As a Japanese-American, Fukushima took special pains to establish which side he stood on. Even though fluent in Japanese, he made it a point to use English in Japan most of the time.
Despite his efforts, some Japanese were still confused by his heritage. Waitresses would assume that he was Japanese and serve him after lower-ranking members of the U.S. delegation. Initially, he was also excluded from some official dinner invitations. His presence seemed "inconvenient" because here, finally, was an American who understood everything the Japanese said to one another in front of their Yankee guests.
Eventually, Fukushima's intellectual acuity, vast knowledge of Japan and prodigious energy--in Tokyo he would catch four hours of sleep a night between endless rounds of meetings--won him respect from both sides. U.S. News and World Report described him as America's "single most effective trade negotiator" with Japan. And in the now-infamous book, "The Japan That Can Say No," right-wing politician Shintaro Ishihara--no friend of Fukushima--called him "one of the most capable Asian specialists" in the United States.
Yet Fukushima's hard work on behalf of corporate America is not universally appreciated now that he is in the job market. He refuses to work for a Japanese firm to avoid ethical questions raised by the more than 110 former government officials who have switched sides. Although he has received offers from some law firms, other companies have expressed concern that hiring someone from the USTR could jeopardize business relations with the Japanese. As Tatsuno put it: "American companies talk tough in D.C., but back in Tokyo they talk about flexibility because they don't want to antagonize a potential business client."
Tatsuno understands that delicate dance because he has to perform it, too. With business clients in Japan, Europe and America, he can't afford to alienate anyone.
"If you want to sell to Japan, you don't bash them on the head," said Tatsuno, who left Dataquest last year to start NeoConcepts, his own consulting firm. "You basically stroke and cultivate the relationship and build trust."
While at Dataquest, Tatsuno was a consultant for all of the major Japanese electronics firms. When he visited them in Japan, they rolled out the red carpet, confided in him, sought his advice and showed him their business plans.
In Japan, Tatsuno speaks the language of his customers. He believes, more than Fukushima, that his Japanese heritage has helped his effectiveness by easing racial and cultural barriers. Occasionally, however, he encounters condescension for being \o7 imin na kodomo\f7 --a child of immigrants.
Tatsuno's insight into Japanese industry helped him predict the collapse of the U.S. memory chip industry more than two years before it happened. He has also written two books that give Americans a glimpse of Japan's technological wizardry, "The Technopolis Strategy" and, more recently, "Created in Japan: From Imitators to World-Class Innovators."
In both books, Tatsuno warns America to wake up to Japanese advances. "I'd rather help people when they're still healthy so they don't need the emergency ward," he said.
In other areas, the two friends are more similar than different. For example, neither man cultivated an early interest in Japan.
Although Fukushima was born on a U.S. Army base in Japan, he grew up as a California kid--getting a car at 16, going to Iron Butterfly concerts and moving from Monterey to San Francisco to Los Angeles. Tatsuno grew up in San Jose, became a springboard diver, went to Latino parties and learned better Spanish than Japanese.
In 1967, Fukushima went to Stanford; Tatsuno chose Yale. Fukushima wanted to be a doctor; Tatsuno, a marine biologist. But the Vietnam War was igniting student passions, and both decided that there were more important things in life than chemistry and biology.
Today, their resumes are crowded.
For Fukushima: A year studying and milking cows at a college of 20 students in the California desert; a Stanford degree in economics; a Harvard law degree, a master's in East Asian studies, doctoral work in sociology; a teaching fellow for noted Japan scholars Ezra Vogel and Edwin Reischauer; five years in Japan as a Fulbright scholar, copy editor, law clerk and businessman; a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles.
For Tatsuno: A Yale degree in urban studies-political science; a year in Venezuela teaching English and digging sewers; a master's degree from Occidental, a second from Harvard; an internship in public affairs from the Coro Foundation; a stint at environmental consulting; two years at Bechtel; two years in Japan teaching English.
Both married women from Japan, and Tatsuno has a daughter. Both fear that the U.S.-Japan relationship will continue to deteriorate, and both are appalled at America's general ignorance about Japan--in government as well as business.