“Her book is a revealing portrait of the corporate culture that reflects, and defines, Japan…. funny and insightful…”
– The New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller
The Accidental Office Lady is an insightful, honest and personal account of a young woman coming of age in corporate Japan.
When she was just 22 years old, Laura Kriska became the first American woman to work in the Tokyo headquarters of Honda Motor Company. Arriving on a crisp autumn morning wearing a cream-colored dress-for-success suit, the young red-head from the Midwest encounters the first of many surprises in her new position when she is handed a blue, polyester company uniform — the required dress, for women only. In her role as an assistant to a senior level executive, Kriska had expected to do research, take notes at meetings and possibly even travel with the executive one day. But instead she is trained to serve tea, clean ashtrays and sharpen pencils. Undaunted by these unexpected challenges, Kriska overcomes all obstacles to become an insider in corporate Japan.
Her fluency in Japanese and her deep affinity for the culture help her gain access to intimate and unusual situations. She soaks naked in hot springs with the office ladies, shoots hoops with the company basketball team, eats sushi with senior executives and sips tea with Mr. and Mrs. Honda at their home. Through her friendships with her Japanese colleagues, Kriska begins to understand the intricacies of corporate Japan. She learns how simple word choice can show deference to someone more senior and discovers how listening, rather than speaking, is a way to demonstrate leadership. Using her new found knowledge, Kriska challenges the company culture and eventually succeeds in permanently changing a 50-year-old corporate policy.