WASHINGTON – To hear former Chief of Protocol Lloyd Hand tell it, Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki may have been smart, engaged and charming — but he failed the basic test of a diplomat in Washington.
“Dean Acheson once said that in order to be a successful statesman, you must be dull,” Hand told Fujisaki last week. “Dull you have not been.”
Boring, no. Fun, yes. The Japanese envoy and his wife, Yoriko, became favorites on Embassy Row for dispensing with his nation’s typical formality and throwing open the embassy for a series of lighthearted cultural exchanges and events.
Their black Labrador retriever — the dearly departed Skipper, whom they fostered as a puppy and readopted after he retired from a bomb-sniffing career — wore black tie at their parties and became a celebrity in Japan.
Regulars on the city’s social circuit, the couple spearheaded several events in the U.S. last year to benefit victims of the March 11 quake and tsunami.
Now, after more than four years in Washington, they are headed home, a parting that has inspired two months of farewell parties.
A dinner last Thursday at the home of Hand and his wife, jeweler Ann Hand, was typical: toasts, heartfelt speeches and cracks about the ambassador’s abysmal golf game. Hurricane Sandy crashed their exit: A party at the State Department and a reception at the embassy have been postponed.
They are staying through Election Day on Nov. 6 to smooth the transition for his successor. Like a true diplomat, Fujisaki politely refused to say which presidential candidate he’s rooting for. “People ask me which candidate my country prefers,” he said. “It’s like a Christmas gift. You don’t say anything until you open it, then say, ‘It’s just what I wanted.’ “