International Journalist, Essayist
Women who went through hardships, faced desperations of life, made choices of their own paths. ‘Yuften’ – (fusing point of soul) has been there in each life turning points.
The 6th interview is with the international journalist and essayist Madame Dora Tauzin, who has been the major cultural liaison between Japan and France.
Born-to-be Parisienne, Dora Tauzin has spent more than 20 years since she first came to Japan. As a recent trend, people live dual location life styles nowadays, but she was the pioneer person who has been living in Paris and Tokyo while mutually intercommunicating both countries’ social issues and attractions.
Up until now, she has been attracting attentions as an icon for living in good balance of ‘individuality’ and also ‘harmony’ across generations, nationalities, and genders.
We ask her own ‘Yuften’ - the fusing point of life at the turning points in her expanded horizons as ‘Dora’s style’.
International journalist. Essayist. Master degree from La Sorbonne, Diploma as honors student from Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Sciences-Po. A pentalingual internationalist, spent time in Berlin, London, and New York. After worked in United Nations Information Center, she started living in Japan when she started appearing on NHK TV program ‘French Conversation’ for 5 years. Dora has been a professor at Keio University, Institut français, Academie du Vin, and also active as an essayist for newspapers, magazines, and as a lecturer. She has also actively appeared on TV, radio commentator and reporter. Dora has written many books about culture essays. Dora Tauzin has been awarded L'ordre national de la légion d'honneur Chevalier in 2015.
Dora Tauzin website : http://www.doratauzin.net/
Balance of ‘Non, merci’.
It’s been more than 20 years since you started living in Japan. How do you see the environment that surround women nowadays in Japan?
I work a lot about womens’issues, but what I am feeling through 20 years of cross cultural life style, is that the difference of Japan and France is not only about women’s issues. French people are good at living life style without being too conscious about what others think and Japanese are opposite. However I would say French people are too ‘self-centered’ on the other hand. This is a major difference.
Based on that premise, I think anyone needs to have courage to ‘refuse’ or to say « no » sometimes in order to enjoy life. We should be more cautious about ‘we can refuse to listen to what we do not want to listen, and something we do not want to do’, because there are so many drinking gatherings, alumni gatherings as social customs in Japan. If you try to align yourself of people around you ignoring what you feel, you would be stressed. This is for both men and women.
Do you think there is a basic social problem for Japanese to conform with others?
It is a small thing but I do notice that from how people have conversation with others. For example, Japanese tend not to say ‘No’ directly but they say ‘Yes’ a lot. Or when you are asked if you want something, you say ‘kekko-desu (it’s ok)’. I first did not understand if it means yes or no. People think too much about relationships;they avoida clear ‘denial’.
On the other hand, France is a country of ‘Non, merci’. ‘Non’ is a strong word, but we put ‘Merci’ to add to balance the strength. Actually I used to be more strong in character, but I learnt ‘harmony’ of Japan. My ideal style is to balance ‘self-centered’ style and ‘harmony’ with others.
As a Japanese, I think it is great if we can cherish cultural aesthetics to have good harmony with others, and same time we can import western style of individualism to respect ourselves.
Recently, readers of my essays are expanding to very young females and also young men around their 30s. When I had an publishing event in the book store in Kagurazaka, Tokyo the other day, I was surprised to meet lots of young male audience. People are talking about work style revolution, and so maybe people are trying to learn something from my life style how to live as himself/herself in this society. In my essay, I often say like ‘prepare gifts for your partner!’ so male readers may say they are reading my books for their girlfriends but I think they want to know new life style or partner relationships from my books for themselves. I write for ‘human being’ not only for women, so my readers are not limited to women at all.
You are saying the social issues for women are actually the issues for men as well and those are overall Japanese social issue?
Yes, I think compared with 20 years ago, men do respect women and society is more accepting its diversity now. In that meaning, circumstance for women has become better. But when you see in details, it seems still difficult to have a good balance in career, child raising, and private life.
You go to college and however you work hard and have good career level, meanwhile you feel social pressure to ‘get married’. And when you get pregnant, your career stops there, and it is difficult to get back to the same career position as before you take off for childbirth and often you may be forced to change to part time job or non-regular employment. On the other hand, if you want to keep your career at your best, you may have to work hard and long time like Japanese men do, and lose your private life, and get stressed. I feel there are not many life style patterns for Japanese women.
There is a trendy term such as ‘konkatsu (activities to find marriage partner) , this indicate women are tied up with just one life style still.
In France, majority of couples do not choose marriage, and more than half couples have children out of marriage. There are many choices to live together, choose PACS (same or different gender adult couple’s contract to live together with many options like tax benefits, transfer of properties to partners same as marriage status) this allows to have expanded family through divorce and multiple marriages. Also more than 40% of management level work force is females and so it is normal to work as ‘a human’ no matter what your gender is.
Consequently, we have French paradox of ‘less people are getting married, but birth rates are raising, and there are just few women to leave career for the reason of pregnancy. In Japan, women have difficulties to keep their careers, and birth rate is decreasing, and private life is not fulfilled at all. For sure, this is not a good life balance.
It is delightful to value ‘femininity’.
Japanese gender gap index was 111th out of 142 countries in 2016 World Economics Forum report.
It is very sad. Japanese GDP is 3rd in the world but the country is constitutionally very conservative. French GDP is 6th but we take the longest vacation in the world and highly conscious about gender equality. In France, we think individual contentment leads to the national contentment. I believe Japan will be even richer country if the society can think of contentment of women’s life styles.
However, France used to be conservative as well. Until 1970s, women could not work unless their husbands allow them to, nor divorce, birth control, nor abortions. Present ‘French Women’ do exist through many civil level revolutions. If Japanese want to change, I am sure there will be a revolution.
What do you suggest as our 1st step?
I think it is the consciousness for ‘time’. In my latest book ‘France-siki itsudemo dokodemo jibunrashiku (: French style, whenever, wherever, as you are) ‘ I mention a lot about how to manage your time. In France, we can only work 35 hours par week under the law, but GDP is 6th which indicates our high productivity. We clearly separate work and private life. At latest if you can leave office by 19pm, you may be able to refresh in private and you may be energized to work next day.
It seems to become better private life or relationships with partners if we can manage time.
There is another French paradox (that): women are equal to men in the office, but in private, French men are gentlemen. I think Japanese men are more gentlemen these days, but we, women should not forget our own femininity in private life as well no matter how we are busy, because it is our pleasure to be women.
When men compliment you, please don't say ‘no I am not’ or ‘what’s wrong with you?’. Just accept it graciously.
‘enjoy’ is a key word. But Japanese people care more about being ‘right’.
Yes, I think so. House keeping, for example, I have an impression that Japanese women play a ‘right’ role that they believe. Of course problems are partially caused by men but same time women do things taking initiative to be perfect as what they believe and do not share choirs. Men have their own house keeping styles as well so it is important to respect them as well.
Problems about ‘mother complex’ is also caused by women who try hard to play a role of ‘ideal Japanese woman’. Europeans do not understand why Japanese women stay in kitchen forever. In Japan, if a man asks a woman ‘pass me a beer’, women tend to go and get it for him. In Europe, if a man wants to drink something, he just go get it for himself, moreover if he sees a woman’s glass is empty, he may ask if she wants something to drink.
Then do you also think Japanese men play social roles such as businessman too much as well?
It can be said to European men, too. But actually Japanese men with even high level business careers have child-like character and I can see their sweetness in hearts. I like that cute gap. I think we all should not forget about being a child at heart. So please Japanese women, cherish men’s child heart ! I always think I’m 5 and half years old, soon to be 6 !
Even Japanese men have such sensitiveness at hearts, but it seems not visible in society.
It is also due to that they care too much about what others think. There are men who enjoy raising children like ‘Iku-men’ and there are many men who love spending time with children. However, there is a stopper that worries them to be seen not masculine from others. Therefore, it is also important for women to accept men’s natural feelings. So men can do house choirs, anyone who wants to can do it. If your husband like to cook, it is ok for them to cook. They should be taken cared by ones who ‘like’ to do.
Decide how to relax.
I think the reason why people play roles too much, or too conscious about how others think is that people are afraid of taking responsibilities or to become isolated. You are living free and independent life style, does that make you afraid of responsibility or loneliness?
Freedom and loneliness and independency and responsibility is a package. Life is full of changes, so I do feel afraid of changes that stem from life. Sometimes I look back past that I believe I chose, and wonder if it was right. When I decided to live in both cities, people often told me to choose one place. It is easier to move recently but it was not easy in those days. But now I think it was exactly what my life style was supposed to be.
Even now I am wondering about new life style, I wonder what is the best to me. When I wonder, I think it is good to talk about it with people. You don't have to follow what people tell you, but you may obtain new inspiration from the conversation, so family and friends are important to discuss with. Talking with others naturally makes your view point wider.
It is very interesting to know your balance sense about communication with the others.
The most important thing is to respect your own feelings. When you are feeling lonely, you don't have to stay alone, just call someone and tell them you are lonely. In other words, if you don't want to see anyone, just tell so. But It is also important to enjoy being alone, and French people are good at this. See, the sunset is beautiful now, and you feel relaxed just to have a cup of tea, don't you?
Your story tell us a lot about relaxation and how it is important.
There are many relaxing points like Onsen (hot springs) in Japan! But it is always case by case. You may want to be with family, or alone and go somewhere else, you may want to be with your boyfriend, it is also important to choose how to relax along according to your feelings not following what others tell you.
I never want to do things that do not fit with my intuition or style , for my business choices either. People tell me what they think I should do but I respect my own feeling most. It is not easy, but it is my style. Sometimes we are very serious, sometimes very lazy and the both sides are interesting, isn’t it? Important thing is to respect both sides of ourselves.
Interviewer : Rui Minamoto Photographer : Akio Kushida Hair&Make-up : Yumi IogiSTORY INDEX