Local Currents


Embracing Hope Over Prophets of Danger

Dave Vanderveen



“We have hope for Japan despite our current dangers.” Yumiko Tochigi, entrepreneur and Green Room director.


Local Lagunan Gabe Sullivan, my business partner Scott Coon, and I spent the past two weeks in Japan launching our energy drink brand and planning a new adventure publication for that market. Our goal is to give the next generation in Japan hope and courage to rise up with the positive energy of our products and opportunities.


Despite one of the worst natural disasters and a continuing nuclear problem, we were amazed at the way that the Japanese have survived and endured calamity and persevered amid the constant threats of their environment.


The earthquake and resulting tsunami caused over 26,000 deaths and wiped out some of the northeastern coastal communities from Sendai to Fukushima. What remains largely unreported are a manufacturing and logistics nightmare north of Tokyo where many factories and roads have been seriously damaged.


Our work in Japan this month focused on official launch parties, new product planning and participation in the Green Room Festival, an indoor/outdoor music and arts festival in Yokohama. We were concerned about turnout and the general Japanese attitude to support celebrations.


Fortunately, our events in partnership with Amway, Japan, sold out and were a massive hit in Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo. It almost seemed like the Japanese were looking for reasons to get out and have a good time.


Despite a disturbingly inaccurate letter to the editor in this paper last week about the supposed dangers of caffeine and alcohol, XS cocktails were a hit and we had no casualties, a consistent experience for over a decade at thousands of events around the world.


Sullivan, a photojournalist who produces content for many well-known publications, is helping us create and produce a new magazine that will focus on the crossroads of adventure and entrepreneurship connecting Japan and Southern California.


One of the regular columns he produces is called “Curious Gabe” for Surfer Magazine, in which he interviews random folks. When we were at the Green Room Festival in Yokohama, Gabe asked “How has the earthquake and tsunami impacted surf culture in Japan?” The resulting answers from a variety of surfers, artists, writers and musicians were powerful. The general vibe was that peoples’ lives are moving on in positive ways; they shared a hope that this cataclysm be the foundation for a better future for them.


While we were there, a fundamentalist Christian group in America grabbed the spotlight claiming that the world would end May 21. Few people anywhere in the world took them seriously. In orthodox Christianity, the idea that any person would know the day or time of Christ’s Second Coming (if it hasn’t happened already) is patently absurd. The last thing Christ is believed to have said is basically, “Don’t worry about it; get to work.”


Picking a date for the end of time begs other questions, like: What time zone does God operate on? May 21 comes a day earlier in Tokyo than the USA where this prediction originated. As May 21 came and went at a fun coastal festival in Japan, it struck me that maybe Americans obsess a bit too much about the possibility of less-than-real dangers.


So as I was riding one of the almost-daily earthquakes on the 19th floor of my hotel one morning, it struck me as odd that while one country and culture is rapidly overcoming a real calamity, ours seems to obsess about fake ones.


During my two weeks in Japan, I went surfing, considered throwing Frisbees on the beach, watched skateboarders safely maneuver in traffic, and attended the largest Green Room Festival ever despite the possibility of another 8.0 earthquake and tsunami. I drank energy drinks and alcohol pretty much every night at promotional events, ate raw chicken sashimi and even rode an electric bike without a helmet at night on Tokyo streets.


Maybe the real lesson in Japan isn’t how to overcome calamity but how to really live despite the final curtain we all face. There are enough real dangers in life. Let’s agree to stop catering to those who traffic in fake ones.


David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected].

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