Tuesday, July 30, 2013

12:00PM 8/10 on Channel UX21 NUM's instructor makes debut as an actor

Timothy Finney, a part-time English conversation instructor at my university, recently made his debut as an “actor.” A variety show produced by TV Osaka called “Made in Japan” needed two local foreigners to assist them in a production about the history of a local business, Maruto Hasegawa Kosakujo Inc., sometimes called “Keiba.”

“Keiba” produces professional manicure products such as nail clippers and tools such as wrenches and wire cutters. The TV show wanted to dramatize how the company was able to start producing products which met the strict quality standards of the European market. In order to do this, the producers wanted to hire two local foreigners to play German businessmen and they asked Ken Umeda, who works at China Network, a local company that provides foreign language translation and instruction services, to help them out.

“Because the TV producers had scheduled the film shoot to take place on a Monday afternoon, Ken was having a hard time finding someone who was free,” Tim said, “but, since I had helped them out with some classes and the like in the past, they called me and, as luck would have it, I was free that afternoon.”

Tim helped Ken find a second foreigner, Peter Carter, to participate and, dressed in suits and ties on a hot and humid July 1 afternoon, they met the director and his crew at Keiba’s offices. After introductions, the TV crew passed out a Japanese script that told the story of how, 30 years ago, two German businessmen visiting the company were highly unimpressed with the quality of the company’s goods and even physically manhandled the owner to get him to understand that he needed to greatly improve his products in order to sell them outside Japan. The script then had the businessmen give the owner, who was played by another actor, a measuring tool that would allow him to produce a higher quality product.

“I had two lines that I said in English,” Tim noted. “The first one is where, after inspecting their products for the first time, I inform the owner that the quality is terrible and would never sell well in Germany. The second line is where, after inspecting their improved product line, I tell the owner the quality of his product has been greatly improved and that we will be able to work out a deal. In both cases, my dialogue will be dubbed in Japanese by another actor when it is shown for broadcast.”

This is the second time Mr. Finney will have appeared on a Japanese TV show. The first time was when he appeared on a panel that discussed Japanese fans of American comic book characters for a talk show that was broadcast on one of Nippon Broadcasting Network’s (NHK’S) satellite channels. “Well,” said Tim, “I’ve been living in Japan for 23 years now and this is the kind of thing that can happen to foreigners if they live in this country long enough.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A "Hachijurigoe" Path is in the Spotlight

A “hachijurigoe” path is along National Route 289 that runs from Niigata City on the Sea of Japan to Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. It once played an important role as one of the main horse and buggy routes from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of the Japan, however, about a century ago, railroads and, later, newer roads for automobiles, made this path obsolete.

“Hachijurigoe” means that, though it is only about 20 kilometers long, it was such a rough and tumble route, people felt that they were actually traveling 300 kilometers. As it grew abandoned by normal traffic, the area became even more overgrown. However, because of this, it became a popular nature trail for hikers, campers and mountain climbers.

I was told as a child that a new highway along this route had long been planned as it was the shortest route between the two prefectures. In fact, going back 50 years, there have been many plans to pave the “hachijurigoe” path, but because of many factors, especially Japan’s economic ups and downs, these plans never came to fruition. However, recently, there has been a new push by the City of Sanjo to finally complete the project.

Though it is still under construction in some areas, a limited number of bus tours began driving on the road on June 30 and will continue until November 9. However, it is too late to try and reserve a seat as, surprisingly, all the tours were fully booked in a short amount of time.

For now, only a limited amount of traffic is allowed on the road, however, the long-awaited opening is well within sight. Many people in my hometown of Shitada Village believe that, thanks to this new highway, the local economy will prosper.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Healthcare for Local People

The other day, in the Shitada district of Sanjo City, I had a drink with Dr. Mikio Kitazawa and his son, Jiro Okuyama, a dentist, at a restaurant in the Iiyuratei Hot Spring. The spa is located next to one of the doctor’s 12 hospital, nursery schools and senior care facilities where he is both the healthcare corporation director and a doctor.
Physician Kitazawa is a happy-natured self-made man. His main interest is medical care for the aged in rural areas. However, when he was a younger man, he studied to become a Buddhist priest and what he learned during that period influences him still.
His studies lead him to believe that a doctor’s job is not simply to treat ailments, but to holistically help his patients live longer and happier lives and, when the time comes, to provide them with the means to have a peaceful death.
To this end, he and his family moved from the more metropolitan central Sanjo area to the depopulated Shitada Village 16 years ago to assume the weighty responsibility of providing health care to this region’s mostly aging population. Seeing a need, he built eleven of his facilities in the immediate area and one in Sakae District in Sanjo City. 
He runs hospitals with departments of internal medicine and psychiatry, special nursing homes for the aged and care support facilities, all of which had long been requested by the local residents. However, he has not grown complacent. In April, his medical corporation established the Jiro Dental Clinic run by his son.
Jiro too has learned from his father’s philosophies. He told me that many of his patients rarely ventured into the city and many of them had not been to see a dentist in 20 years or more and he added that he felt his hard work in setting up the clinic had been rewarded when he heard his patients tell him that they were now able to more fully enjoy eating.
All in all, while the doctor has created hundreds of jobs and has greatly contributed to the economy, he told me that he feels happiest when he is out talking with the locals, making sure that they are doing okay and satisfied with their lives. So, in his free time, he likes to take strolls out into the fields to see how his patients where they live and work. “A rural life,” he said, “is the life for me.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SANKO Sanjo High School

Sanjo High School will celebrate the 111-year anniversary of its founding on May 1. I am an alumnus of the school and even taught there until I moved to a nearby university eight years ago.

These days, I am a board member of the alumni association and I make it a rule to attend the annual founding celebration. I hope to see many of my past students as well as older graduates at this year’s ceremony.

Friday, January 25, 2013

NUM's New Computer-Assisted Language Learning Center

Niigata University of Management continues to improve its English education facilities by converting an outdated language laboratory into a state-of-the-art computer-assisted language learning center. We encourage all students who wish to improve their English to use our new facilities to help them meet their goals.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Grown Younger

Take a look at the picture of me giving a lecture that is posted on our school’s website ( I’ve lost more than 10 kg of weight and have been keeping the lost weight off. When all is said and done, I found that a version of the low-carbohydrate diet worked best for me. I would like to recommend my method to those who wish to treat or prevent some chronic diseases and conditions including metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, a stiff neck and shoulders, lower back pain, and diabetes.

It also helped me turn back the clock. I am now what I was 30 years ago in terms of weight. I was suffering from many lifestyle-related diseases and conditions, including a fatty liver, chronic snoring, back pain and skin rashes. However, these have all improved or disappeared since I started my diet in late September.

I was always up and down in the course of my struggle to control my weight. Each time I would lose weight using a certain diet I would relapse and put back on the weight. My former method was basically to diminish the total intake of calories which always proved to be stressful.

My stay in San Francisco last September was sort of my last chance to test if my theory was right. I walked and walked and ate less for two weeks. While I lost a kilo, I felt very stressful and missed a chance to eat a lot of delicious food.

Low-carbohydrate diets, which are dietary programs that restrict carbohydrate consumption usually for the treatment of obesity and diabetes, have only recently become accepted in Japan. You limit foods high in digestible carbohydrates (e.g. rice, bread, pasta), but you can eat foods containing a higher percentage of proteins and fats (e.g. meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, and seeds) and other foods low in carbohydrates (e.g. vegetables, mushrooms, Japanese konnyaku and edamame) as much as you like.

I decided to reduce substantially the amount of rice I eat during each meal and when I drink sake, which is rice wine, I decided not to eat rice at all. The hardest part for me was to decline going to ramen noodle restaurants and drinking beer. Usually, when I drink alcohol these days, I only drink whiskey or other distilled drinks.

Currently, I feel healthier and happier than I've felt for years. The only downside for me is that I had to change all my suits to fit the new smaller me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Back in San Francisco

I escorted a small group of students to San Francisco again this year. They are attending Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, south of San Francisco, which has an affiliated language school within the campus that offered them a two-week special language course. I am responsible for taking care of them during the program.
The students enrolled are from all over the world – Brazil, Colombia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Taiwan, China, Russia, Vietnam, etc.

The language school, TALK at NDNU, is a thriving community on the NDNU campus. They have small class sizes and students can therefore work very closely with their teachers. Teachers and staff enjoy spending time with students, taking them on activities, showing them the area, and making sure they get the most out of their experience with them. On Friday after class they are taking all of us to Pescadero, a small beach town. We are looking forward to the trip.

According to the instructors, my students’ English has indeed improved and their vocabulary has improved as well. Thank heavens.