Farewell Sawada-San

Friday, June 18th 2010 | Ismael Ghalimi

Today, I am attending the funeral of Tomoaki Sawada, also known as Sawada-san. To me, he was a colleague, a mentor, and a friend. We met four years ago. Back then, I had visited Japan three times, in 1991, 1999, and 2006. Now, I live in Tokyo one week a month, and owe this lifestyle to him. I had an early interest in Japan, and Sawada-san turned it into a love affair. I would fly over the Pacific, and he would take me over the bridge that brings two cultures together.

Sawada-san and I met over this blog. His comments were followed by an invitation to meet in Tokyo, during which I realized the full extent of his technical expertise and his exceptional business acumen, both honed over many years working for IBM. We joined forces, and he helped launch Intalio in Japan, making all the introductions that later on turned into business relationships. Most importantly, he was instrumental in helping Intalio make the move to Cloud Computing, which is driving most of our growth today.

Japan is a fascinating country, but one where doing business can be fairly challenging for an American or a European, of which I am both. This is where Sawada-san excelled. He would patiently explain to me and other Intalio managers how business is done here, why certain traditions must be followed in a certain way, and most importantly, why patience would be the mother of all virtues. We listened, and success quickly followed. Sawada-san was a great mentor.

Over the years, a friendship developed. He exposed me to various styles of Japanese cuisine, all of which he enjoyed very much. His wife Chikako-san introduced me to the art of the tea ceremony, also known as sado. His son Noriaki-san guided me through Tokyo’s most interesting neighborhoods, especially Daikanyama, where we dreamed of setting up Intalio’s offices one day. And when time would come for me to fly back home, he would always give me a bag full of these famous Tokyo Banana cakes, to the delight of my wife and daughter.

Today, Sawada-san left us on this Earth. And while I do not know where he is going next, I know that his memory will remain with us forever. On behalf of all Intalio’s employees, I would like to give our deepest sympathy to his wife, Chikako-san, his son Noriaki-san, and his daughter Yumi-san. For my part, I will simply remember the last minutes of Akira Kurosawa’s final film, Madadayo. As Uchida-san’s life is about to end, he remembers his youth, playing a hide-and-seek game with other children in an open field. And as children ask Uchida-san if he is ready (“Mou ii kai?”), he simply answers “Mada dayo!” (“Not yet!”). We are never ready for events like this one, and I wish that I could have told Sawada-san how much I loved him before he passed away. But life goes on, and he shall rest in peace now.

Mada dayo!

Entry filed under: BPM 2.0

6 Comments - Add a comment

1. Stefan Schaffer  |  June 18th, 2010 at 5:31 pm


The little I know about Japan, I know from you. You opened my mind, translated way beyond the words, introduced me to the incredible food of your country — and the sake!

It was a great time!

Thank you for that


2. Christian  |  June 19th, 2010 at 6:42 am

Sad story, good speech.

Sayonara to a great man!

3. Shyam  |  June 22nd, 2010 at 2:00 am

I am very sorry to hear that a great man has left the world. I am moved by the Madadyo example; you have expressed it very nicely. I will definitely see this movie.

4. Lancelots  |  October 24th, 2010 at 9:02 pm

That’s very sad. He was a really great man.

5. BSL  |  November 27th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Tokyo Banana cakes is famous as souvenir.

6. Redes de proteção  |  November 28th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Sad story, He was a really a great man.

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