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iNTOUCH December 2009
i N T O U C H
イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 〇 九 十 二 月 一 日 発 行
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
平 成 三 年 十 二 月 二 十 日 第 三 種 郵 便 物 許 可 定 価 八 ０ ０ 円 本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 537 • December 2009
Home for the Holidays
One Club Member and writer talks Japan’s urban extremes
The Club hosts a full month of seasonal celebrations
A snowy utopia awaits winter sports enthusiasts
recreation Member Adriana Ferraro discovers the playful side of fitness with the Club’s popular Zumba class, an international exercise sensation combining aerobics with Latin-infused dance moves. redevelopment
Men at Work With construction in Azabudai slated to wrap up in 12 short months, site workers divulge their personal trials and triumphs of the first 60 weeks on the project. inside japan
6 Board of Governors 7 Management
8 Food & Beverage
Crafting the Past
From its humble Asakusa workshop and warehouse, a 137-year-old Kabuki stage prop supplier masterfully revives the Edo era with its vast arsenal of authentic and replica collectibles.
16 Video Library
18 Committees 20 Recreation
24 Women's Group 28 Feature
34 Genkan Gallery
Paring Down the Packaging
36 Talking Heads
Japan has long placed a lofty value on artful aesthetics and utmost quality when it comes to ringing items through a register. Now facing a profusion of plastic bags and other wrappingrelated waste, iNTOUCH examines how manufacturers and consumers are being forced to rethink their penchant for over-packaged products.
40 Member Services 46 Inside Japan 48 Out & About 50 Event Roundup 56 Tokyo Moments
Editor Nick Jones
To advertise in iNTOUCH, contact Miyuki Hagiwara: email@example.com 03-4588-0976
Designers Ryan Mundt Jasmine Lai
For Membership information, contact Mari Hori: firstname.lastname@example.org 03-4588-0687 Tokyo American Club 4–25–46 Takanawa, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108–0074
www.tokyoamericanclub.org Cover photo by Ayano Sato
Production Assistant Yuko Shiroki Assistant Editor Wendi Hailey Design Assistant Miki Amano Communications Manager Matthew Roberts
Management Michael Bumgardner General Manager email@example.com
Shuji Hirakawa Human Resources Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Sexton Assistant General Manager email@example.com
Linda Joseph Administrative Services Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Lian Chang Information Technology Director email@example.com
Mutsuhiko Kumano Finance Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Darryl Dudley Engineering Director email@example.com
Michael Marlay Food & Beverage Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Alistair Gough Redevelopment Director email@example.com
Scott Yahiro Recreation Director firstname.lastname@example.org
iNTOUCH Magazine 006. 2009 � W : 118 mm x H : 257 mm
Getting in Touch Department/E-mail American Room
Banquet Sales and Reservations
Food & Beverage Office
Foreign Traders’ Bar
General Manager’s Office
Member Services Desk
Recreation Services Desk
Women’s Group Office
Youth Activities email@example.com
2 December 2009 iNTOUCH
Each year, almost without fail, the international media dust off and wheel out the story of Japan’s exorbitantly expensive watermelons. That is, of course, when the press are not reporting on the cuboid watermelons. These types of stories help fulfill two stereotypes: first, that everything in the country is extravagantly pricey and, second, that only those “wacky” Japanese would pay such sums for a fruit, be it funny-shaped or not. In fact, what should be reported is the way in which all the beautifully presented watermelons look eerily identical. Scan the fruit and vegetable section of any neighborhood supermarket and the trend becomes apparent. Appearance is everything for retailers in Japan and obtaining a perfect-looking display of pears, for example, requires weeding out those pears that don’t meet the stringent criteria for what a pear should look like. Supermarkets won’t accept any anomalies from Mother Nature here. Unfortunately, this quest for the classically flawless creates massive amounts of waste, Juan Pablo Campos, managing director of the Japan office of Daabon Organic, a producer of organic agricultural products, told me last year in an interview for iNTOUCH. “In fruits, the amount of waste that is generated to achieve that cosmetic perfection is enormous,” the Club Member said. “Waste from packaging, waste from the way in which retailers are distributing products to consumers and waste from appearance.” And if the fruit is being sold in a more upmarket store, then it will probably be displayed like an edible Russian doll, contained within multiple layers of plastic packaging. With environmental issues so prominent on the world agenda at the moment, how long can Japan keep up its obsession with the superficial? In this month’s cover story, “Paring Down the Packaging,” Ty Holland takes a look at Japan’s packaging waste problem, the results of its recycling efforts and what still needs to be done to ensure that the country doesn’t end up drowning in plastic. If you have any comments about anything you read in iNTOUCH, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, putting “Letter to the Editor” in the subject title of the mail.
contributors Ty Holland
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Ty Holland is a freelance reporter and editor who has worked in journalism for the past 20 years. After studying journalism and international relations at the University of Southern California, he reported for TV Guide magazine for nine years before moving to Tokyo in 2003. With writing interests ranging from business and politics to culture and religion, Holland turns his attention to Japan’s love affair with packaging to find out if the nation is ready to give up the plastic in this month’s cover story, “Paring Down the Packaging.” He recently celebrated two years of marital bliss, and counts travel and local cuisine among his many loves. Nobuko Hirata is a homemaker, mother, wife, amateur taiko drummer, Thai food lover and ardent fan of Japan’s traditional arts. (She has hosted two evenings with Kabuki actor Matsuya Onoe at the Club.) In this month’s Inside Japan on pages 46 to 47, she meets the talented craftsmen who help create the impressive array of authentic props for Kabuki performances and television period dramas. The Azabudai native and her husband have been Members of the Club since 1994. After finishing high school in Massachusetts, Hirata attended college in California. Her daughter, Kayoko, is currently a junior at Cornell University, New York, while her son, Shelley, is a sophomore at Salisbury School, Connecticut.
www.tokyoamericanclub.org For the latest Club news, schedule of events, class registration and more, check out the Tokyo American Club website. And remember, you can read this month’s iNTOUCH there, as well as previous issues, too. Words from the editor 3
1 What’s happening in
Toddler Time A friendly session of fun and engaging activities for preschoolers. 10:30 a.m. Flip to page 14 for more.
Family Christmas Dinner Show Youngsters help Rudolph and the lively cast of North Pole characters find his missing red blinker and sing along to reworked carols during this traditional Club event. 6 p.m. New York Suite.
Merry Pairings Add decadence to your winter evening with a Moët Champagne and caviar starter at the American Room. For this and other tantalizing seasonal offerings, check out pages 8 and 9.
Guest Chef Michael Newby in Mixed Grille Talented Australian chef Michael Newby takes a break from running Mimi’s, the Phoenix Hotel’s signature restaurant, in Hakuba to serve up inspired winter cuisine in Mixed Grille. Read more on page 10.
Christmas Shopping Extravaganza Tour Boasting more than 550 specialty stores, Aeon Lake Town is Japan’s newest and largest mall and a one-stop shopping paradise. Sign up for this Women’s Group tour at the Member Services Desk.
Sapporo Snow Festival Tour Registration Secure your spot early for this popular winter escape to take in the famed snow sculptures in Hokkaido and explore other fun seasonal attractions. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Visit with Santa Kids chat with jolly old Saint Nick and snap a keepsake photo when he makes an early appearance at the Club. 2 p.m. Flip to page 18 for more.
New Moms and Babies Get-Together Qualified nurse Ann Tanaka explains the ins and outs of the first years of motherhood at this informative Women’s Group session. 3:45–5:15 p.m. ¥2,000. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Christmas Party An afternoon of festive fun and games in the Gym for ages 5 to 8. 1 p.m. Get the scoop on page 23.
Fitness Challenge Members test their brawn at the Club’s first-ever Fitness Challenge, racing against the clock and their competitors to complete the most push-ups, situps and squats. Flip to page 23 for the lowdown.
Visit with Santa Kids chat with jolly old Saint Nick and snap a keepsake photo when he makes an early appearance at the Club. 2 p.m. Page 18 has more.
Women’s Group Office Closure The Women’s Group closes for the holidays and will reopen on Tuesday, January 5.
4 December 2009 iNTOUCH
Mixed Grille Christmas Specials The Club’s cozy eatery presents a scrumptious range of Christmas cuisine for lunch and dinner. For this and other holiday treats, flip to pages 8 and 9.
Yuletide Feast Spend Christmas gathered with family and friends around the table at this ever-popular all-you-can-eat holiday event at the Club. For this and other year-end offerings, turn to pages 8 and 9.
Times Square Countdown Brunch Families head to the Club for a special Times Square-style New Year’s Eve countdown at an early hour. The occasion includes games, music and entertainment for all. See pages 8 and 9 for this and other seasonal offerings.
Pampering Presents Pick up the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season with a customized gift certificate for a rejuvenating facial or massage treatment from The Spa. Details of this special offer are on page 23.
Seasonal Cellar Offerings For presents and party staples, visit The Cellar online and discover a cache of exclusive wine offers, including optional gift wrapping and delivery. Find out more about this and other offers on pages 8 and 9.
Season’s Eatings Savor an array of seasonal dining choices at the Club all month, from holiday-inspired tasting menus in the American Room to fresh-made deli treats at Garden Café. More on pages 8 and 9.
Deck the Halls Your next festive gathering should be stress-free. Let the Club’s experts cook up a bountiful meal and we’ll ensure a merry celebration—at the office or home—from start to finish. For details, flip to pages 8 and 9.
Gingerbread Factory Create your own confectioncovered gingerbread house during this fun, traditional activity for all ages. For details, read pages 8 and 9.
Artist’s Reception The Genkan Gallery unveils the impressive, increasingly rare woodblock prints of Kawase Hasui. Read more about Hasui’s inimitable depictions of nature and the revival of the genre on page 34.
Kids’ Spring Classes Registration Dive into a new hobby with a range of enjoyable programs, from basketball to creative crafts, slated for 2010. Check page 23 for more.
Toddler Time A friendly session of fun and engaging activities for preschoolers. 10:30 a.m. More on page 14.
Gingerbread Factory Create your own confectioncovered gingerbread house during this fun, traditional activity for all ages. For details, read pages 8 and 9.
Monthly Program: “Seasonal Sounds” A selection of winter classics will be performed by harpist Kaguya Kawasaki and flautist Yuki Saito at this intimate Women’s Group recital. Learn more about the prominent musicians on page 26.
New Year’s Eve Buffet Ahead of the big countdown parties, enjoy the final day of the year among familiar faces with a special all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner. For this and other holiday offerings, check out pages 8 and 9.
Christmas Toddler Time With December 25 just around the corner, preschoolers will enjoy Christmas songs, crafts, candy and stories. Discover more on page 14.
Taste Chappellet Preview A palate-pleasing preview of acclaimed hillside Napa winery Chappellet ahead of general manager Steve Tamburelli’s visit to Takanawa in April. Turn to page 11 for details.
Coming up in
Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour
Sumo Stable Tour
Enoshima Spa Tour
International Preschool and Kindergarten Fair
Noteworthy dates for the month 5
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
The Next Stage
of Club Evolution Board of Governors by Shizuo Daigoh
Lance Lee — President (2010) Tim Griffen — Vice President (2010) Jerry Rosenberg — Vice President (2009) Thomas Brown — Treasurer (2009)
joined Tokyo American Club in 1971. At that time, the Club’s American Members were mostly executives of large global companies, and I remember seeing many of them arriving at the Azabudai facilities in black, chauffeur-driven limousines. But, by 1974, Japan was suffering from the worldwide oil crisis that had struck the year before and the Club’s brand-new facilities were approaching completion, construction having started in 1972. When I recall that momentous stage in Club history, it seems almost fate that the Club should undergo its latest redevelopment during another period of global economic uncertainty. Before applying to join the Club, I was given the names and contact details of several Board members and advised to contact two of them directly to request an interview. As directed, I called two members of the Board. I remember the subsequent interview quite vividly. After I introduced myself, one of the interviewers, who was the president of a foreign-affiliated insurance company, handed me an English-language newspaper and asked me to choose any article I found interesting and read it out loud. Soon after, I was accepted as a Member of Tokyo American Club. I was still young at the time and felt even more so when among so many older, highly respectable Members at the Club. During this time, therefore, I had little inclination to join a committee and merely used the facilities. But eventually I did get involved in the running of the Club through the committee system. That was 35 years ago.
William Ireton (2010), Thomas Jordan (2009), Hiroyuki Kamano (2010), Per Knudsen (2010), Gerald McAlinn (2009), Jeffrey McNeill (2009), Amane Nakashima (2009), Brian Nelson (2010), Mary Saphin (2009), Mark Schwab (2010), Dan Thomas (2010), Ira Wolf (2009), Shizuo Daigoh — Statutory Auditor (2010), Barbara Hancock — Women’s Group President
The number of Japanese Members has drastically increased since I joined the Club. There are now around 1,500 Japanese Members, including about 340 senior Members. The average age of Members has changed, too. With more Members in their 40s or younger, the Club has had to carefully consider its facilities, services and even house rules to reflect these changing circumstances. The Club returns to its new home in Azabudai in 2011. The impressive, Pelli Clarke Pelli-designed premises will herald a fresh start for the Club and the beginning of an exciting, new era for the Membership. The Club is for all Members and I sincerely hope that more Members deepen their interest in the running of the Club for the sake of its growth and prosperity. With greater participation by Members, the Club’s future is sure to be even brighter. If you are keen to serve on a committee, please contact the chair of the relevant committee (a full list of committees and chairs can be referenced on page 18). I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year. o
Lance Lee, Yu Hayami and Hiroshi Nakajima
6 December 2009 iNTOUCH
by Wendi Hailey
More than 20 reporters and photographers gathered in Azabudai on October 15 for an hour-long press conference detailing Mitsubishi Estate’s Azabudai Parkhouse condominium complex, which will sit adjacent to the new Club facilities in Azabudai. Club President Lance Lee, Redevelopment Director Alistair Gough and Hiroshi Nakajima, senior executive of Mitsubishi Estate, discussed the project along with the Club’s history and modern vision. Local celebrity and long-time Club Member Yu Hayami hosted an informal question-and-answer session about the benefits of being a Member of the Club. Afterward, journalists were invited to view an interactive model of the development at the Parkhouse Gallery in Roppongi. On site, progress on the basement levels rose toward ground level through October and November. “Mainly, we were still working on assembling reinforcing steel, forming and pouring concrete all over the place,” says site supervisor Ryota Sekiguchi, adding that last month the crew began to “disassemble the working platform and prepare the aboveground structure.” o
Ruminations by Michael Bumgardner Michael Bumgardner General Manager
s we start the holiday season that will bring 2009 to a close, it is worthwhile reflecting on all the accomplishments of the last year and being thankful for our bountiful lives. When looking at all the problems in the world, from natural disasters to swine flu to the global economic downturn, it’s apparent that we are somewhat sheltered in our relatively safe environment in Tokyo. Throughout the year, the Club has continued to support many charitable organizations and activities, particularly through the efforts of the Women’s Group. During this festive period, when we renew our faith and give thanks, it is gratifying to know that our Membership has been so generous, in spite of the many challenges we have faced over the year. With 2009 winding down, we start the long-awaited countdown to the move back to our new facilities in Azabudai. Next year will be our last at our temporary home here in beautiful Takanawa. The holiday season in 2010 should be one of joyous excitement as we prepare for the relocation. Despite the hurdles of the last few years, the Redevelopment Project is on schedule and within budget. And since it is fully financed, with funding in place, it is unaffected by the decline in Membership due to the recession. Much more imminent than the return to Azabudai is the warmth of the holiday season that helps to take the nip out of the chilly winter weather. The Club, adorned in its finest seasonal livery, provides the perfect setting for a packed calendar of holiday
events. From Santa’s visits to the annual Family Christmas Dinner Show to holiday buffets, check out the full array of offerings for the month on pages 4 and 5. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those volunteers who help with the coordination of our many year-end activities. Besides the obvious seasonal celebrations, December is dominated by company end-of-year bonenkai parties, followed by shinnenkai celebrations in the New Year. If you need just the right place to host your company’s party, look no further than your Club. Our new banquet packages offer the best value in town, and bringing non-Members to your Club is always a treat for guests. If you are planning to host an event at home or the office, our catering staff can handle any request. Call our Banquet Sales and Reservations team at 03-4588-0977 to find out how we can help. For those of you traveling to spend the holidays with friends and family, we wish you a safe and memorable trip and look forward to your return in the New Year. Those of you spending the holidays here in Tokyo should be sure to take note of the Club’s holiday operating hours, which are posted around the facility. On behalf of the entire Club management and staff, we wish you a very happy holiday season. o
Executive remarks 7
An unforgettable medley of Moët & Chandon Champagne, sevruga caviar and American Room ambience adds decadence to any winter night. Indulge in an exquisite starter for two—the perfect prelude to the holidays.
Families and friends sit down to an all-you-can-eat spread of succulent turkey and other seasonal fare within the warm, cheerful atmosphere of the Club.
Champagne and Caviar December 1–24 6–10 p.m. American Room ¥10,000 Reserve at 03-4588-0675
Season’s Eatings With Jack Frost nipping outside, step in from the cold and savor an array of festive dining choices at the Club. All month long, American Room chef Nobukazu Toyama creates three holiday-inspired tasting menus, while Garden Café dishes up an assortment of freshly made deli treats. And from December 24 to 26, Mixed Grille will present its own delectable range of Christmas specials.
8 December 2009 iNTOUCH
Christmas at the Club Friday, December 25 Brunch: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner: 5–9 p.m. New York Suite and American Room Adults: ¥7,000 (includes all-you-can-drink Champagne)
Juniors (7–19 years): ¥3,250 Children (3–6 years): ¥1,500 Infants (2 and under): free Call 03-4588-0977 to reserve
Seasonal Cellar Offerings The Cellar features special year-end offerings on a selection of topnotch wines, ideal as presents (optional gift boxes are available) or party provisions. Check the Wine section of the Club website for details.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Gingerbread Factory Build your own gingerbread house and decorate it with icing and colorful confections at this popular holiday event. Hot cocoa and cookies will be served up to inspire creativity and good cheer in all ages. December 5–6 and 12–13 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Banquet Rooms ¥3,675 Sign up at the Member Services Desk
countdown in the style of New York’s famed Times Square. Music, games, party favors and entertainment for the whole family will be part of this unforgettable celebration. Thursday, December 31 Brunch: 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. New York Suite and American Room Adults: ¥7,000 (includes all-you-can-drink Champagne)
Juniors (7–19 years): ¥3,750 Children (3–6 years): ¥1,500 Infants (2 and under): free Call 03-4588-0977 to reserve
New Year’s Eve Buffet
Deck the Halls Don’t spend your festive gathering toiling away in the kitchen. The Club will ensure a merry celebration at the office or home—and even take care of the cleanup. Call the Club’s catering team at 03-4588-0307 to arrange for your fully catered seasonal lunch or dinner throughout the month of December.
Times Square Countdown Brunch A favorite American tradition becomes a one-of-a-kind experience when Members head to the Club to enjoy an early, private New Year’s Eve
Before the clock ticks toward midnight and revelers scatter across the city, bid farewell to 2009 among familiar faces with the Club’s traditional Sunday dinner on a special day. Thursday, December 31 Dinner: 5–9 p.m. New York Suite and American Room Adults: ¥6,000 (includes all-you-can-drink Champagne)/¥5,000 (includes one glass of Champagne)
Juniors (7–19 years): ¥2,750 Children (3–6 years): ¥1,500 Infants (2 and under): free Call 03-4588-0977 to reserve
Wines of the Month Red Hahn Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Central Coast, California This wine’s deep plum hues open with aromas of vanilla spice, followed by cocoa and cinnamon. Ripe red fruit notes with intense blackberry flavors are carried through by bold tannins and balanced acidity. This is a Cab that would pair naturally with roasted meats.
White Hahn Estates Chardonnay 2007, Provence, Monterey, California The most complete Chardonnay to date from Hahn Estates, this blend of barrel- and tank-fermented juice combines for a lush palate of tropical fruits and green apple that finishes with crisp acidity. This white would work well with seafood.
Bottle: ¥4,000 Glass: ¥800
Club wining and dining
Alpine Epicure by Nick Jones
he Club might not have the snowcapped mountain views and on-thedoorstep skiing opportunities that guest chef Michael Newby is normally used to, but it does boast a Membership that enjoys good food. That alone should be enough to excite the talented Australian when he fires up the stoves in the kitchens of Mixed Grille this month. For three days only, Newby will be working with Mixed Grille’s own band of skilled chefs to produce an array of local produce-packed, seasonally inspired dishes for lunch and dinner. “I look forward to the excitement and new challenges that cooking in Japan entails,” he says, “and invite you to
10 December 2009 iNTOUCH
a wonderful time at Tokyo American Club for fine food and wine and a few laughs.” Currently the head chef at Mimi’s, the signature restaurant of the boutique Phoenix Hotel in Nagano Prefecture’s winter sports mecca of Hakuba Valley, Newby, 29, spends the other half of each year at the acclaimed Summit Ridge Alpine restaurant in Falls Creek, Victoria. It is there that he has earned a reputation for producing innovative cuisine, picking up The Age Good Food Guide’s best alpine restaurant award along the way. One 2007 review of Australian ski resort fare in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper left no doubt as to why Summit Ridge was the place to dine: “Summit Ridge in Falls Creek wins awards for a reason. Two words: Michael Newby.” Mastering his culinary craft more than a decade ago at the Tincat Café in South Australia, Newby took over the running of the family-owned restaurant’s kitchen before moving to Falls Creek. Between Australian winters, he has also worked at the stylish Bearfoot Bistro in the famed
Canadian ski resort town of Whistler. “Using traditional cooking methods, whilst incorporating Japan’s unique and diverse produce, I have been able to create honest, flavorsome cuisine, with some subtle reminders of home,” Newby says of his work at Mimi’s. And it’s this same approach that diners in Mixed Grille can expect to experience this December— without having to venture to Nagano’s wintery landscape first. ®
Guest Chef Michael Newby in Mixed Grille December 2–4 Lunch and dinner Mixed Grille Reserve at 03-4588-0676
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Elevated Tastes by Wendi Hailey
ade from grapes grown on a rugged perch rising an average 450 meters above sea level, Chappellet’s offerings are not your run-ofthe-mill Napa Valley wines. The unusual locale has churned out vintages annually acclaimed by critics and coveted by collectors for more than four decades. “The vines really struggle to grow here as water and soil nutrition are at a premium,” says the winery’s general manager, Steve Tamburelli, who will host a wine dinner at the Club in April. “From this struggle, we get grapes that are small and very intense in terms of flavor and color. This leads to a lot of concentration in the wines.”
The winery has occupied the steep slopes of Pritchard Hill since 1967, when Donn and Molly Chappellet planted their first vines. The cooler climate from the lofty altitude and proximity to the ocean keeps the grapes on the vines for a slightly extended period, allowing them to develop startling complexity, depth of flavor and acidity. The upshot is “wines of power and finesse, hallmarks of the world’s great Cabernets,” says Tamburelli, 47. Members unwilling to wait until spring to get their hands on Chappellet’s muchtalked-about varietals can whet their palates this month at a special preview that will feature the 2006 Signature
Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points from Wine Spectator) and 2006 Pritchard Hill Cabernet (96 points) and include the chance to win a bottle of superlative wine made at great heights. ®
Taste Chappellet Preview Friday, December 18 6 p.m. Vineyards ¥1,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
Tour de Vin Monday, November 23 7 p.m. Vineyards, New York Suite and American Room ¥15,000 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
Club wining and dining 11
Illustration by Akashiro Miyu
Akiba Almanac As Japanese pop culture continues to grow in popularity across the world, the author of The Otaku Encyclopedia, Patrick W Galbraith, explains the rise of the manga- and anime-obsessed otaku. 1 December 2009 iNTOUCH
curious phenomenon occurred in Japan in the 1990s. A group of people referred to as otaku was raised up as both an example of Japan’s sociocultural degeneration and as the next stage in human evolution. There were those who saw these fans of anime, manga and video games, who often take their interests to extremes, as infantile, individualistic and peculiar. Many feared that they represented something dangerous, pointing to the grisly case of Tsutomu Miyazaki, who killed four young girls in the late 1980s and was branded the “Otaku Murderer” after a huge collection of videos, including some anime, was found in his room. Otaku proponents, including writer and anime producer Toshio “The King of Otaku” Okada, meanwhile, claimed that otaku had developed new ways to view media and interact with technology, both inevitable steps toward the future. I hadn’t an inkling about any of this when I first visited Akihabara, Tokyo’s otaku mecca, in 2004. The area boasts hundreds of shops specializing in computers and electronics, but many closed in the recessionary 1990s, making room for niche stores dealing in anime. Computers and anime came together in bishojo (girl) games, where players simulate dating or sex. Among the stock characters is the maid, now at the center of a genre of entertainment cafés peppered throughout the area. In Akihabara, fantasy characters appear as figurines, emblazon “hugging pillows” and decorate itasha hotrods. Fans “cosplay” (costume role-play) favorite characters or produce their own manga, placing the characters in unintended—and often pornographic—relationships. All of this is done in the pursuit of a euphoric feeling known as moe. I was there among them, blithely calling myself an otaku. The word otaku, though, like the place Akihabara, was a confusing blur. As Akihabara became conspicuously more otaku, it attracted fans of animation, comic books and video games from across Japan and overseas. The government latched onto this trend and launched a campaign to redevelop the area. At the same time, the Japanese media began to rehabilitate the otaku image, and a drama about a romance between a career woman and an otaku was broadcast on primetime TV. Otaku started acting out on the streets of Akihabara and a media circus ensued, though each was perhaps in part responsible for the other. In the midst of all of this, I began to offer
LIBRARY mean an expert on Japanese pop culture. It even appeared untranslated on the cover of Wired magazine’s first issue in 1993. This positive image abroad was partially replicated in Japan a few years ago. Later, that image was broken down further into past
Courtesy of Kodansha International
a tour of Akihabara in 2007. This was part of my ongoing research of otaku and impetus to my book, The Otaku Encyclopedia. Otaku were in a state of flux: on the one hand, they were part of the internationally branded “cool Japan” image, but, at the same time, they represented a locally misunderstood subculture. While otaku have become one of the most discussed aspects of contemporary Japanese culture, the parameters of that discussion have been almost entirely constructed by the media. And the media tends toward stereotypes. Journalist Akio Nakamori, who first used the term “otaku” to describe anime and manga fans in a 1983 article, used the word to cast out those he thought weren’t part of the “new breed” of Japanese coming of age since the 1970s. Similarly, the country ostracized otaku following the widespread media association with the sociopath Miyazaki. Meanwhile, in the United States, the word otaku was circulating in sci-fi conventions to
otaku (bad) and current otaku (good). No wonder I had had problems understanding this obscure world back in 2004. Today, there are no fewer than five ways to say otaku. In Chinese characters, the word simply means “you.” In the hiragana script, otaku indicates a subculture that came of age in the 1980s, while in roman letters it means the overseas variant. When
written in katakana, the term has a certain coolness or international flavor to it. Finally, “wotaku” is the new generation of otaku that rejects all these labels. These otaku are often the ones found in Akihabara and so play a big part in how otaku are perceived. Their sometimes bizarre behavior in pursuit of moe is a constant source of friction, and Okada has even declared these otaku as culturally “dead.” Otaku are more visible and widespread than ever before, but the image is increasingly schizophrenic. With The Otaku Encyclopedia, I wanted to capture the complexity of otaku and convey it in an understandable, entertaining way. Through explanations, comparisons and interviews, I hope to incite greater discussion and a deeper understanding of this often-misunderstood aspect of modern Japanese culture. ® The Library stocks The Otaku Encyclopedia.
Literary gems at the Library 1
Paulo Coelho by Katherine Forelle
aulo Coelho spent much of his early life struggling to fulfill his dream of becoming a writer. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he was placed in a psychiatric hospital three times (and escaped three times) as a teenager because his parents misinterpreted his rebellious nature for mental illness. His non-conformist streak continued when he dropped out of law school to become a hippie and travel around the world. Finally returning home, he forged a career as a songwriter, but was imprisoned and tortured in 1974 by the military government, which saw Coelho’s lyrics as left-wing and subversive. Despite his success in music, Coelho was still not entirely satisfied. In 1986, he walked the more than 800 kilometers of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, a medieval pilgrimage route in northern Spain. It was to become a pivotal event in his life. He wrote The Pilgrimage the following year, but it was his fourth book, The Alchemist (1988), that earned him international recognition and success. To date, The Alchemist has sold more than 65 million copies in more than 150 countries, making it one of the all-time bestselling books. It has also been translated into dozens of languages. Celebrated as a modern classic, this moving and inspirational fable is about a daydreaming shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his native Spain to Egypt on a journey of enlightenment and
self-discovery. “The Alchemist is a metaphor of my own life,” Coelho said in an interview with the BBC in 2004. “It was written in ’88, and in that moment I was also very happy in the things I was doing… but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer.” Coelho, 62, has written 26 books. He and his wife divide their time between Brazil and Europe. ® The Library stocks The Alchemist, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept (1994), The Fifth Mountain (1996), Veronika Decides to Die (1998), Eleven Minutes (2003) and The Zahir (2005).
kid s' co rn e r
a preview of what’s on for the Club’s young, inquiring minds
Christmas Toddler Time by Keiko Yajima
Toddler Time Join this friendly session of fun and engaging activities for preschoolers. Tuesday, December 1, and Tuesday, December 8 10:30 a.m. Library Free
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With Christmas just around the corner, we’ll be ratcheting up the excitement levels at two activity-packed Toddler Time sessions of festive fun this month. Preschoolers will enjoy seasonal songs, crafts, yuletide candy and Christmas stories, including Karma Wilson’s Bear Stays Up for Christmas, a heartwarming tale of friendship and kindness—just right for the holiday season. Come and join this entertaining session of year-end merriment. Friday, December 18 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Library Free
reads Guide to International Schools in Japan by Caroline Pover This guide is an indispensable companion for anyone looking at international schooling options in Japan. It provides detailed information, including everything from class sizes and student nationalities to school philosophies and fees, on more than 100 schools across the country. (SN)
That Mad Ache/Translator, Trader by Françoise Sagan (translated by Douglas R Hofstadter ) Hold this book one way and you have a beautiful translation of Sagan’s delightful novel, La Chamade, set in high-society Paris in the 1960s. Turn it around and the American translator of the novel reflects on the oftenunderappreciated art of translating. (SN)
Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation by Michael Zielenziger American former newspaper correspondent Zielenziger sets out to explore some of Japan’s troubling sociological phenomena, including “parasite singles” and the country’s thousands of hikikomori—young Japanese who, for a variety of reasons, withdraw to their rooms and worlds of isolation. (SN)
The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman by Takuan Soho (translated by William Scott Wilson) This examination of the mind through Zen Buddhism by a 16th-century monk of the Rinzai sect brings together spirituality and martial arts. These teachings survive today as distilled Zen tenets for everyday life. (CM)
The Cardio-Free Diet by Jim Karas Here is a program that emphasizes strength training to boost your metabolism, build lean muscles and achieve the same heart-healthy benefits of a cardio workout. By following this program for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week, you can look and feel noticeably thinner and stronger. (LC)
In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Dr Laura Schlessinger Rather than another take on the stay-at-home versus go-to-work debate for mothers, this book was written to accompany stay-at-home moms through the good times and bad. Moms learn to see the benefits of being home not only for their children, but also for a stronger family. (LC)
Reviews compiled by Library Committee member Sophie Narayan, former member Laura Charron and librarian Charles Morris.
member’s choice Member: Roni Ohara Title: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
What’s the book about?
Set in Chile, The House of the Spirits chronicles the lives of three generations of the Trueba family through political turmoil, social transformation and family reconciliation.
What did you like about it?
I liked everything about it, from the descriptive detail of life in the city and countryside to the way in which the different relationships between classes and family members are portrayed.
Why did you choose it?
Because I love Allende’s prose and the historical settings of her books.
What other books would you recommend?
I would recommend another of Isabel Allende’s books, Zorro, a novel that reveals how Diego de la Vega first became the famous masked hero.
Literary gems at the Library 15
Made in Ancient China by Lisbeth Pentelius
ig and entertaining, the two-part Red Cliff is this year’s Chinese blockbuster of choice. Too epic in scope to be contained in one film, the historical saga by director John Woo ignites as power-lusting Chancellor Cao Cao and the emperor’s million-man army storm into battle with hopelessly outmatched forces from two rival kingdoms, led by righteous strategist Zhou Yu. In the final days of the Han Dynasty in third-century China, this unprecedented clash of intellect and brawn unfolded over the course of numerous battles on land and at sea that brought together unlikely alliances and wreaked widespread havoc. The feud culminated in the battle of Red Cliff, where more than 2,000 ships were burned and the history of China was altered forever. Actors Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro are convincing in the lead roles as they grapple with authority, honor and brotherhood in this cinematic adaptation of actual events. Political themes are widely eschewed for personal ones by Woo, and warfare becomes an unfortunate but necessary means to becoming a man and fulfilling your destiny. The 280-minute film is not as compelling as it is merely large, with lavish cinematography, well-choreographed battlefield scenes, big-name stars and Woo’s signature romantic filter. The stylized effects are delivered through the use of striking music, slow-motion, freeze frames and other standard Woo techniques (yes, the doves are back), but, in the end, he assembles a spectacle that’s respectable and absolutely worth a watch. After a string of muted Hollywood movies (The Replacement Killers, Once a Thief), Woo has returned to his much-admired method of directing with this Cantonese-language flick. The payoff—including rave reviews and box-office riches—will hopefully propel Woo’s Asian film return to sky-high levels. ® The Video Library stocks Red Cliff and Red Cliff 2.
s e r i e s
by Lisbeth Pentelius
Started in 2001 as a teenage tale of Clark Kent’s pre-Superman days, “Smallville” has matured over nearly nine seasons into a sophisticated, adult-oriented action series. The Kansas town where Kent (Tom Welling) grew up is a hotbed of odd occurrences that started with a meteor shower and his arrival inside a spaceship in 1989. Over the first four seasons, Kent begins to develop his abnormal powers, learns to harness them for good and tries to keep them secret while coping with typical high school issues. His friend and future nemesis Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) slowly creeps toward duplicity, the two girls in his life, Chloe and Lana, create a tangle of problems, and Kent makes a number of astonishing rescues that arouse suspicion among Smallville’s residents. Post-graduation, the show ventures into more adult territory, eventually settling on Kent’s career as a newspaperman at the Daily Planet as he surreptitiously defends Metropolis against evil. An assortment of DC Comic superheroes and villains, including Metallo, Zod and Speedy, and go-getting reporter Lois Lane (Erica Durance) add plenty of grownup drama as Kent struggles with his identity and ultimately dons the iconic “S” across his chest. ® The Video Library stocks seasons one through eight of “Smallville.”
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give it a go
This movie spin-off of the 1970s kids’ TV series of the same name, starring Will Ferrell as Dr Rick Marshall, a washed-up scientist who ends up in a world of strange beasts and dinosaurs, was simply torture for me to watch. It’s just too long.
This movie is about the personal journeys of several different people as they deal with such pivotal events as breast cancer and postnatal depression and relationships. While the first half is engrossing (Charlize Theron is very good), the latter half is predictable. Better editing would have helped.
Written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga, who also wrote Babel and 21 Grams, this film follows the story of Sylvia (Charlize Theron), a young restaurant manager in Oregon, as she is plunged into a journey into her past. An intriguing storyline and filmmaking style and interweaving tales make for an appealing movie.
There is no point analyzing what this film says about relationships and what they mean for men and women, but it is a fast-paced and funny flick with some sentimental parts. The protagonists (Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler) do a nice job of setting aside the seriousness of life.
Katherine Heigl plays Abby Richter, a TV producer on the lookout for Mr Right. What she ends up with is a chauvinistic colleague in the form of TV personality Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler). Given the quality of these two actors, I had high expectations for this movie. They could have done better.
This hope-infused film depicts the effects of the death of a child on a family. Cameron Diaz’s performance as a desperate and overprotective mother is excellent, as is that of Sofia Vassileva, who plays her cancer-stricken daughter, Kate, trying to keep the family strong in the face of tragedy.
A wonderful performance by Sofia Vassilieva as Kate Fitzgerald, a young girl dying of leukemia, whose younger sister, Anna (Abigail Breslin), hires a lawyer to resist her family’s request to donate her kidney to Kate. Based on the novel by Jodi Picoult.
smokin' give it a go abort
She is Yuko Akisato, manager of the Video Library.
Similar in tone and pace to The Mummy, this hilarious film starring Will Ferrell and Danny McBride is sure to be a hit with comedy fans. Ferrell, as a crackpot scientist, and McBride, his redneck sidekick, are a great match as they travel back in time accompanied by a brainy Brit (Anna Friel).
He is Club President Lance Lee.
new titles Comedy
Four Christmases One cheerless couple (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) pay the requisite yuletide visits to their dysfunctional, broken families in this star-studded seasonal flick. Funny People This Judd Apatow film finds a terminally ill veteran stand-up comedian (Adam Sandler) steering a rising comic (Seth Rogen) toward success as a final token of amity.
Some restrictions apply. Ask for details.
Brüno Nimble-tongued comic Sacha Baron Cohen (2006’s Borat) masquerades as a provocative Austrian fashionista who sashays his way across an unsuspecting America. The Maiden Heist Three museum security guards (Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken and William H Macy) plot to steal the artworks that have secretly mesmerized them for years before the objects’ imminent removal.
Drama Is Anybody There? A lonely 10-year-old boy befriends a cantankerous former magician at a retirement home run by his parents in 1980s coastal England.
Suspense Angels & Demons Tom Hanks resurfaces in this follow-up to the Da Vinci Code as resourceful “symbologist” Robert Langdon, breathlessly rushing to thwart a terrorist act against the Vatican.
• Laser hair removal • Botox • Restylane • Retin-A • Liposuction, Eye, Nose, Breast, Facelift, Tummy Tuck • Laser (Titan, Genesis, Hair Removal, Tattoo, IPL) • Men’s (ED, AGA)
Documentary Food, Inc. An enthralling yet alarming exposé on America’s corporate-led food industry that guarantees viewers will “never look at dinner the same way again.”
Family Up In this delightful, imaginative romp from Disney-Pixar, a silverhaired inventor and dreamy-eyed young stowaway drift skyward with the help of thousands of balloons in search of adventure.
TV and film selections 17
A Day of Culture and Contest by Wendi Hailey
t an early hour each morning, Tokyo’s sumo stables slowly yawn to life. Low-ranking wrestlers begin practice before cleaning, cooking and performing other daily chores. More senior wrestlers awaken later and take their turn in the ring in sessions that can last up to five hours—all under the watchful eyes of the stablemaster and coaches. Afterward, the wrestlers sit down in order of status to a hearty meal of chankonabe, a traditional stew that wrestlers eat to help them gain weight. Rather than experiencing Japan’s traditional sport inside a spectatorpacked stadium, Members are invited to witness these intimate rites up close with a private tour of the Michinoku stable in Ryogoku, Tokyo’s wrestling hub. The stablemaster, Kazuhiro Michinoku, is a former ozeki, who retired in the 1990s. After visiting the stable, tour participants will take in the nearby Edo Tokyo Museum before sitting down to a lunch of sumo’s staple dish at Michinoku’s Chanko Kirishima restaurant, which is decorated with an assortment of sumo memorabilia. ®
Joining a Committee Members interested in joining one of the committees listed should contact its chair or inquire at the General Manager’s Office.
Recreation Tim Griffen (Tim Griffen) Recreation Subcommittees Bowling Pam Jenkinson Fitness Jerry Rosenberg Golf Steven Thomas Library Michelle Arnot Brown Logan Room Diane Dooley & Susan Higgins Squash Nelson Graves & Alok Rakyan Swim Jesse Green & Stewart Homler Video Lisbeth Pentelius Youth Activities Jane Hunsaker
Sumo Stable Tour Saturday, January 16 7:45 a.m. Meeting point: JR Ryogoku Station (west exit) ¥5,000 (includes museum admission and lunch) Adults only Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk (Members only from December 1 to 7; guests from December 8) Sponsored by the Culture Committee
Community Relations Scott Hancock (Jeff McNeill) Community Relations Subcommittees Distinguished Achievement Award Jeff McNeill Independence Day Dan Stakoe Sportsman of the Year Jeff McNeill Culture Eiji Arai (Per Knudsen) Culture Subcommittee Genkan Gallery Fred Harris Entertainment Per Knudsen (Per Knudsen) Finance Akihiko Mizuno (Thomas Brown)
anta will point his sleigh toward Takanawa ahead of Christmas with two special visits to the Club. Kids can whisper their wish lists in his ear and take photos before he returns to his wintery workshop. For those unable to meet jolly old Saint Nick, letters addressed to the North Pole can be dropped off at a special mailbox in the Family Lobby. ®
Visit with Santa Saturday, December 5, and Saturday, December 12 2–4 p.m. Gym ¥600 Sign up at the Member Services Desk Letters to Santa Through Sunday, December 6 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.
Food & Beverage Craig Saphin (Amane Nakashima) Food & Beverage Subcommittee Wine Mark Baxter House Mary Saphin (Ira Wolf) House Subcommittee Architectural Peter Jay & Michael Miller Human Resources Victoria Muir (Barbara Hancock) Membership Mark Saft (Mary Saphin) Nominating Nick Masee
Names in parentheses denote Board liaisons.
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Spiced-Up Workout by Wendi Hailey Photos by Ayano Sato
The global fitness craze of Zumba has proven to be a hit at the Club—and with one Member, in particular.
s a bouncy rendition of Bobby McFerrin’s hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” thumps through wire-caged speakers, a wave of infectious grins spreads over the dozen or so women sashaying bodies and fluttering arms in the Gym one Friday morning in October. Dressed in a pale pink tank top, her long hair slung back in a low ponytail, Member Adriana Ferraro follows along to the rhythm without missing a beat. The source of this jubilant display is the global dance aerobics phenomenon called Zumba. The dynamic exercise fuses calorieblasting cardio and fitness maneuvers with Latin-flavored and international music and movements. Hour-long routines include interval-training sessions of fast and slow rhythms and resistance exercises that combine to burn fat and sculpt the body. “It’s just so much fun,” says Ferraro, a Mexico City native who moved to Tokyo in 2006 after stints in New York and Australia.
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“A year ago going back to Mexico to visit my parents, everybody was talking about this new ritmo [rhythm] called Zumba. My sister invited me to a class and I just loved it!” After returning to Japan, Ferraro was surprised to learn that the Club had introduced a Zumba class. She signed up immediately. “Since then, I have been hooked, attending twice a week,” says the 44-year-old Women’s Group member. “You can see the results. I feel fitter. Even my posture, it’s fixed somehow.” Miami-based choreographer and trainer Beto Perez conceived Zumba by chance in his native Cali, Colombia, in the mid1990s. Perez was ready to teach an aerobics class one day when he realized that he had left his standard workout music at home. Improvising, he substituted the cassettes in his car—traditional Latin salsa and merengue tunes—instead and the one-off session was a hit. The Zumba brand, taken from a Colombian slang word meaning to move quickly or buzz like a bee, was officially launched in 2001 by Perez and two business partners in the United States. It has since swept across 75 countries and sold millions of DVDs, with an estimated
5 million participants attending Zumba classes each week. “It is a fun exercise because of the music and easy to follow,” says Tomoe Kaneko, one of three Zumba instructors at the Club. “It is one of the most emotional exercises in the world. You can listen to the music and feel it. It makes everyone feel like they’re dancing, but at the same time they are toning their core, arms and legs.” Front and center during the Friday morning session, Kaneko captivates with her vibrant presence, fluid movements and beaming face and keeps sweating exercisers sprightly on their feet through 60 minutes of defined yet sultry movements, which vary weekly. The 48-year-old veteran fitness instructor has been teaching Zumba for two years and is considered a specialist, providing workshops and training courses each month across Japan. “She really makes the class so different, because she projects so much energy and happiness,” says Ferraro, sitting in the Family Lobby after class, freshly changed and made up. “She’s smiling all the time and connecting to the students. And every time, it’s something different.” Dance know-how, or even coordination for that matter, is not a necessary aspect
of this 20th-century answer to Jazzercise. Though instructors offer plenty of guidance and encouragement throughout the classes, participants can improvise, freestyle or scale back according to their own inclinations. An extensive dance background doesn’t hurt, though. Ferraro studied flamenco in Mexico and has taken up traditional Japanese dance since relocating to Tokyo with her American husband. “I love to dance,” she says. “Being Mexican, I think that’s part of my culture. That complements my time here.” Looking to fill her spare time this summer, Ferraro signed up for the Recreation Department’s free Fit 4 You training sessions. After two classes, she began booking weekly one-on-one sessions with Club trainer Hideaki Hongo, which she says have bolstered her balance and dexterity and improved her Zumba movements. “We need this kind of exercise that is fun and for all levels, ages and genders,” instructor Kaneko says. “With music and atmosphere like a party, you can exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. You feel you want to Zumba instead of feeling you have to do it.” ® Visit the Recreation Services Desk to purchase ticket books for Zumba and other group exercise classes.
Fitness and well-being 21
class focus Baby Signs Established in the 1980s by two American academics, the Baby Signs Program is a sign language that uses gestures to assist babies in communicating basic needs or emotions, such as hunger, thirst, sadness and fear. Research has shown that Baby Signs can help to decrease frustration for babies and parents, enhance the parent-child bond, boost emotional development, encourage talking sooner and even raise IQ. This class is designed to teach the relevant signs to parents and babies through theme-based songs, games, books and activities. In addition, each session includes a component to help parents learn more about their child’s cognitive, literacy and language development. Baby Signs is for ages 6 months to 2 years and runs every Wednesday (11 a.m.–12 p.m.). Ask at the Recreation Services Desk for details about the next course.
Shana Walker is a certified Baby Signs instructor and internationally licensed to teach in Japan, Canada and the United States. The Canadian, who also teaches Toddler Soccer and Ball Play at the Club, first became interested in nonverbal communication techniques through Japanese sign language while working at the Japan Foundation in Toronto. “I enjoy teaching this program because it helps parents recognize their child’s development potential,” she says.
“We’ve been taking Baby Signs classes since September. I’m really enjoying it and feel like I’ll be using a lot of the signs. My daughter really pays attention and makes lots of eye contact when I try communicating with her. It has been a wonderful experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.” (Rika Ninomiya, mother of Kylin)
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what’s on Bring It On! Push yourself to the limit in the Club’s inaugural Fitness Challenge on Saturday, December 12, when competitors will be battling it out for top honors by completing as many push-ups, sit-ups and squats as possible in the allotted time. 10 a.m. ¥525. Sign up online or at the Recreation Services Desk. Certificates will be presented to the top three winners.
Pampering Presents Buy that special someone a gift of relaxation and rejuvenation this holiday season with one of The Spa’s customized treatment gift certificates. Choose either a 60-minute facial or 60-minute massage treatment for just ¥9,450. And if you buy three or more gift certificates at one time, you’ll receive an additional voucher for a 60-minute massage—for free!
Focusing on Fitness Make 2010 the year to really get in shape with one of the Club’s dynamic group exercise classes. From Power Abs to Body Sculpting to Step Circuit, there is a class for every ability and fitness goal. Ask at the Recreation Services Desk about the classes on offer or visit the Health & Recreation section of the Club website and click on Adult Sports & Programs.
youth spot Father-Daughter Dinner Dance The perennially popular Father-Daughter Dinner Dance returns in February. Dads and their little princesses in grades one to seven will enjoy an evening of mouthwatering food, gifts and photo sessions on Saturday, February 13, from 5 p.m. Sign up online or at the Recreation Services Desk from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, January 11.
Christmas Cheers The Recreation Department celebrates the season with an hour-long Christmas Party of festive fun for ages 5 to 8 on Saturday, December 12, from 1 p.m. Gym. ¥1,260. Sign up online or at the Recreation Services Desk.
Cornucopia of Classes There are a host of interesting Spring Enrichment Classes available for kids in 2010. Visit the Club website and peruse the possibilities, from sports to martial arts to creative arts. Sign up online, by fax or at the Recreation Services Desk from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, December 7.
Fitness and well-being 23
ew Year holds a certain magic for many Japanese children, much like Christmas does for large numbers of youngsters in the West. For Women’s Group member Miki Ohyama, 46, the period still elicits vivid childhood memories. “Celebrating New Year’s as a child was very exciting for me,” she recalls. “I would receive otoshidama [a gift of money] from my parents and grandparents, and
even from New Year’s guests. I couldn’t wait to go to Shibuya with my mom and grandmother, clutching the money in my hand, anxiously waiting to purchase toys or anything I wanted.” Otoshidama, which translates as “New Year’s treasure,” are typically given by adults in small, brightly decorated envelopes called pochibukuro to children on New Year’s Day. Reiko Oshima, another Women’s Group member, also fondly remembers receiving
In with the New by Lisa Jardine
Ahead of the New Year holidays, the two guides of the Women’s Group’s Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour in January discuss the traditions of this auspicious period in Japan.
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otoshidama from relatives. “Sometimes, I would save it or I’d go out with my brothers to buy something,” she says. This most important annual festival is packed with other customs for children, including a form of badminton using wooden paddles called hanetsuki, kite flying and such popular card games as hyakunin isshu, in which players have to recognize lines from a hundred waka poems. “I had to memorize all the cards and compete against my grandparents,” Ohyama says. “I was the grand prizewinner in my family from 10 years old. Of course, winning the card game always brought extra otoshidama, so I was a motivated player!” It’s rumored that Princess Aiko, the 8-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, has been busy committing the poems to memory in preparation for the holidays. Oshima’s most predominant memory of the New Year period as a child is meeting the business associates of her parents. “Historically, employees would go to their boss’s house, where they would be offered food,” the 63-year-old says. “But nowadays, New Year’s is more about being with family.” Like so many Japanese traditions, food is central to New Year celebrations. The run-up to oshogatsu for Oshima is spent primarily in the kitchen making oseichi. “I start cooking on December 30 to prepare food for New Year’s Day,” she says. “On New Year’s Eve, we eat the traditional soba noodles I’ve cooked at home and then I continue cooking afterwards.”
WOMEN’S GROUP The toshikoshi soba noodles, whose length symbolizes After January 2, Ohyama makes her first visit of the New Year longevity, are served in homes and temples across Japan before to a shrine (hatsumode), before heading into the countryside to midnight on New Year’s Eve and signify the crossing over from enjoy a hot-spring onsen bath and an overnight stay at a hotel or one year into the next. inn somewhere. With Buddhist temples ringing out the New Year at midnight Oshima, who spent more than a decade living overseas with her with the requisite 108 tolls (joya no kane) to drive out the 108 earthly family, says that while New Year is an exciting time for Japanese, vices of mankind, Oshima sets to work again. “While listening to the some traditions are dying out. Luckily for Members, Oshima and bells, I cook and, at 2 a.m., I clean the kitchen and the dining room Ohyama have been keeping their own New Year tradition alive for and decorate the house with ikebana and many years. “It is the 10th anniversary of golden decorations,” she says. leading the Women’s Group Seven Lucky After a traditional New Year’s Day Gods Walking Tour with my friend, breakfast of such dishes as ozoni soup, Reiko Oshima,” Ohyama says. fishcakes, black soybeans and chestnuts This sacred pilgrimage to the Yanaka with her family, Oshima walks to her district of Tokyo takes in a number neighborhood shrine. “Sometimes, we’ll of temples that each represents one of go to Meiji Shrine,” she says, “which is the seven deities of good fortune always crowded.” (Shichifukujin) in Japanese folklore. Ohyama and her husband spend the Between January 1 and 15, up to 20,000 Reiko Oshima and Miki Ohyama New Year visiting both of their families. people complete the circuit. “First, we visit Kazu’s parents, who live So if you’re in the market for some in Kumagaya, Saitama, about one-and-a-half hours’ drive north luck and happiness for 2010, you might want to consider signing up. of Tokyo,” she explains. “We celebrate with a cup of special sake Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu! ® provided by the shrine. Next, we visit my mother, who lives in Setagaya Ward, and drink a New Year’s toast again. My mother is 73 and loves to watch American movies, so Kazu makes sure to stop by The Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour is on Saturday, January 9. Sign up at the the DVD rental shop before we go!” Member Services Desk.
An interactive community 25
Classical Christmas by Gaby Sheldon
Monthly Program: “Seasonal Sounds” Monday, December 14 Doors open: 11 a.m. Program begins: 11:30 a.m. Banquet Rooms Women’s Group members: ¥3,150 Non-Women’s Group members: ¥4,200 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
he ethereal sounds of harp and flute will softly usher in the holiday season at this month’s upcoming Women’s Group Monthly Program. Noted musicians Kaguya Kawasaki and Yuki Saito will perform a selection of holiday classics at this intimate winter concert. “This year’s luncheon promises to take you away from the hustle and bustle of the season and put you in the holiday spirit,” says organizer Huntly Klimchalk. Harpist Kawasaki plays with leading orchestras around the country, including the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra and the Osaka Symphoniker. A graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, she has garnered a number of prizes throughout her career, such as the Fourth Japan Harp Contest and the All-Japan French Music Yuki Saito Contest, and has appeared on NHK’s “FM Recital” radio program. Saito studied at the Toho Gakuen School of Music and has attended master classes under renowned flautist Sir James Galway in Switzerland and at Julliard in New York. She made her debut in Europe with a performance of Mozart’s Flute Concerto at the Dvoák Hall in Prague and has played as a soloist and in chamber groups in such countries as Germany, Czech Republic and Russia. “We are so pleased to have this duo with us, and this event promises to be a delightful and festive musical afternoon to enjoy with friends,” Klimchalk says. “It will be a wonderful way to welcome in the season.” ®
Early Learning Options by Gaby Sheldon
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Choosing an international preschool or kindergarten for young children can be mindboggling. Parents living in an area of Tokyo with a large population of expats, such as Minato Ward, may find themselves within walking distance of as many as 10 prospective schools. The Women’s Group’s International Preschool and Kindergarten Fair provides a generous taste of the breadth of education choices available under one roof, with this year’s lineup
or Nobue Shiozawa, the bustle of Narita Airport represents the beginning of a different kind of journey. While studying English literature at Ferris Women’s College in Yokohama, she realized that reading American classics wasn’t going to improve her English speaking ability. She began seeking out opportunities to practice her language skills, including welcoming foreign travelers at Narita. “I looked for such jobs and encouraged myself to talk,” she recalls. With the money she earned, she would travel abroad as often as possible. Her interest in English was first piqued after spending a summer in San Jose, California, during high school. “I was fascinated by Western culture: food, aerobics, movie theaters, big shopping malls,” the 45-year-old Chigasaki native explains. “I was keen to learn about and understand the differences between cultures.” Looking for a career in which she could use her English after graduating from college in 1986, Shiozawa took a job with Ken Corporation, a real-estate company in Tokyo with a large number of expat clients. The exposure to different cultures over the years has prompted her to delve deeper into her own culture and share what she has learned with newcomers to Japan. Joining the Club in 2004, Shiozawa soon got involved with the Women’s Group’s Charities Committee, becoming its director in 2007. According to her, the years with the committee have been both illuminating and inspiring. “I have learned even more about my country,” she says, “not only the sunny side, but also the dark side.” She recalls her first visit to Sanyukai, a homeless shelter for men in Tokyo, as a particularly enlightening experience. “Most Japanese people do not feel comfortable supporting the homeless,” she explains. “We have a saying [in Japan]: ‘You should not eat if you do not work.’ Everything depends on how hard you work, and if you don’t live well, that is your fault because you are lazy. “[Sanyukai] was eye-opening,” she says. “There’s a reason that those people cannot work, and in many cases it’s not their fault. I realized that there’s a need for a group like the Women’s Group, which understands the actual problem and what is really needed to help.” Years after standing in the arrivals hall of Narita to welcome jetlagged tourists with a friendly smile, Shiozawa’s journey has led her back home, where she now channels her benevolent energies into helping those Japanese in need. ® The Women’s Group’s Angel Campaign runs until January 31. Donation forms can be picked up at the Member Services Desk.
including more than 30 schools from the Tokyo area. Parents have the opportunity to pick up information, meet staff and discover what curriculums, programs and afterschool activities best suit their kids. The annual event is “a great way to see what schools are out there,” says co-chair Samantha Verplank. “There is such a range of options, and getting an idea of what they are like before arranging a visit may save you a lot of time. Also, you may find a great school in your backyard you never knew about before.” ®
Charity Champion by Amy Wilson
International Preschool and Kindergarten Fair Tuesday, January 26 10 a.m.–2 p.m. New York Suite Open to the public For more information, visit the Women’s Group website at www.tokyoamericanclubwomensgroup.org.
An interactive community 27
December 2009 iNTOUCH 28February 2007 iNTOUCH
ParingDownthe PACKAGING WORDS BY TY HOLLAND
PHOTOS BY AYANO SATO
With world leaders meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, this month to discuss what needs to be done to tackle climate change, iNTOUCH ponders how much longer Japan can continue its addiction to the reams of perfectly presented packaging wrapped around products.
few weeks into her new life in Tokyo in 2004, Amy Wilson ventured out to find some home comforts for her and her husband. A friend had told the Iowa native about some discounted Martha Stewart items for sale at a nearby Muji department store. “I remember standing there watching them wrap up the coffee mugs I bought that probably cost me maybe a ¥100 a piece,” recalls Club Member Wilson, now a 30-year-old mother of two. “They were putting so much wrapping around each mug, I was just thinking to myself, ‘My God, they’re spending more on the wrapping than I just spent on the mug!’” Such anecdotes provide plenty of fodder for “quirky Japan” stories, but they also highlight a serious problem gripping the country. The island nation has for decades now faced the prospect of running out of landfill space for its refuse, and the mountains of plastic wrapping, containers and bags produced each year are fueling the problem. This trash time bomb is particularly significant given Japan’s desire to become a global leader on environmental issues. At last year’s G8 Summit in Hokkaido, the environment
Paring Down the Packaging 29
and climate change were placed center stage, while, more recently, Prime Minster Yukio Hatoyama pledged to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. “Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Japan experienced dramatic economic growth, and throughout the ’70s and ’80s growth continued, and only in the ’90s did we start to become aware of the problem [of waste],” says Susumu Komatani, director and general manager of research and 0715 53 92979 09 1282 1023 planning at the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association (JCPRA). “Lifestyles have changed to the kind of lifestyle that produces more containers and packaging waste. If we do nothing about solving the problem, eventually we will run out of landfill space, and that’s why we came up with the recycling law.” The Containers and Packaging Recycling “We have two interests: one is society; the Law was enacted in 1995 to try to promote recycling and so curb other one is customers. We have to stay the amount of waste accumulating at landfill sites. The JCPRA with the needs of society first, so we’re was sanctioned to oversee recycling efforts across the country. working on how to reduce waste from our The body, which receives no government subsidies, publishes supply chain as well as from stores.” recommendations based on its research, collects recyclable Part of the solution to the waste material from local municipalities and then pays for its recycling predicament, Niinami says, is finding through charges to the manufacturers and retailers that produce ways to streamline business practices and or sell packaging and containers. introduce innovation to current systems. Supermarkets and convenience stores, meanwhile, are “We can reduce food waste in factories responsible for the containers and plastic wrap encasing the [and] maybe we can reduce the number precooked food and lunchboxes they sell and the ubiquitous of [plastic] bottles,” he says. “We can plastic bags customers use to carry their purchases. Since stores communicate with our manufacturers pay for every bag taken away, many have tackled this area first, producing packaged goods and, based on either by specifically asking customers at the checkout counter our forecasts of sales, they don’t have to if they need a bag or by offering a discount of a yen or two for produce so many.” declining one. Although recycling efforts have The Japan Franchise Association (JFA), whose membership been in place for many years in Japan includes 97 percent of Japan’s convenience stores as well fastand most residents are hardwired to food chains and various other businesses, launched a major push separate their household garbage (18 in 2006 to raise awareness about waste. “We encourage customers percent of household waste is currently of the convenience stores to use fewer bags in two ways,” recycled), the sheer volume of waste says Shinji Shimamura, the association’s business promotion produced on a daily basis through manager. “One, if customers buy only a small number of items, excessive product packaging is creating then we instruct cashiers to ask customers if they need a plastic a serious headache for officials. For bag or not. Secondly, we tell the clerks to use smaller bags rather any significant headway to be made, than unnecessarily large bags.” attitudes toward product presentation The ongoing campaign includes posters in convenience stores would likely have to change first. urging patrons to forgo plastic bags. The association aims to According to Neil Kozarsky, CEO of reduce plastic bag consumption by 35 percent in terms of weight the New Jersey-based packaging solutions by the end of the next financial year. It is currently on track to firm Technical Help in Engineering and meet its 32 percent target for this fiscal year. Marketing, the over-packaging of items Takeshi Niinami, the 50-year-old president and CEO of is driven by a number of factors, from a Lawson, Japan’s second-biggest convenience store chain behind need to produce an attractively wrapped Seven & I Holdings’ Seven Eleven, says he is thinking beyond product to addressing hygiene concerns. plastic bags. “I’m very concerned about waste from not only “It’s nearly impossible to separate packaging, but we waste a lot of food,” the Club Member says.
If we do nothing about solving the problem, eventually we will run out of landfill space, and that’s why we came up with the recycling law.
December 2009 iNTOUCH 30February 2007 iNTOUCH
the packaging from the product from a Japanese standpoint,” he says. “The same mastery of detail that must be reflected in the product must be exhibited in the materials and design that contain it. Successful packaging in Japan must appeal to as many of the consumer’s senses as possible. While source reduction is an important value, [packaging] cannot in any way be perceived as flimsy or cheap.” The JFA’s Shimamura agrees. “As a part of Japanese culture, packaging is needed to address concerns about hygiene, portability for people commuting on trains and appearance,” he says. “Packaging also has the benefit of helping to control temperature, moisture and freshness. Additionally, nowadays, there aren’t trash cans in public places, so people don’t have anywhere to throw their trash. At home, plastic bags come in handy, since they can be thrown out as burnable trash and are considered convenient. For those reasons, retailers remain under pressure to continue providing packaging and plastic bags to consumers.” With Japanese retailers focused on displaying well-packaged goods for a discerning public with high expectations, cutting back on the trays, packets, bags, wrappers, sachets and boxes might be difficult for manufacturers. “Japanese packaging is capable of driving consumer purchases and loyalty,” Kozarsky says. And when there are packaging
Paring Down the Packaging 31
problems, such as imperfect printing or small blemishes, customers will choose something else. The situation seems a long way from the days when Japanese would use simple wrapping cloths, known as furoshiki, for carrying goods and wrapping gifts. The government even tried to resurrect the furoshiki as part of a 2006 campaign to reduce waste. While Japan has witnessed a boom in the use of canvas totes, known as “eco bags,” recently, environmental consciousness in consumers here is still lagging behind the United States and Europe, according to Women’s Group member Wilson, who moved back to Tokyo in 2009 after a year in Britain. “It was very in your face there,” she says. “So many people seemed to bring their own grocery bags in London, and I don’t see that here very much at all. I hadn’t really noticed any of that here at the time we left. It does seem to be catching on here a little bit, but certainly not to the extent as in the US or the UK that I noticed.” Through such efforts as selling reusable eco bags, Niinami says Lawson managed to bring down plastic bag consumption by 7 percent in fiscal 2008 from the previous year. However, he believes more can still be done. “There definitely exists a gap, and we have to realize how to get rid of it,” he says. Since the recycling law was introduced almost 15 years ago, the amount of time
Convenience stores make life too convenient for society. There are too many convenience stores. Too much convenience means a lot of waste.
December 2009 iNTOUCH 32February 2007 iNTOUCH
remaining before landfill sites reach their capacity has increased from 8.5 years to more than 13. More than 90 percent of cans and bottles are now recycled and plastic bottle recycling is so successful that recycling companies pay the JCPRA for the bottles as opposed to other refuse. Finding a cost-efficient system for recycling plastics, though, is proving particularly difficult, according to the JCPRA’s Komatani. “The biggest challenge is trying to bring the unit cost of recycling down,” he says. “When it comes to recycling, designated fee-paying manufacturers paid [more than] ¥40 billion in fiscal 2008 and approximately 93 percent of the fees are due to plastic production.” Komatani adds that besides finding a consensus on what plastics to recycle and how to recycle them, officials need to plug the loopholes in the recycling regulations. “I think there should be a plastics recycling act,” he says. “For example, the plastic [kitchen] wrap used in households...that is outside the recycling law. The plastic wrap used in the supermarket is subject to the recycling law, but both are waste. With your dry cleaning, the plastic bag is not considered a product, so it is outside the recycling law, but it’s the same plastic waste.” Lawson’s Niinami is putting his faith and money in technology to help drive down costs, increase efficiency and reduce the company’s carbon footprint. “Because we have a lot of pressure, we can find good solutions through technologies,” he says, citing such high-tech examples as ultraefficient refrigerators and a fleet of electric vehicles. “I think because of the pressure, because of, perhaps, regulations, we can be more innovative.” But Yuji Arimura, vice president and COO of Yasuma, a food import company, believes that Japan’s ubiquitous 24-hour convenience stores contribute toward the nation’s growing mountain of packaging trash. “Convenience stores make life too convenient for society,” the Club Member says. “There are too many convenience stores. Too much convenience means a lot of waste.” Niinami, who says he uses his own chopsticks instead of the disposable variety when eating out and shops with an eco bag, is convinced that Japanese attitudes toward packaging and the environment will change for the better. “Maybe we have to change our lifestyle to some extent, like using your own chopsticks, for example,” he says. “I feel quite comfortable that in a few years’ time, the community will change completely. That means consumers will change their mindset and support companies contributing to society [and] helping with global-warming issues.” Now that would be a package worth its wrapping. ®
155 0033 102
Paring Down the Packaging 33
GENKAN GALLERY All exhibits in the Genkan Gallery are for sale and can be purchased by Membership card at the Member Services Desk. Sales of works begin at 6 p.m. on the first day of the exhibition.
by Fred Harris Images supplied by Mita Arts Gallery
Japan’s artistic tradition is so interwoven with landscape as a subject that it is difficult to imagine that in the genre of woodblock prints it would eventually reach its peak and essentially disappear. The landscape print took off in the mid-1800s with the great masters Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai. The early 20th century saw not only a decline in print production, but an actual end to 250 years of a magnificent art form as well. It was reborn in 1920, when woodblock print publisher Shozaburo Watanabe experimentally published four landscape sketches by young artist Kawase Hasui as commercial woodblock prints. This chance encounter led to a collaboration between the two that lasted until Hasui’s death in 1957. Over more than 40 years, Hasui produced about 600 scenic prints as Japan experienced tremendous changes, some disastrous. The artist’s house and studio burned down in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and again in 1945 during the firebombing of Tokyo. Both times, his entire stock of prints and sketchbooks went up in smoke. His resilience and Watanabe’s support compelled him to start again, resisting wartime propaganda themes and concentrating on scenic vistas during his annual sketching expeditions. When I first came to Japan in 1952, his prints were readily available and easily bought by Allied Occupation soldiers. Countless prints drifted overseas as souvenirs, many purchased for just ¥1,000 or less. Today, they are increasingly scarce and expensive. Hasui captured nature as no other artist could, putting snow, fog, moonlight and dawn on paper with poetic effect. He is, without doubt, the last great landscape artist in Japanese printmaking.
December 7–January 10
Wine and Cheese Reception Monday, December 7 6:30–8 p.m. Adult Lobby Open to all Members Free
34 December 2009 iNTOUCH
Shaping 36 December 2009 iNTOUCH
TALKING HEADS Tokyo has rarely been branded a beautiful city. It doesn’t boast a stunning skyline or a quarter of historic monuments. Following the ravages of World War II, the capital, like most other Japanese cities, was focused on rebuilding. As Japan experienced breakneck economic growth, urban planners became more concerned with creating functional buildings that would withstand constant seismic activity than aesthetically pleasing environments. At the same time, with a ballooning population and skyrocketing land prices, a premium was placed on space in Japan’s urban centers. The country soon became known for its “compact” living conditions and seemingly ill-thought-out streets full of shops and apartment buildings shoehorned into gaps between one another. All the while, less attention has been paid to preserving those architectural pieces of Japan’s past. Naomi Pollock is a licensed architect, author of two books on architecture, Modern Japanese House and Hitoshi Abe (both available in the Library), and Architectural Record magazine’s Tokyo correspondent. iNTOUCH’s Nick Jones sat down with the Club Member to talk about Japan’s unique approach to architectural design and city planning. Excerpts: Naomi Pollock
iNTOUCH: How does Tokyo compare architecturally with other cities in the world? Pollock: Tokyo is a very exciting city and a very chaotic city at the same time. On the one hand, people coming from Western cities look at it and think there is no order, there is no framework, and they can’t find any solid-ground footing for understanding the city. And it’s true; there is no dominant skyline, the city is not organized around a major green area and even though there is tons of waterfront, the city doesn’t really utilize it. So there are none of these organizational urban landmarks that we have in Western cities. That said, it’s a very organic city, it’s constantly changing and that’s a very exciting model for architects around the world. iNTOUCH: Do the large multiuse developments like Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown represent the future of Tokyo? Pollock: I don’t see how they can because if you first look at their origin, it took many, many years for the land parcels to be amassed for Roppongi Hills. Midtown was a very unusual situation where the Ministry of Defense had a large piece of land to sell off, and then a third model is Marunouchi, where they are plucking out buildings individually and replacing them, but basically keeping the infrastructure as it is. And to me, the most plausible one in the future is the Marunouchi one because that’s very consistent with the way the city has always been in terms of development. iNTOUCH: In some ways, Japan is more relaxed than other countries in terms of design regulations. How much has that allowed architects to experiment and show their creativity?
Pollock: I think it makes Japan a remarkable environment for architects to work in because there are so few aesthetic restrictions. There aren’t materials that have been in place for 150 years, which have to be worked and sympathized with. iNTOUCH: How do the restrictions impact architects and their work? Pollock: We’ve all driven around Tokyo and seen those bizarre angled roofs. They’re just so extreme, and I don’t know if that makes for a more beautiful city if you’re looking at the top of the city, but at the bottom it certainly makes for a more pleasant lifestyle being able to walk down the street and have sunlight. And yet those restrictions often do drive design, where architects will first compile all the legal constraints, figure out what is possible and then design inwards. I suppose because Tokyo is quite a lowscale city and because of the premium put on land here, the eagerness of landowners to use every square centimeter results in some of these wonky shapes.
iNTOUCH: Why does Japan produce such high-quality buildings? Pollock: Much of the construction in this country is just outstanding. Here, things are built with such phenomenal precision that it really does impact the overall effect of that building. Sometimes people ask whether architects in Japan are considerate of eco-friendly issues. And on first impression, I’m not sure. But then, on closer inspection, one can see that there is a sensitivity to the environment that is applied to buildings of all different scales here. There is also a different attitude to space. There is a sense here that the quality of space is not based on the quantity of space, and there is really a complete disassociation between the two. iNTOUCH: Why does Japan seem to have little interest in preserving historical buildings?
Pollock: It leads to some remarkable inventions and projects that never should have left the drawing board.
Pollock: With land as expensive as it still is, it’s hard to justify maintaining an old building that may not meet the earthquake code, utilize the space efficiently or could be made bigger or taller. There’s also a lack of congruency about what’s preservation in Japan versus the rest of the world. There seems to be a lack of value attached to the early 20th-century buildings, the ones that survived.
iNTOUCH: Do you think there should be more restrictions?
iNTOUCH: Would you like to see more preservation of older buildings here?
Pollock: Absolutely not. I just think that that would be putting such a phenomenal restriction on the way the city grows, and as I said, it may not be beautiful to look at but there is this organic quality about the city that keeps reinventing itself. If you walk down any major street in Tokyo at 10 p.m., there are people out. You can’t say the same about a lot of North American cities.
Pollock: I think the country could preserve more of its older buildings without sacrificing its organic growth model. The other thing that would help is if there was a little bit more of a push toward renovation; there’s just not that much compared to any European city or the United States, where old buildings are constantly being retrofitted. o
iNTOUCH: What has been the downside to having this aesthetic freedom?
Member insights on Japan 37
Compiled by Wendi Hailey and Tomoko Tanaka Photos by Ayano Sato
Men at O 2
38 December 2009 iNTOUCH
ne year out from the completion of the new Club facilities in Azabudai, hundreds of workers, from scaffolders to electricians to plasterers, apply collaborative effort and careful coordination to the daily metamorphosis that takes place on the site. With 15 months already under their tool belts, several members of the construction crew ruminate on the projectâ€™s highlights and challenges to date. ÂŽ 4
1. TORU KATO 53
Forming carpenter “Every worker shows incredible consideration for his own and others’ safety, like making sure that everyone wears a safety harness.”
2. SEIEI SENDA 40
Scaffolder “Erecting steel underneath the working platform every day is tough; in typical situations, we don’t have to do this. It takes twice the time, but it’s an interesting process.”
3. KENTA NAGASHITA 25
Scaffolder “The remarkable communication among the site workers, regardless of sector, is driven by a policy created especially for this project.”
4. OSAMU YOSHIDA 35
Welder “The area is about 10 times bigger than other sites I’ve worked on before. Carrying tools and equipment can take up to 10 minutes to move from one point to another.”
5. KIMITSUGU ISHIKAWA 37
Platform erector “Building a working platform on a slope instead of the flat is rare, but work has gone smoothly. This is one of the most difficult projects in my experience and I’m proud of our efforts and the well-planned designs.”
6. NAOYUKI SUGATA 23
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems installer “The size of the air tunnel is much larger than normal due to its higher quality, a fact that definitely makes the work more challenging.”
7. HIROSHI YOKATA 41
Forming carpenter “The cleanliness of the site and working area is a major priority for everyone and keeps progress going smoothly from one phase to the next.”
8. HIDEHISA KATAOKA 41
Mechanical and electrical manager “There are always unexpected things that arise and improvement is our priority during construction. After the handover, I hope we’ll see smiles on the faces of all Members.”
9. KAZUYUKI OKUBO 43
Plasterer “There is great solidarity and teamwork among site workers across many different jobs and companies.”
10. MASAJI SAKAMOTO 49
Welder “I was surprised by the massive scale of the site. You get tired walking around the grounds—it’s that big!”
11. AKIRA UEHARA 58
Foundation worker “In the summer, I was extremely impressed with the high level of heatstroke prevention, especially the mist showers installed around the site.”
12. MASATO ISHIDA 37
Electrician “The building is beautifully designed, with an impressive façade and many layers.”
The journey back to Azabudai 39
Get more for your Membership
I N T RO
rewards of the month
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S HO P P I N G
The Rewards program gives Members access to exclusive discounts and great deals. Simply present your Membership card before you receive the service from any of the vendors listed. All offers are valid for the month they appear in iNTOUCH.
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40 December 2009 iNTOUCH
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new member profile
Howard & Julie Yu United States—Beckman Coulter
Why did you decide to join the Club?
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“Joining Tokyo American Club affords us the opportunity to meet families from all over the world in a relaxing atmosphere filled with a number of wonderful amenities. With this being our first time living abroad, we felt it would be important to have a network to plug into once we arrived in Tokyo. The variety of programs and activities available is an added bonus, while our 5-year-old son says he likes the cheeseburgers and all the kids’ videos!”
(l–r) Kyler, Howard, Karsten and Julie Yu
new member profile
Peter & Samantha Simmons Australia—British American Tobacco Japan Ltd.
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Why did you decide to join the Club? “We were recommended to join the Club as a way to meet people and families from all walks of life who are in a similar situation to us. After seeing all the available facilities and noticing how family-friendly everything was, it was a very simple decision to join. We see the Club as a haven and breath of fresh air within the hustle and bustle of a very busy city. Through the many programs, events and services offered by the Club, as well as the many friendships we will build, we hope to enhance our family’s Japan experience.”
Tokyo Lease Corporation Large collection of Asian, European and American furniture for sale and lease. Tel: 03-3585-5801 www.furniture-rental-tokyo.com Reward: 5% discount on items bought in the shop
(l–r) Peter, Frederick, Lily and Samantha Simmons
Services and benefits for Members 41
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42 December 2009 iNTOUCH
Nuno Duarte Portugal—Microsoft Co., Ltd. Yasutaka & Miyuki Sajima Japan—Royal Bank of Scotland
Eric & Lisa-Marie Carandang Philippines—Philip Morris Japan K.K. Marlo & Menachem Michaeli United States—KPMG AZSA & Co. Jack Allen, Jr & Nancy Allen United States—Westinghouse Electric Japan
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Hiroshi Nakajima Japan—Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd.
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Nakai Immigration Services LPC Serving the foreign community since 1992, we offer multilingual support in a range of areas, from the setting up of companies to the filing of applications at immigration bureaus. Tel: 03-6402-7654 (weekdays, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Reward: 25% discount on our handling charges (per person/per application) or ¥10,000 for each new client introduced
Christopher & Sofie Scott Australia—UBS Securities Japan Ltd.
sayonara Stuart & Andrea Baker Robert Burke & Andrea Redilla David & Georgiana Cave Stuart Chambers Neil Da Silva & Patricia Woolcott Charles & Hisaka Duncan Thomas Fanning & Deolinda Rodrigues Kimiko Fujiwara Lee Godfrey & Yun Jae Chung Denis Goffaux & Nathalie Brassel David & Christine Irving Magnus & Anne Louise Jonsson Dong Hee Kim John & Sylvie McNeel Hikaru Ogata & Jae Sook Yun Masafumi & Fukiko Omoto
Pascal Paoli Gilbert & Mary A Parmelee Siegfred Penaverde & Jennifer Lladoc Ward Platt & Angela Lu Carlo & Katharine Ramirez Ronald & Ulla-Maija Scherpenhuijsen Rom John & Elizabeth Sequeira Glen & Michiko Shimizu Miki Shinjo Benjamin & Yoko Simons Peter & Abbie Stavroff Steven & Tanja Veldhoen Jake Xia & Jen Lu Teruaki & Yoko Yamamoto Mark Zownir & Kristin Trimbee
of the month
Joy Tolentino by Nick Jones
Employee of the Quarter
Aya Mitsui by Nick Jones
Aya Mitsui followed up her Employee of the Month award for August with the most recent Employee of the Quarter honor. “I was so surprised,” she says of her achievement. “I never expected to win.” A psychology graduate from Valdosta State University in Georgia, the 29-year-old has been working in Traders’ Bar since she joined the Club in June 2007. All this recent success comes after she earned an on-the-spot award in July for keeping the bar open to allow two rugby-loving Members to watch the end of a live game. Originally from Kumamoto in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, Mitsui says she enjoys putting her studies of human thought and behavior to good use working in the Club’s multicultural environment. ®
2008. Besides taking bookings for The Spa’s seven therapists, she explains and recommends the various treatments to Members. To ensure that she is able to properly advise visitors to The Spa, she has received every treatment on the sizeable menu herself, citing the head bath as her favorite. “That treatment makes your hair shiny and gets rid of stress,” she explains. The mother of one is now receiving training on giving treatments to provide her with an even more in-depth knowledge of the range of massages, facials and other rejuvenating services available at the Club’s haven of relaxation. The October Employee of the Month says she is thoroughly enjoying her time at the Club. “I love every moment working here because the environment is really friendly,” she says. Just don’t ask her to troubleshoot any laptop problems you might be experiencing. “I’m not sure how much I remember,” she says of her techie past, “but one thing is for sure, I’ve forgotten how to program.” ®
atching Joy Tolentino welcome Members to the serene, softly lit reception area of The Spa on the second floor of the Club, it seems difficult to imagine that she was once something of a computer geek back in her native Philippines. After being turned down by flight attendant school because of her height (she’s almost 1.6 meters tall, a few centimeters short of the minimum height requirement for the course), Tolentino looked around for a college close to her home in Makati in Metro Manila. The nearest school taught computing. She enrolled and was soon stripping down PCs to their motherboards and learning a variety of programming languages. “At first, I didn’t really enjoy it,” the 26-year-old says of the course. But after securing a part-time job at the school, which entailed teaching the basics of computers and the Internet to seniors, her enthusiasm soared. “Maybe if I wasn’t here,” she says, “I would still be there.” Moving to Japan in 2003, Tolentino joined the Club in August
DAD Narita Parking Heading overseas? DAD Narita Parking will pick up your vehicle at Narita Airport and keep it in a closely monitored, secure lot while you’re away. Tel: 0120-35-1462/0476-32-1955 www.dadparking.com/index-e.html Reward: 20% off basic charge
Jaguar Land Rover Japan Ltd. Visit our website for details on vehicles or call English-speaking sales adviser, Masanao Hariu. www.landrover.co.jp Tel: 03-5470-4211 E-mail: email@example.com Reward: Original lacquer plate and Arita porcelain plate with every new Land Rover
Kool Co., Inc. From selling your car to buying a new or used one, we can guide you through the entire process—in English. Tel: 048-451-8888/Fax: 048-451-8889 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Reward: 10% discount on repairs and maintenance
Services and benefits for Members 43
Being a Member of Tokyo American Club allows you access to a network of more than 200 reciprocal clubs across the globe. For a full listing of reciprocal clubs worldwide, check out www.tokyoamericanclub.org.
The King Kamehameha Golf Club Location: Maui, Hawaii Founded: 2006 Members: 200
Named in honor of the islands’ legendary ruler, this club is a golfer’s paradise, featuring an immaculate 18-hole course on the gentle, scenic slopes of the West Maui Mountains that was designed by noted architect Ted Robinson, Sr. The 7,000-square-meter clubhouse was built from plans originally conceived by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949 as a smaller luxury home. Inside, it houses a multitude of post-game repose possibilities, including saunas, a Japanese-style hot bath, massage rooms, fitness center, pro shop, full bar and a stylish restaurant.
The Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel Location: San Francisco, California Founded: 1946 Members: 22,000
This 12-story institution was established as the flagship of the Marines’ Memorial Association and a living memorial for US Armed Forces members who died in the line of duty. Located steps from the cable cars and cultural gems near Union Square, the beaux-arts building boasts a full range of facilities, including 138 plush guestrooms. The General Ames Library/ Museum contains a vast collection of military books and artifacts, while the historical theater has hosted such momentous programs as radio broadcasts starring Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra and the famed Actors’ Workshop.
stacks of services at the Club
JTB Sunrise Tours
Go Mobile Phone Rental
The Club’s professional shoe repair and polishing service. Tel: 03-4588-0670 Family Area (1F) Sundays: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Five percent discount on all package tours. Available at the Member Services Desk.
Need a rental mobile phone or help with translation? Want to find useful English mobile sites? Go Mobile—more than just a phone. www.gomobile.co.jp
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. www.mytoyota.jp/english
For all your delivery needs, the express counter offers discounts to Members. Family Area (1F) Weekdays: 2–6 p.m.
44 December 2009 iNTOUCH
New & Used car purchase Lease and finance Insurance Used cars bought Maintenance
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Open: 10 a.m.–7 p.m Closed: Mondays #101 1-13-2 Higashi-Azabu Minato-ku, TOKYO
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Comprehensive package for foreign executives in Japan:
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Crafting the Past by Nobuko Hirata Photos by Yuuki Ide
cross television and traditional theater, not a single day passes without Fujinami Kodogu’s essential involvement. Tucked away on a quiet side street in Asakusa, the 137-year-old company is Japan’s leading supplier of rental stage props, most notably for TV period dramas and Kabuki performances. Company founder Yohei Fujinami moved from Saitama to Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1852, taking a job serving tea at the popular Ichimura Theater in Asakusa. Three years later, a massive earthquake demolished virtually the entire city. Fujinami unearthed a business opportunity amid the devastation, transporting and selling household items from his hometown to the capital’s residents who had lost countless necessities. He then recognized a second enterprise prospect: Ichimura’s prop storage had burned down in the quake, forcing the theater into an indefinite closure. Fujinami shifted his focus to collecting and supplying any object that could be used onstage. Meanwhile, Japan was undergoing drastic change. The era soon gave way to the Meiji Restoration period, during which former samurai—readily or unwillingly— relinquished family-owned possessions, including armor, swords, screens and tea ceremony utensils, in exchange for money. Fujinami eagerly collected the treasures and officially opened Fujinami Kodogu in the heart of the city’s theater district in 1872. It was the first enterprise of its kind in Japan.
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INSIDE JAPAN The businessman carefully considered the conservation of his wares, building a storage facility in 1895 using the best-quality materials and finest craftsmanship. That deliberation may have spared the structure from destruction in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the American air raids of World War II. Fujinami’s premises, undamaged except for minor tears in the plaster walls, and the metal frames of the Matsuya department store were purportedly two of very few— possibly the only—vertical structures that remained along the riverbank east of central Asakusa after the infamous air attacks on March 10, 1945. The space, three stories high plus a basement, contained swords, armor, helmets, muskets, clogs, screens, lanterns, chinaware and other paraphernalia, all of which remained untouched in the attack that killed as many as 100,000 civilians. The preserved props kept unbroken the authenticity at Kabuki’s classical core, which would have been lost completely had they been reduced to ashes. On September 1, 1945, merely 16 days after the nation’s surrender to the Allies, Kabuki resumed in the ruined city of Tokyo, according to local documents. This glorious resurgence owed much to the invulnerability of Fujinami’s warehouse. The company takes pride not only in its part in historical posterity, but also in its employees, approximately 120 in total. With a sword collection exceeding 10,000 and dating back at least 150 years, it is not only the extensive inventory, but also the wealth of information stocked within each prop coordinator that enables every job to successfully move forward.
“The work is simply inspiring,” says 38-year-old Keijin Seki, who, after 17 years in the field, is considered one of Fujinami’s top prop coordinators. “I cannot help celebrating the fact that I play a tiny fraction of a role in the 400 years of Kabuki’s history.” With theatrical performances running monthly, each cycle unfolds for Seki with short rehearsals—normally four to five days—followed by an opening. During every practice and show, Seki stands at the edge of the stage, ready to place and remove stage props. After checking the items each day, he performs simple mending, gluing or other needed repairs and submits
Due to significant improvements in diet in the post-World War II era, Takeuchi notes, modern-day Kabuki actors are significantly taller than their predecessors, requiring palanquins, ships and other props to be built higher. “The actors designate the height or item, but it is we artisans who modify the rest of the measurement,” says Takeuchi, who draws up sketches and jots down modified dimensions. “Then they say that the finished items must not be too heavy. There are a lot of complex calculations to do.” Among the team of 20 artisans, nothing outweighs the zeal for producing high-standard creations. Takeuchi candidly shares each of his accomplishments with his colleagues as a form of ongoing instruction and training. “This way, the young ones can learn efficiently,” he says. Surrounding the craftsmen in the bustling workshop are meticulously built carts, masks, straw hats, bushes, portable shrines, palanquins, cobwebs, a horse head and other period pieces. The noisy area contains an array of tools and technology, but is without a single computer. The workshop and prized repository are housed within Fujinami’s large main building, along with its administrative offices and open workspace. The humblelooking storage facility is in the traditional kura style, with walls made of a mixture of mud, straw and plaster. Inside, its chilly, odorless air and solemn atmosphere alone seem to evoke the essence of Edo. Though Fujinami Kodogu’s façade has remained humble over the decades, its cultural contributions continue to be uniquely vast and impressive, as do the skills of its craftsmen. ®
I cannot help celebrating the fact that I play a tiny fraction of a role in the 400 years of Kabuki’s history. an emergency order if damage requires attention beyond his first-aid skills. By mid-month, Seki begins planning for the following show. He also facilitates the communication between Kabuki actors with specific orders and Fujinami’s craftsmen. The flow of such sequences may be consistent, but the contents and intensity of the work vary from one performance to the next, depending on the story and individual requests from actors. “Such diversity is the fun part,” says 79-year-old Kazuo Takeuchi, the eldest member in the workshop. “I used to be a furniture maker, then a friend brought me here, saying that the job was quite interesting, and it’s been 52 years. If you are engaged in regular furniture making, monotony is unavoidable. Here, with monthly theatrical assignments, I get to create different items every month.”
A look at culture and society 47
Northern Powder Pursuits by Tim Hornyak
f all the winter sports regions in Japan, one of the most overlooked is Tohoku, the northern part of Honshu. While only a few hours away by bullet train, it is often flyover country for skiers and boarders winging it to Hokkaido. But the region has plenty to offer downhill enthusiasts: excellent snow, a wealth of well-developed resorts and, perhaps crucially, smaller crowds. One of the most celebrated peaks in Tohoku is Mount Zao, a 1,841-meter active volcano in the Ou Mountains on the border of Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures. Zao is renowned for its “snow monsters”: snowencased evergreens that look like frozen ghosts. These apparitions emerging from up to three meters of accumulated snow can usually be seen in January when it’s extremely cold atop Zao Onsen, a major resort consisting of 15 slopes and 25 runs serviced by four gondolas and 35 lifts.
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Reached by bullet train from Tokyo (two and a half hours) and bus from Yamagata (40 minutes), Zao has long welcomed skiers and bathers alike (its three public bathhouses feature open-air rotenburo pools and there are many more hot-spring onsen baths in local hotels). Daily lift passes are ¥4,600 for adults and ¥2,500 for children. Farther north in the Ou Mountains of Aomori Prefecture is the Hakkoda mountain group. Hakkoda is synonymous with deep powder and ungroomed trails, so it’s more for advanced skiers and snowboarders who live for backcountry thrills. There are two small lifts and one gondola to the top of 1,324-meter Mount Tamoyachi. From there, two official runs lead down, but the real fun (and challenge) is negotiating the spectacular powder through the off-piste trees. This can be dangerous, however, and should not be attempted by beginners. Hakkoda’s blizzards are known for killing nearly 200 Imperial Army infantrymen who attempted to cross the mountain in a training exercise in 1902. More recently, in 2007, two people were killed and a dozen injured in an avalanche there. Guided tours are recommended. A five-ride gondola pass costs ¥4,900 for adults and ¥2,200 for kids at Hakkoda, which can be reached by bus (one hour) from
OUT & ABOUT
Grand Hirafu http://grand-hirafu.jp
Niseko Village www.niseko-village.com
Zao Onsen www.zao-spa.or.jp
Niseko United www.niseko.ne.jp
Annupuri Village www.annupurivillage.com
Snow Japan www.snowjapan.com
Hakkoda Powder Snow Tours www.hakkodapowder.com
Ski Japan www.skijapan.com
Ski Furano www.skifurano.com
Classic Resorts Japan www.snowlove.net/japan/
YAMAGATA MOUNT ZAO
Aomori, which, in turn, is four hours from Tokyo by bullet train or about one hour and 45 minutes by plane from Haneda. A few more minutes in the air will take you to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, gateway to some of the finest skiing in this part of the world. Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, gets the most exquisite snow and is renowned for its deep powder. The resort of Furano, east of Sapporo, is associated with gorgeous flower fields in summer, but in winter people visit to play in its meters and meters of powdery snow. There is a good mix of trails for beginners and experts extending more than 25 kilometers through the Furano and Kitanomine zones, with several runs and a half-pipe that have hosted World Cup events. Other attractions include the Waku-Waku Family Snow Land, where kids of all ages can try snow rafting and sledding. Peak season lift tickets are ¥4,200 for adults and ¥3,200 for children. To access Furano, a one-hour bus from Asahikawa Airport is the best option, while New Chitose Airport is a three-hour drive. West of Sapporo, Niseko is Japan’s downhill experience par excellence. Influenced by Siberian weather patterns, it receives light though somewhat moist powder and is one of the snowiest resorts in the world, logging more than 15 meters on average a year and snow depth topping four meters in March. Niseko
has seven resorts, but the most popular is Grand Hirafu on the slopes of Mount Annupuri. Hirafu is a two-hour bus ride, part of which goes by scenic Ishikari Bay, from New Chitose Airport. Its 34 runs are evenly split between beginner, intermediate and advanced, but it’s most loved for its off-piste powder zones like Strawberry Fields. Hirafu also has eye-popping views of nearby Mount Yotei, a sublime 1,898-meter stratovolcano known as the Mount Fuji of Hokkaido. With connections to the neighboring ski and snowboarding areas of Annupuri, Niseko Village and Hanazono, Hirafu is a starting point for days of downhill thrills. This Niseko United combination gives access to more than 60 runs, with eighthour passes beginning at ¥4,900 for adults and ¥2,900 for kids. Niseko’s prime powder continues to draw foreign skiers and snowboarders, especially Australians, and what was once a quaint Japanese mountain village is now developing rapidly into a world-class resort. If you tire of Niseko’s endless slopes, you can go snowmobiling, snow rafting or even horseback riding in the area. A ride through tranquil forests on horseback, flakes dancing in the air, is the perfect way to relax. Local onsen will do the trick, too, but don’t be surprised if you find a few Aussies guzzling beer in the baths! ®
Explorations beyond the Club 49
Little Ladies’ Posh Tea Party October 11
More than 40 girls donned their Sunday best for a one-of-a-kind fashion show and tea party based on the popular Fancy Nancy series of children’s books. The afternoon featured story time, glittery crafts, cake and lemonade and the crowning of the Club’s “Fanciest Girl.” Attendees received their own Fancy Nancy book to take home. Photos by Ayano Sato 1. Isabelle Markel 2. Isabelle Humair (front), Angela Tyldum and Alexandra Humair 3. Keiko Yajima and Giselle Marshall 4. Arlan Visser 5. Hana Higgins 6. Giselle Marshall 7. Sarah Visser with her daughter, Arlan, and son, Dylon 2
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EVENT EVENT ROUNDUP ROUNDUP
Snapshots from Club occasions 51
Disaster Awareness Day October 25
About 100 people attended this free, family-oriented event promoting safety in the case of emergency. Participants experienced a simulated earthquake, watched a CPR demonstration, explored a fire truck and practiced making emergency calls. Expert speakers were on hand to answer questions and give presentations, leaving Members better equipped to deal with disaster. Photos by Yuuki Ide 1. Mateen Chaudhry with his daughter, Mandelah
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Meet the Author: Hans Brinckmann October 1
Dutch-born writer Hans Brinckmann stopped by the Club to talk about his experiences living in Japan in the Showa period, published in his most recent book, Showa Japan: The Post-War Golden Age and Its Troubled Legacy. Brinckmann also shared his photo collection from the fascinating era with curious Members and later signed copies of his book. Photos by Yuuki Ide 1. Hans Brinckmann 2. (lâ€“r) Michelle Arnot, Hans Brinckmann and Virginia Orchard 3. Susan Millington and Hans Brinckmann 4. Katherine Forelle and June Ellen Feil 5. Katherine and Frank Forelle
Snapshots from Club occasions 53
Titanmoon Live at the Club October 16
The Gym was transformed into an ultra-hip music lounge when American indierock band Titanmoon took the stage one Friday night as part of an international tour. Youngstersâ€”and a handful of adultsâ€”rocked out for two hours as the band performed upbeat, acoustic-pop tunes and chatted up the crowd. Photos by Ayano Sato 1. Zack Felton 2. Trey Ware 3. Tyler Casey and Rene Floyd 4. Tyler Casey
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EVENT EVENT ROUNDUP ROUNDUP
Indoor Rowing Challenge October 4 2
Seven formidable rowers competed for the grand prize in this inaugural two-minute sprint contest. In a nail-biting finish, champion John Clappier beat out first runner-up Edward Randy Krieger by a mere meter, 616 to 615. Kurt Gibson came in third place at 581 meters. Photos by Venice Tang 1. Hector Dalton and John Clappier 2. Edward Randy Krieger and John Clappier 3. Raymond Kong 4. Kurt Gibson 5. Fitness Center Manager Paolo Olivieri and winner John Clappier
Snapshots from Club occasions 55
Karaoke Croonin’ by Karen Pond Illustration by Akiko Saito
’m a wannabe crooner. I love songs. I love to sing. I sing in the shower. I sing while making dinner. I sing while exercising. “Honey, are you OK?” my startled husband asked me the other day at the gym. “Fine,” I answered as I took off my headphones. “Why?” “Oh,” he answered. “I thought you were in pain.” OK. I love to sing, but, I admit, I don’t sing well. What I lack in talent, though, I make up for in enthusiasm. So when a friend of mine invited my husband and me to karaoke, I answered with an excited “Genki desu!” I love going with genki. After nearly three years of trying, my brain has proven to be impervious to the Japanese language. This was made painfully clear recently when I introduced my husband (shujin) as my shuujin (prisoner). “Sorry, dear,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “That’s OK, warden,” he answered. So now, instead of struggling through my limited phrases, I am just going with genki, the catchall term to represent all-round fineness. It’s simple, upbeat, enthusiastic and easy. It’s genki. “Genki,” I said to my friend. “But, by the way, I’m not really a good singer.” “C’mon,” she said, “karaoke is a Tokyo must-do.”
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“You said the same thing about an onsen,” I said. “And that was quite the learning experience.” Lesson No. 1: The towels dished out at hot-spring baths are small, miniscule, in fact. “Excuse me,” I had said to the receptionist, “this is my towel? I think I’m going to need at least three more. Actually, why don’t you just give me the whole basket of towels? And, if you don’t mind, I’ll take your window curtains, too.” Lesson No. 2: At an onsen, you leave your towel and inhibitions at the door. Lesson No. 3: An onsen bath is really not the ideal place for conversation. “So,” I had said to my friend after we had been soaking in the steamy waters for a few minutes, “how do you cook your pot roast?” I really couldn’t help myself. It felt awkward to be in such an intimate setting without chatting. I figured, at the very least, we could swap recipes. I’m a wannabe crooner. So I joined my friend at karaoke. I stood on the stage. I sang. I even tried out an air-guitar power stance. Apparently, however, even karaoke has standards. After my set, the manager turned off my mic and handed me a tambourine. I may be a wannabe crooner but, it seems, I should stick to percussion. ®
毎 月 一 回 一 日 発 行
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
第 四 十 三 巻 二 十 六 号
ト ウ キ ョ ウ ア メ リ カ ン ク ラ ブ
iNTOUCH December 2009
i N T O U C H
イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 〇 九 十 二 月 一 日 発 行
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
平 成 三 年 十 二 月 二 十 日 第 三 種 郵 便 物 許 可 定 価 八 ０ ０ 円 本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 537 • December 2009
Home for the Holidays
One Club Member and writer talks Japan’s urban extremes
The Club hosts a full month of seasonal celebrations
A snowy utopia awaits winter sports enthusiasts