TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
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TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
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i N T O U C H
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Bucking the System The Club’s 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, talks about challenging convention and championing change
本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 573 • January 2013
Japan’s frozen north boasts more than great skiing
Journey of Rediscovery Fortified wines make a comeback at the Club
Author Katie Van Camp entertains young Members
After an accident nearly left him unable to walk again, Club Member Matthew McGuire set himself the ambitious goal of finishing a famously grueling triathlon in Hawaii. talking heads
Lay of the Land
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With land prices in Japan slipping for a 21st straight year in 2012, Club Member and real estate agent Ken Arbour offers his assessment of the country’s property landscape. inside japan
Japan’s Fax Infatuation
Despite the popularity of e-mail, texting and social media, the somewhat archaic means of communication the fax machine remains a common sight in Japan. iNTOUCH finds out why. feature
The Protruding Nail Not known for his support of preserving the status quo, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa has pursued reform, improvement and innovation throughout his careers in medicine and public policy. Set to receive the Club’s Distinguished Achievement Award next month, he talks to iNTOUCH about a life spent sticking out.
iNTOUCH To advertise in iNTOUCH, contact Rie Hibino: firstname.lastname@example.org 03-4588-0976
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Tokyo American Club 2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8649 www.tokyoamericanclub.org
Editor Nick Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Designer Ryan Mundt Production Assistant Yuko Shiroki Assistant Editor Erika Woodward Communications Manager Matthew Roberts
Cover photo of Kiyoshi Kurokawa by Kayo Yamawaki
contents Contacts Events Board of Governors Management Food & Beverage Library DVD Library Recreation Women’s Group Feature Talking Heads Frederick Harris Gallery Member Services Inside Japan Out & About Event Roundup Back Words
Tony Cala General Manager email@example.com
Shuji Hirakawa Human Resources 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
Scott Yahiro Recreation Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Marcus Food & Beverage Director email@example.com
Getting in Touch Department/E-mail Phone American Bar & Grill
Banquet Sales and Reservations
Food & Beverage Office
Foreign Traders’ Bar
Member Services Desk
Women’s Group Office firstname.lastname@example.org
2 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Masao Miyamoto was the proverbial thorn in the side, the nail that conspicuously stuck out. Not only did he question long-followed practices, challenge accepted thinking, flout convention and dress differently from his peers, he did it all as an elite member of Japan’s bureaucracy: a bastion of conservatism and rigid rules. After a decade studying and working in the United States, the psychiatrist returned to Japan in 1986 to take up a senior position in the health ministry. As he struggled to make sense of his new work environment, Miyamoto came to realize that his real role as a bureaucrat was to be a part of a community, maintain harmony within that community and to ensure its survival. “Those daring enough to try something new are distrusted,” Miyamoto wrote in Straitjacket Society, his 1995 book on his experiences as a bureaucrat. “The most respected are those who avoid change and scrupulously avoid making mistakes that might upset the status quo.” Another doctor, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, experienced similar frustrations in Japan after many years in the US, a period he has described as enlightening. “[The] openness and encouragement to become ‘independent’ by my mentors and peers awakened something in my mind and changed my perception of the social hierarchical mindset prevailing in Japan and among Japanese,” he said in an e-mail to me. Armed with an inquiring mind and critical eye, Kurokawa returned to Japan at around the same time that Miyamoto was beginning his education as a bureaucrat. Since then, as he tells Nick Narigon in this month’s cover story, “The Protruding Nail,” he has campaigned for reform and innovation in everything from health policy to education to business. It’s for such dedicated work and for his penchant for putting conventional wisdom under his microscope that Kurokawa will be honored with the Club’s Distinguished Achievement Award next month. If you have any comments about anything you read in iNTOUCH, please e-mail them to email@example.com, putting “Letter to the Editor” in the subject title of the mail.
contributors Tim Hornyak
Canadian freelance journalist Tim Hornyak’s writings on Japanese culture, technology and history have appeared in a number of publications, including Wired News, Scientific American and the Far Eastern Economic Review. The author of Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots, Hornyak returned to his native Montreal in 2008 after almost a decade in Japan and now writes for the tech website CNET. Having traveled to all 47 of Japan’s prefectures, he contributes to Lonely Planet guidebooks. On pages 34 and 35 of this month’s iNTOUCH, he examines Japan’s lingering love affair with the fax machine, and in Out & About, on pages 36 and 37, he heads north to explore the wintry appeal of western Hokkaido. Nick Narigon is a Tokyo-based freelance writer. Originally from Cedar Falls, Iowa, he was the weeklies editor for the Des Moines Register for five years and spent two more years in New Jersey as the special sections editor for the Press of Atlantic City. His weekly travel column now runs in the Tampa Bay Current and he has contributed features to The Wall Street Journal Asia. An Eagle Scout and nature enthusiast, Narigon has worked as a mountain ranger and canoe guide. For this month’s cover story, “The Protruding Nail,” he talks to the recipient of the Club’s 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, about his remarkable career as a scientist, policy maker and agent of change.
Words from the editor 3
What’s happening in January Tuesday
Club Closure The Club shutters its doors for New Year’s Day, welcoming back Members on January 2.
Get Creative! Young Author Writing Contest The Club kicks off its second annual competition for young budding writers. Turn to page 12 for the details.
New Aromatherapy Special Keep the winter blues at bay by booking The Spa’s new rejuvenating treatment, which is discounted for the whole of January. Find out more on page 19.
Women’s Group Office Reopens After a winter break, the Women’s Group Office reopens for 2013.
Seven Lucky Gods Walking Tour Amass good fortune for the year by joining this annual Women’s Group tour to the temples of the seven lucky gods in the Tokyo district of Yanaka. Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk.
Library Book Group The Club’s band of literary lovers meet at Café Med to discuss PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. 12 p.m. For details, contact the Library.
Japanese Daruma Doll-Making Class Partake in a colorful Japanese New Year tradition by creating your own rotund, talismanic daruma doll for (hopefully) a year of luck and good fortune. 10 a.m. Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk.
Birth Preparation for Couples Two invaluable days that will get you ready for labor, birth and beyond. Women’s Group classrooms. ¥36,000. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Youth Cheer Dance Kickoff Budding cheerleaders ages 4 through 14 learn the ins and outs of this high-energy sport during this weekly class taught by Iku Ejiri-Hori. Flip to page 18 for more.
Gallery Reception Japanese artist Kenshi Yonekura launches his exhibition of quilt paintings, which were inspired by everyday moments of happiness, at the Frederick Harris Gallery. 6:30 p.m. More on page 30.
A Cask of Amontillado Wine Tasting The Wine Committee tantalizes taste buds with an edifying evening that will explore the sherry-like star of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story and other fortified wines. 7 p.m. Details on page 8.
Early Pregnancy and Birth Planning Expectant parents prepare for the arrival of their bundles of joy during this Women's Group class.10 a.m. Yukiko Maki Classroom. ¥7,000. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Toastmasters Luncheon Get started losing your fear of public speaking by attending this introductory Toastmasters event, hosted by Club Member Joe Peters. 12 p.m. To learn more, turn to page 19.
Kids’ Kabuki Workshop Club youngsters get to become Kabuki actors at a fun, hands-on workshop taught by Genichi Takeshiba. 2 p.m. Turn to page 18 to find out more about this firsttime program.
Chinese Grand Buffet Celebrate next month’s Chinese New Year early with a tasty spread. 11 a.m.–3 p.m. /5–8 p.m. New York Ballroom. Adults: ¥4,900; juniors (12–17 years): ¥2,800; children (7–11 years): ¥2,100; kids (4–6 years): ¥1,050; infants (3 and under): free. Reserve at 03-4588-0977.
Coffee Connections Whether you’re new to Tokyo or want to meet new people, drop by this relaxed Women’s Group gathering. 10:30 a.m. Free. Learn more about how the group helped transform one member’s life on page 20.
4 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Women’s Group Class Registration Sign up for another enlightening semester of fun and informative classes. 9:30 a.m. Visit the Club website for details.
The Biggest Loser Returns Don’t miss the start of this second annual 10-week, total-body transformation program at the Fitness Center. Get a jump on that New Year’s resolution by flipping to page 19.
Coming up in February
Squash Social Night The Club’s squash players enjoy an evening of casual play and mingling at the Squash Courts. 6:15 p.m. All are welcome.
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Bench Press Challenge Sapporo Snow Festival Preview Tour Super Bowl XLVII at the Club Father-Daughter Dinner Dance Monthly Program Meet the Author: Katie Van Camp Mudsharks Winter Sprinter Meet Distinguished Achievement Award Presentation Ceremony
A Membership Within Reach
to a Club Beyond Exceptional Committed to providing a vibrant home away from home to Japan’s foreign community for more than 80 years, the Club is inviting new Members to join at a price within reach. If you have a friend who hails from abroad and who has called Japan home for more than one year, they are eligible for this limited-time offer (January 1–March 31, 2013) to help us grow our community in the tradition of cultural richness. When your friend becomes a Member, you’ll earn a generous voucher for helping to enrich the Club. Read the Member Introduction Rewards Program details on the Membership page of the website or contact the Membership Office for details.
Terms and conditions apply. For more information, contact the Membership Office for details at 03-4588-0687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
Board of Governors John Durkin (2014)—President Gregory Lyon (2014)—Vice President Mary Saphin (2013)—Vice President Deb Wenig (2013)—Secretary Hiroshi Miyamasu (2013)—Treasurer
All Set for 2013 by Ira Wolf
Brenda Bohn (2014), Norman J Green (2013), Ginger Griggs (2014), Paul Hoff (2013), Per Knudsen (2014), Lance E Lee (2014), Jeff McNeill (2013), Machi Nemoto (2014), Jerry Rosenberg (2014), Mark Saft (2014), Dan Stakoe (2013), Sadashi Suzuki (2014), Ira Wolf (2013), Kazuakira Nakajima—Statutory Auditor (2014)
elcome back from what I hope was a great holiday vacation, whether you spent it in Tokyo or elsewhere. I am rejuvenated (and exhausted) after a week with my two little granddaughters in Florida. What a joy to see them, and what a joy to give them back to their parents and return to Tokyo. As we begin the New Year in the Club (and soon start the year of the snake in Japan), things are looking pretty good. We have a new elected leadership of first-time and returning Board members and a brand-new president, who was appointed in a new electoral system required by Japanese law. Thanks to all of you who participated in the voting and ensured that we met the legal requirements of our new nonprofit status. In other changes, we have a (relatively) new general manager (Tony Cala) and a newly refinanced mortgage that will bring us considerable savings and, perhaps even more important, give us greater flexibility in management and budget decisions, without the constraints of our old mortgage’s covenants. In addition, we have a large cohort of new Members, thanks to some innovative membership programs designed and implemented by our Membership Committee and the Membership Office. The next challenge is to ensure the maximum use of the Club by all of us. I think that should be quite easy to do. I have watched the expansion of eating opportunities and alternatives over the past year, with the extension of opening hours and days for some facilities, the launch of FLATiRON in Decanter and more frequent change in
menus. The number of wine events has proliferated, too. The Frederick Harris Gallery is thriving, with contemporary and traditional artwork available to admire, stimulate and buy, as well as the wonderful opportunity to share a glass of wine with the artists at the opening of each exhibition. The Sky Pool, Fitness Center and Gymnasium seem to be in use all the time. I am astonished and pleased every time I go to the Library and see that adults and kids are still actually reading books and magazines, despite everything I hear about the end of print. And what a pleasure it is now to be able to relax with a glass of wine in the Winter Garden. So, what changes would I still like to see? I would like to see a greater involvement by all of you in the Club—using our incredible facilities even more, socializing with each other in our community, joining a committee to help make decisions about what the Club is doing, and providing feedback to management and the Board about what you like, what you don’t like, which employee has been particularly attentive to your needs and what changes you would like to see. Please take a few moments to fill out a Tell TAC comment card, which are available around the Club and online. Or grab one of the Board members and tell us directly about the good, the bad and the ugly, as Clint Eastwood would say, although we hope it is mainly the good and how to make it better. The snake is a studious creature that prefers quiet predictability to ruckus and mayhem. Let’s all hope for a more normal year in 2013. o
Exciting Times Irwin Wong
by John Durkin
6 January 2013 iNTOUCH
It’s great to have been elected as Club president, or representative governor as the position is officially known under our new nonprofit status. As we start 2013, we celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of our spectacular facility at Azabudai. Our investment of ¥28 billion ($350 million) in the new Club was unprecedented and resulted in a modern, safe and functional home that can serve the diverse needs of Members year-round. Last year, great progress was made in better
The Road Ahead
by Tony Cala
would like to express my deep appreciation to all Members and staff for helping to make last year a period of expansion, learning and success. I feel privileged to have been handed the opportunity to serve as general manager and, although I am still considered a new member of the team, the welcome I have received makes me feel like I have been here for years. It has been a challenging time for the Club since returning to Azabudai from Takanawa, and the coming year will be a vitally important period as the Club works to realize its vision, achieve its mission objectives and establish a new set of management targets. At November’s Annual General Meeting, a new Board of Governors was elected and, under new rules, the Board appointed John Durkin as its representative governor and Club president. In addition, a refinancing agreement for the Club’s redevelopment loan was overwhelmingly approved by the voting Membership and signed just last month. This new agreement relieves the Club from several covenants, allowing us to focus on Member satisfaction and Club improvement. Since taking up his position, the president has expressed his desire to change the Club’s debt-focused mindset to one that promotes the Club as an “awesomely fun and essential part of each Member’s Tokyo life.” I am in total agreement with this approach and have asked our staff to adopt an uncompromising
securing the Club’s future by refinancing the redevelopment loan and cutting the interest rate we pay by more than 50 percent. We also welcomed almost 200 new Members in December. It’s fantastic to see so much interest in the Club from the community, and we look forward to experiencing our new Members’ energy and vitality. During a busy 2012, the Club lowered the prices of more than 300 restaurant items, introduced happy hours in Traders’ Bar and the Winter Garden, launched new
attitude in championing the Club’s three brand pillars of “relax, bond and exceed.” It is important to provide collective goals for our staff while making the most of their abilities. This strategy will enable us to create unforgettable experiences for our Members. In November, we distributed a comprehensive membership survey to all Members. The response has been fantastic and encouraging. The results, which will be available later this month, will show us what Members think about the Club. This feedback, together with the brand study that was conducted by Beacon Communications last year, will help in the development of new Club programs, services and initiatives. I am positive about the Club’s future. While we will, no doubt, encounter some tough times (just like others in the hospitality and private club industries), the Club is a strong organization that is committed to exceeding in quality and service. What’s more, the Club’s vibrant community, long-cherished values and ability to make tough but correct decisions have ensured its success and longevity. I am confident that our best years lie ahead of us, and I believe that with the Board, staff and our Members working together, the Club will become the premier private membership club in Tokyo while continuing to be the magical place that it is. I offer my best wishes to you and your families for success, good health and happiness throughout 2013. o
menus in Decanter, started a more flexible parking policy, began accepting Diners Club credit cards and hosted many holiday events and buffets. We welcomed a new, highly experienced general manager, Tony Cala, too. For the coming year, we plan to reaffirm the Club’s commitment to our core values of family, friends, food, fitness and fun. I look forward to working with Tony, the committees and the Board to introduce exciting Member benefits, grow our
membership and deliver the high-quality experience that is expected of TAC. Finally, I would like to thank former President Lance Lee for a great four years. Under his leadership, among many accomplishments, we transitioned from our temporary abode to Azabudai—a historic milestone for the Club. Feel free to contact me, Club management or my colleagues on the Board with any feedback, and help us create an even better Club. o
Executive remarks 7
A Cask of D Amontillado by David Tropp
oubtless you have heard of Edgar Allan Poe’s great mystery “The Cask of Amontillado.” But have you actually tried Amontillado or any of its siblings in the world of sherry, port and Madeira? How about the sherry’s more distant cousins, such as Setúbal Moscatel or vin doux naturel? Long out of fashion, Amontillado and its extended family of fortified wines are undergoing a renaissance and are well worth rediscovering. The wines represent excellent value, elegance, quality and stylistic breadth. But perhaps the greatest virtue of so many fortified wines is their remarkable ability to solve another mystery: what do you pair with foods that seem to challenge all other wines? This month, the Club’s wine program manager, Kelley Schaefer, and I will collaborate to enlighten all on the virtues and endless diversity of fortified wines and their delightful prowess at the dinner table. While most people are familiar with port and sherry, such legendary treasures as Madeira and Marsala are also worth exploring. Madeira, from the tiny, picturesque island off the coast of West Africa, has the greatest aging capacity of any wine, and vintages from pre-1900 are still drinking well. It is produced in a variety of styles, presenting something for everyone’s palate. And while most are familiar with Marsala as a sauce for veal, few have enjoyed this legendary Sicilian wine’s elegant appeal. Each of these wines has a story to tell. Favored more by chefs than sommeliers, they seem to be long forgotten at the dinner table. Yet they provide extraordinary opportunity for discovery, and at great value. During this tasting, we will explore the seemingly endless variety of fortified wines (sherry alone is represented by the likes of Fino, Amontillado, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez), so, by the time we’re done, you’ll never mix up your Malmseys and Manzanillas again. Join us as we uncork the mystery of these wines, and you’ll deduce that they should be a key component of your wine cellar and dinner table. o
Tropp is a member of the Wine Committee.
A Cask of Amontillado Wine Tasting Wednesday, January 16 7 p.m. Washington and Lincoln rooms ¥7,500 Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
8 January 2013 iNTOUCH
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Mentoring Madonna by Kelley Michael Schaefer
n average day in the wine business is seldom average. In the vineyard, where only unpredictability is predictable, the weather keeps the days (and years) dynamic. In the cellar, fermentations take on a life of their own while winemakers do their best to control the divine hands of nature. In the hospitality industry, there is a vigorous mix of vibrant wine personalities (with egos to match) and discerning and frequently demanding consumer expectations. I have been fortunate to have experienced it all, having honed my craft in the vineyards and cellars of the arid Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. My job has taken me to such diverse locations as the Maldives, Dubai and on board a luxury ocean liner. There have been many perks over the years, including trips to the world’s finest winegrowing regions and unforgettable Michelin-starred wine dinners. Such bonuses and “incentive trips” are what motivate blue-collar sommeliers. Choose a particular Pinot Grigio and the vendor throws in a jaunt to Italy, for example. Through all the glitz and rewarding upsides, one experience has eclipsed all others. It was a balmy, starlit night in the Maldives. Unbeknown to me, a VIP had just arrived incognito on our island paradise. It was Madonna, together with her now ex-husband, the filmmaker Guy
Ritchie, their family and a small entourage. The first thing the couple did after settling into their villa was head to the bar for a sundowner. As head sommelier, it was my job to help them select a wine. “M” (as I was instructed to address the queen of pop) confidently ordered a bottle of 1999 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco. Although this is indeed a world-class wine, I felt that it wasn’t the best choice for drinking without food or in the humid setting of a Maldivian evening. I suggested something more suitable: softer in tannin and lighter in style. In retrospect, I must have been crazy to second-guess Madonna. But my recommendation was served and, much to my relief, they both loved it. During a brief chat with the celebrity pair, it became apparent that their wine knowledge needed some upgrading, especially when Guy Ritchie proclaimed, “I still don’t get that tannin thing.” Opportunity had just knocked on my door with a resounding bang. Barely able to control my exhilaration, I suggested a private wine tasting in our underground wine cellar later that week. Both M and Guy enthusiastically agreed and a date was set. I must have sent dozens of text messages that evening. To be continued… o Schaefer is the Club’s wine program manager.
Kelley’s Cellar Selection 1998 Château d’Yquem, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France To label Château d’Yquem a dessert wine would be slanderous. This is a wine that will change your entire perception of wine. If you have never tasted it, quite simply, you must. Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon are kissed by pourriture noble (noble rot), or botrytis cinerea—a magical fungus that dehydrates the grapes, concentrating sugars and contributing to the essence of d’Yquem. With its cornucopia of hypnotic aromas (think dried apricots, pears, mandarins and peaches dipped in honey), this wine should be experienced with foie gras for a divine gourmet moment. ¥24,500 a bottle (375ml) at Decanter.
Club wining and dining 9
Keeping the Master Sleuth Alive Longtime Japan resident and author Hugh Ashton explains the appeal of writing stories about the worldâ€™s most famous fictional detective.
10 January 2013 iNTOUCH
hy would anyone want to write stories about a fictional detective whose adventures are set more than a hundred years ago? And why on earth is a writer who has lived in Japan for 25 years penning these tales? One answer to these questions comes from the board game Cluedo (you know, Colonel Mustard in the library with the dagger) that I played over New Year 2012 with a friend’s children. We were making jokes about Sherlock Holmes’ smarter younger sister, and the next day I wrote a story featuring that same character. I put The Odessa Business on Smashwords, a self-publishing site for e-books, and swiftly wrote another, The Case of the Missing Matchbox. I was already talking to Inknbeans Press, a small publishing house in the United States, about
some other short stories, and when they saw these two Holmes adventures, they offered to publish them as paperback and e-book editions. That month, Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD was released. My story here is that the box in which John Watson stored his untold tales was sent to me from London, and I am merely the editor of these adventures. For the record, my grandmother’s maiden name really was Watson, so I feel I have some right to use this as a backstory. The first volume was followed by three more Holmes volumes: two collections of short stories and a novel, all of which were written and published within a year. They regularly top the Sherlock Holmes bestseller lists on the US Amazon website, and recently they received a seal of approval from the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., which is owned by the family of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes’ creator. That made the publisher and me very proud indeed. But why Holmes? Of course, like so many people, I grew up with the books and loved them. Conan Doyle, who wanted to be remembered for his
historical novels and actually killed off Holmes, before resurrecting him by popular demand, had a distinctive, archaic style of writing—even for those days—and I have always enjoyed imitating it for fun. I find it surprisingly easy to write in Conan Doyle’s slightly quirky style, which has drawn praise from both casual readers and diehard Sherlockians around the world. Holmes probably has more informed fans than any other fictional character, so I have to be precise in my writing and accurate with my facts. Indeed, I am probably more exact than Conan Doyle, who was notoriously sloppy about details, but then I have the Internet at my disposal. I also read a lot of contemporary detective and thriller books to get the full flavor and atmosphere in which to set my Holmes stories. As an expatriate writer, it’s hard for me to write novels set in today’s Britain or America, as these are now foreign countries to me. I either have to set my work in Japan, with its limited market, or go to the past. I have found a niche in the late 19th century and now find it easy to see the Victorian world through Watson’s eyes, borrowing his perceptions, outlook and morality. My Watson is more intelligent and resourceful than Conan Doyle’s protagonist, but he is not radically different from the original. I feel that I am actually extending the canon (as the original adventures are referred to), rather than simply writing stories that borrow the name of Sherlock Holmes. It would be unthinkable for me to bring in vampires or zombies, as some writers have done, or to introduce other fictional characters. To a Sherlockian, Holmes and Watson are as real historical figures as Queen Victoria and British Prime Minister William Gladstone—though, at the same time, we know they are only fictional. I therefore weave in references to the canon wherever possible, and this appears to be appreciated by those who have only a casual acquaintance with the world’s first consulting detective, as well as those who live and breathe the foggy atmosphere of the Baker Street of Dr John Watson and his famous friend, Sherlock Holmes. o Ashton is a Kamakura-based writer.
A number of Ashton’s books, including Tales from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, More from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD, Secrets from the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD and The Darlington Substitution are available at the Library. Beneath Gray Skies www.beneathgrayskies.com
Literary gems at the Library 11
When Harry Met Horsie by Erika Woodward
eeping journals and writing letters for nearly two decades, Katie Van Camp is an avid writer, but she never thought she’d like to write children’s books until she met Harry. Six years ago, while working as an au pair in New York for the 9-year-old son of American comedian David Letterman, she wrote the boy a story. “That was the seed that eventually blossomed into Harry and Horsie,” says the 31-year-old Canadian author, who saw her tale published in 2009. Two years later, she released Cookie Bot!, an imaginative story about Harry’s quest for cookies with a cookiegrabbing robot. Club youngsters will be able to hear about both books when Van Camp returns to the Club next month to host an inspiring reading. The books’ illustrator, Lincoln Agnew, will also appear via Skype. “I guess the ultimate reward is to hear that children are asking for the book to be read over and over again, and that parents don’t mind because they like Harry and Horsie, too,” Van Camp says. “I’m always thrilled when I’m doing a reading and a few of the children chime in as though they are familiar with the story.” Being a children’s author, though, has its challenges. “The market for one,” she says. “People are buying fewer children’s books these days, which makes publishers less willing to take a chance on a new story. They want something fresh, all while wanting something safe.” A former dancer, Van Camp currently resides in Tokyo, where
she teaches ballet when she’s not working on her next project. Together with Agnew, she has joined creative forces with a Montreal-based production company to develop what she hopes will be an animated series based on the adventures of her pintsized protagonist. Young Harry fans no doubt hope so, too. o Harry and Horsie www.harryandhorsie.com Meet the Author: Katie Van Camp Saturday, February 16 10–11:30 a.m. ¥1,050 Sign up online or at the Library
Get Creative! Young Author Writing Contest
udding writers are invited to pen a piece of creative writing that could end up published in iNTOUCH. Open to ages 12 to 18, entrants should write between 400 and 600 words on an inspiring book they read, explaining why they liked the book and how it exhilarated them. Entries should be e-mailed to Reina Collins at email@example.com, with “Young Author Writing Contest” in the subject title of the mail, between January 2 and February 15. The winning essay will be published in the April issue of iNTOUCH and its author will receive an Apple Store gift card worth ¥5,000. o
12 January 2013 iNTOUCH
reads Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu Simple Japanese recipes, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Perfect for fans of farmers’ markets, this book demystifies the rural kitchen by introducing essential ingredients, equipment and techniques of Japanese home cooking.
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America by Bill O’Reilly Through an unforgettable cast of characters, vivid historical detail and page-turning action, O’Reilly brings to life a dramatic period of American history while explaining how a single gunshot changed a country.
Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal British linguistics expert Crystal offers some insight and explanation into why the English words we speak and write are spelled the way they are. This remarkable journey takes in influences from the 6th century up to the age of the Internet.
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh First published in 1964, this classic children’s novel about a girl who loses her secret notebook has sold over 4 million copies and continues to delight. It won the New York Times Outstanding Book Award the year it was released.
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya Through a masterful retelling of Sophocles’ story of Antigone, this novel, set in present-day Afghanistan, highlights the realities of war while portraying the nature and futility of this particular contemporary conflict.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple Notoriously opinionated to some, a groundbreaking architect to others and to 15-year-old Bee, a best friend and Mom, Bernadette Fox is anything but straightforward. Then she disappears.
Reviews compiled by Library Committee chair Melanie Chetley.
Library & Children’s Library Daily: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. tel: 03-4588-0678 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
member’s choice Member: JK Chan Title: Reamde by Neal Stephenson
What’s the book about? Programming whiz Zula gets caught up in a Russian gang leader’s pursuit of the creator of a computer virus, while the British government launches a covert operation to track down a dangerous Islamic militant. And when Zula’s adopted family unknowingly come to her rescue, they add to the confusion.
What did you like about it? The story’s characters are forced to make decisions with only fragmented pieces of information and limited knowledge about who is an ally and who is not.
Why did you choose it? It’s an entertaining read (or listen) and an escape from daily life.
What other books would you recommend? Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore—another adventure through space and time.
Literary gems at the Library 13
Triumphant TV by Erika Woodward
ven his wife and children thought he was dead, so when Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody returns home eight years after going missing in Iraq, he’s heralded a national hero. All the while, determined CIA officer Carrie Mathison suspects he’s planning an attack on America. So is the premise of the Emmy Award-winning HBO TV series “Homeland.” Starring Damien Lewis and Claire Danes (best lead actor and actress in a drama series), this nail-biter is available at the DVD Library, along with a rivetingly entertaining cache of other victorious TV series. Dubbed the television equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards recognize standout shows from the year’s offerings on American TV. Following this past September’s ceremony, the DVD Library is inviting Members to drop by and pick up a prizewinning series or two. First up is “Modern Family.” Having taken home the Emmy for outstanding comedy series three years in a row, this romp follows the humorously turbulent lives of three related families, and we’ve got the three winning seasons. Then there’s “Veep,” a comedy series from HBO. Playing the frustrated US vice president, trying to push policy when the White House would rather she posed for photo ops, the star, Julia LouisDreyfus, won the Emmy for lead actress in a comedy series. Fans of suspense should check out HBO’s “Breaking Bad.” The unlikely thriller follows a genius high school chemistry teacher who, struggling to come to terms with a recent diagnosis, sets about making the world’s best crystal meth. Playing his former student and partner in crime, Jesse, Aaron Paul won best supporting actor for his role in this drama we can’t get enough of. o
Check out these award-winning titles and other TV series at the DVD Library.
movies H OR R O R House at the End of the Street Having recently moved with her newly divorced mom into their dream house, Elissa kicks off her fresh start with a neighborhood romance. But things turn sinister when she discovers that her boyfriend’s estranged sister has a dangerous secret. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Max Thierot.
Hotel Transylvania Dracula’s daughter is turning 118, so he’s throwing her an all-star monster birthday bash at his lavish resort, where things freely go bump in the night. But after a human mistakenly crashes the party, the count is running scared in this animated flick.
D RAMA End of Watch Palling around during a routine traffic stop, two young LA cops (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña) unexpectedly find money and guns. The discovery, though, makes them the target of a notorious drug cartel. Written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day).
Seven Psychopaths As if being the gangbanging owner of a fluffy Shih Tzu dog isn’t hard enough, LA thug Charlie (Woody Harrelson) is on the hunt for his beloved pet’s unlikely kidnappers in this outrageous comedy that also stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken.
CO ME DY To Rome with Love Woody Allen directs an all-star cast in this entertainingly messy comedy about the unpredictable romances, lucky breaks and awkward introspections of vacationers and locals in Rome. Starring Judy Davis, Penélope Cruz and Alex Baldwin.
DVD Library Daily: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. tel: 03-4588-0686 e-mail: email@example.com
14 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Hit and Run Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard), a former getaway driver, is ditching his sure life under witness protection to take his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) on the road to chase her dreams. But first, they’ve got to shake off the federal marshal and thugs on their tail.
f you haven’t managed to secure a ticket to join the more than 72,000 shrieking football fans at New Orleans’ Superdome for Super Bowl XLVII, you can still enjoy NFL’s showiest spectacle. The Club’s annual Super Bowl party promises to be another lively morning of great prizes, betting pools, delicious food and, naturally, vigorous gridiron. This year marks the first time in a decade that football’s biggest game has visited the Big Easy and, while the city’s famous French Quarter will likely be chock-full of boisterously inebriated foot traffic that day, there will be plenty of roars emanating from the home of the Saints. Built in 1975 for $134 million, the steel symbol of the city’s recovery will host its first Super Bowl since undergoing more than $300 million in renovations six years after Hurricane Katrina left hundreds dead and 80 percent of the city flooded. “This stadium used to have holes in it and used to be wet,” said coach Sean Payton two years ago, before leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. “It’s not wet anymore.” Book your tickets now for what is sure to be another morning of heart-stopping Super Bowl action, complemented by the requisite festivities to celebrate this muchloved American institution (and maybe a killer comeback or two). o
Super Bowl Showtime by Erika Woodward
Super Bowl XLVII at the Club Monday, February 4 8:30 a.m. New York Ballroom ¥5,000 (includes breakfast buffet) Reserved seat: ¥8,000 (includes breakfast buffet) Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk Sponsored by the Programs and Events Committee
Joining a Committee Members interested in joining one of the committees listed should contact its chair or inquire at the Management Office. Names in parentheses denote Board liaisons. Compensation Brian Nelson Finance Gregory Davis (John Durkin) Food & Beverage Joe Purcell (Mary Saphin)
Food & Beverage Subcommittee Wine Mark Baxter House Jesse Green (Gregory Lyon) House Subcommittee Facilities Management Group Elaine Williams Human Resources Jon Sparks (Steve Romaine)
Membership Craig Saphin (Deb Wenig) Membership Subcommittee Branding TBD Nominating Roger Marshall Programs & Events Barbara Hancock Programs & Events Subcommittee Frederick Harris Gallery Yumiko Sai
Recreation Tim Griffen (Ira Wolf) Recreation Subcommittees Bowling Crystal Goodfliesh DVD Abby Radmilovich Fitness Sam Rogan Golf Steven Thomas Library Melanie Chetley Logan Room Diane Dooley Squash Martin Fluck Swim Jesse Green & Alexander Jampel Youth Activities Narissara March
Cornerstone of the Club 15
Three and half years after a serious accident nearly left him paralyzed, Club Member Matthew McGuire completed a punishing triathlon in Hawaii. by Nick Jones
resh from a morning workout in the Sky Pool with his fellow masters program swimmers, a smiling, toned Matthew McGuire looks relaxed. It’s difficult to imagine that less than four years ago the same person was almost paralyzed in an accident at home. What’s more incredible is that the 46-year-old, who appears free of any lasting effects from his trauma, completed a half Ironman last summer. Starting out with 1,600 other triathletes, McGuire toiled through a 1.9-kilometer swim in the waters off Big Island’s Kohala Coast in Hawaii, before cycling 90 kilometers and finishing the race with a 21.1-kilometer run. McGuire’s parents flew in from Boston, Massachusetts, to cheer him across the finish line. “During the whole accident, they were obviously very worried and came over [to Japan] before the surgery,” he says. “To see me finish the triathlon was very moving for them.” The American banker’s achievement represented the culmination of months of rehabilitation and training. The journey to Hawaii began on a chilly January day in 2009. Relaxing with his family at their holiday home on the Izu Peninsula, McGuire decided to trim the tree in the back garden to give them a better view of the ocean. Horsing around with his kids at the same time, he fell. “I
16 January 2013 iNTOUCH
landed on my back and my head flipped back and I hit my head on this concrete wall, so I had this big gash and a pretty severe concussion,” he says. The fall was serious. Ill-equipped to deal with what they surmised to be a brain injury, the staff at the nearby hospital in the city of Shimoda transferred McGuire to Numazu. On the third day after the accident, he woke up. Still slipping in and out of consciousness, he learned the extent of his injuries. “The back injury was so severe that I could not be safely transported anywhere but Tokyo, really,” he says. “My spinal cord was damaged by the impact and the vertebrae separated, and the spinal cord was hanging on by a thread.” McGuire says he is indebted to his quick-thinking son, Kai, who not only called the ambulance but stemmed his father’s bleeding head and stopped him from moving and causing further injury to his spine. “In the end, when I woke up in the hospital, although I had almost no memory of the accident, I knew that my son had probably saved my life,” he says. “When I saw him, I cried and thanked him. He is truly my hero nowadays.” Despite the severity of the injury to four of McGuire’s thoracic vertebrae, his doctor at the Red Cross Medical Center in Hiroo, Dr Junichi Kunogi, was confident that his patient would make a full recovery. “The planning of the surgery was like building a house
(l–r) Matthew, Jackie and Ken McGuire
because two of the vertebrae were dislocated and there were pieces of bone, so they had to work out how to remove the bone shards and put the [vertebrae] back in line,” McGuire says. X-rays of McGuire’s back reveal the results of Kunogi’s delicate surgical solution: two chopstick-length titanium rods and eight screws, each about the size of a pinkie, inserted into four vertebrae. One misjudged movement during the procedure to attach them, McGuire says, and he may never have walked again. “Dr Kunogi lost his fingernail during the 11-hour operation due to the pressure he was applying in order to hand-screw in each screw,” he says. “The curvature of the rods is very precise to align my back. He also did this perfectly. If he had not, I would not have walked straight ever again.” While some foreigners have mixed opinions about Japanese healthcare, McGuire, who joined the Club in 2007, says he was delighted with his treatment. “There are actually very few surgeons who would attempt that surgery,” he says. “Some surgeons would have said, ‘Leave it, it’s too iffy to even mess around. Let it heal as it is.’” It was during his long and painful six months of intensive rehabilitation that McGuire set himself the Ironman goal. “I guess I realized for the first time in my life that not being physically able is a big deal,” he says. “And I thought, ‘I’m going to do whatever I
can to get back to full health.’” McGuire says he was also inspired by his mother and her battle with cancer. During that period, he encountered the Livestrong Foundation, the charity started by the now disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong after his own cancer diagnosis. “After I had my own hospital stint and spent a lot of time laying on my back thinking about what it might be like to never run or even walk again, I came back to the Livestrong theme. I read the story of Lance Armstrong and thought my challenge to come back was small in comparison to what he or my mom endured,” he says. “Needless to say, I was inspired to do my best to recover and ‘live strong,’ and that is when I decided to aim even higher after my injury and try to do the Ironman 70.3.” So, on June 2 last year, McGuire lined up alongside hundreds of other competitors, including Armstrong himself, in Hawaii. Almost six hours and 113 kilometers later, he completed his mission. Now cycling, swimming and running regularly each week, McGuire describes his accident four years ago as life-changing. “I really learned that health is everything,” he says. “I’m 46 years old and I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape than now. I was in decent shape before the accident, and thank God I was because I don’t know if the outcome would have been the same. It made me motivated to really value my health and fitness level.” o
Fitness and well-being 17
YO UTH E VE N TS
Kabuki for Kids Boys and girls watch young actors perform Kabuki and have the chance to try their hand at the centuries-old theater form at this fun workshop. Taught by Genichi Takeshiba of the Association of Traditional Performing Arts of Japan. Kids’ Kabuki Workshop Saturday, January 26 2–4 p.m. Gymnasium Children (2–10 years): ¥525 Adults: ¥1,050 Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk
Sky Pool Spectacle Mudsharks Winter Sprinter Meet Sunday, February 17 2:30 p.m. (warm-up from 2 p.m.) Medal presentation: 4 p.m. Sky Pool and Washington Room ¥1,260 per swimmer Sign up at the Sky Pool Office by February 10
fter the success of the 2012 inaugural event, the Club’s swim team, the Mudsharks, hosts another exciting afternoon of swimming action and friendly competition for all swimmers, regardless of age or ability. Medals, ribbons and prizes will be awarded at a special ceremony afterwards, so grab those goggles and get set for some race fun! o
Budding cheerleaders learn the latest dance routines during this weekly, high-energy class taught by Iku Ejiri-Hori, who has 10 years’ experience producing halftime shows for football games in Japan. Youth Cheer Dance January 14–March 18 Every Thursday Pee Wee and Cadet Cheerleaders (4–8 years) 5–6 p.m. ¥22,500 Junior Cheerleaders (8–14 years) 6–7:30 p.m. ¥33,750 Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk
CL AS S F OC U S : L IT T LE T E N N I S
esigned by the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), Little Tennis introduces youngsters to the sport using soft tennis balls and different sized rackets. Having kicked off the course at the Club more than a decade ago, former tennis pro and USPTA-certified instructor Allen Krissman says that the program “isn’t only about hitting balls.” He says the class also aids physical development. But 4-year-old Member Billy Freund has signed up for another season simply “because it’s fun.” o
18 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Little Tennis Every Saturday Beginners 8:45 a.m./9:30 a.m./10:15 a.m. (3–4 years) Beginners/Intermediate 8:45 a.m. (6–8 years)/ 9:30 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. (5–7 years)/ 10:15 a.m. (4–5 years) Intermediate 8:45 a.m. (5–6 years)/9:30 a.m. (6–8 years) Gymnasium Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk
TOA S T MA S T E R S
FIT N E SS
Toasting Fear Goodbye
The Biggest Loser Returns
Get started losing your fear of public speaking and becoming a more effective leader by attending this introductory Toastmasters event.
Don’t miss the start of this second annual 10week, total-body transformation program at the Fitness Center. Get a jump on your New Year’s resolution to lose weight, get fit and look great.
Put those biceps to the test at this ultimate strength challenge for both men and women in the Fitness Center.
Toastmasters Luncheon Wednesday, January 23 12–1:30 p.m. Washington and Lincoln rooms ¥2,940 For 18 years and above Sign up online or at the Library
The Biggest Loser January 28–April 7 ¥77,000 For 16 years and above Sign up online or at the Fitness Center For more information, contact the Fitness Center at 03-4588-0266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bench Press Challenge Saturday, February 2 For ages 16 and above Sign up online or at the Fitness Center For more information, contact the Fitness Center at 03-4588-0266 or email@example.com.
New Aromatherapy Special This winter, The Spa is introducing a new aromatherapy treatment that is designed to boost your immune system while reducing stress, pain and inflammation. This Doterra Aromatouch Technique treatment uses nourishing essential oils, which are applied with a gentle, therapeutic touch to the back and shoulders. For the whole of January, enjoy this 45-minute pampering at a 20 percent discount for just ¥6,720.
The Spa proudly uses products by
To book your next pampering session, contact The Spa at 03-4588-0714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fitness and well-being 19
A Community of Opportunity Former Women’s Group President Betsy Rogers reflects on her experiences as a member of the dynamic Club organization.
20 January 2013 iNTOUCH
was at my first Tokyo cocktail party and, having just arrived in the city, was asking the typical newcomer questions of other guests like “How long have you been in Tokyo?” and “How long will you be here?” I remember exactly where I was standing and the face of the woman who replied, “Nine years.” I tried to hide my disbelief and not blurt out, “I would never live in a foreign country that long. There’s no way that will ever be me.” She enthusiastically continued: “And, of course, you must attend the Tokyo: Here & Now program at Tokyo American Club.” I told her that I had studied Japanese in college, had come over as an exchange student and had just moved from China, so I didn’t think that the program had much to offer me. “No, you’ll go,” she said “You’ll thank me later.” I didn’t go, and I missed out. I was adopted by a group that had bonded at the program, though, and they were my source of well-being, inspiration and guidance. After receiving a copy of the Tokyo: Here & Now handbook, I headed to my first Coffee Connections get-together. But just meeting friends and getting tips about living in Tokyo were not the reasons why I continued to return. Having left a job in economic development in Beijing to arrive friendless in Tokyo, I felt like a fish out of water. But the Women’s Group proved to be just the pond for me. The women I met were type-A personalities who had arrived in Japan with spouses or
boyfriends. They were here to network, start a business or find a job, depending on their visas. I jumped in and raised my hand. My starting point was the tours committee, whose tour booklet declares, “Members of the committee enjoy exploring Japan and love introducing their favorite places to others.” As chair of the committee, I worked with my committee colleagues on marketing and leading the tours, as well as organizing itineraries and logistical details. Besides being great for the résumé, organizing tours was something I loved doing. I also got to know more people at the Club than ever before. It allowed me to build a great network of friends. Over the decade I have worked with the Women’s Group, I have noticed how the programs have changed to meet the needs of the group’s members. Since the expat community has evolved in tandem with a city that has become truly cosmopolitan (just look at the number of Halloween trick-or-treaters and Christmas trees around Tokyo nowadays), it seems natural that the Women’s Group would evolve, too. People have less time for volunteering and there is more with which to busy ourselves. However, our members, both working and nonworking, still make time to volunteer at our charity fundraisers and monthly events, on the board and much more. While history often gets lost as people move on, some things remain constant. As an integral part of the Club, the
Women’s Group continues to offer its members a wide range of opportunities. Teaching or taking a class, running a tour, managing a budget, marketing a program, training volunteers, working with local charities or organizing a guest speaker series are all possible. Then, of course, there’s the chance to connect with dynamic people on a daily basis. Christa Wallington, the Women’s Group’s director of membership, is on her second stint in Japan. “I came here to connect with people, to give and participate in the community,” she says. “The Women’s Group is the most important network station at the Club.” Some things never change. o Rogers is a former president of the Women’s Group and one of the authors of Tokyo: Here and How: An Expat’s Guide to Finding Your Path in the City and Beyond.
Coffee Connections Monday, January 28 10:30 a.m. Haru Reischauer and Beate Sirota Gordon classrooms Free
An interactive community 21
The Protruding Nail
A determined reformer and exponent of innovation, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa will be honored with the Clubâ€™s prestigious Distinguished Achievement Award next month.
by Nick Narigon
Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa
22 January 2013 iNTOUCH
ather than returning to his privileged life in Tokyo, a spirited Japanese doctor found himself struggling to set up a tent somewhere outside Bismarck, North Dakota. It was 1971, and 34-year-old Kiyoshi Kurokawa was on his way to start a research job in Los Angeles. He was heading down a career path that was to be marked by frequent collisions with convention. The maxim he followed then—and still espouses today—is that limits should be tested and new ground must always be broken. “Be the nail that sticks out,” says Kurokawa, referring to the Japanese proverb that says that those who stand out will be forced to conform. The walls of his fourth-floor office at the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies in Roppongi are lined with shelves of well-worn magazines and books on a range of subjects, from environmental studies to European art. A copy of Walter Isaacson’s biography of the founder of tech company Apple, Steve Jobs, sits in a bookcase; another copy lies on his desk. “Steve Jobs, for example, said you should be a compass [and] navigate through life,” says Kurokawa. “Everybody knows what they want to become, but some people are not realizing it. Life is not a map, it’s a compass to navigate you where you want to go. Don’t settle. Keep looking. There is no map.” A spry man of 76, whose youthful looks belie his age, Kurokawa has spent years campaigning for reform in education and government policy. Most recently,
he led an independent inquiry into the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis that unfolded in the days and weeks after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. For such work, the Club will bestow upon Kurokawa its Distinguished Achievement Award next month. “The Distinguished Achievement Award is given to individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to society,” says Jeff McNeill, a member of the committee that selects the award recipients. “In particular, the award recognizes efforts to improve international relations, as well as the interchange of culture among countries.” Previous awardees include renowned scholars Donald Keene and Edward Seidensticker, former astronaut Mamoru Mohri, former sumo champion Konishiki and Sadako Ogata, who served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years. “Dr Kurokawa’s career has been dedicated to improving the lives of people,” McNeill says. “His tireless efforts to help promote a safer and healthier society in Japan and globally has earned him numerous recognitions from around the world, including the Order of Purple from the Japanese government for academic achievement.” Accolades, of course, are nothing new to Kurokawa. He has received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from the Japanese government, and Washington, DC-based Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of its top 100 global thinkers of 2012. While grateful for the Club recognition, Kurokawa is his notoriously humble self
The Protruding Nail 23
Kurokawa teaching at the University of Tokyo (1980s)
when discussing his worthiness. “I don’t know what to say, just thank you,” he says. “I ask why is the award given at the end of the year? Because if I get the award, I would like to do something for the organization. What can I do? Maybe increase membership by campaigning? If I recruit a new Member, maybe I can get a commission.” Joking aside, Kurokawa’s penchant for bucking the system didn’t emerge until he was in his 30s. The eldest son of a respected doctor, he grew up in Tokyo during the 1940s and ’50s. As such, his duty was to follow in his father’s footsteps. So, while his two younger brothers went into engineering, Kurokawa enrolled in the University of Tokyo in 1956. Six years later, he earned his MD from Todai’s School of Medicine. Specializing in internal medicine, he became an expert in the field of nephrology. Despite speaking little English and being virtually broke, in 1969 Kurokawa took a research position at the University of Pennsylvania, where he found the different approach to research to his
24 January 2013 iNTOUCH
liking. “In Japan, you are stuck in one institution and it is seniority based,” he says. “The US was more fitting to my sort of, I don’t know, psyche.” Rather than complete assignments as instructed by his superiors, Kurokawa was told by his mentor to conduct independent research and develop his own hypotheses. He was encouraged to
nephrology studies on the other side of the country, at UCLA. But first, with little money to spare, Kurokawa rented a truck and toured the United States for two weeks. Driving more than 800 kilometers a day, he would stop off along the way to camp with his wife, Keiko, and their young son, Atsushi. “That was a great experience, camping,” he says. “[Those
“He was the first and last science adviser to two prime ministers. You have to be charismatic to do that, but, more to the point, you have to say some pretty tough things.” voice his own opinions during discussions and to actively question. “That was very shocking,” he says. “Even though he was the professor chair and I was just a fellow, we were equal. I was told to question from my expertise. That was an eyeopening experience.” Once his tenure was up at UPenn, Kurokawa decided to continue his
were] the good old days.” After five years at UCLA and the birth of his daughter, Tomoko, Kurokawa realized he had “broken the code,” and it was too late to return to Tokyo without having to start his career from square one. To improve himself and to escape the life of a researcher, Kurokawa spent two grueling years obtaining his California
Kurokawa (third from left) on the panel of the Pacific Health Summit, Seattle (2008)
medical license. With another MD and board certifications in hand, he took a position at the University of Southern California, home to the largest medical center west of the Rockies. “It was fortunate because so many friends supported me and helped me,” he says. “I was offered a job at some other places, but I chose to stay in LA. My mission was to survive in the US until my kids finished college.” Returning to UCLA, the newly promoted professor of medicine bought a large house with a swimming pool in Encino. He thought he had discovered happiness. Then, in 1983, the University of Tokyo came calling. “At that time, even in the early 1980s, for the University of Tokyo to consider a professor from abroad, it was still taboo,” Kurokawa says. “But my friend came to my house to persuade me to give it a try.” With his wife, son and “Valley girl” daughter in tow, Kurokawa returned to his alma mater and a home in Tokyo that Kurokawa says was in “shambles.” His lab space was minuscule and the course
offerings were slim, but the students showed promise. “I began to realize that it was such a joy to have such bright kids and bright future doctors to teach,” he says. “I began to think that education is really my mission. Awakening students, opening their eyes: that is the reason why I stayed in Japan, despite this stupid, small house.” After five years, during which time Kurokawa expanded the curriculum and established an exchange program with Harvard, he was named chair of the university’s Department of Medicine. Still, many of his reforms were being stymied in faculty meetings. Frustrated, in 1996 Kurokawa accepted an invitation to become dean of medicine at Tokai University, where he encouraged juniors to study abroad and introduced technology into the classroom. Much to his surprise, Kurokawa was elected president of the Science Council of Japan in 2003. “I never expected this because I was always considered strange and unorthodox compared to the ordinary Japanese academics,” he says. “But at
that time, there was a transition with the Japanese government. Many agencies were under target of the government, including the Science Council.” His work building a strong network of contacts in the global science community was rewarded with a position as Japan’s first science adviser to the government in 2006. In his new role, Kurokawa developed Innovation 25, an initiative designed to stimulate scientific research and boost economic growth by 2025. The position was eventually scrapped two years later. Now an academic fellow at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (he is also chair of the Health and Global Policy Institute), Kurokawa was in the media spotlight again following the Tohoku disaster in 2011. In the immediate aftermath, he smoothed the way for foreign doctors to aid in the recovery efforts. Later, he turned his attention to the handling of the situation at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) stricken nuclear plant. “When Fukushima happened, I knew
The Protruding Nail 25
that it held global relevance. When it comes to nuclear power, everybody wants to know what is happening. In that case, the government usually commissions an independent commission. Japan never has,” Kurokawa says. “It was on the news everywhere—TEPCO, the Japanese government, the Japanese press—and you immediately feel they are not telling the truth. They are hiding something, no? When politicians say don’t worry, people start to worry.” In December 2011, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, headed by Kurokawa, began its examination of the triple meltdown and the way in which it was handled. It was Japan’s first-ever such independent parliamentary inquiry. “At the opening, I said the sense of mission is three words: people, future and world,” says Kurokawa. “I said ‘people’
are structured,” says Club Member Saito. “How do you get over 100 people, strangers, together in one room to work on a common mission that only lasts for six months? That is completely insane. It was Kurokawa’s leadership that got this thing done.” Saito says that Kurokawa was determined to protect the impartiality of the commission and reminded members that the inquiry was not a bully pulpit or a soap box for individual agendas. “I think this panel could have easily underdone something or overdone something, and to get it done just right, that kind of leadership is extremely hard to do, in Japan especially,” says Saito. Delivered to the government last July, the commission’s 641-page report deemed the catastrophe “man-made” and criticized both the Japanese government and TEPCO. For example, Kurokawa
“When it comes to nuclear power, everybody wants to know what is happening. In that case, the government usually commissions an independent commission. Japan never has.” because this is a commission of the people, by the people and for the people. And second is ‘future’ because to see the future of our nuclear plants we have to study the past. By studying the past and looking through the current window, we can see a better future. And the third is ‘world’ because the world is concerned about this accident. We need to share our lessons with the rest of the world.” Without staff, computers or phones at first, Kurokawa brought in his longtime friend and entrepreneur William Saito to help jumpstart the commission’s efforts. He also insisted on total transparency. Each hearing was streamed online and access was granted to all members of the media, not just the Japan press club. “We did a lot of groundbreaking things in how organizations are created, in how things are bought, how things
26 January 2013 iNTOUCH
says, US recommendations on how to deal with operational problems, natural disasters and even a terrorist attack had been ignored. Although the commission has been disbanded, Kurokawa continues to share its findings. “My primary mission at the moment, among many things, is to convey the message of this report,” says Kurokawa. “This [report] is the foundation of a functioning democracy. This is the first time it is working. This changing world requires more transparency, accountability. You cannot hide.” Kurokawa’s work with the commission has already been recognized. Next month, he will receive the American Academy for the Advancement of Science 2012 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his “remarkable stewardship” of the Fukushima investigation and his
“courage in challenging some of the most ingrained conventions of Japanese governance and society.” Not a man to stand still for long, Kurokawa continues to work with young people and encourage entrepreneurs through organizations like Impact Japan and TEDxTokyo. He also still campaigns for global health policy reform and next month he will lead the Japanese contingent at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “You got to realize that the guy is a medical doctor, right? He knows how to run organizations; he knows how to play politics,” Saito says. “He was the first and last science adviser to two prime ministers. You have to be charismatic to do that, but, more to the point, you have to say some pretty tough things.
Kurokawa (far right) with fellow researchers at UCLA (1977)
You have to be fair and honest about it. It’s very hard to argue against these points because he’s not doing it out of any self-interest. He’s not doing it out of any motives. He just wants to better the place here.” o Narigon is a Tokyo-based freelance journalist.
Distinguished Achievement Award Presentation Ceremony Monday, February 18 6:30–8:30 p.m. Washington and Lincoln rooms ¥1,500 (includes one drink) Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
Kurokawa with Michio Furukawa, the mayor of Kawamata City, Fukushima Prefecture (2011)
The Protruding Nail 27
Lay of the Land S
ince the heady days of Japan’s economic bubble in the 1980s, when real estate in downtown Tokyo sold for 350 times as much as prime spots in Manhattan, property prices have continued to tumble. And while land prices fell for the 21st consecutive year in 2012, according to the Japanese government, officials also said that the decline slowed in many residential and commercial areas of the country. With experts debating whether the property market is close to bottoming out, many believe that the prolonged real estate slump is at an end, pointing to
a proliferation of development projects in cities like Tokyo and an increased interest in the property market from foreign investors as proof. Ken Arbour is director of Century 21 Sky Realty in Higashi Azabu. iNTOUCH’s Nick Jones spoke to the Club Member about property market trends and challenges in Japan. Excerpts:
iNTOUCH: How would you describe the property market in Japan at the moment?
that there’s been some decline somewhere because you certainly don’t see it in Tokyo.
Arbour: It’s solid, but it’s not terribly appreciating [in Tokyo]. On the other hand, given the state of the economy in general and, in particular, the high-end rental market in central Tokyo, I think it’s holding up pretty well. I can pick out specific examples like the Sengokuyama building, Mori’s new one [in Roppongi]. These are in the multimillion dollar level for three-, four-, five-bedroom places, and they’ve sold them all, without using agents. I guess these places are not only a solid investment, but they’re appreciating to a certain extent.
iNTOUCH: Average land prices declined for a 21st straight year in 2012, according to government figures. What has been your experience in Tokyo?
iNTOUCH: Is the Tokyo market markedly different from the rest of Japan? Arbour: It appears so. Tokyo has always been one of the engines. You have to think
28 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Arbour: The market has been pretty flat [in Tokyo] and, if anything, there has been a small decline over the last four or five years. But it’s not been that pronounced and it depends on the property and that kind of thing. Central Tokyo, it’s hard to argue, has fallen that much. Azabu, Hiroo are still pretty strong areas, and if you want to sell something, you’re going to get a lot of interest. [But] when people want to sell a cottage or some kind of property outside of Tokyo, they have a real hard time. When you get into the suburbs and outside of central Tokyo, I can’t imagine
things are going all that well. iNTOUCH: The Economist in its 2012 report on the global residential property market indicated that the Japanese market was undervalued by more than 30 percent. Would you agree? Arbour: That seems very fair to me. Where in the world can you get a property with a 5 percent return in a central urban [area] and pay 1 percent to 2 percent interest rates? iNTOUCH: What effect is the planned consumption tax hike to 8 percent, from April 2014, likely to have on the housing market? Arbour: The real estate lobby has a really strong influence—I’m really impressed— because the only thing you don’t pay consumption tax right now on is rent and land when you purchase it. I haven’t seen
any details of what exactly it’s going to mean, [but] there should be a push [to buy property] beforehand, I would think. That’s what happened when they moved [consumption tax] from 3 to 5 percent [in 1997]. iNTOUCH: With more than 7.5 million empty houses and condos in Japan, the government has said that it would like to invigorate the used home market. Is this realistic? Arbour: Everybody loves new, and the Japanese particularly love new. That doesn’t mean there’s not a good market for used places because there certainly is. You’ve got to price it right and that kind of thing, but there’s still a pretty good market, especially in central Tokyo. I think everybody would want to buy new, but then you have to face the issues of your own pocketbook. You don’t get as much space when you buy
new [and] you don’t get as good a location, perhaps. The issues that govern price here are newness, distance to the station and commute. iNTOUCH: The government has said it would like to move away from the current 30-year scrap-and-build cycle that Japan tends to follow. Arbour: At least in Tokyo, a major part of the value of the place is the land, not the structure that is on it. The structure that is on it you can rebuild for a lot less than you can go and [renovate it]. So tearing down the house and rebuilding it again is a much smaller part of the cost of the whole thing than you would get in North America, where the house is a much larger proportion of the value of the land and [property] together. The other thing is people live in small properties [and]
they wear them out. And there’s a lot of technological change [in housing]. I don’t think it pays to do the renovations, I don’t think there are enough tax incentives for people to do it and I think people would just rather rebuild. iNTOUCH: Turning to the rental market, do you think that the additional high costs imposed on new tenants for the likes of reikin [key money] and shikikin [deposit] are hurdles to a more vibrant market? Arbour: I think it’s kind of ridiculous. And is it a detriment to people moving around? Absolutely, it must be. When you take down barriers, you’re going to have more business going on. They would really have to make [those costs] illegal and then enforce it. Whether there’s the political will and the policing ability is another issue. o
Member insights on Japan 29
FREDERICK HARRIS GALLERY All exhibits in the Frederick Harris Gallery are for sale and can be purchased by Membership card at the Member Services Desk. Sales of works begin at 6 p.m. on the first day of the exhibition.
by Erika Woodward Using a cache of vivid pigments, Kenshi Yonekura methodically dyes fabrics, which he then folds, stuffs with cotton and sews together to create eye-catching quilt paintings. A quilting artist for more than 30 years and founder of the Quilt Art Factory, Yonekura stumbled on his passion in 1975 while working as an advertising illustrator after graduating from a dedicated photography college in Japan. Ahead of a product launch, a sewing machine manufacturer asked him to create an advertisement to “revive women’s interest in sewing.” Setting about to win over his client with “colors and design,” Yonekura began painting imaginative scenes, inspired by popular children’s stories, on handmade quilts to be hung on the wall. The experience thrilled him. “I was feeling pretty depressed, routinely painting with color ink [and] water colors, [but] when the characters and fabric paintings pinned to the wall caught my eyes—works that did not make it [to] the sewing machine makers’ exhibition, strangely—I felt relieved,” he says. Yonekura was drawn “deeper and deeper” into quilting art. “I did not imagine the experience would change my life so dramatically,” he says. Having exhibited his acclaimed works in galleries across Japan, he brings a selection of his remarkable quilt paintings to the Frederick Harris Gallery this month. “I try to paint not what I see, but what I feel,” he says. And that, he adds, is “simple happiness.”
January 14–February 3
Tuesday, January 15 6:30–8 p.m. Frederick Harris Gallery (B1 Formal Lobby) Free Open to invitees and Members only
30 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Toshiaki Kurosaka Japan—Porsche Japan K.K.
Devinder & Nutan Ahuja India—Alcon Japan Ltd.
Tomohiko Ito Japan—Porsche Japan K K.
James & Bita Alu United States—PricewaterhouseCoopers Aarata
Masaki & Miki Yoshida Japan—Watanabe Entertainment Co., Ltd. Naohisa & Shizue Fukuda Japan—Japan Communications, Inc. William Tan & Lisa Yong Singapore—Embassy of the Republic of Singapore Tokyo Miki Edelman United States—Macquarie Securities (Japan) Ltd.
Paul & Rosemary Lancos United States—NaturCare Japan Ltd. Gavin Ching Hong Kong—Beacon Communications K.K. Neil Ostrower & Coleen CurleyOstrower United States—Chartis Companies
Shosuke Fujita Fujiko Hara Frederic & Karine Havard Hae-Kyong & Edward Holdaway Peter & Jane Hughes-Hallett Koshiro Kitazato Tetsuko Manabe Boerre Mathisen & Hedda Evju Kelly Min & Rannie Ahn Mitsuaki & Kimiko Murata Hajime & Atsuyo Nakajima Takeo Ogura Mitsuyuki Ozaki Edward & Junko Shaw Michael & Ann Marie Skalecki Ronald & Toshiko Slattery Norio & Chika Suzuki Malcolm & Roxanne Thompson
New Member Profile
New Member Profile
Why did you decide to join the Club?
Why did you decide to join the Club?
Alan & Angela Bruun United States—Walt Disney Attractions Japan
“Angela and I were married on August 4 of last year and relocated to Japan less than three months later. Both of us are in the entertainment field: I work for Disney and Angela is a professional singer and actress. We are excited about our new life here and that Tokyo America Club will be a big part of it. The wonderful opportunities, activities and friendships we will enjoy at TAC will last a lifetime.” Angela and Alan Bruun
Bill & Deborah Skipper Australia—Accenture Japan Ltd.
“As second-time assignees to Tokyo, we are well aware of the benefits of Club membership, whether that’s using the health and sporting facilities or dining options or, of course, meeting other expats and Japanese Members. Returning with three children, we are looking forward to rediscovering TAC in its new incarnation, seeing the children enjoy the facilities and having the Club help create enjoyable experiences and wonderful memories of living in Japan.” (l–r) Bill, Christopher, Deborah, Emily and Isabella Skipper
Stacks of Services at the Club JTB Sunrise Tours
André Bernard Beauty Salon
Enjoy a 5 percent discount on all package tours and start making unforgettable memories. Tel: 03-5796-5454 (9:30 a.m.–8 p.m.) E-mail: email@example.com www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp
The Club’s professional shoe repair and polishing service. Tel: 03-4588-0670 The Cellar (B1) Sat: 1–4:30 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Weekday drop-off: Member Services Desk
To find out more about the range of services and Member discounts, visit the FedEx counter. The Cellar (B1) Mon–Fri: 1–5 p.m. (closed Sun and national holidays) Sat: 12 p.m. (pickup only)
Hair care for adults and kids, manicure, pedicure, waxing and more. Tel: 03-4588-0685 Family Area (B1) Tue–Sun 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
32 January 2013 iNTOUCH
of the month
Rie Tanaka by Nick Jones
t was a far cry from the classes at her traditional, somewhat straight-laced school back in Tokyo. Certainly, Rie Tanaka didn’t get to raft down churning rapids as part of her curriculum at Wayokudan High School. But this was New Zealand, the home of adventure sports and the place where commercial bungee jumping started. During Tanaka’s 18 months as a student at a high school in Wellington, rock climbing and white-water rafting classes were as common as English and math lessons. “I had to study hard before going to New Zealand because my English wasn’t that good,” she says. “But I had a really great experience and made lots of friends.” Mixing with people from so many
different cultures also inspired her choice of course at Temple University in Tokyo, where she majored in Asian studies. Graduating in 2010, she joined another international setting—the Club—not long after. Working in the Sky Pool Office, Tanaka, 26, helps keep the popular, glass-roofed facility running smoothly. From organizing the schedules of the lifeguards and instructors to promoting events and programs, her job, she says, never gets boring. “I have learned so much at TAC,” adds the Employee of the Month for November. It even spurred the former school backstroke swimmer to return to the water. “Seeing the Members swim every
day and the masters program swimmers really made me want to swim again and get fit,” says Tanaka, who now swims between 2 and 3 kilometers twice a week at a pool near her home in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture. Tanaka’s talents are not restricted to the pool, either. An accomplished pianist, she has been playing the instrument for 20 years. More recently, she has started playing the bass guitar and is a member of a band made up of students from the same piano school. Like swimming, she says, music can be a rejuvenating escape from daily life. “It kind of helps me if I’ve having trouble because I can focus on just that,” she says. “It makes me really relaxed.” o
Services and benefits for Members 33
Japan’s Fax Infatuation Despite its reputation as a hub of electronics innovation, Japan enjoys an enduring affair with one piece of superannuated technology. by Tim Hornyak
lease send your request by fax.” It’s a surprisingly common refrain heard by journalists in Japan. But new arrivals to the country are often flummoxed by the ubiquity of the facsimile machine. While it’s close to death in the United States, having been replaced by e-mail, social media and text messaging, the fax in Japan is steadfastly clinging on like the 20th-century zombie that it is. From convenience stores and medical clinics to restaurants and offices, fax machines continue to be a staple communication device. Tokyo Electric Power even sent vital information about its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to the central government by fax. The fact is these devourers of paper, toner and electricity aren’t going anywhere soon. According to the Japan Business Machine and Information System Industries Association (JBMIA), faxes in one form or another are proliferating. Figures from 2011 show that domestic shipments of color and black-and-white multifunction printercopier-scanner-fax machines rose 118 percent and 104 percent, respectively, from a year earlier. That wasn’t just a post-quake blip, either. There was a similar year-on-year increase in 2010. Meanwhile, major Japanese fax manufacturers like Brother
34 January 2013 iNTOUCH
and Panasonic continue to pump out new models; fax-phones that come with cordless handsets are particularly popular with consumers. But why do they remain so popular in one of the most wired countries in the world? Mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo alone counts 60 million customers, nearly half the population. And in a recent report, content provider Akamai ranked Japan third in global broadband speed after Hong Kong and South Korea. Yet fax machines linger. Like the Japanese fondness for good old cash, the fax machine speaks of a reverence for analog over digital, paper over electronic and the handwritten over the typed. Faxes impart a human touch in an increasingly impersonal information age. A more practical reason is that unlike with e-mail, messages received by fax are harder to miss or ignore—something vital for corporate communications. A recent Internet Fax Research Institute survey found that more than 87 percent of Japanese businessmen believe a fax is an indispensable tool for business. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of Japanese households still have a fax machine that also functions as a landline phone. Taking into account Japan’s rapidly aging
Moving with the Times
by Erika Woodward Although his wife and former classmates still do, 75-year-old Shizuo Daigoh doesn’t communicate by fax anymore, if he can help it. “Because I’m working for a foreign company, I am not the norm,” he says, tapping the screen of his iPad as he checks his e-mail in the Winter Garden one November afternoon. Having left university in 1960, the tech-savvy Club Member says that of the 20 students in his graduating class, “only 10 people know how to use a push-button telephone” and “only four people can use e-mail.” For many in Daigoh’s generation, sending and receiving paper messages, with an option to handwrite them, is simpler than the electronic alternatives. Since early word processers did not support the Japanese language, many people never became acquainted with a keyboard. “Japanese people basically cannot type,” Daigoh says. “Handwriting is easier.” Fellow Member Kazuakira Nakajima, 69, attended typing school after work as a young man, and he attributes his preference for e-mail to his early mastery of the keyboard. “I had no sense of resistance when e-mail came. Also, I’m much faster than my secretary—I can type 60 characters a minute,” says the financial consultant, who has removed his fax number from his business card. “That’s progressive!” chimes in Member Donald Soo. The 54-year-old American says that many of the small businesses he works with prefer corresponding by fax. “The administrative system in Japan is very much about filing, filing and filing,” he says. “The usage of any technology very much hinges upon people’s mindset and how ingrained the existing administrative system is.” Believing a technology’s lifespan depends largely on the age of its users, Daigoh makes a prediction: “When people my age pass away, then the fax will disappear.” o
Shizuo Daigoh and Kazuakira Nakajima
population, these figures are perhaps not too surprising. It’s also a question of culture and etiquette. E-mails and other electronic messages are sometimes perceived as insincere or cold. They’re too easy to dash off. What else could explain the continued popularity of handwritten nengajo (New Year’s greeting cards) in an era when easy-to-use software can create customized versions in a fraction of the time? “Each year, I attend an awards ceremony that includes members of the Japanese royal family,” says Thomas Shockley, a longtime Tokyo resident and facilitator with Japan Intercultural Consulting. “Until two years ago, an announcement with a revert postcard RSVP would be included. Last year, they switched to fax revert. I asked why recently. ‘Much easier and lower cost’ was their basic answer. I asked why not request to respond by some online solution, having in mind the US Embassy approach. ‘Impolite’ was the response.” Faxes are also hanging on in part because of the Japanese language itself. Due to the complexity of its many Chinese characters and hiragana and katakana alphabets, typing Japanese was a complex task until the late 1980s. Toshiba introduced the first Japanese word processor in 1978.
It cost ¥6.3 million and weighed 180 kilograms. The price and footprint of these machines dropped significantly, but by the time the Internet was booming overseas, ordinary Japanese were only just becoming familiar with typing their language. PCs and then mobile phones followed, and now the auto-complete function on Japanese phones makes typing far less laborious. So how much longer does the fax have? In an informal poll of six small, medium and large companies, Shockley found that fax use has basically ended at the larger firms but continues among smaller ones; he estimates faxes could remain for another 10 years. In contrast, the likes of telecoms giant SoftBank are going paperless, eliminating dedicated fax machines altogether. “It’s become possible to do anything with a PC, and it seems like just a matter of time until faxes disappear,” says Katsue Iwasawa, head of LEX, a small communications and translation firm in Akasaka that still uses its fax machine every day. The reliability of faxes and their personal touch isn’t lost on her: “Why are they still around? To put it simply, consider why phones themselves are still around.” o Hornyak is a Montreal-based freelance journalist.
A look at culture and society 35
From Slopes to Springs
Boasting some of the best skiing in the world, western Hokkaido offers plenty of other distractions away from the powdery piste. by Tim Hornyak
ou may think you know après-ski, Alps-style: clink beers in the ski chalet after your last run on the slopes and maybe snack on sausages or other hearty fare. It’s definitely relaxing, but it can’t compare to the way relaxation is done in Hokkaido. At the country’s premier ski resort of Niseko, you can tenderize your muscles in a blissful, outdoor hot-spring onsen just minutes from the lifts. And thanks to an influx of foreign investors, the eating and sleeping options there are better than ever. Niseko has made its name as a paradise for powder hounds. It has one of the world’s heaviest snowfalls, at an astonishing 15 meters, for a resort, and that’s evident on the streets of Hirafu village, where mountains of the stuff dwarf the cars and often reach building roofs. Niseko’s snow is also prized for its light, fluffy texture: the product of cold air from Siberia mixing with moist air over the Sea of Japan. Flurries bring piles of snow up to 4 meters deep to the flanks of Mount Niseko Annupuri, the 1,308-meter peak at the heart of Niseko. Divided into the interconnected resorts of Hirafu, Higashiyama, Annupuri and Hanazono, the mountain has some 800 hectares of terrain for skiing and snowboarding; the Niseko United All Mountain Pass (¥5,200) gives you access to about 20 lifts and gondolas—enough to keep most downhill enthusiasts satisfied for a few days at least. The mountain draws some 700,000 people a year and is famous for its offpiste options, such as the wooded Strawberry Fields and backcountry skiing from the summit. Even from halfway up, the views are sublime. The breathtaking Mount Yotei (1,898 meters) is a colossal volcanic cone whose Fuji-like form dominates the skyline. After hitting the slopes all day, skiers and snowboarders immerse their weary bodies in the springs. The two mountains are part of a chain of volcanoes that churn the thermal activity underground in this part of western Hokkaido. There are 15 onsen hot springs in the
36 January 2013 iNTOUCH
vicinity, including the popular Yugokorotei, a large traditional inn with an outdoor bath; you can savor the snowflakes melting on your brow as you luxuriate in the mineral waters. If you find yourself waist-deep in a bath full of Australians, the dominant colonials in Hirafu, going farther afield is a must. About two hours’ drive from Hirafu is Niimi Onsen, located off a remote mountain road in the town of Rankoshi, and it can be the perfect spot to unwind. The snow banks around its rotenburo outdoor bath grow up to 3 meters high, but the hot-spring steam hollows them out, forming a magical igloo. A smart buy is the Niseko Yumeguri Onsen Pass, affording you access to three out of 16 hot-spring facilities in the area for only ¥1,400. Hirafu can feel more like an Aussie enclave than a part of Japan, but it boasts some of the best quality accommodations and dining in the region. J-Sekka has a collection of stylish, minimalist suites with large beds, couches and TVs that are only steps from one of the chairlifts. A few blocks away is the excellent Ezo Seafoods, run by Keiko Takaoka and James Gallagher and serving up the freshest Hokkaido fish, oysters, snow crab, scallops and prawns. Paired with some daiginjo sake from northern Japan, it makes the perfect après-ski meal. Round off the evening at Gyu+ Bar, an intimate basement watering hole serving whisky and mulled wine that’s accessed through an old fridge door. If you’ve got a rental car, day trips from Niseko offer a refreshing change of scenery. One is the southern ski resort of Rusutsu. Often ignored by the expat set, Rusutsu is made up of three linked areas with 37 runs, 18 lifts and about 42 kilometers of groomed slopes. It also has plenty of backcountry skiing and tree runs to explore, along with excellent, dry powder and spectacular summit views of Uchiura Bay and the Pacific Ocean. North of Niseko is the port of Otaru, which is famous for
OUT & ABOUT
Ninety minutes from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport. Then travel by bus (3 hours, 30 minutes direct to Hirafu), train (2 hours, 30 minutes to Kutchan Station, transferring at Otaru Station) or car (2 hours, 20 minutes via Route 276). Niseko United www.niseko.ne.jp Niseko Grand Hirafu www.grand-hirafu.jp Niseko Annupuri http://annupuri.info Niseko Northern Resort, Annupuri www.niseko-northern.com Niseko Hanazono Resort http://hanazononiseko.com Niseko Northern Resort www.niseko-ta.jp Rusutsu Resort www.rusutsu.co.jp
Nikka Whisky www.nikka.com
Otaru City www.city.otaru.lg.jp
Visit Hokkaido www.visit-hokkaido.jp
Yoichi Town www.town.yoichi.hokkaido.jp (Japanese only)
Travel Hokkaido www.travelhokkaido.com
Hilton Niseko Village www.niseko-village.com Annupuri Village www.annupurivillage.com Yugokorotei www.niseko-annupurionsen.com Ezo Seafoods www.ezoseafoods.com Gyu+ Bar http://gyubar.com
Niseko Tourism www.nisekotourism.com Rankoshi Town www.town.rankoshi.hokkaido.jp (Japanese only)
its photogenic canal area, herring warehouses, 1920s architecture, glassware and a street that’s nearly entirely given over to sushi restaurants. The drive to the town on Ishikari Bay is made more worthwhile with a stop at Yoichi, home to one of Nikka’s two whisky distilleries. Fans of single malt can tour the premises, ogle the large casks and make a beeline for the tasting room and gift shop.
Yoichi is one of the few places in Japan where the rare, prizewinning Yoichi 20-year single malt can be had. At nearly ¥20,000 a bottle, its aroma and warming flavors might just appeal more than all the other après-ski delights on offer. o Hornyak is a Montreal-based freelance journalist.
Explorations beyond the Club 37
For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.
International Bazaar and Asian Home Furnishings Sale November 7â€“8
The Womenâ€™s Group offered Members and the public a double dose of superb shopping opportunities in November, when it combined two of its annual fundraising sales for the first time. Dozens of vendors, selling everything from furniture and artwork to antiques and accent pieces, set up shop in the New York Ballroom. Photos by Kayo Yamawaki
38 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Snapshots from Club occasions 39
For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.
Thanksgiving at the Club November 22
The Club celebrated this most American of holidays with its annual spread of such traditional treats as roast turkey and pumpkin pie in the New York Ballroom. Photos by Ken Katsurayama 1. (lâ€“r) Danyal, Tariq, Jun and Nadia Qazi
40 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Family Christmas Dinner Show November 27–29
The Club kicked off the festive season with its traditional series of yuletide shows, featuring a performance of “I Believe in Santa” by Tokyo International Players, lively carol sing-alongs and a buffet of seasonal treats. Photos by Ken Katsurayama
Snapshots from Club occasions 41
For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.
Hakkaisan Sake Brewery Tour November 1
Hakkaisan Sake Brewery in Niigata Prefecture opened its doors for an exclusive tour for Members. The 22 participants on this Programs and Events Committee-organized trip were shown around the facility before enjoying a lunch of local cuisine and exquisite sake. A visit to Untoan Temple, the largest Zen sanctuary in the prefecture, concluded the culturally stimulating day.
1. (l–r) Shinko and Joseph Signorelli and Miranda and Jan Remie 2. Front row (l–r): Tomoko Ueno, Miranda Remie, Sonia Gill, Shinko Signorelli, Margot Bittenbender, Fay Nippard, Hakkaisan's Shigemitsu Nagumo, Diana Bohm, Mary Hager and Miki Ohyama; back row (l–r): Kazumasa Ohyama, Jan Remie, William Gill, Joseph Signorelli, Richard Bittenbender, Franklin Nippard, Richard Butler, Michael Bohm, Elizabeth Butler, Douglas Hager, Brian Waterhouse, Danyal Qazi and Sean Sonni 3. (l–r) Danyal Qazi and Fay and Franklin Nippard 4. (l–r) Mary and Douglas Hager, Michael Bohm, Kazumasa Ohyama and Diana Bohm
Chrysanthemum Festival and Ueno Tour November 15
Participants on this Women’s Group tour headed to the former black market district of Ueno to take in the Chrysanthemum Festival at Yushima Tenmangu Shrine, the Shitamachi Museum and other points of interest. (l–r) Mary Marshall, Alyson Jenkins, Kim Beck, Navneet Tiku, Diana Bohm, Sandy Isaka, Diane McGee, Allison Susser, Linda Border, Corinne Thygeson and Bridget McEachern
42 January 2013 iNTOUCH
Shooting Club Life
ast autumn, when the Communications Department set about capturing Club life on film, it turned to Tokyo-based creative film studio and video specialists, Ice Block Films. Since the start of the ongoing project, the studio’s co-founder and creative director William Greenwalt has seized the opportunity to document what still photographs have not. “We’d seen all the amazing photography of the new Club, but when you looked at each shot, the question still remained: what do people do there?” he says. “The architecture and facility is, no doubt, fantastic, but in reality it is simply a backdrop, a real-time sound stage on which the Members get to live life.” With that in mind, Greenwalt and his creative partner, editor and producer, Jesse Koester, have taken to filming everything
from massage treatments at The Spa to Decanter’s culinary masters at work to taiko drumming classes and Club events. Going one step further to document what motivates Members to participate in Club life, the professional videographers have set about interviewing Members of all ages. Having filmed countless fashion, corporate and private events throughout the Kanto region since launching Ice Block Films five years ago, Koester says the sheer volume of content they have amassed over months of filming at the Club presents a unique challenge. “From a producer’s perspective, you would have a hard time finding a place
more exciting than the Club,” he says. “We start with ‘What do we want people to take away from this?’ and as the concepts start to materialize, it becomes ‘What are the most memorable aspects, the elements you’d want to tell a friend about?’ It’s terrifically thrilling to be working on this project. The best thing, though, is seeing the Club Members’ reactions when they enjoy a video.” See for yourself by checking out all the latest Club videos on the Club website or YouTube channel, tokyoamericanclubTV. o Ice Block Films firstname.lastname@example.org www.iceblockfilms.com
Whatever the story, anecdote, fictitious tale, rant, cultural observation or Club commentary, now’s your chance to take it to the world…well, Membership, anyway. E-mail your submission (no more than 700 words) to email@example.com.
The Bright Side by Dave McCaughan
imagine we all start January looking for reasons to think that the coming year will be a good one. Judging by recent events in Japan, those glimpses of hope might be lost in the constant barrage of bad economic news, confusing and ever-changing national politics and the lingering effects of natural disaster. Certainly, the proverbial Martian looking at Japan through the lens of the global business press would wonder what there was to look forward to. Actually, there’s a lot about which to be upbeat. I suspect many Club Members are asked to explain the positive aspects of Japan to overseas clients and business partners. The following few points may appear obvious, but they’re often forgotten. No. 3 ain’t so bad. Whenever I ask an audience abroad where Japan sits in the global ranking of economies, most people know that it is third, having been surpassed by China two years ago. However, only 70 percent of people can tell me which economy is ranked fourth (Germany), or how much larger Japan’s economy is than Germany’s (around 40 percent), or when Japan is predicted to slip down a place (probably between 2020 and 2023, according to most economists, when Brazil or possibly India takes over the third spot). The fact is Japan will
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remain one of the largest markets in the world for the next 10 years. Japanese tourists preferred. I have the good fortune to work on the marketing campaigns of many major tourism and travel organizations, and everyone wants to attract Japanese travelers. As quality-minded consumers, they continue to travel abroad a lot and spend huge amounts on luxury items and topend brands. A creative force. In a study last year by the American software company Adobe on people’s attitudes around the world to creativity, 36 percent of respondents believed that Japan was the most creative country (26 percent chose the United States). Around the same number voted Tokyo as the most creative city and the Japanese as the most creative people (the US was second in both of these areas as well). Why? Well, think about all those amazing products and services that we tend to regard as part of “quirky” Japan, but really represent innovation. Aging is beautiful. Yes, we live in the world’s fastest-aging country, and somewhere in Japan someone will turn 100 in the hour or so you spend reading this copy of iNTOUCH. And that’s the country’s biggest advantage. In a rapidly graying world, Japan is teaching us about marketing and innovation. Each month, I
hear about yet another global corporation choosing Japan as its test market. While we once thought that retirement meant the end of shopping, numerous studies have revealed that the baby boomers are avid trialists and switchers. Otaku is king. If you’re over 40, you probably think that otaku are geeky freaks who just want to marry their favorite anime character. And that so-called freeters are lazy losers who are unwilling to commit themselves to Japan Inc. The reality is that otaku are regarded by their peers as specialists with a unique knowledge, while freeters are admired for their attitude to find a different way of living. During our research, two-thirds of Japanese under 30 told us that they aspired to be otaku, the same number that believed a freeter mindset was the key to success. And I could go on and on. Of course, there is one problem. Our Japanese friends always seem to underestimate how good they are. That same Adobe study found that while the rest of the world thinks Japan is brimming with creativity, Japanese people don’t think so. Maybe 2013 will be the year that Japan embraces its strengths and tells the world about them. o McCaughan is director of strategic planning with the advertising agency McCann Worldgroup Asia-Pacific.
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
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TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
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i N T O U C H
イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 一 二 年 一 月 一 日 発 行 平 成 三 年 十 二 月 二 十 日 第 三 種 郵 便 物 許 可 定 価 八 ０ ０ 円
Bucking the System The Club’s 2013 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient, Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa, talks about challenging convention and championing change
本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 573 • January 2013
Japan’s frozen north boasts more than great skiing
Journey of Rediscovery Fortified wines make a comeback at the Club
Author Katie Van Camp entertains young Members
Tokyo American Clubs monthly member magazine.