Reflections on Japan



Like most of you, I have watched in awe at the incredible images of the massive destruction in Japan. Those images have left me feeling weak and hurting.

 

I visited Japan three times when NASCAR went over to race in 1996, ’97 and ’98.

The Japanese seemed like they were always in a hurry, but they were gracious, kind and enjoyed being around the race car teams.

The first two races were held in Suzuka City, about an hour’s plane ride south of Tokyo. In 1996, I had arranged to take a tour bus ride from my hotel to Kyoto. Also taking the tour were Mike Skinner, Ernie Irvan and several Richard Childress employees.

Japan was not like I expected. Instead of the massive factories, our bus passed mostly small shops and businesses. There were no large tractor-trailer rigs like we have in the United States. Instead there were hundreds of smaller trucks. I was told by our guide that most of the smaller businesses operated with just a four-hour inventory. If a truck didn’t arrive on time, they would have to shut down.

When the bus stopped at one marketplace and temple, we were surrounded by perhaps a hundred teenage school children, mostly girls. They wanted to communicate with us, and asked for autographs. Our bilingual guide explained things about NASCAR racing to them, and they would ooh and aah, when they heard those new things. After getting an autograph, they would bow, and give thanks in Japanese.

They were on a tour of the local shrine and temple, but the guide said they wanted to know more about the Americans. The shrine they were to visit wasn’t as interesting as learning new things from the Americans. Perhaps the most questions were about American cowboys and Indians.

Of course traffic drove on the opposite side of the road, and would have been difficult for an American to adjust to. The busses and taxicabs were very clean. The bus driver was always a man with white gloves on. Assisting him would be a young lady who spoke fairly good English. All the driver did was handle the bus. His female assistant did all the work, including loading and unloading the luggage. Can you imagine a 90-pound woman wrestling with an American’s large suitcase?

Once in a restaurant, I attempted to find out what kind of relish was used on some meat I had ordered. The little waitress couldn’t understand a word I was saying, but after being gone for a few minutes, she came marching back into the dining room, holding a large, fresh, white radish it had been made from. What a pleasant surprise.

That’s the way it was on my three trips. I found everyone to be friendly and wanting to please.

I guess it’s harder to accept terrible events when they happen to someone you like and respect as opposed to when the same thing happens to people who do not concern you.

At any rate, I’ve prayed for the Japanese. I hope the ones I came in contact with during my visits have survived, and can somehow come through this thing fate has dealt them.

Weekend Racing Schedule

It’s on to Fontana, Calif., this weekend for the Cup and Nationwide teams. The Truck series is off until April 2.

Saturday, March 26

Nationwide Series race 5 of 34, Starting time: 5:30 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

Sunday, March 27

Sprint Cup Auto Club 500, race 5 of 36, Starting time: 2 p.m.; TV: Fox.

Racing Trivia Question: Who is the actual car owner of Jimmy Johnson’s No. 48?

Last Week’s Question: In addition to his NASCAR racing teams, Joe Gibbs has also coached two NFL teams. Who are these two teams?

Answer: The Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.

For more sports news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

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