Category Archives: Tokyo

JFK Legacy Today: How the late president transformed US–Japan relations

Published by The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan Journal, May 2015 issue.

AR6659-A                                  20 June 1961 Meeting with Prime Minister of Japan. Japanese Ambassador to US Koichiro Asakai; President Kennedy; Secretary of State Dean Rusk; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Zentaro Kosaka; Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda; US Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer; James J. Wickel, interpreter. Oval Office, White House. Credit

20 June 1961
Meeting with Prime Minister of Japan. Japanese Ambassador to US Koichiro Asakai; President Kennedy; Secretary of State Dean Rusk; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Zentaro Kosaka; Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda; US Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer; James J. Wickel, interpreter. Oval Office, White House.
Credit: White House Photographs, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

By Tom Benner

TOKYO – Robert F. Kennedy stood on the stage of Waseda University’s Okuma Auditorium and looked out on an audience erupting in chaos.

It was February 6, 1962, and President John F. Kennedy’s younger brother—also the attorney general and JFK’s trusted adviser—had been dispatched to Tokyo to smooth over US–Japan relations, at a time when anti-US sentiments were running high.

His mission encompassed laying the groundwork for the president’s much-anticipated trip to Japan in 1964, which would have been the first visit by a sitting US president. Continue reading …

Camelot in Tokyo

Japan celebrates JFK’s legacy with former President Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaking at a symposium in Tokyo, describes the lasting impact of John F. Kennedy's leadership.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, speaking at a symposium in Tokyo, describes the lasting impact of John F. Kennedy’s leadership.

Published by Nikkei Asian Review, March 19, 2015

TOKYO – Camelot is alive and well in Tokyo. Political leaders including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined academics, government officials, media pundits and even an astronaut to praise the legacy of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his lasting impact on modern life.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation on Wednesday hosted its first international symposium on the late president, titled “The Torch Has Been Passed: JFK’s Legacy Today.”

The event took place at a fully packed Okuma Auditorium at Waseda University in Tokyo, where President Kennedy’s brother, then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, delivered a lecture to students in 1962. Kennedy had dispatched his brother to Japan at a time of anti-American student protests in Japan; Robert calmed an angry crowd of students at Waseda (and Japanese television viewers at home), and his trip marked a turning point in U.S.-Japan relations, wrote Dartmouth College scholar Jennifer Lind, who attended Wednesday’s event.

Kennedy had hoped to be the first sitting U.S. president to make a state visit to Japan in 1964, but was tragically assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in his third year in office while on visit to Dallas, Texas. Continue reading …

A second home for foreign correspondents in Japan since 1945

Oct. 31, 2014

libraryphotoshelf

One of my favorite things about the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo is a wall in the library/workroom filled with books by current and former members. You’re in good company when you get to spend time perusing those shelves.

I didn’t know, for example, that the prolific James Michener wrote the novel that became the basis for the 1957 movie Sayonara with Marlon Brando, which took on the post-WWII issue of racial prejudice among American military members stationed in Japan.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another famed FCCJ author, Robert Whiting, whose classic You Gotta Have Wa uses baseball to explain cultural differences between the US and Japan. Continue reading

After two Olympic shutouts, Japan wants baseball back for the Tokyo 2020 summer games

Published by the Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 29, 2014

Tokyo — Japanese baseball fans are some of the world’s most diehard. Cities across Japan, including Tokyo, now regularly slow down during the World Series in October to watch homegrown players hit and pitch in the United States. Last year Japanese watched Boston closer Koji Uehara, and this year Nori Aoki, who plays for Kansas City is hammering out hits. In all, 12 Japanese players have appeared in the MLB fall classic.

So with Tokyo hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020, Japan is already lobbying – hard – to have baseball restored to the Games. The sport was shut out of the 2012 London Olympics and won’t make an appearance in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil. Continue reading …

Meiji beats Rikkyo, 8-2

Selling hyoketsu, a lemony alcoholic beverage, in the stands at Jingu-Kyujo in Tokyo.

Selling hyoketsu, a lemony alcoholic beverage, in the stands at Jingu-Kyujo in Tokyo.

Oct 29, 2014

A day at a ballpark in Japan can be a lot like a day at any American ballpark.

There are the same familiar sounds: the crack of a wooden bat hitting a baseball. Umpire calls in loud and definitive tones. Cheers from the field after a good play, and the odd infielder yelling out what must be the Japanese equivalent of “I got it.”

The smell of beer being drunk in the warm sun. And all the same unhealthy choices to eat — hot dogs, cheeseburgers, sausages, french fries, and chicken nuggets. Continue reading

Undercounting Tokyo’s down and out

Published by Japan Today, Oct. 28, 2014

The other day in Hongo, Tokyo, I spotted a street vendor selling copies of The Big Issue Japan. A glossy photo of a very glamorous looking Nicole Kidman in evening dress graced the cover.

I bought a copy for the going price, 350 yen.

Not for Nicole Kidman. For the vendor.

There are some 125 street papers across the globe, part of the International Network of Street Papers, based in Glasgow, Scotland, and with a combined circulation of more than 6 million. Continue reading …

Sumo size me: How to eat like a sumo wrestler

imageA sumo wrestler with Hironobu Itabashi, an assistant and translator with the Dateline Tokyo journalism program.

Oct. 26, 2014

I live with sumo wrestlers. They are out and about in the neighborhood where I am staying, Ryōgoku, the section of Tokyo that is the center of the sumo world. There is a sumo stadium, sumo stables where the big guys live and train, and chanko restaurants, where the big guys eat in vast quantities as part of a weight-gain diet.

What they eat – every day – is chanko-nabe. Nabe means “pot” (or the big hearty soup that is made in that pot). Chanko means, more or less, the enormous meal that is prepared in multiple stages in that same pot.

Luckily, a friend who is Japanese joined me for a chanko-nabe night out, and helped me to understand what was happening. We sat on the floor at a low table, a large ceramic nabe bowl at the center, and a gas burner underneath the bowl to cook and simmer the various ingredients.

A smiling woman in a kimono knelt down to our level on the floor to talk about what we might like to have. Continue reading