Ms Tsutsumi – challenging instituitions

Since my travel fellowship mainly comprises of interviews, I will be sharing an interview transcript (obtained with permission)and my reflections from one of my interviewees.

What does she do?

  1. She runs a co-working space attached to a daycare facility (2 months to 6 years). She hopes that this will enable parents to settle toggle between their working and childcare responsibilities and not have to sacrifice one for the other.
  2. She operates venue hire services where parents can have play dates with their children.
  3. She runs a child-friendly cafe and hires staff who find it hard to find work in Japanese society due to their personal circumstances (disabilities, criminal record etc).
  4. She also manages an employment agency that helps people who are commonly shunned by society find work.

How did she get started on this? 

She used to a be freelancer at a broadcasting center. She believed that work was an autonomous decision and that you will be rewarded fairly for the work you have done. However, after having children she realised just how much labor laws were rests on the assumption that a woman will work for a big company and have kids. She felt that the value of work. especially for women, was compromised.

For example, she feels that it is common for a woman’s career to last only up till she has a child. (Japanese corporations often give husbands whose wives stay home a bonus, and the Japanese tax system punishes couples with two incomes.) She feels that the laws are overly myopic and does not take into account women who choose to explore alternate paths like working through the pregnancy and after birth. Hence, she created a company that aims to enable women to make more independent decisions and build a more inclusive and diverse working environment.

On the lack of career portability in Japan…

(This might explain why Entreprenuership is not gaining as much traction in Japan).

In Japan, the company pays taxes on behalf of their employees. Naturally, young people are swayed to work for big companies and as a result, they do not really have a clear goal of what they truly want to do.

When it comes to a woman’s prospects, it is still influenced largely by societal expectations. She gave the analogy of a cocoon. The cocoon’s existence is dedicated solely to the development of the pupae and loses its value after a butterfly emerges. Likewise, a woman is seen as a mother and a wife first before a woman.

What shaped her views? 

From young, she already knew what it felt to be an outcast as she suffered from a heart defect and could not play with other children. A few years ago, she met a mother with her kid at a playground late at night. She asked why the mother was out so late and the mother revealed that her child suffered from albino and because the child was bullied so often by other children, she could only bring him out at night to be spared of the tormenting. At that moment, Ms Tsutsumi felt enraged because it seemed that society was unrelenting and unsympathetic to even children. Those for were different were immediately branded as an outcast.

This experience motivated her to build a community that rewards efforts instead of endowment so that we can all create our own truths instead of living out society’s definition of truth for us. Hence, her company makes it a point to hire those who find it hard to gain employment.

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