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Lucy Birmingham: ‘Don’t give up on your dream no matter how many people tell you it’s wrong’

by Elliott Samuels

Staff Writer

Name: Lucy Birmingham
Age: 57
Nationality: American
Occupation: Journalist, president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan
Likes: Causes, career, meeting new people, arts and culture
Dislikes: Abuse


1. What first brought you to Japan? Work as a photojournalist in the early 1980s.

2. What’s keeping you here? Kids and career.

3. Who in Japan do you most admire? Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action. She is dedicated to making Japan and the world a safer place to live.

4. Where do you go to escape Tokyo? The U.S., to recharge in familiar surroundings and see family.

5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? 根性 (konjō, or guts/courage).
The world can learn from the Japanese about how to get up and start over again despite unimaginable tragedy.

6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “The Road Not Taken” poem by Robert Frost. It has made all the difference in my life.

7. Describe your most embarrassing moment. I was on assignment covering Shinjuku’s Kabukicho nightlife and was asked to get on stage with the girls at a strip club.

8. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? To write about a transsexual artist who was inspired by Damien Hirst and keeps his testicles pickled in formaldehyde.

9. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be? Maya Angelou. Not only does her writing sing out for those trapped by racism but those also trapped by sexism.

10. What song best describes your work ethic? “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles. As a journalist, president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and “single” mother, it feels like I’m working 24/7.

11. What superhero would you most like to be? Wonder Woman, so I could get around Tokyo faster.

12. What do you think about while standing on the train? A car and driver, so I don’t have to feel like a canned sardine nearly every day.

13. If you won ¥1 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money? I would create a scholarship for orphans in Japan.

14. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? “On the Edge.”

15. How would you get an elephant into a refrigerator? I wouldn’t even try.

16. Name three uses of a stapler without staples. Musical instrument, weapon, staple remover.

17. How would you find a needle in a haystack? Burn down the haystack.

18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? A lion. A tiger circling a lion will turn to butter, according to Sambo.

19. What do you want to be when you grow up? Rich.

20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Be hungry. Don’t give up on your dream no matter how many people tell you it’s wrong. Wear condoms.