This month’s guest is my agency manager, Saeko Nishimura.
From the time I was eight until today, I’ve worked with the constant support of this person. I’ve called her “Sensei” [“Teacher”] since I was young, so I’ll continue to call her that here.
Putting Nishimura-sensei into words is by no means an easy task. First, her age is an unknown. Some say she’s over 300, others say she’s an eternal 17-year-old. Her trademark is the blue bandana she always ties around her head. You can’t miss it. After seeing it once, you’ll never forget it. She’s always worn a bandana since the time we first met 15 years ago, and it would seem she has five or six with the exact same design, and apparently she changes it out every day…. If you ask her what the bandana is for, she says “it’s for spirit.” She tells me that without the bandana, she can’t motivate herself to jump into work. Also, another of her characteristics is that she’s always young at heart. She’s constantly wearing sporty sneakers with nylon pants from agnès, carrying a Sazaby bag, and there was a time she had a My Melody wallet. She can write text messages with ease, and given her age, I think that makes her a rarity.
She knows all the good restaurants, is very health-conscious and never misses morning radio exercise, knows everything there is to know about the theater, speaks French, loves SMAP and even has their DVDs, and is just a truly mysterious person. Add to this that she’s a Type-AB Gemini, and you just can’t pin her down to any description.
She’s like a second mom to me, and since we see each other practically every day, she also feels like a friend. Yet when I’m around her it feels just the same as being around a girl the same age as me. But when the chips are all in, she has a side that’s like a dependable, hardworking mother. When I fall ill she rearranges my schedule so I’m not overworked, and when I was a student she never put anything above my education and arranged things so I could attend classes. These fifteen years, I was able to go to school and have a job at the same time thanks to this person.
She’s practically family to me, so I hesitated to ask for her response to a survey like this, but I was pleased that Sensei seemed very earnest to cooperate. So as not to cause too much trouble, I asked her to avoid writing long answers and keep everything as short as possible, but my heart is pounding as I wonder what sorts of answers I’ll get back. What does this guest, who has been my role model in life longer than any other, think of Maaya Sakamoto?!
1) What was your first impression of Maaya Sakamoto?
A tiny adult with the face of a child (at the agency entrance interview)
2) Compared with that, what’s your current impression?
You’ve become more of an adult! And I’ll add in that you’re more open.
3) Share one of your “Legends of Maaya Sakamoto”.
This isn’t something that deserves the title of “legend”, but you still take those little breaks in the middle of eating…
There are times when I guess you’re thinking about something, and for quite some time you don’t touch your chopsticks.
You might not remember, but one day someone swiped half your hamburger during one of those breaks.
4) Maaya Sakamoto is like _____.
I can’t compare her to one thing.
Sometimes she’s a dog, and sometimes she’s a cat. She can also be like a hamster, or like a panda.
5) Is there anything you wish she’d stop doing?
Not that you’re telling lies, but even if you’re trying to make things go smoothly, you shouldn’t lie.
It’s just that I simply hate the word “lie”.
6) What is Maaya Sakamoto’s greatest charm?
You can express who you are at that moment amazingly well. This is incredibly difficult. It’s something I can’t even dream of doing.
7) Speaking candidly, what is Maaya Sakamoto to you?
You’ve given me so much enjoyment from the time you were eight to today, at 22. I can’t possibly write it all down.
I’ll just say “Thanks”.
8) What do you anticipate for Maaya Sakamoto’s future?
My expectations are entirely something in my heart…above all, that you would become an adaptable woman who does what she wants in her own way, with as much care and as little flattery as possible…though I feel like you’re going to read this and say, “You’re certainly expecting a lot from me!”
9) Lastly, please write a brief message for Maaya Sakamoto.
Soar! Soar as you feel you should, as high as you can.
I’ll include the words of the Dutch painter Rembrandt here again.
“The first step is to put brush to canvas! Everything begins with that.”
As you get older, keep your mind as that of a child.
Maaya Sakamoto’s Response
Yes, this is a habit I’ve had since I was young—I’ll pause in the middle of eating. After I get about halfway through I’ll suddenly put my chopsticks down and won’t touch my food for a short time. About the time everyone thinks, Isn’t she going to finish?, I’ll resume eating as though I had just remembered where I was—it’s an odd sort of habit. It may not be polite, but it’s sort of like if I don’t do that, I can’t eat everything at once. It appears to be an uncommon quirk, and a lot of people often point it out to me. But the first one to notice and point it out might have been you, since we often went out to eat together since I was a child. I still get joked about—“Time for another break?” or “Ah, it’s the patented Maaya Pause.”
I too can remember clearly the day I first met you. I was short for my age at eight, and the first words out of your mouth were, “She’s so tiny!” After joining the group I had my first job after one or two weeks. It was a commercial jingle. Has it been 15 years since then? A lot has happened. I’ve been fortunate to have you to scold me for my mistakes and celebrate with me when something good happened.
The other day when we were eating together in Ginza on the way home from work you said, “It’s gone by in a flash, hasn’t it?” When I answered, “It has. This year went by so quickly, didn’t it?” you replied, “Not that. The time between when you were eight and twenty-two. ” Being the youngest in the agency meant I was always treated like the littlest sibling by everyone. “I thought you were the youngest, but here you are out of college and grown up into an adult,” you said. Now that I think about it, I’ve spent more than half my life working with you. I imagine we’ve been able to stay together this long because of your easygoing personality that lets you speak your mind freely.
Sensei, to me you’ll always be my second mother and teacher.