At Home With The Toyodas - And A Mysterious Cherry Tree

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
at home with the toyodas and a mysterious cherry tree

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.

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  • Jkk6 Jkk6 on Jul 06, 2011

    Cannot wait to ses how that tree get's cut down. Real grudges go down generations in East-Asian society.

  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Jul 06, 2011

    Thanks for the amplifications Bertel. (I did also find somebody's comment about the english-subtitled tablet under the tree instructive and enlightening ... which aligns well with the adage: "with a message, always consider your audience" ... and wondered if the real message is "the only way to go forward, is by going back and honoring that which served us so well for so long...") I got to thinking about the whole "companies often fail in the 2nd or 3rd generation (because the values of the founder fail to become a transending theme because they fail to be imbued into his descendents, or the values themselves are not adaptable to change) thing. Was thinking about Krupp: - the family kept the little cabin of the founder in the Werksgelände, long after the earlier descendents had built Villa Hugel, or were sodomizing their boy toys on Capri, or the last descendent flying around in his Jet-Star and living a decadent lifestyle on Sylt and Rio (as the business, the family tradition, the legacy his father built-up for him; in short, his birth-right cratered into bankruptcy, restructuring, care-taker ownership, and a kind of GM-like rudderless existance... Then thought of Thyssen: - the old man found his success much quicker, restored a castle, rubbed elbows with Adenauer (German Chancellor), but in the end, the family devolved into a bunch of unhappy, squabbling, drunk collectors of often-derided, oftentimes minor, artwork. Or Carnegie (US-Steel), or the New York Central System (the pride of the Vanderbilts), or newer technologies that came after steel, connected with names like Westinghouse, Edison, or Bell, or that came after cars (like Douglas, McDonnel, Grumman, Northrup, Hughes, Lougheed, Wright, Curtiss, etc., or Galvin Mfg.) And all of the car companies, even with a much shorter time-span between the founder, the descendents who sold-out or were taken-over, and in the process whos founding families and principles have been washed out to sea over time... And it occurred to me, that Toyota is really very unusual, in that it is probably the most stable (from a DNA perspective) of all the companies with a family member somewhere in the management (like Ford, Peugeot, or holding shares like BMW or re-agglomerated like VW ) ... But, I am still wondering how Kiichiro-san's descendents are living today, do they have the little house on the hill sensibility, or have they also moved-on to the often G5-flying, mega-yacht sailing, sometimes scandal-sheet-sizzling-affair lifestyles of many of their competitor companies founding families? p.s. House looks like a japanese-interpretation of a swiss-style cottage... here's an austrian-interpretation of the swiss-cottage motif:

  • Arthur Dailey This car is also in my all time favourite colour combination for 1970s' Town Cars. The black exterior with the deep red (burgundy) interior. Even took my driving test in one. The minute that the driving examiner saw the car I knew that I had passed. He got in and let out a long sigh and started asking about the car. My Old Man always had a Town Car in that black/burgundy colour combination for 'business meetings' that required the use of a back seat for passengers. No way that his full sized associates could fit in the back of a Mark IV or V. So I also have quite a bit of driving time behind the wheel of Town Cars. Just add in the 450 cid engine and the 'optional' continetal hump and I would love to have one of these in my driveway.
  • Art Vandelay 15k for some old rusty 80s junk that is slower to 60 than the Exxon Valdez? Pass. Plus no TikTok on the old Mercedes
  • JMII I know people behind me get POed when I refuse to turn (right or left) depending on traffic. Even my wife will scream "just go already" but I tend err on the side of waiting for a gap that gives me some cushion. It's the better safe then sorry approach which can be annoying for those behind. Oh well.
  • Bobbysirhan Next thing you know, EV drivers will be missing the freedom to travel on their own schedules instead of their cars'.
  • Cprescott I'm not surprised by this behavior - it is consistent with how owners of Honduhs, Toyoduhs, or Mazduhs drive. Without fail, these are the consistently obtuse drivers on the road.