Personal status is the essence of power within a Japanese company.
Last night the department took my wife and me to a “Welcome Party.” About thirty Japanese engineers sat with me and my wife in a private room in a noisy yakitori restaurant. After a few polite toasts with dutiful applause, the Japanese began to drink and talk freely.
One drunk middle manager sat down next to my wife and checked out her boobs. By Japanese standards, she’s stacked. “Ahmanda!” he hollered. He babbled thirty seconds of Japanese, eyeing her, and he ended with “I love Ahmanda!”
“What is your hobby?” I hollered back at him.
“Eh!” he replied.
“What is your hobby!” I hollered again.
“Oh! I like folk music. You know?” he replied.
“Yes, I know. I am from a small place called West Virginia.”
“Oh. Joon? Joon Dinva?”
“What?” I screamed.
“Joon Dinva! Almost heaben, West Vaginya!” he sang to me. “Broo Ridge Mountain!”
“Shanandoah Riber!” I screamed back at him.
“I love Ahmanda!” he replied.
Next morning. The elevator slides open on nine and we are greeted by a doll-like office lady. With immaculate politeness she bustles us into the largest office I’ve seen in seven years of doing business in Japan: marble and tile and panoramic windows overlooking this industrial neighborhood of Tokyo.
The chairman sits at the other side of the rosewood table, pulls out a pack of Kool cigarettes and lights up. I sit across from him and try not to breathe too much.
“So,” he says. “What you think about Tokyo?”
With infinite delicacy, the office lady places a cup of coffee in front of me and dematerializes. I take a sip.
He pulls a business card from a gold case and hands it to me. I admire it in the proper Japanese form. Chairman, it says.
“I like Tokyo very much,” I say.
Our meeting ends and I return to the first floor. The drunk middle manager who hit on my wife last night is sitting at a cafeteria table here, drinking water from the vending machine.
“Last night I was drink,” he says, smiling weakly.
I pull the chairman’s card from my wallet and drop it on the table in front of him. I smile broadly into his bleary eyes and walk away.