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Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2006

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Nobuko Mitsumori


Nobuko Mitsumori, 37, works with her mother in their small accounting office in Tokyo's Chuo Ward. With one assistant and myriad clients, the three are always happily overworked. Nobuko studied classical literature and didn't think that math was her strength, but thanks to her talent, the numbers somehow always add up.

My mom always says that for a woman to succeed, she has to work three times harder and be three times better than a man. I don't believe that. Maybe in her time it was like that but now it is so much easier: twice as hard is just about right.

Nobuko Mitsumori

I have a serious occupational disease: I can not stop adding things up. When I go to a restaurant, I immediately count the chairs, the employees and figure out the rent, utilities, etc. Then I look at the menu and I keep adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing and the work keeps going on in my head. I get no rest from numbers.

The inheritance tax is killing the economy. Our inheritance taxes are so monstrously high, up to 50 percent, that most people are forced to sell even a small family business or home in order to pay the inheritance tax on it, and many times they even have to keep paying tax on a business they no longer own. How crazy is that? Even Empress Michiko couldn't pay the inheritance tax on her parents' house.

Being nice is the strongest weapon. My mom taught me to always be loveable. Then even if you fail, people will forgive your mistakes and help you.

Since childhood, I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I looked up to my mom. She was always hunched over the abacus and I was impressed that she was making good money and could be independent, which, in her age group, was rare. I wanted to be like her.

For me, dates are taxing and yield little return. Men don't want to date women who make more money than them. At least this is how I explain my failure at finding a partner. Am I lying to myself? I wonder sometimes.

Japanese have lost their balance. Today's Japanese men are much weaker than my dad's generation. I guess losing the war and not having an army took away men's prowess. At the same time women got super-strong and now women dominate not only the family but pretty much every aspect of society.

Some people look but don't see. Good for them. Accountants do and what we find is usually not pretty.

Receipts talk to me and I wish they wouldn't. Appearances and words can hide things, but when I do accounting,cthey're spread right out in front of me for inspection: hospital receipts, gambling notes, love hotel receipts. I'm like a cop who makes no arrests.

Japan is the most successful socialist country in the world. Our system is based on sharing assets and equality, and we succeeded in creating a wealthy nation where we basically do not have any poor people and we have so very few wealthy. Most of us are middle class.

Most accountants look business-like, but we are actually very emotional. We get attached to our clients since we know more about them than most people know about their siblings or best friends. I worry about my clients and keep doing their books even when the numbers don't add up.

Our tax system rewards the lazy. Many people do not work at full steam because those who make less than 1.03 million yen a year do not have to pay any taxes. So they are careful not to make over the limit because they prefer less work, more play and no taxes. This system is bad for Japan when we actually desperately need a stronger workforce.

Japan is the world's ATM and just like nobody thanks a machine, nobody appreciates Japan for its contributions. We are the world's second largest donor country to the United Nations yet we do not have a permanent seat. We are also the second largest contributor to the Official Development Assistance, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the World Food Program and so on, but we are still bashed 24/7 from all sides.

Japan should get rid of the retirement age. People in their 60s are way too young to just give up their jobs and many want to keep working anyhow. In my family, everyone works all their lives and I will, too.

My grandpa said the more powerful you are, the gentler you must be. We must never hurt or make fun of the poor or the young. This is just really basic human decency, but those who don't have it should always remember that the good times might not last forever, and even if things are going very well today, you could be down on your luck tomorrow.

I love getting lost, just so I can find myself, the real me, not the accountant. I'm always dealing with money and misfortunes so lots of poisoncbuilds up inside of me, but I get rid of it all when I travel. Roaming the streets of Hong Kong is my detox.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Weekend Japanology" www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/japanology_e.html



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