Yoshinori Yassuda was dad’s agent in Japan.
After dad placed his orders, it was Yassuda-san’s responsibility to follow up with the local vendors and make sure dad’s purchases would be shipped according to the delivery schedule. He was also responsible for seeking out new vendors who offered products that might interest my father.
Yassuda-san was able to communicate in English – but the language was relatively new to him. He had, however, mastered one aspect of it. He had elevated the term “run-on sentence” to a new form of art.
A typical Yassuda-san sentence seldom contained fewer than 40 words and could go on for nearly one hundred before you encountered a period. From time to time dad would bring one of his letters home and read them at dinner. All of us would laugh as Yassuda-san mangled the English language to the best of his ability.
Yet, despite his limited knowledge of our language, a true warmth and genuine kindness was evident in his words.
Two weeks before dad was going to leave for his annual buying trip he came home with Yassuda-san’s latest missive. As we sat eating dinner, dad read it to us.
“Most honorable and wonderful good most gracious and kind of all my customers I am welcoming you to your visit to my country and have many things to show which I am of the hopeful kindness that you would much be interested and mostly I am so grateful for the businesses which you have showered upon this your most humble agent to be thanking you and hope we will be doing businesses in many years that will be coming and want you to see the new house that I have built for my humble family.” Y. Yassuda
A few weeks later dad left on his trip with suitcases in hand and his camera over his shoulder. He promised to take lots of photos of Yassuda-san’s new house in Kyoto.
When he returned he was tired from the long flight and asked me to take the rolls of film that he had shot to the drugstore to be developed. I asked, “Did Mr. Yassuda build a nice house?” Dad said, “Wait until the photos come back. Then you can see for yourself.”
Three days later on his way home from work, dad picked up the seven packages of photographs at the drugstore. Most of them were pictures of items that he was considering purchasing – but one roll was devoted to Yassuda-san’s new house.
Dad started showing us the pictures.
The first photo was of a large and beautiful pond filled with koi. There were gorgeous azalea bushes and cherry trees in bloom. Pink flowers and yellow and white ones filled the photographs with their beautiful colors. Yassuda-san had built a little shrine where he could properly pay his ancestors respect according to the tenets of his Shinto faith. Picture after picture of this wonderful garden – and behind it all a large empty space covered with grass.
Dad came to the end of this roll of pictures and started to put them back in their envelope.
I asked, “But, daddy – where’s the house?”
Dad said that when he asked Yassuda-san that question, the man looked at him and said, “First we build the important things. Then we build the house.”
Yassuda-san had a wonderful, gentle perspective on life.
We all might learn from him.