Her Master's Voice: Carlos Ghosn's Japanese Alter Ego

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
her master s voice carlos ghosn s japanese alter ego

“I am following him everywhere, except into the rest room.” For nearly twelve years, interpreter Yuki Morimoto has been Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s adapter to the Japanese world. The lady is a miracle. She simultaneously translates Ghosn’s high-speed stream of wit and Gallic sarcasm into Japanese, and translates Japanese back into perfect English. Morimoto is so in tune with Ghosn that she sometimes finishes his sentences before him – in Japanese.

Morimoto-san is proud of conveying precisely how her boss feels. She does not pretty up what people say, she translates it as it comes.

In a land where the waving of arms makes you suspect of suffering from epilepsy, Morimoto has adopted Ghosn’s trademark body language that underscores words with gesticulations. She transposes Ghosn’s undulating emotions into wave after wave of likewise emotional Japanese, and when the boss gets loud, Morimoto is known to crank up her voice.

If Ghosn is displeased with you in Yokohama, you will hear it. If you don’t speak English, you will hear it again from Morimoto. Amongst the executive crew at Nissan’s headquarter in Yokohama, the saying goes that “when the CEO yells at you, you get yelled at twice.”

For more than a year, I had been bugging the troops and generals in Yokohama to let me do a story about Morimoto, who I had been surreptitiously recording anyway. When I suggested it, a lot of sucking air through the teeth ensued, I was told that it would be, you know, muzukashii, or difficult, because she’s shy in real life, and, sumimasen, the CEO’s personal translator, wakarimasu ka? I kept suggesting it, they kept sucking air.

Today, to my thorough dismay, I find this seven minute feature-length movie about the (shy my eye) translator on YouTube. Produced by Nissan’s global newsroom, it confirmed my worst fears: Those guys are here to put us all out of business. After more than a year of tut-tutting and sucking air, they wait until I’m out of the country, and steal my idea. Wait until I’m back in Tokyo, Dan Sloan.

Dan hasn’t put us out of business just yet.

In the week since the Morimoto video was up on YouTube, it attracted a shocking 419 views. If you see more than 419, then these are all ours, adding clicks to injury.

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  • Thomas Kreutzer Thomas Kreutzer on Jul 27, 2012

    When I was in Japan I worked with translators for many meetings and presentations. Although I speak Japanese pretty well, just to be on the safe side, I always used translators for especially important meetings and public presentations. When someone is with you in a professional setting, translating your thoughts and words into another language, you develop a special bond. There is a special level of respect between you and your translator - their skill is as important as yours because how you communicate, at least in my line of work, is as important as what you communicate. If that bond, which is so well described above, fails to develop, then you probably need to find another translator. I'll never forget the meeting in which someone on the other side, noting the rapport I had with my translator, asked how long we had been married. We all had a good laugh, especially since the woman was almost 30 years my senior. When you get that kind of response, you know you have "the connection" and you go from performing without a safety net to a situation where you can take real risks with how you communicate because you know this other person will not let you fall. A professional relationship like this is amazing to see, but even more amazing to be a part of. It's a melding of the minds, like having a second brain inside your head that speaks another language and knows another culture. And to those of you who are wondering about romantic entanglements it can be tempting, but that special relationship is like catching lightning in a bottle, you never want to mess that up. It's too important.

  • GiddyHitch GiddyHitch on Jul 28, 2012

    Articles like these are why I stopped reading other car sites and let my Automobile subscription lapse. well done.

  • Xidex i haven't even turned the dial to AM since the 90's I think at that time it was only because there is one station i liked was on the AM dial (it is no longer around) Someone had to point to the station otherwise i wouldn't have even scanned the AM dial. I still think the AM dial should be left on radios though, If no one listened to it then there wouldn't be any stations would there.
  • Kwik_Shift I have five AM stations preset, each different from one another in terms of content. Some politics, some day to day, some do it yourselfing or help. Focus is more on local news and events. FM is just about pushing crap music and djs pushing the MSM message for their corporate overlords. FM is about making radio sound exactly the same all over North America. I like ONE FM station that plays different varieties of country music and has an entertaining dj. Overall, to each their own.
  • Kat Laneaux What's the benefits of this as opposed to the Ford or Nissan. Will the mileage be better than the 19 city, 24 hwy? Will it cost less than the average of $60,000? Will it be a hybrid?
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.
  • Zipper69 Some discreet dwebadging and this will pass for a $95k Lucid Air...