Time in Japan:
I came to Japan in 1981 after reading
Japanese at London University. It seemed like the obvious thing to do, to see whether four
years of study had been worthwhile and to put into practice the things I had learned.
I spent my first year here teaching English and French and then I worked as a freelance
book translator?my first book was about Japanese war crimes in Manchuria, which was quite
a way to get my grounding in translation. After that I went to work for Vickers Da Costa
translating news and then for Commes des Garcons in their PR department. I started my own
business because I wanted to be involved in the environmental movement but couldn' find a
company that had environmental concerns. Initially I thought that I would just advise
Japanese companies on how to become more ecological in whatever it was that they did, but
I kept on meeting all these businessmen who were saying it wasn't possible to run an
ecologically sound business, so I realized that I had to do it myself to prove that it was
I've not really had too many problems functioning as a businesswoman in Japan, mostly
because I'm involved in the fashion business and, unlike most industries here, there are a
lot of women in senior roles in fashion. Even if I'm dealing with men, they are men who
are working with successful women every day, so they respect me and my ideas.
But when it comes to trying to find companies that are responsive to my ideas, it has been
very difficult. Many of my buyers are just not interested in the thinking behind my
product, and some shops prefer to not make any mention of the issues behind the pieces at
all. They say it looks like I'm pointing an accusing finger at the other manufacturers,
but I don't see it that way; I simply think it is about having the choice. It's difficult
for me to say what I think the best thing about living in Japan is because I've lived here
for most of my adult life. But from a personal and a business perspective I really enjoy
the fact that the Japanese are so ready for new products and ideas. I get a real charge
from that enthusiasm. It's such fun.
Something that is really starting to get to me though is the lack of personal space. It's
so crowded everywhere and, even though I grew up in London, it's something that I just
haven't got used to. I mean wading through the crowds at Hachiko is just too much
sometimes. I could handle it when I was in my twenties, but I'm not sure if I'll be able
to cope so well when I'm in my fifties. For that reason I'm planning to spend more time in
Europe in the future. I love Japan, it's so much fun, but I think I'm ready for a change.
We'll just have to wait and see.