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‘In Our Hearts, We Have Similar Feelings’

May 9, 1987

SMYRNA, Tenn. (AP) _ All the American business lunches and hefty down-home helpings have gotten to Akira Noro.

″When I finally get back to Tokyo, I’ll have to go to the hot springs to get back that good feeling,″ the Japanese executive said, with a smile and a pat to his stomach.

For Noro, who is vice president-finance at the Nissan automobile plant here, and for 168,000 other Japanese citizens in the United States, working away from home means bending their tradition-shaped lives to strange American ways.

Noro, 51, a small, bespectacled man with an explosive laugh, has learned to wear big American boots to cope with Tennessee’s muddy winters. He golfs at the local country club. He and his wife enjoy party-going. ″In Japan,″ he noted, ″it is not often that husbands and wives attend parties together.″

But still he hankers for Japan’s lighter cuisine.

″Things are getting better,″ he said. ″Now there are two Japanese restaurants in Nashville 3/8″

Japanese expatriates, coming from one of the world’s most densely populated countries, most appreciate the roominess of American life.

″We rent a large house in Nashville,″ Noro said. ″It’s like living in the woods. ...

″In Japan you have a small area in which to live. ... Consciously or unconsciously, there is always contact with other people. Here, if you don’t want to have that contact, you can live by yourself. I guess it has something to do with the individualism of Americans.

″But still, people do care about each other here. When we were driving once, for example, we had a problem with our car, and a stranger stopped and helped us. That just doesn’t happen too often in Japan.″

Noro, who worked for Nissan in California before coming to Tennessee in 1983, said he once thought ″the Japanese mentality and American mentality were so different. ... But I have found that at the bottom of our hearts we have similar feelings - the basic sentiments are the same.″

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