“Take the Kodama!” A few years ago, Keiko Tanaka suggested to ordered me to take one of Japan’s lesser Shinkansen, the kaku eki teisha (stops at all stations) version, to get to an obscure (at least to this reporter) Japanese manufacturer of universally despised (at least among gearhead bloggers) CVTs. The lady that cared which train I took (and who repeated “Kodama” a few times, making sure that the dense gaijin would get it), is now Japan’s first woman from the private sector appointed to an ambassadorial post. Keiko Tanaka famously was Carlos Ghosn’s spokeswoman when Le Cost Killer parachuted in 1999 from France to save a moribund Nissan from extinction. Now she is Japan’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Uruguay.
“A spokesperson for a company and an ambassador who speaks on behalf of a state have a lot in common,” Keiko Tanaka told Japantimes before leaving for the South American country. Again, she is absolutely right. Tanaka-san showed her diplomatic skills 25 years ago, when she was the bridge between the tough gaijin Ghosn and thousands of Japanese who worried about their future. Ghosn himself was “unfamiliar with Japan,” says Japantimes. Five years later, Ghosn still had problems with driving on the left side. He found himself on the wrong side of the road after a U-turn, and he crashed his Porsche into an oncoming motorcycle. Tanaka had two PR-disasters on her hands: Her boss in an accident, and he’s not driving a Nissan. The matter was handled with aplomb.
Two years later, Tanaka became Senior Manager of Nissan’s Global Marketing Dept. Later, she oversaw communications for the Nissan Leaf, before being loaned to JATCO, a Nissan Group company world renowned for its transmissions. Tanaka retired at the end of September, took the Kodama to Tokyo, and geared up for her ambassadorship.
Ghosn, himself born in neighboring Brazil, called Tanaka to congratulate her, and to tell her that Uruguay is the best country on the South American continent. He just blew his chance to become Ambassador for Brazil after his retirement.