Final thoughts…

21 days, 25 remarkable women 🙆‍♀️

Immensely grateful to have spent the last 3 weeks in Tokyo embarking on a travel project to learn about the lives of working Japanese women, with a special focus on women entrepreneurs! 😊😊😊

The places of interest were the working spaces of women from various backgrounds. The admission tickets were the generosity and kindness of these women who welcomed a curious traveller amidst mounting emails and endless to-do lists. The top attractions were to spend an hour or two listening to these women earnestly share about their beginnings, their struggles and their aspirations. And the souvenirs were their experiences that I’ve documented which will form the material of a short story I will write and hopefully, share with you soon.

In all solo travels, moments of solitude are inevitable but I’m thankful for these pockets of time to reflect more deeply upon the nuggets of experience shared. In that process, here are three thoughts that have lingered…

1. In the city of flashing lights and pulsating crowds, it was so easy to be swept up in it and apply that same rhythm to the interviews I conducted – test the hypothesis, note the parts that don’t fit and draw a conclusion. But I soon realised that in my haste to sieve out the dominant narrative across individuals, I had overlooked the multi-stranded narratives present in each individual. Instead of going into interviews with a notebook filled with methodical questions, I had to grow accustomed to working with blank spaces. Listening to understand and not to reply. Writing to chronicle and not to justify. Getting to know these women as individuals and not through labels.

2. The perennial chicken or egg problem – which comes first: success or happiness? When asked to rank how successful they think they are at present, most women gave themselves an above-average rating. For many, their success ranking followed an upward trend over the years. However, even at their lowest point, they had already experienced the happiness of discovering what they loved and what they could devote their future to. As Narumi Onishi, woman entrepreneur, quipped, “Entreprenuership is about doing something you love and pursuits fuelled by love and happiness, have their own special way of working out.” Perhaps happiness is less of a destination and more of a starting point.

3. As one fond of sentimentality, the goodbyes were the hardest. One moment we had made ourselves vulnerable to each other and the next moment, both of us were whisked onto the bustling streets not knowing if we would ever see each other again. Physically apart, however, I feel that we are now connected by our shared dreams. In dreams begin responsibility and in shared dreams, we experience camaraderie and uplift each other to do more for our communities. I used to think that we all had to grow our own trees but as Akiko Otsuki, a fighter of women’s rights for over 50 years, illuminated, “we are all part of one tree and our duty is to extend its foliage to provide shade and protection to help others thrive”.

This travel project was sustained by the warmth and kindness of many.🙂☘️ From high school friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even names they have only heard off, these people tirelessly delved into contact books and generously shared their networks.

This trip has left me touched and transformed and I hope to pass on the universal wisdom and kindness that was generously shared with me. I guess this is why they say that the best trips, never really end.✌🏻🙂

One thought on “Final thoughts…

  1. Thank you for these thoughtful reflections Emma. I’m so proud to hear about how your method of engaging with your interlocutors changed and adapted as you began to recognise multi-stranded narratives and the ways they challenged the methods/assumptions a researcher might bring into an interview. It’s also so cool to see how you connected with these entrepreneurs as a fellow entrepreneur yourself – how this impacts the emotional relationship created by your interactions. I can’t wait to learn more and to read your short story!

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