I've always loved radio and used to listen to it often, so I wanted to find work allowed me to keep involved with music. However, I was also interested in the toys business and publishing. I was drawn to Sony Music Group because it had everything I wanted to do, from work in music to businesses such as games and character goods, magazines and book publishing. It seemed to me to be a wonderful company. I was mainly attracted by the idea that I could start working in music then, if my interests broadened, explore any other options that opened up to me. I was delighted when the company decided to hire me.
In my first two years, I was assigned to the Sales Department and spent my time visiting record stores and planning original regional campaigns. The great thing about sales was that we handled all the musicians signed by Sony Music, which meant I learned a great deal from contact with everything from Western music to traditional Japanese enka popular songs. I then moved to a different label and was put in charge of promoting artists belonging to it. A promoter's work involves publicity activities in the media, including TV, radio and magazines. I was mainly in charge of the magazine side, so that as soon as I went to work in the morning, I visited publishers to ask if they were planning any interesting features, and introduced artists as part of our promotional efforts. I also attended interviews with artists and went to live performances in the evening. I loved the work because communicating with so many people every day was great fun.
I started to reconsider my approach to work after I got married because we found it difficult to have children. Although nobody knew why I could not get pregnant, I agonized over the possibility that my rather irregular working hours might be one of the reasons. I was conflicted at the time because I wanted to continue my work style, which I found rewarding. My husband gave me good advice. Instead of looking for a new workplace after giving birth, he said, why not move to a department with other working mothers where I could continue to work if I was fortunate enough to become a mother myself? This would give me the option of taking maternity leave after getting used to the new job.
As I underwent fertility treatment, therefore, I started to think about what I should do after I had a baby. I was able to discuss the matter casually with the people around me, and informed my superiors that if I got pregnant, I intended to continue working after I had the baby. Perhaps because my managers understood my concern and will, I was transferred to a department where several working mothers were around and, as I worked on managing websites for several artists, began to look for duties that would suit me after giving birth. There were times when I found it very difficult to handle both the fertility treatment and work together, but the fact that I was able to talk over private matters casually with my colleagues proved to be a great help because I felt more comfortable and relaxed in the workplace. Eventually, we were blessed with children.
In fact, we were blessed with twins, and at the time, I found it almost impossible to envision the sort of life we would have going forward, and whether I could ever really go back to work. All we could do was try our best. In that sense, childcare leave is an extremely valuable time for preparation. Short-time working offered one possible option for returning to work, but I decided to work full-time. After talking things over with my husband, we decided to try using babysitters after nursery school. Going back to work full-time would mean I would certainly not be able to pick up my children from the nursery school on time, so there was no alternative but to find a babysitter. In fact, even if I decided not to go back to work, my husband and I are both from the provinces, so our parents are not in a position to come to Tokyo quickly to help out in emergencies. We had to think of how to deal with situations were either one of us were to fall ill while the other was on a business trip somewhere. I was, of course, anxious about leaving the children with a babysitter, but thankfully both my husband and my mother were positive about the idea and told us everything would work out OK. We tried out several babysitters from various companies during my childcare leave, and were fortunate to find two or three whom we felt we could trust, which was a key factor in our decision. Eventually, after around eight months of childcare leave, I went back to work full-time.
After an interview with my boss when I returned to the company, I was once again assigned to a department that managed that managed music distribution through online sites. There were no other mothers working in this particular department, but I took the offer because I felt I could be a role model and increase the number of departments to which such new mothers. I was particularly happy that the work was very similar in nature to the work I had done before giving birth, and I was able to get into my new duties very smoothly. I did not have to face many environmental changes, and the work I had tried out earlier with motherhood in mind turned out to be very useful. Thanks to the understanding of my bosses and colleagues, I am able to leave the office on time, and they cooperate happily when, for whatever reason, I suddenly have to take time off. In many parts of Japan, it is not possible to use extended-hours childcare when the children are less than one year old. As a result, we asked babysitters to pick up the children from childcare and look after them until we got home. Once the children turned one year old, however, we became eligible to use extended-hours childcare, and changed our approach to asking babysitters to pick up the children when we were unable to get away from the company in time to pick them up at the nursery school. I think some people are resistant to the idea of using babysitters, but I believe it is fine to depend on them during the tough times that ensue after children are born.
The suggestion of another transfer came up around about one year after I was put in charge of the distribution site. The proposed posting was in a department in charge of planning and managing artist fan clubs, and was actually what I wanted to do most when I returned to work after taking maternity leave. After my superiors saw how I worked for about a year, they judged I should be able to handle the position. Managing a fan club brings you close to both the artists and their fans, so that you feel the direct impact of whatever you plan. I saw this as a major opportunity to advance myself, and decided to work as hard as I could and not to use motherhood as an excuse. I arranged various solutions to look after my children when they were sick so that I would not have to leave the office. I looked for other solutions to look after my children when they were sick so that I would not have to leave the office.
Since the job meant holiday work and going to live shows at night, I sometimes faced difficulties. When I was having a hard time balancing child-rearing with work, I remembered a comment from a former superior, who told me that while work and the company are of course important, it is fine to prioritize one's family and oneself more. These words did not really register with me at the time, but I remembered them when the environment changed. In my heart of hearts, my family is the most important thing to me. This is what enables me to try hard, and I want to preserve it. That's why I make a point of recalling my superior's words when I am wrestling with some kind of problem.
Since I work full time, I make a point of spending as much time as possible with the children when I am at home. To ease the housework burden, I use a dishwasher and a washer-dryer, as well as food home delivery services. This gives me greater freedom to spend quality time with the children. I am pleased to say it also allows me to make a clear distinction between work time and private time. Moreover, some of the artists whose fan clubs I am responsible for are also mothers, including Junko Yagami and Chara. While I have a working relationship with them, I sometimes remember this, which stimulates me in a somewhat one-sided but nevertheless favorable manner. Recently, more artists continues their activities after having children, so it is quite possible I may become closer to them by making the most of the fact that I am a working mother.
I want to take my present work to an even higher level. Recently, I started up a fan club from scratch for a new five-member dance-vocal group called FlowBack. The initial response was great, attracting many fans who became members. The reaction was exactly what I had hoped for, and reminded me once again of how much I enjoy this work. I would also like to exploit experiences like this to take up the challenge of managing fan clubs for people other than artists. That said, I do not want to simply stick to a specific type of work. If I come across something that I would like to try, I start by telling people around me about it and would be happy to attempt almost anything that looks possible.
Among those mothers who work, there are of course many who willingly choose working styles that allow them to prioritize their children more. However, I also think quite a few of these mothers may want to work more but compromise and restrain their feelings. I believe anyone who feels like this should start by discussing things with the people around them, without holding anything back. The great thing about Sony Music Group is the presence of many interesting people who have a forward-looking approach to work. The very fact that various people are here creates an environment that makes it easier to say what you want to do. I would be delighted if any potential mothers would boldly step forward as I did, and invite them to get in touch with me if there's anything they would like to discuss.