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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Yasuo Sasano, manager of Kurumi Mansion


Yasuo Sasano, 62, is the manager of Kurumi Mansion, an extended-stay hotel in Tokyo's Koto Ward. Located on the Sumida riverside, across from Tokyo City Air Terminal, Kurumi Mansion's convenient position and reasonable prices have made it a magnet for savvy travelers. An added attraction is Sasano himself, whose warm welcome — in fluent English and basic French — adds to the cozy atmosphere emphasized by the hotel's potted plants and quaint tiny water mill by the entrance. Kurumi Mansion is a repeater's haven, a home from home, and the heart and soul of the operation is definitely Sasano. A former salesman and world traveler, he's a mine of information that visitors are welcome to tap into.

News photo
Yasuo Sasano JUDIT KAWAGUCHI

In Japan, if the content is good, there is no need to pay attention to the surface — just keep it clean. I was a salesman for 35 years. I visited hundreds of companies in Japan, and some abroad, too. I found that in Japan many famous companies are housed in old, run-down buildings. Keeping offices in such a state means the president and the board members are frugal and confident. They don't want to show off and publicly display that they are making a lot of profit. In Japan, the rich often looks poor.

Inbound tourism is still down but the level of affection visitors have for Japan is way up. Before, only unique, wonderful people would come to Japan; but now, a year after the March 11 triple disaster, the people who visit here are truly special. These foreigners really love Japan and their positive attitude creates even more positive feedback. We Japanese are so thankful for every person who lands on our islands, and we now make more of an effort to make sure they enjoy their stay. I think now is the time to visit Japan.

Plus the food here is cheap and delicious: I had a gyūdon lunch-set with miso soup for ¥280 today!

Be brave enough to change jobs! I was, and in my time that was very unusual. I switched jobs a few times when I was young. When I hit 50, I was ready to call it quits at work again. My son was only 8 years old, so my wife must have been very worried about the future. But I had to quit. From age 35 to 50 I worked in a company and was a top salesman. But with the economy deteriorating, I felt that I couldn't improve sales anymore. I am just an average guy, but through hard work I achieved good results. I knew I was going to be just living off my company instead of making money for it. I didn't want any part of that. So I quit and took my family on a holiday. When we got back, I miraculously found a new job.

In Japan, the people are great but the government is not. I'm getting angry with the Japanese government. We have records of 10-meter tsunami hitting the coast of Japan that go back more than 1,000 years. Japanese people have diligently updated such tsunami records for 1,500 years, so we have precise data on how prone Japan is to quakes and tsunami. Yet the Japanese government allowed the construction of nuclear reactors on our coastline. Why is nobody being held responsible?

Japanese treat objects with respect and affection. It would be nice to extend that level of care to humans, too. We use things for a long time, and a chipped dish is considered even more beautiful than a perfect new one. We recycle and we are kind to the environment. Why not apply these values to people as well?

Japan should make better use of older people. I'm lucky — I found work four years ago, after I had retired, but many in their 60s can't find a job. Some go abroad to work for free so that they can teach young people their skills.

When you don't want the audience to understand the news, just use foreign words. I think Japanese TV news is incomprehensible for many people. I wonder if that's on purpose. TV announcers — especially those on NHK, our national broadcaster — use a lot of English terms, such as "agenda," "gender," "manifesto," "consensus" and "informed consent." Why? We have perfectly good Japanese expressions for such concepts, so why not use those?

Use your anger in the right direction — toward yourself. When I was 17 and in the third grade of high school, I was not a good student. My teacher told me that he thought I would not be able to go to university. I got so mad at him, and asked the principal to let me switch classes. In the new class, I studied so hard that I got almost 100 percent on every test. I noticed that I did well if I worked hard. Before that, I had no idea of my potential. I'm not stupid; I was just lazy! — that was a revelation to me, and I suddenly loved my teacher. Good educators are tough.

As long as you can learn new things, life is good. I was 52 when I quit my job and moved to Hawaii to take an intensive business course. I studied for four months and then did a two-month internship in Los Angeles. Once I graduated, I got a new job again. Life is good because I can keep on learning and working.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "journeys in japan" Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com. Twitter: @judittokyo.


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