Learning by Drinking: Rikidozan

If you have to start up a new business
Pro wrestler | 14 November 1924 – 15 December 1963

In every community, there’s always that one person who acts without any consideration for others, making trouble for everyone around them. And yet, for some reason, you just can’t seem to hate them.

Loved by their seniors and trusted by their juniors, they act with reckless abandon. Even so, it’s impossible to dislike them. You don’t love them, but you also can’t help but be drawn to them.

This time, we will be covering a national pro wrestling star of the postwar period: Rikidozan. Some of you might be going, “Who’s that?” Let us thus first take a brief look back at this man’s journey to becoming a wrestler.

Born in 1924 in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his real name was Kim Sin-rak. He was later adopted, thus becoming Momota Mitsuhiro, and by the time he became a national star he was fully Japanese, “born and raised” in Nagasaki. While today it is pretty much self-evident, back then it was considered the biggest of taboos in the media to mention his Korean origins.

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Learning by Drinking: Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu

Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu
If you devote yourself to wining and dining
Politician | 775 – 30 August 826

“Wow! You’re the man, boss!”

It has been some time since one could hear people uttering fake-sounding compliments the likes of these in public. And yet, for every salaryman out there, the act of buttering up continues to be an indispensable survival skill.

“Buttering up to someone.” It doesn’t have a nice ring to it. However, even if you personally feel like that’s what it is you’re doing, as long as the other party doesn’t get the sense that someone’s only trying to flatter them, that in and of itself turns what you’re doing into “hospitality.” It would be no exaggeration to say that your future depends on whether or not you can successfully walk that thin line with proper discretion.

Now in 2019, people are clamoring for work-style reforms. Companies are scaling down the late-night meetings, banning after-parties, and requiring special permissions for wining and dining after 10 PM. It might well be that we now find ourselves in an era where even if it’s some important-looking gentleman giving their whole spiel about how “history is made at night, you know” (all while exuding that unmistakable “old person smell”), the young people of today would just be staring at them in complete bewilderment.

Be that as it may, the truth is that history is, in fact, made by “hospitality.” And if one was to trace back the history of Japan, surely it would be Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu who shines brilliantly as the country’s first-generation Hospitality Man.

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Learning by Drinking: Minamoto no Yoritomo

Minamoto no Yoritomo
If you’re told that it’s “anything goes tonight”
Samurai | 9 May 1147 – 9 February 1199

“Tonight, it’s no-holds-barred! Just drink away!”

Even if it’s your superior telling you so, you would do best not to end up so zonked that you’re smacking them on the shoulder, looking all disheveled as you’re going, “Hey, boss! Boss! Booosssss!!”

More than ten years ago now, I was a new employee at this company. Just a few days after I’d started there, someone uttered the phrase “no-holds-barred.” I took those words literally.

That evening, I drank and I drank and I drank, and I ended up falling asleep on the last train of the night. I was lying there, spread-eagled on the floor of that crowded train, not concerned in the least about how I might be perceived by my boss who was also on that train making his way home.

When I got to work the next day, I was instantly being treated like I was somehow this unstable “guy who sleeps on the floors of crowded trains” type. (By the way, isn’t it interesting how in Tokyo trains, even when it’s totally crowded, if someone who looks like trouble walks in it’s like suddenly there’s this free space opened up for him out of nowhere? Like he was splitting the ocean or something? What’s the deal with that anyway?)

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Learning by Drinking: Prince Shirakabe

Prince Shirakabe
If you’re dragged into a factional dispute
Politician | 18 November 708 – 11 January 782

The absolute biggest cause of concern for your average salaryman has to be changes in personnel.

The number of posts in the workplace is fixed, and consequently some of them are agreeable while others are bound to be much less so. “Relative evaluation” doesn’t exist even as a concept, people’s hopes and expectations are but dust in the wind, and it’s not at all uncommon for there to be personnel changes that make you question the decision makers’ sanity.

And the bigger the organization, the more complicated and bizarre its inner workings become. All salarymen are forced to live in that world of evil spirits of mountains and rivers.

You could even go so far as to saying it’s a matter of “erase or be erased.” In actual fact, it’s a world much like that of Golgo 13 unfolding behind the scenes of these April personnel changes. People erasing others or getting erased themselves, and people sensing that they’re in danger so they try to keep themselves out of harm’s way, running about in a frenzy while neglecting to do their actual job.

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Learning by Drinking: Nagabuchi Yozo

Nagabuchi Yozo
If you made it to work but you’re hungover
Baseball player | 4 May 1942 –

Whenever someone asks me why I drink, it always makes me flinch.

Because it feels good,” I answer them. But if you picture a man who’s drank himself to an unconscious state, breathing heavily with an anguished look on his face, while the man himself might be feeling good it sure is a pretty repulsive sight to anyone else.

Sure, it’d be all good if you could just stop right before you reach that “dead drunk” stage. But unfortunately, it’s difficult to recognize when you’re about to cross that line you’re not supposed to cross.

Here’s something that someone told me right around the time I first entered the workforce. “Even if you get hammered when you’re young, you’ll get the hang of it eventually. You’ll gradually learn to drink more responsibly. So drink away and don’t worry about it.”

So I took their word for it. I’ve simply kept drinking, “not worrying about it” while devotedly and haphazardly continuing to drink myself to a state of drunken stupor, and pretty soon I will be past the age of forty.

But the thing is that even when you do drink yourself to oblivion, morning still comes.

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