December 2017 Community News

December 2017 Community News

Some community happenings for December


Sacred Harp Singing Every Month

This monthly event at Ikebukuro Anglican Church is organized by the group Tokyo Sacred Harp. Free and open to the public, visitors are welcome to join and sing along or simply soak up the sound on the third Thursday of every month. The Sacred Harp is a collection of early American sacred songs sung in unaccompanied four-part harmony. Musical scores use “shape notes” — an early American invention that attached a different shape to each note of the musical scale that made it easy for singers to learn and sing along. It was a traditional notation used in hymnals of certain Protestant sects from 1800 onward and can be used to notate any music, sacred or secular. The group sings from the Sacred Harp and Christian Harmony songbooks as well as transcriptions of old Japanese and foreign songs. “It’s communal singing the way generations past cherished, and it’s still good for the body and soul today,” the group writes on its website. No experience is necessary, although enthusiasm is appreciated.

7pm – 9pm, Third Thursday each month

Ikebukuro Anglican church

Hokkaido Car Rental App For Foreign Drivers in The Works

Starting November 30, a smartphone application for foreign tourists who rent cars in Hokkaido is being trialed by the Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. The DriveHokkaido! mobile app, developed by NaviTime Japan Co., is designed to serve the steadily increasing number of foreign visitors renting cars to tour the island and explore some of its more rural locations. Available in English and Chinese, it provides services such as travel information and discount coupons. Information on travel routes and area attractions are also available via the app. Users’ GPS information will be analyzed to see where they stay and how they travel in order to devise future tourism-related materials.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to Consolidate Branches

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ plans to close or consolidate some branches from fiscal 2018 through the end of fiscal 2020 by about 20 percent. About 90 of the 480 total branches in Japan will be affected. Internet banking has, in part, led to a reduction in the number of visits to area branches, and low interest rates have negatively impacted bank profits. Earlier this year, the bank also began using a new kind of automatic teller machine at some of its branches. The machines, capable of reading various materials and implementing bank transfer procedures, will also be increased to about 100 before the end of the year. Bank staff will be reassigned to advisory roles in asset and investment management that will ultimately help to build the organization’s earning capacity.

Sophia University Institute Global Action Talks

The Sophia University Institute Global Action program launched a series of panel discussions featuring guest speakers from various NGO’s working in the field. Part of the Institute of Comparative Culture (ICC), the program was established in 1981 to provide additional support to the international studies program. The ICC promotes interdisciplinary studies in the social sciences and humanities while also striving to strengthen global connections for Sophia University’s international researchers. More than 100 guest speakers and visiting professors have been hosted since the program began. Areas of specialization include business, economics, history, literature, art and area studies, all with a focus on Asia. The ICC offers events and publications that delve more deeply into a variety of topics for graduate and undergraduate students, as well as interested members of the general public. All research and events are presented in English. Past topics have included refugees, poverty, food, gender and film.

Retire Japan

Compiled by Ben Tanaka, a teacher in Sendai, the Retire Japan website offers a wealth of information on investing and finances in Japan. While Ben is careful to say he is not an expert, he is knowledgeable and has been sharing his findings and experiences with readers since 2013. Readers also share their experiences, giving the site a unique community feeling that also makes it an excellent place to begin learning about various subjects related to our golden years. Topics cover those relevant to expatriates from the UK and US specifically, while more general items pertaining to anyone in Japan, such as My Number, credit cards, pensions (there are more than a few kinds) and real estate, are also covered. There is also a discussion forum and a curated list of blogs and books for further research.

Earth Day Market Fair Trade Christmas

While the list of Christmas Markets in Tokyo and Yokohama is long and lovely, those hunting for an eco-friendly angle need look no further than the Earth Day Market’s Annual Christmas Market. Food, gifts, and other assorted delights will be available. Music, workshops, amazake (sweet, low-alcohol rice drink) and some delightful organic wines will be there for sampling along with the usual round of excellent vendors offering the best from field, orchard and kitchen. Don’t miss the chance for a unique and earth-friendly gift for you or a favorite friend.

Earth Day Market Fair Trade Christmas

Sunday, December 17, 10am – 4pm

Yoyogi Park Elms

Tokyo Aims to Be Carbon-Emission-Free During Olympics

Governor Koike recently announced plans for Tokyo to go carbon-free during the Olympics. The city will offset emissions during the opening and closing days of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games using a series of credits that are part of a cap-and-trade program the government launched in 2010. Working in collaboration with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, the two Olympic hosting cities (Tokyo in 2020 and Paris in 2024) see this as a further step in cooperation on environmental issues. Koike also invited Hidalgo to participate in an international conference on the environment in Tokyo next year.

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