Today, I went on a very early morning Shinkansen to Nagoya. The idea was to have me kind of certified as a Toyota-accredited journalist. I don’t know whether I qualified. I flunked the required rattling-off of the 12 Toyota plants in Japan. However, I was invited into Toyoda’s house.
Not Akio Toyoda’s house. His grandfather Kiichiro Toyoda’s house. He was the founder of Toyota. The house was built in 1933, and as you can see, the house would be just as much at home up the Hudson or in Georgetown as it is in the green hills near Toyota City.
What was interesting is what I found in the somehow unruly weeds next to the house: A little cherry tree. What makes a little cherry tree in Japan so interesting? A little sign. It says in Japanese and English: “Commemorating Toyota’s New Start.” And then a date: “2011-2-24.”
What happened on February 24, 2011? Not much. But what happened a year before? That’s right: Akio Toyoda took to The Hill and was grilled by Congress. A little bit less than a year later, on February 8, 2011, Toyota was formally exonerated. Nobody apologized. There wasn’t even a “thank you” for the three times $16.4 million the NHTSA had collected from Toyota.
It is fascinating that the congressional barbecue is remembered as a new start somewhere in the woods near Toyota City.