Vahid Halilhodzic, who was fired abruptly on April 7 as coach of Japan's national soccer team, held a news conference in Tokyo on April 27.

"Boiling with rage" was the expression that came to mind as he reiterated his bitter disappointment with the Japan Football Association, his former employer.

What apparently enraged Halilhodzic was the JFA's stated reason for his dismissal, which was that he had allowed his relationship of trust with his staff and players to erode.

Swearing he had never in his entire coaching career been let go for something like "relationship of trust," Halilhodzic added glumly, "Had I been sacked to take responsibility for causing (the team's) defeat, I would have understood that."

In analyzing Halilhodzic's case, Yasuaki Takemoto, 49, who has more than 20 years of experience as a headhunter, admitted soccer is not his bailiwick. But he observed, "In terms of the Japanese concept of 'shin-gi-tai'--the mind, technique and body--the most important element is the technique for someone like Halilhodzic who has led soccer powerhouses abroad. And he definitely delivered on the 'technique' by winning the World Cup preliminaries. But he was fired for the 'mind' element of 'his relationship of trust with his team.' Obviously, he couldn't accept that."

Takemoto said his own profession has made him well aware of differences in perception between Japanese corporations and their American and European counterparts.

The latter value "results"--or the "technique"--while Japanese companies look closely at their employees' adaptability to the corporate culture--the "mind."

Nowadays, foreigners heading Japanese corporations are no longer a rarity. While some non-Japanese CEOs have failed to perform to their fullest abilities in the Japanese environment, others have succeeded spectacularly and turned failing businesses around.

In rugby, Australian-born Eddie Jones, who coached Japan up to the 2015 Rugby Word Cup, is still greatly admired and respected to this day.

Let me make quite clear here that "technique" was definitely not all Halilhodzic was about.

In the immediate aftermath of the Kumamoto earthquakes two years ago, the devastation he saw overlapped with the destruction wrought by the Bosonian War in his native Bosnia and Herzegovina. He felt compelled to visit the town of Mashiki and other hard-hit areas.

At the April 27 news conference, he said, "I am no longer Japan coach, but I intend to live up to my promise of visiting Kumamoto again." And he wore on his lapel a badge depicting Kumamon, a mascot created by the Kumamoto prefectural government.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 28

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.