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The writer’s chance encounter with a Japanese florist transforms her image of women from that country.
It was tough for me to believe, when I read in Japan Times and Time Magazine, that most Japanese women quit their jobs as soon as they get engaged, get married or become a mother. They don’t pursue their career further but stick to their traditional role of raising their children and taking care of their homes. These women who are equally educated as their male counterparts, end up giving up their career after marriage. The question that kept lingering on my mind was – whether this choice was their own or was it forced on them?
During my stay in Kobe this summer, my inquisitive mind got the better of me and I decided to find the answer to my question. I knocked the door of my gorgeous 52-year-old Japanese neighbour who is the owner of ‘Floral Story’, a flower arrangement school and has a popular Japanese blog for the past twelve years.
Before asking the question I had on my mind, I requested my neighbour, Mrs. Yoshiko Nakajima, to talk about her life’s journey. She said, “ Now, I am staying alone in our bungalow as my daughter is pursuing her higher education in Tokyo and my husband is working and living in Himeji and visits me in Kobe only on weekends.”
I was not surprised when she said, “I had to quit my job as an office girl when my daughter was born. I wanted to take care of her.” Then, I quickly grabbed the opportunity to ask my question, to which she replied,“It was my choice to quit my job because I wanted to enjoy motherhood.” She added that she had wanted to be with her daughter and still be financially independent. She had always been a creative person since childhood, so she decided to indulge in her hobby.
She had always been fond of flowers, so during her free time she started taking a keen interest in her hobby – flower arrangement. She decided to take a basic five-year foundation course in flower arrangement and she practiced daily at home while taking care of her daughter. She smiled and said, “My fridge was always full of flowers at that time. Flowers gave meaning to my life.” She strongly believes that exchanging flowers means exchanging love.
With her husband’s support, at the age of 39, she decided to follow her dream and finally started her flower arrangement school from her home in Kobe. She said, “In Japan, husbands wants their wives to work if she is keen on working. They help their wife to pursue their hobbies or work.”
Her statement took me aback; it was contrary to my notion, as I believed that husbands and the society don’t support working women in Japan. She then explained that it is the woman who takes the first step in fulfilling her dream.
Her statement took me aback; it was contrary to my notion, as I believed that husbands and the society don’t support working women in Japan. She then explained that it is the woman who takes the first step in fulfilling her dream. Then the husband supported and offered a helping hand. In her case, she was really fortunate and was proud of her husband as he had stood by her.
She pointed out that without any domestic help, she artistically managed housework and her flower school. An early riser by nature, she enjoyed working out and believed in eating healthy food. She loved to be in sync with nature. After winning so many awards, she was still studying to improve her skills.
In a country that has one of the highest gender inequality rates in the world and where child day care centres are lacking, this lady, who was raised by parents who are farmers, managed to strive.
In a country that has one of the highest gender inequality rates in the world and where child day care centres are lacking, this lady, who was raised by parents who are farmers, managed to strive. She started her own school and blog in the year 2002, before Womenomics was promoted by the Japanese prime minster Mr. Abe. Her success story convinced me that we can make our own lives and passions count.
Header image courtesy Shutterstock.
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