How does one actually meet and connect with people in Japan? It seems to be a perennial problem for Gaikokujin living in the unfamiliar surroundings of this land. Come to think of it, I had a hard time making connections with people for work and pleasure in my own country. Perhaps we just bring phobias and anxieties across the Pacific Ocean with us and blame it on our surroundings. Luckily there are people like the kindly Mr. Urano to ease the levers of the social machine into place, making one feel comfortable, connected and invited to be a part of something special.
Urano-san is a stately Osakan with a friendly manner, quick wit and kind disposition whose persona can be succinctly summed up as a gentlemanly. Osaka Ali met Urano-san while he was promoting his English school, and after a casual conversation, they hit it off rather well. After another longer coversation about culture, history and life, Urano-san extended an invitation to attend “the VIP meeting” as he put it. “Well, I am not sure about attending a VIP meeting…” said Osaka Ali. “Of course, everyone who attends the VIP meeting is a VIP” said Urano-san, matter-of-factly. With that, Osaka Ali knew that he would attend this enigmatic event.
The VIP meeting was held at the swank Ramada Osaka, specifically at Neuf Neuf, last weekend. It was a good chance to get to know folks from a variety of backgrounds who reside here in Osaka. There were scientists, entrepreneurs, students, company controllers, photographers, and perhaps a celebrity or two. In all, seventeen Very Important People attended. All was fueled by abundant food and libations and the conversation was animated and never lacked for interest or amiability.
Osaka Ali had the good fortune to meet Doug, a fellow Yankee who has done business in Japan for twenty years and lived to tell the tale. He had excellent tax advice, but more on that another time. Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to Janet, a radiant redheaded beauty from the States whose regal and welcoming manner made Ali feel more than at ease. Urano-san says that a meeting without Janet is like a vase without a flower. Next, he met Susume-san, an accomplished professional engineer whose passion is putting together amateur musicians to play pop music concerts for the people in his community. His joyful spirit was palpable when he described the annual concert at a local junior high school. His special treat for audiences is to dress up in costume as a recognizable anime character. It was obvious to Osaka Ali that Yo-San knows how to raise emotional tones with musical tones, and to spread good cheer and happiness through music.
During dinner, Osaka Ali had the good fortune to be seated next to two lovely ladies, Naoko and Ritsu who work at a large pharmaceutical company based in Europe. They were just delighted to escape the confines of corporate life to let their hair down and relax. Osaka Ali was just glad to be seen with these adorable women. Ritsu-San and Ali waxed sentimental about New York City and Mrs. Field’s cookies, a much pined-for delicacy in Japan.
Also present was Kaoru-San who had fascinating tales to tell about his work as a teacher of visually impaired teenagers who bravely overcome limitations to excel academically and personally. Jonathan and Richard shared the good news of the launching of their new business ventures. In conversation about the future of business in Asia, Richard shared a 21st Century Dustin Hoffman “The Graduate”-esque moment by saying, “one word, GRAPHENE.”
Yo-san and Francis shared some conversation with Osaka Ali, both having French connections and interesting stories to tell. Yo-san has a particularly fascinating project: he photographs city hall buildings all around Japan and in other countries as well. He observes that one can learn a lot about a society, no matter the size, by studying their civic architecture. Certainly more in store from Yo-san and his unique project.
These and many other fine men and women enjoyed the evening’s lively meeting and activities and look forward to meeting again, perhaps with some new faces as well. A quick group photo captured all of the happiness and spirit of friendship of the evening before each went a separate way. The VIP Club philospophy is that everyone has importance and dignity, no matter what station that they hold in society. Perhaps being a VIP is making others feel like VIPs as well. Osaka Ali, for one, hopes to share the VIP philospophy with many more.