A Hale and Hearty Mr. Oga

This past July 4 there was a testimonial party for Heitaro Nakajima, the former chairman of the Japan Audio Society, and Norio Oga, the honorary chairman of Sony Corp., attended and delivered a speech. "I collapsed in Beijing," Mr. Oga said, "and for three months I did not have any memory. Gradually I got better." There was thunderous applause from around the room, and I also, clapping furiously, was moved to tears.

I happened to meet Mr. Oga again soon after that. On July 9, when the Shinkansen arrived at Hamamatsu Station, just as I moved toward the exit of car No. 8, Mr. Oga came walking from car No. 9 and alighted onto the platform. Chatting with Mr. Narita, the chairman of Dentsu Inc., he walked off the platform with a firm gait and headed from the wicket in the direction of the west exit.

The occasion on that day was a parting ceremony for the late Genichi Kawakami, the founder of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. The ceremony, attended by several thousand people, was held in a wonderful atmosphere-solemn, but bright and serene at the same time. It was Mr. Oga's turn to offer flowers after Shoichiro Toyoda, the chairman of Toyota Motor Corp. Mr. Oga walked steadily up to the altar and offered the flowers.

A few years ago I went to Orchard Hall to watch Mr. Oga conduct the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. There were many short pieces, and between them Mr. Oga would lean his body against the protective pipes of the conductor's podium for support. For nearly two hours he put his heart and soul into conducting the orchestra. It must have been very hard labor indeed.

With these memories in the back of my mind, I went to Orchard Hall again at the end of the year before last to watch Mr. Oga conduct Beethoven's Ninth. When the time came, Mr. Oga glided smoothly to the podium and commenced the symphony. His strong and subtle conducting led to a rousing performance. You could feel the waves raging around you. Mr. Oga waved his baton continuously, without resting, for one and a half hours. My whole body was overwhelmed with emotion. And when the performance ended without any encore, that was moving too. I was deeply impressed by Mr. Oga's all-round perfection.

Mr. Oga's collapse in Beijing in the fall of last year came while he was leading the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The morning after Japanese newspapers were full of reports about the incident. Like myself, the whole business world was shocked. All we could do was pray for his recovery.

What astonished me at that time was Mr. Oga's schedule for the next day. He had planned to make a brief return from Beijing to Tokyo, where he was to attend an awards ceremony to receive the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, and then go back to Beijing for another performance that very evening. That heavy schedule, I thought rather darkly, showed just how much confidence Mr. Oga had had in his physical condition. After that, time passed by when I received little information about Mr. Oga and indeed refrained from making contact myself.

Then Mr. Oga reappeared in July. Everyone at that event, including myself, was surprised, sincerely relieved, and full of congratulations. The expressions of joy and smiles on everyone's faces told the story. "Good to see you looking so well, Mr. Oga." I feel like clapping again.