Translated by Federerexpress
[only a few chapters of the book have been translated]
Marriage, and the confession of pregnancy
Summer, 1997. Backstage where the Tokyo Dome concert was held, Namie quitely vented to me:
‘I want to marry…’ [the phrase used in Japanese is a soft way of saying ‘I want to marry’. It’s not as if she demanded that she wanted to marry, she probably kind of just murmured it dreamily. Maybe more along the lines of “I wish I could marry…’]
Of course at the time, I didn’t take her seriously.
’It seems like you’ve come to an age where you start having desires like that…’ was all I said, without paying too much attention but Namie replied quickly:
‘Mum, would it be strange if I married?’
‘It wouldn’t be strange… but you still have lots of things to do don’t you?’ Shocked as I was, this was the reply I was finally able to give.
When I look back on it now, Namie probably would’ve wanted to directly say to me: ‘I want to marry’, and at the same time, check how I would react to the word ‘marriage’. As proof of this, there was a phonecall from Namie only 1 month after the Tokyo Dome performance.
‘It’s been decided that I’m marrying SAM.’
Even that was enough of a shock, but she went on:
‘I’m also carrying a baby’
This was of great shock to me. Even so, I tried my hardest to stay calm and said to Namie:
‘Right now I can’t say “congratulations” to you whole-heartedly. Ask for your office manager’s consent first. He is like a father-figure for you in Tokyo, so you should get his consent first.’
For Namie, these words might have been cold and deserting. It seems like she was a little disappointed, saying ‘nobody is congratulating me’. However, being suddenly confronted with the word ‘marriage’, I was not in the situation to be able to say ‘good for you’ openly.
I rang my eldest daughter’s house immediately, but her reaction was one of unconcern: ‘Namie finally told you? I think it’s ok’.
Actually, my eldest daughter knew about it already. Elder sister and younger sister- there was an age difference of 3 years, and my eldest daughter had married when she was 18 years old, and already has 3 children. For Namie, she understood her better than me, and they had been talking about marriage together.
I felt a little upset because she had not said anything to me, but I was very happy that the two girls have a good relationship. Despite the fact that they were far away from eachother, one living in Tokyo and the other in Okinawa, and despite the fact that they were both living 2 separate lives, I was able to rediscover the strong bond between the 2 girls.
By the way, my eldest son, being a man, didn’t interrupt with either of the girls’ businesses- he is the type of person who looks over them from a distance.
I merely reported the news of Namie’s marriage to him by phone. At first he didn’t seem to believe it and said ‘huh?’ in a comical tone, but soon after said ‘She’s stupid. What is she thinking’. But even so he seemed to have regained his composure and said ‘It’s ok. It’s the partner she found herself’.
My children don’t interrupt eachother’s lives much. They each live life at their own pace. I think siblings should be like that. They’re each walking their own path in life, but their hearts are closely bound together.
After obtaining permission from the office manager, the marriage had officially been decided to take place. She is still young, and even more, she is a celebrity who is at her prime in the show business world. If they look at celebrities as ‘products’, clearly, from the stance of the office, the marriage would have been objected. However, the manager treated Namie as a ‘human’ and as a ‘woman’, and not a ‘product’. He acknowledged the marriage, as well as the need for some time off time for giving birth and child-raising. I am full of gratefulness for his decision and his understanding. And of course, Namie would probably be feeling the same thing but even moreso than me.
1 week before the announcement of the marriage, the manager called and reported: ‘October 22nd is Taian [lucky day according to a 6 day Japanese calendar], so we will enter her name in the family register then [nyuuseki]’. And I also received a call from SAM saying: ‘Please allow me to marry Namie’.
I replied ‘She doesn’t know anything about being a wife, and she can’t do much, but — [=hard to translate. something like ‘thank you, and please take good care of her’,]’ doing nothing but lowering my head on the phone [continuously bowing to show respect, even though it’s a telephone call].
He replied kindly: ‘I know. Please don’t worry’
In actuality, when I heard that the person she was going to marry was SAM, I was not all that surprised. At the Tokyo Dome concert I was introduced to him by the manager as Namie’s dance teacher, and often saw him backstage in Namie’s dressing room, so from that time, somewhere in my mind I thought maybe it’s the person that Namie likes.
That reminds me- SAM was watching earnestly from the corner of the stage whilst Namie was dancing [I suppose at the actual concert].
SAM’s age is by far greater than Namie’s- rather, his age is closer to mine, and my first impressions of him was that he is very mature, speaks very little, and is a honest, hardworking person.
Since the marriage had been decided I talk a lot to my eldest daughter. Maybe it’s because when Namie was young she was very small and slender, but her ideal partner was a man who was big and strong. For instance, sumo wrestlers. Namie had been a big fan of Takanohana and Wakanohana. She was such a fan that when she entered the show-biz world, she said ‘Maybe now I can get to know them somehow!’
Whilst Namie was in Okinawa, the Okinawa Actors School was her love. She did not have a boyfriend, and when her older sister was doing things like writing love letters and giving gifts to her boyfriend, Namie would say ‘How stupid…doing things like that’.
I have not even heard anything about Namie’s first love. She was a child who had no glamour whatsoever. She was the youngest and most spoilt. Still more, she is living alone in Tokyo. She longs for company by nature, so I thought she would make a boyfriend. I saw an article in a magazine that stated she was dating a young man before SAM, and I thought ‘she finally found a partner’.
However, as for marriage, I thought vaguely ‘maybe around 30 years old’ . Okinawan people normally marry early, and in particular women typically marry by 25. Our family, myself included, married early. But Namie is in Tokyo, and is working in show business. I thought Namie’s marriage would come a little later. Rather, I thought that sharing a room with someone would come before marrying. Namie is a kind of girl who hated doing things the conventional way, so I thought she would not marry straight away, but instead first live together with the person she liked [convention in Okinawa = to marry first, but she thought Namie would not stick to this convention].
This is slightly off topic, but the apartment that Namie and SAM are living in at the moment – it was originally where SAM was residing, but Namie wanted to stay as close to him as she could and rented out a different room at the same apartment. When I heard about this, I said ‘What a waste of money- why don’t you live together?’, but of course it’s only because they are now married that I can say this.
Namie and SAM visit Okinawa
With the sudden announcement of Namie and SAM’s marriage, it seemed like newspaper extras were being published in Tokyo. In Okinawa such things did not happen, but there was quite a big fuss. The news spread over the radio, and I received endless calls from friends late at night congratulating me and asking me: ‘is this for real?’
Namie called immediately as well – ‘It must be very busy over there. I’m sorry. There might be journalists and mass media coming wanting to interview you, so you had better hide somewhere for a while.’
I did not like the idea of having to hide when I should be celebrating over the marriage, but when thinking about all the disturbances that might occur to my neighbours, I asked a friend who owned a hotel nearby, and stayed there for the time being.
Actually, during this period, there was even more merry news within our family.
My eldest daughter gave birth to her 3rd child in September. In the same period my eldest son became engaged, and things were getting busy with the preparations.
When I think about it, when I divorced about 20 years ago and had 3 children to look after, nothing was going right, and I was lamenting day after day: ‘why do all these bad things have to accumulate?’ No matter how hard I worked, living would not become easier, and there were times when I thought ‘if only I didn’t have children…’ and I even thought about suicide.
During that time, the one thing that I depended on was fortune telling. It wasn’t as if I was turning to God only in times of trouble, I was simply filled with anxiety about my future, and wanted to something to lean on.
I had fortune tellers in town do things like read my palm, and strangely the results were all the same: ‘You are suffering right now but during your final years you will definitely get better. From your mid 40s to 50s, you will have good things happen to you.’ I had 5 fortune tellers read my future, and all 5 of them said that.
If that is the case, all I can do is believe. No, I did not tell my children about this, but I made this fortune telling my strength to live on. I thought ‘right now I may be suffering but things will get better later… I have to be patient until then’.
By the way, my eldest son had plans to have his wedding 2 months after Namie entered her name into [SAMS’s] family register. Unlike Namie, he is a man, and his partner is Okinawan, It is customary for Okinawan weddings to be grand, so my eldest son’s wedding was supposed to be a lively event with 100 or 200 people, ranging from friends and neighbours. However, he said ‘Namie is not having a wedding, do I don’t think I should either. She’s not very fussy about things like that, so just do the entering into the registry’ and refused to have a celebration.
I think that part of the reason for this decision was that if he held a wedding, Namie would come, and if that happens, everything will become chaotic [because everyone’s attention will turn to Namie].
Certainly as her mother, I cannot just be overjoyed about her marriage. I wanted to go and visit Namie as soon as possible and sort everything out with her, but unfortunately there is too much of a distance between Tokyo and Okinawa.
Eventually, the first time I met her after the ‘registry entering’ was in November when both Namie and SAM came to Okinawa.
They came all the way to Okinawa to stay for 1 night and 2 days, which was quite a tough schedule. I felt more nervous than happy, and I couldn’t sleep much the night before. That day, I went to pick them up from the airport. To tell you the truth, I only just got my license.
In Okinawa there aren’t any trains so a car is an essential item, but I had been working all the time so I didn’t even have the time to go to driving school. Also, even if I got my license I would not have the money to buy a car, so I have come to this age without having a license.
After remarrying, I had a bit of time and money to spare, and my husband recommended me to get my license, so I made up my mind. I was basically starting to learn it from 50, and my reflexes are slow, so it was hard to understand. I was so bad that I passed my final exam only on my 5th try. And here I was, a complete beginner, transporting Namie and SAM by car. If you think about it carefully, it’s quite scary isn’t it? If by any chance we did get involved in an accident, it would have been irreparable.
Anyway after all that, the newly weds arrived at my home. As for dinner, after thinking about it for a long time, I decided that there is no point in serving nothing other than my specialty of Okinawan stew, which I prepared the night before. It’s like cabbage roll [boiled cabbage with minced meat inside] with boiled tomato and miso soup with pork and vegetables.
However, I had heard that SAM does not like meat, so I had taken out all the meat. I was extremely anxious about whether or not it would suit his taste, but I was relieved because he said ‘it’s delicious’ and ate it delightfully.
That day, after the meal the two of them slept early probably because they were tired. The following day Namie said ‘I want to eat the spaghetti that you make because I haven’t had it for a while’, so I made the meat sauce that she used to eat for lunch when she was little, and even SAM said that it’s delicious and ate it all up in a second.
After finishing their meal, on the way to escorting them to the airport, we visited an Okinawan tourist attraction, the Gyokusen cave, and went on a field trip to a limestone cave. Even though Namie and I were raised in Okinawa, it was the first time we went ot the Gyokusen cave. It might sound surprising but that’s what it’s like being a local. The person who drove the car was SAM. Maybe he became worried after seeing me drive the previous day and didn’t want to give me control of the steering wheel…
That reminds me, at the same time I was going to my training school, Namie was going to a training school in Tokyo. However, like it was said in the news, there was a problem because she received special treatment, and after that she became pregnant and married, so she won’t be able to get her license for a while. Namie was regretting it, but because of that, after seeing me with my license, she was overjoyed, and worried for me by saying ‘Be careful when you drive, and don’t cause any accidents, ok?’.
A Christmas present from Namie
I was finally able to visit SAM and Namie’s residence in Tokyo in mid December, 2 months after the announcement of the ‘nyuuseki’ [entry into the family register]. I went with my husband, and it was the first time he visited Namie’s home in Tokyo so he was more nervous than me. I, on the other hand, could relax a little because I had seen them once before and so said ‘There’s no point in a country bumpkin like you to trying to act normal, so just relax, okay?’
Once in Tokyo my first priority was to teach Namie how to cook, which was her biggest weakness that she would definitely need to master from now on. However, once I entered her home I was shocked. Namie had bought many books on cooking, and had been studying very hard all by herself, and trying her best to make homemade meals for SAM.
Namie immediately started asking me for advice: ‘How long should I boil these for?’ ‘How strong should the flame be?’… From my perspective, it still looked like ‘mamagoto’ [a young child playing- pretending to be a mother by doing things like cooking and cleaning], but I felt a new kind of deep emotion, thinking ‘THAT Namie is standing in the kitchen, cooking…’
And more than anything, it felt as though she finally became my child again when I was teaching her how to cook in the kitchen. When she was working for the show business world all the time, it felt like she wasn’t my child, even though she is.
And now, I can naturally have mother-daughter conversations with her, just like the time when we were living in Okinawa. I cried tears of joy because it felt as though Namie was my child once more.
Namie asked me many things about the baby inside of her.
‘Mum, what did it feel like when you became pregnant?’
She would gleefully ask questions like that to me.
I became embarrassed and replied: ‘I can’t remember that far back. Your elder sister is a closer senior to you, so why don’t you ask her’, but Namie had already asked her over the phone. Namie too, probably felt as though she was finally my child again, and probably just wanted to make communication [like a spoilt daughter who relies on her mother for answers]. That’s how I feel right now.
Even though she might like to be spoilt, Namie is indeed a wife. When SAM comes home late, whatever time it may be, Namie will be in the kitchen and prepare dinner for him.
Even if I say ‘Namie, you’re busy so I’ll do it’, she’ll never let me do it and say: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll do it. You just get some rest ok?’ This reassured me that she will be a reliable wife.
Before I came into Tokyo, I was slightly anxious thinking: ‘I wonder how Namie is doing… maybe SAM will be fed up with her already’. But she was trying her hardest, putting in lots of effort, so everything will be ok… I went back to Okinawa feeling relieved.
The happiness continued. On Christmas eve, my husband and I received a Chirstmas present from Namie and SAM. It was a pair of watches.
This is the 3rd present from Namie. The first time, which I will talk about later, she gave me a carnation on Mother’s Day which she bought with the money given to her from her estranged father [Mr. Amuro].
The next one was a ring, which she bought for my birthday once she was able to earn income.
And this time, a watch. They each have memories of their own, so I am very grateful for them.
Normally I don’t wear watches or accessories, but I always wear the ring and wrist watch that Namie gave me.
It may not suit my thick fingers and arms but I will not let go of them until the day that I die.
After the nyuuseki, I had dinner with SAM’s parents in the city. It was the first time both sides would meet eachother, so the amount of tension was unbearable. I was hardly able to speak a word, and I can’t even remember what we talked about. I couldn’t even smoke a single cigarette even though I am normally a heavy smoker.
However, the one who was even more nervous than me was Namie. The girl who doesn’t even get nervous on stage said to me: ‘It was the first time I have been THAT nervous’. But SAM covered us up so we were saved.
SAM and his parents are such splendid people, that Namie may not be worthy of joining that family. But after the dinner, Namie and I were talking earnestly: ‘wasn’t it great that you married SAM’.
Now all that is left is for Namie and SAM is to raise a loving family and lead a happy life. But of course, I don’t even have to say it because Namie and SAM know that the best.
Growing thoughts about the return
Similar to my eldest son, eldest daughter and I, Namie only completed the nyuuseki and did not have a wedding.
However, it was after the birth of her first child that my eldest daughter held a ceremony, partly because of her husband’s desire to do so.
We organised many things from the wedding dress to the Bunkin Takashimada [Traditional hairstyle for women, especially at weddings], and the emotions I felt in her moment of glory still feels new to me.
Having this experience, and as her mother, the truth is that I would like Namie to hold a wedding, and see her in a wedding dress. I have asked Namie many times before, ‘aren’t you going to hold a wedding?’ but the reply would always be a blunt: ‘Yeah, one day…I’ll think about it’
Perhaps she is satisfied with a simple marriage. It seems like SAM thinks the same way. Namie was able to attend my eldest daughter’s wedding during her busy schedule, and surprisingly she was not very excited. Her impression was not ‘how beautiful…!’ but ‘that kimono looks so heavy… it must be tiring’ In this way, the first thing she thought about was how troublesome it must be rather than anything else. As you can see, I think she does not have any interest in weddings.
Rather, the people around her are the ones who are most interested and eager. I receive offers from famous designers wishing to design her wedding dress, and people ask me to hold the wedding reception at their hotels. Of course it has a lot to do with making money, but when I receive invitations from all sorts of people like this, I honestly become very happy. It makes me realise once again what a lucky girl Namie is.
However, I don’t think Namie will change her mind even if I talk about these things to her. Just one thing- just like I did, in case Haruto grows up and says: ‘I want to see photos of your wedding’, I think that they should at least take some photos…
All that Namie is thinking about right now is probably plans for the life ahead with Haruto and SAM. She intends to eventually make a comeback, but I often hear that no matter how much you may have achieved as a singer, taking a break is an uneasy thing. There is a lot of rising and sinking in show business. There are singers whose fame will be taken away by somebody else, and eventually be forgotten.
Ever since Namie entered show business, I have become interested in celebrity news and such. Rather than the lowbrow news like who married whom and who divorced with whom, I’m more interested in the singers who disappeared all of a sudden. There are many people who disappear from the scene after releasing one hit single. It could happen anytime to Namie, too. I have always thought this way.
Even when ‘Try Me –watashi wo shinjite-’ was a hit in 1995, I thought ‘well done’, but at the same time I thought about singers in the past who ended their career with just one single. Thereafter, despite the fact that Namie was blessed with hit after hit, this feeling of anxiety has never completely left me.
Of course this is probably something that Namie knows very well. This is why her marriage was probably an important event for her to get rid of at least a little bit of anxiety. Not because she could simply have a stable life as a wife and mother, but because she will have the support when she attempts to make the comeback. Having a void is definitely a worrying thing, but when she returns, this time she is not alone. There is SAM, and there will be her children. Fortunately, SAM is in the same work place as Namie, so one could say that she has a reliable partner by her side. It would be good if they could work together not just as spouses, but as work mates, side by side. It seems like Namie is picturing herself after the comeback in this way.
Also, when she makes her return, she will have to think about her child. Namie said to me: ‘I want to take my child to my workplace. Maybe I will carry him on my back all the way there’. I agreed whole heartedly and replied, ‘that’s a good thing, please do so!’ Of course, I’m not talking about when the baby is so young that all he does is drink milk, but when he is 1 or 2 years old, and is less of a hassle.
Once, when Agnes Chan [a singer/celebrity in Japan] brought her child backstage, there was a dispute between her and Mariko Hayashi. It was at a time when Namie was not yet in show business, and during that dispute, I was supporting Agnes Chan. It wasn’t as if I didn’t understand Ms. Hayashi’s point of view, but as a mother who has a child, I could really empathise with Agnes Chan. In the show business world you get the opportunity to bring your children to the workplace, so I think you should use this privilege to your advantage. It’s not as if you’re going to carry your child on your back and go onstage, so it should be no problem if you leave them backstage with the manager or an acquaintance while you go onstage to sing.
It should be okay if you don’t bring them to a place that would cause disturbance, so I think it is a good thing to go to work with your child so long as it doesn’t cause a nuisance to anyone. It’s important for a child to see her mother working, and above all, during the child’s early years it’s essential for him/her to have skinship [*Skinship is a Japanese word that was invented by using English words, to describe the closeness between a mother and her child due to the physical contact of their naked skin]. It’s the orthodox thing to have a baby sitter look after the child, but I believe that the mother’s warmth is more important.
Then again, I was not able to take Namie to my workplace. Namie’s only impression of me is someone who ‘works hard all day and all night’. She did not complain about it one bit, but I’m sure she would’ve felt the loneliness of having a mother who would only return home at midnight. I think it’s because she’s experienced something like this, that she has a strong will not to let the same thing happen to her own child.
Of course, for that to happen, you have to look after your child well from early on. At 1 and a half years old, fast-growing kids will not have to use diapers anymore, and it should be okay to move on to ‘training pants’. They probably also will not need baby bottles anymore, and whether or not a child develops this quickly is up to the mother’s training.
To get to where she is now, and to fulfill her dream, Namie worked very hard and put in great effort. I hope that she will persist and somehow achieve her dream of working alongside her child as well.
Namie’s Home Cooking
When I visit the ‘newly-wed Namie’ at her apartment, I see something that is hard to imagine when considering the ‘show business- Namie’ whom I see on television. I mean, Namie has an apron on and is standing in the kitchen! She would say to me ‘Mum, can you try the nikujyaga* that I made?’ [*Japanese dish made up of cooked beef, pork, potato, onion…]
I would try some and say: ‘Good job, good job! But maybe it needs a little more flavour?’
But to tell you the truth, she still needs a lot of work on the flavouring.
However, it’s just so much fun with her asking questions and me giving her advice like this. Ever since she entered show business, we used to have these awkward conversations, but now through cooking, we are finally able to have natural conversations again. And when I see Namie standing in the kitchen preparing meals for SAM, I earnestly think: ‘Ah… so she really wanted to marry’. Just by looking at her back when she’s standing in the kitchen, I can feel her happiness.
Taste is not that important. It was the same with me. Just like how Namie did not learn anything from me, I did not learn any cooking from my mother. After marrying, I read books on cooking, learnt from friends and relatives, and struggled in the kitchen from morning to night. Days continued where I would think about lunch and dinner right after finishing breakfast. All I was thinking about was how to make the food suit my husband’s taste, rather than just eat what I like.
There will be many mistakes. You will overcook things, things will be too sweet, too spicy…but especially in cooking, mistakes lead to success. You learn by making mistakes over and over. In terms of home cooking, rather than studying at a cooking school, what you learn from experience will be more useful. If there was something delicious that was made for you at a relative’s house, ask them how to make it, and try it out straight away. If you keep doing that, you will improve little by little.
In Namie’s case, unfortunately she doesn’t have any relatives nearby. She has cooking books to compensate for the fact that she has no one near her who can teach her directly, and that is enough. Youngsters nowadays don’t even know how to cook rice, and they say that there are girls who wash uncooked rice with detergent. Namie can cook rice, and can also make miso soup. Now she just needs to work on side dishes.
About child rearing
Haruto is my 4th grandchild. My eldest daughter’s marriage was early, so my first grandchild was when I was 42. I was glad but at the same time, I remember feeling a little embarrassed thinking ‘What, I’m a grandmother already!’ However, grandchildren are lovely. Franly speaking, I believe that they are lovely things. Certainly my own children are also lovely, but grandchildren have a different kind of cuteness, compared to children. First, there is a feeling of ease because you do not have the responsibility of being the parent. I love and spoil my grandchildren.
My eldest daughter often says to me: ‘You never bought us anything we wanted and you were always strict, but you’re completely different with your grandkids!’
She’s exactly right. When I took my grandchild to Tokyo to visit Namie’s place, there was this incident:
It was winter. Okinawan children have not experienced cold weather. I thought it would be terrible if he caught a cold, so I said ‘let’s go and buy a coat’, and took my grandchild to Harajuku.
When we looked for a coat in a shop, we found a good one. In a hurry, without checking the price tag I said ‘I’d like to buy this’, and the shop attendant said ‘That will be 45 000 yen’…
My grandchild was completely in love with it, so thinking it was too late to refuse to buy it, I bought it. That was the first time I’d ever bought something that expensive. But it’s strange, if you think about how happy your cute grandchild becomes, it doesn’t feel like you’ve spent too much money.
Of course I am not just spoiling my grandchildren. If they misbehave, I scold them, and I praise them for being good. I think that this is the iron rule of parenting.
When I was bringing up Namie and my other children, I didn’t have time to think and simply living took out all my energy. It was the kind of lifestyle where even if there was something they wanted, I wouldn’t be able to buy it for them.
I was often concerned about my child rearing abilities, thinking ‘is it going to be okay like this?’ The thing that was very useful to me at this time was a TV program on NHK called ‘TV teragoya’.
In particular, the now deceased doctor Bandou’s words, which was ‘Make children wait for 75 seconds. If your children are asking for selfish requests, make them wait for 75 seconds and they will give up. Don’t ever listen to their requests,’ made a big impression on me. Basically, there are children who will cry and throw a tantrum when they want something. If you leave them alone for 75 seconds, they will eventually give up. Even if they fall over and cry, if you think it is not a big deal, wait for 75 seconds and don’t give them a hand. That way, they will stand up themselves. If you let them experience that once, they will grow well.
I engraved that advice in my mind and brought up my children. I am putting it into practice with my grandchilren, too. It doesn’t matter if you have money or not- if you submit to all of their requests, no good things will happen.
My eldest daughter has 3 children right now, but all of their clothes are hand-me-downs.
Because Namie has been observing her elder sister’s children doing this, she has said ‘I’ll just have the hand-me-downs from her place. All the nappies and baby clothes,’.
Actually my eldest daughter’s first child is wearing things like a T-shirt that Namie used to wear, so it seems that my children do not need to have money spent on them at all.
When I look at my children, I think to myself, how nice it is when the siblings are always close together. I was an only child and only had a mother, so the thing I feel most is loneliness. When I was young, I was happy about being an only child, thinking ‘I can have everything to myself’, but when I started living by myself, I realized that I’m the only one who can look after her. I had no siblings who could help me. If my mother became ill, I would have to take full responsibility in looking after her. There was nobody who could help me or anybody I could consult.
When I think about this, the fact that my eldest daughter had 3 children would probably turn out to be a wonderful gift for them all. That’s why I’m saying to Namie: ‘If you’re going to have children, have at least 2’. Then again, even if I say something like this to Namie now, she is too busy with Haruto to be thinking about another child. ‘I’ll think about it gradually’ is the blunt reply, but Namie knows the merits of having siblings, and she has been observing her elder sister’s 3 children, so she knows although they can be annoying at times, having family is a joyous thing. I’m sure that in the near future, she will have her next child. I’m confident about this…
The birth of Namie
Namie was born on the 20th of September, 1977. It was an easy delivery and everything went as expected. She was a big baby weighing in at 3980g. It’s often said: ‘give birth to a small child and raise her big’, but Namie was the complete opposite. Her siblings were small but Namie was different. However, she was healthy at the time so I didn’t need to worry about it at all.
I named her straight away, too. A little before her birth, in July or August, I became engrossed in a TV soap opera. I think it was a special program on NHK, where Reiko Ohara played the protagonist, and her character’s partner was played by Toshio Kurosawa. The story was about a heroine called ‘Namie’ who was played by Reiko Ohara, and she would be the victim of bullying and go through difficult times, yet live strong. The general plot was very similar to ‘Oshin’ [famous soap opera].
I am not really the kind of person who becomes absorbed in soap operas, but I became hooked on this one and was deeply moved. And so before the baby would be born, I had decided: ‘if it’s a girl, I will name her Namie’. I believed that if I gave her this name, she would endure any sort of hardship and suffering…
When I told Namie of how I came up with her name, she scolded me and said ‘You didn’t give it a serious thought at all, did you,’ but in the end, it might’ve been good that I gave her that name. This is because I thought once she would enter show business, they would give her a stage name, but her manager said ‘This is a good name. It’s well balanced and easy to say’, and it became her stage name just as it is.
From birth to naming, everything was going fine for Namie, but not even a month after she was born, her body was experiencing strange symptoms. She would not drink any milk at all. Even if I forced her to drink, she would throw it up. It was the same with breast milk or powder milk. She would throw it all up. And because she couldn’t drink milk, she did not grow much at all. Her weight only increased by 200g in one month.
I promptly went to consult this with the hospital. The doctor said that there might be something wrong with her stomach, and an examination using a gastrocamera was taken. Can you imagine? A one-month-old baby must swallow a gastrocamera…I was outside the hospital room and I could hear Namie crying in pain, of having the camera inside her body. I just felt so sorry for her… so sorry. As a mother, there was nothing more painful than what had happened then.
However, the results of the examination showed that there were no abnormalities. They didn’t find anything wrong with her stomach, her brain, or any of her organs. Basically, the reason why she wasn’t able to drink milk was a mystery.
The doctor said ‘Seen as though there are no abnormalities, there is no reason to perform any medical treatment on her, but if you try and give her the milk that she doesn’t drink, you will just slow down her growth’, and I began letting her drink fruit juice as advised. She somehow gradually started to grow, and from then on she grew up without any serious illnesses.
By the way… Namie’s dark skin is kind of like a trademark, but actually, her brother and sister have fair skin. I also have the characteristics of being ‘half [European]’ and have white skin. Namie is the only one who had dark skin.
When she was young, Namie was worried about the darkness of her skin and questioned at times: “why do I have different colour skin to [my] brother and sister?” Then, my eldest son would tease her and say things like: “‘You’re a black person’s kid”…
The moment Namie was born, I thought she looked like my mother; that is, her grandmother, but as she grew I started to think: “she doesn’t look like any of us”. At our place we all call Namie a ‘mutation’.
At any rate, she was dark skinned, and when she was directly exposed to sunlight, she would become tanned straight away. When I get sunburnt, I don’t get a tan but become red, and it goes away in no time, but Namie becomes tanned in no time and it doesn’t go away for a long time. In Okinawa, direct sunlight is strong all year round, so Namie’s skin just becomes darker and darker.
The dark skin that she was worried about so much when she was a child is actually now in fashion, so it’s a really strange feeling.
However, the strangest thing is probably how the little baby who couldn’t even drink milk, has become a fine mother of a child. Even now, it feels a little unbelievable.
Separating as if we were fleeing at night.
Divorce is the spouses’ problem. However, for a child, losing the father is a big deal, and they have to worry about their life from then on. When I made up my decision to divorce, there was still a worry in the back of my mind. Namie was only 4 so that was okay, but my eldest daughter and son were old enough to understand what ‘divorce’ meant. I kept confirming with them:
‘If I separate with dad, you won’t be able to enjoy the luxurious life you’re having at the moment, and I won’t be able to ask you what you want me to buy, or what you want to eat. Is that all right?’
If either of my siblings objected against it, I may not have been able to divorce. However, my eldest son replied with conviction: ‘That’s fine. Let’s just get out of here’. It seemed like my eldest daughter had the same opinion. Since that was the case, the earlier we acted, the better. It wasn’t a divorce after negotiation- we left home as if we were fleeing. On Saturday afternoon, I waited for my kids to come home from school and then got on a taxi and left home, without taking any household belongings, except our own clothes. However, thinking it would be problematic for the children not to have a study desk, we carried out just 2 small desks. I also rented a room in advance. I thought it would be unfair for the children to change schools just because of moving houses, so I rented a basement from a photographer whom I knew, which was in the same school area. It was about a 10-minute drive by car, and the rate was 5 000 yen. It was a windowless 6 jyou [unit of measurement for size of rooms in Japan] room that was like a cellar. Even if it was this horrible, leaving home and separating was the first thing we had to do.
It was May. In Okinawa, it was already hot as if it were summer. Since we left home without being able to take all the things we wanted, the thing that gave us the most problems was not having a fridge. In order to store things that melt or rot like butter and milk, a bowl with ice that I bought acted as a fridge. For baths we could go to public baths, and the laundry could be done by hand, but as for a television, even though I didn’t need it, I thought that the children would want to watch some programs, so a friend of mine talked to a electrical dealer in the neighbourhood for me, and rather than buying, we rented a black and white television for 2 000 yen a month.
My eldest son and daughter would go to school from our emergency house, Namie would go to the day care centre, and I had to search for a night job. There was a snack bar opening near the place where we were living, and they were recruiting hostesses, and it was good fortune that they employed me immediately.
Our life in the cellar-like room ended after about a month. I won the raffle, which I had applied for at the multi-unit apartment managed by the municipality ever since I had begun thinking about the divorce. Maybe they felt sorry for us because we were a fatherless family, but we won on our second try.
Sekiryou apartment, Section 30, room 303.
It was there where we began our life as a fatherless family. It was 4 000 yen a day for a 4 ½ jyou kitchen, a 4 ½ jyou and 3 jyou room, and a shower. When moving in, it cost us about 12 000 yen for the ‘thank you’ fee [apparently a ‘thanks for letting us move in’ fee], and 3 months worth of security deposits, but this money was lent to me by the owner of the snack bar, and a couple whom I knew from a long time ago, who owned a rice cracker shop, became my guarantor.
Even though it was much better than the cellar room, it was too cramped for a fatherless family of 4. I made the 3 jyou room the children’s room and put the desks in there, and the 4 jyou room was the living room and bedroom.
When we sleep, it is like a war. It’s 4 ½ jyou so we can somehow lay down 3 futons but even that is tough, and because there are 4 of us sharing 3 futons, we are in a situation where we can’t even move around in our sleep.
It’s next to the kitchen so when we sleep, we position ourselves in order of who sleeps first- with the first person on the very end.
I come home from my night shift at around 2 o’clock in the morning. The children will be already sleeping. Normally Namie is the one who sleeps first and is at the very end, next is my eldest daughter, then my eldest son.
I can only lie down next to my eldest son- the side closest to me, but he is deep in his sleep and has tossed and turned, leaving me with barely any room. Normally I would sleep with half of my body in the kitchen area. Even though it was like this, we were never gloomy. Our family was bright. When we wanted to laugh we could do so together, and when we wanted to cry, we could do so together. It felt like we were able to live like a real family again.
During the day I was a carer at a daycare centre, and at night I was a hostess at a snack bar. I was frantic trying to raise my children, taking on completely opposite jobs day and night. I saved money little by little, and bought a tv, then a fridge, then a washing machine… It was after about 3 months that we were eventually able to have a human-like lifestyle. We resided in the apartment for 6 years, and my honest feeling is that it was tough.
Everyday was a repetition. I would wake up at 6 o’clock. I would prepare breakfast and wake up the children at 7 o’clock, let them eat, and leave for work at 7:30 to the daycare centre. During Namie’s nursery years I would take her out with me. However, I would take Namie to a different daycare centre. If we went to the same one, I would be worried about Namie, look at her all the time and treat her favourably to everyone else, and she would become spoilt.
For that reason, I would leave her at a daycare centre 20 minutes away, and then I would go to my own one for work.
I arrive at the day care centre when it’s past 8 o’clock. I then immediately phone home. It’s to check if my eldest son and daughter have gone to school. If they don’t answer the phone, it means they have left. On top of that, it’s to check if by any chance they have started a fire or something like that.
Namie’s day care centre is a city-approved one, and will only look after children until 5 o’clock in the afternoon. My one is a private day care centre and can look after children until 7 o’clock, so with the permission of the principal, I go and pick up Namie when it nears 5 o’clock, and bring her back to my own daycare centre.
When my work at the day care centre ends at 7 o’clock, I take Namie and return home, and then it is time to prepare dinner. During this time the children take it in turns to have a bath. After dinner, I have my night job from 9pm. It is 2am when I return home. It is then that I can finally relax but if I take it too easy I will not be able to wake up the following day.
Not having anybody to greet you when you come home, and coming home into a dark room is a lonesome thing. The times when I am drunk, I would wake my children up and make them sit down, and mutter things at them. I was probably pouring out complaints. There were times when I would cry while speaking. There would even be times when I would lean against the wall while speaking and fall asleep…
The only time I can relax is on Sundays, and I spent most of the time sleeping. With this kind of lifestyle, I don’t have time to socialize with neighbours either. When I see the neighbourhood housewives gossiping, I thought ‘If I had time to do that I may as well sleep’. Because I didn’t meet up with the neighbours, I felt somewhat that they were looking at me coldly.
However, it wasn’t as if I was doing something wrong, so I didn’t hide anything, and just made sure not to do anything that would get them pointing their finger at me. In particular, no matter how sleepy I was, I made sure that I did the stairway cleaning that I was responsible for 2 times a month. It probably had something to do with the willpower coming from raising children all by myself.
A single carnation
During her primary school years, Namie was introverted. She was the kind of child who would hide behind me and become restless whenever somebody came into our house.
At school she was just a typical, shy child and did not stand out much at all. She had friends, but she would never do anything to stand out. She was the kind of child who, at the arts festival, would not assertively stand at the front and perform, but rather just played the role that was given to her as best she could. In other words, she was just an ordinary child.
I have a feeling that my divorce and the financially tough lifestyle thereafter, had at least partly influenced the makings of Namie’s personality.
For instance, in terms of clothing, she would mostly wear her sister’s hand-me-downs, and sometimes she would wear a mini skirt from the time when I was a student. So not only was she wearing her sister’s old clothing, but her mother’s, too… But Namie wore them without complaining about it one bit. It wouldn’t have been strange for her to act like a spoilt child sometimes, but not once did she ever say something like: ‘I want a skirt like this…’
Even though she has now become a celebrity, this outlook has basically not changed. She barely holds any interest in clothes or brands, and when she sometimes appeared on talk shows I could see her wearing her causal clothes, and it has not changed whatsoever. She does not spend money on clothes at all.
The period after making her debut, maybe because she wasn’t popular and had time on her hands, she would often come down to Okinawa and would always be wearing things like a T-shirt and jeans. There was one stage when jeans ripped at the knee area became in fashion, and because Namie would come home dressed that way, her brother would become worried and say to me: ‘Just as I thought, it looks like Namie is struggling in Tokyo. She’s always wearing jeans, and now she’s wearing ripped ones. If she can’t even buy a pair of jeans, don’t you think you should start thinking about bringing her back, mum?’
She’s that indifferent towards fashion. Sexiness was only secondary. Ease and comfort of wearing was her priority. That has not changed ever since she was a child. When I watch TV there are celebrities clad in things like Chanel from top to bottom, and I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing, but to Namie, they are unnecessary and useless items.
When I visit her home in Tokyo, there are brand name bags, watches, and clothes, but most of them are gifts. They are things given to her by her manager, or they are gifts from members of staff who had come home from holidays overseas, but Namie would not wear most of them, and just display them around her room. I feel sorry for the people who gave these gifts to Namie, but they have become accessories for the room.
The office manager often says to me: ‘I say to her on her birthday, “I’ll buy you something, so tell me what you like,” but she would just say “there isn’t anything that I want” so I’m the one who becomes a little disappointed. I wonder if she is just being considerate…’
But that’s not the case. By nature, she does not have any greed whatsoever. However, when I said ‘our family is rooted in poverty’, the manager was laughing.
As I thought, it seems like the fact that she is not allowed to behave like a spoiled child has been firmly entrenched inside of her ever since she was a child…
When I think back to the times of our tough lifestyle, Namie would appear to be a good child who did not need much money spent on her. However, as a parent, I was worried that she was a little introverted, and I was more concerned about that than her study.
The reason for forcefully enrolling Namie into the local girls’ and boys’ choir, was because it was different from learning an instrument and it wasn’t as if it costs a lot of money, and she enjoyed music since her nursery years, so I thought that maybe her introversion would be cured somewhat by singing infront of people.
However, choir songs are often nursery rhymes or school songs, right? Namie definitely loved singing, but if she is made to sing songs that she has no interest in whatsoever, she would start to hate it. In the end, she quit after about half a year. The performance that she took part in Nagasaki was the only one she ever did.
It was approximately half a year after that that she joined the Okinawa actor’s school. Maybe she learnt the joy of doing things like singing together from her choir activities. Maybe she thought, ‘I may as well sing songs that I’m interested in’.
At any rate, I made life tough for Namie during her primary school years, but she was a good child who did not complain one bit. But maybe, she was just patiently enduring and holding back. In her heart, I think she really wanted to be spoilt. The reason why I say this is because, in secret, Namie was visiting her father whom I had separated with. Even though we had divorced, we had to deal with my eldest son and daughter’s education, so he remained living in the same area. With the school in the middle, my house and my [ex] husband’s house were in symmetrical positions.
Namie did not say exactly, but apparently she met her father by chance on the way home from school. This is how the mind of a child works- if she meets him once, she will think that if she goes to that same spot again, she will be able to meet him again. It’s a natural way of thinking. For her father, the four-year-old Namie when we separated would have been the dearest out of all the children. There is no reason not to talk to her if he sees her, and Namie too, would not have any bad feelings towards him. Namie would probably just have thought ‘why don’t you live with us together?’ so I think she would have been able to have a natural conversation with her father.
It was Mother’s Day. Out of the blue Namie said to me, ‘This is a present,’ and gave me a single carnation. Naturally I was happy about the present, but I did not give Namie even a yen of excess money. She should not have enough money to buy a carnation. I even thought: ‘don’t tell me she stole it from somewhere…’ Namie said to me ‘I bought it with the money I was saving up’, but I just could not agree.
Later on, I discovered the truth. When she needed money for the costume fee for her periodic performance at the actor’s school, she couldn’t ask me, and went to talk to her father about it. Her father could not just stand there and watch his troubled daughter and gave her 500 yen, and Namie used 100 yen out of that to buy me one carnation and give it to me as a present.
To tell you the truth, I felt mixed emotions, but even though he is my ex-husband, he will always be the children’s father. I could not stop my children from going to visit their father. Most of all, Namie’s pure feelings that she didn’t want to be spoilt by other people but wanted to be spoilt by her relatives, hurt my heart so much. I, at that time, was not in the situation to be able to pamper her. Namie sought that missed affection from her father. However, all of my children accept this without any hard feelings. Namie was playfully teased by her brother too- he said to her: ‘You’re pretty stingy, just buying a 100 yen gift from 500 yen. You either should’ve bought something that cost more or just not have given her a gift at all.’ My life was saved thanks to the cheerfulness of my children.