Choosing the industry
I do not comprehend what it means to love a country when Americans express their love and pledge to their country. The word patriotism haunts Japanese people with the memory of war. So we say “glad to be Japanese” when we swig a cup of sake with sashimi as the nibble, soak our stiff body in onsen overlooking the waterfall between mountains, or look up at sakura or maple leaves as they bloom and color.
It wasn’t the absence of love that my goal in life at age 21 was to leave Japan. It was escapism. The previews of my post-college life in Japan depressed me – a job in Tokyo, a micro-apartment, one vacation abroad a year, saving money to do the same next year. I wanted to extend the “once-in-a-lifetime” feeling that I had the previous year and make it a perpetual state. I needed a job that’d potentially take me somewhere else.
My choice of the industry in job-search was intuitive. Among the Japanese exports I saw in the US, I saw growth potential in the subculture – anime, manga, and videogames. Pokémon had already gained popularity worldwide, and Sony Computer Entertainment released Playstation 2 in March that year. I looked into relevant companies and found out some of the videogame publishers had overseas offices and hired new graduates for their international business department. So I attended their presentations, applied for the position, and got interviews with a few of them.
My friends were mystified, as they were unable to associate me with videogames. I never owned a videogame console because my mother didn’t want us to play games. Also, videogames were categorized as the boys’ toy when Nintendo’s Famicom came out in the 80s. In the year 2000, videogames were still considered unfeminine.
Kubo’s mama and customers recommended larger and more established industries like electronics, automotive, trading, and financial industries. I knew they had a significant presence globally, but at the same time, I sensed that the competition would be fiercer and sexism harsher. I turned out somewhat right in this when I heard a decade later that my highly educated, intelligent female friend who worked for a big TV manufacturer was excluded from the list of candidates for their overseas operation just because she was a “girl.” But I also turned out to be somewhat wrong that sexism would be any milder in less traditional industries.