It’s Been My Hometown Always─Nakameguro, Tokyo

interview, Aug. 2019

EMIKO NAKASEKO

I’ve been living in Nakameguro, Tokyo for 60 years since I was born, and I’ve seen drastic changes here in the last few years; many fashionable shops, cafes, and restaurants have opened here. A newly built Starbucks is always busy─I’m never be able to go and get coffee there.
 
Nakameguro is known for beautiful cherry blossoms along the river, so many tourists come here every spring.

But for me, Nakameguro is always a place full of the local atmosphere. We neighbors know each other well, and there are surely warm greetings every day.

I think one of the reasons I belong here deeply is that my mom used to run a small Japanese restaurant here in Nakameguro.

Now the spring was over and the rainy season has come. When it comes, I always remember my school days.
 

My elementary school days were like rainy days full of dull gray clouds.

I was good at studying and I was never bullied, but it was “one-size-fits-all” education. I always got bored and never felt free. All I wanted was just to go home as early as possible, and play with my dog. I had much more fun playing with him than with my classmates.

I also liked to spend time alone, by drawing pictures or watching ants or frogs or so on. My teachers or classmates might have seen me as an odd kid.

I also had a gecko and frogs, and even put a string on the gecko’s neck and took a walk together! I took care of it very much, for example, I put calcium powder on crickets and fed them to the gecko.


 
But one day while I was at school, my cousin living in my neighborhood abandoned my gecko. When I knew he did that, I threw his bag into a trash box. 

I always thought that I wanted to be an adult as early as possible. When I went to art college after high school, I thought, “Oh, now I can finally breathe comfortably and smoothly!”  

After graduation, I started working for an advertisement company and did graphic design for poster ads. I enjoyed my work but I was very busy and didn’t have time to draw for my own, and I thought, “oh, I’m gonna get old very quickly if I continue this kind of life.”

So, I quit the job after four years had passed and went to New York.

I wasn’t sure why I decided to go to NY, but it was a good choice. Walking through the city and seeing lots of buildings, I felt instantly that what I had, or wanted to do was a space design. So, when I came back to Japan, I started to work for an interior design company immediately.


 
At that time, I was only looking forward and never looking back on my past, and even years have passed quickly. It was when my mother got sick and I had to take care of her, that I took time to think about my lifestyle and decided to work as an independent interior coordinator.

I had much time to stay with my mother, so I had no regrets after she died. It was a great decision I made.


 
Now I run a small art school on my own and teach little kids the joy of drawing.


 
When you are still a kid or young student, you don’t have much freedom: you have to go to school, and you live with your parents and can’t live on your own. If you are comfortable at the place where you belong, that’s amazing, but if you aren’t, it’s very hard to survive.

What I wanna tell those kids who don’t fit where they are, is that they don’t have to put up with the situation. They don’t have to force themselves to become what others want them to be (1).

Instead, they can feel and express their thoughts, feelings and emotions. And I try to give them a safe, comfortable place to do so through running the art school.

I don’t want the kids to feel suppressed, as I did when I was little. My whole life, I’ve been always looking for a place where I feel comfortable and can be what I am.

In this sense, Nakameguro is always that kind of place. That’s why I’ve been living here, even though I changed my jobs several times. 

Yeah, I could say it’s my hometown.


 
I hated rainy season when I was little, but now I like it. It’s beautiful to feel the soft sunshine through the clouds, cool winds and the sound of rain. But why I can feel in this way, is that now I can freely choose a place where I want to be.
 
Oh, it’s started raining again. Do you wanna wait until it stops while having coffee somewhere?

About the interviewee:
Setsuko
Born in 1959 and grew up in Nakameguro. Graduated from Tama Art University.
Love amphibians and modern interiors.

Footnote:
In decades past, there was great social pressure in Japan to adhere to stereotypical social roles. Non-conformists in those years experienced the most resistance to this. Although Japan has shifted more to value diversity and inclusion, there is still social pressure, especially for women and children to stat true to semblances of their past roles while embracing new roles.

Know more about Nakameguro

written by

EMIKO NAKASEKO

CEO of FILAGE Co., Ltd. https://www.filage.co
Book reviewer, picture book writer and book coordinator.

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