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LIFE IN JAPAN
Corky Alexander

Corky AlexanderOccupation:
Publisher and Editor of Tokyo Weekender
Time in Japan:
42 years




I' been in the newspaper business since the age of fifteen, so all of my productive life has been in publishing. Even when I enlisted for the Korean War back in the '50s, I was put in an outfit called the 2nd Combat Photo Squadron which was documenting events through motion pictures and stills for the Department of Defense, and after the war I ended up working in South East Asia researching stories for the army press corps. That was a great time. I was working as the "advance" guy?we'd get a request for a story from the Department of Defense or whoever, and they would send me to research it and report back. So I would go out, find the story, shoot some footage, type up captions and give a list of contacts, then I'd take it to the embassy who'd send it back to the guys here who'd evaluate it and then maybe send a team. The good part was waiting until they evaluated it, because waiting in somewhere like Saigon in 1954 was something else; just wonderful. Then I would be sent off to Guam or Hawaii or wherever, always staying one hop ahead of the team, and it was a great job for a kid. You know, I was 24 years old, traveling on military orders and it was all top secret stuff. It was very heady material.

I first came to Japan to "live" late in 1955 when a long time friend of mine who was the flight safety officer at Yokota and this civilian guy wanted to start a monthly magazine for the forces out here. They were looking for an editor and they chose me. So late in 1955 I got out of the service, moved to Nagoya and started this magazine which I kept up until the government ran out of funds for it, which was in September of 1957 when I joined Stars and Stripes.

The idea for Weekender came out of the company I formed in the '60s, Image Public Relations, which was doing entertainment PR work and later publishing. I had done plenty of research by that time and realized that there was no-one who was reporting on Tokyo's foreign community, which by that time was quite large, and so with Weekender we set out to do just that. We were the first community paper that offered the chance for people to communicate with each other about various events they were staging and to inform them about Japanese culture and customs. The first issue came out in 1970 and we had a four day party to celebrate. We've just gone from there really.

When I first got here, Japan was still recovering from the war. You'd see ex-soldiers in their uniforms begging in the streets, and everyone was kind of subservient?they'd see a "Yankee" and they'd bow and avert their eyes and move off the sidewalk. They didn't have any money at the time because there was no industry as such, and there wasn't much to eat. But over the years I saw this change and it was inspiring to watch. The one thing that really turned the Japanese people around was being awarded the 1964 Olympic Games.

Somehow, somewhere the government found the funds to clear up the roads and build the expressways and structures needed. There was a palpable sense of pride and nationalism driving these people to excel and make a success of the games, and being here at a time when so much industry and energy was being exerted was both inspiring and contagious. After that?and the Olympics came off brilliantly?the citizens gained a national self-confidence that hasn't been extinguished to this day.

I guess there have been three Tokyos since I've been here: the first as a city in ruins; then building up during and after the Olympics; and the place that it is now. I guess there'll be another one in the future, once the current problems are sorted out, and I do think that the Japanese have the knowledge and the fortitude to pull this country back together again.

It's interesting to hear all this talk today about how the youngsters have lost their morality and are obsessed by fads and fashions, because the young people were rebelling and doing the same things forty years ago; they just did it in less dramatic fashion. I mean, Japan has always been a nation of fadists. These days you've got school girls who wouldn't be seen dead without their white socks, and it was the same in the '50s. Back then they had this black doll with a ring through the nose which you could make cling to your arm or your leg or wherever you wanted it to, and everyone had to have one. It's no different really.

And then things like drugs which, although not prevalent when I first came here, were still available. You could walk around Shinjuku station any time you wanted and there were kids sniffing glue?it wasn't hard drugs like methyl amphetamine back then?and getting high...well getting into a stupor. You'd see kids lying around with their eyes glazed over and it was kind of depressing. Then, during the Vietnam War, you had large amounts of drugs coming in here?pills, uppers and stuff. It really isn't anything new.

What I do find annoying though is the Japanese elders' proclivity for blaming everything that goes wrong with the youth on Western influence. Like with the Kobe incident last summer they were saying they found a stack of Western horror movies at the killer's house and that this had influenced him. Well, I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that stuff. I mean you can't tell me that some kid is going to watch Natural Born Killers and then go out and get a gun and kill someone. I'm sure that there is a certain amount of influence from the West, but not all of it is bad, and it was the same for the kids' parents and grandparents. You know, back in the '20s they embraced Dixieland jazz, they loved it and all dressed the part. So there has always been a certain segment of the Japanese public that has embraced Western culture, but you can't blame society's ills on that.

When I first joined the service, the idea of spending the rest of my life in Asia was not even a consideration. I wanted to be a newspaper man, and when I came to Asia I was fairly angry about the whole thing. But it didn't take me long to realize what a vibrant and exciting part of the world this is. Coming over here changed my entire life?not that there was much of it back then as I was only 24 at the time. I've spent the majority of my productive life in Asia, and it certainly feels very comfortable now. In fact when I go back to America I feel really screwed up when I first get there, even with things like driving. Asia is my home; America is just a nice place to live.

The future? Well, we're thinking about going back to a weekly, not to compete with Tokyo Classified but because we've got it down pretty much now, and bi-weekly seems too long; its difficult to maintain consistency. You know, I worked on a daily paper for much of my life, and in the newsroom there would always be some guy sitting hunched over the copy desk with a green eye shade who has been writing headlines all his life and he's saying how one day he's going to go someplace?usually Vermont?and have a nice little weekly and be the weekly editor and live happily ever after. Well, that's what I'm doing?a community weekly...well bi-weekly. And it's still fun after all these years; I don't think of it as work at all.

Corky Alexander spoke to Richard James.

Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at editor@tokyoclassified.com

LIFE IN JAPAN:
199: Diane Morris
Media & Advertising
198: Ross Mihara
NHK Sumo Announcer
196: Corky Alexander
Tokyo Weekender
195: Edward Obaidey
Acupuncturist
194: Merry Angel
Managing Director
193: Alison Pockett
Managing Partner
192: Zack Konno
Car Export Representive
191: Pamela S. Caudill
Assistant U.S. Customs
190: Caroline Power
Being a Broad
189: Geoffrey Tudor
P.R. Section Chief JAL
188: Ryuko Ishikawa M.D.
Family Psychiatrist
187: Georges Hassam
Arabic Dance Instructor
186: Larry London
DJ at InterFM
185: Richard James
Photographer & Writer
184: Alan Kidd
Rock Musician & Editor
183: Adam Hitchens
Mobile Hairdresser/Masseur
182: Lylian de la Vega
Volunteer
181: Annie Chang
Computer Training
180: Mike Jacobs
Writer/Photojournalist
179: Jimmy Angel
Rock'n'Roll Singer
178: Dante
Performer
177: Elizabeth Spencer
Tokyo Classified Intern
175: Paul E. Ainlay
Proprietor of D.B. Cooper's
174: Steve Bindon
Artist
173: Nanae Nagata & Naji Rahman
Proprietors of Heart Cocktail
172: Tom Holiday
Singer/Guitarist
171: Gordon Hutchingson
Copywriter
170: Barry Cardinal
Renshi Aikido Instructor
169: Tammy
Hostess
168: Steve Feldman
Computer Dealer
167: Eve Suter
Flower Designer
166: Paul Goldsmith
Computer/H.R. Consultant
165: Avry Gottesman
Auto Dealer
164: Russell Pollard
Financial Advisor
163: Sa'dia
Belly Dancer
162: Marcel L'Esperance
Choral Director
161: Gregg Alan
Used Motorcycle/Car Dealer
160: Dr. Greg Sapplers OMD
Oriental Medical Doctor
159: Ute Ikuta
Cat Lover
158: Pam Adkins
Shaw College
157: Cloudy Bong Water
Comedian/Performer/Teacher
156: Melissa
Internet Company Director
155: Paul Gibson
Proprietor, The Fiddler Pub
154: Ann Spiers
Psychotherapist
153: Evans M. Asare
Chef
152: Sandy Weiss
Acting Teacher
150: Kike
Dancer

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