When late was perfect timing
Luca Ciferri witnessed Japans initial shock over the Nissan Revival Plan
It is impolite to be late, especially in Japan where being polite is a fundamental part of the culture.
But my tardiness for a landmark event in Japanese auto-business history provided me with an unmatched reporting experience.
It was October 18, 1999, and Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn was going to announce his Nissan Revival Plan at the Royal Park Hotel in Tokyo.
I finished an interview with then-Mitsubishi Motors CEO Katsuhiko Kawasoe and had about an hour to make a 30-minute ride to the hotel.
Plenty of time, I thought.
I was wrong.
My taxi driver got caught in a massive traffic jam.
When we arrived I rushed into the hotel and dashed to the conference room where Ghosn was speaking.
At the door to the conference room I was met by a tiny young lady. While bowing several times she gently said, “No … No … No … No … No,” and directed me to the large television screens mounted in the foyer.
I was about three minutes late and since it would be extremely impolite to enter after Ghosn had started speaking, I was going to experience the press conference from the other side of the door.
I was not alone.
A number of Japanese journalists who worked for the international wires remained outside so they could use their mobile phones to provide their editors with Ghosn’s comments as quickly as possible.
While taking notes I was mesmerized by the way the Japanese journalists were reacting to Ghosn’s words.
I heard one of the shocked reporters shout, Shinjirarenai!
(Unbelievable!). Another one said, Hidoi! (Incredible!) and Arienai! (It can’t be true!).
Then I heard one of the reporters on the phone with his editor say, Gokai janakatta. (No, that is what was said, I didn’t
get it wrong.)
Luca Ciferri has been a part of the Automotive News Group since September 1988. He has worked for Automotive News Europe since the publication was launched 10 years ago. Ciferri started as a freelance correspondent, became a full-time member of the reporting staff in 2001 and was promoted to chief correspondent in 2004. He has been covering the auto industry for 27 years.
The local media expected to hear that Nissan would close a couple plants and cut about one thousand jobs.
But Ghosn’s reconstructive surgery was much more severe: Nissan would close five plants and get rid of 21,000 people.
Making the moment even more significant was the fact that this huge restructuring plan was being announced by a gaijin (foreigner).
My Japanese colleagues were reporting an earthquake – live.
That day, corporate Japan changed forever.
Had I been on time, I never would have witnessed the very real and deep effect of this pivotal event on the country where it was taking place.
You can reach Luca Ciferri at firstname.lastname@example.org.