As the new trading deal project progressed and I communicated with the European office more frequently, I gained the confidence of Mr. N, who was known to distrust and shunned the men of the headquarters. He came to Japan every quarter for a conference, and each time I joined him and Mr. Yoshida’s team for a drink and dinner.
Every time we met, Mr. N would tell me how I was wasting my brain in Japan, where women had limited opportunities, and how I’d thrive if I worked under him. It was said lightly initially, so I took it lightly, but Mr. N’s words started to gain weight and seriousness as I was getting noticed in the company through the project.
And I was, too, warming up to the idea of relocating to Europe. I say “warm up” because it was that feeling in the gut that boiled up your excitement level and that made you metaphorically jump off the cliff, not knowing if you land safely. I understood one European language, and I had the support of Mr. N, who believed in me. Wasn’t that a good enough safety net?
I asked Mr. N to have dinner with me alone when he came next time. In a box seat of an izakaya in Roppongi, we ordered beer and sashimi. I didn’t wait for him to finish the first drink to broach the subject. I told him I’d done some work with him and believed I could continue supporting him and his business, and if he thought I could thrive in Europe, I’d be pleased if he gave me the opportunity. He looked delighted and confirmed he thought I’d fare better in Europe, but, he continued, we’d have to execute this plan carefully because the men in the headquarters would almost definitely attempt to obstruct it out of envy. It sounded ominous, but I first ensured he meant yes. He said, of course. We raised the glasses and clinked. I had a big swig from mine and let out a long breath.