Monday, October 14, 2013

IAK Newsletter - August 2013

Report of Annual General Meeting of Fiscal Year 2012
by Harry Yamamoto
Sunday, May 26, the IAK Annual General Meeting was held at Karuizawa Chuo-Kominkan. Sevety members including their families were present to discuss the meeting agenda and enjoy the tea party afterwards. As of March 31, 2013, IAK has registered 149 regular members (86 individual, 60 family and 3 corporate) and 8 supporting members (2 individual and 6 corporate). The actual number of members is 240 since its foundation on May 27, 2012.

Annual General Meeting approved as follows:
1. Fiscal Year 2012  Activity Report : as per described in IAK Newsletter # 2.
2. Fiscal Year 2012  Revenue/Expenditure Report
Revenue ¥244,500
Annual Member Fee and Admission Fee of IAK Opening Ceremony
Expenditure ¥122,223
Communication, printing, events arrangements, etc.
Balance ¥122,277
With change of the auditor, Mr.S.Yokoyama, its successor made the audit report to the above.
3. Fiscal Year 2013 Forecast of Revenue and Expenditure
     Carried over from Fiscal Year 2012 ¥122,277
     Annual Fees ¥200,000
     Event Admission fees ¥226,000
     Total ¥548,277
     Event arrangements ¥226,000
     Newsletter (4 issues X 300 copies) ¥100,000
     Questionnaire ¥50,000
     Other activities ¥100,000
     Total ¥476,000
Balance ¥72,277

Some members proposed to raise annual dues to be used towards other IAK activities. However, as we are only in our second year, IAK should give priority to the publicity of activities to obtain more members and let each event go on self-sufficient basis by charging admission. AGM agreed in maintaining the membership rates.


  IAK dispatched 6 volunteer interpreters to Karuizawa International Curling Championships 2013

As an inauguration event of Karuizawa Ice Park the international matches were held between April 17 to 21 among the teams from Switzerland, China, New Zealand, Korea and Japan. IAK cooperated with the event to provide interpreters in English, French, Chinese and Korean languages.

  IAK holds the open event, “Bhutan Day”.

On Sunday, June 23 IAK presented residents in Karuizawa, members and non-members, the program of introducing the country “ Bhutan” at Chuo-kominkan. Mr. Tshering Norbu, a Bhutanese living in Karuizawa shared his culture and customs by using photos, video and PowerPoint. 50 attendees enjoyed his presentation having home-made cookies of Bhutan, tried on Bhutanese clothes and expressed desire to visit Bhutan.

  Hiking fans get together.

Lovers of hiking enjoyed outings to Ikenodaira on June 9, Hanareyama on Jun 22, Asamayama on July 15 and Takaiwayama on August 9. Bad weather cancelled plans twice to Karamatsudake.

  Barbecue party

On June 30, forty IAK members gathered for a barbecue party at Hoshinko Pension. The cost was 1,500 yen each for great food and drinks.

  Japanese language lessons

Hirakawa-san and Okura-san gave Japanese lessons of daily expressions to six foreign adult attendees on Sep 14.  The first lesson was the basic phrases for telephone conversation and hotel reception, and the second one was for shopping such as how to count the number of tuna fish and conversations at the cashier. After class, everyone went shopping at Tsuruya supermarket for practical use.

  IAK Town Survey

As of August 31, sixty members responded to the IAK town survey. These responses have been well-documented and are being analyzed for comments by IAK Support Division.

  IAK team entries the curling match sponsored by Karuizawa S.C.

The games started on September 10 with the final match on October 27. Keep your fingers crossed!

  Please renew your annual IAK membership today

This year IAK has issued member ID cards for use at IAK-sponsored events and to be used as a name tag.  If you haven’t renewed this year, please pay according to the following chart.

Individual Member  ¥1,000
Family Member       ¥1,500
Bank account Yucho-ginkou (Japan Post Bank)
Karuizawa-Kokusai-Koryu-Kyokai (IAK) Account # 0590-2-108934

Essay from the members

  Our garden in Karuizawa
By Toshie Okura
Being located on a north-facing slope, our garden is damp and cooler than those in town, although it does get the sun. Four years ago, I planted a young peach tree. It started to bear fruit two years ago, and a lot of small peaches were on the tree last year. This year, it produced about one-third the quantity, but each individual fruit is larger. This poor tree is doing very well considering it gets very little nutrition. I was truly surprised to see so many fruits on the tree. I felt sorry for it and now feel that I must take better care of it.
I tried a variety of plants in the garden, many disappeared, but some survived.
The conclusion I reached is that the local plants, especially those that grow in damp places survive better. The local plants are the best ones. It is natural but one tends to grow flowers that do well in other countries, because we remember them flourishing in the places we once lived.
What remains the same in Japan and England is that our garden is always in a very natural state, and I can find wild flowers in the garden. It sounds lovely - maybe, but the truth is that I do not have enough time and patience to take care of the garden, and as a consequence, it goes wild! Oh well, that’s life.
Plants to go (Can any of you adopt some plants?)
Miniature gardenia (half shady place is OK, but protected from heavy frost)
Gerbera or African daisy (red flower) (likes sunny place)
“Nouzen Kazura or great trumpet-creeper” (likes sunny and warm place)
Please call Toshie on 0267-48-0040, with any inquiry

  Circumstances to improve conversation ability of foreign languages
By Yukikazu Bando
I am greatly delighted that IAK was inaugurated in 2012 to launch its activities in Karuizawa which had been pursuing the target to become “City of International Friendship, Culture and Tourism” since 1951. Over the last decade since my settlement in Karuizawa I have strongly desired to promote international communication by understanding the history and the culture of foreign countries. It is, however, a pity that little progress has been made to my personal experiences of international exchange due to poor speaking ability of foreign languages. This is not only because I have made less effort for brushing up, but because I have not paid any attention to the circumstances and method of learning conversation. I should have been aware of the fact that speaking ability is better acquired by listening to the language spoken just like music, rather than studying it by book. In my limited experiences, when I started to communicate with Hungarian people more than 20 years ago, they surprised me very much how they were so talented to learn foreign languages. I have kept thinking over the reason why since then :

First, their living circumstances favour them. Hungary is a tourism-oriented country to receive a few times bigger number of tourists from abroad, than its population (9.9 million), similar to the situation of Karuizawa. And in towns near the border the languages of neighbouring countries are very familiar in people’s daily life.

Second, under such circumstances, they learn foreign languages through ears as well as native language. Hearing ability by ears seems to be matured by the ages 4 to 5 years old to distinguish the difference of various pronunciation by language.  Mr. S, a friend of mine says he became able to speak German easily when he played with German kids in his neighbourhood.  In Hungary I often saw working people at car-parking places, cafeterias or train stations speaking fluently 3-4 languages learned by ears.
In the case of Japanese language, although local dialects contains various type of vowels, any pronunciation is limited to express in only 50 letters. This applies when we learn foreign languages at school, which might prevent us from improving hearing ability.

Third, we often encounter the scenes that Hungarians boldly approach foreigners and please them by imitating foreign words as taught by them. They try to brush up their conversation skills.  This reminds me of IAK’s speak-easy salon which values to promote speaking ability as well as friendship.

My comment as a non-linguist is to emphasize Karuizawa is in a position to accommodate the above three conditions.

When IAK, local administration and residents mutually support to promote international exchange and become successful in establishing the community adopting foreign languages in daily life, I am sure to step forward and advance my speaking ability.

Monday, July 1, 2013

IAK Newsletter - Spring 2013

Chairman’s Greetings
by Harry Yamamoto

The fresh greenery and blooming flowers signal that spring has arrived in Karuizawa. I hope our IAK members are doing well.
In considering how Karuizawa should evolve as a town with an international reputation for comfort, several steps should be taken. I wonder to what extent native and foreign Karuizawa residents share a sense of neighborliness in living together without feeling isolated or discriminated against. Without such a sense of community among residents, it is difficult to imagine visitors being shown our town’s true hospitality. Another aspect we should recognize is that those towns which are successful in attracting visitors manage to do so because they offer something remarkable or unique. What is it that draws people to our town? To better appreciate our surroundings, it may be worth asking ourselves what those attractions are – and conversely, what impediments should be removed? This will represent the starting point for our internationalization activities.
Another point to bear in mind is that any international destination worthy of such a description offers investment opportunities for both new and existing businesses. What if Karuizawa were in such a position? For instance, among our daily necessities of clothing, food and housing, there is keen interest in procuring locally-grown, organic products. Despite the agricultural challenges faced in Karuizawa due to the cold climate, advanced technology may render the area suitable for the production of premium-value foods such as vegetables, breads, and wines, etc., by overcoming any disadvantages while maximizing the advantages offered by wide daily temperature fluctuations, clean mountain air, and fine weather throughout the year. With solid consumer support, we can create a new market for “Made in Karuizawa” products.
Any town that can successfully combine comfortable living conditions with progressive attitudes to improving conditions for our future has an excellent chance of attracting people from around the world both to visit and settle.
We welcome your proposals and value your participation in our activities to diversify and enrich our hometown.

Activities in 2013
Now in our second year, IAK wants to explore more opportunities to exchange ideas and services among local residents and foreign visitors. We also want to deepen mutual friendship among our members in the follow areas:

Speak Easy Evenings (7-9pm weekly)
Brush up on your Japanese or English conversation skills at these friendly gatherings. Our current venue schedule runs as follows:
  • 1st Tuesday: Pension Hoshinoko
  • 2nd Tuesday: Natural Cafeina
  • 3rd Tuesday: Mototeca Coffee
  • 4th Tuesday: Cafe & Zakka Kurumi

Christmas Party
Our annual cheerful Christmas party will be held again this December. Date, time and venue will be announced.

Global Awareness Days
We plan to organize events to introduce culture, history, customs and lives from select countries represented among our IAK members. This June, Mr. Tshering will introduce us to Bhutan Day. Date and venue will be announced soon.

IAK Survey on Life in Karuizawa
IAK will conduct a survey on how people who live or visit here feel about life in Karuizawa. Results from this survey will greatly influence IAK activities as well as provide a direct voice to our town administration. Questionnaires are in the final stage of preparation, so please be prepared to share your valuable opinions.

Information and Problem-Solving Service for Foreigners
IAK wants to provide information to help improve the daily lives for foreigners in Karuizawa through an open consultation channel. Please let us know what kind of information you feel is important and what challenges you’ve had to endure. Please direct emails to

Japanese Class
IAK wants to start a class for those wanting to learn Japanese. We need to know how many people want Japanese lessons and what your experience level is. If you would like to join the class, please inform us of your needs. (In a related story, IAK has begun providing supplementary Japanese lessons to a child who moved here from abroad since April. Lessons are once a week.) Please email

Collaboration with Town Office and Other Organizations
IAK will continue to meet the growing interpretation needs of our community. We recently provided these services during the potluck party in January, the volunteers’ festival in March and the international curling tournament in April. We look forward in cooperating with the town office and other groups that desire our help. If you are willing to assist us, please email

2012 IAK Opening Ceremony Recap
IAK, incorporated on May 27, 2012, obtained the certificate of a non-profit organization (NPO) status from Nagano Pref. government on Aug 31, 2012. For the official introduction to the community of Karuizawa, on Nov 10, 2012, IAK invited Mayor S. Fujimaki and 19 other VIP guests as well as 90 IAK members to the opening ceremony at Karuizawa Chuo-Kominkan. Attendees enjoyed tea and coffee with snacks and pastries served by local cafes and restaurants with special music played on piano.

2012 Year End and Christmas Party
IAK members and their guests really enjoyed drinking, eating, singing, and chatting in English and Japanese. Please plan to join us again this year!

Potluck Party
On Jan. 27, 2013, a party was held by Karuizawa town office to promote international communication among our residents. IAK had 19 foreign members provide homemade dishes, and an additional 20 members helped. Some Canadian Embassy staff members were also present. It was a real hit.
Please join the 2013 IAK Annual General Meeting.
DATE & TIME: May 26, Sunday, 2013, from 1:30pm pm to 4:00pm
VENUE: 1st floor lecture room, Karuizawa Chuo-Kominkan
AGENDA: Activity and financial report of the fiscal year ending 2012
Activity plan and budget proposal for the next fiscal year
TEA PARTY: After the meeting, we will host a tea party. We invite you to bring your favorite snacks or cakes to share.
In order to meet quorum requirements, IAK members are asked R.S.V.P. or send a notice of proxy if you cannot attend. Please reply by a fax (0267-45-5431) or email ( by Friday, May 17.

Annual Member Fee
IAK fiscal year spans April 1 to March 31 the following year. IAK is supported by your membership dues and donations. Please pay annual fees as indicated below.
・  Full Members (individual) 1,000 yen
・  Full Members (family) 1,500 yen
・  Corporate Members 10,000 yen
・  Individual Associate Members (donation) 1 unit 1,000 yen
・  Corporate Associate Members (donation) 1 unit 10,000 yen
Method of Payment: You may pay in cash at the annual general meeting or at any other IAK-hosted event, or via IAK Postal Bank Account: 00590-2-108934.

Members’ Essays
Joy of Antiques
by M. Hirakawa

“多少銭?” “両万!” “貴了!” “便宜一点!” “你説多少銭?”・・・・
“Duoshao qian ?”  “Liang wan !”  “Qui le !”  “Pianyi yidian !” “Ni shuo duoshao qian?”
(“How much?”  “Twenty thousand yuan!” “Expensive!” “Give me a discount!” “Tell me how much you want!”)This is a typical conversation at an antique shop in Yuyuan Garden, one of the famous sightseeing spots in Shanghai. It is said that most items are fake, though occasionally, there are genuine finds.
I bought an ivory brush-holder from an antique shop, but then I had an expert in Shanghai Museum look at it. He took it and began to sniff it. He said, “The ivory is real, but ivory does not turn brown even if it is old. Dealers often use cigarette tar to make ivory look old.”
Government owned shops are credible and auctions are held there every month. The public can view exhibited antiques a few days prior to the auction. I bid on several things, paying about 5,000 yen to receive a number plate. There were very few foreigners, and I was the only Japanese. I learned that some items are cheaper because of the difference in taste between Japanese and Chinese. Chinese people generally prefer hanging pictures, so the price of these items immediately goes up ten times more. With fine pottery, ornately colored ones of the Qing dynasty are preferred by Chinese while simple ones of the Song dynasty are preferred by Japanese.
When an auction by Sotheby’s was held in the Westin Hotel in Shanghai, there were many wonderful antiques which had been previously owned by emperors. Their prices ranged in the tens to hundreds of million yen.  Though I bought many things, I still don’t know their authenticity. Still, I enjoy thinking about their history each time I look at them.

Is a Tomato a Vegetable?
by On Gyon

I did not know anything when I came to Japan for the first time. For example, I felt it was very strange to hear voices of a chick or a cuckoo coming from somewhere on the streets. I learned later that they came from the road signals for the visually disabled. I thought that Japan was a developed country because Korea had no such signals with a bird melody.
When I met my husband, I was also surprised to learn that tomatoes are recognized as vegetables in Japan. Suddenly during a meal, my husband asked me to cut a tomato from the refrigerator. I did not understand why he wanted a tomato. He began to eat the tomato dressed with mayonnaise as a dish to go with rice. I was really astonished.
Tomatoes are recognized as a fruit in Korea so people generally eat them with sugar. People also enjoy cherry-tomatoes as a dessert with other fruits.

by Thomas Koch

“The Scottish highlands!” According to town legend, such was the first thought of Karuizawa’s modern founding father, Alexander Croft Shaw, when he first set foot over Usui Pass. And from that day on, the green, spacious, and cool Karuizawa has kept its reputation as an antidote to crowded city life. When the cuckoo sings in the morning fog, even the closest neighbor fades out of view. Yet enjoying the fresh air, we may not notice that Karuizawa’s dense and undoubtedly beautiful larch and fir forest does not at all look like Scotland! Scotland is famous for its low vegetation, its wide vistas of moorland. In Karuizawa, the trees block the view. No castles, no Nessie either.
Last year, the Shinano Mainichi newspaper carried a photograph of Karuizawa’s Nakasendo from 120 years ago. The edge of Kyu-Karuizawa and the slopes of Mount Asama were forested, but what is now Route 18 was entirely wetland. A Scottish moor indeed: Think “Oze,” the remote swamp between Niigata and Fukushima -- a dog would have to run a mile through wet grass to find the next tree.
So what happened? Basically, forestry arrived in Karuizawa at the same time as the tourists. Farmers planted larch as high quality construction wood. Second house owners preferred the more refined, Scottish-looking fir tree. As a result, Kyu-Karuizawa is perpetually shadowed by fir trees, while Naka-Karuizawa’s larches block the sun only in summer. Only a small stretch of wetland remains between Yukawa and Hocchi, and Karuizawa’s town flower, the primrose (“sakuraso”), has few spots left to flourish.
So when we talk about “nature” in Karuizawa, let us remind ourselves that Karuizawa is really a garden, man-made nature. Today’s Scotland, we might see it in Karuizawa’s golf courses. But if you truly open your eyes and your mind, you will see that Alexander Shaw’s Karuizawa was a different one. Shaw loved nature, but he was foremost a missionary and cultural ambassador to a Japan that had just modernized after two centuries of isolation.
So let us look for Shaw’s heritage not in trees and grassland, but in Karuizawa’s culture. Shaw was the first of many international visitors, and his heritage is very much alive: It lives in the mix of original, friendly mountain dwellers and the nature-loving refugees from urban Japan. It lives in a top-class concert hall, in Karuizawa’s vibrant church communities, in the international ideas and mindset that the immigrants from other countries bring.
In IAK, we want to honor this heritage. In the future, another Alexander Croft Shaw (be it from Scotland or from China) might travel over Usui Pass. Then our abundant nature as well as our welcoming community shall make him feel at home in Karuizawa.

From the Editor
by Michiaki Takaishi

It was an interesting scene when the unexpected snow fall in April covered cherry blossoms that had finally begun to open. It is my pleasure to send the second edition of the IAK Newsletter to you. I look forward to your active participation in our IAK programs this year and greatly appreciate your volunteer spirit. I hope to see you at the annual general meeting on Sunday, May 26th, and I welcome your essays for our next newsletter. Please send them to my email address at

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June Event Schedule

Mr.Terayama will be leading another easy hiking expedition for IAK members and their guests on Sunday June 9th. Meet at 6:30am at Komorebi no Sato parking lot south of Oiwake station to drive together to Ikeno-taira marsh. We expect to return between noon-1pm. If rained out, will re-schedule for the following Sunday June 16. Map and more details can be found here:

The regular schedule for the Tuesday "Speakeasy" sessions (all from 7 to 9p.m.) is:
1st Tuesday: Pension Hoshinoko
2nd Tuesday: Natural Cafeina
3rd Tuesday: Mototeca Coffee
4th Tuesday: Cafe & Zakka Kurumi

Thursday IAK Speakeasy - Japanese/English daytime chat salon
June 20 starting at 1:30-3:30pm at Komorebi no Sato just south of Oiwake station.

Learn about the last remaining Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Tucked away high in the Himalayas, Bhutan aims for its gross national product to be happiness. Join us for our first international event led by Bhutan national resident of Karuizawa, Tshering Norbu. Enjoy tea and snacks from his home country as you discover Bhutan's ancient heritage.

Date: Sunday, June 23 Opening at 1:30pm
Location: 1st Floor lecture room of Karuizawa Chuo-kominkan (behind town office)
Fee: 300 yen IAK members, 500 yen for non-members
Organizer: Karuizawa International Association (IAK)
Contact: Takaishi (Phone 0267-45-5431)

Sunday, June 23 at 5PM we've reserved a sheet for curling at Karuizawa Ice Park. More details can be found at:

Sunday, June 30 from noon-3:00PM we're holding a barbecue at Pension Hoshinoko. A flat charge of ¥1,500 per person (¥1,000 for pre-school age) covers the food (meat and vegetables for the BBQ), and use of three gas grills and (at least) three charcoal grills. Disposable plates, cups and chopsticks will also be provided, so all you need to bring are your own drinks and some salad (or any other extras that you like).
Please RSVP for the BBQ no later than June 29.

For more details, visit

Following is a link to a Google map for all locations:

All events can be followed on our Facebook page under the Events tab:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hanareyama Hiking

This is a small gallery of animated images taken from a dual-lens 3D camera. The 'wiggle' effect allows you to simulate what each scene looks like without wearing stereoscopic glasses.