United States ~The Bus Came Out of the Long Tunnel into New Jersey~

By Kaz Sakuramoto,
Former Representative in New York City

Driving west from the bus terminal in the center of Manhattan and through the Lincoln Tunnel, you are already in the State of New Jersey. It only takes 15 minutes to drive through the tunnel, which connects New York and New Jersey under the Hudson River, but the two states have their own laws and regulations, from their tax systems to traffic rules. This is why the country is called the United States.
In the northeastern part of New Jersey, where both my workplace and home are, residents mainly consist of descendants of immigrants from Central and South America, permanent residents with Asian ethnic backgrounds, and expatriate employees and their families. These people maintain their culture and lifestyle and live a life similar to that in their home country. In some areas, the majority of signs are written in Spanish.

The diversity of cultures, ethnic groups, habits, skin colors and languages means there are quite separate groups which do not mix to a high degree. Not all speak English fluently but still they are, undeniably, Americans. In densely populated Manhattan, some of the world's most sophisticated people reside, work and play. Alongside, such as Africans from Senegal, Hispanic people from Ecuador, and Chinese people in Chinatown, live in their own values and customs. This is where the differences merge into one harmonious whole. This is a country that embraces diversity: different races, different cultures and different languages.

Expatriates from Japan tend to see themselves as foreigners, but anybody in this country can be regarded as a foreigner. Whether you have or do not have a permanent resident visa does not matter. What matters here is how much you are ready to immerse yourself in the country. People rarely differentiate foreigners and therefore you cannot expect to be excused just because you are from a foreign country and not familiar with the circumstances. On the other hand, you may sometimes be able to get by, even without sufficient knowledge, just by pretending that you do. This is a country where those who are good at asserting themselves can survive.

The Hartz Mountain Corporation, where I am currently working, is one of the largest manufacturers of general pet supply products in the United States. Sumitomo Corporation Group acquired this company in June 2004. It distributes throughout the nation a wide range of pet supplies from snacks, toys, grooming products for dogs and cats to feed for birds and aquarium fish. Since its establishment more than 80 years ago, the Hartz brand has been widely accepted and used right across the social spectrum. The company started selling selected products exclusively in Japan in the spring of 2008.

Our company first approached The Hartz Mountain Corporation in the late 90s to sell technical grades of insecticides for use in flea and tick control for dogs and cats. I clearly remember that the quantity of the first order was so large that we first believed it was a mistake. I was truly impressed by the large market in the United States. Since I started working in this country, I have always been amazed by the enormous volume of business in this country. This is totally different from anything I have experienced in Europe and Asia. This is America!

I was assigned, a few months after the acquisition, to work for The Hartz Mountain Corporation to support and promote its growth. Since then, four years have passed. As the economic situation in the United Stated is not favorable these days, The Hartz Mountain Corporation is also experiencing challenges in its business. Now we are making a concerted effort to find a way to overcome the adverse situation.