Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, brought his kabuki tour to Congress yesterday, and aside from a few things getting lost in translation, there were none of the Japanese hallmarks we were hoping for. Not only did he fail to unleash a back-breaking bow, he apparently played it just like an American CEO would, right down to the empty evasions.
There’s a language lesson in all this. Should any of its own readers find themselves in the reverse situation, hauled before some panel of angry Japanese authorities, The Wall Street Journal offers a little help:
He often fell back on Japanese cliches that executives and politicians use in such situations, saying he would work to ensure the mistakes “don’t happen a second time” (n ido to okoranai you ni). He prayed for the souls of accident victims (gomeifuku wo oinori suru).
Want a catchier cliché? The Journal can help with that too:
Mr. Toyoda stuck by the proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”—or, as they say in Japan, “When in a go [county], conform to that go.”
The italics are The Journal‘s; the rest of it you’ll have to translate yourself. A slightly servicey slant might help to set the paper’s coverage apart, given what sounds like an utter mess of media swarming the hearing.
“I’ve covered Congress for 7 years, and the Akio Toyoda scrum was like nothing I’ve ever seen up here,” wrote Bloomberg Television‘s Lizzie O’Leary on Twitter yesterday afternoon.