I get a kick out of “Z notes”, Jim Zumwalt’s embassy blog.

I don’t know how many American based expats know it, but the #2 guy at the Embassy [i.e. Charge d’Affaires] has been writing a blog for the last year or two, called “Z Notes“.

Now, it’s a lighthearted blog, a bit different than the “heavy” issue kind in the blog circle that tends to read me. So if you want to read Happy Tokyo and Happy Japan kind of stuff, then you should pay a visit. For example, this week’s installment is about the bus system. (You wouldn’t believe how convenient it is.)

But you can learn a lot from what you see there.

Compared to the Ambassador (John Roos), Jim Zumwalt has been around Tokyo for years and years, and from what I’ve heard he’s a pretty good guy. As regular readers know, I sometimes wonder what exactly it is they do over in the Embassy (’cause they certainly ain’t helping me out.) I just get the feeling that when you need your passport renewed, yeah, they’ll do it. But if you bring up any other, you know, issue, then you’re going to get shuffled out the door or told that there’s very little the embassy can really do.

However, when it comes to the ACCJ’s pull at the Embassy, I think the connections are a little different, as Jim indicated in his entry on April 16. (Quote: “I also told the ACCJ members that the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo values our close working relationship with American businesses in Japan.”)

You don’t really hear anyone out of the Embassy saying things like,

“The Embassy really values our close working relationship with FRANCA in Japan.”


“The Embassy really values our close working relationship with the Tozen Foreign Worker’s Union in Japan.”

Maybe because these groups aren’t purely American. But if you ever had your money lifted from you at one of these ACCJ networking events, you learn that the group is very good at promoting and taking care of people in the other countries’ chambers of commerce.

So I just wonder about this. Because it’s pretty obvious that Embassy is being directed to do the bidding of the business interests. (I don’t think it’s Jim Zumwalt deciding that the focus of the Embassy will be the business community.)

Given the number of Republican Administrations we’ve had, (and even Clinton’s, which had a yuppie-make-out-like-a-bandit quality in some ways), it may be no surprise that the Embassy and its staff seem more like an appendage of the local expat business barons’ operations. But there I go again being “heavy”.

You know, the busses are very convenient, and you might have your drink spiked or be pick pocketed in Roppongi. (The latest OSAC notice is that there is a new prime minister. Oooh-security risk!)

So like I say, you see quite a bit at the blog by what you see in it–even if it’s not a lot. So you should take a moment to check out “Z Notes”