Long before Yoshio Ishizaka became president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., he was chief coordinating officer, a main liaison between the U.S. operations and Japan.
One of Ishizaka's first assignments in 1986 was to oversee the development of a new, larger pickup. That meant traveling to Texas truck country to see how full-sized trucks were used. In Japanese, doing this is called genchi genbutsu, which translates into "Go and see for yourself."
Ishizaka, now 67, recalls:
"I first went to Texas in 1986, to Gulf States Toyota. They said, 'Welcome, Yoshi, to Houston. We'll entertain you tonight with surf and turf.'
"I thought, 'What is surf and turf?' and I followed (Gulf States Toyota boss) Jerry Pyle into this big Texas restaurant.
(Ishizaka makes a gesture of slapping down a huge plate of food.)
"Jerry said, 'Here, Yoshi, is a big T-bone steak and a lobster. You have to consume both.'
"I tried it and I did it. The dealers and distributors were very surprised and pleased. They said, 'OK, now you're a Texan.' And they gave me a cowboy hat.
"They wanted me to understand Texas size. Then they said: 'Now you're going back to California. It's a six-hour flight from Houston to Los Angeles. The first three hours, you're still in Texas. Then it's another three hours out of Texas.'
"So actually, letting the Japanese understand size is really important for the Americans. Because the Japanese don't understand size. Surf and turf is a really good example. I really enjoyed it.
"But from then on, I always told the (Japanese) district coordinator, 'If it's your first time to Texas, don't eat any lunch.' (laughs) 'You have to prepare for dinner.'"
— James B. Treece