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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

LIFELINES

Antiwar groups, Almond and Michi Aoyama


Nuts! Where's Almond?

Julie was with friends on a bus passing through Roppongi and saw from the window that the famed Almond coffee shop on the crossing was no more.

"How is this possible?" she asks. "My friends say it has been there forever."

Not forever; since 1946, which is why — this being Japan, where any building over half a century old is considered ancient — it is being rebuilt.

In the meantime, Almond remains fully operative, but in temporary premises — for the next two years! — just around the corner. Turn immediately right and then right again at the branch of Yoshinoya. The cake and coffee shop is on the second floor of the brand new Alpha Green Building, almost directly behind the site where its business is being redeveloped, at 6-1-8 Roppongi, Minato Ward (phone (03) 3402 1870).

Spread the word, because at 11 a.m. on a recent Thursday morning it was empty. Normally it would be packed out, so maybe people have not caught on to the fact that Almond has not gone but has simply been relocated until 2011.

Looking for peaceful action

JJ writes: "As a U.S. expat living in Sapporo, I'm feeling increasingly disconnected from my community in light of the recent war in Gaza. In any community in which I've lived back in the States, I'd be able to join protests against the Israeli aggression."

Unfortunately, JJ's Japanese is only at the intermediate level, and he says he rarely meets Japanese who express concern about these kinds of issues.

"How can I find them? Or are there non-Japanese antiwar activist groups?"

Back in 2003, after the U.S. invaded Iraq, there was a strong swell of antiwar protest, with some 45 groups throughout Japan sustained by online momentum and rallies in Tokyo that, as the word got around, drew up to 70,000 protesters.

The groups included World Peace Now, Peace Act, Chance, Asia Pacific Peace Forum, No-War Network, Peace Boat, and the U.S. and U.K. Coalition for Peace Against the U.K.-U.S. Coalition for War. The latter, it has to be said, had only five members, but we were angry and determined, and I spent hours the night before the first demo stitching a banner.

We suggest you do some research (begin by checking out www.ojr.org/japan/internet/1049353263.php) and maybe start your own online protest. We believe you will find like-minded souls faster this way than any other.

Contact the Sapporo branch of Amnesty International, where you will find individuals of all religious and political persuasions working together to free prisoners of conscience. There will be lots of common ground.

Put up a message at Sapporo's International Plaza. Ask for anyone interested in the conflict to get in touch. Get together, create a Web site, make a plan. And let us know how you get on.

Still seeking a '60s singer

A reader in Alaska asks whether the family member looking for singer Michi Aoyama has communicated with the various music publishers and artists who are still using her material.

"I don't know enough about the 1960s music business to know if she would still be receiving royalties, but I have noticed that her singing is still available on some compilations and that artists such as Yukari Onishi are singing her songs. Perhaps those companies may have had to contact her for permission."

Our clued-up reader also thinks it possible that she sang under a professional name and is living now under a different name, or that she has emigrated. So perhaps her sister should try looking in other countries, too.

"Also, if someone who reads Japanese could find a biography listing a home town, neighbors might know if she is still living there or where she went. One final point of interest: The singer is featured in the Sept. 5, 1969, issue of Life magazine, in an article about children fathered by American soldiers."

Send questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp



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