Monday, March 14, 2022

March 4

"Ladies/Gentlemen, yesterday (March 4), I completed my 91st year and today started my 92nd calendar year. The best birthday message I received was from a woman friend, a Japanese lady and a great skier from Hokkaido, now living in Yokohama. Was it from Yokohama? Nope! It came from the famous Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains Ski Resorts, the 2010 Vancouver Olympic site, via Facebook Messenger. Never thought she would travel across the Pacific and remember my birthday. Messages were coming in from my children in the US as usual but this skier's message was UNEXPECTED and SPECIAL and made my day. I danced with joy with wavering emotion."

I received another half dozen messages from overseas, a number of Taiwan friends, and Facebook friends.

During the New Year this year, Toshiki Kaifu, the 76th and 77th Prime Minister passed away. He was born in January, 1931, and I thought he was the most successful of our generation. During boyhood, he and I shared the same experiences working as mobilized students at the airplane manufacturing plants. Kaifu was at MHI Nagoya and I at Toray-turned MHI near Hiroshima. I learned that he passed a test to become a boyhood pilot, same as I. I regarded him as a fellow comrade who survived the tumultuous Showa war-time era. Kaifu went to Waseda University, majoring in politics and refining his natural gift of oratory eloquence, but immediately took a job as disciple/secretary of Kensho Kono (1910-1958), a Liberal Democrat politician with free three-meal benefits. Kaifu also helped Mrs. Kono win the election (for one term) upon the death of her husband, which helped him cultivate his own political constituency after this endeavor. Kaifu got elected in 1960 as the youngest Dietman in 1960; then during the scandalous 1980s Recruit's Insiders Trading affairs, he was miraculously chosen as the “cleanest” politician to head the Liberal Democratic Party. Kaifu was 58 years old then.

Now here is my story! What I craved for in my teen years, in reflection, was adventure of other worlds. I was born by the sea – exploring the ocean while growing up! - wherever! - you have to work to live! - then, must learn a foreign language and appreciate different cultures - as well as to increase your sales value - chose (major in) English - first got a hard translation job - studied technology commuting to a two-year college on electricity at night. Was "lucky" enough to go on a first overseas trip in 1957 before the official foreign exchange - then a stable job in NYC in the ‘60s, then on to San Diego, California in ‘70s and ‘80s with family - returned to Japan in 1995. Would have stayed living in California except for an agreement with my spouse - my Californian Dreams shattered and broken.

What have I achieved in California? Work life as compared with my comrade Kaifu? In 1989, I was promoted to Corporate Officer of a US Subsidiary of a Japanese company. That's only two years later than Kaifu becoming the Transportation Minister in Prime Minister Takeshita’s cabinet. Not bad, right? I regularly spoke to over 100 plant employees before they started work.

My speech experience helped when I started working on my Toastmaster speeches upon returning to Japan. DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) Award was consigned to me in 2002, about 5 years after joining the worldwide TM Organization. What I like about TM is that it is a non-profit organization and members are the top tier of the organization, followed by clubs, areas, divisions, districts, regions, headquarters and board of directors (at very bottom) in an inverted organizational chart. You can make as many friends as you like without involving anybody and members are all supportive in achieving excellence, particularly in communication and friendship. TM became my social backbone after retirement. I was reborn and re-established as an ardent TM, traveling all over Japan, Kyushu in particular, in helping TM clubs grow from cradle to being chartered. TM activities became my sense of life fulfillment.

On family life - I am proud my son graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Master's degree in mechanical engineering and completing the Executive Masters of Business Administration from San Diego State University. He was honored to speak at graduation as valedictorian. My daughter graduated from San Diego State University with a Master's degree in music and she married her classmate who pursued and got his Doctorate. My daughter has given me grandchildren - a granddaughter, now a quality engineer with a chemical engineering degree, and a grandson who is now a freshman at University of California, San Diego. My California Dreams reborn.


Unknown said...

Ryo san, 🌻 happy birthday to you🎼🎶. I truly enjoy reading your blog. May you continue to enjoy life to the fullest. Your friend, Helen🤠

rio imamura said...

Helen, thank you very much for your supportive comment and encouragement.
Best wishes to your married life you started. rio