The X-Pat Files
(Brought to you by H&R Consultants)
The X-Pat Files Community E-Newsletter provides a forum for the spread of information useful for English speakers living in Aichi. You can use the newsletter as an informational resource, and of course you can send in information you would like to share.
Contents for This Edition
1. New Bicycle Laws
2. Bicycle Ownership
3. Living the Bike Life
4. Bicycle Shops in Nagoya
5. Recycled Bicycles
6. One Life Japan
7. Meet and Greet Luncheon
8. Hanami Spots (Cherry Blossom Viewing)
9. Business Opportunities and Events
10. The Here and Now
1. New Bicycle Laws
The National Police Agency has passed new laws that will come into full effect from the 16th of June, 2008. An illustrated pamphlet describing the changes is available online, but only in Japanese. The new laws govern that:
* footpaths may only be used for walking, except in the case of small children or where the road and traffic do not allow safe passage of a bicycle. In certain cases, there will be a bicycle lane provided on the footpath, in which case bicycles have right of way only in that section of the footpath (penalties of up to 50,000 yen)
* Children under the age of 13 must wear a helmet, even if they are only a passenger on the bike.
* bikes must be ridden on the left hand side of the road (penalty of up to 50,000 yen)
* bicycles on the footpath must always give way to pedestrians, in particular to elderly people (penalty of 20,000 yen)
* you may never ride a bike under the influence of alcohol (penalty of up to 100,000 yen)
* “doubling” a person over the age of six is prohibited (penalty of up to 20,000 yen)
* riding in tandem with another bicycle is prohibited (penalty of up to 20,000 yen)
* riding at night without a light is prohibited (penalty of up to 20,000 yen)
* you must adhere to all traffic signals and stop signs (penalty of up to 50,000 yen)
* you may not use a cell phone while riding a bike
* you may not use an umbrella while riding a bike
2. Bicycle Ownership
Riding a bicycle is a good option for those who live too far from the station to walk, but not far enough to warrant a bus. It’s also an eco-friendly alternative to clogging the road with more cars. However, be aware of the precautions you should take to prevent your bicycle from being stolen, or confiscated by the police.
Places where bicycles are sold register your bicycle to your name with the prefectural police, so that if your bike is stolen it can be traced back to you. This registration system is called jitensha bohan toroku. When you buy the bike, the retailer will attach a registration seal to your bicycle and give you a registration card so that if your bike is ever stolen (or confiscated) you’ll have something to show the police as your proof of ownership. If you buy a second-hand bike from someone else, make sure you’re also buying their registration card, then you can visit any bicycle shop or home centre to change the registration details.
Beware of purchasing a second-hand bike without a registration card, especially if the bike has a registration seal but no card as the bike may have been stolen. Once an unregistered bicycle or a bicycle that has been registered in someone else’s name is found in your possession you can get in fairly serious trouble, so don’t skip this important process.
If you leave your bike parked near one of these signs on the street, it will be confiscated immediately. Also, even if your bike is parked in a non-restricted area if it is left there for more than seven days it will also be confiscated. Even if your bike is chained to a railing, that chain will be cut in order to confiscate the bicycle.
If your bicycle has been confiscated, the first thing to do is to find out where the nearest holding station (jitensha hokan basho) is located. You must do this within 1 month of the bicycle being confiscated, or you may find your bike in a recycle shop!
To find the holding station where your bike is being held, ask around the place where you left your bike, or to be absolutely certain consult with your local ward office. The following is a list of holding stations and maps in Nagoya and Toyota City, but unless your bike is confiscated in the direct vicinity of one of these places, your bicycle might not have been taken to the closest one. Holding stations around Nagoya are open Monday to Saturday, 2pm to 7pm. It will cost you 1500 yen to reclaim a bicycle and 3000 yen to reclaim a scooter. You will need to bring your bicycle key, gaijin card, something proving ownership (registration card) and inkan (personal seal) if you have one.
Bicycle Paid Parking
There are a number of designated parking areas outside stations that will, for a fee, provide a secure environment for you to park your bicycle. These parking areas are always manned, so while it is still necessary for you to lock your bike, it will be much harder for would-be thieves to nab your bike. The price is negligible (about 100 yen per time or 2000 yen per month) and you’ll never have to worry about your bike.
Bicycles are stolen quite often in Japan. When I first came to Japan I was told that stealing a bicycle was often like stealing an umbrella - when some drunk person needs one they just “borrow” the most convenient one and abandon it after use. I don’t know if the same holds true now, but please do take precautions to keep your bike safe, particularly in the case of new or good quality bikes. I’ve been told that one good thing to do is to get a chain long enough to chain both wheels to a convenient post (to stop any would-be thief from just taking off one wheel to make away with the rest of the bike)
If your bike is stolen, report it immediately to the nearest police box (koban) or police station. If you’ve taken my advice up until now, you’ve registered your bike and you have a registration card to show the police so that if they find the bike they can return it to you. Some bicycles unfortunately will never come home, but if you do all that you can you are increasing your chances of recovery significantly.
When you buy a bike, as well as the registration process you’ll be asked if you want to cover the bicycle with theft insurance (tonan hoken). This is up to the individual, but if it’s a cheaper bike you might not want to pay the extra insurance for this.
Get a Lock
Bicycles purchased in Japan will usually come with a simple wheel lock and a key. If this seems insufficient, you can buy a chain and lock or combination lock easily at the home centre or anywhere that bicycles are sold. Be careful where you lock your bike, however, as some places (particularly in front of stations) are designated no-go zones and your bike, lock and all will be confiscated by the city.
3. Living the Bike Life - an interview with Lowell Sheppard
Lowell Sheppard moved to Japan 11 years ago as a middle aged married man, and within one year had taken up the new hobby of cycling AND had ridden his bike right up the length of Japan, chasing the cherry blossom season as it moved from the warmer climate of Kyushu to the colder climate of Hokkaido. He wrote a book about his experiences, Chasing the Cherry Blossoms (Lion Publishing, 2001) which has been published in several languages including Japanese.
What makes a man take off on a mammoth cycling journey, and what can we learn from his experience? I caught up with Lowell one sunny spring day. The cherry blossoms were blooming outside, and I was at my computer keyboard, Lowell was at his. Life is busy for us all, but what rewards can we expect when we stop for a moment to smell the cherry blossoms?
Why did you take up cycling?
Economics. We were living on my wife`s income alone when we moved to Japan in early 1997 and I was working on a post graduate degree. I decided to ride a bike to save money. My wife suggested that I trade English lessons for a bike with a local bike shop owner, so I did. We agreed on an hour a week, and in return a Specialized Hard Tail Mountain Bike worth 150,000. He measured me up, ordered a 19 inch frame, and took a couple of weeks to rig it up. It was 11 years ago this month! Within minutes of riding away from his shop in Seto the day I picked it up, I was stricken with a love for cycling and being out of doors. In the end, the guy only showed up four times always claiming he was busy. I figure I was the highest paid English teacher in Japan that year! I had never had a decent bike before, and it was a noticeable difference to any bike I had ridden before.
What on earth made you decide to travel the length of Japan by bicycle, and why specifically the cherry blossom season?
About six months into having a bike and while doing my research into my dissertation (changes in Japanese Youth Culture), I came up with a crazy notion . . `Wouldn`t it be a great thing to travel the length of Japan during cherry blossom season, and follow the front has it progresses northward, meeting and interviewing Japanese during this festive season under the blossoms.`
Where did you stay?
Minshuku, ryokan, and government lodges. I also camped a couple of times. I revelled in the delights of Japanese Accommodation and the treat of dipping into hot springs at least a couple of times a day. A reviewer in the Daily Telegraph who reviewed my book alongside Josie Dew`s chronicle of her bike ride throughout Japan, criticized me for `luxuriating in hot springs every evening` while Josie Dew, a truly hard core long distance cyclist, went `fifty days without a bath`. Interestingly enough, the sales of my book spiked the weekend the paper contained the review of my book. Obviously there are a lot of people out there who fancy the idea of `luxuriating.` This is what makes cycling so much of an all round experience. But for those who want to camp, like Josie Dew (really, 50 days with out a bath???) camping opportunities abound in Japan too. Including public parks as long as you pitch up later in the evening and gone before the crowds come in the morning.
That’s funny! It’s amusing to me that any book reviewer would see it as a good thing that someone would stay away from the onsen while cycling around Japan. It’s one of the great things about Japan that you can rely on your environment and travel “light” while still being able to revive tired muscles in a hot open bath. What did you take with you on your travels?
I had panniers (saddle bags) and had a couple of cycling shorts, shirts, long trousers - essentially the bare minimum. Most evenings I `luxuriated` in the yukata provided at my accommodation.
That’s another example of how Japan can assist those trying to travel light - the cotton yukata that double as pyjamas. Are there some highlights from your trip that stood out for you?
Wow . . many - the scenery, the food, the back roads, the surprises, the people! Buy the book for more!
How about some low-lights? Was there ever a time you thought you might not make it?
My knees giving out in Northern Japan and the tunnels.
Speaking of tunnels, did you ever feel that you were in danger (on the roads)? How about riding in Nagoya?
No, never. But there are some evil men behind the steering wheels of trucks! In Nagoya I have had two head on collisions . . .both were with high school boys on bikes!
With this mammoth trip (and other trips) under your belt, how is cycling a part of your life now?
I commute to my office in Fushimi from Owariasahi. It’s about 16 kilometres and I get there faster (and cheaper) than if I took the subway.
Where do you get your bikes?
I have several bikes now . . .. the one I rode up Japan was custom made by a frame maker in Montreal - it was paid as part of my deal to write a book about the trip. Pipedream sponsored me to ride a bike across Cambodia two years ago. And I have a local bike shop I like in Owariasahi. But I still use the original Specialized Hard Tail. It has made more than one journey from Nagoya to and from the Japanese Alps.
Do you have any advice for someone out there who's never been serious about cycling before but wants to give it a try?
You have to take the leap and buy the bike. Spend at least 100,000 yen, and if you do not like you will get some of your money back. Do not be afraid, and here in Nagoya you can be out of the city in no time by bicycle.
The bikes I would recommend people check out are made by Trek. Children`s bikes, commuter bikes, road bikes and mountain bikes. . . they have them all. Remember, that with bikes you get what you pay for. If you buy off the shelf of a department store, it may look good for a few months, but it will not ride nice and I guarantee you that in five years you will not be riding it.
Personally I am not a fan of cross bikes/ commuter bikes. Choose whether you want to go off road or stay on road and then buy either a mountain bike or a road bike. There are great single and double tracks in the Nagoya area for the mountain bike enthusiast. Plus you can ride a mountain bike in the city. Great for up and down off the sidewalk. But, if you want to do long distance, buy a road bike . . . and check out Trek!! They are supporters of HOPE and they make great bikes. Lance Armstrong rides a Trek.
4. Bicycle Shops in Nagoya
Buying a bicycle in Japan, first consider your needs. You will see many housewives riding around on their “Mama-Chari” (Mama’s bike) with a big basket on the front for shopping, and these bikes can be fitted with a child seat on the back, or front, or both!
For very basic biking needs, to the station and back or up and around the park with the kids, you’ll be able to pick up a new bicycle for around 10,000 yen at a home center, Sports Authority or even Toys ‘R’ Us. All the basic gear you’ll need like helmets and locks will be there too, as will the paperwork you have to fill in to register the bike.
If you’re buying a bicycle directly from someone else, make sure that you get the key to the bicycle lock, and the registration card. When I was first in Japan I was sold a stolen bike, and while I narrowly escaped getting in trouble, it was an awful experience.
For higher end bikes, I came across an online map of Bicycle shops in the Nagoya area. Even though the website is in Japanese, the clickable, zoomable map makes it extremely easy to find the bike shop closest to you. Click on each of the markers and you will get the shop’s name, a link to their own website, opening hours and of course the telephone number which you can use to program a car navigation system.
A friend of mine has been to HottSpin (which appears on the above mentioned map), a serious bike shop near Issha Station on the Higashiyama line. The owner speaks a little English and is very used to foreign clientele. From Issha Station, heading away from Nagoya on the main road, turn left at the next corner (there is a gas station) and Hottspin will be on your left (click here for a map and a picture of the building). The Manager, Horita-san (whose nickname is “Hottie”) was born in Nagoya and has been a serious rider since his teens. You can see photos of Hottie if you click here.
For bicycle shops that stock the Trek bikes that are mentioned in the interview above, the following is a partial list translated from the Japanese website of Trek bikes.
Kato Cycle near Sakura-honmachi Station (052-811-3741)
Zunow Tube near Hisaya-Odori Station (052-973-3727)
Velo Works near Hongo Station (052-775-2323)
Cycle Shop Hikaru in Toyota City near Uwagoromo Station (0565-34-0665)
Kamihagi Cycles in Komaki City (0568-73-8311)
Leggero in Ichinomiya City (0586-46-3800)
Senga Cycle in Tsushima City (0567-26-3925)
5. Recycled Bicycles
Where does your confiscated bicycle go if you didn’t bother to register it or pick it up from the holding station? It gets recycled to one of over 100 recycle shops in Nagoya.
Check out the bicycle shops on the list below for some police confiscation bargains! The list is not complete (and strangely has no listings at all for Meito-ku). It mainly lists the stores that are close to public transport in Nagoya (and some in Toyota). You should be able to use the phone numbers in your car navigation if you are going by car.
Iijima Cycle in Moriyama-ku (052-793-0083)
Kawai Jitensha near Moriyama Jieitai-mae (052-791-5357)
Yamada Jitensha in Narumi (052-621-4005)
Hirabari Motor Cycle (052-803-6137)
Kato Auto-cycle near Chayagasaka Station (052-711-3838)
Matsusou Cycle near Sunadabashi Station (052-722-1720)
Kurita Ringyo across the road from McDonalds at Ozone Station (052-981-6682)
Wakasugi Cycle outside exit 3 of Heian Dori Station (052-981-2835)
Tsutsui Motors near Kurokawa Station (052-991-2406)
Mishima Motor Jitensha near Meijo Koen Station (052-981-9938)
Hattori Cycle Shop near Kami-iida Station (052-981-3691)
Takahashi Shoukai in the Nagoya Station area (052-541-0697)
Takahashi Jitensha near Sakou Station (052-551-6639)
Jitenshaya Sun near Shonai Dori Station (052-523-5208)
Ito Motors behind the International Centre Building (052-551-2374)
Iwata Jitensha near Iwatsuka Station (052-471-4971)
Aoi Jitensha behind Bic Camera behind Nagoya Station (052-451-8615)
Tanaka Jitensha near Kamejima Station (052-451-6326)
Kato Jitensha near Honjin Station (052-461-5441)
Minoya Motors near Kokusai Centre Station (052-541-4007)
Watanabe Motors near Kokusai Centre Station (052-541-3978)
Maeda Jitensha near Kanayama Station (052-671-5523)
Fukushima Jitensha near Kanayama Station (052-671-2747)
Tanabe Cycle near Higashi-Betsuin Station (052-331-3855)
Okuda Shoukai near Fushimi Station (052-231-3650)
Asai Jitensha near Yaba-cho Station (052-262-2077)
Kobayashi Shoten near Fushimi Station (052-231-2635)
Tamaki Shoukai near Gokiso Station (052-841-4767)
Hirose near Sakurayama Station (052-841-3422)
Yamaguchi Cycle near Fukiage (052-731-9392)
Okumura Shokai near Arahata Station (052-881-6375)
Haneda Auto Cycle near Mizuho Kuyakusho Station(052-853-0337)
Kato Shokai near Horita Station (052-811-7451)
Asai Jitensha near Horita Station (052-871-2803)
Murakami Jitensha near Rokuban-cho Station (052-671-5670)
Nakamura Jitensha near Sasashima Live Station (052-351-7081)
Tsutsui Jitensha near Nakajima Station (052-361-4366)
Hitotsuyanagi Jitensha near Haruta Station (052-301-7174)
Okumura Cycle Shop near Minami Arako Station (052-362-1288)
Furuta Motor Cycle near Arako Station (052-361-1125)
Yamamoto Jitensha near Sannoh Station (052-331-5000)
Futawa Trade near Arako Minami Station (052-362-8998)
Kondo Jitensha near Tsukijiguchi Station (052-661-2106)
Suwa Shoten near Nagoya-ko Station (052-661-1270)
Yasui Jitensha near Oe Station (052-611-5023)
Auto Cycle Yamashita near Sanage Station (0565-45-1143)
Kato Shokai near Kaitsu Station (0565-44-1737)
Kamiya Auto Shokai near Toyotashi Station (0565-33-1285)
Shoda Ringyo near Uwagomoro Station (0565-32-2099)
Suzuki Shoten near Goshito Station (0565-45-1011)
6. One Life Japan
Thank you to Jeff Dowlan for this submission
I had wanted to add something more into the time that I was to spend in Japan, so with a little surfing on the internet I discovered One Life Japan that offered a 7 day bike and hike tour to view the fall colours in the mountain areas behind Nagano.
It had been many years since I had done any serious bike riding but they say that once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget , so after a quick check test ride at home to make sure I still had balance skills and did not fall off I rang Kevin Cameron and made arrangements to join the 7 day Fall bike tour. So the adventure began on one of the best holiday experiences of my life. (I do recommend some training rides and a certain level of fitness as this will assist in the enjoyment of the activity)
On day one after meeting with the rest of the small friendly group that were doing the tour we undertook a short walk to view the historic Temple area in Nagano, we then enjoyed a Soba meal that gave us the energy for the pedal power required in the afternoon. We were then all kitted up with bikes and equipment that was in top condition and that had been carefully chosen with both comfort and safety in mind. We were soon on our bikes and making our way on a well chosen route that kept us away from heavy traffic and soon had us in small farm areas with orchards and rice growing with views along the valleys and up into the hills. We started on a steady uphill section that ended at a small village that is famous for onsen that claim cures for various ailments. (I was hoping that Kevin would choose the one that cured bike saddle soreness, which he must have done as for all the rest of the ride the seat seemed soft and comfortable). The village with its narrow streets and soft lights was like something out of a fairy tale and they even had eggs cooking in hot thermal pools in the street.
On day two we continued uphill and by lunchtime we had reached a scenic lake area and the start of the trees that were dressed in fall colours. After lunch it was onwards and over a pass and a long rewarding downhill section that had the adrenalin pumping through my body and a smile on my face that went from ear to ear. Nature had been very busy with her (or his) paintbrush and every tree on every hill had the most beautiful colours and it all blended into a mosaic of colour that just blew the mind. It was and is the most beautiful fall season that I have ever seen in my entire life.
The following days and for the rest of the cycling tour we travelled on roads with very little traffic that allowed us to enjoy the cycling experience and visit small Japanese villages and meet and see the people carrying out their daily lives in many cases in the same way that they have been doing for hundreds of years. I sat and watched the women in one village that were cooking their vegetables in a large natural thermal pool. That was one of the good things about this tour, it was not rushed and we had plenty of time to look around and see and experience all of the things that this area of Japan has to offer in scenery, culture and different types of food (an area that I believe would rival the fabled Shangri-la ). On one of the days we had stopped for lunch at a very scenic gorge area with a small food store that was also being used by some busloads of tourists and many of them were amazed that we were doing the tour by bicycle. Later that day as I was slowly making my way on an uphill section the bus passed and I waved to the tourists and the ones that were not sleeping waved back and I thought to myself you lot must be paying many times more for your tour but I am sure that you are enjoying it much less than me with my pedal power. Another advantage of the slower pace was the opportunity of being able to see some of the wildlife that still lives in the area. We came across a large group of monkeys and had the time to sit and watch as they played and ran from tree to tree. Another time we came across a large wild pig, a snake that slithered across the road in front of me, and a very pretty green frog that hopped off the road to let me pass.
I could go on and on telling you about the One Life Japan bike tour but it would be enough to say that it caused me to change some things in my life, I now ride a bike every day which has increased my fitness and made it easy to lose some weight that I have wanted to do for many years. I also feel good about having less impact on the environment as I now use my bike to go to many places that I previously used a car to get to.
7. Meet and Greet Luncheon
For those of you who are new to Nagoya, please come and join us for lunch. Meet and Greet lunch is the ideal place to make new friends, have a chat, and find out what is going on in Nagoya. Shooters has a relaxed atmosphere and is closed during the day except for our event, so we have the run of the place. This means that it is a VERY easy event for mothers with babies or small children. It also means, however, that there must be an RSVP so that Shooters can cater for the correct number of people.
Date and Time: April 8th, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Place: Shooters Sports Bar and Grill , Fushimi
Price: 1500 yen for buffet lunch and a drink.
RSVP: Joey Tan is the Meet and Greet Coordinator. Please RSVP to Joey by e-mail at email@example.com as soon as possible, but at the latest by the 10th. When you are RSVPing for another person, please give the name of the other person to avoid double bookings.
Note: For those coming by car there is a relatively cheap option, Toyo Parking for 110 yen per half hour, down the street from Kinkos which is walkable from Shooters. For those with car navigation, the phone number of the parking lot is (052) 231-3550.
8. Cherry Blossoms
It's hanami, or cherry blossom season, as you may have noticed the prevalance of blue tarpualins in the park. Before you set out with your little picnic basket and instant warming sake, do your homework to see where the best spots are and when they are best viewed.
The International Center has a guide for hanami spots on their website, but for a truly great guide to the different spots and the updates on how full their blossoms are at the current time, it is better to turn to a Japanese website such as Tokai Walker. Take a look at this page for a list of the best spots in this area. Next to the name of the place is a little graphic which tells you how "full" the blossoms are at the current time, so you can pick and choose which you go to first.
Listed below are links to the famous hanami areas in the same order as they appear on the above page. You can click on the link for a picture of the place and some information in Japanese, and a map on which you can zoom in and out. Phone numbers are provided for extra information, but please be aware that in some cases, these phone numbers belong to the local tourist associations, so might mislead the navigation system in your car if you try to use them. In any case, they will get your car in the general area of your destination at which time you can always ask!
Along the banks of the Yamazaki River in Mizuho-ku near Mizuho Park MAP Ph: 052-831-6161
The site goes on to list the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens (near Higashiyama Koen Station) and Shirotori Garden (10 minutes walk from Hibino or Jingunishi Stations) as great places to see this hanami season.
Finally, if you are planning attend hanami in other parts of Japan you might like to use this link on Japan Guide to help you plan dates.
9. Business Opportunities and Events
Thank you to Noriko Kato for this submission
Nagoya American Center Lecture & discussion program
"Entrepreneurship in Japan"
(Interpretation service provided, admission free, 50 people)
◆ Date: 17:30-19:00, Tuesday, April 15, 2008
◆ Place: Nagoya American Center
(Subway Sakuradori Line, "Kokusai Center")
◆ Speaker: Ms. Merle Aiko Okawara
Chairman of JC Foodsnet Co., Ltd.
◆ Sponsors: Nagoya American Center
★ To sign up, please send your name, affiliation and contact phone number to <firstname.lastname@example.org>
** please type 'Merle Aiko Okawara on April 15, 2008' on the subject line. Ms. Merle Aiko Okawara is a highly successful Japanese-American business woman who grew JC Comsa Corporation into the nation's top producer of frozen and chilled ethnic foods. The company was publicly listed in 1993 making her only the second woman and first foreigner to achieve this in Japan. Ms. Okawara can provide a unique perspective on encouraging entrepreneurs in Japan.
Nagoya American Center
Also she was a speaker at the ACCJ Tokyo program in 2003. JC Foodsnet's Merle Aiko Okawara on Entrepreneurship 2003-08-29: Merle Aiko Okawara, chairman of JC Foodsnet Co., Ltd., spoke about her experiences in establishing her company, a food manufacturing firm that pioneered the pizza industry in Japan. Interwoven in her fascinating thirty-year account of Japan's changing business environment and culture, Ms. Okawara told us how she beat the odds and defied the many market experts who said frozen pizza would never find a market here. She won a major victory ten years ago by publicly listing her company, becoming only the second woman and the first foreigner to accomplish that feat. The market experts told Okawara that her idea would not succeed because, among other reasons, Japanese home cooking at that time did not include baking. In fact, Japanese homes did not event have toaster ovens. But Okawara did not let that stop her, instead developing a way to bake pizza in a makeshift oven using a frying pan and aluminum foil. While far from perfect, that method is still being practiced by people today. When it came to capitalizing her business she took the same out-of-the-box approach, negotiating long payment terms with suppliers when banks turned down her loan requests. When one key supplier could not extend more credit, she successfully proposed a joint venture business with the company that improved conditions for both businesses. Her main takeaway message for non-Japanese business people operating in this market is that the ability to think out of the box and use approaches that are different from those of their Japanese colleagues can be a valuable business edge.
SHAPE THE WALKATHON SESSIONS (CHUBU ACCJ)
DATE: Thursday, April 10th, 6-7pm
VENUE: Shooters Bar and Grill
Like to help the community? Like planning events? Like working with internationally minded people? Like helping needy children in Chubu with something that really matters? If this sounds like you, please join with us at the monthly “Shape the Walkathon Session “ and help me turn the 2008 Chubu Walkathon into the best charity event in Nagaya ever. In 2007, the Walkathon raised 7.5 million yen for many important charity organizations in Chubu. In 2008, I think we can do more! In fact, why can’t we raise 10 million for charity in 2008?! With everyone’s heart in this, I am sure we can. As the Walkathon enters its 17th year, it’s time to make some changes and to take things to the next level. I need your help to do this, and we need as many volunteers as possible. Come along to the first of these monthly meetings, and lets brainstorm some ways to improve this great annual event that the Chubu International Community is so proud of. Make a difference in Chubu. Be a part of the Walkathon!
COST: Members: 0 yen, guests: 0 yen
Independent Business Committee Meeting (CHUBU ACCJ)
DATE: Thursday, April 17th, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
VENUE: Nagoya Kokusai Center
Speaker: Chris Glenn
Title of Speech: TBA
COST: Members: 3,000 yen, guests: 4,000 yen DEADLINE: noon, April 17th
SHAPE THE WALKATHON SESSIONS (CHUBU ACCJ)
DATE: Thursday, April 24th, 6-7pm
VENUE: Shooters Bar and Grill
MANAGING THE MEDIA IN A CRISIS (CHUBU ACCJ)
DATE: Thursday, April 24, noon to 2:00 p.m.
VENUE: Hilton Nagoya
A media training specialist David Wagner, Director Communications Training Group, Gavin Anderson Japan, to deliver a thought-provoking session on what companies need to bear in mind when a crisis hits. Issues only become crises when the media get involved - and the media have enormous power to affect the outcome of the crisis and the future of your business. Favorable media coverage can trigger positive actions among customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders. Negative exposure can inflict damage that takes years to reverse. How can you turn the power of the media to your own advantage in a time of crisis? Please join us for what promises to be a highly entertaining as well as instructive experience.
COST: Members: 3,500 yen, guests: 5,000 yen
REGISTRATION AND CANCELLATION DEADLINE: noon, Wednesday, April 23
10. The Here and Now
Japanese people like the impermanence of cherry blossoms specifically because of their impermanence. One great big gust of wind is all it takes to send precious pink petals flying through the air. One good fall of rain after the blossoms are in full bloom and the ground is carpeted in pink slush. In order to experience the wealth of the cherry blossom season before they are robbed of it by fickle mother nature, Japanese people plan hanami parties well ahead of time, checking carefully on the news or on the internet to make sure they’ve got the optimum date for their friendly gathering. Blue tarpaulins are dragged out to the park and places marked out early that morning, and if need be there will be a sentinel in place all day to guard the most prime of hanami real estate.
I’ve played the role of that sentinel in the past. An English teacher for the Nagoya YMCA, I was sent ahead with a blue tarpaulin and strict instructions to obtain the best place possible. I had a book, so I was quite happy to sit there in the park all day enjoying the life of a hanami guard. I was very early, and so I got a great place, but as the day went on it got a bit cold for me out there in the park. I noticed other hanami guards also twitching about on their own spaces, huddling up in lap blankets or pulling their jacket over their feet. One of them I noticed had an instant can of hot sake, and so I followed suit and bought my own.
Japanese instant hot sake is perhaps the closest beverage there is to actual rocket fuel. Not even because it is potent, but because it actually tastes like rocket fuel. On a cold cherry blossomy day there is perhaps nothing better to warm you, which is a shame because it tastes absolutely revolting. However, sitting there on my bottom in the park, hot sake in hand I suddenly got the meaning of all this cherry blossom viewing.
The hanami sentinels around me all had jobs, but for whatever reason their job today was to enjoy the flowers. My job was to drink this hot rocket fuel, and to enjoy the flowers. I looked up and petals would fall into my hair. The people around me guarding their own sheets became quite chatty. We were all there in the here and now. Or more accurately, we were in the “there and then”. Hanami parties have changed for the worse since I was teaching English all those years ago. Now the poor hanami guards are sent out from their office jobs to lay the foundations for the space, mark it with a sign of ownership and quickly return back to the office for a full day’s slog. They get to return with everyone else to enjoy their time under the trees with the loud laughter and flowing beers, and I’m sure they don’t even miss the time that they would have spent under the trees alone.
But I do. I miss those days surrounded in the temporary friends cohabiting the miles of blue plastic. I miss not having to do any one thing more important than guard the view of those precious flowers against the sky.
In fact, as I write this, my feet are itching to go outside and to do just that. The ground is wet from the rain last night, so I am having feelings of desperation to go and guard my flowers. I want to go and gaze up at them against the suddenly and perhaps temporarily clear blue sky. It seems urgent. And so it should be for you.
Stop reading the X-Pat Files right now. Turn off your computer, and run, don’t walk... to your nearest hanami park. You never know, you absolutely never know with whom you’ll end up sharing a blue tarp and instant hot sake.
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