By Christian Wolfer
INTERVIEW – Originally from Osaka, Miyu Takashima owns a high-end dental clinic in Tokyo. She is also an entrepreneur in the field of vintage kimonos. Independent and free, she won’t hesitate to break many prevalent stereotypes and norms concerning what it means to be a woman in Japan.
It’s generally not often that you hear about women who are dentists and entrepreneurs and from Japan. What is your background?
I was raised in Osaka by a traditional father and a mother who was a housewife. It was an arranged marriage and she didn’t have the choice to pursue her own happiness. Still, already as a child I couldn’t understand why women had to do all the housework. As I grew older, I wanted to become a nurse, but then my grandmother (who worked) told me it’s not enough and that I should become a doctor. I agreed.
Do you think your independence comes from nature or nurture?
Both. I naturally wanted to do pursue things I wanted but my education was also a great contributor. My high school (Osaka Jogakuin) was founded by an American and though it was not international, the mindset there was quite open. The environment where I studied (Ohu University) was generally in the belief that women shouldn’t work and that they don’t need education. The female students were not very popular, either. But I was already on track to becoming a dentist.
How is it to be a female dentist in Japan?
The beginning was not easy. I was rejected by clinics because I was told that they were looking for doctors, not women. Then, I opened my own clinic in 2014. Originally, I was looking for a leader and I wanted to be a strong #2. But then I couldn’t find one good enough, so I simply decided to do it myself. Now I have a staff of 4, all women, and business is going well.
How is it to run your own clinic in Tokyo? Do you see any obstacles?
Honestly, not very much. It is in fact much easier than trying to be part of another company. For example, it is quite easy to take a business loan because I’m a doctor. On the other hand, during networking events, I usually say that I work for healthcare because I don’t want men to get envious and I noticed that some stopped talking to me if I told them what I really do. Most take it as it is or believe that I have a patron. Of course, there are very few women at these events.
Looking at the bigger picture, what do you think is the reason for you being one of the few women at such events?
One reason is certainly the mindset. Many have a limited vision of themselves, be it due to the way they were raised or how they decided to look at themselves. They don’t believe that they’re capable of many things and stay within their limited view that is like a prison to their potential.
Another reason is that people don’t focus enough on what they truly want to do. Once I asked my staff and they said they want to become wives. I was shocked, though really, it’s not surprising because that’s what the government is still de facto encouraging. I believe that we have a duty to make ourselves happy and the first step is to focus on ourselves first.
You have strong feminist opinions. Is it an obstacle for your personal life?
I’m not married, or better, I am free! It is hard to find a Japanese man who helps at home and that’s very important because I have seen many women with big potential quitting because they had to take care of the household. I cannot belong to a man. We need to help each other.
As if you’re not already busy enough, you have recently started a new business? Where does the idea come from?
One day I noticed that I am really lucky to be educated and to do what I want to do. Now I want to support women who want to work and take the first step towards confidence and independence. So I looked for something that anyone can do, no matter what background.
I came up with the idea to make kimono culture more accessible to foreigners by offering well-maintained and affordable kimonos they can experience in Japan and then take home with them. We’re still in the early stages but we were already able to support a TV shooting.
Great, I wish you good luck with it! Putting all your experiences together in a message, what would it be?
Constant self-sacrifice doesn’t make you happy and if you’re not happy, how can those around you be? Just focus on what you have to do. But you need to take care of it yourself because only you are responsible for your happiness. Live your own life, not your parents’s, or anyone else’s for that matter.
Kimono start-up link: