Two weeks have passed

Our new life began two weeks ago! Now I’m used to driving my daughter to school almost everyday, working at Starbucks near school for four hours, picking her up, driving home, and working more till I need to pick the other daughter up from the local daycare by 5:30 pm.

So far our older daughter likes the school, which is good, and although she had really not talked in English at home, she seems picking it up. I was really concerned how I could work, but working at Starbucks is quite comfortable (with wi-fi and power outlet!). The only thing I don’t like to do there is requesting for filming permission. Sometimes it’s a ministry and sometimes it’s a totally random person I find interesting for a TV show. One day I was asking about antiballistic missiles to the Ministry of Defence, for example, at Starbucks. It’s not something you want to hear at a cafe.

So far, so good. I have a few pieces of filming coming up and I have to see how we can handle it. One day, I know my husband can drive her to school. How about the other days? It’s all about management to run family matters.




Little dishes for a week 一週間の常備菜

So a weekend is my preparation time for food for the coming week. I wonder how people outside Japan do. A lot of working parents make somewhat-to-complaetely prepared food on weekends.

What I made yesterday:

Bread (I baked additional six pieces of French bread since we have them every morning), lotus root and carrot salad, broccoli, brown mushroom, spring bamboo, and baby squid. I will need to make some more during the week but it feels safe when I know I have prepared stuff in the fridge.



One more week あと一週間

One more week to go till my luxurious days will be gone– that I have time from 9 am to 5 pm on my own–. There are things piled up before me. Need to go to the Land Transport Bureau in my district, City Office, to see if I can get my daughter’s dress fixed, and to get my glasses fixed too. Can I do all of these in one week?

I needed to turn down the reading job offer yesterday. I couldn’t possibly read 300-some pages of English book and make a resume in 10 days with what I already have. I need to focus on research today. It’s for the news show I helped film last month since we are hoping to add some filming. Then need to fill in documents. It’s such a nice day today. Bummer I have to stay home all day long.





子どもを抱えて働くということ What being a working mother means









We decided to have our daughter go to a school one-hour away.

The problem will be how she goes. Like other Japanese kids, she can take a train by herself to school. But we didn’t want her to do it during the terrible rush hours in Tokyo. So we concluded that I would just need to drive her. Driving two hours each for two round trips would be too much. It’s just a waste of time. I couldn’t work. I checked on cowroking places, rental offices in the area as well as expensive Tokyo parking lots. After all it’s best for now that I just go to a shopping mall not too far from school and work for four hours, then pick her up, go home together. She goes to a local after-school program while I work for another three hours. It makes it a total of seven hours of working time while I have nine hours now. If I want to work more, I just need to get up early.

I just have to do it since we’ve made the choice. Read More

小一の壁 The Wall of First Graders









I am facing a high wall so-called “The Wall of First Graders.”

If you are working parents, you face this when your child graduates from daycare. My older daughter is graduating this March and, oh why, we have decided to have her go to an international school that is one-hour away from home. There were a few reasons why we simply didn’t decide on the local public school but mainly because she only speaks Japanese when we talk to her. My husband is German. I am Japanese. We speak English each other. My husband speaks German to the children. I speak English to them otherwise they wouldn’t have learned English at all while going to a Japanese daycare and they wouldn’t have had no idea what their parents talk about. We didn’t want that.

Their English understanding isn’t so bad. Actually I’d rather praise them how much they actually understand conversational English despite the fact that they have never been to any English schools. But understanding a language isn’t quite same as speaking it. Writing is a whole different level. As a person who deals with clients from England, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., I see the importance of being able to speak English because the world will be more diverse once our kids are old. I am also often frustrated how low my English ability is comparing to Japanese. Sure, to most Japanese, I speak English much more fluently. But I know how limited it is because I understand the language this much. We also hope they may choose to go to German university and they will be able to get by as far as they speak English. So we that was our choice.

I didn’t know how big this obstacle would be.


Interview with Tomoko Chris

July 22nd, 2015



Born in Hawaii, May 1st, 1971. Raised in Yokohama, where she attended Midorigaoka High School.

Enrolled in Sophia University’s Faculty of Comparative Culture and graduated with a major in Sociology.

Upon graduation, began professional activities at Tokyo FM radio station J-WAVE. Since then, has continued working in radio and other industries in roles related to communication and expression, including television narrator, lyricist, and writer. In recent years, primary focus has been on planning and running programs showcasing art and design. Eldest son born in 2011.


1971年5月1日 ハワイ生まれ横浜育ち


上智大学比較文化学部 卒業(社会学専攻)

大学卒業と同時に、東京のFMラジオ J-WAVEで活動開始以来、ラジオを中心に、テレビナレーション、作詞、執筆など、伝達、表現分野で活動中。近年は、主にアートやデザインに特化した番組を企画、担当。2011年に長男出産。


“Talking” as a vocation

Q: Tell me about what you do for a living, and how you got into that line of work.

A: Most of my work is in radio. I’m an MC at J-WAVE. A “personality” — at J-WAVE, they say “navigator.” I originally got the job through a personal introduction rather than via a DJ contest. I had an interest in media, and also in expressive fields like theater and music. But I’m what’s called a “half” — my father is American and my mother is Japanese — and considering my upbringing and the way I relate to those around me, I didn’t think I was really suited to be an actor or singer in Japan myself.

Q: You mean because, for example, the way people perceive you would limit you to certain roles?

A: Right. These days there are even “half” television announcers, but when I was about to graduate college, the only “half” presences on TV were the anchorperson on CNN Headline News, the person who reads the bilingual news, that sort of thing. I didn’t think of my bilingualism as anything other than part of my individuality, so I wasn’t hoping to use it to get work.

The work I ended up doing suited me very well, I think, in terms of the perspective I ultimately hold, the way I relate to people, what I want to do with my life. I started to feel this way maybe ten years into my career. For example, I think I’m good at listening to people’s stories, and when I realized that I could express my individuality by how I responded to those stories, it seemed to me a way to make use of my position, my standpoint in my work.

Q: That’s quite a tenacious attitude. Ten years not sure about what you were doing…

A: To be honest, right after I graduated from university I spent a year doing it once a week. I couldn’t even turn that down. People told me I should do a program, gave me the push I needed to take the leap, but I didn’t know how to swim, if you see what I mean. It was a program with no script and a lot of guests. But I thought that was normal. I didn’t know how other programs did it. When people said “I don’t know how you do it without a script,” my reaction was “Huh? Other programs have a script?!” (laughs)

So I was on once a week for the first year, a weekly two-hour live broadcast, and after each one finished I’d spend the time until the next one brooding over how I could improve. Then in the second year — I was originally on Thursdays — they asked me to do a show every weekday, Monday to Friday. I was, like, “What?!” And that was the second year. But I hadn’t started by making a real commitment to this, and so in the third year I actually said I wanted to quit. After that, after I quit, I was listening casually to the radio and thinking “If that were me, I’d say it like this,” and I realized that I was listening to it as someone who had experience doing it. All at once I was able to process what I’d been doing in those live broadcasts every day, like, “So that’s what I wanted to do.” Some time later, when another opportunity came my way, I thought “Maybe I could do it now,” and started broadcasting again.

Q: Do you mean that something had changed within yourself, that you could now start again? Or did you decide based on the people you’d be working with, like your staff were going to be the same as last time, for example?

A: I think it was about timing. Because I also felt that I would do the job with a clear idea of what I wanted this time.

Q: How long a hiatus was it?

A: I was doing other work, but my hiatus from broadcasting was about two years, I guess?

Q: Other jobs that involved talking?

A: That’s right. Narration and so on.

Q: So you had a sense that talking would be your work from now on?

A: Hmm… I suppose so… The thing is, broadcasting live is very raw, very intimate in some ways, which makes it unlike other work, but I did like using words. I also like writing. I wanted to keep doing work where I could produce words, sounds, that sort of thing.

Q: And you’ve had this career now for…?

A: Just over twenty years.

Q: How long ago was your son born?

A: Um… about three and a half years ago. December 2011, when I was forty.


A job with no guarantees; no concerns about how things will be after giving birth


Q: Among the people I know, particularly freelancers, there are several who want children but can’t bring themselves to make the leap because what will happen to their career afterwards is so unclear. It’s partly related to the type of employment, but I know company employees who feel the same way. Didn’t you have any anxiety or concern about that?

Q: Not at all, and that’s the truth. It wasn’t that I myself wanted a child no matter what, more that I just thought it would be more fun if I had one. But I had so many other things going on every day that I never thought backwards about where I’d have to draw the line to have a child, not even once. That probably applies not just to having children but also to the way I live my life, the way I think and so on.

Q: So you didn’t worry too much before having your child about what would happen to your career afterwards?

A: No, I didn’t. I didn’t see any point in it. On the work side, I got out of live broadcasting and went back to stage one. I was wondering when I would get back into it, or if I would never do it again. To be honest, I was half expecting that outcome. I like work, and it’s something you need, but if the child wasn’t healthy I wouldn’t be able to work any more. I didn’t think it was fair to make promises to people before I gave birth about how things would be afterwards

Q: Now that you’re raising a child, and sometimes you have to, for example, finish work in time to go get them from somewhere — well, if you put it unpleasantly, children are a burden, right? Of course, having that burden is what lets you use your time effectively, but they do make things difficult. They’re very precious and important, but still.

A: Yes, that doesn’t make things any less difficult. That doesn’t change.

Q: (laughs)

A: As for what specifically is difficult… I suppose the most difficult thing is your own feelings. Like, I want to work, but spending time with my child is important, this time is so valuable, the best present you can give your child is time. I heard that once and it really resonated with me. My partner and I are raising our child with both of us working, and there are no doubts about that. But when my child was born, I did want to be with him, you know? But I also don’t think I’m really suited to staying at home together with him.

Q: Yes, yes.

A: It comes in waves. Dealing with those waves within yourself is I think the most difficult thing, to be honest. So perhaps the difficult thing is managing your time and managing your feelings.

Just recently I went to Okinawa for three days for work, and it was kind of a surprise to realize that since I was there for work all I had to do was work. I didn’t have to wash or clean, or worry about time.

I suppose I just love work. And I’m very glad to be able to immerse myself so much in my work. Of course your child’s health is a requirement there. When he was born, I wondered if I would ever be able to work again. Just holding this, how can I put it, fragile little thing.

Q: How were the first three months? I hardly slept at all after giving birth to my first child. They were constantly waking up. At night, looking at my husband asleep, the tears would just start to flow… (laughs)

A: “How dare you just lie there sleeping?” (laughs)

Q: What kind of child was your son?

A: Well, it wasn’t that bad for me. But yes, I was tired, of course.

Q: You can only sleep in little snatches here and there, right?

A: Well, I’m physically quite tough, so… But it is rough not to be able to get sleep when you need it. Three hours would be enough, but just when you try to go to sleep you get woken up. I had created a way of living, to an extent, before I got married and before I gave birth, and I think without a power that forceful nothing would have changed.

After having a child, I think it’s incredibly important to have the kind of relationships at work where you can discuss things with people. There were a lot of people, even men that I hadn’t spoken with much before, who would stop by to chat about kid things. I remember being surprised but very happy. They seemed to understand how tough the role of mother is, and I might have gone ahead and interpreted that as rooting for me (laughs). Just thinking that we were all supporting each other in our work. I think it’s good manners to not want to cause difficulties at work, and it is important to draw a line there, but my impression has been that if you just talk to people many will try to understand.

Q: For me, I worry about how much to say. For example, I’m scheduled to call England tonight, and their nine o’clock in the morning is Japan’s five in the evening, so if I start the call then I won’t make it to childcare in time. But if you get the kids home, feed them dinner, and get them to bed before  you make the call, the only time you can discuss things is in the middle of the night. So the question is how much to tell. Do I say that I’m a mother, so I can’t call except after eleven o’clock at night Japan time? Or do I just say I can talk after ten o’clock at night without giving a reason? It’s difficult.

A: Is this someone you work with a lot?

Q: I’ve worked with this production company before, but my contact changes each project, so I only started dealing with this person a month ago.

A: It’s tricky. It’s hard to say right up front, isn’t it? Sometimes, to be honest, I wish they could see what it’s like for me outside of work, for example if we could dinner together. But I don’t think it’s about trying to get treated more indulgently, more because you definitely don’t people to think “Well, they have kids, so I guess this is the best they can do” about the results you produce. If you tell them, they might be able to bend the schedule for you, for example, but the other side of that is that you’re promising to do the job properly. If you speak out, you bear more responsibility. But if you have good personal relationships, people do try to understand by nature. I think it’s fair to say that the addition of this extra thing called “children” gives you a shared language with people at your work.

To completely change the subject, when I was in Itoman, Okinawa for work a long time ago, I went to the war memorial and museum. One of the things I heard there was — if a baby is born while you’re hiding in a trench from air raids, it will cry, right? And if it cries, they will find out where you are. So mothers were apparently told to smother their babies. I can’t get that story out of my head. It makes me realize how lucky we are that when children are born and cry at night, they’re allowed to cry, when this other thing happened once, and maybe is still happening somewhere. In those terms, we’re living very sheltered lives, and I sometimes think about how minuscule those concerns about balancing work and raising children really are. It makes you think, but, well, we don’t go hungry. Striving to become a more appealing person is closer to my ideal.

Q: You had the ideal before you even had your child, I suppose.

A: Yes, maybe so. To backtrack a bit, my feeling is that what we perceive when we’re young becomes central to how we think later. We moved house a lot, which sometimes meant leaving regardless of whether I’d made friends or started some after-school activity — so whatever goals I set for myself, sometimes there was nothing I could do to meet them. But on the other hand, I was able to adapt and get along without problems wherever I ended up. I like the idea of a sort of fog coming over the scene before you, and then, when that clears up, realizing that you’re now somewhere really nice. Perhaps because I thought that way when I was little. So, maybe I didn’t arrive at this way of thinking because of giving birth.

Q: What time do you pick up your son [from school]?

A: The school bus normally comes for him at around nine in the morning, and then he comes back at three in the afternoon. I try to be there by then, but sometimes I can’t, and those times he stays longer at daycare. So, right now it ends up being about three o’clock most of the time, and four-thirty or five-thirty one or two times a week, I guess.

Q: Three o’clock would mean that you have to really compress your work, if you also have a lunch break. You welcome them home, spend some time with them, and then it’s time to make dinner.

A: Yes, that’s very true.

Q: That’s the thing that exhausts me (laughs).

A: It is pretty exhausting (laughs).

Q: Once, my husband came home at around nine o’clock at night, just when the kids were brushing their teeth, and when I asked him to help he said he’d just come home from work and he at least wanted to eat dinner in peace first. And my response was, wait a minute, do you think I eat my dinner in peace, with two children at the table too? (laughs)

A: I know just what you mean. I broadcast live on Saturdays, so on Saturday the kids are with their father. He’s a super positive person, so he said, “It’ll be fine, I can do it.” But if he was a woman, he’d cook and do the dishes as well as watch the kids, but since he’s a man, when I come home it’s just chaos. I appreciate that he watches the kids, but still…

Q: I’ve been there too (laughs).

A: I don’t think you should complain about how people do things, but you know, all the worries come my way.

Q: If you tell [a man] to do something, he’ll do it, but it doesn’t occur to them to do anything otherwise. “I do this every day, why doesn’t he notice?” Do you talk to your husband about this?

A: Oh, yes, yes. Although, I’m not very good at saying things in small doses. I say it all at once, which apparently makes it impossible for him to take it all in (laughs). But I do think you have to consider how to say things. Like, “Okay, I want him to do things this way — what’s the best way of saying things to achieve that?”

Q: I have to use finesse there too. But I end up just getting irritated and coming out with it (laughs).

A: Well, I do too. It’s an ideal, really. But in the end, even if I quit my job and stayed home, I’d probably just get annoyed by different things. I heard this from an actress once: “That was fine when I was young, but as I got older, worrying no longer suited me.” I want to be an understanding parent even when my son gets older, be two equal individuals. Maybe as part of that, continuing to work will send some sort of message someday.

Q: My oldest child — she’s four and a half — seems shy in public, but at home she’s always showing off. My younger child is two, still quite innocent, I suppose you could say, not calculating at all. So even if the two of them did the same thing, I would get angry at the older child but just think the younger was cute. The more stress I’m under, the quicker I get angry. It’s difficult. Do you get angry [at your child]?

A: I do get angry at him, but, well… I try not to get angry at him unless he is actually doing something dangerous, I suppose. And maybe there’s an element of “boys will be boys.” I use persuasion [rather than anger] as much as I can.

It might be because I was that way too. I ask myself, what would it take to get me to do this? And my answer is, I would want approval for what I was actually doing. I think we are probably similar in terms of personality. He is my child, after all.

Q: You’re so laid back about it.

A: No, I’m not. Am I?

Q: Sometimes I just lose my temper, and before I know it I’m yelling. At my kids.

A: Well, you do have two…

Q: Mm, still, I think it’s more my personality.

A: But I have been asked, “Don’t you think that was a bit harsh?” about things I’ve said. I think it was when he was two, and he threw something. I was scolding him, and they were, like, “You don’t have to be so stern, he doesn’t understand what he’s doing, after all.” But I said, “No, he understands.” At the point they said he didn’t understand, that was where I just couldn’t agree. That was just not true.

Q: When you get down to it, though, they do understand, don’t they? (laughs)

A: Oh, they understand. He’s three and a half now, and he really understands. Laid back… I might seem that way, but I’m really not. I just think it’s better to keep a sense of humor about things.

Q: Because you already have a child, after all.

A: Exactly. I have a child, and I work, so it’s better to keep a sense of humor about things. That’s probably one of my key principles. Otherwise you’re just wasting the time you have. If things go wrong, I’ll think about that then. Freelancing is the sort of job where you might not have any work in three years anyway, whether you have kids or not. I didn’t choose a job where you’re guaranteed work next year too, after all.

Parenting as “a being who’s lived just a little longer” 

Q: Finally, I’d like to ask some advice, I suppose you’d say… Well, not advice, but, you have a three-year-old, [do you have anything to say to] the working women of the world? Doesn’t have to be working women, but still (laughs).

A: (laughs) There’s nothing I can tell them.

Q: In the end, it’s the same for working fathers too, and even people who don’t have children of your own deal with people who do. So with that in mind, sorry to be so abstract, but please give me your thoughts on the topic (laughs).

A: Oh, I don’t know. I’m still working on it myself. I’m just doing the best I can, really.

I guess, like I just sort of said, be determined to do the best you can, and try not to complain. Also, I think that if you try to live your life in a way that makes you the sort of adult that children wish were around, that will cover a lot of ground, I think.

Dissatisfaction always comes from within, that’s unavoidable. When something goes wrong, take off your glasses and put on someone else’s. Shuffle things again and you can, how can I put this, retune them, decide what you want to do, think about what sort of things would be fun if you did them with your children, and interact with them as a good adult, a being who’s lived just a little longer than they have.


Impressions of the interview:

I felt that Tomoko was very down-to-earth, unlikely to go against the flow. My impression after doing the interview was of someone with innate talent — and who has also worked very hard, I’m sure — but who is able to put that aside and just be herself both at work and with her child.

The first time I spoke to Tomoko was over a decade ago, when I was working at J-WAVE too, on the staff of a different program. On the air she was cheerful and spoke naturally and smoothly, like a flowing river, which made an impression on me. But today, talking to her as a person and seeing her occasionally think for a while, searching for the right word, I felt once again how seriously she takes her words.

I don’t work in radio any more, and Tomoko has had a weekend program since giving birth, so for the past few years we kept in touch without actually meeting, but when I asked if she would let me interview her, she responded in the affirmative right away. I’m very grateful for her sparing the time for a personally interview that had nothing to do with her work and didn’t pay anything either (I don’t pay my interviewees).

We aren’t that far apart in age, but I feel that in terms of work Tomoko is someone far ahead of me on her career path. Thank you so much, Tomoko, for agreeing to help on such short notice.

translation: Matt Treyvaud



































































































lean on each other

I have just started a new project, which keeps me quite busy right now.

I am a translator and a fixer. Right now I am in charge of managing TV filming to be held in Tokyo that an overseas production company is planning. I like what I do. The best part of working as a translator/ fixer is that I can work from home most of time. I used to always go out to work for Japanese TV shows even for translation because if you deal with news, you have to be at site to work on whatever coming in to decide with directors where to use, or tell them what the people in the footage say, and check editing to see if they really cut the right piece of footage. I never knew what time I would go home.

With kids, you cannot work that way. So I decided to work only from home. There are some exceptions that sometimes I take interpretation job that I need to be in a studio for filming or go out to the street for random interviews. And those times it’s hard to arrange for babysitter because sometimes filming starts at 9 pm.

But so far, I’ve found a great daycare and great neighbors to ask for help if I really need. Mothers and fathers need those people. When you have kids, you need to rely on each other. So sometimes you do someone’s favors. Some other times they do your favors. Ultimately you need to rely on each other if you are single or live with your family. But when you have a child, there are more times you face a situation where you need someone’s help.

I hope every parent finds help when needed.