are the people in this 1982 picture taken outside the Emperor's Palace?
Left: Robert Brown, JASK Chair
Baby: Matt Krebs, JASK Executive Director
Picture: Glen Krebs, JASK Founding Member and former Chair
*(Matt’s Grandpa is holding him)
Robert, Glen, and Matt have each shared comments about being foreigners in Japan in the early 80's and what they learned from the experience.
From Robert Brown:
the 1980s, I was working for a great Japanese company, Mitsui & Co. After
several years in the New York office, I was transferred to the Tokyo head
office. For me, I found it a fairly easy transition from one big city,
New York, to another, Tokyo. It was particularly easier than the transition I
had made from Kentucky, small and modest size cities, to New York City, a
big city. I am still intrigued that large cities in their size have more
in common even across cultures, than different size cities in the same
culture. One reason is that being surrounded by a well-established
pattern in Tokyo made the adjustment fairly easy. I stayed in a
Mitsui dorm, I worked in Mitsui's downtown Tokyo building with a view of the
Imperial Palace, I could eat lunch in the building, and I attended Japanese
courses during the day for the first three months. The evenings were
spent with Japanese colleagues or attending Masters of Science courses at Jochi
Daigaku (Sophia University) on Japanese business practices. My living was
established and filled with activities. My fiancé, however, came to Japan,
where we were married. Not having a job, she found the days very long
until she started teaching English.
day, I received a telephone call at work from an attorney who had just arrived
in Tokyo. He was referred to me by one of his law professors,
who also taught courses during the summers in Tokyo. Recognizing the
adjustment that many people have to Tokyo, I agreed to meet him for
lunch. I quickly realized that this attorney was not going to have any
adjustment problems. He spoke Japanese better that I did and had brought
his family with him. Over the next two years, our families spent many
weekends visiting each other or places in Tokyo. One of my favorite
memories was going to the Imperial Palace for the Emperor's birthday. On such
occasions, the Emperor would come out on his balcony, waive at the crowds and
have his picture taken from afar. I only have blurry pictures of this
occasion since I had my new camera on the wrong setting. There is a small
white spot in one of the pictures, which could be the Emperor waving but it
could be anything. My good friend, Glen, however, did bring his camera and did
have the correct setting, as you can see from the picture above. As you can see, I am practicing my parental skills by
staring down a crying baby. That baby is Matt Krebs, our executive
From Glen Krebs:
Tomodachi: the Japanese word loosely
translates as 'friend' or 'friends.' When I
moved to Japan in 1981 to begin working for a Japanese law firm, my pregnant
wife and two small children accompanied me.
The law professor who helped me get the job also suggested that I try to
find a friend of his who was working for Mitsui & Co. in Tokyo. I followed my professor’s advice and made a
new friend in Japan. When my new friend
was sick he gave me his basketball tickets.
Our families participated in many cultural events together – including
paying our respects to the Emperor on his birthday at the Imperial Palace. We even helped celebrate my new friend’s
wedding in Japan.
We made many great
friends during our two year stay in Japan.
Some were Americans, others were Japanese. We have maintained contact with several of
them during the past thirty years. It is
cliché to say that relationships are important when doing business in Japan, but
for our family, the relationships we made in Japan in the early 1980s shaped
our lives and even the lives of our children.
Since coming to Kentucky, our relationships with Japanese friends have
multiplied and continue to enrich our lives.
Last year I was reminded
of the impact of the friendship of John Manjiro and Captain Whitfield. Their relationship has lasted for many
generations. I hope the same can be said
for the Brown – Krebs friendship which is currently in its second generation.
From Matt Krebs:
For the record: I did do
more than cry (see picture above) when I was in Japan in the 1980s. In fact, I began a lifetime of friendship
with the Japanese. The home in Yokohama
where I spent two years as a baby was across the street from a Japanese high
school. Of course at that time, I knew
nothing about law firms, trading companies, or even the Japanese language. However, I remember that the teenagers from
the school used to enjoy walking by our house as they left school.
As a blonde-haired little American boy I
would stand, stare and smile as the students would hurl their newly acquired
English phrases at me: “This is a pen,” or, “My name is Yoshi.” I could only babble back to them but they
enjoyed the interaction with foreigners, and so did I. I must have begun to learn that our words do
not matter as much as our enthusiastic reaching out across the Japan/America
border. Thirty years later I appreciate more
profoundly that Japanese families have come to Kentucky and I am proud that
JASK creates opportunities for us to warmly welcome our Japanese friends. I am glad to have moved beyond: “This is a