The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) has been one of the most influential foreign business organizations in Japan.Christopher LaFleur, the 55th president of the ACCJ, has spent a total of more than 20 years in Japan as a diplomat and in other roles. He recently talked about the ACCJ’s activities and economic issues as well as his personal experiences in the country.
The Japan News: When and how did your first encounter with this country take place? LaFleur: That goes back quite a ways. I first visited Japan in 1969 on my way toward being a student of Chinese in Taiwan. I stayed a few days in Tokyo, and so that was my first experience. But in a real sense, I got to know Japan much better later on after I joined the U.S. government. I entered the U.S. State Department in 1973 and was assigned to be a vice consul at our consulate in Sapporo. In order to serve in that position I had to study the Japanese language in Washington for several months. And then I arrived in Sapporo in 1974, so that was really the beginning of my experience with Japan. Q: What do you remember most from your time in Sapporo? A: I was very delighted to have an opportunity to live and work in Sapporo for a few reasons. Sapporo is probably — Hokkaido in general, and Sapporo in particular — the part of Japan that’s most similar to the United States in that it is a place that many Japanese came to live in only relatively recently — many settlers came from all different parts of Japan. In that sense it’s rather similar to the United States.
I think people in Hokkaido are very open and make friends easily. It’s a society in which I think Americans feel quite comfortable, so I enjoyed being in Sapporo. I learned how to ski there — although I come from the northern part of the United States, I’d never had a chance to learn how to ski, so that was great. And the opportunity to work on a variety of different jobs as vice consul — some of that work involved consular affairs, others involved commercial work.
To read more, pick up the Feb. 20 issue of The Japan News.
via The Japan News