Looking back on Mr.Isao Okawa.

 ■Looking back on Isao Okawa.

I read Nishi Kazuhiko's "Record of Regrets" and I found myself deeply reflecting on the fact that it's been 20 years since Mr.Isao Okawa passed away.

He is a major entrepreneur who helped bring CSK, Sega, and Bell System 24 public, but there are fewer people who know about him nowadays.

None of the students at iU likely know him.

Yet it's a grave loss to forget about that old timer.

When he died in March 2001, I spent a lot of time writing memorial messages for him.

I left the government office and went to MIT, and since that time it was Mr. Okawa who gave me a chance to idle about in academia, and it was truly a shame that he passed away just before various digital projects and projects for children, such as the MIT Okawa Center, came to fruition.

One such message is here.

You can read it below. ↓

March 22, 2001: What Mr. Okawa leaves us (by Ichiya Nakamura), Nikkei Digital Core


In other words, Mr. Okawa is the source of programming education and one computer per person idea that was later disseminated around MIT and elsewhere, and is a major global contributor to digitization of education.

But what I want to convey here is how he came across as that 20th century persona of someone who is wild and sexy, a flashy spender, which was in total contrast to his amazing feats. I have never met the likes of him since. He was quite an amusing man.

I first met him when I was a newcomer at the government office. The year was 1984.

I was with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in the telecommunications bureau, and we were in the midst of formulating a bill for the Telecommunications Business Act to liberalize telecommunications.

On a nearly daily basis, Mr. Okawa negotiated with the executives.

Even though he was the president of a software company, he was like a private officer pitting the Ministry of International Trade and Industry against him.

I used to regularly serve him tea each day.

After that, in 1995, when I was sent to spy in Paris, I attended to him as part of G7 proceedings, as described in the memorial I wrote.

After returning to Japan, I started frequently taking part in a salon that Makoto Naruke of Microsoft held every month in Akasaka.

I met up with Mr. Okawa again there, but I wasn't in a position to talk freely with a bigwig who was 35 years my senior.

I would just get tipsy and gaze at him from a distance.

I burst open the door to the restroom and found Mr. Okawa there, pants down, taking a leak. I felt like I had seen something I shouldn't have, and scurried back to the parlor. I was sipping my drink, and he came out and shouted, "OK, who just took a peek at my ass?"

It was this guy, this guy.

It was like one of those interrogation routines in a Yoshimoto standup comedy duo, and he recognized me.

It was slightly later that Kazuhiko Nishi proceeded with the MIT investment project to save ASCII, pitching the idea of establishing a research institute to Mr. Okawa. It was then that he suggested I quit my government job and go to MIT.

Mr. Okawa appraised me over a round of drinks.

"So you'll leave the government. You sure you're okay with that?"

I would be going alone to the US, but I had no money to my name, and nowhere for my family to live.

"We have this apartment available, so they can live there."

It was a rather impressive apartment in Nagata-cho.

So my family moved in.

In the adjacent apartment was Koichi Hamada.

Across the way was Shin Kanemaru's office, from which illicit gold bullion donations were later found.

Many of the letters that arrived at the apartment were addressed to the Onko Chishin no Kai.

It was an office rented to Michio Watanabe, apparently.

And here were we, this suspicious family in the midst of it all.

As for what become of us after that, well, we still live on the fourth floor.

Mr. Okawa would take the stage and enthusiastically sing "Tokyo Rhapsody," which was tantamount to the CSK company song, leisurely dancing a traditional Japanese dance as well as the masters. He was a versatile entertainer. One of his other performative acts was handing out money.

Night after night, at high-end restaurants in Akasaka, he would slip envelopes with money in them into the sleeves of geisha entertainers.

He would put 10,000 JPY in small envelopes and bring lots of those every time, tossing them over to the entertainers while sharing frivolous and erotic stories with them.

What a bigwig.

That's not something your run-of-the-mill company president could do.

Only people who succeed at entrepreneurial ventures have the chutzpah to safeguard the old culture like this.

I often helped him prepare the envelopes by putting bills in them.

What a bigwig.

When Daijiro Hashimoto was elected governor of Kochi Prefecture, he donated more than 200 paintings by Chagall to the Prefectural Museum of Art to celebrate.

Why, I asked? He just said, "Chagall is dead. Dead artists are considered the good ones."

Although, he was enthusiastic about supporting Mr. Konishiki and other living people.

(I wish he had given me at least one...)

What a bigwig.

He went to the main Paris location of Hermes and said, "Give me all the neckties from this side of the display to that side." As his interpreter, I hesitated.

He then asked me to buy six bottles of milk, which I bought at the sticker price, and he spent an hour chastising me for not getting it at a discount.

It really gave me a glimpse into these two sides of him: the star-studded bigwig, and the penny-pinching man who had worked his way up from the docks.

He was the first person I worked for after leaving the government for the private sector.

Once I joined the private sector, I expected to find tons of these larger-than-life characters.

But the reality is that I never met another like him.

He had a vineyard on the west coast, and I had access to Bellinger whenever I wanted when he was around.

I still have a single 1999 vintage.

I plan to open it on the 20th, the anniversary of his death.

Thank you once again, Mr. Okawa.

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