let your hamstrings leave you hamstrung. Inflexibility in the hamstrings can lead to hamstring injury or lower-back pain. Consequently, it is important to perform regular hamstring stretches during your post-workout cooldown. A supine hamstring stretch helps extend

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your hamstrings, gluteus maximus and lower-back muscles: • Lie on your back with your left knee bent and the sole of your left foot resting comfortably on the floor. • With your hands behind your right thigh, gently pull the right knee in toward your chest. • Inhale and exhale as you extend the right leg toward the ceiling. • While maintaining a soft knee, press the heel of the right foot toward the ceiling. • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds to the point of tension (but not pain). • Repeat the process with the left leg. • Perform this stretch two to three times for each leg, several times a week.




Back on the Greens



The Men’s Golf Group launches another event-packed year at its Annual Golf Kickoff Party on Thursday, January 22 (6:30–8:30 p.m.). Find out what’s in store for the coming season and register for the Jiro Matsumura Match Play. Includes a buffet and pay-as-you-go bar. ¥2,000 (Golf Group members); ¥2,500 (non-Golf Group members). Sign up online or at the Recreation Services Desk.

Sports for All For those who crave team sports, the Club offers a range of free programs at the Gym each week: Basketball: weekdays (6:30–8 p.m.); Wednesday (6:45–9:30 p.m.); Saturday (7:30–8:30 a.m./4–7 p.m.); and Sunday (7:30– 9:30 a.m./4–6 p.m.) Badminton: Tuesday (7:30–9 p.m.) Volleyball: Thursday (8:20–9:50 p.m.); Sunday (6:15–9 p.m.)

Spring Classes Set yourself new fitness and well-being goals for 2009 by signing up for some Spring Enrichment Classes. Online registration starts from 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 4.



Valentine’s Day Dance The perennially popular Father-Daughter Valentine DinnerDance is back! Dads and their little princesses (grades 1–7) will enjoy an evening of great food, gifts, photo sessions, music and dancing on Saturday, February 14. 5:30–9 p.m. ¥6,750. Sign up at the Recreation Services Desk from Monday, January 5.

On the Mound Registration for the Spring Youth Baseball League starts from Monday, January 27, at the Recreation Services Desk. This program is for 5- to 14-year-olds.

Fitness and well-being 23

Comfort Zone One Women’s Group-supported children’s home in Tokyo is working hard to provide the abused and abandoned with a caring environment within which to grow up. by Ulrica Marshall Photos by Yuuki Ide

Hisami Nakamura


ucked away beside the new, opulentlooking Omani Embassy in Hiroo is children’s home Fukudenkai. Its rundown, 40-year-old wooden buildings and narrow concrete paths winding their way through the mud are in stark contrast to the marble and fountain centerpiece next-door. Under the supervision of Hisami Nakamura, some 40 children, ranging in age from 3 to 17, live at Fukudenkai. Nakamura’s popularity with the children for whom she is responsible is unmistakable. As she walks

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through the living quarters, a child embraces her and refuses to let go, burying his little face in her shoulder. Others are keen to show her their creations from school. Such a scene of simple affection would be an idyllic one were it not for the fact that the children are here because their parents have abused them, are too sick to look after them or have died. Sharing the premises with Fukudenkai is Miyashiro Gakuen, a home for 30 mentally disabled children whose parents are unable or

unwilling to care for them. This is a rarely seen side of Japanese society. “The parents don’t want anyone to know that their children are in a home,” says Nakamura, who has worked at Fukudenkai for five years. According to her, 30,000 children live in such homes across Japan, with about 10 percent in central Tokyo. A further 10,000 live with foster families, a figure the current government would like to see increased in order to reduce the number of children in homes.

WOMEN’S GROUP Although the kids come from unstable, abusive or dysfunctional environments, Nakamura says she’s determined to bring a sense of normality to their lives. “I try to make the children feel at home here,” she explains, adding that while new arrivals can find Fukudenkai unsettling at first, they soon start to form friendships with other children. “The children are often depressed from the abuse and we work hard to make life here comfortable and safe.” Nakamura’s passion for her work is palpable. She originally arrived at Fukudenkai with the intention of returning to her promising career in politics after a short stint at the home. Her plans have now changed—for good. Dressed in a stylish cream business suit, with an enviable deportment and eloquent, soft manner of speaking, she looks far younger than her 49 years. She’s an obvious role model for children who have likely never known any. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the kids have lofty and imaginative aspirations for their futures. One 5-year-old girl says she wants to learn to speak English when she grows up, while a little boy dreams of becoming a soccer player. Although Nakamura cites the current mayor of Takahagi in Ibaraki Prefecture, who grew up in a children’s home, as an example of what is possible, the prospects for most of her youngsters are very different. “These children suffer hardship in their lives when leaving the [Fukudenkai] facility,” she says. “They are discriminated against because they are from a children’s home.” On leaving Fukudenkai, many of the children end up in unskilled jobs at factories, construction sites or restaurants.

The lack of financial means to pay for higher education is a clear hindrance. Although scholarships are available, few cover both tuition fees and living expenses. As for the disabled children, those who become more capable of looking after themselves are able to return to their families, but many go on to other facilities. Despite such uncertainty, the staff at Fukudenkai do all that they can to nurture those in their charge. One highlight of the year is the home’s annual Christmas celebrations. Rooms are decorated and children enjoy festive food at a volunteer-supported party. In addition, some of the donations made by Club Members to the Women’s Group through its many fundraising programs, including the current Angel Campaign, go toward presents for all the children. The younger ones typically receive new slippers or pajamas, while the older children go shopping for their gifts with staff members. Christmas might be a few weeks off, but the kids are already putting together their wish lists. One girl is longing for makeup. Another child says he’s hoping for a video game. It’s clear that these children are beginning to enjoy life again—and some possibly for the first time. ® To make a donation to this year’s Angel Campaign, which runs until January 31, fill out a form at the Member Services Desk or Women’s Group Office.

An interactive community 25



Seasonal Sounds by Wendi Hailey

Monthly Program: British Embassy Choir Monday, December 8 11 a.m. Banquet Rooms WG members: ¥3,150 Non-WG members: ¥4,200 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk by 10 a.m. on Friday, December 5


ake a break from your holiday shopping and other preparations and head to the Club for an afternoon of food, friends and classic Christmas carols. The British Embassy Choir will be performing a melodic selection of familiar hymns, and audience members are encouraged to sing along if the urge should strike. Each year, the choir performs a number of holiday concerts around Tokyo under the talented direction of Steven Morgan, who also serves as principal conductor. Last December, Morgan’s own composition, “Sounds of Winter,” was performed during the program. The lineup this month includes several of the old classics. “Many of the songs are well-

known, but the arrangements are different and interesting,” says choir soprano Linda Singh. “This way, very traditional music sounds new to the listener.” The choral group was established in the late 1980s by British diplomat Sir Stephen Gomersall to raise money for local charities through music performances. Nowadays, it consists of more than 70 singers from a variety of musical and cultural backgrounds, some of whom, like Singh, are members of the Women’s Group. The choir is a chance for nonprofessionals to express and deepen their passion for music and perhaps spread it to others. “I love to sing,” says Singh, 43. “It is my ‘happy place,’ and when I sing with

a choir as good as the British Embassy Choir, it’s the frosting on the cake. I really enjoy providing with the choir the gift of good music to the audience.” Returning to the Club for the Women’s Group’s final Monthly Program of the year has left some singers as gleeful as a child on Christmas morning. “When we have the chance to sing at the Club, you see many of your new friends all in a familiar setting, and then Japan starts feeling like home,” Singh adds. “This is especially important at the holidays.” So set the afternoon aside, surround yourself with friends old and new, and delight in this presentation of edible and musical seasonal treats. ®











Joint Board Meeting

Meiji Shrine “Behind the Scenes” Tour

Monthly Program: British Embassy Choir

New Moms and Baby Get-Together

Women’s Group Office closes for the holidays

Women’s Group Office reopens

Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour

New Moms and Babies Get-Together

China Pete’s Tour

For more details, check out the events on pages 4 and 5 or the Women's Group page at

26 December 2008 iNTOUCH



n the midst of winter on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, three pockets of downtown Sapporo are transformed into a landscape of dazzling sculptures and massive monuments carved from snow and ice. The Sapporo Snow Festival, held for seven days every February, attracts thousands of tourists from Japan and abroad. Members and their families and guests can experience this icy grandeur when the Women’s Group offers its most popular tour, a three-day sneak preview of the celebration. Stroll around the towering masterpieces until your toes tingle, taking in the hundreds of breathtaking carvings. The assortment of popular characters, figures and scenes are illuminated at night, creating a spectacular dreamland for imaginations to rove—so long as you can handle the cold. The festival began in 1950 with six snow statues built by several high school students. Five years later, local Japan Self-Defense Forces members joined in and created the first large-scale sculptures. Today, the annual festival is one of the most celebrated winter events in Japan and renowned around the world, with an estimated 2 million visitors trekking to the city for the sculptures each year. The Women’s Group’s early tour offers an up-close view of the phenomenal pieces and the opportunity to see the artists make final touches to their works without fighting through the heavily bundled crowds. It’s also the perfect opportunity to sample some delicious Hokkaido specialties like crab and ramen noodles. After you’ve warmed up again, explore a sampling of Sapporo’s myriad winter activities, including skiing, hot springs, an indoor water park, tubing at Kiroro Snow World and fresh seafood shopping at Sapporo’s Nijo Market. You can also pay a visit to the historic town of Otaru, famous for its glass factories and sake breweries, or Lake Shikotsu, where its own enchanting ice festival culminates with a fireworks display. Don’t miss this chance to catch Japan’s renowned Sapporo Snow Festival and delight in a short but memorable winter escapade. ®

women’s group


Sapporo’s Snow Celebration by June Ellen Feil

Sapporo Snow Festival Preview Tour January 31–February 2 WG members: ¥73,000 per adult/ ¥67,200 per child (ages 3–11) Non-WG members: ¥80,300 per adult/ ¥73,900 per child (ages 3–11) ¥5,000 extra for single room or infants age 2 and under Sign up at the Member Services Desk from Tuesday, December 2, 10–11 a.m. Cancel by Thursday, January 8








Extended Board Meeting

Monthly Program

Women’s Group Classes Registration

Birth Preparation for Couples

Get Acquainted Coffee

International Preschool and Kindergarten Fair

Sapporo Snow Festival Preview Tour (through February 2)

Enoshima Spa Getaway Tour

An interactive community 27



Tokyo’s famous steel tower celebrates five decades as a transmitter and tourist magnet this month, but what do the next 50 years hold in store for it. by Brett Bull

28 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Ayano Sato



it up after dark, it has captivated and inspired millions—a slender beacon of diffused orange rising 333 meters from the center of the metropolis. With couples coming up close to gaze and pilots steering clear of its tapering steel frame, Tokyo Tower indeed rules the night. To celebrate its 50th birthday this month, the tower will be dressed in a unique luminary gown. “People often say that Tokyo Tower looks like a classy lady in a skirt,” explains Motoko Ishii, president of Motoko Ishii Lighting Design, the company behind the lighting spectacle. “So I wanted to give her a 50th birthday present.” On display between December 1 and 25, this “Diamond Veil” design will be produced by 228 special lights inserted within the tower’s structure. Floodlights mounted along the top and bottom will provide a contrast to the beaded garment, rendering it afloat in the Tokyo night. The tower’s regular orange illumination, which was switched on for the first time in 1989, was also designed by Ishii. Crushed by Godzilla and featured in numerous forms of Japanese pop culture, the iconic radio and television transmitter—once a symbol of Japan’s postwar recovery—will celebrate its golden anniversary at a time when its future appears uncertain. Currently transmitting the signals of nine television stations, including the national public broadcaster NHK, as well as radio signals and digital TV broadcasts, the tower faces competition from a new, taller player to the north. A year ago, six broadcast companies concluded a contract in principle to use the Tower Sky Tree, now under construction in Sumida Ward. The 610-meter-tall tower, designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando and costing an estimated ¥50 billion to build, could render the landmark near Shiba Park obsolete. For now, the tower continues to attract thousands of visitors each year. Boarding elevators in the four-story Foot Town building, hemmed in between the tower’s four massive legs, tourists are whisked up to the two observatories, one at 120 meters above the ground, the other at 220 meters. From these two platforms, Tokyo’s urban sprawl opens up in all directions. The ritzy shopping district of Ginza is two kilometers to the east, with Tokyo Bay just beyond. In the opposite direction, Mount Fuji is visible on clear days. “Tokyo Tower has two faces,” says Kunio Ishii of Nippon Television City (NTC), the tower’s owner. “As well as accommodating tourists, it is our job to broadcast television signals to 13 million households without a problem.” While Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya and Kobe all boast towers,

Urban Legend 29

30 December 2008 iNTOUCH


none has been celebrated quite like Tokyo’s. Featured in tourism campaigns and used as a backdrop for the evening news on NHK, Tokyo Tower has become synonymous with Japan’s capital. On the big screen, it has been demolished multiple times, including most recently in the 2004 flick Godzilla: Final Wars, and used as a symbol of romance for a married Hitomi Kuroki and her much younger lover in the 2005 film Tokyo Tower. The popular “Doraemon” animation series featured the tower in many of its sequences, too. To keep it looking its best, the tower is painted every five years with 28,000 liters of white and orange paint, as dictated by Japan’s aviation code. The color scheme was put to the test in 2004 when a Thai Airways airliner bound for Haneda Airport flew within 200 meters of the tower. When NHK started regular broadcasting in 1953, it became necessary to build a transmitter. The architectural firm Nikken Sekkei Komu, under the direction of Waseda University’s Tachu Naito, designed a steel truss structure that rises up 250 meters from the two-meter-diameter concrete foundations for each of the tower’s legs to the base of the analog antenna, which makes up the final 83 meters. The design took into account both extreme earthquake and wind forces. The 1962 paper “Construction and Vibrational Characteristics of Tokyo Tower,” coauthored by Naito, notes that the tower was built to withstand a wind speed of 90 meters per second at its top, a velocity well in excess of the maximum speeds on record at the Japan Meteorological Agency at the time. Starting in 1957, hundreds of workers (one of whom was killed when a strong gust of wind blew him off the structure six months before its completion), using around 1.2 million rivets and 3,600 tons of steel, toiled at the tower site. Costing a then lofty ¥3 billion, Tokyo Tower gave the nation hope 13 years after it had been decimated.

“When it was completed,” says NTC’s Ishii, “the structure’s shape, rising up to the sky, was symbolic of Japan’s recovery following the conclusion of World War II.” Gado Sasaki, the chief priest of Senkoji Temple in nearby Kamiyacho, recalls eagerly attending the tower’s opening on December 23, 1958. “I went with two friends from this neighborhood,” says the 74-year-old, whose temple sits on a quiet backstreet in the tower’s shadow. “We took the stairs up to the observation deck. It was so crowded outside—the line for the elevator was probably three hours.” Destroyed in an American air raid in March 1945, Senkoji was rebuilt after the war and completed three months before Tokyo Tower. A photo album of Sasaki’s includes a black-and-white snap of his temple nearing completion, with Tokyo Tower rising up in the background. “Japanese people want the best,” Sasaki says. “Even though there was a steel shortage, we wanted our tower to be taller than the Eiffel Tower.” Although Tokyo Tower is taller than the Eiffel Tower by 10 meters, it weighs much less than the Paris landmark. This is largely due to the difference in construction materials. While the Eiffel is made of wrought iron, Tokyo Tower was built using lighter mild steel, a portion of which was sourced from 90 US Army tanks that had been damaged during the Korean War and sold for scrap. Aside from the addition of the second, higher observatory in 1967, the tower’s most dramatic modification was in 2003 when the inner structure was reinforced to make way for a digital transmission antenna and control room. Since the additional substantial weight could lead to unpredictable movement during a large earthquake,

The tower is a symbol of Tokyo, but it also has a bit of nostalgia attached to it.

Urban Legend 31

a suitable remedy had to be found. “The beauty of the tower is its shape,” says Hiroki Kunitsu, a structural engineer at Nikken Sekkei. “We were asked to maintain that shape.” Subsequently, overlapping steel plates were added around key supports, while dampers, which dissipate the effects of a quake, were installed at the base of the antenna. “Television broadcasts are going out 24 hours a day,” says Kunitsu. “Therefore, we could not add structural reinforcements to the antenna during its operation.” More than 150 million visitors have graced the tower’s observation decks, the uppermost of which requires an outlay of ¥1,420. But in recent years tall buildings have sprouted up throughout Tokyo to take a bit of the sheen off of Tokyo Tower. Just up the road, the business, residential and shopping complexes of Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown are both more than 230 meters tall. Other skyscrapers, some of which do not charge for entry to their viewing decks, also fill out the skyline in Shinjuku and nearby Shiodome. To compensate, NTC has been billing the tower as Tokyo’s “best landmark” and promoting it through its various illuminations and slew of young female celebrities. Revenue is obviously of serious concern for the tower’s owner, especially after it was forced to mortgage the tower and its land in 2000 to partially cover debts of ¥12.3 billion accrued from a failed golf course investment during the economic bubble of the 1980s. For the anniversary, the tower’s souvenir shops are peddling everything from Tokyo Tower pork sandwiches to honey in predictably shaped bottles. But even if such campaigns prove effective in Tokyo’s skyline battle, the tower might be running out of time as a practical transmitter. Japan’s broadcasters will switch from analog to entirely digital signals in July 2011. Planners feel that the Tokyo Sky Tree’s greater height will be able

32 December 2008 iNTOUCH

to substantially boost the broadcasting range over that of Tokyo Tower. NHK is one of the broadcasters set to move to the new tower, which will stand on land owned by Tobu Railway. “In recent years, skyscrapers in the 200-meter class have been built one after another in central Tokyo,” explains an NHK official, “and this trend appears to be one that will continue. Because the height of the transmitting antenna is around 250 meters at Tokyo Tower, an increase in shielding of the signal in the future is a concern.” NHK also feels that the Sky Tree’s wider broadcasting range will help in the expansion of One Seg, the mobile digital broadcasting technology. In spite of this looming redundancy, it is unlikely that Tokyo Tower will be dismantled anytime soon. After December 23, it will be eligible for designation as a cultural property, much like the towers of Nagoya and Osaka. The common perception is that the tower will persevere as a result of its intangible significance. Lighting designer Ishii uses Lily Franky’s bestselling autobiography, Tokyo Tower, to encapsulate the tower’s importance. The novel tells the story of a young man who comes to Tokyo from Kyushu. Realizing that the city is not the dreamland he thought it was, he finds comfort in the lights of Tokyo Tower as he reminisces about his hometown and mother. “The tower is a symbol of Tokyo,” says Ishii, “but it also has a bit of nostalgia attached to it. There are so many different kinds of people in Tokyo and each one of them will look up at the lights and find a different meaning.” ®

Tokyo Tower

Ayano Sato


Urban Legend 33

All exhibits in the Genkan Gallery are for sale and can be purchased by Membership card at the Member Services Desk.


Illustrators by Wendi Hailey

If words are the flesh and bones of a children’s storybook, then the illustrations are its heart and soul. Those bright, fanciful images seize young curiosities and beckon bedtime retellings, while the most impressive among them may be remembered for a lifetime. A selection of such works will charm Members of all ages this month during a show at the Genkan Gallery. “Hopefully these pictures will give the viewers a chance for a breather from their adult pursuits and concerns,” says artist Gregory Myers. “A little trip back to when life was fresher and less complicated.” A dozen members of the Tokyo chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) have amassed a collection diverse in styles, media, subject matter and inspiration. “Children’s book illustration, like all artwork, has the potential to display boundless imagination,” exhibitor Patrick Gannon says. “There’s nothing more fun than watching the characters and locations develop from scribbles in my sketchbook into people and creatures with true personality. After that, it’s amazing watching these characters react to the world I put them into.” Many of the illustrators say the vivid pages of childhood books have had a lasting impact on their work. “I still remember clearly the books I loved as a kid,” says illustrator Patrik Washburn. “I hope I can leave that kind of impression on someone someday. Hopefully, my work will evoke feelings of innocence, wonder or freedom.”

Exhibition December 1–14

Wine and Cheese Reception Monday, December 1 6:30–8 p.m. Adult Lobby Open to all Members Free

34 December 2008 iNTOUCH


Vietnamese Art:

From War to Peace by Fred Harris

Combining Eastern and Western influences, classic styles and exotic touches, Vietnamese contemporary art has soared to global renown in recent decades, capturing the interest of art lovers everywhere with its quality, innovation and affordability. An exhibition in the Genkan Gallery this month features examples of this new wave of expression alongside a number of battlefield drawings from the Vietnam War. The art in cities like Hanoi, Saigon and Hué is steeped in Western influences dating back to the days of French colonial rule. In 1925, the Indo-China Academy of Fine Art in Hanoi was opened under the direction of Victor Tardieu, a French painter and former pupil of Matisse and Renoir. Initially studying painting and sculpting techniques, students were later taught traditional Vietnamese art forms. As the war with the United States raged during the 1960s and ’70s, much of the country’s art became dedicated to social realism and propaganda. Local artists were limited to expressing their art under strenuous conditions and with almost no materials. But following the doi moi government reforms of 1986, a more relaxed attitude toward the economy and art was adopted, allowing artists to explore new areas. Five years later, the first exhibitions of modern Vietnamese art were held in Hong Kong and Singapore. Proceeds from this exhibition will go to the Dong Son Today Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young Vietnamese artists.


December 15–January 4

Wine and Cheese Reception Monday, December 15 6:30–8 p.m. Adult Lobby Open to all Members Free

Exhibitions of art 35

The Real Estate


36 December 2008 iNTOUCH

TALKING HEADS Elements of the current worldwide financial crisis echo Japan’s experiences of the 1980s and 1990s. During the country’s economic-bubble period, real estate prices skyrocketed, with prime spots in Tokyo’s Ginza district fetching more than $1.5 million per square meter by the end of the ’80s. The effects of the inevitable collapse of that bubble are still being felt today. Land prices in Tokyo, in particular, are a fraction of what they were in those heady days. What’s more, the emergence of a so-called “mini-bubble” in land prices in Japan was snuffed out by the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States, according to an Asahi Shimbun editorial in September. “Land prices in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya areas may have been on the rise these past few years, yet residential land prices only managed to return to the pre-bubble levels of the mid-1980s,” the newspaper stated. “Commercial land prices are still as low as late-1970s levels, before the second oil crisis hit.” Tetsujiro Hayashi is the president of Sohgo Housing, a real estate company based in Tokyo. iNTOUCH’s Nick Jones sat down with the Club Member to discuss the ups and downs of Japan’s property market. Excerpts:

Tetsujiro Hayashi

iNTOUCH: What is the state of the property market in Japan at the moment? Hayashi: It’s a terribly bad situation. If you look at the newly built condominium market, sales have been declining year on year, and 2008 will be worse than 2007. On top of that, the recent market crises in the United States and Europe have made market conditions here worse. And I think the situation will continue to get worse until next April or May. iNTOUCH: Why have sales slumped? Hayashi: Many young people are taking a wait-and-see approach with the market. iNTOUCH: Is this decline largely due to a drop-off in first-time buyers? Hayashi: Yes, of course. This is a little different from the US and Europe where people buy and sell, buy and sell. In Japan, property is not usually seen as an investment like that. So it’s mostly firsttime buyers who make up the market. Of course, retirees also sell their houses to buy condominiums after their children leave home. iNTOUCH: Why is property not seen so much as an investment by Japanese? Hayashi: Because Japanese are very, very conservative. Also, the Japanese property market is not so sophisticated in terms of securitization compared with the US or Europe. Recently the REIT [real estate investment trust] business has been increasing slowly. Basically, Japanese don’t tend to use land as an investment strategy.

iNTOUCH: Is this changing? Hayashi: Gradually, and mainly in the center of Tokyo because lots of foreigners have been coming into the market and introducing new ideas in the securitization business. iNTOUCH: Do you think that the kinds of problems that occurred in the US with regard to subprime loans could happen in Japan? Hayashi: In Japan, we don’t have that idea that everyone can own a house. That is one [aspect] of the American dream. But we had our own serious housing problem in 1998—not like the subprime crisis, but similar in nature. The bubble burst and the banks’ housing subsidiaries faced a serious problem. Since then, they haven’t lent money so easily. iNTOUCH: Currently, property prices in Tokyo are about 60 percent of 1991 prices. But according to a Mizuho Bank report, the top 5 percent of property is on average more expensive now. Why? Hayashi: These properties are in what we call the “platinum” or “diamond” areas—Minato, Meguro, Chiyoda. A lot of foreigners have come into this market and also foreign investors. But overall, prices in Japan are still going down. iNTOUCH: How do you see this market continuing next year? Hayashi: I think it will continue to decline, and toward the end of next summer or the autumn it should be close to [bottoming out]. But I think we will have another bubble in about 10 years. Nobody learns.

iNTOUCH: It seems now that women represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the property-buying market. Is this correct? Hayashi: Yes, because there are more working, single women now. This is a cultural and societal change. iNTOUCH: Turning to renting property, many foreigners are surprised at how much outlay is necessary when they first rent a place. Why must tenants provide so much in reikin [key money] and shikikin [deposit]? Hayashi: I think reikin is a very old Japanese system, but you see it less and less now. After World War II, demand for housing was greater than supply, so tenants paid money to their landlords for providing accommodation. The custom still exists, but recently contracts without key money are getting more common. Our company doesn’t take reikin. The deposit, meanwhile, is taken as collateral for default of payment and is also considered as a prepayment for the cost of redecorating the place. iNTOUCH: Most people typically sign a contract for two years, but then have to pay a fee to renew the contract. Why? Hayashi: The origin of this rollover fee is said to go back to when land prices were climbing considerably. The Land and House Lease Law protected tenants’ interests rather than those of landlords, and it was difficult to raise rents even when prices continued to go up. Landlords, therefore, started to charge rollover fees to cover those increases that were missed. ®

Member insights on Japan 37


Maketh the Man by Wendi Hailey

A recent trip back to Japan for one long-time Club Member turned into a nostalgia-infused journey back in time.


xpatriates spending time in Japan more often than not hope to conduct a bit of business, visit a few temples, catch a glimpse of a geisha and maybe sample a dish or two of unusual cuisine before returning home. But in his few years of calling the country home, Life Member Al Jones partied with Frank Sinatra, flew seaplanes, witnessed riots, survived typhoons and even let Marilyn Monroe sleep in his bed. Standing vividly among all those recollections of the middle of last century is his first visit to Tokyo American Club. He first visited the Club at its home in Marunouchi’s Naka 10 No. 8 Building in the fall of 1950. “You went up the stairs, and halfway up the stairs was this men’s bar,” recalls Jones, 84. “And you walked in the bar and here was this black-andwhite picture on the wall of the old guy with the hat on and beard, and the comments, ‘Horses! Women! Hell no! I was a foreign trader.’” A replica of that image—still used today as the logo of Traders’ Bar—hangs in Jones’ home in San Francisco, where he runs a food and tobacco business that had its beginning in Japan. “It’s a great picture,” he says. Another memento of that era is a framed bathmat,

38 December 2008 iNTOUCH

swiped by a departing comrade from his suite at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel. The mat is erroneously emblazoned with the words “Impelial Hotel.” Resting near the window of the Prince Park Tower Hotel during his most recent trip to Japan, Jones draws dates and names associated with his sojourns from the depths of his memory with little difficulty. His blue eyes turn sharp and merry as he shifts between chuckles and sighs recalling those bygone days. As a good-looking, 21-year-old Navy pilot, Jones touched down on Japanese soil at the end of World War II in 1945. He flew seaplanes as part of a squadron stationed in Okinawa. “Then we went to Sasebo [Nagasaki Prefecture] and anchored out quite a ways from the town with the ship and the squadron,” he says, “and we were there for about two weeks when we found out we were in the wrong fleet. We were supposed to have been in Hong Kong.” He returned to Japan five years later and paid his first visit to the Club before settling down with his newly wed American wife in Kobe, where he worked as a salesman. In 1952, the couple relocated to Tokyo’s Ogikubo neighborhood and joined the Club

Al Jones (left) with Roy Rutherford in the Club, 1952

that March. He was assigned the Membership number 886. Jones launched his own business venture the following year, visiting the Club nearly everyday to meet friends and colleagues for lunch and play gin rummy. Upon moving back to the United States in 1955, Jones shelled out $100 to become a lifetime Member. “It’s a great club, and over the years I’ve kept coming back here regularly,” he says. “Coming back to Japan and having the American Club has always been a thing of great pleasure.” On one memorable return trip in the early 1960s,hesawFrankSinatraplay ahalf-hourshow at a small club that followed his regular concert in Tokyo. After the performance, Jones bought the legendary crooner a whiskey and shared in his company and conversation through the late hours. A less fortunate acquaintance was ejected from the room by Sinatra for his excessive loquaciousness. “You didn’t argue with him,” Jones remembers. “He never entertained unless he entertained properly. Boy, could he sing. He liked ladies, too.” This summer, the veteran entrepreneur brought along his daughter and two granddaughters, the eldest of who was marking


her 18th birthday with travels to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone and a celebratory dinner at the Club. Long before suppertime, Jones already knew what he would be ordering for the occasion: cheeseburger, medium rare, no bun. He calls it matter-of-factly “the best hamburger in the world.” Through nearly six decades of visits to Tokyo, Jones has witnessed all but the very first of the Club’s sequence of relocations and renovations. Azabudai, he says, had a wonderful ambience. “I was in and out of town when the Club moved to Azabudai,” he recalls. “All of a sudden, it was there. It was lovely.” All the talk of Azabudai elicits one particular memory of watching the staff of the neighboring Soviet Embassy play volleyball one hot summer’s day. “I remember they had their suits and vests on—not the coats, but vests— and they loosened their ties and were playing volleyball in the heat,” he says. “We watched them and thought that was kind of fun.” Although Jones’ business pulled out of

Japan in 1983, it’s likely that personal history and the continuity of the Club have kept him coming back over the years. “I’ve been coming here since ’45, so I’ve seen a lot of changes,” he says. “I don’t know what else to say about the Club except all these years of coming here I’ve enjoyed it. And it’s been very well run. I’m amazed.” Jones keenly anticipates the opening of the new Club in Azabudai in the coming years. But, he admits, stepping on an airplane these days isn’t nearly as effortless as it was when he was a flier. “I’m getting a little old for traveling,” he says. However, if there’s one thing that can lure him back to this land that has given him so many cherished experiences (newlyweds Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe borrowed his permanently rented hotel suite in Fukuoka for one night during their honeymoon, incidentally), it may very well be a time-tested hamburger in the gleaming facilities of a newly built Club in Azabudai. ®

Al Jones

The journey back to Azabudai 39

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40 December 2008 iNTOUCH


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Services and benefits for Members 41






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Tokyo Car Club: Auto Sales and More When English counts, count on us! Auto sales and buying, service, export, shipping, shaken and more. Just call us. Tel: 03-3495-0393/090-8773-0907 E-mail: Reward: ¥10,000 discount on an ETC system

Nakashima Dental Office Cosmetic dentistry, cleaning, whitening, porcelain work , dentures, gum work, root canals. US-specialist level. Tel: 03-3479-2726 Reward: 10% discount on cash payment

Dow Jones Japan K.K. Get a fast take on today’s news with The Wall Street Journal “Anytime News Package.” Subscribe now and enjoy the exceptional reward below. Tel: 0120-440-971 E-mail: Reward: Free access to and 20% off standard subscription rate

United Dental Office Restorative, implant and cosmetic dentistry by US-trained and -licensed dentists. We treat adults and children. Tel: 03-5570-4334 Reward: 40% discount on home bleaching

TMT, Inc. Do you have people problems? TMT can help. Personnel policy consulting and executive search. Tel: 03-3261-6471 Reward: 50% off Thomas Nevins’ 2004 books

If you would like to advertise in this space, contact Miyuki Hagiwara at

sayonara Yukio & Akiko Abe Lynda & Michael Abshoff Mark & Corrine Bridgman Peter & Joanne Butterfield Michael Devlin & H Crystalyn Won

Koichiro & Mitsuko Ejiri Luis & Lina Gomez William & Jane Gray Blair & Mami Harrison Yoshitaka & Satoko Hata

Steven & Karine Hughes Tero Huopaniemi & Sun Jo Christopher Kerner & Mary Hickey Yiming Liang & Min Lu Albert & Marie Maass

Shuhei & Masae Hara Japan—Fulltime System Co., Ltd.

Bruce & Leigh de Broize South Africa—AIG Companies

Reto & Barbara Rentzmann Switzerland—UBS Securities Japan Ltd.

Rita Carrig & David Hunter United Kingdom—JP Morgan Chase Bank

Barry Kachanovsky & Lene Otzen Brazil—Neo Geo World Do Brasil

Kyle & Samantha Verplank United States—Shape Corporation

Ville Vaataja Finland—JP Morgan Chase Bank

Michael & Sally Roberts United States—Alcon Japan Ltd.

Yohei & Yu Nakamoto Japan—Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Julie & Takuya Fujishima United States—M. Co.

Dong Hee Kim South Korea—Boston Scientific Japan K.K.

Amelie Perrier & Dougal Robertson France—Nikko Citigroup Ltd.

Richard & Lizabel Poon Wayne Porritt Richard & Akiko Rapp Shinjiro & Shigemi Shimizu Steven & Jodie Skolnick

yokoso Richard & Susan Price United States—Allison Transmission Japan John & Sylvie McNeel United States—TBWA Hakuhodo International Michael & Mika Bell United States—Inter-Tel Japan, Inc. David & Shelly Sprague United States—General Motors Japan Ltd. C Douglas & Cathleen Fuge United States—Goldman Sachs (Japan) Holdings Ltd. James & Teresa Easterling United States—Corning Holding Japan G.K. Brett & Renae Nelson United States—Nu Skin Japan Taiichiro Kakutani Japan—Danisco Japan Ltd. Takao & Rie Kamiya Japan—Myer Corporation Ltd. Kimihiro & Michiko Hirosue Japan—Gojo Japan, Inc.

Daniel & Lisa Brand United Kingdom—Tullett Prebon (Japan) Ltd. Yasunori Kawatani Japan—Kawatani Dental Clinic William & Carrie Reepmeyer United States—PwC Advisory Co., Ltd. Aamer & Sameera Malik Pakistan—Abbott Laboratories Mary & Teruhiko Hisaoka Japan—International School of the Sacred Heart

42 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Todd & Merete Kropp United States—Ernst & Young Transaction Advisory Services Co., Ltd. Masahiro Yoshida Japan—Accenture Corporation Tsuyoshi & Rie Imai Japan—Ropes & Gray LLP John & Heidi Fallows Canada—Caterpillar Japan Ltd. Jonathan & Kimberly Fiorrello United States—Aozora Bank Ltd.

Masatoshi Nozaki Japan—NPO Japan Association for Performance Art John & Umarin Parrish United States—BGC Shoken Kaisha Ltd. Jiro & Ikuko Ozawa Japan—Kadoya Sesame Mills, Inc. Stefan & Jill Boll Germany—Abbott Laboratories Benoit & Marie Carfantan France—Hermes Japon Co., Ltd.

Carol-Ann Stewart Robby Swinnen & Danielle Galbraith Hidehiko Tashiro Didier & Marielle Tresarrieu Siddharth & Amrita Varma Alan & Shirley Woodhull

Glen & Donna Fauntleroy United States—Caterpillar Japan Ltd. Masanori & Minako Matsuda Japan—Rabo Bank Tokyo Branch Etsuko & Kashiwa Sato Japan—Samurai, Inc. Stuart Porter & Stacy Tran United Kingdom— PricewaterhouseCoopers Antony Ricolfi & Lynn Ricolfi-Tan France—Lafage Aso Cement Co., Ltd.


new member Dieter Haberl & Ginger Griggs Austria—Reebok Japan, Inc. Why did you decide to join the Club? “For us, TAC is a venerable yet modern institution in Tokyo— ideal for families and convenient for business. Furthermore, as the representative of an American brand, I consider it a must to be a Member. On top of that, the Club’s current location is very convenient for us personally.”

English Line

03-5573-8776 New and used cars sold Lease and finance Insurance Used cars bought Maintenance

First impressions last Our Stock

'06 Porsche Cayenne TurboS '06 BMW 325i Touring M-sports '06 Audi A6 3.2FSI Avant

6,000km 2,000km 19,000km

'06 Toyota Harrier Hybrid 13,000km '04 BMW X5 Sports package 20,000km '02 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Conv. 21,000km

and more...

English Navigation TAC

Open: 10 a.m.–7 p.m, Closed: Mondays #101 1-13-2 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-ku, TOKYO


Being a Member of Tokyo American Club allows you access to a network of more than 200 reciprocal clubs across the world.


Corpus Christi Town Club

East India Club

Location: Corpus Christi, Texas Founded: 1952 Members: 590 With its exquisite cuisine and breathtaking views of the nearby Corpus Christi Bay, this club was founded by 15 local businessmen in a three-story gambling grill. The present-day facility, located in the sleek Shoreline Plaza skyscraper, houses an elegant dining room, bar, meeting and private function rooms and library, as well as a public café at the Art Museum of South Texas, serving as an inviting haven to local community leaders, business executives and guests.

Location: London, England Founded: 1849 Members: 5,000 Overlooking St James’ Square in central London, this historic club was founded by the servants of the East India Company and commissioned officers of Her Majesty’s Army and Navy home on leave from distant lands. Today, it still serves as a sophisticated refuge and meeting place for its members, offering traditionally furnished rooms in which to relax, 66 generously equipped bedrooms, social events and such sporting pursuits as golf, snooker and cricket.

stacks of services at the Club

André Bernard Beauty Salon

Go Mobile Phone Rental



Hair care for adults and kids, manicure, pedicure, waxing and more. Tel: 03-4588-0685 Family Area (2F) Tue–Sun, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Need a rental mobile phone or help with translation? Want to find useful English mobile sites? Go Mobile—more than just a phone.

The Club’s professional shoe repair and polishing service. Tel: 03-4588-0670 Family Area (1F) Sun (and Sat till Dec 13), 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

English support for all your Toyota and Lexus needs. Available services: Q&A by e-mail; dealer visit assistance; and translation of estimates, contracts and other related documents.

For all your delivery needs, the express counter offers discounts to Members. Family Area (1F) Weekdays: 2–6 p.m.

44 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Employee of the Month—Thomas Shirota by Nick Jones


homas Shirota reaches for the photo stuck on the board in the Club’s security office. In the slightly worn snapshot, a beaming Shirota stands in the darkness, his forearms buried in the gills of a huge fish. After

describing how he battled to land the monstrous 25-kilogram silver carp for well over an hour, he explains the attraction of fishing. “I don’t just sit down, open a beer and have a picnic,” he says. “I’m always moving, watching the water.

Catching big fish on a light line and playing tugof-war with them is challenging.” While his passion for angling is obvious, the 50-year-old is equally enthusiastic about his job at the Club, which he hooked back in March 2007. “I give it my all,” he says of his position as a senior parking attendant. “I go out of my way. That’s what I enjoy—helping people.” It’s this dedication that earned him the Employee of the Month award for October. Born in Okinawa, Shirota grew up in Los Angeles. But it was while working as a welding and pipeline inspector in the aviation and oil industries that he was transferred to a place he now regards as utopia: Hawaii. “I would recommend it to anybody,” he says. “There’s something about the air. People are a lot happier there.” As he describes his daily ritual during the four years he lived in Honolulu, it’s easy to see why. Everyday after work Shirota would head to the beach to surf and take in the smoldering Pacific sunset. “I was having so much fun,” he says. “It was paradise, but I got burned out.” So in 1997, he headed to Japan. And while Hawaii is now nothing more than a set of Edenic memories, Shirota says his only regret is not finding out about the Club sooner. “If I’d have known about Tokyo American Club when I first got here,” he says, “I would have been an even happier camper.” ®

Employee of the Quarter

Etsuko Takasaki by Nick Jones

Etsuko Takasaki of the Club’s Human Resources Department nabbed the latest Employee of the Quarter award. “Unbelievable!” she says of the honor. A lover of Japan’s traditional arts and practitioner of ikebana, calligraphy and Japanese tea ceremony, she joined the Club in July 2006. ®

46 December 2008 iNTOUCH





Operation Hours

American Room



6–10 p.m.

Banquet Sales and Reservations



9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Beauty/Hair Salon



9 a.m–6 p.m.




9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Childcare Center


Mon–Thu Fri Sat Sun NH

9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 9 a.m.–9 p.m. 9 a.m.–9 p.m. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.




9 a.m.–6 p.m.




9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.




9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Fitness Center


Mon–Fri Weekend/NH

6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. 7:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

Food & Beverage Office



9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

Foreign Traders’ Bar


Mon–Thu/Eve of NH 12–11 p.m. Fri 12 p.m.–12 a.m. Weekend/NH 12–10 p.m.

Garden Café



7:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.


9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.


9 a.m.–9 p.m.


10 a.m.–9 p.m.

General Manager's Office 4588-0674 Library Logan Room

4588-0678 —

Membership Office


Mon–Fri Sat

9 a.m.–6 p.m. 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

Member Services Desk



7:30 a.m.–11 p.m.

Mixed Grille


Mon–Fri Weekend/NH

11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. 6–10 p.m. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

Pool Office



9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Mon–Fri Weekend/NH

6:30 a.m.–10 p.m. 7:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

Recreation Services Desk 4588-0681 Recreation Office



8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

Redevelopment Office

4588 0223 Mon–Fri

9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

Special Events

4588-0204 Mon–Fri

9 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

The Spa


Mon–Sat Sun/NH

10 a.m.–8 p.m. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Video Library



9 a.m.–9 p.m.



Mon–Fri Sat Sun/NH

9 a.m.–10 p.m. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. 10 a.m.–9 p.m.




9 a.m.–7 p.m.

Women's Group Office



9 a.m.–1 p.m.

Youth Activities



8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.

APARTMENT or HOUSE? Overseas Corporation believes that a comfortable home is essential for a fulfilling family life in Tokyo. Since our founding in 1953, we have met the housing needs of thousands of expats. With more than 14,000 residences in our database and years of know-how, our highly professional, bilingual team is well trained in locating the ideal home for our clients. As a leading international agent of high-end rental properties, including high-, mid- and low-rise luxury apartments and modern, spacious houses with gardens, we use our strong links with Tokyo’s major realtors and construction companies—some of which we are the sole agent for—to provide quality service to those in search of a haven of expression and comfort. If you’re moving to Tokyo, thinking about relocating in the city or are a human resources executive, call Overseas Corporation today.

OUR PREMISES FOR LEASE • From one- to six-bedroom properties in Akasaka, Roppongi, Azabu, Hiroo, Aoyama, Omotesando, Shibuya and many other expat residential areas for a range of budgets, from ¥200,000 to more than ¥3 million a month • Brand-new tower apartments with stunning city views • Luxury, high-rise apartment complexes, complete with swimming pool, gym, sauna, shops and restaurants • Superior quality high-, midand low-rise apartments • Exclusive designer apartments • Large, well laid-out residential houses with large gardens as well as moderate-sized and cozy houses in quiet areas • Fully furnished serviced apartments

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Club numbers to know 47

Yuuki Ide

The Iron

Hotelman by Burritt Sabin

Tomoaki Suzuki

48 December 2008 iNTOUCH


e tend to associate streaks with baseball—Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games or Lou Gehrig’s 2,130. But the combination of pride and grit that keeps ballplayers stepping up to the plate—in spite of aches and fatigue—can also be found off the field. Tomoaki Suzuki is a stellar example. Since joining the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama on May 5, 1949, Suzuki hasn’t missed a day of work. He’s never been late, either. A ballpark reckoning places his streak at 18,000 days. Cal and Lou: meet the “Iron Hotelman.” But it’s likely a unique set of circumstances and personal tragedies led to Suzuki’s starting work at the hotel in the first place. Filial responsibility also played a big part. During an evacuation to Hakone with his classmates in 1944, a visit back to Yokohama left Suzuki on one night dodging firebombs that destroyed his house and killed his grandmother. Then, after his father, who worked as an interpreter for the United States-led Occupation forces, dropped dead from a heart attack in 1948, Suzuki quit school to support his mother and younger siblings. But what jobs were there for a 16-year-old dropout in war-ravaged Japan? A member of the local PTA arranged for an introduction to Yuzo Nomura, the Hotel New Grand’s president. The hotel at the time had been converted into an officers’ club for the US Eighth Army, and Suzuki remembers the day he first set foot in the hotel and smelled the aromas of Western dishes wafting from the kitchen. His stomach growled. He decided to hitch his fortunes to the New Grand’s. He accepted Nomura’s offer of employment as a “hall boy.” Scrubbing floors, carrying luggage and doing other odd jobs, Suzuki and his colleagues worked long hours in an age without labor laws. The New Grand reopened as a hotel following the end of the occupation in 1952. Yet its operators continued to answer the phone in English, for, with the exception of the occasional local celebrity, guests hailed from abroad. Suzuki, 75, fondly recalls philanthropist Emily Mackenzie, the widow of the tea magnate Duncan Mackenzie, staying at the hotel on her way to the United States by ship. A large, genial woman with white, wavy hair like George Washington’s, she would travel from her Shizuoka Prefecture home with a tall wardrobe. During the 1950s, salesmen for the PX retail stores on US military bases made up a sizable chunk of the clientele. With their stacks of samples cases, they would arrive by taxi


from Haneda Airport. Then, using the hotel as their base, they would visit exchanges all across the Kanto region. In the early 1960s, Suzuki became good friends with another salesman, Charlie Brookman, who worked for a shoe manufacturer in Hong Kong. A budding artist, Suzuki presented Brookman with some of his comic drawings of Japan. Years later, after Brookman died, Suzuki learned from the Hong Kong Mandarin Hotel’s bartender that among the screens, Buddha statues and other Japanese memorabilia decorating Brookman’s apartment were his sketches. Other guests at the hotel included those overseeing the building of vessels at the nearby Mitsubishi shipyard, flight crews from Haneda Airport and those arriving in Yokohama on the many passenger ships. On sultry summer nights, guests would descend from their un-air-conditioned rooms to the expansive lobby, whose large windows were thrown open for the sea breeze. They would chat with desk clerk Suzuki, who, after midnight, would doff his jacket and loosen his tie. Some wanted tips on Kamakura sightseeing. Others asked for directions to yakitori restaurants and beer halls, while a handful inquired about the city’s fleshpots. And before he knew it, the sun would be rising over the harbor. Expo ’70 in Osaka, which drew hordes from overseas, was the hotel’s last cosmopolitan hurrah. From the early 1970s, according to Suzuki, Japanese accounted for a growing

proportion of guests. As the economy grew, so, too, did the Japanese hunger for all things Western, including hotels. But the transition to a domestic clientele was bumpy. Accustomed to traditional ryokan inns, Japanese guests requested kakebuton comforters and wooden buckets for bathing. They looked for squat toilets, wandered in their slippers through the lobby and locked themselves out of their rooms. Finally, the staff placed a Japaneselanguage primer on hotel use and etiquette in all of the rooms. Through almost 60 years of upheaval and change, Suzuki has worked—without missing a single day. In the pink of health, he only gave up long-distance running in his early 70s and still walks 20 kilometers every weekend. Just as important, he possesses a spirit steeled by early hardship and pride in his profession. As a young man, despite arriving home in the early hours after a night of escorting guests around the city’s entertainment spots, he would be at the front desk three hours later. A true hotelman would never call in sick, he says. He feels a debt of gratitude to the place that has provided him with a livelihood and career. As an adviser to the hotel’s board of directors, he repays that debt in the coin of experience. The streak continues. ® Hotel New Grand

A look at culture and society 49

Kanazawa City

Haven of Heritage by Catherine Shaw


town rivaled the best of Japan in cultural matters. Today, it is an important cultural haven best known for its exquisite silks, lacquerware and gold leaf. Amongst gourmands, it is often referred to as the culinary capital of Japan’s west coast. The city is unusual in having embraced modern life without losing its heritage appeal. It sports fascinating modern architecture, the most visually striking of which is Kanazawa Station, a vast glass dome featuring a 14meter-high wooden gate. Tameo Kobori, professor emeritus at Kanazawa University and the person responsible for the design of the station’s distinctive East Square, says the contemporary structure was intended to change the image of Kanazawa while still protecting its old-city elements. Houses in Kanazawa traditionally feature large roofs, a feature reflected in the glass dome, while aluminum alloy pipes and glass give it a modern twist. A tourist information center is conveniently situated inside. Another not-to-be-missed architectural gem is the 21st-century Museum of Contemporary Modern Art, with exhibitions that wouldn’t be out of place in the world’s leading galleries. The building is an intriguing low-level, white-toned circular structure with no discernable front or back and multiple entrances. It also contains a well-stocked library and children’s workshop and provides space for other creative pursuits, such as music, performing arts, dance and film. The museum café offers an excellent lunch buffet. Kanazawa is easy to navigate by bus or taxi, so stock up on ultrafresh sushi from the colorful Omicho Market and head for Kenrokuen Garden for a charming alfresco meal. The 10-hectare park took 150 years to complete and is a treasure trove of winding paths, traditional

Kanazawa City

ew weekend escapes from Tokyo offer such a satisfying combination of food, culture and relaxation, but a place just an hour’s flight from Tokyo brings you all three and much more. Located in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is one of the best destinations for a glimpse of “real” Japan. Lucky enough to escape bombing during World War II, most of the old town remains intact, offering an unbeatable experience of samurai mansions, beautifully preserved geisha districts, Edo-era architecture and one of Japan’s most famous landscape creations: Kenrokuen Garden. Kanazawa’s rich cultural heritage is largely thanks to infighting between various clans from the 15th century onwards. As influential families looked for land away from the power centers of Kyoto or Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the town offered a perfect compromise of culture at a distance—but not so far as to become inconsequential. During the Edo period, Kanazawa became the seat of the politically powerful Maeda clan, whose wealth ensured that the


50 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Kenrokuen Garden


One hour from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Komatsu Airport. Kanazawa is a 50-minute bus ride from the airport. About one hour, 15 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo Station to Echigo Yuzawa Station. Transfer to the Hakutaka limited express for the journey of two hours, 40 minutes to Kanazawa. Kenrokuen Garden


21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art Shiroganeya


Kanazawa Tourism Kanazawa City

Kanazawa City

ponds,,streams and ancient trees. It also includes fascinating historic structures like the Seisonkaku Villa, an elegant samurai estate built in the Edo period by a Maeda lord for his mother. Japanese garden aficionados will note that Kenrokuen combines the six essential attributes, according to Chinese theory, of “spaciousness, careful arrangement, seclusion, antiquity, elaborate use of water and scenic charm” required for the perfect garden. This is likely why it is regarded as one of the top three gardens in Japan, the other two being Korakuen in Okayama and Kairakuen in Mito. A short stroll away is Ishikawamon, a gate to the south entrance of the Maeda clan’s original castle that was destroyed by several fires. Part of the castle is currently being reconstructed and is well worth a visit. With so much to see and do, an overnight stay is highly recommended, and Shiroganeya, a luxurious traditional inn in nearby Kaga, is just the spot. The ryokan has an impeccable history. It was established in 1624 and quickly became the ryokan of choice for high-ranking samurai. The main building was designed by Sen Sosa, head of the Omote Senke family, one of Japan’s most esteemed tea ceremony schools. Shiroganeya was frequented by Princess Hisa of the Maeda family during the Edo period and became a favorite of artist and

potter Kitaoji Rosanjin in the early 1900s. Today it is designated as a tangible cultural asset. For pottery enthusiasts, Shiroganeya’s private collection of works by Rosanjin is a must-see. While steeped in history, the ryokan has been beautifully renovated to blend contemporary interior touches with Japan’s customary minimalist style. Service is quietly efficient and the friendly manager speaks good English. For travelers keen to try the famed Japanese tea ceremony in a tranquil setting, Shiroganeya has its own private teahouse with a tea master serving green tea and sweets each day. The service is complimentary for guests. Accommodation ranges from deeply traditional to modern. The best of the latter is the spacious Kaga Modern Suite, with its mountain views and a tatami living room that extends out onto an open terrace with a private, open-air wooden bath. The local waters are famed for their health benefits. Shiroganeya also has medium- and large-sized hot springs if you prefer a change from outdoor bathing. The elegant, Japanese-style dining room, with its shoji-screened private rooms, serves both Japanese and French cuisine. And for those in search of a little extra pampering after a day of exploring Kanazawa’s attractions, shiatsu foot massages and full-body oil massages are available. ®

Explorations beyond the Club 51

Halloween at the Club October 25 Plenty of tricks and treats were in store for more than 250 kids and their parents as the Club hosted an activity-packed Halloween celebration with spooky stories, face painting, games, candy, crafts, a haunted house, creepy creatures and more. Photos by Ken Katsurayama

(l–r) Mina and Ella Rosenthal and Anabell and Ariana Drayton

(l–r) Luke, Kara, Claire and Oliver Dimond

52 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Caragh O’Sullivan


Disaster Awareness Day October 26 From experiencing a simulated earthquake and escaping from a smoke house to practicing CPR and using fire extinguishers, around 45 families picked up some important disaster survival tips during this annual Women’s Group-sponsored event. Photos by Yuuki Ide

Snapshots from Club occasions 53

Kamakura Samurai Archery Tour October 4 The annual Kamakura yabusame equestrian archery contest has been held at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine since 1187, when it was established to hone the marksmanship of local samurai. Twenty-one Members on this Women’s Group tour witnessed the full spectacle from the front row, as archers, clad in ancient hunting costumes, shot arrows at fixed targets from atop galloping horses. Photos by Sandy Isaka

Toddler Time October 9 A group of tots and parents joined in a delightful session of crafts and storytelling during the Library’s Toddler Time, held every Tuesday and Thursday.

Katie Hollingshead

54 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Riya Rapp (right) and her two daughters, Ayana (left) and Maya


Tongue-Tied in Tokyo by Karen Pond Illustration by Akiko Saito


hink. Think. Think. I quickly tried to think of some of the other gifts my husband and I had received from Japanese shopkeepers or restaurant owners over the last two years. I looked at the wrapped package once again. Definitely too heavy to be dishware. Probably not a Snoopy mug. Definitely too big to be any kind of accessory. Probably not a cell phone strap. Definitely too bulky to be a promotional giveaway. Probably not a loyalty card. Definitely too lumpy to be a decoration. Probably not a pet hotel calendar.

56 December 2008 iNTOUCH

Could it be a bag of potatoes? Maybe a pumpkin? Think. Think. Think. What could it be? “Gift. For you,” said the Japanese chef in English as he presented the package to us. He appeared to be waiting for a reaction. Since this was one of our favorite local restaurants, I didn’t want to disappoint him. Unfortunately, I had no idea what the “gift” was. Think. Think. Think. “Oh, thank you, thank you,” my husband said to the chef. “Arigato gozaimasu.” Clearly my husband had figured it out. “Honey,” he said to me. “Congratulations! You are the recipient of a gift of beef tongue.” For the first time in my life, I was tongue-tied. Think. Think. Think. “Maybe,” I said to my husband later that evening as we both stared at the block of beef sitting on our kitchen counter, “it’s too special to eat. Maybe I’m supposed to wrap it up in washi paper or something. Or maybe I’m supposed to place it on our mantel next to our Hummel figurine.” “No,” he said. “We definitely need to cook it. And we should find a recipe fast. We probably can’t return to the restaurant until we’ve feasted on tongue. He will definitely want to know if we liked it.” I was left with two missions for the week ahead. I had until the following Saturday to serve an awesome tongue dinner. Plus, I had to figure out the custom for beef-tongue-gift-giving. Was it proper etiquette to show up at the restaurant with an equally kind and thoughtful present? Think. Think. Think. The chef’s expertise is cooking. He gave us a gift of food. My forte is writing. My offering, I thought, could be…a haiku poem: Oh sweet, beefy T You are not chicken, nor pork Oh, my precious tongue My poetry in a pot I have got your tongue But you have my heart, tonight Be a tasty treat In my covered kettle Boil and simmer Be a slice of goodness, please And, if not, my sweet Please, oh, please, pass the sake

毎 月 一 回 一 日 発 行 


第 四 十 三 巻 十 二 号 

ト ウ キ ョ ウ ア メ リ カ ン ク ラ ブ 

iNTOUCH December 2008

i N T O U C H

イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 〇 八 十 二 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

Festive Fifty

本 体 七 七 七 円

Tokyo Tower celebrates its golden anniversary

Issue 525 • December 2008

Gallic Greats

Cultural Cocktail

Hoop Dreams

A Club celebration of French fizz and renowned reds

Kanazawa blends old-world heritage with modern allure

One Member’s journey from teen novice to basketball pro

iNTOUCH Dec 2008  

Tokyo American Club's monthly Member magazine