INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Arriving Soon — Rafu Shimpo’s Future

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GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTONBy GEORGE TOSHIO JOHNSTON

TOKYO — In my May 12 column, I called on my fellow Rafu Shimpo English section columnists and contributors, as well as interested volunteers, for a hasty meeting to lay out strategies and tactics on how to have a presence at as many upcoming summer events as possible to help keep the paper alive by selling subscriptions to the paper.

As was already known, The Rafu Shimpo’s publisher, Mickey Komai, recently announced the paper’s imminent closure by year end unless it could add thousands more subscribers.

It made sense to me that one tangible step that could be taken to boost Rafu Shimpo’s base of subscribers — new and lapsed — would be to be at every Japanese American community event, Obon and festival over the summer to sell subscriptions to both the e-newspaper and print versions of The Rafu.

After the column ran, I was buoyed by most of the responses, and via email we put together a meeting at the Rafu offices the following Wednesday. Traffic was the usual L.A. horrendous, but there was nevertheless a decent turnout: David Monkawa, Miya Iwataki, David Watanabe, Sharon Yamato, Bill Yee, Ellen Endo and staffers Gwen Muranaka, J.K. Yamamoto and, briefly, Mikey Culross.

Armed with a list of upcoming events, we discussed what we might need: T-shirts or happi coats (we decided T-shirts were cheaper and easier) for volunteers to identify us as representatives of The Rafu Shimpo, a subscription form flyer, a Rafu Shimpo banner or sign, some promotional giveaway goodies, a laptop with an Internet connection or tablet with a credit card reader, a moneybox, a receipt book, chairs, tables and so on. Under the auspices of the Little Tokyo Business Association, Ellen Endo volunteered to look into many of those items.

As of this writing, most of those things are still being pursued, but at least it’s starting to come together.

We also looked at the list and figured out who might be able to volunteer to lead a particular event, reach out to its planners and make whatever arrangements necessary, assemble volunteers, etc.

While my thought was to focus on events beginning with June in order to give enough lead time to produce some of those aforementioned items, we ended up instead starting with an event this weekend of May 28: the Go for Broke Little Tokyo Homecoming Festival in Los Angeles (Bill Yee).

So, if you are there this weekend, look for the Rafu Shimpo presence, say “hello” and drag along a friend who doesn’t subscribe and get them to do so!

As for me, I volunteered to approach the Venice Japanese Community Center since I’m a member and in its vicinity. I reached out to summer fest committee member Gail Sharp via her son, Steve Sharp, since I had his email address from pickup basketball games. (Steve is, incidentally, one heck of a baller.) With Gail’s help, I contacted Jamie Inouye and Allyson Dong and got the go-ahead to come to the committee’s Monday night meeting.

Hours before catching a red-eye to Haneda Airport (hence the Tokyo dateline), I attended and was graciously given a chance to go first with my plea and answer some questions — and it looks good. FYI, the group sponsoring The Rafu Shimpo at the summer event is the VJCC’s Young Adult Club, headed by Dr. Valerie Harada. Thank you to everyone at the meeting!

So, I’ll be putting together a crew of volunteers; please write me at the email address below if you’d like to help (or know of a young person who needs to log some volunteer time) and cover a few hours with me.

In the meantime, on the Saturday after the volunteer meeting, Rafu Shimpo publisher Mickey Komai authored an article that previewed how “ … on July 1, 2016, we will be launching a new strategic plan aimed at The Rafu Shimpo’s recovery.”

That sounds intriguing, to say the least. When the volunteer group has its post-mortem meeting July 2 to figure out what worked and what didn’t during the June subscription drive before starting July and August, we should know what the gist of the new strategic plan is.

While a volunteer-based subscription drive is all well and good, I can only hope that some concrete steps beyond just that are in the offing. Going back six years to the “Save the Rafu” committee to now, many good ideas and great ideas have been proposed to turn things around. But as we all know, that’s the easy part. The harder part is choosing the course and executing it.

In Japan Dept.: Yes, I’m writing this from the dining table at my parents’ “mansion” in suburban Tokyo. Actually, that’s manshon, which is proof that, unlike many who think otherwise, the Japanese people actually do have a sense of humor. When the Japanese use the loan word, a 2LDK manshon means a rather small and cramped apartment with two bedrooms, plus living and dining rooms and kitchen.

As is the case with many of my peers who have young children and elderly parents, that means two sets of family members to be concerned about. I can consider myself fortunate in that while my sister, June, and I have our worries, both our parents are still mostly self-sufficient, able-bodied and ambulatory. But having a vast ocean between them and us won’t make things easier if and when something like an accident or illness happens.

One thing that I’m going to try to accomplish while I’m here is to install a wi-fi surveillance camera (which they’ve agreed to) inside their manshon so my sister and I can check in on them as needed. Yes, the daughter and son are becoming Big Brother to Mom and Dad. I guess that’s the age we live in.

Meantime, it’s interesting to me that I’m here at the same time as another American — President Obama. Like many, I’ll be keeping up with his visit to Hiroshima. It’s good that he’s doing this; it carries a huge symbolic meaning, despite there being no apology expected — which I’m personally fine with. Any way you look at it, though, the atomic bomb dropped on that city and Nagasaki were ghastly, horrific events that should never be repeated. Never.

As the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, Obama is opening himself up to criticism, which is nothing new for him. But it’s a good precedent for a president to set up — I do hope that his successors in the years to come make it part of the routine when visiting Japan.

Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2016 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.

 

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