Shop clerk Natsuki Maeda, 19, is a charismatic fashion leader in Tokyo's world-famous Shibuya 109 building, the epicenter of cool threads for girls and for women who, regardless of their age, would like to look as young as they feel. Working in one of the 100 shops here is synonymous with celebrity status, as sales staff don't just sell clothes at 109 -- they create trends that are followed by millions, not only in Japan but all over Asia and beyond. All through high school, Maeda adored the clothes at baby Shoop, a brand known for its sexy hip-hop B-girl style. Now, having gotten a job at its 109 shop six months ago, she feels like she's in a dream that she has no desire to wake up from.

If you want to get a job, do something different so the people in charge of hiring will remember you. My high-school teacher, Mr. Uehara, told me this when I was asking for advice on how I could beat the competition. I wrote a two page handwritten letter explaining why I loved the baby Shoop brand so much and how much I wanted to work here. I begged them to interview me and they gave me a chance.

Listen to your parents, or better yet, your grandparents. My mom married my dad against her and his parents' wishes and they divorced soon after I was born. My step-dad had the same experience with his first wife: both sets of parents were against their union and they promptly divorced. Yet when my mother and stepfather wanted to get married, everyone supported them. The elders were right: they are a great match, and my stepfather is the best parent I could ever ask for. The lesson here is that both of them could have saved a lot of trouble by following their parents' advice. I will try to keep that in mind when I am ready to settle down.