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PART 1 My life began with a-bomb
(1) Story of My Early Life
I was born on October 28 1931 as the first son with three elder sisters. Later years I had two younger brothers to compose a family of eight members with our parents, which is an ordinary size of a Japanese family in those days. My parents were energetic and capable of making a fairly comfortable living with big family. With the exception of my youngest brother’s death by the a-bomb, five of us children are alive with the age of 89, 85, 81, 78 (me) and 75 of age. My father, Yuuichi, I was told, was so eager to have a son after his three daughters. He never stopped trying to father a son was what my mother later years used to tell me with a smile. Then born a son baby to his joy. He seemed as if he was so happy as if he got a prince to succeed him. One of the episodes of my babyhood was that I could not get out smoothly from my mother’s stomach, stopping with head out because of my shoulders were bigger than an ordinary baby. The baby made a first cry after a moment of the doctor tapping the baby by the hips hanging down with its feet in his hand. The baby was so vigorous, I was told, that it began some ten months after birth to try to toddle along something with its hands on. It was at around that time the baby got a high fever. Being a prince like boy baby for the parents, its mother dashed to see the doctor, she later years told me. As soon as she got in the doctor, she asked him, “Don’t tell me this baby was stricken by infantile paralysis!?” The doctor denied even with smile in his face. In those days, people in Japan did not even know the name of it. You know why she feared it? She was born in Hawaii and stayed there until she became eleven years old when she came back to Japan. She was far ahead of Japanese for knowing about polio. The doctor, by the way, in an instant, responded saying, “Never infantile paralysis, only catching a cold. Don’t worry.” With some doubtful worry in her mind, she returned home with one injection to the baby as if to be eased her fear. A day after, however, she came to know that the baby still has fever and she noticed that the right leg was not crawling up when she changes the diaper, as if the leg is stretched out unmovable.
She dashed to the doctor like a mad woman and asked the doctor with her face white anger, “Are you sure the baby is never infantile paralysis!?” The doctor, watching the baby’s leg, said, “…I am sorry. It is. But nothing could be made. It is too late. I am so sorry…” later years when I grew up good enough to understand thing about me, she said about what happened between her and the doctor. I condemned the doctor, she said, “What on earth are you checking my son! I told you so! You have got to have it cured! I beg of you! Please!...” She appealed and begged the doctor by pounding the desk or something, she said to me years later. I could easily imagine she was like a mad woman at that time. I even feel it was mother instinct what even a doctor could not check what she knew or foresees her baby’s life crisis. Indeed, it was a tragedy for my parents, especially for my mother. At this age, I really come to think that I have given my parents such sorrow and miserable experience for my own physical misfortune soon after my birth. I even think that I played “an un-filial baby”.
This is something that I later years come to believe that everything that comes to me comes from the Will of God, which I need to write far after this. I was told later years, however, my parents used to spend so much money, trying to make their first son’s recovery in any way they could. One day, my father’s friend doctor gave him an advise to spend no money for depending on anything but try to get the baby well nourished in stead. This made the parents attitude 180 degree turns to the baby, I was told. After all, I have been unable to walk by myself until shortly before entering elementary school. I used to crawl along on my hands and knees, which made my arms and hands tough and strong, though. By the way, I used to be told by mother about polio as I grew up. She often said to me, “Yuuki, polio-stricken people are great and clever by nature. Look at the American President Roosevelt and Loo Gerick of New York Yankees! Both of them are polio survivors. So you try to be like those great men!” That encouraging words of hers continued even during World War II, you know. This admirable mother was born in the Meiji era in 20-century and lived through Taishou, Shouwa through Heisei of four ages and died in 21-century of January 3 in the year of 2001 at the age of 102.
Part 2 My life began with a-bomb
What I learned learned learned learned on the back of mother Wherever I go, I was on the back of my mother. My childhood was spent on her back. She walked me on her back. I used to feel nice and warm with her back. The radius of my operation or the view itself has been obliged to be limited as compared with that of the ordinary persons who are capable of going wherever they wish and do. Once I decided to walk to a curtain place, I gazed at the spot never being able to look and watch around to see what are happening around me. This trend of my activity behavior has continued up until this time more or less.
At the age of 60, however, things happen to use what you call “supportive device for a physically handicapped person” on my both leg and foot. The devices have played ever since wonderful opportunities and joy for my life, which would be written far after this book. One thing that I should write about my good experience on the back of my mother is that I learned how to pronounce “V, R, L, TH”. For instance, when she walked me on her back, she walked to the rhythm saying, “left, right, left, right” was it.
As it is known, Japanese is in those sounds. Her English was sure as she lived in Hawaii until the age of eleven. She entered in Hiroshima Jogakkou, the present Hiroshima Mission School. She used to tell me proudly that the founder of the school, Miss Gaines, used my mother as her interpreter for the students occasionally.
My English ability as far as its pronunciation and elocution are concerned, therefore, I owe to her great deal. In fact, if I say something in English at this age here in the Philippines, people say, “Are you American?” I have never looked as Japanese ever since I am here. This makes me all the more reason why I should continue to speak it clearly and surely. I have one more thing that I learned from mother for which I still remember vividly and that for the good of my whole life ever since. And that is, she taught me the word “Even”. She used to say to me, “Yuuki, you have a handicap. In order not to let it make difference or gap to the ordinary persons or to keep ‘even’ to others, you have to make effort twice as much as they do. Get it!?”
These simple words of hers ever since became the root of my attitude toward life, making people say and say myself too, “I am a man of efforts”. Years later, I became to believe that even if not specially talented myself or even having handicap, if I works ten hours or more while others eight hours, I would be as good or catch up with as those talented or un-handicapped.
The image of Yoshida as “a man of effort and hungry spirit” thus has been as it is ever since my great mother taught me, for which I have been thankful to her and the same to God for making me handicapped. When I write such things about me, the readers may think, “Oh, Yoshida is such a capable man in spite of his physical disability to be praised for his accomplishment!”. I am not that type of a man to be admired at, you know. I am a very ordinary man or sometimes have made stupid errors in a long way of life up until this age of 78. I recall myself that I was a naughty plain boy like every boys are. For instance, when someone makes fun of me crippled or pretend my duck like walking style, I used to be brave enough to fight against him. My style of fighting was funny, you know. I sit on the ground and say, “Come on! Let’s fight!” was it. It is the style of “groundwork technique” in Judo and “pinning technique” in wrestling.
Once I sit and fight I never be the loser. I recall, therefore, I was not the type of a genuine or study-crazy boy, never. The lesson I learned from mother, therefore, is something that has grown up later years.
As regards my physical deformity, I never had what you call “pathetic or complex mind or inferiority complex” at all. I was optimist or cheerful person, so to speak. This was because of my life environment surrounded by three tender sisters who loved me so much and rather well to do family.
When I think of my character or personality from the boyhood, I admit that I was and am by nature very pure, gentle and mild. This, I believe, has led me to accept later years that my physical deformity is the trial and gift given me by God.
By the way, my first name “Yuuki” has an episode. My father’s first name was “Yuuichi”. The Chinese character of “yuu” has its root of God’s help. When he became a serious disease some seven doctors said that even if he recovered, some aftereffects would be left.
He completely recovered, however, that nothing left. The doctors, some of them are his friends, said in one same word, “As your first name implies, God saved you ONE TIME”. “Ichi” of “Yuuichi” means “one”, which could be interpreted to “God saved him one time”. The person who was helped one time by God, my father, named me “Yuuki”. “ki” of “Yuuki” means “stand, rise, build or get-up”.
I have an interesting story that my mother used to tell me. She used to say, “Our ancestors are said to have a long history of some 300-year. The Yoshida Family had a 300-year family tree. If we go back and back to the olden days, we would come to the Kanmu Emperor’s root. Your grand-grand mother was said to get married to the family simply because she wanted the family tree, although the family tree was burned by fire some time ago…”
Whether the story is true or not I don’t know. While my father named me “Yuuki”, which, as mentioned before, means “Risen up by God’s help”. He used to tell me why I was named so.
According to our parents, our ancestors, at the time of “Meiji Reformation”, sold the land and houses with no hesitation to pay good enough money to the servants what we call “retirement money”. This non selfish measure made the family poor ever since, my parents used to say to us. The important thing about my naming of “Yuuki;Risen up by God’s help” was, therefore, my parents, especially father, strongly placed on me some desire or wish that I would be the person who would “rebuild” the family of Yoshida.
Ever since then, I have been telling myself I am sort of a man given a mission in my life to do something. I, as a son of the Yoshida family, placing in that destiny, became crippled by polio. This brought my father to name the second son, Yuuji. “ji” in Chinese character means “take in charge of” or “administer”, meaning “Yuuki helps and supports physically handicapped Yuuki”.
For further information, the third son, Yuusaku, the one who died by the atomic bomb, comes from the meaning of “strategist”. Those three sons would rebuild the family of Yoshida, was our father’s dream, so to speak.
A very interesting about my first younger brother, Yuuji, is that he happens to name his three children all with the character of “yuu” as if his family is destined to succeed the Yoshida family. While on the other side, I have been divorced with my former wife with three children. They have no name of “yuu” on their sons and daughters, even their own family name changed to that of my former wife’s family name. The voice of “Why?” seems to be heard from the readers.
Maybe this is what God worked for me to do something more important to do in my life. As the readers know, I have moved my residence here in the Philippines and am determined to spend the rest of my life here until the day of coming back to the Heaven.
By the way, my father used to say, “I would have to take care of Yuuki through his life…” Such impossible thing no matter how he saves money. The very person who said that impossible future died at the age of 45, right a year after the a-bomb drop. Ironically, the a-bomb changed his life to work for his son-in-law who asked our father to work for his sawmill, where he met the accident to death.
Here lies one of the destinies of what I am now unable to talk about my life without telling of the “a-bomb and me”. I would like to take this opportunity to write something about my brothers and sisters. Yuuji, three years younger than I have for years enjoying his retirement life with a so and daughter, who, as mentioned, have “yuu” in their first names and their children.
The youngest brother, Yuusaku, died soon after the a-bomb, who appears hereafter. My eldest sister, Hatsue age of 89, lives in a care home alone. Her husband is the very person who asked our father to help him for the sawmill operation which took his life. I owe him much of my success, which I would like to write more hereafter.
The second elder sister, Fumiko age of 86, is in care home unable to do anything by herself. I owe her my life at the time of the a-bomb, which l write after.
The youngest elder sister, Hiroko 81 of age, had far much harder and horrible experiences by the a-bomb. Stories about her come later. I would like to write here about something. A piece of hairs of hers that dropped off soon after the a-bomb because of radio activity are displayed in the Hiroshima A-bomb Memorial Hall. Her only son whom she borne against the doctors advice not to because of her too poor physical condition, is now active as an orchestra conductor. He is well known as the last student of that famous Herbert von Karajan and the one who conducted Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra when his great teacher suddenly became sick. The stories about them come out later.
Part 3 The second stage of my life
(1) Top management of trucking companies
I was destined to become the second-generation top management in a small trucking firm. As the result, this shift of my life turned to continue some 32 years thereafter. I call this “the second stage of my life.” It would be one of the most époque-making stories about my life. Therefore, I would like to write a little in detail as one of the precious records of my life.
I was then 31 years old. Most of the employees, some twenty or so, were older than I. I was entirely amateur in the trucking and stevedore industry. A young man successor with no experience, as the representative of the firm, needed a courage and strong determination to get it done. The motto of my life as the top manager was “Try to start working earlier than anybody else and work until late more than anybody else”. This continued to be my policy for myself and other managers for their education years after.
Anyhow, I did my best, in a trance so to speak. In those days, we had a bus for sending the workers to the working places, and I drove my own motor bike, which I had been using since I became independent.
I need to tell here about the motor bike that I used in those days. Not like Americans, we were too poor to have a car in those days after the war. I never forget the time I first bought it and had a ride in the street. People watched me driving it, as if they saw an interesting thing with even admiration and envious eyes, and I was proud of it. At least it was a sort of symbol of the top fashion runner.
When I had dates with my wife before marriage that continued some six years, the motor bike was always with us. It was some 40,000 yen half a century ago, more than a monthly salary for ordinary men. It now costs only 50,000 yen, less than one fifth of the monthly salary. It tells how cheap it would be in mass production.
The firm had an old Toyota car for my father-in-law with a hired driver, but has been in a corner of the firm with nobody to use. I used to drive in secrecy with no driving license for fun.
In those days, we had no automatic transmission car. I had a secret of my driving a conventional car with some device on my right knee to make it possible to operate the accelerator and the brake pedals. My right knee is completely paralyzed unable to lift up from the accelerator to the brake pedal, so I developed a spring attached to my right foot from the above so that when I lose the pushing power on the accelerator pedal the foot easily moves on the brake pedal. At the time I got the driving license, however, I bound a steel plate behind my right knee to prevent the knee bending out of the brake pedal. The steel plate was nothing but a piece of the band saw I was familiar in the past vocation.
Later years, however, modern technology made me no need to try that sort of “invention”. Automatic transmission is the one, which made me able to use right foot on the accelerator and the left foot on the brake.
Coming back to the story of the early stage of my new business, we had a veteran superintendent manager, Toku-san by the nickname, used to say to me, “Yoshida-san, I will help you to become a good top manager.” He used to be a boatswain of a 15,000-ton cargo freight traveling throughout the world. Ironically, as time goes on, he became to be unable to catch up with the time changes. I said to him, “Toku-san, you helped me to become a better top manager. It’s time for me to make a good superintendent-graduate to be proud of yourself to others.”
Our firm became much bigger in the number of workers and annual sales. In the process of its growth, he seemed to be outdated. He sometimes seemed to be at a loss what to do to the change of times, but I helped him someway or others with my possible help and encouragement to him. I let him work until he died. In the funeral, I made a condolence address with no text in hand, as if I spoke to him alive.
I sure had countless stories of hardship, especially as a second-generation top manager. The story of reformation by the hands of the non-blood top manager was one of them. Those experiences later years became the backbone of my playing a business consultant after the 32-year of the second stage of my life to the third stage of my life, which comes far after this.
The second or the third generation of the top management of the family dominated firm is the one that comes out of the two. The one is that the top becomes either the type of “maintain the status quo” or the type of “entrepreneurial businessperson” to make the firm bigger than the founder made.
In my case, I have no blood connection with the father-in-law, the entrepreneurial founder. If I were to point out something for business potentiality in my blood, I would say, my father’s ancestor was samurai, nothing to do with business. I did succeed his dexterousness, however, which is a good element for a logical way of thinking and behavior. While from my mother blood, I succeeded the generated spirit of the invention.
It is unavoidable for the family oriented enterprise that the top management is apt to become emotionally dependent. In my case, however, I came into the family from the outside, which means no emotional dependence or excuse was allowed. If the business goes well, the appreciation went to the founder, not the successor. As a man of succeeding the founder, some sort of constrain worked to the founder family. He or she would try to make the business successful so that the family would appreciate.
Businesses in Kyoto, Japan, are famous for their system of selecting the next generation top management in the family’s daughter’s husband instead of the son. This comes from the fact that the possible choice of selecting the next generation top management from an entirely different blood could be expected.
The top management II or III has a problem. It is the gap of the age between the top and the employees. The young top finds it hard to manage the elder workers. Some try to leave the elders some way or other so that he could manage the workers at his will much easier than to the elders. It may seem OK, but such rough labor management is liable to invite troubles and grudge, sometimes driving them to make the labor union to protect themselves.
However, I never took the latter way of management even though I was almost the youngest and the second generation with no family blood. I took the strategy of what is called “reformation with no blood”. If I were to tell its stories, there would be no limit to stop.
One of the reformations was to change the basic attitude or thought of the employees. Japan was in the process of high economy development after the war. The Korean War and the Vietnam War escalated the growth of the Japanese economy. There came out the serious manpower shortage problem with higher pay raises every year as if no stopping. Workers became too strong so that they came to have no attitude or awareness of “being employed”, but rather came to have a notion of “we are kind enough to work for you. So pay us more or we would move to a better paid company”
You know, as an English language learner myself, and having opportunities of associating with American friends and people in my early stage of life, I have better and wider view and notion as to what are going on in America and other countries. Especially the relationship between the employers and employees are different from ours. In America, for instance, a single word of the boss’ “You are fired!” works OK, while never in Japan. This difference comes from the unemployment rate. Japan was in the midst of “perfect employment”, meaning the jobless rate is zero. It was like a paradise for workers with no worry for their employment. If dissatisfied with the pay, they could turn over any time.
Many of the Japanese top managements, especially medium and small enterprises, were reluctant to educate their employees too much with the fear, they might quit the company. Everything was derived from the fact that the perfect employment gave the workers to find the place to work with no worry.
In other words, it came from “the imbalance of manpower supply”, the shortage of manpower was it. The situation in the western and American manpower market was so different from Japanese. I knew it more than any other top managements.
Therefore, I tried to make a check in this field, trying to let the worker truly understand what the labor market would be. This does not mean that I turned to be a harsh, cold blooded top management to the workers, but aimed at “the mutual and equal-footing labor and management relationship”.
Ironically, this develops to the problem of facing the birth of labor union, which I would like to write next.
(2) Labor union born
Turned to be modern top management
There came a time the then Department of Transportation made a new regulation rule that any trucking firm should be incorporated with the minimum capital of 6-million yen. Our firm turned to be “Incorporated Company”. My status turned to “Company President” from “Firm Representative”.
As the company becomes big in scale and sales, came in the workers’ mind that their company became as big as to have a labor union.
Our company’s customers were big companies, including Cola and cement manufacturers. They had their own labor unions. Our workers were accustomed to watch the labor union's activities of the customer companies, which later years became a motivation for them to organize their union.
In accordance to the customer’s plan of a new logistics base construction some hundred kilometer apart, there came out a possibility of minimizing the number of trucks and drivers. This lead the worker organizes the labor union.
It was the first time for me to face the labor union, but I tried my best so that they feel at ease with no worry for the layoff. My effort of talking with the president of the union in person made the solution to dismiss the union.
It was only a year after this that, again, they organized a union, which has a strong background of the leftist sect. Our company was in a position where we had to expand hauling capacity by having the more trucks and hiring more drivers with their more working hours. On the other hand, as mentioned before, we had a problem of cutting off the number of trucks and drivers after the customer’s logistics base come into operation.
One night, I invited the union’s president into my car for a talk with nobody interference and with no chance for him to escape from me. I said to him, “Don’t you see I am working early from morning until more than anybody in this company? I never leave my office until the last driver returns. You know that! I use my money and time and my body and life and everything for the company and for you the workers! What else do you want me to do!?” This was indeed something that could be said only by a top management man who, as mentioned before, had a policy of “start to work earlier than anybody and work until later than anybody else”.
It was not until that night that he came to meet me with his head deeply down and said to me, “I am so sorry for troubling you. I would like to take the responsibility for this by resigning the company.” We shook firmly each other with tears and departed.
Years later, the news came into my ears that he opened a small business for his own. The union leaders have as good a potentiality as a businessperson.
For a top management, the labor union is something that is not welcomed as a counter negotiator. I gave them a chance to make the labor union two time, and each time I brought it down. I used to know some businesspersons say openly that if the labor union ever comes out, he or she would close the company. The labor union is that tough and hard to get along and negotiate with.
People may say Yoshida is that much loved by the labor union (laugh). Or, some may say that there was some problem about the labor working and pay condition or mistrust to the top management. I have no intention of protecting myself, but I was well aware that as the company grows big, the workers begin to think it is a good time for them and for the third people viewpoint to organize the union. In fact, as far as the pay standard is concerned, we are running as one of the top ranking companies.
One more thing if I were to emphasize the reason of the labor union coming out, I must point out the fact our customers are all big companies with labor unions. This made our workers feel that the customers understand their union activity and what was worse, they believed that our customers never throw away our company, even if the go on a strike.
As a newcomer top management with modern thought and progressive attitude toward everything, I tried to persuade the aged directors, especially my mother-in-law, the widow of the deceased founder, that we need to have time to sit and talk with the workers for negotiation even though we had no labor union. However, they stood on the position that such negotiation opportunity accelerates them to organize the union. “Do not let them gather in a group. Let them be separated” was the old person's idea.
I escaped to force to make my technical skill of negotiating with them straight with the risk of quarreling with the old headed classical minded directors on the issue. My motto was always to make “revolution without blood”.
A Japanese proverb says, “What it happens, it happens three times.” The third time, the labor union was born. It was in March 1972. It was late at night, when I returned home, I went to the Okonomi-yaki restaurant in the neighborhood. The phone came to me from my wife, who told me that several employees came to see me. I knew by intuition that they organized the real and unbreakable labor union.
They were in so serious a face and presented me a paper that shows the establishment of the union. Only by looking at the cover of the document, I said to them simply, “I’ve got it” with no other words. They said simply “Yoroshiku”, meaning in Japanese, “Please so and so….” I shook my head to let them go. It was like a movie scene.
I accepted the union with the Japanese saying of “What comes the third time is real one”. Strange to say, I became so clear and wide in mind and heart. I said to myself, “Well, our company has become big enough to have the real living labor union. OK, if that is what it means, I will challenge to become the modern top management to be proud of the up-to-date labor and management relationship.”
I fact, for the following twenty years, I have done a good amount of work as the top management not to be ashamed of. It would be a good story about the modern labor and management relationship. It would be quite a good story if I write on the title of “The history of our labor union”. In fact, during my presidency, I was awarded in the essay contests three times in this field. The one is under the title of “the labor safety management of our company”, “the labor safety management and corporate management” and “Hungry spirit—meetings with new business chances”
If I were to explain what we, the labor and management, experienced in those last twenty years, it would be something like the followings. We have never made any trouble to our customers by any strikes or the like caused by trouble between labor and management. And above all anything, we have never made fatal accident in our history. This, we believe, would be the decoration worthy for us to be proud of to the society.”
I used to have visits by top managements who asked me how to get along with the labor union or how to bring it out. I played a good and well experienced teacher to them.
I thus built a modern labor-management relationship. It happened that Mr. Shouichi Tanabe, then best well known business consultant and CEO of Tanabe Management, Inc., strongly emphasized three points needed for the top management to succeed. He wrote and said that, in order for a top management to succeed in business, he or she has to accept three baptisms, that is, “tax evasion, labor union and bankruptcy”
The tax evasion seems not favorable. When we think of the fact that the most of the real profit goes to tax, the new investment in equipments needs sometimes a rough way of making the needed money.
As for the labor union baptism, I am well experienced in that I brought it out two times and faced the last real one in success.
As regards the bankruptcy, the third baptism for becoming the top management, I believe it should be interpreted in a way that the top management should challenge that much of risk in order to be a successful top management. If the top management says that he or she has never experienced that hardship of feeling like bankrupting, he or she has never challenged that much of risk taking spirit.
It would be interesting for me to write about my own experiences of being in a bankrupting like situation, which I would write later. That I experienced as what we Japanese call “a bamboo knot”.
As for the tax evasion, I did exactly the opposite. Our company was awarded as “Excellent tax reported corporation” by the tax bureau, which is very rare case, zero point par cent of rareness.
（To be continued to “(3) Labor union born“)
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