Still in need of help

by Bob Johnson 0

Most of the reporters have gone home.

The cable news networks have turned their attention to the startling revelation that Donald Trump will not be running for President after all, that the former Governator of California fathered a child out of wedlock, and that a galaxy of stars turned out for one of Oprah Winfrey’s farewell shows.

You know, important stuff like that.

Meanwhile, the disaster in Japan — a massive earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami, accompanied by a nuclear power plant meltdown, followed by more earthquakes — is now largely out of sight, out of mind to the outside world.

But its aftermath continues to wreak havoc on the entire country, particularly the northern sector.

At times like this, bowling can seem trivial. And yet bowling is an important component in this story, in both human and business terms.

On the human side, a number of bowling centers turned into makeshift shelters in the days and weeks immediately following the disaster, providing shelter and food for hundreds of families that suddenly found themselves homeless.

On the business side, Japan’s bowling industry has been hit extremely hard. The world’s second-largest bowling market saw numerous centers damaged and hundreds of employees left without jobs — temporarily in some cases, permanently in others.

It’s a painful example of how the business side of a disaster also impacts the human side.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers:

• Among the 437 member centers of the Bowling Proprietors Association of Japan, 87 sustained damage.

• At least 14 non-member centers were damaged.

• Well over a month following the disaster, 34 of the most badly damaged centers had not re-opened.

Beyond the numbers, a big bowling trade show scheduled for this year was postponed to 2012, as was the annual Japan Cup tournament, held in conjunction with the Professional Bowlers Assn.

In addition, two Japan PBA tournaments were canceled, and six others were postponed.

For many people — including many involved in bowling — life goes on, but it will never be the same.

Fortunately, relief efforts continue on a number of fronts, both in Japan and here in the United States. Every little bit helps, and bowlers once again are proving to be among the most compassionate people in times of need.

Recently in metro Detroit, a group of 72 students from Groves High School gathered at Thunderbird Lanes in Troy, Mich., to take part in a bowling fundraiser for Japan earthquake relief efforts.

Next month, the San Jose (Calif.) Nisei Bowling Assn. will conduct a Rice Bowl No-Tap Doubles Tournament at San Jose’s historic 4th Street Bowl, with proceeds benefiting Japan’s disaster victims. Of each $26 entry fee, $10 will be donated to the Japanese Cultural Community Center of Northern California, which will funnel 100 percent of the money to disaster relief.

If you’d like to help but don’t live in the San Jose area, the local bowling group is selling Rice Bowl t-shirts in both regular and ladies’ scoop neck styles. To inquire about purchasing a t-shirt, or to make a donation, send an email to: RiceBowl_2011@yahoo.com

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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