December 24, 2016

CHRISTMAS MYTHS

The following article was published in the Philippine Canadian Inquirer Vol. 12 No.95 Christmas 2013 issue December 20, 2013 page 26

  


December 23, 2016

The Pacific Marine Circle or BC Heritage Circle Route: Victoria to Sooke to Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan to Duncan back to Victoria

I was so hungry after picking up my Nissan Note 2016 rental.   The helpful Enterprise guy Riley suggested Jams Café a few blocks south - but there was a long line.  So I decided to head on to Sooke, exited early, and landed in Langford.

To Sooke

A guy in a gas station recommended Floyd’s Diner at 10-721 Station Avenue (in Langford tel # 778 440 1200 - there’s one in downtown Victoria too).  It was quite difficult to find because the right exit is somewhat hidden by a building, not well-marked, and came just a few meters right after a major turn off.   Brunch was good but not the best  at – CAD$16.60 for fried chicken with waffles.

Oops Metchosin

Then finally off to Sooke but not quite as I perchanced 10 minutes later an intriguing name Metchosin.  Made a south detour and entered mostly a farming area.  An interesting old school house is now a museum - open only during the summer weekends.

For a village, Metchosin has a nice restaurant MyChosen Café (a play on the name Metchosin) which has a café, a pizza joint, and a coffee corner with sweets called Sugar Shack - all in one big cottage.  A server at the café suggested I take a hike at Witty’s Lagoon.  A lovely 20-minute hike, past Witty’s Lagoon the trail ends in Witty’s Beach lined with stinking decaying long rubbery seaweeds.  Across the San Juan de Fuca Straight, you do get a sight of the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.   The name Metchosin is the anglicized version of the native term "Smets-Schosen", which means "place of stinking fish". 

If you find yourself in Metchosin on a Saturday, and you have a cooler, drop by the Stillmeadow Farm which in partnership with ParryBay Sheep Farm sells meat (pork, roaster chicken, lamb, sausages, bacon, sometimes eggs) Tel: 1-250-478-9628,  12 N – 3pm Stillmeadow Rd.   To get here you make a right on Witty’s Beach Road which is off Metchosin road that leads to Witty’s Lagoon.  See MapQuest.

Metchosin also boasts of its Galloping Goose Sausages.  You can buy it in their factory or in other outlets (call 250-474-5788).  Open Tues, Wed, Thurs  8 am – 12 N or call the house 250 474 0667 (ask for Mark) for other days/hours so someone can meet you at 4484 Lindholm Road.

Now Sooke

So finally I made my way to Sooke.   After paying my camping fee of $25 a night at Sooke Sunny Shores Campground, a grandmotherly Sophie with a charming inflection from Poland said there are cabins for a CAD $100 a night for 2 people with kitchen.   The campground toilets needed more cleaning but tolerable.  

It was too early to snooze, so on a grey overcast dusk I went to Whiffin Spit. Now I know why it’s called a Spit.  A sand deposition that is narrow and elongated facing a body of water on both sides like a tongue spitting out.  



Early Sunday morning, I was Off to Port Renfrew with several stops. 
There are no gas stations in Port Renfrew so make sure you get a full tank at Sooke or Lake Cowichan.

Route 14 (also called the West Coast Road or Juan de Fuca Highway) from Sooke to Port Renfrew (71 km) is one of the most scenic drives in British Columbia.  Another one is Highway 7 or Lougheed Highway between Mission and Harrison Hot Springs – rambling through farms and side sweeping the Harrison River and parts of Fraser River. Route 14 hugs the coast with a view most of the time of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and in the far off horizon the Olympic Mountains in Washington State.

There are several trails to the coast from the road.  I would do five this day.   See Travel Map from Sooke to Port Renfrew.

Right after breakfast at Shirley Delicious (see my article) – a local couple I got to chat with -  because of their chubby husky -fox breed called Jawz, a gentle fellow - suggested I see the Sheringham Point Lighthouse just a mile away from Shirley Delicious.  This was a short picturesque walk facing postcard-pretty lighthouse.  There is something transfixing about lighthouses. 

Back to Route 14, a stop at French Beach (www.frenchbeachpark.com) named after local pioneer James French who loved this area.    A parking lot precedes a well-mowed grassy picnic table area and the pebbly beach is just right there.   

French Beach


This is where I got to talk to friendly Ed – the Park Ranger who recommended I do next China Beach and Mystic Beach - same entrance – further up Route 14.  Do not confuse with China Beach Campground which is more south.


Canadian Gothic - Ed the helpful Park Ranger

But first Sandcut Beach, a short lovely path to a natural branch and vines O opening to the beach.  Alas, there was no sand ins Sandcut – pebbles and stones.


Sandcut Beach

Nine miles later the entrance led to two parking lots.  The lower one on the left leads to China Beach – a ten- minute walk with a view similar to the French. 

The upper lot on the right was packed for a reason.  You will see serious hikers preparing their gear.  This is the location of the zero marker for the 47 km Juan De Fuca Marine Trail which goes through Mystic Beach.   I of course will just venture the 2.5 kilometer trek to Mystic Beach and back.  This part of the trail has a shaky fun suspension bridge, swaying, bouncing as it hangs high above the Pete Wolf Creek (more like a river).  You can look down through the steel mesh with holes enough to swallow ladies shoe heels.    Goose bumps!


Juan De Fuca Trail Suspension Bridge on the way to Mystic Beach - fun!


It took me an hour plus each way because I was taking my time. But it was a good up and down workout on sometimes muddy footpath.  The reward was Mystic Beach - another good water view – how can it not be?  If you veer left once you hit the sandy (yes sand!) beach, you will see a swing hanging from a tree cantilevered around 50 feet high up a cliff.  A short slab of timber tied in the middle wasn’t that comfortable to the crotch.  But I had to do it.  A few feet away from the swing was a light waterfall spraying down the cliff. 


Mystic Beach

Except for Mystic Beach, the coastline along Route 14 is rocky and the water cold in early October – Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend.  During March and April, you may be able to chance upon the grey whale migration.

On my trek back, I was having a sweet time again with the suspension bridge all to myself.  I got back to my car at almost 5 pm.  Back to Route 14, and this time it was a more forested highway with occasional glimpses of the water as I drove straight through to Port Renfrew and listening repeatedly reflectively to Kristin Chenoweth’s For Good.

Port Renfrew was quiet this October but it is a crowded summer tourist town as I would find out later.  The inlet at Port Renfrew is still called by its old name Port San Juan – so don’t get confused.

A set turkey plate dinner for CAD$ 22.00, pumpkin pie at an extra CAD$ 10.00 at the Port Renfrew Hotel to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving the following day?  Overpriced.  I asked the server if there was a room available - and the hefty manager told the server there was none –  but based on the way the server looked at me – it wasn’t true.  The parking lot was quite empty.

Trailhead Resorts has CAD$70 Hikers Huts. I knew they had plenty left because earlier in a restaurant the guy who had the only unit taken told me that every other wooden cabin was unoccupied.  Yet the Resorts Lady said no vacancy.  To make sure, you better book online at http://www.trailhead-resort.com/  as this is the cheapest place in Port Renfrew you can find short of camping.  The huts can only accommodate a max of 12 people.  There doesn’t seem to be an Airbnb alternative.

So I settled for Camp Pacheedaht (tel 250 647 0090) with spectacular views (two locations actually - one near the bridge on both sides and three miles further east where the office is - also facing the inlet).  The campground dirt roads in both locations are studded with deep potholes. 

Camp Pacheedath


Run by the Pacheedaht First Nation (the Canadian term for North American Indian groups), the camp’s shower facilities were soily, cramped and unkempt for CAD$2.00 – unlimited hot water though.  Showers close at 7 pm and won’t open till 10 am the following day!  I saw a microwave near the office.  It was $20.00 my tent/car site without a view.  Unless you are on a very tight budget or looking for a scenic sight of the inlet, I would avoid these campsites.  Wi-Fi for a fee only works if you are near the office and all sites are not.  Go figure.  Did I mention theft has known to occur?

On Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, I decided to see the academic-sounding Botanical Beach to Botany Bay 2.8 kilometer loop.  I thought I would be there for an hour and that’s it.  But I was there from 8 am till 11 am past.   The juxtaposition of an actual forest sublime quiet with tall trees and the coast-pounding sea with its salty air was a reeling divergence.  Botanical Beach was surprisingly and interesting: the tide pools, and the intertidal life: sea stars, chitons, anemones, barnacles, brown algae – that is why it is called Botanical


Botanical Beach


Five minutes away is handsome Botany Bay. 


Botany Bay
The play of light streaming through the forest, the sound of undulating waves, the intertwine of tall cedar and spruce trees standing amidst modules of bush, boardwalks to rock pathways, branches twisting curving at every angle while a look on the other side is the Pacific - made me linger.  Then there was Noah’s Ark – my own anointed name to a lovely island.   It is actually a long boat-like rocky outpost with stately Douglas Firs. 


Noah's Ark in Botany Bay
This can make a best-seller postcard.  That was a good finale.

I was getting hungry.

For lunch, other than the pricey hotel, only Tomi’s was open.  Burger at Cad$ 16.00 – nope.  Hot Dog without mustard and relish CAD$4.00.  Yes.  But condiments mustard and relish were an additional CAD$ 2.00! 

I had to go to the only store in town - the General Store (tel 250 647 5587) which opens only from 11 am to 7pm with a very limited selection – somewhat like a dimly lit drab 7-11.  Get the picture?  Thankfully, it has a microwave for public use.  I got pre-packaged two hamburgers (from Edmonton Alberta) at CAD$ 5.98.  It tasted like McDs.   Satisfying and at that price!  

Then I was off to Lake Cowichan as part of the BC Heritage Circle Route.  Took a detour to the Avatar Grove to see Canada’s gnarliest tree but the road became severely potholed after crossing the magnificent Gordon River bridge so I had to turn around.  You can see salmon returning to their spawning grounds down the river.

I got back on Pacific Marine Road, passed by Fairy Lake – lovely name for a meh meh lake, and began the lookout for old big Harris Creek Spruce tree after passing by Lizard Lake Forest Service Campground.  I saw the small signage.  


Easy to  Miss Signage

The Spruce Tree is covered with moss and a huge base fenced all around 
so you can’t touch it.  It is just on the banks of the swift Harris Creek.


Old Big Harris Creek Spruce Tree

I did not drive to the Red Creek Fir, the world’s largest Douglas Fir because the logging road I was told was not maintained.  For directions, maps and other tree wonders  such as the Big Lonely Doug and the San Juan Sitka Spruce, Canada’s largest, see the Ancient Forest Alliance website or call its Admin Director Joan Varley at 250 896 4007  or e-mail her at Joan@ancientforestalliance.org.  A good blog is Vancouver Island Big Trees.

Then it was non-stop to the town of Lake Cowichan which has one of the best campgrounds I’ve ever been.  Well-maintained, right next to the lake and the showers/toilets are very clean, all part of the off-season $20.00 a night tenting rate.  I was ecstatic.  See Lakeview Park Campsite

A good place to have a meal even breakfast is the Country Grocer supermarket complete with a sit-down area (tel: 250 749 6335 at 83 Cowichan Lake Road, 7 am – 8:45 pm).  I had a grilled Monte Cristo Sandwich with a creamy pea soup for CAD$9.45 (including tax).


A classic Monte Cristo

The following day I drove back to return the rental car and took the bus back to Swartz Bay for the ferry to Tsawwassen in the mainland.  It was a great 4-day holiday.

If you need pictures of any specific area, I will be happy to provide.  Just e-mail me at telljosephlopez@gmail.com

November 1, 2016

Where Silence Is To Be Filled … Japanese Corporate Public Relations in the United States



 In the 50s and 60s, it was primarily American managers who travelled across the Pacific as expatriates.  Lately, the current has reversed.  More Japanese and other Asian managers are coming to the United States – an indication of reversing roles and perhaps reversing economic status.


However, unlike the Americans who had a history as liberators during World War II, the Japanese are coming to the United States arousing America’s lingering fears of expansionism.  This view of the Japanese coupled with a culture more diametric to the Americans or the Europeans – major foreign investors as well in the U.S. – has contributed to the image problem of the largely successful Japanese companies.

Where Silence Is …

“In Asia, eloquence is silver and silence is gold,” according to Ben Okamoto, New York bureau editor for The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s leading newspaper.  “However in America, silence gets you nowhere and eloquence will get things done.”

Kunio Ito, Public Affairs  Director of the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) calls it modesty.  In practice, modesty is letting one’s actions speak for themselves.  In Japan, one assumes that those who are involved in and those who are observing company activities will understand their purpose.  There is no need to announce much less advertise the events with press releases and other  media presentations.  In the United States where “silence is to be filled.” the company must make more pronounced and repeated efforts to inform the public and other interest groups what they are doing.  In spreading the word, there is nothing as “one too many.”

There  are two messages a number of Japanese companies want more Americans to know about: the establishment of local manufacturing operations  and Japanese participation in local communities.

Made in the U.S.A.

When  Toyota established a new factory in Kentucky, the primary concern of the company, according to Akikazu Kida, Toyota’s Public Relations Manager, was that some might think of it as another economic invasion from  Japan.  To allay this apprehension, Toyota decided to take a more proactive step by initiating a media campaign to inform the public that a good number of Toyota’s vehicles would be made by Americans for Americans.

With  consumer goods, there seems to be a need to stamp “Made in the USA” on an essentially Japanese product to assuage nationalistic fervor.  However,  in higher levels of business where there is no need to directly interface with the American public, Japanese companies are expected to be totally Japanese in their  dealings with American businessmen, according to Mike Masayuma, Deputy General Manager of the trading firm, Mitsubishi International  Corporation.  Outside investors are not only looking  for seed money but the Japanese style of management.  For  example, Masuyama believes the Japanese have a more caring and attentive approach in terms of customer service.

According to Ito, the “Made In the USA” drive is part manufacturing strategy to locate production near the customers and part an effort to please American consumers and politicians.  One concern, even after moving production to the United States, is the way the American people perceive Japanese companies.  They don’t think of Honda as just a motor company but as a Japanese company.  He comments, “always Japan”.  The label Japan is on Honda and other Japanese companies.  If Sony buys Columbia Pictures, it’s Japan invading Hollywood.  If an Australian company buys a film company, it’s just company A buying company B.”

Japan Bashing

Mr. Satoru Maruyama, Chief Representative of OKI-America, a telecommunications firm, said there are two sides to Japan-bashing, the emotional side as espoused by the politicians, and the business side seeking to protect their own interests.  Another high-ranking Japanese manager thinks that Japan-bashing is an expression of frustration and jealousy in the face of America’s diminishing economic power.  When asked about allegations of unfair trade practices, he commented that the Japanese government has been removing trade restrictions for the past five years.  Even before that, trade barriers were not so much a matter of policies and regulations, but more of cultural preferences.  It takes longer to change Japanese consumer attitudes toward foreign products.  As to assertions of Japanese companies dumping products in the United States (i.e. the selling of goods below production and marketing costs) he stated that this would lead one to think Japanese companies are willing to sell at a loss which is the wrong way to run a business.

To counter Japan-bashing, aside from shifting production to the United States, an increasing number of Japanese companies in the U.S. are working to be better corporate citizens in the American perspective, either through charitable donations, local community involvement, or both.  Fujitsu, a computer and communications firm, sponsors a college basketball tournament and has established a scholarship fund for minority scientists. Toyota has a series of national ads portraying its community involvement with the theme “Investing in the Individual.” One ad depicts an employee who volunteers her time to the Special Olympics for disabled athletes.  Another features a child with a computer  in a local daycare/community centre supported by Toyota.

Is the Strategy Working?

Most Japanese companies are finding out that solely donating money can lead to suspicions of self-serving interests.  This is precisely the reaction met by one corporation when it gave a significant donation to the research department of a leading university.  Financial contributions used for the local community, where there are no clear-cut returns, accompanied by genuine participation, are received with more bonhomie.

The efforts in active community involvement seem to be working in reducing anti-Japanese sentiment.  This was confirmed by a JETRO survey of a number of American officials and local community representatives.  The reason for  such anti-Japanese sentiment, Ito explains, is partly due to the fact that there is still something unknown about the Japanese by the Americans.  Unlike European countries where the people and culture came first, in the case of Japan it’s the products which preceded the people and their culture.  Americans know about the products but they don’t  know the people.  This unknown quantity is something they fear.   

This “faceless” Japan, according to Hironobu Shibuya, president of the public relations firm Dentsu  Burston-Marsteller – NY, is compounded by Japanese reticence and failure to mingle with the local community.  “Though, the same can be said for Americans living in Japan who usually stick to their own clubs.”  One Japanese manager  said that they prefer living in the same neighborhood because their wives and children speak little English.  And knowing that they will be reassigned in three or four years, there is really no point in making serious efforts to acculturate to American society.

Within The Company

Though studies have shown that the language difference is one major problem in a Japanese company in the United States, the situation is not easily solved with translation when connotations are different.  Ito cites the word “parallel.”  In English, it could mean you’re heading in the same direction.  In Japanese, parallel implies you will never meet.  The Japanese might think he is communicating with his American colleagues but they are arriving at different conclusions.  Even the question “why?” can upset some Japanese because when it is raised in response to an instruction, it would imply hesitancy to follow procedures.  When raised in response to an explanation, it would be an impolite implication that the explainer was not clear.

One problem language differences has affected is the question of career development.  According to Jil Galloway, Personnel Manager at Mitsubishi International, “working for a Japanese firm is in a sense different from an American firm because there are always two levels of personnel, the Japanese manager and the American staff.  At some level above you, there’s  always a Japanese staff.”   Would fluency in Japanese be advantageous?  Masuyama said that in trading or banking firms where the mandate comes from Tokyo, it would help to be bilingual.  However, one need not necessarily know Japanese to be promoted in manufacturing firms where day-to-day decision making is mostly done locally.

Another issue Japanese managers must address is the assumption that every employee knows his duties and responsibilities.  This assumption  succeeds  in Japan but it fails in the United States because of the differences in hiring systems.  According to Ito, Japanese companies hire college recruits en masse every year for lifetime employment whether business is up or down.  They undergo a rigorous training program for several months.  Because these recruits work in groups, one can assume each member has the same level of knowledge.  This  team work is one explanation why there are no individual job descriptions in Japanese companies; and since the group’s objectives are paramount rather than individual success, the individual appraisals are relegated to an informal basis.  Performance  appraisals of the question and answer form common in the United States are unfamiliar to the Japanese manager, according to Galloway.  In the United States employment is on as needed basis and turnover is higher.  As a result, such extensive group training is neither possible nor worthwhile.

It would seem the American employee faces more obstacles working for a Japanese company.  However, in a recent study, the major concerns expressed by American  employees working for a Japanese company, other than language problems, are the same as those working for America’s Fortune 500.  The employees want to be more of a team, to be respected for what  they do; they want to be heard  and be given a chance to contribute.

Japanese companies are instituting more measures within the company to promote greater communication feedback and to overcome language and cultural barriers.  For one, cultural orientation programs are being held for both Japanese and American employees.  Improved employee and community relations could answer some of the unknowns and mollify the fears and mistrust.  Most importantly, they could confirm common human dimensions bestowing upon the Japanese managers, and ultimately the companies, a less apprehensive image.