A glimpse into the backgrounds of our Japan Wanko journalists.
It was way back in 2002 when Michael Hardwick first arrived in Japan, principally to cover the Football World Cup. Hardwick`s superlative impregnated match reports were eagerly picked up by pro-soccer editors in the USA, many of whom wanted to take the opportunity to create a buzz over the world game. From there Hardwick`s name became synonymous with football. Indeed, Makoto Hasebe is on record saying that he didn`t feel like a professional footballer until he was interviewed by Hardwick.
During his initial stay in Japan, Hardwick stumbled over the fact that by sinking his money into a cosy western Tokyo apartment, he would be able to avoid the potentially crippling settlement being demanded by his ex-wife. So Suginami ward got a new resident, and the former Mrs Hardwick was forced to get a new job.
Since he made Tokyo his new home, Michael (or “Mick” as he prefers) has been covering not only the J-League scene, but also baseball, sumo, mixed-discipline fighting and volleyball. He is also a passionate supporter of horse racing, power boat racing and cycling.
While known as a sportswriter, human interest stories have also become a keen area for Hardwick, although interest from stateside editors has so far been lukewarm. Rather than let his copy gather dust, however, Hardwick has made the decision to get on board with fellow writers and give readers of this site the opportunity to read his articles.
When not in journalist mode, Hardwick likes to get off the beaten track by going on adventure tours to places lying beyond the reach of his ex-wife`s attorney.
Hardwick has produced two books, “Elephant Juice for Breakfast – The Kiyohara Story”, and “Sailing a Tanker Up a Creek – Bob Sapp`s Japanese Days”.
Guy Jincarde is one of the most influential professional journalists residing in Asia. A veteran of over 13 years in the field, he commenced his career as a cadet journalist at a downmarket tabloid circulating in the south-west of France. For most of his cadetship, Guy spent his time camped outside footballers` apartments on the off chance that a female celebrity would be popping in for the night. After moving on to more serious journalism, Guy developed a reputation for hard hitting stories, whilst staying true to his journalistic ethics by grudgingly reminding himself of defamation laws. During his career, Guy has worked in a number of countries reporting on a wide variety of topics; the environment – global warming resulting in an overproduction of mangoes in New Caledonia, human rights – Tahitian nudists protesting at the constant police harassment at their secluded beach, and the micro economy – the price war among pimps and prostitutes in Guyana.
Guy`s byline has been found on front pages throughout the French speaking world. That was until three years ago when his uncompromising, and admittedly abrasive, character resulted in the French press refusing his stories en masse. Luckily for Guy, he was yet to ruffle any feathers in the English speaking world. So with his reputation for take-no-prisoners style reporting proceeding him, Guy stepped into a world which sees his reports published and read from Dunedin to Derry, and from Cape Town to Cleveland. However, not all of Guy`s reports attract attention from the major players, and that`s the reason why he decided to become a part of this web-site. As Guy explains, “I just needed a medium to guarantee that all my stories were available to my readers throughout the world. Sure, maybe the stories on this site won`t be for everyone, but I like to think there is something of note here – kind of like a Beatles` B-side.”
Guy currently finds himself chasing stories in the land of the rising sun¸ an opportunity that he is relishing. “I like nothing more than soaping up and getting a lather going. You know – leaving no crevasse left untouched, before rinsing off and sliding into a hot spring. It is in the hot spring where most of my ideas are born these days.”
In his spare time, Guy also enjoys cooking, watching football and visiting many of the izakaya in Tokyo.
If you ever needed help finding an obscure Tofu Bar or Oden Izakaya, or a cool bar located in an alleyway off an alleyway, odds are that long term Tokyo resident, Tim Tamm, would be able to help you. His finger is very much on the pulse of Tokyo and loves nothing more than discovering groovy spots situated off the beaten track. Says Tamm, “I started off just venturing into Golden Gai and Omoide Yokocho areas of Shinjuku, just like your wide-eyed, camera toting, baseball cap wearing, overweight tourist. But then I branched out a little and gradually found myself immersing more and more in the nocturnal ways of this country.”
A writer in constant demand on the alternative art scene, Tamm has been visiting and reviewing ceramic art exhibitions the length and breadth of the archipelago for more than fourteen years. During this time he has experienced an amazingly divergent and burgeoning art scene, which has been brought to the world`s attention thanks to journalists such as himself. “Those artists in seemingly uncool places such as Tochigi and Gunma have now been filling orders placed by funky shops in Greenwich Village, NYC and Newtown, Sydney.” explained Tamm, before cheekily adding, “I guess they owe me some kind of cut.” Before concluding in a slightly less cheeky, but more bitter manner, “It wouldn`t hurt them really. They`ve all done pretty well out of the buzz that I created.”
Despite spending an enormous amount of time conducting in-depth research on traditional art, neither Tamm`s enthusiasm for ceramic cups and plates, nor his love for finding obscure bars (before calling his friends and going on and on about them), shows any sign of fading.
In addition to contributing to various publications, Tamm is inching his way through a PhD at Ushikome University.
Momo Kaminari is one of the leading female journalists in Japan. She first entered the world of journalism when she moved to Dusseldorf with her second husband in the mid 90`s. Despite having no experience or qualifications, Kaminari was hired by the local expat Japanese newspaper to write about women`s things. It was an unlikely place to start a career in journalism, but Kaminari`s spirited column soon became noticed by editors in Japan.
Blessed with the ill-humored face of a woman who is always in the right, Kaminari has worked as a newsreader, journalist, producer and reporter since her return to Japan in 2001. In addition to her media roles, Kaminari has worked as a public speaker and master of ceremonies at corporate conventions, conferences and incentive functions. She has also moderated debates and panel discussions, albeit rather inconsistently, at numerous major organizations.
Although being in demand on the corporate circuit, Kaminari is still most comfortable in the role of the barbed, opinionated and slightly bitchy journalist. For many people, her incisive and observant interviews are a highlight of the week`s reading. For others though, her columns feed the belief that she is merely a bitter hack living in denial of her entry into middle-age.
Having become slightly annoyed by the poor translations of her Japanese columns, Kaminari is now eagerly turning her hand to writing her English columns herself. Her decision to write in English is our gain, as she has committed herself to honing her skills on this news site.
An avid taiko drummer, Kaminari can be seen performing at various festivals in summer as an enthusiastic member of the Hiroo Geibun Club.
Gerald Wilkins began his career in 1971 presenting the afternoon shift on Radio Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. His popularity, as well as the high turnover of staff, saw him promoted to the breakfast timeslot the following year. He also wrote regularly for the North Sea Gazette newspaper.
In 1975 Wilkins decided to broaden his horizons by accepting a post in communications for a company located in Tokyo. He has remained in Tokyo ever since in the vanguard of writers dedicated to maintaining a high quality of journalism in Tokyo.
He is a prolific writer, with a diverse range of interests, and his caustic and candid style has both entertained and enraged readers over the years. He has fought crusades to highlight what he perceived to be a gradual lowering of standards in the character of foreigners entering Japan for employment.
Wilkins can be intense, but he believes that there`s a need to balance that intensity with an easier association with levels of society that can help network actions mutually between people.
Wilkins`s extended travel guidebook, “Off To Japan”, is regarded as a classic guide for modern guidebook writers. It was published in 1982 and has been reprinted twice.
This was followed by a pocket book on English usage intended for Japanese housewives enthusiastically attending to the various needs and desires of their North American homestay students.
Wilkins won the award for Best Article by a Freelance Journalist at the 1999 World Class Writers Awards. He hasn`t won anything since though.
Although largely ignored by some agencies, and advised to seriously consider retirement by others, Wilkins remains a prolific writer who is always looking to expand his readership – hence his name on the contributor board at the Wanko.
In his free time, Wilkins can usually be found playing backgammon at the Foreign Correspondent`s Club.
An avowed Revolutionary Trotskyite Revisionist Leninist, Colorado native Suzie Ardon came to Tokyo the long way; via Melbourne. That`s where she based herself while covering the Australian music scene for five years. Says Ardon, “I`d listened to Radio Birdman and The Saints throughout my college years. Those bands had a huge effect on me. I used to listen to the guitars and wonder, “What do they put in the water down there!” ”
Despite an inherent aversion toward Americans, the Australian rock fans quickly warmed to Ardon`s non-partisan reviews on the live circuit, especially after she gushed that Melbourne was the Rock `n` Roll capital of the world. Rapport with musicians was quickly established and Ardon found herself being courted by record labels and mainstream TV. It seemed that, rather than being repelled by her nails-down-the-blackboard Denver accent, the Aussies had given Ardon special exemption. Perhaps it just gave credence to the theory that Australians actually love it when praise comes from an American, and they were happy to have their artists bathe in Ardon`s.
With a cable TV show, a weekly column in the local music rag, and her photo in the glossy tabloid magazines, things were going well for Ardon. It all came to a grinding halt, however, when Ardon dared to give a Nick Cave album a bad review with the line, “This album isn`t always boring, but when it`s not it`s just miserable.”
That line was to be the beginning of the end for Ardon in Australia. “I was harassed. I was slandered. I was made to feel unwelcome everywhere. You talk about free speech – well in Australia you have the right to free speech as long as you don`t criticize Nick Cave.”
After putting up with the smell of fresh adolescent urine on her front doorstep for almost a year, Ardon decided to move to Tokyo where she has become a regular at live houses in Shimokitazawa, Shinjuku and Koenji. Ardon has been welcomed into the bosom of the fertile Tokyo rock scene, so much so that she doesn`t even have to pay for that obligation drink upon entering live houses.
A firm believer that J-Rock could be the next big thing, Ardon is keen to trumpet the scene to the many who have ears.
Despite graduating from university with top honors in journalism, Ben Torbocks`s initial step into the professional media world was as a comedian/personality. Urged on by his manager, Torbocks cultivated a cheeky, boy-next-door image – one which would appeal to both the grandmothers and to the teenagers. The plan worked for a month when Torbocks burst onto TV screens around Canada, cracking jokes which, although neither original nor pants-wetting funny, endeared him to the viewers.
Unfortunately, however, a month is only a little more than four weeks. It was then that every flash-in-the-pan`s nemesis, overkill, appeared. After appearing on TV seven nights in a row, the backlash came; his face graced dartboards up and down the country, hip comedians mocked him, and a model who he had never even met claimed that he had ejaculated in his pants during a failed attempt to seduce her.
Knowing that superstardom had now become a bridge too far, Torbocks tried to fall back on his journalistic skills. He was a household name so he was still able to pick up work as a TV reporter. Alas, he was simply dispatched to film quirky news stories, such as: dogs who love cats, goats who think they`re humans, and various lame Guinness Book Of Records attempts.
Stuck with the lightweight image, Torbocks quickly accepted that he would never be asked to report from Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon. Backed into a corner, Torbocks decided that a change of audience, employer and location would be the only way to achieve the things he wanted to achieve. That`s why we find Torbocks in Tokyo today, where he finds occasional employment as the zany white guy on local TV. Taking on an even more demeaning role than the one he had back home has been a bitter pill for Torbocks to swallow.
Not one to give up on his dreams, Torbocks has come on board the Wanko in a bid to put his name out there and be taken seriously in the editorial rooms around the globe.
For four months of the year Wilhelm Stefans works as a ski instructor in the Japan Alps. There are no lesbians in Stefans`s classes, not for long anyway. With his dreamy buttocks and alpine sculptured facial features, Wilhelm can have even the hardest of dykes getting their bikini lines waxed by lunchtime on the first day.
Those ladies who are singled out for theory in the hot tub aren`t left disappointed. Stefans`s disciplined lifestyle has meant that he has a six-pack and pecs that would melt any resistance a woman would fool herself into believing she had. No brewers droop for Stefans; during his upbringing in Swabia he was forced to ski to the town in the valley below his family farm every morning. He would then buy freshly baked bread and climb the mountains back to his house. By the time he returned, his mother would have a breakfast of fresh milk, sausages, eggs, and rare vegetables found only in that part of the world, waiting for him. Stefans often credits this strict morning regime for his inherent ability to get a rod on and maintain it in Sting-like fashion, just from glimpsing a beautiful woman. Indeed, many an impressionable young lady has spent all night hanging on to Stefans`s rock hard biceps while he attends to their physical needs.
Local Japanese have found themselves drawn to the perfection of masculinity that is Stefans. Knowing that gaijin women need loving too, he is only too willing to give Korean, Chinese, Australian and American women a taste of what a Swabian man can do. Legend has it that when Stefans once took a pair of newlywed couples skiing one day, he sent the more confident husbands off to the slopes after a quick refresher course. He then proceeded to indulge in sex sessions with their hot wives.
Stefans was born with a philanderer`s instinct, so where an amateur would falter, Stefans can distinguish the signs that no woman can hide; the succinct body language, the faint scent of arousal, and the slight change in coloring around the base of the neck and upper chest area. Although he usually drinks a little of the local Nagano sake before getting down to business, Stefans says he has no fixed strategy for making love. Therefore, one night a woman could be brought to climax via long rhythmic strokes, whereas on the next night another woman may be led into wild abandonment by tacit thrusting. On the odd occasion Stefans will also keep time to his favorite songs from the musical “Cabaret”.
For the other eight months of the year Stefans works as a journalist.