Roger W. Smith, “Reminscence of Eiji Mizutani” (ロジャーW.スミス、「水谷栄二さんを偲んで」)
Eiji Mizutani (水谷 栄二), a former colleague of mine at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, passed away in Tokyo on January 30, 2006.
Mr. Mizutani was the manager of the Wyatt Company’s Tokyo office. During the 1990’s, he divided his time between Tokyo and New York and was involved in initiatives to establish new business for the Wyatt Company with Japanese clients both in Japan and the United States.
I was employed in Business Development and Mr. Mizutani was interested in recruiting me to work with potential Japanese client firms.
Unfortunately, not much ever came of this. But Mr. Mizutani arranged for me to go to Tokyo on a business trip and paid for the trip with a plane ticket purchased with his frequent flier miles. It was thanks to him that I got to see Japan. He was keenly interested in my trip and gave me advice on what to do and see and whom to meet with.
I spent a great deal of time in New York with Mr. Mizutani, both at the office and in causal encounters.
I had great respect and affection for Mr. Mizutani. He was a wonderful person. He was intelligent and well informed in so many areas: business, languages, and general knowledge. He was interested in many things. In fact, it seems he was interested in just about everything. We talked about many subjects, ranging from business to sports. He was an avid sports fan.
He told me about his childhood and his education in Vietnam and the United States. He was a modest man with an impressive background. Apparently, much of his early education was in Vietnam, and he attended college in the United States during the 1950’s, I believe in Indiana.
He knew three languages fluently: Japanese, English, and Vietnamese. His English was impeccable.
He once told me, which I found surprising and interesting, that Vietnamese was an even more difficult language to learn than Chinese.
Mr. Mizutani was a kind person. He seemed to enjoy life greatly.
He enjoyed sharing his experiences and wisdom with his colleagues. This was something he seemed to see as part of his role.
He took his work very seriously, yet he was a delightful companion whom one loved to spend time with. He had a very good sense of humor.
On one occasion, Mr. Mizutani; his secretary, Iseko Kano (叶 伊勢子); his wife, Chizuko Mizutani (水谷 千鶴子), who was visiting New York; and I had lunch together at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan. The waiter spoke to us in an affected Italian accent. Mr. Mizutani joked that with customers in restaurants like these, they “forget that they know English” (pretend that they don’t know it).
He was a very thoughtful and generous person, always doing little kindnesses, like leaving some Japanese pastries on my desk on a day when he left the New York office to return to Tokyo because he thought my sons would enjoy them.
We talked together about family and kids. He was modest about his family, but one could tell that he was very proud of them. I know he was delighted with his sons’ accomplishments, thrilled when his oldest son got married, and very pleased to become a grandfather, because he told me so. (As of the date of this writing, his widow, Chizuko Mizutani, has four grandchildren. See photo below.)
Mr. Mizutani loved to travel, and everything he saw seemed to interest him. One of the last conversations we had was about a trip he had made to Eastern Europe. He had taken a great interest in Bulgaria, a country I myself had once traveled to, and we were able to compare notes.
He liked to experience different cuisines, like a restaurant he introduced me to on Restaurant Row in Manhattan that featured Italian-Jewish cuisine. He was interested in sampling the food in Bulgaria.
He was very much a real, full, and accomplished person in the best sense.