Chapter 19: The Ties that Bind

Chapter 19: The Ties that Bind

JASME was established by MITI in the 1950s to provide loans and services to independent businesses. In the 1990s the JASME had about ¥410.9 billion in capital resources and was the primary lender to small busineses,offering long-term loans at interest rates that were lower than private financial institutions. JASME helped small businesses upgrade operations by oproviding finance, but the business owners had to apply through their local government authority for the loans, which, in turn, requested loans from JASME. FILP funded its budget.

The Ehime Prefecture representative and the JASME officer were not independent from JETRO and while doing work for their agencies, they were expected to engage much of the time in research for JETRO. Although the JASME officer was supposed to research small business activities in the US and the Ehime officer was researching the American retail sector, they spent most of their time glued to their desks perusing American newspapers and clipping articles to either synopsize or to send to JETRO Tokyo. Since the same articles were accessible to JETRO Tokyo staff, the two officers’ work was extraneous and boring. They exemplified the waste of public funds and human resources.

The previous officer who had befriended me had returned to Tokyo. His successor was in his late thirties and was seconded to JETRO New York from the Hiroshima branch office. He had brought his wife and three children with him, renting a flat in New Jersey.

The Ehime office was in his early thirties and single. He was extremely intelligent and his English was sufficient. He was a bit of a rascal with a sardonic wit and a cynical view of life which could have been due to his job in the prefecture government that did not suit his talents. His father had also been an officer in the prefecture government but suffered from diabetes and kidney failure, forcing him to retire early. When he was fourteen, the representative participated in a high school exchange program with China. The three months spent in a Chinese school inspired an infatuation with the country. He graduated with a degree in Chinese from Osaka City University and he claimed that he had travelled to China thirty times. Even though the officer was best suited to represent Ehime in China or Hong Kong his fluency in Chinese enabled him to support a JETRO director in Research and Planning to monitor America’s policies regarding China and the meetings between Chinese and US government officials in Washington DC.

When I dropped into Research and Planning to invite the officers to lunch they were clipping articles from US newspapers. Since they already knew me through the paper they enthusiastically accepted.

Over a spicey meal at a Korean restaurant they spoke of their discontentment with their duties at JETRO New York. The JAMSE officer complained that, with the exception of finding his family a flat which was very basic and not on a par with their home in Hiroshima, JETRO management did little else to support his family to settle in the US. His wife could not speak English and was burdened with enrolling the children in schools and daily household chores.

The officers welcomed my offer to arrange visits to small businesses, banks and retailers and to coordinate the work with tours of historically important sites which would encourage a better understanding of America’s political economic development. These were services that JETRO should have provided to officers who were sent to the countries where branch offices were located instead of using the budget for marketing materials and Senior Trade Advisors.  The excursions would have promoted a realistic assessment of Japan’s role in the international political and economic arena.

Respite from Tedium: the great escapes

The officers, apprehensive about being discovered escaping from the office, requested that we leave JETRO separately and meet outside of the McGraw Hill Building. To initiate the “escapes” I took them to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Home and museum in Hyde Park. The officers knew nothing about Roosevelt’s administration, including the New Deal or the Social Security System because Japanese textbooks relate little about America’s pre-war history. They were fascinated with the aerial photos of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and of Alamo, New Mexico.

The second escape was to the New York State capital of Albany where I had arranged a meeting with the director of the New York State Economic development Agency whom I had met in January 1994 when I covered the National Minority Business Council event for the paper. The director graciously agreed to invite a regional director from the Small Business Agency (SBA) and the director of a regional bank for a two-hour session regarding New York State’s promotion of SME exports. Although the meeting was primarily for the JASME officer, the Ehime officer came along.

The scenic train ride along the Hudson River was a fine introduction to the beauties of New York State. The officer’s English was passible and I translated the comments he did not understand. I also asked questions related to loans to SMEs and support from the SBA. The officer found the meeting invaluable because he could report the proceedings to his office thus gaining him brownie points. I taped the meeting and transcribed it for him, setting a precedence for future meetings.

After the meeting the three of us were escorted on a tour of Congress which was in session and introduced to the deputy majority leader. We stood for a formal photograph which was sent to us a few days later.

I took the officers to the Albany State Museum to see exhibits of the state’s agricultural economy and the history of it economic development through the Erie Canal system and the railroad. The trip was a complete success and whet the officers’ appetite for more “escapes.”

I organized further meetings for the JASME officer with small business owners in Manhattan as well as with upper management in metropolitan banks.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto Speaks and the NYSE Plummets

On June 23, 1997 Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto gave an address at Columbia University at a luncheon sponsored by the Foreign Policy Association and Columbia’s Department of International Relations. As a member of the FPA I was invited to attend and I took the two officers with me. The prime minister arrived with his wife and daughter and gave a thirty minute address.

The address “Japan-U.S. Relations: A Partnership for the Twenty First Century” regarded Japan’s economy and planned reforms of the financial sector. The speech was delivered in Japanese and simultaneously translated into English. At the Q&A session a trader from Wall Street asked Hashimoto about what would happen if Japan’s economy began to deteriorate rapidly. Hashimoto light heartedly replied that Japan would be pressed to sell some of its US securities. Those who understood Japanese laughed but evidently the English translation implied that Hashimoto had been serious. That afternoon, the DOW plummeted forty points and Hashimoto was reprimanded in the Japanese press.

Viva Mexico! R&R with a Bit of Research

At lunch one day I asked the officers if they had a wish where they would like to go during their secondment in the US. They shouted, “Mexico!” I suggested against my better judgement that I would try to contrive work for them in Mexico so that their dreams were fulfilled. But getting there was a different matter. Although I could fund my airfare, they would have to source funds from JETRO for their travel expenses.

I suggested that I design a project which would enable a trip to Mexico. By coincidence, JETRO headquarters had requested data regarding the impact on American businesses in Mexico from the sudden devaluation of the peso triggered by the December 1994 financial crisis. The Mexican government began deregulating the financial sector to allow foreign banks to purchase up to eight percent equity in Mexican banks.

I told the JASME officer to submit a proposal which would give him the opportunity to go to Mexico for four days to investigate two American banks with large operations in Mexico and their corporate strategies. I suggested to the Ehime officer that he submit a proposal for investigating J.C Penny’s operations and Wal-Mart’s entry into the Mexican market through connecting with the Mexican supermarket chain CIFRA, which had a close relationship with the Mexican government and suppliers.

I asked them not to mention the project or submit anything until I had arranged interviews in Mexico, the facilitation of which was doubtful. But to my surprise I managed to arrange six interviews in four days. When I called the Bank of America headquarters in San Francisco to arrange an interview with the president of the BOA’s Mexican subsidiary I was transferred directly to the president of the international division. Introducing myself as a JETRO employee, I asked if a JETRO officer who had recently arrived from Japan could accompany me to observe the proceedings. He agreed to arrange the interview.

I contacted Chase Manhattan in New York to receive the contact details of the general manager of Chase Manhattan in Mexico City who also agreed to an interview. I had similar luck when I called JC Penny Mexican Headquarters in Monterrey. Wal-Mart proved to be difficult to penetrate and I had to settle on an interview with its advertising agency in Mexico City. I then prepared the list of questions for each interview.

The directors in Research and Planning were quizzical about how the two officers had managed to enter the inner sanctums of American corporations, let alone arrange interviews. The officers, who could barely contain themselves, replied that it had been easy. When they asked me how I managed to get the interviews I replied that one had to be “as American as apple pie.” Their trip was funded and the JASME officer booked plane tickets and registered a room for me in his wife’s name in order to route a portion of my expenses through JETRO’s budget.

Four Days of Torture

We met at La Guardia Airport and flew to Mexico City situated in a valley surrounded by mountains which, at 8,000 feet above sea level, was enveloped in a blanket of acrid smog from automobile emissions. The following day, while the Ehime officer went off sightseeing, I took the JASME officer to interview the president of BOA. In the afternoon we visited the offices of Chase Manhattan. I taped both sessions and transcribed them after returning to the hotel while the officers went off to drink tequila. The combination of Mexico’s high altitude and polluted air brought on a monotonous headache and sore throat. But I was determined that the officers see as much of Mexico City as possible.

On the second day while the JASME officer went sightseeing, the Ehime officer and I flew to Monterrey to interview the president of JC Penny Mexico. His reply to my question regarding the most difficult and expensive aspect of distribution was memorable; the poor maintenance of the network of highways between the Texas distribution center and Monterrey, the frequency of vehicle breakdowns and the bandits who accosted the trucks by simply standing in the middle of the roads.

On the third day the Ehime officer accompanied me to Wal-Mart’s advertising agency. Afterwards I remained at the hotel to transcribe the interview while the officers visited churches and ate masses of Mexican cuisine downed with the commensurate Corona beer. The last stop was to JETRO Mexico to pay our respects to the managing director in an effort to present the image that we had devoted our entire time in Mexico for research. And we almost succeeded. We celebrated at a Mexican restaurant that evening. When I commented that MITI was becoming weaker as a ministry, one of the officers grumbled that MITI was always creating new work.

Our celebratory mood was interrupted shortly after we returned to the hotel probably because the director of JETRO Mexico had raised the alarm. That evening, the telephone in my room rang. I picked up the receiver to hear the voice of a man asking me in broken English if I was the JASME officer’s wife. I recognized the voice to be a director in Research and Planning.  Although my initial reaction was to hang up, I calmly acknowledged in Japanese that I was the wife. Immediately afterwards, her husband called to warn me that we had been discovered and that JETRO New York was very angry. Both officers were frightened and distressed and I promised to sort out the mess. At least I hoped I could.

When we returned to JETRO, I was exhausted. The two officers were interrogated by their superiors and the Managing Director. They insisted that I had accompanied them to support their research. The Kyoto Prefecture representative who suspected that I had facilitated the research called me on the carpet to ask me why I had provided services for other divisions. Trying to remain calm I replied that Americans enjoyed participating in numerous activities simultaneously. My boss was left speechless and nothing more was said about the incident.

The two officers submitted their reports taken from the data I had prepared and transcribed. To their relief, the reports were assessed by JETRO Tokyo as the best that had been received for many years. Although we were exonerated, I felt that I had paid a high a price for protecting the officers. On the other hand, they felt an obligation to me and invited me to visit them in Japan at their offices. I accepted.

Ehime Knows Best: Ben & Jerry’s, Katz Deli, Crispy Cream

The Ehime representative had a sweet tooth and knew where to go for his favorite brand of ice-cream.  I had never heard of Ben & Jerry’s until he introduced me and the JASME officer to a Ben & Jerry outlet in Lower Manhattan. Evidently, the officer knew the brand because Ben & Jerry was known in Japan as a producer who used environmentally friendly methods to manufacture its ice cream. He suggested that we try Cherry Garcia, I was not fond of cherry-flavored ice cream but it was surprisingly good.

After Ben & Jerry’s the officer guided us to Katz Deli on Lower Houston not only for the giant sandwiches but, as importantly, to see where the famous orgasm scene was shot for the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

The officer liked donuts too and had spotted an article in the New York Times about a new donut shop located across the street from the Apollo Theater in Harlem. He asked me to take him to Crispy Cream Donuts for a taste test. I was not sure how he would react when he was surrounded by African-Americans and by the obvious discrepancy between the wealth of mid-town and lower Manhattan and Harlem. The officer was duly impressed with the donuts as he gobbled the blueberry, lemon and custard cream. To mark the occasion I took photos of him in front of the Apollo Theater. The officer obviously knew a good thing because Crispy Cream became so popular that it soon expanded outlets to include Penn Station.

Rats Running Amok

The representative was from a rural area in Ehime where the population was Japanese and did not like the “Golden Apple” and the ethnic diversity. He escaped to China Town in lower Manhattan to eat Chinese food, go to a Chinese barber and frequent Chinese sex shows at Chinese clubs. He told me that he planned to marry a Japanese girl in China.

Despite his dislike of the “Golden Apple” I took him to see some sites in New York City; Grammercy Park, Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace where the original Teddy Bear was on exhibit, Riverside Church which was the Rockefeller family’s church, St John the Divine Cathedral, Lincoln Center and the Cloisters as an example of the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic efforts. Since the officer was “researching” the retail industry, I took him to Bloomingdales, Macy’s and to Wall-Mart to name just a few.

 By far, the most memorable excursion in the city was to China Town where the officer introduced me to a restaurant serving Shanghai cuisine to satisfy my craving for Shanghai cooking. He often ate at the restaurant and knew the owner to whom he spoke in perfect Mandarin. We decided to walk back to our flats through the Italian district. It was about 10:30pm when we passed a Catholic church. The heavy front doors were shut. Suddenly, we saw a herd of rats escaping under the doors of the church and running down the steps onto the street. It was a scene out of a horror movie. The officer thought that the church cat was chasing the rodents. He liked cats, particularly the one he insisted he saw with a tattoo on its leg being led by its owner on a leash.

Mr M’s and My America: Pittsburgh

The officer’s initial was ‘M’ and it is appropriate that I identify him in this way because of his need to escape from Manhattan and JETRO and my need to forge a formal yet friendly relationship with the officer and with Ehime Prefecture, a prefecture representing one of the poorer prefectures beholden to the national ministries.

When he was invited by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce in the spring of 1997 to contribute an article on Ehime to its magazine and to be interviewed in Pittsburgh he asked me to accompany him. I reserved rooms in the Hilton Hotel and round trip tickets to Pittsburgh on Amtrak. It was worth the eight hour trip each way just to experience the two-minute ride around the world-famous horseshoe curve at the summit of the Allegany Mountains between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The track was constructed in 1854.

Unfortunately, the officer had no respect for American women, especially African-American women and his vulgar comments indicated his xenophobic attitudes due to lack of exposure to ethnic groups other than Asian. When we were alone, he took great pleasure asking me why African American women’s posteriors were fat, and why their male partners called them “baby.” His comments about Caucasian women were no less lewd.  He was fascinated with nipple piercing and “breast pillows.” It was so bizarre that I preferred turning a blind-eye.

Most of the rooms in the Hilton had been reserved by African-Americans attending a regional Baptist convention. Mr M gazed at the African-American women wearing pastel and crinoline frocks and elegant hats. Their small children were beautiful with their hair tied with pastel ribbons. There was not one fat posterior in sight. The convention was held in the hotel’s conference room. A gospel choir sang during the services and when I approached the assistants sitting at a table outside of the hall to inquire if Mr M and I could listen to the music we were greeted warmly and given seats in the front row with glasses of water to moisten our throats in case we wanted to join in. The choir was superb. I was careful not to speak to him about his views but I hoped that Mr M recognized all of the positive attributes of an ethnic group he had regarded as inferior to Japanese.

I took Mr M to the University of Pittsburgh for a bit of history and to lunch in the student cafeteria to observe the student body culture, which he enjoyed immensely. On to the Carnegie Mellon Institute and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse followed by a ride on a cable car up and down the Inclines. During a walk over one of the bridges crossing the Ohio River I explained Andrew Carnegie’s role in the city’s development and the impact on the city from Carnegie’s philanthropy.

Pittsburgh? Why Pittsburgh?

I received requests from one of the directors of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Washington DC for information about Japanese consumer culture and recommendations of the kinds of processed foods and produce which would find consumer acceptance. He included the information in the FAS monthly publication. He also referred food companies in search of market information to me for free advice. One conversation was with a marketer in Pillsbury who wanted to know if a frozen pizza would sell in Japan. I asked him if he had been to Japan to look at the frozen food section in supermarkets. When he replied that he had not I informed him that if he and his colleagues had done some on-site research they would have discovered that brands from the large domestic food producers would be tough competitors. Furthermore, the Japanese craved different toppings on their pizzas such as squid and octopus and that they tended to eat pizza as snacks and even for breakfast. I recommended that Pillsbury consider frozen bagels.

I organized a dialogue between the FAS director and the officer seconded from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries at JETRO New York. Both directors found the session instructive. When I mentioned that an officer from Ehime Prefecture government was also at JETRO New York, a few months later the director invited Mr M and me to give a presentation about Ehime consumer culture to the FAS at the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) in Washington DC. Since the trip was an opportunity to escape from JETRO and since his trip would be funded by Ehime Prefecture Mr M gladly accepted. I booked train tickets and the hotel.

The day before our departure for the FAS, I went to Research and Planning to assist Mr M arrange the presentation. In my haste I inadvertently tripped over Mr M’s waste paper basket and tore ligaments in my ankle. By the time I returned home, the pain was acute but I assumed if I taped the ankle, the pain would subside by morning. But on the contrary, my ankle and foot had swollen to such an extent that I could barely fit into my trainers which I wore with a proper blue suit for the trip to Washington DC.

We arrived at the FAS office by 10am and the director escorted us to a large meeting room where about thirty officers had gathered around a long table. The deputy director of the FDA greeted us, introducing me first as a writer for Inside/Outside Japan, adding, “And we are all looking at Inside/Outside Japan.” Her remark struck me as peculiar and I dismissed it until the end of Mr. M’s presentation when one of the officers present asked Mr. M his views on Japan – China relations. Before Mr. M could reply I interrupted stressing that our visit was to explain Ehime’s agricultural industry and consumer culture. Since some of the officers who attended had high security clearance, including the wife of the captain of Airforce One, I wondered if it was known that Mr M engaged in monitoring US-China relations. On the other hand, sending two copies monthly of Inside/Outside Japan to the CIA may have perked curiosity about what was transpiring at JETRO New York.

After the session Mr M and I were taken by the head of the FSA, the FDA deputy director and several officers who had attended the session to the FDA commissary for lunch. I managed to hobble down the long corridor to the commissary in my trainers and blue suit, not a typical outfit for a visit to Washington DC and the FDA. The lunch conversation focused on Mr. M’s experiences in the US. When he was asked his favorite American city, without mentioning that Pittsburgh was the only city he had visited outside of New York State, Mr M answered that he loved Pittsburgh. Everyone looked at me incredulously: “Pittsburgh?  Why Pittsburgh?”

As we departed the FAS office, a young woman ran after me and, handing me a slip of yellow paper with a phone number, she told me that if I needed anything I should call the number on the paper. Since I could always contact the FAS director I was concerned about the motivation and discarded the paper. Upon reflection, my unique fashion statement and Mr M’s love of Pittsburgh probably assuaged their suspicions that Mr M was a foreign agent and that JETRO New York was a base for industrial espionage.

Despite the ankle, within a few days I managed to take Mr M to masses of Americana. We visited the White House, the Capital Building, and took a ride on the underground tram to the Senate offices. We went to the Hall of Archives to see the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights. On to the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress where I took out a membership. I dragged Mr M to the Smithsonian Institute, the Lincoln Monument and to see the Vietnam Memorial and the Korean War Memorial nearby.

Visiting the homes of former American Presidents seemed to be the most entertaining and  the most effective means for exposing Mr M to American history. I rented a car for the drive to George Washington’s home in Mt Vernon, James Madison’s home in nearby Montpelier and, finally, to Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello, Virginia. Mr M may have had difficulty understanding the tour guides’ English explanations but the exhibits gave him a firm grasp of American history.

Mr M enjoyed a sail on the Chesapeake Bay on a crab trawler and eating soft shell crabs. His textbooks were void of Second World War history so I took him to the United States Ordinance Museum where old army aircraft and weaponry were on display. I photographed him sitting on a US tank and standing in front of the sign “Uncle Sam Wants You!” At the end of the trip, we visited Annapolis, the US naval college, which Mr M comfortably relate to perhaps because the photographs of healthy young naval plebs and the exhibits which focused more on America’s present rather than on its past.

More Escapes; Philadelphia and Lancaster, the home of Woolworths and the Amish

The trip to Pittsburgh and Washington triggered a string of requests from Mr M. during 1997 to take him to other regions. He never told me how he financed his travel expenses but I assumed that he was relying on the additional salary he received for secondment. I managed to cut costs by often staying with friends and family and leasing cars for the travel. It was an expensive and time-consuming venture but I recognized that my efforts would culminate in an invaluable trip to Ehime to confirm the relationship between a prefecture and the central ministries and the use of the subsidies received from central government coffers.

Since we could not be away from JETRO for longer than two days we used long weekends for travel, departing on Friday and returning on Sunday. I tried to pack in as much history as possible choosing Philadelphia and Lancaster Pennsylvania where the first Woolworths was established to provide Mr M a reason for being absent from the office.

I took Mr M to see the Liberty Bell before going to the Benjamin Franklin Museum where he learned that Franklin had been one of the authors of the American Constitution, was the Ambassador to France and had founded the US postal system. We went to the Reading Market where he enjoyed ice cream and various cakes before going to the adjacent China Town. The railroad museum with exhibits of locomotives detailed Pennsylvania’s economic development through the expansion of the railroad.

Even though the tour of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture and Wharton School was mildly interesting, Mr M’s best moments were spent in the university’s student union watching the students of various ethnic groups engaging with each other while they ate their lunch.

Lancaster proved a success because of the Amish in their traditional dress and their horse-drawn carriages. Mr M, a foody, liked the visit to a pretzel factory. I managed to squeeze in a tour of the George Washington Museum and Valley Forge before returning to New York.

Las Vegas: not just for the slots but for the mint and more

Mr M begged me to take him to Las Vegas. Initially, I did not consider the town relevant to regional economic development but then I reconsidered. Though financed largely by the Los Angeles underworld, the city was a perfect example of how a small town in the middle of the Mohave Desert became the entertainment capital of the world.

I reserved plane tickets and one hotel room with twin beds to conserve funds. Since I was his mother’s age, it was a perfectly proper solution. The plane landed at Las Vegas Airport in the evening and the town was ablaze with neon signs thanks to the diversion of the Colorado River which provides the water and the electricity. Mr M could not believe that profits from the gambling industry alleviated the need for Nevada’s corporate and state income taxes.

Before heading to the casino we visited the antique car show in the hotel. I allowed Mr M two nights at the slots and only $15 worth of chips each night. Mr M relished watching gamblers standing at the “one-arm-bandits” for hours while gulping down the casino’s fast food and giant plastic cups of soft drinks and beer. Of course, he sampled the food but gave it poor reviews. On all of our trips, Mr M’s main pleasure seemed to be staring at people as if they were animals in a zoo. He was definitely escaping from his world. The next day we were off by bus for the thirty mile ride to the Grand Canyon returning in the evening for a second night at the slots and a walk around downtown Las Vegas, people-gawking.

In the morning I rented a car and raced through the desert to Bryce Canyon National Park to show the magnificent red rock canyon of Southwest Utah. Mr M who was overcome by the expanse of land exclaimed, “Susan, America is too big and too rich!” which he repeated continuously until he returned to Japan. His attitude was probably similar to how many foreigners perceived the US.

Returning to Las Vegas, we boarded a flight to Reno because I wanted to show Mr M casinos which were primarily frequented by the retired community, a sharp contrast to Las Vegas.  Mr M was fascinated by the grey-haired gamblers and the fact that Reno was where anyone could get divorced and then remarry in a single day.

But Reno was not the end of the line. I took him to the US mint and railroad museums in Carson City to explain Nevada’s regional development through the silver mining industry and the transcontinental railroad constructed by Chinese immigrant laborers.

We made a pilgrimage to Tule Lake in northwest California where a monument commemorated one of the largest internment camps where American citizens of Japanese ancestry were interned after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I explained that the prisoners’ assets, including their farmland, had been confiscated. Ironically, the volcano Mt Shasta towered in the distance, a reminder of Mt Fuji with its cap of snow.

A Red White and Blue Fourth of July


For the Fourth of July holiday we took the ferry from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard to stay with my aunt and uncle in a cottage adjacent to their renovated farmhouse. The colorfully painted Victorian clapboard houses on one side of the island had been built during the Civil War by former slaves who had escaped southern plantations via the Underground Railroad.  The houses were now owned by their wealthy progeny who used them for holiday retreats. Mr M witnessed a traditional Fourth of July parade for the first time.

California Here We Come


Mr M wanted to visit the Sacramento State Fair in late August to view the livestock show and to meet several Japanese residents who were natives of Ehime. He would be able to charge the travel expenses to Ehime. This trip was a ten-day affair with the first stop in San Francisco.

The plane was scheduled to take-off from La Guardia at 7am and I instructed Mr M to wait outside of his apartment building where I would collect him by taxi at 5am sharp. Mr M was not outside when I arrived. I rang his bell several times before he answered in a sleepy voice. He finally appeared dishevelled and, whispering dramatically, he claimed that he had been all night at JETRO “spying” on something regarding a top level meeting between American and Chinese officials. I guessed that he had either been at JETRO “spying” or at a club in China Town.

We landed at San Francisco Airport in the evening. Since my parent’s flat could not accommodate guests, we stayed at a hotel. When Mr M complained that he could not see the Golden Gate Bridge that evening, to compensate, I called his room at 6:30am the following morning to insist that we walk across the bridge to see the sun rise over the Pacific and then to Bakers Beach for a view of the bridge. Mr M rode a cable car, walked through Golden Gate Park with an interlude at the Japanese Tea Garden for a cup of green tea, which he pronounced undrinkable, and Fisherman’s Wharf where he wolfed down fresh crab and prawns for a pittance compared to Japan.


On 31 August I borrowed my parent’s car for the drive to Sacramento and the State Fair where Mr M photographed a number of the livestock exhibits. We visited the Ehime residents’ home where Mr M exchanged gifts with them. In the late afternoon we headed back to the city. I made a pit stop at a gas station at 6:30pm and when I entered the store to pay the tab the news that Princess Diana had been critically injured in a car crash in a Paris tunnel was blaring from the shop’s radio. By the time we reached San Francisco, the princess had succumbed to her injuries.

The next morning, Mr M went alone to the Castro District which he called “Gay Town” to see how the community was reacting to the news of the death of one of the key supporters of Aids research. He photographed the colourful display of flowers laid in her memory. Mr M was enthralled with ‘Gay Town’ and returned the following day to “gay watch.”

My parents’ car came in handy during the rest of the trip. On the way to my family’s property located adjacent to the Point Reye’s Peninsula National Seashore Mr M saw the giant sequoias in Muir Woods. We drove to the Napa-Sonoma Valley for a visit to Jack London’s house because several of the author’s books had been translated into Japanese.

We took the half day trip from Fort Bragg through the redwood forests on the two-gauge Skunk Line in Humboldt Country to understand how the north-eastern California coast developed through lumber and fishing. The train made a fifteen minute stop at the junction between Fort Bragg and Willets where I purchase at a kiosk a fan decorated with the American flag labelled “made in China.”

Mr M asked to visit Stanford University to stroll around the campus and to eat in the student union so I extended the excursion to three days. On the way to Monterey I stopped in Gilroy the garlic capital of the word, where Mr M tasted the garlic-laced ice cream. We drove along the scenic Highway One to Carmel for a night before heading to Monterey where Mr M thoroughly enjoyed visiting the salt water aquarium which was funded by David Packard (the other half of Hewlett), an example of corporate philanthropy. Most likely Mr M had never read the works of John Steinbeck because SCAP had banned “Of Mice and Men.” As recently as 1991 the book had received numerous complaints in Japan for its racial slurs and offensive language. Regardless, I wanted Mr M to see the internationally renowned writer’s hometown. “Susan! America is too big and too rich!”

New York is a Wonderful Town but Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont is Better


Mr M cleverly connected the foray to Ben & Jerry’s in Manhattan with a request to visit Ben & Jerry’s corporate headquarters in Vermont because he wanted to “research” the corporate philosophy which focused on environmental issues. I connected the proposed pilgrimage with regional economic development.

For the three-day outing I rented a car and drove directly to Ben & Jerry’s. It was October and pumpkin season. Mr M was treated with a spectacular array of trees on fire with red and orange leaves. We toured Ben & Jerry’s, saw a short movie regarding the corporate philosophy  and sampled a soon-to be released chocolate ice cream laced with fish-shaped marshmallows named Phish Food after the rock group. I introduced Mr M to pumpkins and maple syrup before heading to Massachusetts and Tangle Wood, the summer camp for young musicians in the Berkshires and where the Seiji Ozawa, the Japanese conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted summer concerts. Mr M had read the Japanese translation of Moby Dick and so I took him to Herman Melville’s house where the author wrote the book while gazing from his study at a mountain called the “Grey Whale.”

On the way back to Manhattan I made a pit stop at a café in a small town so that Mr M could eat Sunday brunch while ogling residents on their way home from church wolfing down huge portions of pancakes, bacon, eggs and fried potatoes – a scene out of small town America.

“Susan!  America is too big and too rich!”