Haruko “Big Momma” Iino, an independent public relations consultant, became one of Japan’s first female advertising account executives back in the 1980s. Even before working at advertising agencies Chuo Senko and Dentsu Eye, the now 63-year-old Iino had understood the potential of the luxury fashion market and ultimately created phenomenally successful advertising campaigns for Ferragamo, Loewe, Bally, Givenchy, Porsche, BMW, and the like that helped generate the all-consuming brand boom that has taken over Japan. Having retired at age 60, she continues to take on advertising projects that make a difference to both consumers and herself, not in terms of profit margin but happiness quota. She says she has already received more than her fair share of bliss with the two daughters whom she raised alone and is still close to.

Tougher competition means more fun. For every ad campaign I did, my rivals were the smartest and toughest people in the industry, and yet with every presentation I made, I always got the account. I looked impeccable, yet I have never used my feminine power as a weapon. In Japan, where women were serving tea at the time, I was working in a man’s world, and I fit right in; maybe because my brain functions like a man’s yet I know fashion much more than the guys.

Women do not need to be scared of motherhood over 40. My mother was a movie star, and she had me when she was 40 years old. I see many women around the world having healthy babies later in life. It is time to support and encourage older women who are considering childbirth, instead of frightening them.

Women are much harder to work with than men. That is because the type of woman who works is capable and has no need for help from either gender. She can do it all alone, yet even brilliant men need at least emotional support. Even divorce or the death of a spouse is harder on men than on women.

Japanese are bad at PR. We have so much beauty in our country that we take it for granted. One day I found Isumi-shi in Chiba, a beautiful beach town with a long history and with so few visitors that I decided to volunteer to help them get more travelers. They have no idea how special their town is and how to appeal to the public. In our government we see the same lack of professionalism since even our prime minister’s PR is done by some member of the Diet, not a PR expert.

Sexual harassment cases should not be settled with money. I had clients slide their hands up and down my thighs while complimenting my “nice legs.” I thanked them and smiled. Since my legs are female but my brain is pure male, I kept on charging forward. I knew my legs were taking me far, yet I hated some of the stops on the road. I wished my harassers would have been punished with time spent contemplating why their actions were wrong, but I still disagree with financial gains from a law suit. To get money, one should put in long, honest hours of work.

When you are really desperate, you can always find a way — especially if you are a parent who misses her children. I was 35, divorced, broke and alone. My two daughters were living with their father because the courts gave him custody since I had no income. I was considered an unfit mother, but I knew I was not. I had to make it if I wanted to live with my girls, and I desperately missed them. I needed a job. I had never worked but was bilingual, so I bought The Japan Times, opened the wanted ads, saw an ad for a small advertising agency and miraculously landed the job. I worked like a dog, moved next to my daughter’s school so I could see them every morning and lunch time and saved all my money. I got my kids back within a year.

Home cooking is the expression of parental love. I was always busy at work and had plenty of money to afford restaurant fare, yet I cooked every meal for my daughters. Nutritious food was my way to connect to them and raise them as healthy adults.

Positive energy fuels growth. Inside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, all the plants grow humongous because of the powerful energy that is concentrated there. It was designed according to the rules of feng shui.

It is dangerous to marry a rich man. These are the guys who tend to be selfish, arrogant and fickle. They are used to setting the pace so the woman had better catch up or she will be left behind.

If a woman makes more money than her husband, she will pay for it dearly. My second husband was 10 years younger than me. We met when I was 35, with a 10- and an 8-year-old daughter and about to divorce. I was broke and scared and he helped me through it all. He was such a great friend that the next thing we knew, we were married. It all went well until I was making more than him. We divorced when I was 60.

Men and women are so different, but all men are the same: every one is the same and, sadly, he is the guy you have already broken up with.My first husband was from a very rich aristocratic family. He was polite and at every meal he asked how the dishes were prepared, what ingredients I used. My second husband didn’t say anything about my cooking. After the meals, neither ever helped me clear the table or do the dishes and I know that neither had any real interest in the food, either. There really is no perfect match, so I recommend you stop the search parties.

Men should date older women in order to become mature. A typical 30- to 50-year-old Japanese man is on a similar level with a woman in her early 20s: quite childish. In France I see many couples where the woman is a good 10 or 20 years older than the guy, and this seems just right — even in Europe where people are generally more adult than we Japanese.

If you cannot keep a love affair secret, you are not ready for it. Love affairs are touchy subjects. If you do it, never tell anyone, ever. Especially not to a friend because since you feel close, you will say too much. People talk and you will be in trouble.

One can attract luck. People who have a firm conviction that the here and now matters, and we must do our best at this moment, are magnets for luck. Yesterday is gone, so forget it, and tomorrow is nowhere yet, so do not think of it.


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