TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
第 四 十 七 巻 五 五 三 号
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
毎 月 一 回 一 日 発 行
N T O U C H
イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 一 一 年 五 月 一 日 発 行
A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to Tokyo American Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
ト ウ キ ョ ウ ア メ リ カ ン ク ラ ブ
平 成 三 年 十 二 月 二 十 日 第 三 種 郵 便 物 許 可 定 価 八 ０ ０ 円
Leagues of Their Own Club Member Conor Neu and other pro basketball insiders contemplate the future of the game in Japan
本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 553 • May 2011
One Member ruminates on the Fukushima crisis
Luncheon speaker Junko Tabei explains her passion for peaks
On Solid Ground
Building experts assess the Club’s quake-resistant features
A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to Tokyo American Clubâ€™s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
Reading for Recovery
One Canadian travel writer explains how she turned her feelings of horror at the post-tsunami destruction in Tohoku into an e-book of hope.
Snapping the City
Member Dave Powell’s photographic blog on Tokyo life became an Internet sensation in the days following the March 11 earthquake.
6 Board of Governors
out & about
In Hot Water
12 DVD Library 14 Committees
Long renowned as a blissful spot for a hot-spring bath, Kaga Onsen in Ishikawa boasts all the necessary ingredients for a relaxing country break. feature
16 Recreation 20 Women’s Group
Court Challenges In 2005, two professional basketball teams broke away from the established Japanese league to form an independent setup. The country’s basketball fraternity remains divided today, and most people in the game agree that the sport has suffered as a consequence. So what does the future hold for hoops in Japan? iNTOUCH finds out.
iNTOUCH To advertise in iNTOUCH, contact Miyuki Hagiwara: email@example.com 03-4588-0976
For Membership information, contact Mari Hori:
28 Talking Heads
30 Azabudai Elements
32 Frederick Harris Gallery
34 Member Services
36 Inside Japan
38 Out & About
Editor Nick Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Designers Ryan Mundt Nagisa Mochizuki Production Assistant Yuko Shiroki
Assistant Editor Wendi Hailey
Tokyo American Club 2-1-2 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8649
Communications Manager Matthew Roberts
40 Event Roundup 44 Tokyo Moments
Michael Bumgardner General Manager email@example.com
Alistair Gough Redevelopment Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Sexton Assistant 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
www.tokyoamericanclub.org Cover photo of (l–r) Tokyo Apache’s Cohey Aoki, Jeremy Tyler, Conor Neu, Reina Itakura, Minoru Kimura and Jumpei Nakama by Irwin Wong
Getting in Touch Department/E-mail American Bar & Grill
Banquet Sales and Reservations
Food & Beverage Office
Foreign Traders’ Bar
Member Services Desk
Women’s Group Office email@example.com A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to Tokyo American Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
2 May 2011 iNTOUCH
The rise of soccer in Japan has been nothing less than phenomenal. Before the country’s first professional league, the J-League, was launched in 1993, the game was a malnourished David to baseball’s brawny Goliath. But the sight of foreign stars like Brazil’s Zico and English striker Gary Linekar playing alongside local heroes in the exciting new league began to draw the nation’s gazes. Foreign coaches were brought in and support for the clubs and the national side grew. Success on the international stage followed as Japan qualified for its first World Cup. While France 98 might not have been the most successful of debuts, the world was introduced to the talent of Hidetoshi Nakata. Since then, a generation of Japanese youngsters has grown up on a diet of quality local games (crowds averaged 19,000 at matches last season), national team achievements (Japan almost made it through to the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup) and a steady flow of Japanese players to Europe. The result has been increasing numbers of kids ditching their bats and gloves for soccer boots and balls. All of this has happened in less than 20 years. And then there’s basketball in Japan. The sport has attempted many of the tactics that soccer employed, including the import of foreign players and coaches. But more than five years after two teams left the established pro league to start the breakaway BJ League, there remain two separate organizations. While there have been flashes of hope, most noticeably in Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese player to play in the NBA in the United States, Japan’s national team hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 1976. In this month’s cover story, “Court Challenges,” on pages 22 to 27, sports writer Ed Odeven explores where basketball is headed in Japan and whether the game can give baseball another reason to be worried. If you have any comments about anything you read in iNTOUCH, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, putting “Letter to the Editor” in the subject title of the mail.
contributors Ed Odeven
Ed Odeven is a sports writer and editor for The Japan Times in Tokyo. His primary reporting focus is basketball, but he has also covered athletics, figure skating and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He previously worked for the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff, where he reported on sports and wrote a weekly column. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, in high school and later graduated from Arizona State University. Odeven has freelanced extensively for publications around the world, including The Rafu Shimpo newspaper in Los Angeles and The Moscow Times. In this month’s cover story on pages 22 to 27, he takes a look at the state of professional basketball in Japan. Raised in the suburbs of Washington, DC, Erika Woodward arrived in Japan this year with her Venezuelan husband just weeks after getting married. A graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in Maryland, she has written on a variety of subjects, from the life of an overworked professional clown to the birth of a new political faction in Iceland. In this month’s Inside Japan, she talks to Club Member Dave Powell, whose photographic diary of daily life in Tokyo captured international attention following the March 11 earthquake. When Woodward is not searching for the next story, the former professional ballerina hits the studio then unravels her perfectly pinned bun for an unconstrained night out with her hubby and friends.
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What’s happening in May 1
Explore the Great Outdoors The newly opened jungle gym boasts a colorful maze of tubes, slides, nets and climbing towers. Page 19 has the lowdown.
Children’s Day Display Catch the final display day of the ornately crafted suit of samurai armor to commemorate the national holiday on May 5. Family entrance (B1). Courtesy of the Yoshitoku Doll Company in Tokyo.
Birth Preparation for Couples Two invaluable days that will get you ready for labor, birth and beyond. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. ¥36,000. Sign up for this Women’s Group class at the Member Services Desk.
Bowling Birthday Bashes Why settle for just cake and balloons when you can have a high-spirited kids’ birthday bonanza on the Club’s bowling lanes? Flip to page 19 for all the fun details.
Toddler Time A half-hour session of fun, engaging stories and activities awaits preschoolers at the Children’s Library. 4 p.m. Continues every Tuesday this month.
Tempo Boxing This brand-new fitness program combines rhythm and movement for a fun, challenging take on martial arts like you’ve never experienced. Every Thursday through June 10. Page 19 has the details.
Early Pregnancy and Birth Planning Qualified nurse Ann Tanaka helps parents-to-be prepare for the arrival of their bundles of joy during this Women’s Group class. 10 a.m.–12 p.m. ¥7,000. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Nearly New Sale Pick up an assortment of gently worn clothes, books, baby items and more during this popular Women’s Group event. 10 a.m.–2 p.m. New York Ballroom. Find out more by visiting the Club website.
4 May 2011 iNTOUCH
Salvation Army Charity Drive Clean out your closet and donate clean clothes, linens and household items in clear plastic bags to this annual cause. Head to the online Club Calendar for details.
Tokyo American Club Grand Opening Reception: Celebrating 83 Years The Club marks the end of its phased opening and the beginning of a new chapter in its history with an evening celebration. Turn to page 14 for the lowdown.
Gallery Reception Charmingly tactile paintings by famed Portuguese artist Fernando Moreira Aguiar, whose admirers have included Frank Sinatra, adorn the Club art cases. Read more about the “sunshine artist” on page 33.
Mother’s Day at the Club Show your appreciation to Mom with an unforgettable buffet of mouthwatering cuisine for lunch or dinner in the New York Ballroom. Details on the Club website. Reserve at 03-4588-0977.
Gallery Reception Longtime Club art instructor Carolyn Dong unveils two exquisite collections of paintings. A portion of the proceeds will go to help the March 11 earthquake and tsunami victims. Head to page 32 for more.
Lend a Hand: Jammin’ for Japan The Club plays host to a musical extravaganza of artists, including Speech from American hip-hop act Arrested Development, to raise funds for the victims of the March 11 disaster. Check out page 15 for more.
Hecht & Bannier Wine Evening Wine merchants Gregory Hecht and François Bannier host an evening of delectable wines from southern France and fine buffet cuisine in Café Med. 7 p.m. ¥9,000. Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk.
Monthly Luncheon: A Life above the Clouds Mountaineering pioneer Junko Tabei talks about becoming the first woman to climb Everest and her other remarkable achievements. 11 a.m. Flip to page 20 to learn more about this alpine adventurer.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine Tour Explore Tokyo’s shitamachi district on this tour that takes in the famous Kameido Tenjin Shrine, glass-cutting craftsmen and a storied rice cracker shop. ¥4,500 (includes kaiseki lunch). Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Summer Camp Fun Registration begins for the annual Camp Adventure at the Club. Nine week-long sessions of art, sports and other exciting activities are organized by trained staff for ages 6 to 12. More on page 19.
Bonsai Village and Doll Museum Tour Escape the city stresses and savor the fresh spring air amid the verdant Omiya Bonsai Village before a delectable lunch and trip to the Tokyu Doll Museum. Sign up at the Member Services Desk.
Coffee Connections Meet new people and learn about the Women’s Group at this relaxed gathering. 9:30 a.m. Beate Sirota Gordon and Haru Reischauer classrooms. Contact the Women’s Group Office to organize free childcare.
Coming up in
15 Alsace Wine Tasting 22 Craft Beer Tasting 24 Premier Classic Squash Tournament 27 Coffee Connections
A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to Tokyo American Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
Noteworthy dates for the month 5
OARD OF GOVERNORS
Board of Governors Lance E Lee (2012)—President Brian Nelson (2012)—Vice President Mary Saphin (2011)—Vice President Steve Romaine (2012)—Treasurer Deb Wenig (2011)—Secretary
by Ira Wolf
iven the pressure of deadlines for these columns, I am writing this the day after the great earthquake. I was going to focus on the TAC staff in this column anyway, but what I have seen today reinforces what I planned to write. The famous writer Anthony Burgess wrote: “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” Albert Einstein once said: “A man’s value to the community primarily depends on how far his feelings, thoughts and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows.” There is no better place to find “community” here in Tokyo than at the Club, especially when looking at our staff and how they perform their jobs. Since the opening at Azabudai, our staff have been working longer hours than most of us do at our normal jobs. They have extended themselves in countless ways to smooth the opening, guide us through the new Club and make us feel as comfortable as we can possibly be in our new home. Then we get the earthquake, tsunami and potential nuclear problems. The staff ’s performance in the immediate aftermath was nothing short of perfect. The Club was evacuated quickly and smoothly, with no panic. Youngsters who were not with their parents at that moment were cared for and reunited instantly. Safety checks of the facility were made quickly. They then provided for the Members who had to spend the night at the Club because they could not get home. Some of these Members had guests with them who were also accommodated by the staff for the night. Some staff members chose to stay overnight
Kavin C Bloomer (2012), John Durkin (2012), Norman J Green (2011), Hiroyuki Kamano (2012), Charlotte Kennedy Takahashi (2012), Per Knudsen (2012), Jeff McNeill (2011), Amane Nakashima (2011), Jerry Rosenberg (2011), Ann Marie Skalecki (2012), Dan Stakoe (2011), Ira Wolf (2011), Shizuo Daigoh— Statutory Auditor (2012), Barbara Hancock—Women’s Group President
themselves to be sure that they were on the job for their early shifts in the morning. Others got up early and walked for hours to be at work on time. When I arrived at the Club at 11 in the morning today (March 12, the day after the quake), I was amazed to find all the facilities, including parking, dining, fitness and the DVD Library, up and running. Newspapers were spread out in the Winter Garden. The escalators were working. The bathrooms and public areas were as clean as ever. Every staff encounter this morning started with the question “Are you OK?” and I learned about their own experiences. One staff member got on the train for home in Yokohama. The train stopped halfway there, and she then spent four hours walking back to Azabudai so she could be sure she would be at work first thing on Saturday to do her job and serve us, the Members. These countless stories demonstrate the commitment of the staff to us, to the Club and to providing the service that we all expect. This was true before the earthquake, but this tragic event brought this into focus for all of us. All I ask of our Members is to recognize this, engage the staff, talk to them, welcome them and appreciate them. They are the essence of our community in Tokyo. o
A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to Tokyo American Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
6 May 2011 iNTOUCH
Taking Stock by Michael Bumgardner
Michael Bumgardner General Manager
n March 11, with the new Club having been open less than two months, northeast Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Within days, the Club’s leadership met to determine how best to contribute to the relief efforts being mounted by dozens of countries around the world. The Club’s East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund was set up to help the victims of the disaster. If you have not done so already, please consider making a contribution to the fund. Details on how to donate can be found on page 14 of this issue and on the Club website. While by no means close to the suffering being experienced by those living along the Tohoku coastline, our community has felt the impact of the disaster. Both Members and staff, along with their families, have traumatic memories of that day. Each of us will remember where we were when the earthquake hit for many years to come. The regular aftershocks, together with the vivid images of the waves sweeping ashore and the unnerving situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, made for an anxious time. Although the Club tried to maintain regular operations at first, the evolving situation prevented us from carrying on as normal. On the night of the earthquake, some Members, guests and staff slept overnight in the Club because of transport
problems. Fortunately, there was heat, water, food and a reasonably comfortable environment within which to sleep. Our new facilities provided one of the safest havens in the city. (You can read more about the building’s integrity and design on pages 30 and 31.) Over that first post-quake weekend, many families began to return to their home countries and those who remained grew more concerned. With so many power plants knocked out, the effects were soon felt in Tokyo. The pressure to conserve energy, the difficulties to secure products in a timely manner and the challenges for the staff to travel to and from work combined to force a reduction in the Club’s operating hours. While we witnessed a decrease in the utilization of the Club as more families left the city and the cancellation of all banqueting functions due to public transport problems, many Members and their families found the facilities to be a tranquil oasis and greatly appreciated the efforts of our staff to provide a sense of normalcy, especially for children. It is difficult to assess the final impact of the disaster on our community, but there is little doubt that there will be a lasting effect. Such a catastrophe is a life-changing event and has brought out the good and bad in all of us. It is sad to see the disruption caused to our TAC family, but it has been encouraging to see so many people come together to assist in the relief effort that continues to be so badly needed. o
Executive remarks 7
Reading for Recovery
Canadian travel writer and Tokyo resident Annamarie Sasagawa explains how the devastating events of March 11 inspired an e-book.
n the afternoon of March 11, I was working at home, writing the abstract to a research report and thinking about springtime, when our apartment started to shake. Like anyone who has lived in Japan for more than a few months, I’ve learned not to let minor earthquakes interrupt my day. I ignored it. The shaking became too strong to dismiss, so I gave up on the abstract, stood in the front doorway of our apartment and watched Shinjuku’s skyscrapers wobble. When the quake stopped, I turned on the TV and watched a tsunami devour the northeast coast. The sudden wave of devastation on TV that day was enough to shock anyone. That it was happening to places I had visited 8 May 2011 iNTOUCH
and to people who had been kind to me left me desperate to help. I’ve lived in Japan for eight years and, in my work in the travel industry, I have ventured to almost every corner of the country. Years of travel memories came to mind as the disaster unfolded on TV: the stunning Tohoku scenery, its delicious sake, its kind people. That was the Tohoku I knew, not the ruined landscape I was witnessing, and I wanted nothing more than to write about it. It turns out that I wasn’t the only who felt compelled to write about his or her experiences in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Soon after the earthquake, some friends and I talked about compiling an e-book of Japan-related writing to support survivors in Tohoku. We put out a call for submissions and spread the word through social media. Contributions came in quickly from writers around the country and the world, all eager to share memories of life in Japan. Illustrators Luis Mendo and Hiyoko Imai of Good Inc. and smartphone application developers Robb Satterwhite and Mark McFarlane volunteered to help with the design and digital distribution. Within days, the project started to take shape.
The completed e-book, titled You Are Here: Writing for Tohoku, contains about 60 firstperson accounts of life in Japan. Contributions cover everything from ramen shops to train rides, English lessons, gourmet adventures, family ties and chance encounters. Each contribution is a unique glimpse into the author’s view of Japan. Together, they stand as a warm tribute to the kindness, hospitality and beauty of this country. Contributors to You Are Here are a wonderfully diverse crew, each offering a perspective on Japan and its people. Japan Times columnist Kaori Shoji, for example, penned a moving essay about her Sendai-raised father. Tour guide Kay Morisada profiled A-bomb survivor Kei Matsushima. Travel writer Noriko Kitano chronicled her struggle to work up the nerve to visit a mixedgender onsen bath. Irishman Niall Murtagh contributed an excerpt from his 2005 book The Blue-Eyed Salaryman. German computer engineer Ulrich Wenzel sent in a touching story about his former colleague in Japan, Nakamura-san, and Tokyo life coach Anna Kunnecke wrote the best essay about kabutomushi beetles you’ll read this year. Promise.
Now is a difficult time for Japan, especially for the people of Tohoku who face years of recovery efforts. It’s all too easy to succumb to panic, frustration and sadness and, as we rush about life in Tokyo checking the news and making contingency plans, to pay no attention to the strangers around us. You Are Here is a modest attempt by all involved to remember that we are, in fact, living in a very decent country with a remarkable sense of community spirit. This e-book is a collective gift from its authors to the country we share, love and support, and we hope that it not only raises funds for recovery efforts, but also takes you, the reader, to unfamiliar parts of Japan, introduces you to local characters, prompts you to explore and deepens your appreciation for this nation. After all, no matter how long you plan to call Japan home, for the moment, you are here. o
You Are Here: Writing for Tohoku is available as an e-book and smartphone application. Proceeds from the sale of the e-book benefit the Japanese Red Cross. Write for Tohoku www.fortohoku.org
Literary gems at the Library 9
Finding Food for Thought by Charles Morris
nyone who thinks libraries are endangered spaces should step inside the Club’s third-floor book haven. Surrounded by a wide variety of bound treasures, Members young and old pull up a seat and take advantage of the tranquil atmosphere and resources at hand to do homework, research projects and finish up business. Inside the welcoming Children’s Library, kid-friendly computers, tables and stationery supplies provide the perfect after-school environment for assignments and study time. And for those who have finished their homework, the shelves hold a large collection of the latest Sakura Medal-winning books to satiate imaginations. Older kids are welcome to use the two brand-new iMacs in the main library for browsing the latest online news and magazines or bring in their own laptops or portable devices. The nearby Business Center is a handy resource for all ages, with printing and copying services, fast Internet access and computers with the full Microsoft Office suite. Adults can take a break from work and sink into one of the plush sofas with a cup of coffee and a magazine from the more than 100 on offer, ranging in interest and topic from Vanity Fair
to Gourmet Traveller. Two iPads are also available for perusing the latest headlines on such paid content sites as The Economist, the Financial Times, The Times of London, The New York Times and The New Yorker, as well as exploring many other entertaining and educational apps. The Library receives fresh shipments of books every week, so check back regularly for the latest selection or take a peek at the newest titles online via the RSS New Titles feed. Plus, with the weather turning warmer, the outdoor terrace is the perfect spot in which to lose yourself in words. Morris is a librarian at the Hal Roberts Library.
10 May 2011 iNTOUCH
reads 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang Why did we not see the economic collapse coming? Chang argues that ordinary citizens were blindsided because they didn’t ask for and never received accurate information regarding seemingly trivial things about capitalism. The washing machine, he cites for example, has changed the world more than the Internet.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein This cute Caldecott Medal-winning picture book is a bedtime story that keeps getting interrupted by a little red chicken. Many parents will relate to the charming tale that never quite gets told, as the pint-sized chicken continuously jumps into the story to save the hapless characters.
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk Through social media, consumers have taken back their voice. The power of opinion is now easy to observe and has had a tremendous impact on the way companies approach customer service. In this book, American entrepreneur Vaynerchuk reveals how companies can use social media to offer customers one-on-one attention.
Imperial Japan at Its Zenith: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2,600th Anniversary by Kenneth J Ruoff A richly choreographed event throughout the Japanese empire, the anniversary in 1940 of Japan’s imperial lineage was a poignant time for the country, which Ruoff uses to examine Japan’s national identity and modernity.
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle This book brings to light the crisis of humanity and the extent to which our use of technology is isolating us. Turkle argues that we are being herded towards what she calls“the robotic moment,” a time in which we will rely on machines to shape our regret, gratitude, forgiveness and love.
Diabetes Rising: How a Rare Disease Became a Modern Pandemic, and What to Do About It by Dan Hurley In this engrossing book, reporter Hurley investigates why diabetes has skyrocketed to dramatic levels, why the American Diabetes Association concentrates on only a handful of available treatments and why researchers often do not look beyond accepted types of treatment.
Reviews compiled by librarian Erica Kawamura.
member’s choice Member: Roni Ohara Title: Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku
What’s the book about? Physicist Kaku explains the theories of Galileo, Newton and Einstein while covering such topics as string theory, dark matter, black holes and Planck’s quantum theory and the use of scientific tools like telescopes and the Large Hadron Collider. The debates among various schools of thought are touched on with a good dose of scholarly humor, as well as the possibility that the universe we know could be merely one of many.
What did you like about it? Kaku makes modern physics relatively easy to comprehend.
Why did you choose it? I chose this book because I wanted a scientific read, something beyond everyday life and problems.
What other books would you recommend? One book I always go back to is A River Sutra by Gita Mehta, or Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia or The Songlines.
Literary gems at the Library 11
hen romantic comedies and action-packed flicks start to seem stale, movie watchers can find insightful entertainment in the documentary section of the DVD Library. Lighthearted yet poignant truelife tales are deftly spun in the likes of Spellbound, which follows a set of American schoolchildren as they prep for the national spelling bee. Compelling commentary is up for consideration on topics ranging from food and society (Super Size Me and Food, Inc.) to the environment (An Inconvenient Truth) to combat (The Fog of War). The arena of athletics, too, is a source of some truly inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking stories. Ken Burns’ PBS
2004 documentary Unforgivable Blackness, about African-American boxing legend Jack Johnson, is a gripping tale. While American critic Roger Ebert had high praise for 1994’s Hoop Dreams, the story of two aspiring Chicago basketball players. “Many filmgoers are reluctant to see documentaries, for reasons I’ve never understood; the good ones are frequently more absorbing and entertaining than fiction,” he wrote. “Hoop Dreams, however, is not only a documentary. It is also poetry and prose, muckraking and exposé, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime.” So which non-fiction films would our Club critics choose as their all-time best? o
“The Cove is one of the most controversial, thought-provoking and powerful documentaries of our time. Ric O’Barry, the dolphin trainer from the popular US television series “Flipper,” is one of the film’s protagonists. The movie records the difficulties encountered by the crew while attempting to expose the tragedies of the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Director Louie Psihoyos has done a great job of piecing together a documentary film that is more like an actionpacked spy thriller. After watching this movie, it is difficult not to have a strong opinion, whether it is for or against the annual hunt.”
“Growing up during World War II, I was always impressed by the weekly newsreels that preceded the main features at the cinema. Before the advent of television, these visual reportages showed us the reality of war and the bravery of the film crews. There have been many fine historical documentaries made, but mostly these are recreations with actors or cause-driven productions. National Geographic’s Apocalypse: The Second World War contains original footage obtained from collectors and archivists. It documents the war from inception to the end with an objective narrative and enhanced by stunning footage. It is definitely the best documentary I have ever seen about World War II, and I would propose that it is the best true documentary ever made.”
“Growing up in the UK during the IRA’s terrorist campaigns, I was aware of the cries for the death penalty’s restoration and I was squarely in the ‘hanging-istoo-good-for-them’ camp. Then I saw 14 Days in May. As a piece of filmmaking, it is unremarkable. Set in a Mississippi prison, the film follows the journey of Edward Earl Johnson, convicted of rape and murder in what was likely a grievous miscarriage of justice, to the gas chamber. Johnson is neither educated nor eloquent, and he doesn’t “find God” in jail. Over the years, I’ve heard people debate both sides of capital punishment. But when I watched that chamber door close while sitting in my living room in 1987, my belief in the death penalty ended, as absolutely as Johnson’s life did.”
Best documentary: The Cove
Best documentary: Apocalypse: The Second World War
Best documentary: 14 Days in May
Club critic: Daniel Kraslavsky
Club critic: Nick Johnson
Club critic: Silvia Floody
All titles mentioned are either available at the DVD Library or on order.
12 May 2011 iNTOUCH
HE SAYS, SHE SAYS He is Club President Lance E Lee. She is Yuko Akisato, manager of the DVD Library.
Filled with passion and stellar performances, this Oscar-winning film reveals the caliber of King George VI (portrayed by Colin Firth), who overcame a stammer to make a public stand against Hitler. The speech itself is a moving one and the sentiment it evoked in the British people is depicted perfectly.
give it a go
Colin Firth very much deserved his best actor Oscar for his mesmerizing performance as King George VI, who unexpectedly became monarch after his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated. He hires an eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to overcome his stammer and, with war looming, deliver an inspiring radio address to his subjects.
Harrison Ford shows his talent in his role as an aging, grumpy and once-brilliant newsman who saves a failing morning TV show. There’s plenty of humor in this refreshing flick that also stars Diane Keaton as Ford’s co-host and Rachel McAdams as a rookie producer. Worth watching.
Rachel McAdams does an excellent job as the young TV producer trying to revive a struggling morning show with warring co-hosts (Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton). A thoroughly entertaining and easy-to-watch movie.
Aside from the wonderful cinematography and scenes of Venice, this action thriller is a disappointment. Viewers might expect more from a film starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, but the story is elementary and predictable. Don’t waste your time.
Frank (Johnny Depp) is an American tourist in Europe. After meeting the beautiful Elise (Angelina Jolie), he gets sucked into a mysterious and deadly world. Despite the impressive cast, the film is a letdown. There’s plenty of glamour, but nothing really happens.
This emotionally powerful movie deals with the subject of the afterlife through the stories of three characters who are all touched by death in some way. Although there is a strong spiritual theme, it doesn’t overpower the film. Superbly directed by Clint Eastwood.
This unusual and emotional film plays out through the life and experiences of a reluctant psychic (played by Matt Damon) and three other storylines that involve characters forced to contemplate the idea of life after death. The film is complemented by the moving score, written by the movie’s director, Clint Eastwood.
••• COM E DY
Country Strong A rising country musician goes on tour with a fallen star, played with a twang by Gwyneth Paltrow, her manager-husband and a pretty young songstress as romantic entanglements ensue.
The Way Back This restrained, gorgeously shot movie captures the 4,000-mile journey of several prisoners who flee a Soviet Union labor camp. Starring Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell.
Somewhere Hollywood actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff ) rethinks his constant cloud of slick cars, women and drugs after his daughter (Elle Fanning) turns up on his doorstep in this sharp, affecting film from Sophia Coppola.
Little Fockers Exhausted gags get repackaged in this third installment of the lucrative, star-sprinkled franchise about a paranoid patriarch (Robert De Niro) and his bumbling son-in-law (Ben Stiller).
Casino Jack Hot-shot Capitol Hill lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Kevin Spacey) and his charge fall hard as their schemes to procure power lead to corruption and murder in this engrossing look at how far greed and money will take some people.
AC TI ON
other new titles...
Ip Man 2 Inspired by the life of the legendary kung fu master who trained Bruce Lee, this fight-injected sequel follows Ip Man’s move from mainland China to Hong Kong in 1949 and his troubled efforts to establish his martial arts academy.
All movies reviewed are either available at the DVD Library or on order.
TV and film selections 13
Joining a Committee Members interested in joining one of the committees listed should contact its chair or inquire at the General Manager’s Office. Recreation Tim Griffen (Tim Griffen) Recreation Subcommittees Bowling Pam Jenkinson Fitness Jerry Rosenberg Golf Steven Thomas Library Melanie Chetley Logan Room Diane Dooley & Cathleen Fuge Squash Alok Rakyan Swim Jesse Green & Stewart Homler DVD Jane Hunsaker Youth Activities Linda Genty Community Relations Stan Yukevich (Jeff McNeill) Community Relations Subcommittees Distinguished Achievement Award Jeff McNeill Independence Day Stan Yukevich
Celebrating a Community
& Barbara Hancock Sportsman of the Year Jeff McNeill Compensation Brian Nelson Culture Miki Ohyama (Deborah Wenig) Culture Subcommittee Frederick Harris Gallery Yumiko Sai
Tokyo American Club Grand Opening Reception: Celebrating 83 Years Monday, May 23 6:30–8:30 p.m. Winter Garden Free Adults only Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
Entertainment Per Knudsen
xactly 83 years after the doors of the newly established Tokyo American Club were swung open in Yurakucho, the Club’s latest incarnation hosts an evening celebration to mark the anniversary of a Tokyo institution and the official opening of the Azabudai facility. Join Club governors, other Members and friends in the spacious Winter Garden for a lively reception, complete with Champagne, hors d’oeuvres and live music, to pay homage to the Club’s storied past while launching its new home for a bright future. o
(Per Knudsen) Finance Akihiko Mizuno (Dan Stakoe) Food & Beverage Craig Saphin (Amane Nakashima) Food & Beverage Subcommittee Wine Mark Baxter House Mary Saphin (Ira Wolf) House Subcommittee Architectural Michael Miller Human Resources Victoria Muir (Barbara Hancock) Membership Alok Rakyan (Mary Saphin) Membership Subcommittee Marketing Mark Ferris Nominating Nick Masee Names in parentheses denote Board liaisons.
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s the survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami try to come to terms with the destruction that descended on their lives that Friday afternoon, the Club continues to appeal for donations to help them rebuild their communities. Members can make a contribution to the Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund by filling out an online donation form on the Club website or downloading a form from the site or picking one up from the Member Services Desk and then
returning it to the Member Services Desk in person or by fax to 03-4588-0703. Those people who are not Club Members can still pledge money by sending donations (all major currencies accepted) by wire transfer to the following Club account: Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (bank code: 0005) Tamachi Branch (branch code: 043) Futsu (ordinary) account: 2524059 Shadan Hojin Tokyo American Club SWIFT code: BOTKJPJT
Thank you in advance for helping to relieve some of the suffering of those affected by this tragedy. o
by Nick Jones
n the tradition of charity concerts like Live Aid and Live 8, the Club hosts its first-ever fundraising musical extravaganza this month, featuring stars from the worlds of hip-hop and opera. Organized to raise funds for the victims of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Lend a Hand: Jammin’ for Japan boasts a crowd-pleasing lineup of talented performers, including Speech of the American hip-hop act Arrested Development and Japanese-American tenor John Ken Nuzzo. Speech, the rapper on such hits as “Mr Wendal” and “Tennessee,” says he was deeply moved by the disaster in northeast Japan. “First of all, the people of Japan have meant so much to me and my music,” he says. “Secondly, I have dear friends who live there, so it was personal. It’s exciting to be back in Japan, and to be part of such an important event makes the trip that much more endearing to me.” An award-winning singer who has performed opera around the world, Nuzzo says he wants to do what he can to assist
those in need in Tohoku. “I am so glad I can be a part of this event at TAC,” he says. The philanthropic evening, hosted by TV personality and actress Lisle Wilkerson, will also feature an exquisite dinner and the chance to meet the artists at a VIP reception before the concert. o
Lend a Hand: Jammin’ for Japan Friday, May 20 6 p.m. Brooklyn Rooms, Central Park Reception Gallery and New York Ballroom Members: ¥20,000 (VIP reception*: ¥25,000) Non-Members: ¥22,000 (VIP reception*: ¥30,000) Dress code: cocktail dresses/business attire (ties optional) Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk (* The VIP reception will be held on the third floor)
A portion of the cost of this advertisement will go to the Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund.
Cornerstones of the Club 15
Advantage Indoors N Tennis makes its debut at the Club this month with the launch of classes for adults. by Nick Jones
16 May 2011 iNTOUCH
ot too long after arriving in Japan as a tennis teacher, Allen Krissman found himself in the umpire’s chair for a match starring a young temperamental champion by the name of John McEnroe. “There I was, having to chair a match with top players,” Krissman says. “So they had me there as the expert, but I wasn’t.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, the game between McEnroe and fellow American Vincent Van Patten during the 1983 Suntory Open in Tokyo wasn’t without incident, with McEnroe displaying his usual irritation with match officials. It’s a part of Krissman’s tennis career that he would rather forget. Originally brought over from the United States to help reorganize a number of tennis schools in Japan, Krissman was becomingly increasingly unhappy with such additional duties. As a qualified tennis coach, he wanted to teach. “What I had to offer was good professional tennis instruction to people who were very anxious to learn,” he says. Eventually starting the Krissman
advanced beginners will get the most out of that kind of court,” Krissman says. “There’s never going to be any rainouts and when it’s too hot [outside], you’ll still have a decent environment in there.” Originally from Los Angeles, Krissman earned a tennis scholarship to the University of Nebraska. After graduating, he flew to Europe to play in the satellite pro circuit. But he didn’t like what he found. “At that level, there are so many good players just scraping by and doing anything to win. It was ugly to me,” he says. “I did realize that I love tennis and had something to offer tennis, but it wasn’t in that niche.” Returning home after less than a year, he became a certified coach through the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) in 1977. “It seemed like that was what I was meant to do,” he says. “For tennis coaches, the payback is when we know that people have enjoyed what we do and they’ve gained from what we do.” Krissman has since worked with a variety of ability levels, from elderly
novices to Junior Davis Cup whizzes, across the US, as well as in Mexico, Taiwan and Japan. “I’m a lucky guy,” he says, smiling. “I get to do what I love to do, and I have been doing it for 30 years.” Now operating eight schools in Tokyo, Krissman and his team of USPTA-certified coaches teach dozens of classes each week. And although the administrative side of running a business takes up a substantial chunk of his time, he says teaching remains his first love, particularly when he has the opportunity to introduce the game of tennis to newcomers. “I love teaching beginners,” he says. “They’re so enthusiastic and want to learn everything.” And they don’t throw tantrums during matches. o Krissman International Tennis School www.tennisintokyo.com To find out more about the new five-week introductory and refresher tennis classes for adults, visit the Recreation Desk or the Health & Recreation section of the Club website.
International Tennis School in 1984, he has been teaching the rudiments of the sport to adults and children ever since. And this month, he kicks off the Club’s first-ever tennis program for adults. (Krissman has run the Club’s Little Tennis program for youngsters since the late 1990s.) “This opportunity arose when I knew that the Club was moving back here, and they told me that the gym was going to be twice the size of the old gym,” Krissman explains. “In my mind, I thought that we could actually put a regulation-size tennis court in it.” Recreation Director Scott Yahiro says that the class was set up in response to the huge number of Member requests for such a program. “It gives the Members a chance to work on technique and skills in a similar way to working with a golf instructor in our golf simulator,” he says. The four classes, aimed at beginners and advanced beginners, will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the Gymnasium. “The gym floor is not so good for advanced players [because] the ball moves too fast. So beginners or
Fitness and well-being 17
focus Pilates with Exercise Rings Pilates is a wildly popular fitness regimen developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates to boost mental and physical well-being, increase flexibility and strengthen muscles. Men and women of all ages are flocking to classes around the world and touting outstanding results and renewed vitality. In addition to general mat exercises, Pilates routines incorporate a unique exercise ring for extra intensity and stability. Students train and learn to control their core muscles, including abs and buttocks. Those new to Pilates will study the fundamentals before moving on to more complex exercises. Pilates sessions using exercise rings are held each Friday (10:35–11:35 a.m.) in The Studio. Check the Aerobics section of the Adult Classes & Programs page on the Club website for details.
Motoko Nakamura was introduced to Pilates while living in the United States, and that moment completely altered her fitness strategy. After earning several fitness specialist certifications, she began studying Stott Pilates mat exercises and the fascinating anatomical functions of major muscle groups. Through Pilates, she helps participants to become more aware of their own bodies and learn how to manage and control them with ease.
“Ring Pilates has been a wonderful experience for me as a newcomer to Pilates. It has helped me build core muscles and strength. The instructor has been wonderful and really makes Pilates fun, releasing and enjoyable—great class!”
A Massage for Mom Ahead of Mother’s Day on May 8, give Mom a much-deserved session of unparalleled pampering at The Spa from the selection of spectacular packages below: • 60-minute deep-pore cleansing facial + 60-minute Swedish massage: ¥19,320 • 75-minute Eternity facial + 30-minute upper-body massage: ¥18,060 • Detox and slimming body wrap + head massage: ¥28,350 • 60-minute aromatherapy massage + 30-minute deep-pore cleansing facial: ¥15,750 • Classic manicure and pedicure combo: ¥12,600 Pick up a gift certificate for the treatment package of your choice at The Spa. Or go ahead and book a time for yourself all month long.
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The Spa is open daily from 10 a.m. Make an appointment or visit the fourth-floor haven of relaxation to discover more about the pampering possibilities in store.
Float Like a Butterfly
Birthday Bowling Bashes
Explore the Great Outdoors
Tempo Boxing is a new five-week program that uses controlled body movements to create a fun, challenging and original form of martial arts training. Contemporary exercise techniques are combined with scientific principles for a unique, toning workout.
For a truly unique kids’ birthday celebration, take to the lanes! Reserve two bowling lanes for your fun-filled, two-hour party (10 a.m.–12 p.m.; 1–3 p.m.; or 4–6 p.m.) for just ¥21,000. Weekends and holidays only. For ages 5 to 17.
The Club’s spectacular new jungle gym promises hours of exciting outdoor fun for youngsters. The colorful maze of tubes, slides, nets and climbing towers is part of the openair play terrace located near the Fun Zone.
May 12–June 10 Thursdays 7:15–8 p.m. The Studio For 18 years and above Sign up online or at the Recreation Desk
To book your party or find out more, contact the Bowling Center at 03-4588-0209 or e-mail email@example.com.
Summer Camp Fun
Tee Up at TAC
Youngsters ages 6 to 12 savor days of summertime stimulation and make new friends during weeklong sessions of art, music, sports and other activities. Now in its 17th year, the Club’s nine-week Camp Adventure program is staffed by trained college students through the University of Northern Iowa.
Whether you want to rock, pluck like John Williams or play the blues, the Club’s talented guitar instructor Tetsuo Ishige can help guitar students of all ages and levels improve.
Improve your game over lunch or after work through invaluable pointers and demos from PGA-certified golf instructor Tom Fielding. Private and group lessons at the 19th Hole golf simulators are available for all ages and levels.
Registration begins Monday, May 16. Contact the Recreation Desk or check the Health & Recreation section of the Club website for details.
One-hour sessions are available on Mondays. Visit the Club website or contact the Recreation Desk for details.
Contact the Recreation Desk or visit the Golf page under the Health & Recreation section of the Club website for details.
Fitness and well-being 19
t 12:30 p.m. on May 16, 1975, an exhausted and bruised Junko Tabei reached the summit of Mount Everest to become the first woman to scale the world’s highest peak. But she almost didn’t make it. Almost two weeks before, she and the expedition’s 14 other Japanese female climbers had been sleeping at Camp 2 when
weather, I sent the basic things you need in the mountains,” explains the bespectacled 71-year-old, sitting in her office in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. While the world witnessed the destructive force of the ocean that Friday afternoon in March, Tabei promotes another environment that has the potential to turn perilous. She is director of the
In her role with the trust, Tabei promotes trekking, both in Japan and abroad, and conservation. “If you see any trash, bring it back with you,” she says, “and whatever items you bring yourself, those must be brought back as well.” The group also organizes hikes up different peaks in Japan, including Mount Fuji, which, in recent years, has become the
Peak Pioneer Ahead of her appearance at this month’s luncheon, climber Junko Tabei talks about the allure of the mountains and helping the victims of the Tohoku earthquake. by Brett Bull
an avalanche slammed into their tents. Battered and disoriented, they were pulled out of the snow by the team’s Sherpas. Knowing a thing or two about survival in harsh conditions, Tabei was quick to help her alpine hometown of Miharu in Fukushima Prefecture after the powerful quake of March 11. With electricity, gas and water services all severely disrupted in the region, Tabei sent supplies, including blankets and thick winter jackets, to her old community. “To assist with dealing with the cold 20 May 2011 iNTOUCH
Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, whose aim is to preserve the natural beauty of mountains everywhere. She first became involved with the group at the urging of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Everest. “Hillary started the program because he felt that Everest had become so dirty from climbers,” she says. “A lot of climbers from Japan go to the Himalayas, so he thought something must be done.” The nonprofit organization’s Japan branch was founded in 1990 and has around 1,400 members.
focus of projects to clean up the tons of trash dumped on its slopes. Smartly dressed in a gray suit and floral-patterned scarf, the mother of two doesn’t exude the ruggedness normally associated with mountaineering, but her list of accomplishments is a long one. Having tackled mountains from China to Argentina, she was the first woman to scale the highest peaks on all seven continents, a challenge referred to as the Seven Summits. Still traveling the globe, she is planning a trip to Iceland this
WOMEN’S GROUP seen such things,” she says of the scenery on Mount Chausu, “and all the things I learned about in the classroom made me want to explore further.” Since that hike in Tochigi, she has authored a number of introductory guides to trekking and climbing. “People can encounter scenic beauty like they’ve never seen before,” she explains. “There
that the Tohoku residents will once again be able to appreciate the area’s stunning natural environment. “I want them to be able to enjoy that beauty again,” she says. o Bull is a Tokyo-based freelance journalist. Junko Tabei www.junko-tabei.jp
Brian Scott Peterson
month and aims to climb the highest summit of every country in the world. Tabei will, however, always be associated with Everest. In 1978, she penned a book about her climb up the 8,848-meter mountain by the southeast ridge route and her feeling of fulfillment in a pursuit dominated by males. And while Tabei feels a certain amount
of kinship with female climbers of her era, like Wanda Rutkiewicz, the first Pole to conquer Everest in 1978, she believes that women nowadays should be encouraged rather than given any special consideration. “There need to be more and more [women climbing Everest],” she says, adding that thousands of men have reached the top but only around 100 women. Tabei, who became interested in mountaineering through a teacher while in elementary school, recalls her first climb in Tochigi Prefecture. “I had never
are so many things, flowers and trees, for example, that are not readily available to see in day-to-day life. And when one sees such scenes, the negative aspects of life become relatively tiny.” The ongoing challenges stemming from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami remain a topic of discussion on Tabei’s blog. To offer further help, she has been preparing a lodge of hers to accommodate evacuees. Although there is an enormous amount of rebuilding to be done, Tabei is hopeful
Monthly Luncheon: A Life above the Clouds with Junko Tabei Monday, May 9 Doors open: 11 a.m. Lunch: 11:30 a.m. Manhattan III Women’s Group members: ¥3,150 Non-Women’s Group members: ¥4,200 Adults only Sign up online or at the Member Services Desk
An interactive community 21
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COUrT CHallenges In a country where baseball and soccer rule supreme, the basketball fraternity is working hard to bring hoops to the masses.
by Ed Odeven Photos by Irwin Wong
tanding on the sideline, Bob Pierce watches his charges warm up for another game. It’s a routine he’s done thousands of times in gyms spanning the globe. As the Akita Northern Happinets head coach looks on, his players take layups, stretch, run and pass the ball to one another. Just meters away in Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2, his counterpart, Bob Hill, coach of the Tokyo Apache and veteran bench boss of four NBA teams, prepares for the evening’s on-court action. Increasingly in Japan, the sight
Court Challenges 23
of two Americans at the helms of pro basketball teams isn’t so rare. Appearing calm and confident as the game gets under way, the 50-year-old Pierce, whose résumé includes stints as Japan’s assistant national team coach and as an NBA scout in Asia, is familiar with the ebb and flow of a long season. He barks out instructions to his players as the March 10 showdown between the two Basketball Japan (BJ) League teams takes form. Pierce’s expansion Happinets are up against a talented, title-chasing Apache side that features an NBA prospect in teenage forward Jeremy Tyler, former NBA center Robert Swift and fan
favorite Cohey Aoki, a 167-centimeter spitfire guard whose shooting skills have impressed his coach since the preseason. (The Apache, together with the Saitama Broncos and Sendai 89ers, cut short their seasons following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.) Pierce and Hill are part of a sport that has yet to gain the kind of following that baseball and soccer enjoy in Japan. To confuse matters, there are two separate professional setups: the BJ League and the Japan Basketball League (JBL). Holding its first game in 2005, the BJ League was originally made up of two breakaway teams from the JBL. The
general manager of one of those clubs, Niigata Albirex, had a vision for a new kind of league. “This decision will lead to the development of teams and the sport of basketball, and from this point onward, we will make every effort to popularize basketball,” Toshimitsu Kawachi, who is now commissioner of the BJ League, said in an interview in 2005. The six teams in that inaugural season—Tokyo, Saitama, Niigata, Osaka and Oita—have since been joined by 10 more clubs from across Japan. The JBL, meanwhile, is a corporate league of eight teams that was founded in 1967. Pierce, who has worked in both
The JBL has the best Japanese players, but is stagnant and hasn’t produced any growth at all. The BJ League is growing, but lacks the best Japanese players to move beyond its second-rate image.
24 May 2011 iNTOUCH
players who might be great additions to the national team,” he says. “Bringing the two leagues together and developing the country talent would benefit a lot of people. So, in conclusion, I think Japan is sabotaging itself in the world of basketball.” Apache’s general manager, Conor Neu, concurs. “I think everyone is in agreement that [having two separate leagues] is a detriment to basketball in Japan, but it is not an easy fix,” the Club Member says. “There is going to have to be some give on each side to come together and get this merger completed, so that pro basketball can really begin
help to improve the level of the local talent. “The only way to produce an NBA-level player is to have NBA-level players playing in your league at multiple positions,” he explains. “The first real Japanese NBA player will probably be a guard, so you need to have as many highlevel point guards and shooting guards playing in the league, so the Japanese players can test themselves every time they step on the court. I think the JBL has one [foreign] guard this season.” Of course, Japanese players can learn a great deal from foreign coaches as well. Apache’s Aoki for one says he feels fortunate to have a coach who once led
© AFLO SPORT/bj-league
leagues and speaks Japanese, is an outspoken proponent of the BJ League model for growing basketball in Japan. “Basketball is still a minor sport in Japan, and the only growth in the last six years is the BJ League because of the [foreign players],” says Pierce. “So to ignore them and treat them like they don’t exist or don’t matter is foolish. The JBL has the best Japanese players, but is stagnant and hasn’t produced any growth at all. The BJ League is growing, but lacks the best Japanese players to move beyond its second-rate image.” Even with talk of a possible merger of the two leagues in 2013, Japan Basketball
Association (JBA) officials have admitted in recent interviews that little progress has been made. Ohio native Hill, who has coached with the likes of the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs, says that the JBA is hindering the sport’s progress. “As long as the JBA resists the two leagues coming together, it hurts the development of the Japanese players on the national team and eliminates the development of other
to grow. I’m looking forward to that day when there is one single professional basketball league in Japan.” One of the main differences between the two leagues remains the number of foreign players. While the BJ League allows three imports per team on the court at any one time (reduced to two in the second quarter), the JBL permits only one. Pierce argues that foreign players
the Spurs to the brink of the NBA Finals. “It’s a great opportunity to play under a coach with NBA experience,” he says. “Every day is a learning opportunity, and I’m grateful for it. I would like to continue to absorb as much knowledge as I can.” For now, though, it’s generally accepted that the best Japanese players are on the rosters of JBL teams. Point guard Yuta Tabuse, for example, the first Japanese
Court Challenges 25
26 May 2011 iNTOUCH
© AFLO SPORT/bj-league
to play in the NBA, is with Link Tochigi Brex, while teammate Takuya Kawamura has picked up the JBL’s scoring title for the past three seasons. The level of play within the BJ League may be below that of Europe’s premier circuits like Italy, Spain and Greece, but the influx of foreign talent is giving a significant boost to the league, especially when measured against the JBL. “The BJ League gives players a taste of what to expect if they were to play in a higher league,” Pierce says, referring to the number of skilled and tall players now
and talented, especially concerning the Japanese players.” There are plans to grow the BJ League next season, with up to four more expansion teams set to join the current 16 clubs. Emulating the success of the J-League model in soccer, the BJ League’s sides have focused on garnering support in the communities in which they are based. JBL fans, on the other hand, have traditionally been lifelong employees of the companies that own the teams or people connected in some way to those corporate outfits.
There is going to have to be some give on each side to come together and get this merger completed, so that pro basketball can really begin to grow. I’m looking forward to that day when there is one single professional basketball league in Japan. in the league. Yet despite the introduction of top players from major division I programs in the United States and more than a dozen NBA Development League veterans, the BJ League still struggles to get exposure in the national mainstream media. The Happinets boast a strong following in western Tohoku, but that’s thanks, in part, to the national basketball success of Tabuse’s alma mater, Noshiro Technical High School in Akita Prefecture. “The league has been growing steadily, both in size and exposure,” Apache’s Neu says. “There are always little adjustments that can be made, but at the higher level, I am very pleased with the league. I do believe marketing is a huge part of what will be the league’s success. Creating a brand that people know and recognize takes time and money.” But former NBA and JBL forward Brian Rowsom, who served as Oita’s bench boss last season, says that the BJ League is growing too quickly. “You probably want to expand the league, but I would have wanted to do it more slowly, maybe two teams every three years,” he says. “This way, you do not water down the talent there too much, which then makes your product not as strong
Many coaches in private, however, say that the JBL blueprint for running a league doesn’t assist the sport’s growth in the long run. In fact, 13 JBL teams have folded in the last 15 years. The modest crowd, limited media presence and lack of household names on the court that March evening in Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 offers a snapshot of the state of basketball in Japan at the moment. But as all the coaches, managers and players would, no doubt, affirm, there is plenty of potential, particularly if a single league can be realized. “The BJ League is a perfect venue for young players who need to prove themselves,” Pierce says. “That’s not a bad position for a league to be in. It would allow us to continue to recruit players with great potential. I hope some of these guys make it [to the NBA].” That’s a sentiment that all lovers of the game can surely agree upon. o Odeven is a sports writer for The Japan Times. BJ League www.bj-league.com Japan Basketball League www.jbl.or.jp
Court Challenges 27
28 May 2011 iNTOUCH
TALKING HEADS Before March 11 this year, the name “Fukushima” was barely known around the world. But since the devastating earthquake and tsunami, it has become synonymous with an ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant on the Pacific coast. After the giant waves crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, a series of problems sprang up in four separate reactors. With Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) raising the severity rating of the situation to the highest level, seven, last month, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the Fukushima plant, have received strong criticism for their handling of the emergency. Takuya Hattori is president of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, a nonprofit organization that promotes nuclear energy. iNTOUCH’s Nick Jones sat down with the Club Member to talk about Japan’s worst nuclear incident. Excerpts:
iNTOUCH: How well do you think the Fukushima crisis has been handled? Hattori: I think this is the first time for the nuclear community to face such a severe situation. The uniqueness of this case is the fact that four [reactor] units were simultaneously hit by the tsunami and lost all power. In the case of Three Mile Island in the United States, only one unit was affected, and in Chernobyl also. The Japanese nuclear industry developed accident management procedures after Three Mile Island and again after Chernobyl. We accumulated a lot of knowledge from those accidents. But those procedures are based on only one unit [accident]. iNTOUCH: But considering Japan’s seismic volatility, why were no contingency plans developed for the possibility of more than one reactor being knocked out? Hattori: In the case of Fukushima, the evaluation was based on the 1960 Chile tsunami and the units are 10 meters above sea level. We assumed that would be high enough, but Tepco reported that the tsunami was 14 meters high, which is about 2.5 times higher than our [worst-case] assumption. iNTOUCH: But seismologist Yukinobu Okamura has said that he warned the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and Tepco two years ago of the possibility of larger tsunami. Hattori: But any time this kind of accident happens, there are always people who say they warned or advised [beforehand]. But actually it’s not always the case. I would like to ask Professor Okamura why he didn’t push it more. iNTOUCH: How well has Tepco handled the problems at Fukushima?
Hattori: Unfortunately, the situation has not been well managed. The government is very heavily involved, which is important, but some areas are very, very technical. The [Fukushima power] station management knows everything that has gone on so far, so the Tepco headquarters and the cabinet office should focus on how to support the site management. The problem is [communication] is all mixed up and there are strong political forces as well. The site management should be given the power to make decisions rather than being forced to do things. iNTOUCH: Three workers were exposed to high levels of radiation after stepping in contaminated water in March. Was that the result of the pressure workers are under at the plant? Hattori: One factor is pressure, but also with four units to handle, it’s very confusing and difficult to manage everything well. In this very unfortunate case, the workers were not well informed about radiation levels. iNTOUCH: NISA was criticized for keeping its assessment of the crisis at Fukushima at level four for so long. Hattori: From the start, I myself didn’t think it was a four. I fully agreed with the French government that it was a level six. I don’t know why NISA evaluated this accident as a four. That was a big mistake. Another issue was [getting] strong international support early on. I strongly called for this, but there was no coordination between overseas support teams and the government. iNTOUCH: Why did Tepco and the government appear to react so slowly early on in this crisis? Hattori: Even the prime minister wanted to know technical details. That’s nonsense. The fact is Japan has had no experience in these last 50 or 60 years of war. We have no crisis management experience. We have had earthquakes, but those have been
relatively small compared with this. Tepco can’t ask for support [from other bodies] directly; they have to make a request to the ministry [of economy, trade and industry]. It’s just bureaucracy. iNTOUCH: What can we learn from this crisis? Hattori: Nuclear power has very high [peaks], but very deep valleys. This is a unique technology. Only those who are well trained enough can manage and operate nuclear power. Many people talk about a “nuclear renaissance,” but we have to be careful about which countries operate nuclear power. Is Japan the proper country to operate nuclear power? That’s the big question. iNTOUCH: Before this crisis, I understand that the government aimed to increase its reliance on nuclear energy to around 40 percent of total energy production from approximately 30 percent now. Hattori: Yes, 40 percent by 2020, then maybe 50 percent by 2030. iNTOUCH: What is the likelihood of that happening now? Hattori: It should be reevaluated. iNTOUCH: How necessary is it for Japan’s other nuclear plants on the coast to reassess and improve their tsunami defenses? Hattori: It will depend on the regulatory body’s policy and whether the local people can accept the continued operation of the plants. However, we need power this summer. But Tepco has a [shortfall]. iNTOUCH: Can we learn something from this period of forced energy conservation? Hattori: Yes. We consume too much [energy], so this is a good chance to learn about energy conservation. In some areas, we use too much lighting at night and too much air-conditioning. o Member insights on Japan 29
The new Club proved to be an oasis of comfort and safety for many Members and their guests in the hours after the devastating March 11 quake.
Safe and G Sound Kayo Yamawaki
by Wendi Hailey
eorg Loeer was in his Akasaka office when the earthquake struck on March 11. After evacuating the building and heading to a nearby park, the Club Member returned to his office to collect his belongings and venture home on foot. “I immediately thought of going to the new Tokyo American Club, which I considered to be a safe haven, knowing that it had been built to withstand major earthquakes,” he says. After making sure his family was safe at the German School in Yokohama, Loeer and a coworker arrived at the Club around 6 p.m., “only to find everything in the best of order,” he notes. “I had actually expected the lobby to be crowded with Members seeking refuge, but none of this was to be seen.” The two took up a post in Traders’ Bar, where they watched the horrific destruction unfold through television reports. After being contacted by a German TV news station, Loeer took his laptop
30 May 2011 iNTOUCH
AZABUDAI ELEMENTS up to the Library and gave a live update on the situation. “I felt very safe inside the TAC building, even as we could see the contents of the bottles in Traders’ Bar slightly shaking,” he says. “There couldn’t have been a better place to be anywhere in Tokyo than at TAC on this day and night.” The eight-story clubhouse sustained almost no damage during the magnitude-9.0 temblor that struck off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture. An example of superior structural engineering, the sturdy frame of concrete and reinforced steel, coupled with stable soil underneath, was designed to minimize the amount of movement felt during a big quake. “This building has no absorbers, but it has many shared walls,” says Hiroyuki Matsuzaki, manager of construction company Takenaka’s structural engineering section. “The thick concrete walls will protect the building from shaking.” Those around the fifth-story Sky Pool, however, witnessed a huge amount of water sloshed out of the pool, an issue that the designers and Club planning team knew would arise due to the flat infinity edge. To worsen matters, an open door nearby allowed the water to seep into the elevator shaft. An elevator maintenance worker happened to be at the Club at the time and was able to fix the problem quickly. The Club adheres to earthquake-resistant standards one class above normal structures. Under Japan’s strict building codes, class II buildings are designed to ensure safety and that the building can continue to be used without requiring major repairs. During the planning phase, shear walls and braces were laid out in a well-balanced way to counter
the building’s asymmetry. In addition, the building gains stability through the friction between the foundations, the soil and concrete shear wedges set underneath the foundations. The formal and family wings of the building are connected by bridges and atriums instead of expansion joints, which would cause the two sections to move separately during a quake and could weaken easily. The bridges allow the entire structure to sway as a single unit. Earthquake codes have been tightened in recent decades, especially in the aftermath of catastrophic failures. “There was a big structural design change in 1981 after the large earthquake in Miyagi,” says Yuki Tetsuji, Takenaka’s managing architect on the Club project. “The structural safety of the buildings themselves became much safer after that.” In Tokyo, he notes, the city government ruled that all buildings built before 1981 had to be demolished and rebuilt or reinforced to withstand severe earthquakes. In addition, an emergency transport route was developed and all the buildings along that lifeline were quickly strengthened or rebuilt with the redevelopment costs largely covered by the government. Permit administration grew notably stricter after a scandal in the construction industry in 2005. Costs for a class I-designated building are as much as 30 percent higher, Matsuzaki estimates. “A major earthquake occurs once every 1,000 or 500 years, so the client has to consider the possibility,” he says. “Building owners are now thinking about adding these systems to provide absolute safety in the building.”
However, adds Testuji, there is little that can be done to protect a building from tsunami. The best safeguard is to build on higher ground. As witnessed on March 11, most buildings in the Tohoku region survived the earthquake but couldn’t withstand the force of the massive wall of water that it unleashed. Tetsuji and Matsuzaki agree that most buildings in Tokyo could stand up to powerful ground movements, although they caution that furniture, ceiling fixtures and other items might pose a threat to safety. “In terms of design, Japanese buildings appear fat and heavy, because we give them more strength by maximizing the numbers of walls and pillars. Western building designs look pretty, but for us they make quite a scary impression,” Professor Yoshiaki Nakano, a quake engineering specialist at Tokyo University, said in one CBS News report. Both aesthetically pleasing and structurally secure, the Club became a haven amid the aftershocks and transportation interruptions that Friday night for dozens of stranded Members and staff. “At some point, I decided to settle down on one of the white sofas in the lobby, covered myself with my coat and went off to a somewhat unsettled sleep,” says Loeer. “Other Members and guests took their places on the available lounge chairs or sofas. TAC was extremely helpful and mindful in arranging things for the night, leaving on some lights for security reasons, just in case. I was so grateful to be able to spend the night at TAC, and I really experienced the great value and privilege of being a Member of our Club.” o
A closer peek at the Club 31
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.
Dong by Wendi Hailey
As a vibrant prism of flowers bloom outdoors, artist Carolyn Dong has captured equal beauty, grace and vibrancy on canvas for her “Hearts of Flowers” collection. Concentrating on the essence of the flora in soft, harmonious tones, the 20 “free-floating” oil paintings can be hung from any side for a dynamic visual experience. “I think of art as a medium of expression, like writing,” she says, adding that the appeal of art is that it is more open to interpretation and visceral reactions. “I want people to see and discover for themselves.” Those works will be displayed in the Frederick Harris Gallery along with a newly finished compilation, titled “Neighborhood Shrines.” All proceeds from the sales of this set will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society to aid the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The California native began studying Chinese brush painting at the University of New Orleans, but moved on to watercolor and figure drawing at Tulane University and later the University of Arizona. After a few years, she switched to oil painting and took classes for several years in New York under distinguished painter Fred Lipp. In the 1990s, Dong came to Japan to study drawing from artist Shinjiro Nakamura, who taught at the Club for more than four decades. Dong has followed in her mentor’s footsteps as a popular Club drawing and painting instructor since 2002.
Exhibition May 9–22
Gallery Reception Monday, May 9 6:30–8 p.m. Frederick Harris Gallery Free Open to all Members
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FREDERICK HARRIS GALLERY
Moreira Aguiar by Wendi Hailey
Renowned for his magnificent depiction of light, Fernando Moreira Aguiar’s oil paintings are graceful and exquisitely realistic snapshots of life. His muse is most often the ancient, picturesque villages of his native Portugal and their dramatic curves and spirals. Born in 1947, Aguiar showed an aptitude for artistry at a young age. His talents bloomed at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Lisbon, followed by a two-year stint in Paris and enrollment in the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. It was in Spain that he tapped into his natural, realistic style. This month, the “sunshine artist,” as he is known in international art circles, will debut a spectacular collection of textured paintings during his latest exhibition at the Club. Aguiar has devoted his career to perfecting his own techniques in composition, form and color, all the while capturing the splendor of nature. His signature use of a palette knife lends his works a charmingly tactile character. The artist has held solo exhibitions in Portugal, Japan, Germany, Spain, Britain, Venezuela and the United States. His paintings hang in museums around the world and previously found their way into the collections of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
May 23–June 5
Gallery Reception Tuesday, May 24 6:30–8 p.m. Frederick Harris Gallery Free Open to all Members
Exhibitions of art 33
Noriko Sasaka Japan
Tadahiro Yogo United States—Cabot Specialty Chemicals, Inc.
Koh Aoki Japan—Active Middle International Association
Kelly Hayes United States—Savills
James Hawrylak United States—Thomson Reuters Markets K.K.
Mirella Csapo United States
Roy & Michele Wilmoth United States—Chartis Companies
Daniel & Ryoko Pryor Australia
Eric & Elana Bernabei United States—Alcon Japan Ltd.
Fabio & Chiaki Strada Italy—Etro Japan
Makoto & Kayoko Aoki Japan—UBS Securities Japan Ltd.
David & Sarah Smith United States—Johnson & Johnson K.K.
Robert & Lisa Atkin United States—3M Health Care Ltd.
Jim Oskey United States—BMW Japan Finance Corp.
Yoshihiko & Wakako Komatsubara Japan—Komatsubara Komuten Ltd.
Ingrid & Ryuji Toyoda Germany—Toyoda Trading
Michael & Chieko Corry United States
Barrie & Ikuyo Feldman United Kingdom—BNP Paribas Securities (Japan) Ltd.
John & Brooke Solheim United States—Ping Golf Japan K.K.
Chisaki Suga Japan—Barclays Capital Japan Ltd.
Thomas Perry United States—Japan Entertainment Network K.K. Shaun & Hiromi Moran United States—JP Morgan Chase Bank John Junas United States—Beacon Communications K.K. Martin Spann & Yoko Higeta Australia—Commonwealth Bank of Australia Takashi Niwa United States—Sumitomo 3M Ltd. Grace & Vincent Nida United States—Korn/Ferry International David Warren United States—Sybase K.K. Seok Yeol Park & Noriko Kojima South Korea—Container Melanie Brock Australia—Meat & Livestock Australia Ltd. Tokiko Mori Japan—Nihon Clin Co., Ltd.
Michael Konishi & Tsukasa Hoshi United States—Mike Konishi Institute of Golf
Tamao Sasada Japan—Bank of America Merrill Lynch
William Hogan & Jill Chopyak United States—American Life Insurance Company
Akimi Takemura Japan—American Express Nippon Travel
Chris Gunner & Sumie Miyake Australia—Shell Japan Ltd.
Michael & Shari Vallier United States—NCR Japan Ltd.
James & Ingrid Davis United Kingdom—RBS Securities Japan Ltd.
Chan Yong Park & Jea Keun Jung South Korea—KPMG Azsa LLC
Toshikazu & Hana Hamada United States—Barclays Wealth Services Ltd.
Koji Nakamura Japan—Purac Japan K.K.
Eric & Yoko Ries United States—Rambus, Inc.
Morgan & Tomoe Stevens United States—Barclays Capital Japan Ltd.
Spyridon & Atsuko Mentzas Greece—Mizuho Securities Co., Ltd.
Michael & Alicia Joyce Australia—Norton Rose International Legal Practice
sayonara Matthieu Biron & Mari Ito Andrew & Misako Carroll Sammi H Cho & Colin Baker David Fielding & Sally Logan James & Sue Jamison Mark & Yuko Legard Ai & Yosuke Nakajima Mao Nakajima Ranjal Shenoy & Kaoru Fukagawa
stacks of services at the Club
JTB Sunrise Tours
Go Mobile Phone Rental
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: sunrisetours@ web.jtb.jp 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
Need a rental mobile phone or help with translation? Want to find useful English mobile sites? Go Mobile—more than just a phone. www.gomobile.co.jp
English support for all your Toyota and Lexus needs. Available services: Q&A by e-mail; dealer visit assistance; and translation of estimates, contracts and other related documents. www.mytoyota.jp/ english
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.
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)
34 May 2011 iNTOUCH
Being a Member of Tokyo American Club allows you access to a network of more than 200 reciprocal clubs across the globe. For a full listing of reciprocal clubs worldwide, check out the Club website.
Casino de Madrid
Location: Madrid, Spain Founded: 1836 Members: 2,700
Nestled among the Spanish capital’s sights, this celebrated institution possesses some of Madrid’s most remarkable art and gastronomy. Established by a group of progressive men seeking a refuge from the fervent politics of the time, the club’s opulent interior houses a billiard room, dance hall, library, gym, pool, saunas and Turkish baths. Meanwhile, members can dine in style at the Michelin-starred restaurant, La Terraza del Casino, run by El Bulli owner Ferran Adrià, one of the world’s most influential chefs, and his disciple Paco Roncero.
Denver Athletic Club Location: Denver, Colorado Founded: 1884 Members: 2,000
The sports-minded club was listed last year among the country’s top 10 athletic clubs by the Platinum Club of America. Some 11,600 square meters of state-of-the-art space is dedicated to a variety of athletic pursuits, including basketball, volleyball, badminton, climbing, bowling and swimming, with a wellness center and range of fitness equipment also available. In addition, the handsome downtown building boasts supreme dining facilities, a ballroom and assorted meeting spaces.
new member profile
Volker Reinert & Astrid Fontaine United States—SAP Japan Co., Ltd.
Why did you decide to join the Club? “TAC came highly recommended by former Tokyo expats, as well as current colleagues. The new facility is amazing. We look forward to spending a lot of family time there and meeting new friends. Since we joined last December, I have been using the Club frequently and have made many new acquaintances through volleyball, squash and golf. TAC will definitely add great value to our stay in Tokyo. I am glad we made the decision to join.” (l–r) Nick, Volker, Lucas and Astrid Reinert
Services and benefits for Members 35
Snapping the City In the days following the March 11 earthquake, one Club Member’s online photographic diary became a magnet for those looking for images of daily life in Tokyo. by Erika Woodward Photos by Dave Powell
ave Powell instinctively lunged for his Leica, narrowly rescuing the camera from ruin as it teetered on his desk on the 26th floor of the Shinjuku office building where he works. “I didn’t want it to fall,” says Powell of his quick reflexes during the violent temblor on March 11. Just 10 minutes after the swaying had stopped, Powell, who works for a large IT firm, began documenting the aftermath of the quake in Tokyo. From his corner office, he captured smoke billowing from an Odaiba high-rise in the distance. With the train network suspended, he, like so many others, was forced to walk home. He made sure to keep shooting
36 May 2011 iNTOUCH
as he headed to Nakameguro, later uploading the images from the threehour journey to his Shoot Tokyo blog. In the subsequent days, he took snapshots of life during an extraordinary time, from students collecting donations for the victims of the life-shattering earthquake to salarymen stopping off for yakitori and beer to trains packed with commuters rushing home to the suburbs before the start of evening energyconserving blackouts. “I’m showing that people are and will be OK,” says the 38-year-old native of Boston, Massachusetts, a couple of days after the quake. “People are resilient. Life keeps going. The news is hyping
devastation and doom and gloom. I don’t think the situation is like that in Tokyo at all.” In the days after the Tohoku disaster, Powell’s website received around 17,000 hits a day, up from the usual 200 to 500 daily visits since the site was launched in November. Powell, who has lived in Japan for a decade, says his photos provided comfort to those looking for photographs sans sensationalism, as well as a means for those living elsewhere to relate to friends and family in Tokyo. For other people, Powell’s shots offered a window on everyday life in the Japanese capital. “I am so in awe at how calm and collected people are—taking things in
wife, Mayumi, the Leica was decidedly more expensive than the vibrant-colored Lego digital camera Powell purchased recently for his 5-year-old son, Kai. Powell, who started taking his photography more seriously after Kai was born, continues to post on his blog unedited photographic updates from business trips abroad, sushi lunches and anything else that catches his eye. Although he works on a self-imposed deadline that forces him to “shoot through mistakes,” he says he welcomes the relaxed pace of photography as a way to unwind from the stresses of his job. While still a hobby, Powell’s photographs of scenes in the world’s
their stride as the Japanese do so well,” wrote one visitor to the site. “I appreciate the effort because I felt [relief] seeing your photos with people who can still share their smile,” commented another. Powell’s work was even recognized by a number of news organizations. The Boston Globe newspaper and CBS News ran shots of his, and CNN’s website featured a photo Powell took of a family sporting helmets while grocery shopping in Tokyo. Part of the impact of his photos, Powell says, is down to his Leica M9, an $8,500 range-finder camera that he outfitted with a $12,000 Noctilux 50mm lens. Bought last December with the permission of his
largest city have earned him increasing amounts of recognition, which, in turn, has allowed him to give back to the nation that has presented itself so willingly to his lens. The day after the March 11 quake, Powell posted a message on his Twitter page, urging his followers to donate through the American Red Cross website and keep spreading the word. “I'll donate $1 every time someone [retweets this message],” he wrote. “Bankrupt me!” o Woodward is a Saitama-based freelance journalist. Shoot Tokyo www.shoottokyo.com
A look at culture and society 37
uring his epic journey through the north of Japan in the summer of 1689, the itinerant poet Basho stopped at a hot spring along the Hokuriku coast by the Sea of Japan. He found the baths delightful, and paid homage with a haiku poem: Yamanaka/ no need to pluck chrysanthemums/the fragrance of these springs. The verse was recorded in Basho’s masterpiece The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Yamanaka Onsen has been famous ever since. I recently caught a whiff of those chrysanthemum blooms while luxuriating in the soothing waters and strolling through this sleepy town. Located in southern Ishikawa Prefecture, Yamanaka has a history that stretches back some 1,300 years to the Nara period. A monk called Gyoki first dug it up after receiving instructions in a vision of Buddha, who spoke of the local spring’s healing properties. Later, a samurai lord witnessed a heron bathing its wounded leg in the water, and was inspired to build 12 inns to accommodate visitors. Arriving from Kanazawa on the JR Hokuriku Line, I walked by several ryokan nestled along the Kakusenkei Gorge, some in business for dozens of generations. The Kakusenkei is an atmospheric stream on the edge of town spanned by Korogi (Cricket) Bridge, a graceful old wooden arch, and Ayatori (Cat’s Cradle) Bridge, a latticework of curving purple steel designed by ikebana master Hiroshi Teshigawara. There’s about 1 kilometer of strolling paths by the gently flowing stream and waterfall here, hardly enough to work up a sweat, but by going up and down the stairway from the streets I soon had my heart pumping. A quick walk to the
38 May 2011 iNTOUCH
main street brought me to the Kiku no Yu (Chrysanthemum Bath), a public bath that has stood in the same spot since it opened centuries ago. Recently renovated and housed in a beautiful traditional building, the waters are a little over 48 degrees Celsius and said to be effective in soothing muscle pain and digestive disorders. After an intoxicating soak, I went to the far side of the gorge to the Kayotei, an exquisite ryokan of only 10 rooms where I spent the night. With my own balcony bath overlooking the inn’s private mountain and waterfall, I could see why Basho called Yamanaka one of the top three spa towns in Japan. Stuffed with antique tansu chests, painted screens and gorgeous lacquerware, the Kayotei is an aesthete’s delight. The following day, my host Jiro Takeuchi gave me a tour of the atelier of local lacquer artist Yasuhiro Satake, who crafts unbelievably thin wine “glasses” from wood. His creations are the finest lacquer pieces I have ever seen in Japan. Yamanaka is part of a larger region known as Kaga Onsen, named after the Kaga fiefdom that was ruled by the powerful Maeda clan. A few kilometers toward the coast along Route 364 is another spring worth visiting: Yamashiro Onsen. Though it lacks the natural beauty of Yamanaka, it is the area’s largest onsen and boasts a magnificent new wooden bathhouse (Koso Yu) that has a real Edo period feel to it. As I walked in, an old lady minding the entrance told me it was strictly forbidden to take photos inside, but I couldn’t resist a snapshot of the stained glass windows that filter sunshine onto the deep tiled bath below. Without individual wash stalls, Koso Yu is a modern recreation of the original
Edo structure, complete with a relaxing tatami-floored lounge on the second floor. Around the corner, I met the elderly potter at Kutaniyaki Kamamoto, a renowned porcelain shop specializing in the region’s bold, colorful Kutaniyaki porcelain. At the Kutaniyaki Art Museum by JR Daishoji Station, I saw more examples of superbly painted plates and vases by artists who were supported by the Maeda lords. Kitaoji Rosanjin, the celebrated 20th-century potter and restaurateur, learned his craft in Yamashiro under the potter Suda Seika. Behind the Kamamoto porcelain shop, which still has a sign carved by Rosanjin, I took an elevator to a ridge overlooking the town. Here was my next home for the night. The gorgeously minimalist Beniya Mukayu ryokan, designed by Kiyoshi Sey Takayama, has a Zen-like aesthetic of white walls, bamboo screens and exposed beams. I again had my own private outdoor tub overlooking a forest, and dined on splendidly prepared kaiseki dishes, such as grilled blackthroat sea perch. In the morning, I took part in a yoga class in the meditation hall, feeling rejuvenated and ready to face the next part of my journey: the Tateyama Mountains. Back on the Hokuriku train, I read a commentary about Basho’s poem. According to the author, the poet wasn’t referring to literal chrysanthemums after all, but the dew of the “Chrysanthemum of Eternal Youth” in Chinese legend. I had to agree that my stay in Kaga Onsen, brief as it was, had made me feel more than a few years younger. o Hornyak is a Montreal-based freelance journalist.
OUT & ABOUT One hour by plane from Haneda Airport to Komatsu Airport. Then take the Hokuriku Line for the 12-minute journey from Komatsu Station to Kaga Onsen Station.
Yamanaka Onsen www.yamanaka-spa.or.jp Kaga Onsen www.tabimati.net/international/en
Two hours, 15 minutes by bullet train from Tokyo Station to Maibara Station then transfer to the Shirasagi express for the 85-minute journey to Kaga Onsen Station.
Yamashiro Hot Spring www.kagaworld.or.jp/yamashiro_global/ english/
Ishikawa Prefecture Tourism Guide www.hot-ishikawa.jp
KANAZAWA KAGA ONSEN
Beniya Mukayu www.mukayu.com NAGOYA
In Hot Water
Nestled in the vibrant greenery of the Ishikawa countryside, Kaga Onsen abounds with soothing hot springs and picturesque vistas. by Tim Hornyak
Explorations beyond the Club 39
For more photos from some events displayed in these pages, visit the Event Image Gallery (under News & Info) on the Club website.
Sky Pool Party February 27
More than a dozen aqua lovers celebrated the opening of the new rooftop Sky Pool with an afternoon of fun-packed games under the Clubâ€™s iconic glass crown. Photos by Yuuki Ide
1. (lâ€“r) Sachiyo Miller and her son, Leon 2. Joshua Fike and Allie Kirkwood 3. Allie Kirkwood 4. Julie Kirkwood and her son, Mason
40 May 2011 iNTOUCH
Toddler Time March 8
Club librarian Erica Kawamura welcomed a number of youngsters and moms to the cozy Children’s Library for a lively session of stories, songs and creative craft fun. Turn to page 4 to find out about this month’s Toddler Time gatherings. Photos by Kayo Yamawaki
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.
Tokyo Apache Basketball Clinic February 29
The Club arranged for more than 12 players and coaches from professional basketball team the Tokyo Apache to offer tips on shooting, passing and dunking as part of a series of clinics in the Gymnasium. On this day, more than 25 youngsters enjoyed a fun session of ball drills and games. “Our players really enjoy working with kids, and they were also really excited to see such a great new gym located in the heart of central Tokyo,” says Club Member and Apache General Manager Conor Neu. “While the clinics are designed for kids, the players often have just as much fun as they get involved in all of the drills and games.” Photos by Irwin Wong
1. Justin Johnson and Grace Wallrapp 2. Anthony Capizzi
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TAC Food and Supplies Drive March–April
Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan on March 11, the Club’s hastily established Great East Japan Earthquake Campaign Task Force launched an appeal for food and supplies for those living in the disaster zone. Working in cooperation with Allied Pickfords Japan, Sirva Relocation and Second Harvest Japan, the Club received items from both Members and the general public. Twentyeight tons of provisions and essentials like clothes, medicine, toiletries and toys were then transported to the various Tohoku communities in need. For information on how to donate to the Club’s Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, turn to page 14. Photos by Kevin Hagen/Imagesforhope.org 1. Scott McCaskie and BBC reporter Mark Worthington 2. (front row, l–r) Miki Ohyama, Barbara Hancock and Sandra Isaka (middle row, l–r) Kimiko Chie, Fumiyo Sukegawa, Bianca Russell, Fumiko Hashimoto, Isako Sekiguchi and Nobuko Hirata (back row, l–r) Kiyoshi Kozuka, Masumi Sato, Daryl Rogers, Yuko Yanagiya, Yukihisa Koike, Paul Kissen, Rosanna Kubodera, Madelyn Iannacone, Scott McCaskie, Wayne Hunter and Club President Lance E Lee 3. (l–r) Scott Collins, Timo Budow, Scott McCaskie and Mike Connolly 3
Snapshots from Club occasions 43
Meals on Wheels by Karen Pond Illustration by Akiko Sato
s there an election coming up?” I asked my friend as a voice blared through a loudspeaker in the distance. I assumed it to be one of the compact political campaign vans that I had seen and heard before. “No,” she replied. “That’s the ‘yakiimo man.’” “The yakiimo man?” I asked. “Who’s he and which party does he represent?” “Don’t you know him?” she asked. “He’s the guy who sells sweet potatoes out of his van.” Back in America, I usually ate all my meals off a plate either in my own kitchen or at a restaurant. And, yes, I usually forbade my sons from eating any food that was lying around inside our minivan. But, in Japan, I admit, I had become the “Queen of the Carsine” (car cuisine), having bought the most flavorful roasted chicken, scrumptious homemade cupcakes, yummy Mexican food and delicious coffee—all out of the side door (or window) of an automobile. But I had never tried a bag-wrapped, straight-from-the-backof-a-van roasted sweet potato. “That’s him! The yakiimo man!” I cried as a speaker-amplified melody drifted up from the street outside. The sweet potato siren was calling me to discover this new delicacy, this new “car-sine” delight. I was soon outside, prowling the road for the untried yam-like vegetable. My mouth was watering already. “Yakiimo, please,” I ordered enthusiastically as I peered into the man’s little white truck. As the driver stared at me with a puzzled expression on his face, I noticed that I couldn’t smell any roasting sweet potato. There was definitely an aroma, but it was
more of a rusty odor. “A special sauce?” I wondered to myself. “Yakiimo?” I asked, carefully scanning the van for the woodburning oven my friend had told me was a fixture in every yakiimo-mobile. But I couldn’t see one. As I tried ordering again, I realized that the people waiting patiently in a line behind me were all carrying broken computers and battered electronic junk. Obviously, there was a third type of message-blasting roving vehicle. This was the “electronics man.” He also cruised around town, playing a musical message to announce his arrival. But he didn’t sell sweet potatoes, or any other kind of food for that matter. He dealt solely in old electronics and gadgetry. And that’s why I had to explain to my husband why I needed a new watch. o
44 May 2011 iNTOUCH
For those who just can't bear to leave. Seven uniquely themed overnight rooms will allow Members and guests to savor the full Club experience around the clock. Replete with top-notch amenities, the studios feature designer dĂŠcor that runs from Japanese-inspired simplicity to the epitome of modern American luxury for a sumptuous oasis in the heart of Tokyo.
mac zen spa fitness oasis For more details, visit the Guest Studios page under the Activities & Amenities section of the Club website.
Tel: 03-4588-0977 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
den for two
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
第 四 十 七 巻 五 五 三 号
TOKYO AMERICAN CLUB
毎 月 一 回 一 日 発 行
N T O U C H
イ ン タ ッ チ マ ガ ジ ン 二 〇 一 一 年 五 月 一 日 発 行
ト ウ キ ョ ウ ア メ リ カ ン ク ラ ブ
平 成 三 年 十 二 月 二 十 日 第 三 種 郵 便 物 許 可 定 価 八 ０ ０ 円
Leagues of Their Own Club Member Conor Neu and other pro basketball insiders contemplate the future of the game in Japan
本 体 七 七 七 円
Issue 553 • May 2011
One Member ruminates on the Fukushima crisis
Luncheon speaker Junko Tabei explains her passion for peaks
On Solid Ground
Building experts assess the Club’s quake-resistant features