Stay Strong Japan By Robert Lee, Kegel's Representative in Japan


    Industry News

    Republished courtesy of (May 10, 2011)

    20110510StayStrongJapanPatch.jpg Last week was Golden Week here in Japan so I decided to spend some time up north. I drove to Miyagi prefecture to visit a bowler that was the house pro of Sakura Bowl in Kesennuma city.

    Three days after the earthquake, he was able to get out of town, but since his bowling center and house were both damaged beyond repair, he went back to his home town in Okinawa to be with his family.

    Last week, he came back to assess the damage and retrieve anything he could from his center and apartment, so I went up to try and help out anyway possible.

    These are some of the pictures I took with my phone (see below).

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of the damage just from looking at these pictures. The first one of the wall is from my friend's 1st floor apartment. The mud reached the ceiling. I could only stay to take one picture because the smell was unbearable. Sewage came up from the ground, mixing with the fish that had rolled in from the sea. I'm sure it didn't help that he hadn't been back to his apartment for 40 days.

    Masae Nakajima and I made some patches and sold them at the two most recent JPBA events. The patches read "Ganbarou Nippon", or "Stay Strong Japan" (pictured above). The money that Masae gathered was deposited into a Red Cross relief box on site where she was bowling.

    The money that I gathered was handed over to my friend from Miyagi, who in turn handed it over to the owner of the center where he worked. It wasn't much, but the gesture hopefully will encourage the owner to rebuild the only bowling center that stood in the city.

    A lot of the older bowling centers not just in northern Japan but throughout the entire country are at a crossroads with their future.

    "Is it worth it to pay for the upkeep and stay in this bleak industry, or should we just tear the place down and use the space for something else?" Bowling centers that were only going to stay open for a couple more years anyway, have shut their doors for good. It's really sad that after 40 or so years, there's no big send off or announcements, just a really quiet finish.

    I was able to spend some time with a lot of bowlers from the northern Japan area last week. In recent years, three prefectures from northern Japan were able to gather enough funds to hold a tournament in their respective prefecture. Unfortunately, Fukushima, as everybody knows, is in really bad shape because of the nuclear plants.

    Consequently, because of the radiation problem, along with the damage to the centers from the quake and tsunami, this year's Fukushima Open will probably be cancelled. The Miyagi Open, which held its first pro/am last year, was held at a center that has already closed for business, so I'm pretty sure it will be cancelled as well.

    Everybody wants to bowl, but with so few places available...