- The first article I wrote for FortLeePatch.com was at the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. Twenty four Japanese nationals, four of them were residing in Fort Lee on temporary transfer from Japan. Abruptly their families had to return to Japan to grieve and start over.
- Last week, across the globe, and still far from Japan, Japan lost 10 citizens, working at JGC, a Japanese corporation with facilities worldwide as well as in Algeria. This is the greatest loss of Japanese overseas since September 11, 2001.
Following the Algerian incident, Japanese international corporations, struggling with competition from neighboring China and Korea, are grappling with the reality that their “International Samurai” are vulnerable to the centuries-long violence and ancient hostilities of lands far from Japan.
Miyuki Kaneda and her husband lived in Algeria for two years before transfer brought them to Fort Lee. Newlywed, without children, the couple accepted the transfer
(transfer must be accepted, though wives are exempt). Now back in Japan, Miyuki says had no difficulties other than language, when living in Algeria, although she had more freedom in Fort Lee. In Algeria she had to use a car and driver for security.
The Kaku family left Fort Lee in 1998 for Japan after four years here. Just after September 11, 2001, Ryuzo Kaku was transferred to Dubail. Concerned about instability in the Middle-East, Ryuzo became “tanshin funin” an old Japanese term for Samurai lords dispatched to far reaches of the Shogun’s kingdom. As the samurai of the old Japan could not refuse their Lord’s order, while their families remained “hostage” in Edo (Old Tokyo, Ryuzo had to go to Dubai.
Two years later his wife, Makiko, and daughter, Azumi, joined him in Dubai, while son Hiromi stayed at a high school dormitory in Japan. Middle-eastern countries are different, Makiko told me. Women can drive in Dubai. She could shop and go to nice restaurants, Azumi went to a Japanese school, and Ryuzo played golf.
Japan has had a unique place in geography. The country is four islands, about the size of California, completely surrounded by ocean. For nearly three hundred years, Japanese were forbidden to leave their land, and foreigners were forbidden to enter the Shogun’s domains.
In today’s competitive international business world, Narita airport in Tokyo receives visitors from all over the world. And Japanese business, like JGC Corporation must send their employees to places which are unstable or dangerous. Although Algeria was not expected to be deadly for Japanese employees, or “safe” as New York was thought to be and was when the Kakus and the Kanedas and thousands of other of Fort Lee’s “neighbors” from Japan resided here, Japan, Inc., as well as its newly elected government and Prime Minister Shintaro Abe have to deal with memorials to those lost and plan, for the first time, with Japanese businesses to protect Japanese working overseas.