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Charles E. McJilton: ‘Stop attempting to control nature already’

by Elliott Samuels

Name: Charles E. McJilton
Age: 50
Nationality: Citizen of the world
Occupation: Founder of Second Harvest Japan
Likes: Good conversation
Dislikes: The annual pruning of trees in Tokyo

1. What first brought you to Japan? The USS Towers (DDG9) in 1984. I sailed up Tokyo Bay on a cold day in December with Mount Fuji in the background.

2. What’s keeping you here? A once-in-a-lifetime chance to pioneer a new field.

3. Who in Japan do you most admire? Jack Bayles, for being an unsung humanitarian.

4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? Home. I have a river 50 meters away and mountains right in front of me.

5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? しあわせ (shiawase, or happiness). Sounds nice, no?

6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? Wakong/aiyah. My wife says it all the time. (We have yet to work out what this means?!? — Eds.)

7. What’s the most exciting/outrageous thing you have ever done? Ran 257 km through Tohoku in four days in March 2012.

8. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked to do in Japan? Having dogs participate in a wedding I was performing.

9. If you could invite anyone from history to dinner, who would it be? Inventor Nikola Tesla. I’d like to know what papers were lost in the fire?

10. What is your comfort place to eat in Japan? Sushi at Kappazushi. It’s the K-Mart of sushi in Japan.

11. What’s the funniest thing you have ever seen in Japan? Watching my 72-year-old neighbor use scissors he pulled from his vest to cut up pizza at an Italian restaurant. Next was seeing my 3-year-old’s eyes become saucers when she watched him do that.

12. Celebrity you have always wanted to meet in Japan? Peter Barakan. I love to listen to him speak in Japanese. That man can rock . . .

13. Name three uses of a stapler without staples. A bike stop; a starting block for a race; a peace stick.

14. What confuses you about Japan? When Japan says it loves nature but then cements rivers and prunes back trees so they resemble poodles on a stick. Stop attempting to control nature already.

15. What do you think about while standing on the train? Finally, peace and quiet . . .

16. How would you find a needle in a haystack? Look for it.

17. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? “My God He Tried a Lot of Things.”

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? (To Jim) I’m a food banker, not a zoologist.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? You mean I am not grown up? (Cue awkward silence — Eds.)

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Buy plastic . . .