Demystifying Tokyo’s Train and Subway System

Published by Shingetsu News Agency, Oct. 18, 2014

So you’re coming to Tokyo, and you’ll need be able to get around. Tokyo is amazing as it is, but there is, literally, a lot below the surface. Below the streets are hundreds of subway routes snaking across the city, connecting the world’s largest metropolis.

Take one look at the transit map, and it seems like it is beyond comprehension, a spaghetti bowl of colors and Japanese words. It is a map of one of the most complicated and extensive railway systems in the world.

You’ve seen the pictures of transit workers literally pushing people into subway cars. You may have heard of the horror of the morning rush hour in Tokyo. You’ve heard that many signs are in Japanese only.

Relax. Once you figure it out, you’ll find that Tokyo is not only possible but surprisingly easy to navigate. Continue reading …

Don’t Use the ‘D’ Word

Sneha Bhavaraju photo

From left, Yasushi Yamawaki and Sir Philip Craven of the International Paralympic Committee, and Lucy Birmingham of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
(Sneha Bhavaraju photo)

Oct. 16, 2014

Wherever the Paralympic Games go, life can get easier for people living with a physical impairment. Accessibility improves, and attitudes change.

The Paralympics, which are held almost immediately after each summer and winter Olympic Games, are about ability, and not disability. They are about human triumph over obstacles and limitations, and the competition among athletes as they strive to achieve is an inspiration with the lesson that all of us can be better.

“Paralympians are fighters,” said Sir Philip Craven of Britain, President of International Paralympic Committee (IPC). “If we believe we’ve got to do something, we do it, and we do it against the odds if we have to.”

A five-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball, Craven spoke today at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo of the transformative effect of the Paralympics on the places where the games are held, on the people who are inspired to compete, and on social acceptance for people living with impairments. Continue reading

Japan must work to ward off ‘Olympic Curse’

Published by Japan Today Oct. 13, 2014

TOKYO — Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe recently convened the first meeting of the Council to Think of Tokyo’s International PR, an impressive collection of some 15 people from various fields (industry leaders, media strategists, think tanks, journalists) charged with discussing in a frank manner what it will take to successfully host the 2020 summer Olympics.

Topics included the need for better signage in international languages; better wireless availability; places to eat and sleep in Tokyo for those of us who can’t afford luxe; and a successful branding strategy to communicate with the outside world.

It is heartening to see Tokyo planning now for an event that may seem far off in the future. Hosting a monster event like the Olympics is a major undertaking, one that involves a massive infusion of public money and a realignment of public priorities, all on the bet that the payback will be worth it. Continue reading …

Young and old unite to celebrate 50th anniversary of the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, and look to 2020

(Taku Yuasa photo)

(Taku Yuasa photo)

Oct. 10, 2014

For today’s 50th anniversary of the start of the 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo, Olympians from Japan’s past and possible contenders for future games came together today to share stories of glory days and hopes for Tokyo’s 2020 summer games.

Scores of Japanese journalists, photographers and videographers turned out to document past and future Japanese athletes discussing the importance of the games before a packed auditorium at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry building.

Kiyoko Ono, 78, a gymnast who won a bronze medal in the ’64 Olympics, said she balanced the demands of motherhood and those of being an Olympic athlete by focusing on her goals and never giving up.

Yoshiyuki Miyake, 69, a weightlifter who won a bronze medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics, said a combination of hope, dreams, and practice is the key to success. Continue reading

Tokyo Unplugged

Oct. 8, 2014

My first night in Tokyo offers a lesson for tourism planners as Japan seeks to vastly increase the number of its visitors leading up to the 2020 summer Olympics.

Wireless access and mobile connectivity are pretty much a given in the world’s leading cities. Plugging into that global connectivity shouldn’t feel like reinventing the wheel.

So why did I spend my first night in a Tokyo hotel room unplugged and out of reach of all of the things we take for granted today? The ability to check my email, read the news, Google stuff I want to know, and talk in real time with loved ones about my arrival in a new city – I couldn’t do any of that with my smartphone. Continue reading

Tokyo’s plan to become a top global destination city

Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe
Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe today at the first meeting of the Council to Think of Tokyo’s International PR.

Oct. 7, 2014

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government today got down to the business of planning to host the 2020 summer Olympics, convening the first meeting of the Council to Think of Tokyo’s International PR.

An impressive collection 15 people from various fields (national government, media strategists, think tanks, and journalists) met with Tokyo Governor Yōichi Masuzoe for a frank discussion of what it will take to successfully host the games.

Among the proposals:

Better wireless: despite Tokyo’s reputation as a tech geek center, its wifi services are far behind other international cities. Continue reading

Play ball

 Baseball fan Risa Abe fist-pumps with a model figure outside the Tokyo Dome.

Yomiuri Giants fan Risa Abe fist-pumps with a model figure outside the Tokyo Dome. (Hironobu Itabashi photo)

Oct. 3, 2014

It was warm and sunny today outside the Tokyo Dome, perfect baseball weather, and Kashikawa Kazumi sat in the sun waiting for the start of a Yomiuri Giants open practice game at their home field.

The 75-year-old played baseball in junior high and high school, is a loyal Giants fans, and can’t understand why there’s even a debate about whether to include baseball in the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“I never understood it,” he said through a translator. “It’s a sport everyone really likes.”

Baseball has been a part of the Olympics since the 1904 summer games in St. Louis as an exhibition/demonstration sport, and became a medal sport in 1992.

But in 2005, the International Olympic Committee annual meeting voted baseball and softball out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the first time the Olympics called out a sport since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics. In 2009, the IOC again voted to exclude baseball in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Continue reading