This morning I read the best article I have read all year. A bizarre and fascinating story about extreme focus and dedication. The story about the mysterious letters of Mr. Kaor combines: plain silliness, uselessness, focus and true dedication.
It is a story about a hotel in The Netherlands that has been receiving identical handwritten letters, on a daily basis, for over forty years! All letters are from a mysterious Mr. Kaor.
Mr. Kaor and his strange letters
The piles of handwritten letters that the hotel has been receiving for more than forty years are all addressed to “The most artful hotel of The Netherlands” (Hotel Spaander) in the Dutch city of Volendam.
All letters Mr. Kaor writes are identical. This is what they say:
How are you and how is the weather?
Thank you very much
– for sending me some informations
– the other day.
Please give my best regards
– to all members.
The hotel staff has been ignoring the letters from Mr. Kaor for years. They have gotten used to it and just throw them away unopened.
Meeting Mr. Kaor
Journalist Lex Boon from the Dutch newspaper ‘Het Parool’ heard about the letters and decided to investigate the story further. Why is this mysterious Mr. Kaor dedicating his time and effort to write this Dutch hotel the same, strange letter each and every day for forty years?
After doing some research the journalist finds out that Mr. Kaor is a man who lives in the Japanese countryside, close to Osaka, together with his old father. He decides to travel to Japan to meet the man and find out why he writes the letters.
After a long journey he finally sits with Mr. Kaor and his old father at the kitchen table in a small Japanese farmhouse. He finds out that Mr. Kaor and his father are hardworking farmers that have never left Japan. And probably never will.
The answers make no sense
The journalist is excited because he believes he will finally get some answers! But he is disappointed, because Mr. Kaor does not have any answers. Well, he has answers. But they make absolutely no sense.
There is no real reason why he has been writing the letters all those years. He has never been to The Netherlands and he never will. He does not know the hotel and he is not even interested in the weather in The Netherlands (the thing he asks in all of the letters)!
Mr. Osaka explains that he is born in the ‘Year of the Mouse’. The Japanese word for mouse is ‘Nezumi’ and when pronounced in Japanese it kind of sounds like ‘Nederland’ (The Netherlands). Also, Mr. Kaor is born on the 22nd. And the 22nd letter of the alphabet is ‘V’. Hence: Volendam.
That’s it! The journalist leaves the small farmhouse with even more questions than before.
Mr. Kaor’s extreme focus and dedication paid off
Why do I find this story so fascinating? Well, because it is funny and strange. But also because I think that Mr. Kaor’s extreme focus and dedication has paid off.
The previously unknown farmer in the Japanese countryside has become a little bit famous. After all these years of writing the strange letters he has finally reached the point where they could no longer be ignored and somebody had to investigate them. Thanks to this, a large part of The Netherlands has now learned about Mr. Kaor and his father.
the human need to feel important and appreciated is probably as powerful as our other basic drives for sleep, food and sex
The human need to feel important
The famous self-improvement guru Dale Carnegie always claimed that the human need to feel important and appreciated is probably as powerful as our other basic drives for sleep, food and sex.
After all his hard work, focus and dedication, no matter how strange, Mr. Kaor finally had his 15 minutes of fame. He felt important and significant for a little while.
Well done, Mr. Kaor! Keep writing those letters. You have entertained and inspired us.