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Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 10/30/2012

Japan’s Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki leaves Washington after four not-boring years

Ambassador Fujisaki greets Japanese pop group AKB48 in Washington in March. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
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 light-hearted cultural exchanges and events. Their black Labrador Retriever — the dearly departed Skipper, whom they fostered as a puppy and re-adopted 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 Japan’s tsunami.

The Fujisaki family with their dog Skipper at Lake Geneva. (Akira Mase)
Now, after more than four years in Washington, the two are headed home, a parting that has inspired two months of farewell parties. Thursday night’s dinner 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 is crashing their exit: Both a party at the State Department and a reception at the embassy have been postponed.

The Fujisakis are staying in the U.S. through Election Day to smooth the transition for his successor. Like a true diplomat, he 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.’”

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By  |  05:00 AM ET, 10/30/2012

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