Japan/America Society of Kentucky

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There are so many interesting and intelligent folks who enjoy reading JASK.org.  Our JASPectives column features articles by these JASK members and friends. 

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  • 01 Feb 2010 4:41 PM | Deleted user
    Copy of jask matt and robert cropped.jpgWho are the people in this 1982 picture taken outside the Emperor's Palace? 

    Far Left:            Robert Brown, JASK Chair

    Crying Baby:     Matt Krebs, JASK Executive Director

    Taking 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:

    In 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. 

    One 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 director. 


    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 pen!”

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Japan/America Society of Kentucky
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