I ever lived in middle of jungle! Since April 1996 until 1997, I had been living in jungle near small city called Jeli in state of Kelantan, Malaysia. In that place, there was no water service, no electricity, and no phone. And in the era without internet and handphone, I used mega size transceiver to communicate.
The reason why I ended up to live in the middle of jungle is...
I was studying at Department of International Agricultural Development, Faculty of Agriculture, Tokyo University of Agriculture. There was a international induction course credit among the credit course. Because one the main subject of the major is tropical fruit tree, I consulted to one of the professor that I want to live in Malaysia which is the origin region of tropical fruit trees to study more about tropical fruit tree. And finally, I was introduced with a person who do the tropical fruit agricultural and started the induction course.
"Please survive and comeback safely to Japan," said my Boss when I arrived at Malaysia on the first time.
The young me didn`t really understand my Boss` words. From Jeli city, when entering the jungle further there was a road sign of "Beware on Elephant". There are signs for animals caution in Japan, but I never find road signs for Elephant. Interesting! My jungle life began.
-with Wild Elephants in Malaysia-
The life in the jungle really different from the life in Tokyo.
For `shopping` I went to traditional market.
For meat, it doesn`t come in a cut of meat. It came in a whole part of a cow. A real cow. The cow hanged down. Just cut the place you like and buy it, the price is the same for every part, so we must pick it carefully and get the delicious meat.
For the meat on the supermarket, we usually didn`t know what part that we pick, so I think the way to buy meat like that (cut the place that we like) is better.
For chicken, it also only plucked the hair, when we say "potong" they start to chop the chicken. For fish, the eyes already turned white, surrounded by fly, and we shouldn`t get bothered with the fungus on the scale.
This experiences made me realized that human can live anywhere if can get used with the environment.
In that place, I also met Islam.
I didn`t know anything about "Islam", but when I realized, everyone around me is a Muslim. The place where I lived, among state of Kelantan, among other city in Malaysia, lies in the border with Thailand (Buddhism), but somehow the Islamic precepts were very strong.
The cashiers for men and woman are different, a couple who holding hand or kissing will be arrested by Religion Police, there was no beautiful or handsome people in public office.
Since morning until evening you can hear a strange song, that actually it is a Al-Quran. In the fasting month, during the day, everyone don`t eat and drink so seems they do job with no motivation. The water also a bit yellow, If you wash a white T-shirt, it will turn yellow. Public transportation never came right on time, I often spend a half-day stood in the bus stop.
A lot of different cultures and habits with Japan.
I also met hijab (veil) in that place. I wondered, it is already hot, but why people using clothes like teru-teru bozu? Moreover, evereyone is same. All of the student are same with white teru-teru bozu. It seemed not fashionable at all, seemed not a high-quality thing, seemed so hot, stinky, and smelt. At that time, I thought that the student wear it because people around them force them to wear it.
After came back to Japan from Malaysia, I graduated from university, got a job at a company related to agriculture, and focused with my job. I get married at 25, in a male-centered company, I continued to work didn`t really care about gender. And at the fifth year, I became the company's first female chief. I continued to work as the head of the company's largest department.
Entering 30s, I started to considering to have children or not. There was I policy that those who can not work on Saturday and Sunday will not accepted as employees. For me, who far away from my parent`s home, it was very clear that I can not be an employee anymore if I have children. I will lose the position that I get after my hard work this whole time, a situation that never come to my mind in my 20s. I finally understood the strictness for women to working in Japan.
In the sorrow, the timing to have children is pressed, there pressure from neighborhood also came. I can not forget my co-worker`s words until now. "The `Working` alone is a shame of Japanese people!". Usually, I don`t get bothered, but at that time, I couldn`t stand with that words.
After that, I undertook infertility treatment, I gave birth a daughter safely when I was 34 and I left my company. Entering the childcare phase, I take caring a child isn`t like a job that finish after the work time ended. I reassured the hardship to take care a child that 24 hours full time without rest or holiday.
The day when I whisper "I`m sorry" to my child if I angry at her is continuing. I never think that I would miss to talk with an adult like when I was working. I can not bear only do one to one communication with my child. For me who live fay away from parents, I didn`t know anyone in Fukushima outside my company.
To make mama-friends I went around the square and finally increased the circle of mama-friends. The mama-friends whom I met, all of them are good person. Among mama-friends, we consult about children and families, go out together to play outside with children, exchange information such as playgrounds and hospitals. For me, their existence is very important and make me strong.
Facing the Great East Japan Earthquake on Fukushima, I evacuated due to the influence of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Separated with my family and my mama-friends, I was relieved that among my mama-friend circle, we could still contacting and supporting each others.
Since I resigned from my company, I met a lot of mama-friends that have big potential in their self. Have same condition with me, they also resign from company after have children. Knowing the difficulty to work after have child in Japan, I started think to make company that allow them to work without loosen their duty as a mother.
When I was thinking what kind of products will we produce, I remember my experience in Malaysia, remember about hijab. I came to bazaar for Muslim to do some research and I had never imagined that I can fell in love with this kind of market."It will work!", i think. And finally started to develop the business.
At first, I need to go to the actual place to know more about hijab. On April 2015, I came back to Malaysia to do market research about hijab and I knew that nowadays hijab also used as fashion items. Saw how people crowded in modern luxury shopping mall, I was convinced, "I think that This business will work!".
To start the business, I need to develop it in Japan. While doing some hearing events to develop our products, I'm getting used to have Muslim around me and I learned the difficulties for Muslims who lived in Japan. While producing and selling the hijab, I hope I can erase the prejudice about Muslim in Japan.
February 2016, I established WATASI JAPAN LCC.
"..from Japanese mothers in Fukushima, for Muslimah around the world.."