Seven months after a 9.0 earthquake and devastating Tsunami hit Japan, claiming at least 15, 821 lives and causing what some estimate could exceed over $300 billion dollars in damages, the last of this year’s joint Public/Private OSAC delegations arrived in Tokyo, the first of three key stops in Asia: Tokyo, Shanghai, and Seoul. As one makes their way from Narita International Airport, one sees no visible signs of any lingering effects of those horrific days (although I’m told that apparently the Tokyo Tower is still slightly bent). Most of those effects are yet being dealt with much further to the north.
The bulk of our meetings, as on previous delegations, occurred at the U.S. Embassy--in this instance a formidable structure designed by Architect Norma Merrick Sklarek in Tokyo’s fashionable Akasaka neighborhood of Minato, steps away from the Nagatacho district, home of the Japanese legislature and the Prime Minister's residence. The U.S. has had a diplomatic presence in Japan since the time it established its first legation in Tokyo in 1859 under Townsend Harris. Our delegation had the privilege of meeting with one of the latest contributors to that long line of representatives, Deputy Chief of Mission James Zumwald. (Jim is himself a rather committed blogger. See http://zblog.japan.usembassy.gov. )
Among the interesting—and perhaps a little unsettling--insights gained on this visit was the fact that the Yakuza, members of organized crime syndicates in Japan, are now listed, as of the signing of Executive Order 13581 by President Obama on July 24th, as a Transnational Criminal Organizations. As such U.S. Corporations are prohibited from transferring, paying, exporting, withdrawing, or otherwise dealing in the property and interest in property of these organizations or their members—the challenge being a function of just how pervasive the Yakuza have become through various aspects of daily Japanese life. So much so that unless vigilant due diligence is exercised, a corporation could find itself running afoul of the Executive Order which carries with it no small penalties. Additional information about this EO and its sanctions can be obtained from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) www.treasury.gov/ofac.
Also of interest—particularly as it seems to arise in our conversations wherever we travel in the world as indication of the perceived economic opportunities of a region—was the fact that enrollment in the local International schools is down across the board in Tokyo, i.e. the American, German, and French schools. (You may recall that our blog, written when in Monterrey, Mexico earlier this year, chronicled the fact that enrollment was increasing, notwithstanding cartel violence.)
Regardless of the challenges that have recently plagued this community, we couldn’t help but be impressed as we heard story after story of the dogged determination and resilience of the Japanese people as they were rendered by the attaches of Customs & Border Protection, the FBI, and Homeland Security Investigations with whom we met.
Peter Ford, now Deputy Executive Director of OSAC, and I are joined this time in our travels by Robert Hartung, Assistant Director