I had dinner with the ex-CEO of Microsoft Japan last night.
Pardon while I repeat myself: I HAD DINNER WITH THE EX-CEO OF MICROSOFT JAPAN LAST NIGHT.
Ok. That’s out of my system and now, a disclaimer. I make it a point never ever to pipe personal business, brag or name drop — especially online. It’s bad manners and frankly, douchey… but this, is an exception.
I mean, how can I not scream to the world: listen! I had dinner with the man who launched ASCII in Japan, was GM and President of Microsoft from 1986 – 1991, Chairman from 1991 – 2005, then transitioned into a role at MSFT HQ (Seattle) for seven years, retired and is now a professor at Keio University (Yale-Princeton equivalent). Be still my nerd heart… So yes. He’s kind of a big deal. And I am giving myself a free-pass to be a braggadocious d-bag. Back to last night.
After initial introductions, him and his wife told us they had reservations and immediately led the way to the restaurant. They charged through the busiest parts of Shibuya. I don’t think I’ve ever moved as fast as I did last night, zig-zagging through the densely packed rows of random storefronts — H&M, Forever 21, izakayas, fast food restaurants, cheap shoe stores, accessory stores, drugstores, cafes… straight into the back alleys to a part of Shibuya I had never seen before.
We abruptly stopped in front of a small two story building and ducked into the second floor doorway. One by one we entered the narrow hallway, walked past an empty wine bar towards the back of the building. The wife, rolled open the traditional wood door (like the ones you see in samurai films) and inside, was the exact opposite of the building’s exterior. Bright lights glowed throughout the small space, with only a wooden counter that seats eight people. From the entrance I could see every detail of the bare walls with clean lines and into the pristine kitchen. The owner cheerfully greeted us and I felt the rush of delight.
It was like Christmas morning before opening gifts. I knew, I was in for a treat.
The ryouri-nin (料理人 = chef, master and owner) Mori-san, is a hilarious man. Furukawa-san (ex-CEO) and his wife, have been going to him for over 30 years.
Over 10 courses of exquisite small dishes, we ate. And laughed. And talked. About anything and everything…unrelated to tech. There were so many questions I wanted to ask. So many stories I wanted to hear. I was curious — so curious — it took everything in me to refrain from attempting to uncover the layers behind his wise, kind and knowing eyes.
But the conversation stayed light-hearted. Centered around food, life and the restaurant owner, Mori-san, who is a master entertainer as much as a master chef.
He is the complete opposite of someone with years of experience like Jiro. Mori-san is warm. Welcoming. Kind. Open minded — just like Furukawa-san and his wife.
Mori-san, answered all my questions about every dish served. He taught me basic cooking techniques from how to balance flavors to how to prepare meats. We built a rapport through the course of the meal. When he started teasing me — a sign of endearment, I got excited, as I thought perhaps he would extend an invitation for me to come back to his restaurant. (In Japan, it is a colossal faux-pax to return to a restaurant such as this place, without the blessing from Furukawa-san, Furukawa-san’s wife (introducee) and Mori-san (the owner or head)). As we wrapped up the evening and started putting on our coats, Furukawa-san’s wife asked Mori-san for business cards.
I felt butterflies in my stomach.
She handed me the card with instructions on how to order and only after that gesture, Mori-san told me to come back any time. I got the go-ahead. I was in. Last night, was a double win kind of evening.
Almost 24 hours later I am now sitting at my desk. Plugging away in my corporate job. Calculating KPIs and building PowerPoints. My head is still full from from last night.
I keep replaying the conversations in my head, wondering if there was anything I missed. Compiling a list of questions, fine-tuning and re-wording the questions in the off chance I will see him again. Then repeating the process.
Finally, after a full day of my brain working overdrive, I stopped to ask myself: what are you doing? Slowing down, I realized I overlooked the most important takeaway from last night. A much needed reminder, about Japan and the Japanese. Relationships are everything. And relationships, take time to build.
Being in such a fast paced industry, I am always rushing. I can’t recall when or how I turned into someone who needs to learn the most about a person, place or thing. Of course, in the least time possible. Last night was a reminder of what I’ve known I needed to work on: slowing down.
Maybe in time I would have learned this lesson back in the US. But acclimating in an environment as quirky as Japan, is fast tracking me working on and fixing a lot of my flaws. One more reason, I appreciate Japan so much.
*food photos and details of my meal, with cooking tips I learned will follow. Soon. Or something. ;)