We are welcoming our third Christmas here in Brussels. I hope this letter finds you in good health.
This year in the autumn, I took business trips to the US and to Japan. Since the trip to the US was my first one in quite a while, I found the US more lively than before. For example, at the gate at Frankfurt airport, we were asked to scan in our passport data. At first I wondered why, but I soon found that this is a service offered by the airline. Passport data is sent to immigration prior to the plane's arrival in order to shorten the immigration control line at the destination. I thought it was a good example of cooperation between industry, which is competing to increase the level of service, and the government, which is flexible enough to accept requests from industry. Competition and efficiency are keys in many aspects of life in the US, and I believe life in the US can be quite comfortable once one accepts the fact of these competition and efficiency.
My impression of Japan this time was the speed of changes. Many things, including buildings, companies, and shops, seem to have changed in even in just one year. As a "short term visitor", it was difficult to evaluate what the speed of changes means -- whether it is just to increase the rate of spending, or to change something fundamental in Japan.
When I came back to Europe, while I was disappointed with the weather, I was relieved to return to the silence here compared to the US and Japan. Both the competition and efficiency in the US and the speed of changes in Japan may be simply methods of achieving something, and Europe may already have gone past that point. Certainly life in Europe is less convenient than life in the US and Japan, but it seems that people have more time available to think of essential things in this relaxed atmosphere. Although this slow pace of life is very attractive, we hesitate to enjoy it too much, as rehabilitation will be very difficult when we will move back to Japan.
Finally, our family members are doing fine. Anna is in the 4th grade at JSB (Japanese School of Brussels) and likes her school. In the summer, she enjoyed wall climbing and trampoline at summer school. Because she has been away from Japan for a long time, she sometimes surprises us. As her parents, we have to make sure she does not forget how to be Japanese.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2001!
Tetsuo, Takako & Anna Karaki