Keiko Hisano, 25, is a production controller for Nakabo Japan Co. Ltd., an Osaka-based knitwear manufacturer that produces clothing for many famous brands. Hoping to eventually become a designer, she is happy now just to be at the base of the design pyramid, whether running up and down Omotesando with samples or managing supertight production schedules. Hisano isn’t big on small talk, and is quick to point out that her biggest asset is speed: The faster she can finish her tasks, the more time she has left for practicing design. She says she is sure that after all the hardship, great things are in store for her.

I was lucky my mom was a housewife. She always said that when we kids walked in, she wanted to welcome us. She thought that was the most important thing for a child. But I always snuck in quietly, tiptoed up behind her back and surprised her.

Accidents happen, but many don’t have to. When I was 18, three of us were in my friend’s new car. He had just got his license two months earlier and we were celebrating. He was pretty drunk, and none of us had seatbelts on. When I glanced at the dashboard, I saw that he was doing 85 kph in a narrow alley. The next second we crashed into a brick wall. Miraculously we all survived. Since then I keep thinking that though the technology to protect dummies like us is available, our own will to do so is missing.

Funerals can be a killer for the living, but grieving brings you back to life. My mother’s funeral five years ago drained the life out of all of my family. A week later we went to a second Buddhist ceremony for her, then 49 days later again and we are still regularly meeting relatives and friends at the temple to pray for her. We used to cry but now we just laugh about mom and celebrate her life. I can feel the change inside of me at every new ceremony.

Ignoring someone is the most powerful weapon against them. I began working here this March and still make tons of mistakes. When my coworkers get mad at me and scold me, I feel so glad and so thankful. It means they care.

Without substantial output, I am not much value. Unless I do all the work immediately and efficiently, somebody else will jump in and do it instead of me. I had to change my ways or further down the road I would end up not getting any assignments.

Lucky I was not born a man. Women have more choices. We can be career women, housewives, even single moms more and more now; all lifestyle choices are becoming accepted, because we are female.

Ladies or not, we women drive a hard bargain. In Japan it seems that everything is designed for women: We have “Ladies’ Day” at the cinema, “Women Only” subway cars, and “Ladies’ Plans” in most restaurants and hotels.

Parents should never say bad things about one another to their children. Sometimes I felt annoyed by my father and especially when I was a teenager, I didn’t like being around him. But my mother always took his side and kept telling us that he was the greatest man and that he was working so hard to support us and that we should always feel thankful to him. Now I know how correct she was.

Unless one has a dream, being a freeter is so sad. After high school, for two years I was working at a convenience store and a dry cleaner. Both jobs sucked. I felt like I was outside of society, and indeed I was. I had no real duties and no rights, no insurance or pension, no bonus, nothing. I felt like a loser, just a cheap machine, working five days a week, 9 to 5. Only my determination to study more kept me going.

A sick person’s family gets ill, too. I was in my first year at the university when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. We tried to stay strong but looking back, we were all falling apart witnessing her slow and painful death.

Knitting yarn ties me to my mother. My mother was very good at knitting and sewed many of our clothes when we were small. After her death I quit university and switched to the Esmod Japan fashion school, to become a designer. I had to find a connection to her and the only way was through these colorful knitting threads.

No need to worry about our private parts on public transportation. I think the chikan scare is ridiculous. I see how worried most men are, holding both of their arms up in the air, throwing their briefcases up on the rack, just so they are not called a pervert by some frustrated woman who might accuse them of touching them. I think of my dad and brother and feel so sorry for guys. Again, women have the power.

Distance brings us together. It’s good that I moved out this March because since then my father sees me as an independent person.

If I finish all my work and still get a good night’s sleep, I am doing pretty well. When I was a student, if I had a week for a project, I would end up putting the final touches on drawings just minutes before I had to run for class. Now I am efficient and well-rested. I am becoming an adult, I think.


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