The Greatest Networker in the World – Chapter 9: Housekeeper Master
As we left the bath room and entered the small dressing foyer, I noticed that the clothes we had worn were gone. In their place were two neatly folded piles of clothing. One was my my own which I’d worn on Friday, now clean as new!
I began to dress. My friend had just put on a faded denim work shirt and then he unfurled what looked to be a big scarf or a shawl.
Odd, I thought. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the large piece of brightly printed fabric he was holding.
“It’s a sarong,” he said. “They wear them in Thailand and tropical islands, like Java and Bali.”
“It’s beautiful,” I commented.
“Thanks,” he said. “They are the single most comfortable garment in the world,” he added. “Want to try one?”
“Ah, sure,” I said, a little hesitantly. “How do you wear it?”
He walked over to some drawers that were built into the wall and pulled out a bright blue bolt of cloth with a white and darker blue embroidered border.
“You’re a blue person – aren’t you?” he asked.
“Am I?” I replied, with some curiosity.
“Your clothes . . .” he said, pointing to my pile on the bench, “ . . . are all blue.”
They were. I was a blue person all right.
He showed me two different ways of tying the sarong. I chose the one I liked best, which was different than the way he had his. He’d just pulled his around himself and tied a knot in the front. The way I wore mine seemed more, well, conservative. More formal.
Following his careful instructions, I wrapped it around me once, held the two ends off to the side, pinched the two sides of cloth which were closest to my body tight together, made a couple of back and forth folds, tucked them back into the whole thing, and folded the waist down all around.
I can’t imagine that anyone would understand all of this based on that description. It’s one of those things, like tying a necktie, that you’ve got to do yourself to get how it works.
As we were walking back through the house, I asked, “How did our clothes get there? I didn’t hear anybody come in.”
“Probably, Rachel – that’s my wife. But it could have been Rebecca – that’s my daughter. Or Kazuko. She’s the woman who takes care of us.”
“Kazuko.” I repeated the name just to hear myself say it. “That’s Japanese, too?”
“Yes,” he laughed. “You’ve noticed my love for things Japanese!
“Kazuko-san is a joy. But she’s a very difficult woman,” he said, and I couldn’t tell whether he was serious or not. He must have noticed what I was thinking, because he added in mock protest, “It’s true. You’ll see.”
We walked into the living room with that marvelous MLMer-Monet over the mantle, and he told me to “Sit,” while he went over to a huge French country wardrobe kind-of-thing, spread the doors open wide and did something I couldn’t see. I guessed that was where his stereo was kept – as the music filled the room.
Amazing, I thought. “Country music?” I asked.
“A man of many tastes and talents,” he answered. “Pop quiz: who’s singing?” he asked me.
“Ah . . . hmmm, Emmylou Harris?” I asked, guessing the name of probably the only woman I was certain sang country music.
“Good guess,” he said, peering out from around the door of the wooden cabinet. “K. T. Oslin.”
Well, I’m no big fan of country music. More so by ignorance than by choice. I’d never listened to it much. I figured it was for a different kind of person than me. I know that sounds silly, but that’s what I’d thought – ’til then, at least. Frankly, K. T. Whomever-she-was was pretty good.
What a trip, I thought: Stereo’s hidden away in French country antiques, mock-Monet on the wall, just come from a Japanese bath, sitting here in a sarong, listening to country music . . . Talk about “Stranger In A Strange Land.” I loved it!
“Ah, Gaijin-san . . . no lock an’ lorr today? But I rike it so much!” said a strange new voice from the other side of the room.
I turned to see a small Japanese woman, with her extra-long, straight black hair pulled back in a ponytail – and dressed in a brightly colored warm-up suit, no less – bowing to me, her hands on her thighs. She leaned forward and smiled. I had absolutely no idea how old she was – 30, 35, maybe more, maybe even less. There wasn’t a line or wrinkle on her lovely face.
“Oh, oh,” said my host, as he closed the doors to the wardrobe and turned to face the woman. She danced down the steps and marched over to me in long strides, almost bounds, which I never would have expected from such a demure Oriental woman. Stuck out her hand and said, “Hello. I’m Kazuko. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” And this time, there was no hint of an accent of any kind!
I said Hi, and added that it was a pleasure to meet her, as well. For a moment I felt I was groping for words. “Ah – were you the person who set my clothes out for me?” I asked her.
“Like a ninja – right. Sneaking around, lighting fires, delivering clothes,” she said and laughed with twinkling eyes. I liked her right away.
“So, Gaijin-san,” she turned and said to my host, “may I bring you something? A drink perhaps?”
“Would you like something – anything?” he asked me.
“What are you having?” I asked him.
“I’d really like a beer,” he said. “Is that okay? We have soda, iced tea, all kinds of things for you. What do you want?”
I said, “I’d love a beer, too.” And immediately, Kazuko clapped her hands twice, as if she were in a restaurant, and spoke loudly, “Bobby-san, beer for three in the living room – Okay?”
And from some deep recess of the house I heard a distant, “Okay, be right there.”
“I take it you have graciously consented to join us,” my friend said, bowing lightly to Kazuko.
“Only to pour your drinks and make sure you do not fill the young man’s mind with too much silliness.” she replied, returning his small bow.
“I told you about her,” he smiled at me.
We talked a little, the three of us. I noted she had called him “Gaijin,” and asked her why. She laughed and said it was a joke between them. He was actually, she said, one of the few Americans she had met in Japan who seemed appreciative and comfortable with Japanese customs. But, she added, it was also her way of keeping him in line.
She was a delightful woman.
The beer arrived, carried on a tray by my host’s son, Bobby. A good-looking little guy whom I imagined to be about 10. After he’d introduced himself to me, and me to him, his father asked if he wanted to stay, but the boy said, “No thanks.” He was in the middle of a project, he explained, and he’d see us all later. He started to leave the room, then turned and asked me if I was staying for dinner.
His father asked me, “Would you like to?” I said, “Sure.” And Bobby said, “Great, see ya later.”
Then his father asked, “What’s the project, Young Son?”
Bobby took a step back into the room and said, “I’m making a terrarium.”
“For school?” his father asked, leaning his head as far back on the couch as possible and looking at the boy upside down.
“Nope,” said Bobby, “for Mom.”
“Want some help?” his dad asked.
“Sure,” Bobby replied, and I could see he was pleased at the prospect. “But I thought you guys were talking business?”
“Nope,” replied my host. “Life. Anyhow, I don’t remember asking what you thought about what we were doing.”
“Daaad!” the boy responded in mock complaint.
“So, me to you – yes or no?” his father shot back.
“Yes. You. Now. Greatest dad in the whole wide world,” Bobby said, as he quickly knocked the pillow his father had thrown at him safely off to one side. He then stooped to pick it up in the same motion and toss it back with a perfunctory “Here!” to his father, who had stood up and started out of the living room. “Put this back where it belongs, like a good father.”
“Bright boy. Charming boy,” the Greatest Networker said, sounding like Scrooge on Christmas morning from the movie A Christmas Carol. “I think we shall let him live with us for another year,” he observed as he left the room, and added in classic Schwarzenegger-ese, “I’ll be baaack.”
“Kazuko-san, take care of my friend, please,” he said over his shoulder, scooping Bobby up off the ground and carrying him off down the hall to the sound of the boy’s protests and the kind of laughter that can only come from too much tickling.
I turned and asked Kazuko how she had come to meet the Greatest Networker and to live here with the family.
“I met him in Japan. How long ago?” she asked herself out loud. “Nine, 10 years now, maybe. He was starting up Network Marketing efforts in Japan and I met him at his very first meeting there.
“I was working as a housekeeper in the home of a wealthy businessman and his family. I cooked, cleaned and took care of the children. It was an unusual family for Japan. Very Western in many ways. Both the mother and father worked. They had been educated in the United States. In fact, that’s where they met – and where I met both of them.”
“Were you all at the same school here?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “The father was doing graduate work in business – MBA. His wife was in international law, which was unique for a Japanese woman back then. Still is today, I imagine.”
“What college?” I asked.
“Yale,” she said.
“What were you studying?”
“I was on a cultural exchange program where drama majors were sent back and forth from Yale to Tokyo University,” she answered.
“That seems odd to me,” I told her. “You went to Yale, then went back to Japan and became a housekeeper?”
Kazuko laughed. “Yes, I’m sure it does. But truly, I am very happy keeping a house and being part of a family. My children are grown, with children of their own now – ” I hoped she didn’t notice the expression of shock that must have darted over my face at that revelation ” – and I am very devoted to this family. I’ve adopted them.”
“Kazuko… may I ask, how old you are?” I offered tentatively.
“56,” she said.
I told her I found that very hard to believe. She smiled and thanked me for my “charm – and good manners.”
We continued to talk – I have no idea for how long. She was one of the easiest people I had ever spoken with – so natural, so effortless to
She told me about when the Greatest Networker first came to Japan, about that first opportunity meeting, and how very excited she had been at the prospect of working with him.
She’d learned about Network Marketing while in the United States, she said, and had always thought it was a perfect business for Japanese people. Other companies had come to Japan from America before, but most of them hadn’t made the kinds of changes and adjustments in the products – how they were positioned, packaged and presented – or in the business opportunity, that would reflect the unique needs and wants of the Japanese. But his company was different – he had done his homework.
She told me that this first meeting had lasted for six hours!
The formal presentation had lasted only about an hour and a half, but everyone had stayed for hours, asking questions about Network Marketing, about how it was done in America, and about how the Greatest Networker thought it could best be done in Japan.
Kazuko told me that the meeting had turned into a seminar on Network Marketing, that my new friend had simply answered every question they asked, and that he had showed and told them all of his ideas about how the business worked best. There were a number of people there who were already involved with other Networking companies, and he’d helped them, too, showing them new ways to offer their products and build their businesses.
“People were amazed,” she said. “They had never met someone who was so knowledgeable and so willing to share his secrets. A few people with other companies asked if they could sign up with him, but he actually discouraged them! He told them to stay with what they were doing, and offered to help them whenever and however he could.
“It was a remarkable evening,” she told me. And then she added, “It certainly changed my life.”
“How so?” I asked, thinking of how I felt about… was it just this past Thursday? It already seemed weeks ago.
“There were a number of high-powered businessmen present,” she replied. “Each one wanted to be ‘in charge’ of Japan for him. He was very gracious to all of them, but he asked them, please, to wait. He explained that his company’s president would arrive the following week, and that he would be the one to decide exactly what structure they would use and who would direct what efforts.”
“Almost everyone made an appointment to meet with him. I’m sure everybody there wanted to make his pitch to be ‘ichiban‘ – the Number One distributor.”
“I stayed until the very end of the meeting and waited until there was no one else left. I went up to him and said, ‘Have you scheduled any time to see Japan?’ He told me that, in fact, he had set aside the next three days for that very purpose. I asked if he would permit me to be his guide, and he said he’d love that.”
“So, the next morning, bright and early, we met at his hotel for breakfast. It was a whirlwind tour.” As she spoke, Kazuko actually seemed to re-experience some of the exhilaration as well as the exhaustion of the trip she was describing.”
She told me about all the places they visited. How he’d said he wanted to visit the Peace Park in Hiroshima, how moved he was when they did, and how deeply his emotions had touched her, as well. She described how much he enjoyed the food, from the salty traditional breakfasts and late-night-into-early-morning trips to the ‘sushi‘ bars, to a quick bowl of steaming noodles while waiting for the ‘Shinkansen‘ – the famous ‘bullet trains’ that rocket across Japan – to the formal 11-course ‘Kaiseki‘ diners, which cost more than $500 per person!
Kazuko told me that she’d never been to so many places in her own country in such a short period in her life, and that although it was very rushed, that they both had the most wonderful time.
One high point of the trip for her was a visit to Nara, which Kazuko described as perhaps the most traditional and beautiful of the Japanese cities. She told me that in Nara, you were more likely to see business men and women wearing ‘kimono‘ (the classic robe) and ‘obi‘ (sash) than anywhere else in modern Japan. They had stayed at the Nara Hotel, in ‘tatami‘ rooms with rice-straw floormats and slept on ‘futons‘ (Japanese quilts, she explained) which were spread out in layers one on another upon the floor.
As they walked around Nara, which was famous for its Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and teahouses, they had come upon this one magnificent house enclosed within the most beautiful and peaceful garden she had ever seen.
Kazuko had told him then that this was just the kind of house in which she’d always dreamed of living. She recalled how he had asked if she’d like to buy the house, and how she’d scoffed at his question, saying she could never afford such a beautiful place!
“I’ve had the same discussion with him about this place,” I told her.
“Ah, so?” she asked me. “Well, take good care with what you dream, my friend. I have lived in that house in Nara for six years now.”
I sat, staring at her for a long time.
Finally, she broke the silence, saying, “Close your mouth now. Flies will go in.”
Click here to read: Chapter 10: Appointments With Freedom