US Ambassador Emanuel Seeks to Live Like an ‘Ordinary Man’ in Japan


Known as “Rambo” in political circles in Washington, DC, US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel adopts a less scary persona in his first six months on the job.

Instead, Japanese social media users asked if Emanuel could be called a “tetchan,” as evidenced by his tweets.

The term refers to train aficionados, in which there are different sub-categories depending on whether train enthusiasts enjoy taking pictures of trains (“tori-tetsu”) or just driving them (“nori-tetsu”).

Emanuel has generated discussions on social media because he took the Keikyu Corp train. from Shinagawa to Yokosuka on Feb. 17 with his wife, Amy, to meet with officers from U.S. Naval Forces Japan and show support for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.

US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and his wife, Amy, board a Keikyu Corp train. (Provided by the US Embassy)

Emanuel tweeted about the experience and wrote, “Today’s ride to Yokosuka was my first train ride as an Ambassador. Japan’s world-class railway system is worthy of a world-class country. He did not disappoint.

Social media users noted that taking the Keikyu train was a sign of possible tetchan, as East Japan Railway Co.’s Yokosuka Line also connects Shinagawa to Yokosuka and has first-class green car service.

As the United States Ambassador, Emanuel not only has special police protection, but also embassy limos at his disposal.

But he will often use public transportation or even walk to destinations near the US Embassy in Tokyo.

He is clearly a big fan of the punctual and clean Tokyo subway. He recently stood on the platform of Higashi-Ginza Station for the Hibiya Line and described as “perfect” the video display which gave the reason for the slightest delay in the arrival of a train.

He took the Hibiya line to Toranomon-hills station, which opened two years ago. He held a strap, but when the seats directly in front of him opened after two stops, he turned to two women standing near the door and suggested they take the seats.

That day, Emanuel tweeted about his experience again and wrote, “Hello, Higashi-Ginza Station! First time to take the Hibiya line, a Tokyo classic. A new station, a new train line, same Japanese perfection. A perfect 10 for 10 on my train journeys in Japan for arriving on time.”

Although Emanuel presented his credentials at the Imperial Palace in March, he actually arrived in Japan on January 23 and after the quarantine period ended, he visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the district of Kasumigaseki in Tokyo from the Embassy.

Incoming US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel visits the Foreign Office in February. (Provided by the US Embassy)

On a subsequent visit to Yokohama, Emanuel took the JR Tokaido line and he also rode the Shinkansen bullet trains for visits to Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.

He tweeted, “I’ve taken trains across the US and Europe, and you haven’t taken a train until you’re on the shinkansen. High-speed rail is another promising area for U.S.-Japan economic collaboration.

Additionally, while in the Kansai area, Emanuel rode the subway as well as a train operated by Hankyu Corp.

When he tweeted, “Love the really soft seats! Hankyu. Hankyu a lot. the president of the company gave him a train seat cover.


Emanuel had a different image when he held powerful positions in Washington, DC, and his nickname was “Rambo” because he tended to step on the toes of political opponents.

Between 1993 and 1998, he served as senior policy and policy adviser to then US President Bill Clinton. A character from the award-winning American television drama “The West Wing” from around two decades ago is believed to be inspired by Emanuel.

Beginning in 2002, he served three terms as a congressman from Illinois, before becoming President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in 2009.

In 2011, Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago and re-elected four years later.


US Ambassador Rahm Emanuel boards a Hankyu Corp train. in the Kansai region. (Provided by the US Embassy)

In Japan, Emanuel took on a completely different personality as an ambassador.

Not only does he often use public transport, but when he visits different cities in Japan, he inevitably goes to wholesale markets or shopping districts because of his philosophy that discovering Japan means meeting Japanese people where they live. work, travel and shop.

According to US Embassy officials, Emanuel also prefers to dine where ordinary people eat, rather than at a three-star Michelin restaurant. He will often choose the fixed-meal lunches that ordinary employees eat on a regular basis.

He tweeted that he was taking public transport,

“Doing my part for the environment by walking to meet Environment Minister Yamaguchi Tsuyoshi. Each of us can and must make a difference to protect the environment and stop the climate crisis.


As an ambassador, Emanuel also meets personalities from the Japanese political, administrative and commercial world to exchange and gather information.

He is aided in these efforts by his close ties to US President Joe Biden. This was clearly demonstrated when Biden came to Japan in May. When he got off Air Force One at US Air Force Base Yokota in western Tokyo, Emanuel was waiting to greet him with a hug.

In a video he posted shortly after arriving in Japan as ambassador, Emanuel said, “I have known the president for a long time. I’m proud to call him a dear friend.

In an online meeting between Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that Emanuel also attended, the president told Kishida his ambassador had his “full confidence.”

Government sources expressed surprise at the close relationship between the two.

One said: “Of the ambassadors, Emanuel probably has one of the strongest ties to a sitting president. Moreover, when you think of his experience and his achievements in the American political world, he is someone on whom Japan can really count. At the same time, he can also become a very tough interlocutor in negotiations. »


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