What will a Japanese diplomat miss most after returning from a tour of duty in Washington?
February 7, 2000
After five years in the U.S. capital, a Japanese friend was recently called home by his government to take a ministerial position in Tokyo. At the party he hosted to say goodbye to his American friends, we asked him to describe what he had enjoyed most about his stay in the United States.
We had expected to hear some tale of diplomatic intrigue — something typically “Washington.” But, he told his, what he really enjoyed most was the luxury of working shorter hours than he was accustomed to in Tokyo. It had given him the time, he said, to fulfill his lifelong dream of learning to play the piano.
After treating us to a piece he had learned for the occasion, someone asked him if he planned to ship his piano to his new home across the Pacific — or would he buy a new piano there. “Well, the piano is not going with me,” he said sadly, “It will have to stay here.”
His guests were surprised. Surely his Tokyo workday would not be so long that he would never have time to play his piano. “No,” he explained, “Tokyo apartments are simply too small for a piano — and the walls are too thin to hold in the sound. I have no choice but to leave it here.”
Then his face brightened. “Fortunately,” he said, “I found a substitute in a music shop here — the perfect fit for my Tokyo apartment. It’s one of those Japanese-made electronic keyboards. When I come home late at night, I can put on the headphones and play my sonatinas.”
Thus, while many people are protesting the changes caused by globalization, my friend found a way to get globalization to help him adapt to those changes.
Cleaning Up After the Bureaucracy
February 4, 2000