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