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Nissan PH’s ‘Dad’ once coached son for home runs

Just like the rest of the Western world, Father’s Day in Japan is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The Japanese people use a number of terms to address the man of the house. There’s “chichi” (used when you refer to your own father when talking to other people). Another is “oyaji”, an informal way for sons to call their dads. And then there’s “oto-san”, the more formal way for a child to address the father.

And doesn’t it sound apt to call Nissan Philippines’ president and managing director Atsushi Najima the company’s own “oto-san”? Najima, indeed, has been nurturing and guiding his “corporate child” the best he can during these most challenging circumstances.

Najima himself calls his father “oto-san”, and his son calls him “oto-san”, as well. The one exception is his daughter, who simply calls him “papa”.

Najima told this writer recently that the Japanese choose their terms of endearment seriously. “How do we call our fathers? It really depends on the person. Oto-san is the most common and casual, but not too casual. Chichi is used when I talk about my father to others. If I talk about another’s father, I use otosama or otosan if this is my friend’s father. Oyaji is an old word. This is a bit complicated and we need more time to explain this.”

Patriarchal terms in the land of the rising son, er, sun, may be a bit complicated, but as for Najima’s family life, simplicity is key. Najima values most of the time he spends with his family. Whenever he gets the chance, he goes on long drives with them. And they’ve been on road trips quite a lot—around Asia, Europe and the United States.
When it comes to being a well-rounded dad to his son Shungo, Najima has all the bases covered. “My trips with Shungo revolved around bringing him to baseball practice every Saturday and Sunday when he was in elementary school from 2008 to 2016, and we did this when we moved to Malaysia, then back to Japan, and then to Singapore. We left the house at 7:30 a.m. and came back home at 7 p.m. In fact, I became an assistant coach in his baseball team at some point,” Najima narrated.

“During these drives, my son and I would talk about baseball strategies, how to pitch and how to hit the ball. I always put on my favorite music from Southern All Stars (a long-time popular Japanese band) during these drives, so when my son hears a song from the band he always remembers our drives to the baseball field,” Najima related.

Home runs to world runs

Najima’s life with his son and the rest of the family hasn’t been confined to the baseball diamond. It has spanned nearly all corners of the globe, in fact. “I have had a lot of memorable drives with my family. When we had breaks from baseball, we found time to go anywhere for a quick getaway. Since we move from one country to another every two or three years, we have had many friends from different parts of the world. We once drove from Penang to Kuala Lumpur (a six-hour drive), from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore (a four-hour drive), from Amsterdam to Paris, from Milan to Rome, and New York to Maine. We enjoyed the variety of sceneries, food in different markets, and conversation with friends and locals. We were able to go anywhere with these road trips, and they gave us fond family memories that will last a lifetime,” Najima said.

The current pandemic, however, has somewhat put a halt on this globe-trotting series for now. “During this period, my son has been living outside the Philippines, while the rest of our family has been staying in Manila. We haven’t been able to see my son for more than a year. After the pandemic is over, we want to go on a road trip in Japan, just like before,” he said.

This global health crisis certainly won’t derail Najima’s role as a doting parent to his children. Najima maintains the firm belief that a parent’s role is to help children grow into their fullest potential as individuals. “To do so, we have to discover what that potential is, so we can give them the right opportunities and support.  This is also how we’ll know how they can be happy, and celebrate their success with them.”

Recommending Navara, Leaf

Though Najima may not be discussing baseball strategies with his son at this time, he’s definitely keeping all the bases loaded to NPI’s advantage. “I was able to apply what I learned as a parent to my line of work, and I still keep in touch with former colleagues with whom I grew professionally.”

Would he want his kids to own and drive a Nissan vehicle someday, perhaps a Navara or a Leaf? “It depends on the life that they want to lead. I’ll recommend that they get a Nissan Navara if they want to lead a life that is full of adventurous treks in the city or off-road, and if they have activities that need the versatility and power of a smart pickup truck. The Leaf would be perfect for them if they want to settle in the city, if they would benefit from the convenience of home charging, and if being environment-conscious and forward-thinking is a crucial aspect of their identity as a person,” Najima answered.

And when the kids go on to start their own families, what would be the perfect family car for them? Najima replied: “I have been driving the Leaf as my everyday car, and it is perfect for my daily drives to work. The Navara can be perfect for a family that is more on the adventurous side, but the Leaf works for me in my current family set-up,” he said.
Finally, what would Najima use to drive his “oto-san” around town?

“I’ll happily drive my father in a Leaf every day, and I’m sure he would also enjoy driving it, especially with the help of the e-Pedal,” he said.

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