May the “GAMAN” Be With You!
by Harper Cornell on May 1, 2011
Janice Bashore, our very own Mizuno apparel guru, returned from a recent trip to Japan with a new perspective. Janice is still waiting for the "perfect" head shot to be taken of her so we can set her up with her own blog author profile on our website, so Eric is posting this on her behalf.......
May the “GAMAN” Be With You!
Upon much deliberation with my family, and more importantly, Bob the Cat, (he was worried that the tuna train may dry up,) I decided to go ahead and make the trip to our Global Fall AW2012 development meeting in Osaka, Japan.
As I exited Kansai International Airport, I immediately knew that this trip was going to be different than any of the previous 50 times I had been to the mother ship. First of all I missed the 4:10 bus which meant I had to wait an hour and thirty minutes to catch the next one. Feeling flush with yen, (I have mastered the Japanese ATM), and trying to figure out how to disguise the receipt in my expense report, I headed to the taxi area. The difference between the taxi and bus is about $130, so...I had some serious splainin’ to do Lucy! But after 20 hours, I was overcome with overconfidence.
To my good fortune, I landed one of the only female taxi drivers in Osaka, and the only one granted access to Kansai Airport. The look of surprise must have been on my face, because she asked me twice what was my destination in perfect English. In my best Japanese I responded Hyatto Hotel kudasai. She says, oh the Hyatt Regency, it will be 14,000 yen. I said “Do you take credit cardos” (Us English speakers just put “O”’s on the end of English words and we think we are speaking Japanese.) She hesitated, I send no problem. I just raided the ATM machine!
So off we went on a 50 minute journey that should have taken 40. (Will explain that one later.) In about 5 minutes I knew much about my driver. For the sake of her privacy, let’s call her Jean (that’s my middle name). She was a native of Osaka, had been driving a taxi since 1994, her mother was 80 and played softball and danced ballet, (there was another sport in there but the visual of a four foot 80 year old women playing softball and also dancing ballet got the best of me), loves to drive her taxi, loves her city, and of course, loves to speak English. Enough about her, I wanted to know if the city was safe, if I could eat the sushi, and I could run outside and not come home with a radiation suntan. (My sister is still not speaking to me!) In other words, I was displaying typical American impatient, self-serving behavior.
In wonderful enthusiasm, she said “It is business here as usual, we are 1000 miles away, and Japan is a big country.” I tried to do the math in my head….1000 miles away from Atlanta, is Omaha. My sister can eat Bob the Cats Tuna!
She spoke with true pride when she told me she was proud of her people. And she meant it! The word she used was patient, or “GAMAN” in Japanese.
“There has been no looting, no fighting or pushing in food lines, no one taking advantage of our devastating condition in the north. My people are resilient, and can live with less. In a word, we are patient” Tomoko said. “GAMAN”.
Hmmm…I thought to myself, I’m not sure I can say the same about my people, or me! Patience is something seldom practiced in our country. Can you imagine what might have happened if that level of catastrophe would have happened in the United States? I shudder to think!
As we chatted and I contemplated the thought of truly sacrificing for others, Jean shrieked “We have missed our exit off the highway. In 16 years of driving a taxi, I have never missed my turn!” Embarrassed, she said she would stop the meter right there and charge me no more until we got to my destination. I replied, no worries, a few kilometers out of my way is no big deal. (Again, I was flush with yen!) Plus, she swore me to secrecy that she missed her turn. Was it “GAMAN” I began to experience? True to her word, the meter went off. Do you think that would have happened in New York City? As we went over the bridge in a direction I have never been, I saw the Mizuno Building (called the Crysta Tower, once the tallest building in Osaka) from a side I had never seen before. I looked at my company with a new view, a new level of respect. A culture of “GAMAN” I have experience many times, but never really appreciated. Whether it be through the way we approach, develop and design product, or not bringing a product to market that’s not decidedly better, or the great lengths they go to speak English at our Global Meetings (I am the only westerner on our global team), my company is one of patience, of personal sacrifice, and empathy for all. As we speed back to the Hyatto, I wished for another wrong turn, so I continue my trip of “GAMAN”. But alas, we were there in a skoshi (a little) and I felt a slight pain when I paid Jean. Not because of the hit in my wallet, because I meet an old soul that looked at life as a glass half full, not half empty after her country was devastated. She got out of the taxi and hugged me. Of course I was the best fare she ever had. Those that know me, I am not the hugging type, but I found myself hugging her back. I struggled to think, should I tip her? Strictly taboo in Japan. I wanted Jean to know she had left an impression. Instead, I said something profound, like I am prone to do…..
Let the GAMAN be with you!
More importantly, I promised her I would practice patience and sacrifice when I returned to the States. As a tribute to Jean and all that have suffered in Japan, upon my return, I have done just that. “GAMAN”. If you want to help those in Japan, I would ask you to do the same. Though they may need money and services, they would take more gratification in the fact that we would adopt more patience, “GAMAN”, and personal sacrifice, for the betterment of all mankind. It is truly one of the things that makes their country great and will propel them to overcome this horrible tragedy of Mother Nature.
So let “GAMAN” be within you!
PS: Sorry, Jean I know I promised not to tell!