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Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

MIXED MATCHES

Working couple balances family, careers


Staff writer

Emi Takei-Loubaresse could not have advanced in her career without the support of her husband, Jerome Loubaresse, 43, a freelance translator who also looks after their 4-year-old daughter, Mio, and is the family's main cook.

News photo
Happy family: Emi Takei-Loubaresse poses with her daughter, Mio, and husband, Jerome Loubaresse, at Senzoku pond in Ota Ward, Tokyo, in January. MINORU MATSUTANI PHOTO

"I know other working mothers have to cook food for a week and put it in a freezer before going on a business trip. I'm lucky I never have to do that," said Takei-Loubaresse, director of communications at the new Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo.

She is in her 40s and fluent in French and English. She started her career with an international telephone operator, and worked in public relations positions for several international firms before joining the hotel, which opens March 2 in Marunouchi in Chiyoda Ward.

Her French husband is fluent in Japanese and English, and runs a translation business.

How did you come to Japan?

Jerome: I first visited Japan as a student in July 1986. I learned Japanese at a business school in France and became interested in Japan. So, I took summer classes at Sophia University for one or two months in 1986. I went back home but soon came back to Tokyo. In 1987, I studied at Waseda University for a year and have been living in Japan since then.

How did you two meet?

Emi: A colleague of mine at the telephone company was a Sophia University student living in the same dormitory as Jerome. He introduced me to Jerome at a party.

What was your wedding like?

Emi: We registered our marriage at a ward office in September 1989 in Tokyo. We chose not to have a wedding reception. Neither of us has a religion, so there was no obligation to hold a reception.

Also, if we had done it in Tokyo, we would have had to do it in France as well. Our close family members got together in Singapore — because of its convenient location between France and Japan — in August 1989 to have dinner and take photos.

How did your parents react to your marriage?

Emi: They took it well.

Jerome: They were surprised because I was very young. That's all.

Emi: I spent three years in Belgium when I was a child, and my parents have always liked Western things. They speak English, so they can communicate with Jerome's parents.

You gave birth to your daughter relatively late. Why didn't you want a child sooner?

Emi: I used to take paid holidays as long as three straight weeks, and we went on backpacking trips to Asia and other places. It was fun. I didn't feel like having children.

Jerome: I didn't really think about having kids.

What changed your mind?

Emi: I once went to a funeral of a husband of someone I knew from my job. I realized the widow could go on with her life because her child was her emotional support. Then I thought: "What if something happens to one of us?"

Jerome: I have always liked children as I'm from a big family. I have many brothers, sisters and cousins.

What language do you speak to your daughter? What language does she speak to you?

Emi: I speak only Japanese to her.

Jerome: I speak only French to her.

Emi: Mio speaks only Japanese to me, and only French to Jerome.

Jerome: When I say something in Japanese, Mio asks me: "Why do you speak Japanese?" She expects me to speak French, as she wants to hear Japanese from her mother.

Emi: Between Jerome and me, we speak a mixture of Japanese and French.

What school do you want Mio to attend after she leaves her Japanese nursery school?

Emi: That is a difficult issue. Mio will probably go to an international school or the French Lycee. But she will continue her extracurricular activities like ballet and swimming in a Japanese environment. This is because we would like Mio to experience an international environment as well as have a solid identity as a Japanese.

Jerome: I agree with Emi on this subject.

Will you live in Japan for long?

Emi: Probably, unless I am transferred abroad like my father.

Jerome: I like Japan. It is a very interesting place to live.

What is your typical daily schedule?

Emi: I drop off Mio at nursery school around 7:40 a.m. I come home rather late because now is the busiest time just less than a month before the hotel opening, which will be very exciting.

Jerome: I pick up Mio around 4:30 p.m. I contact my clients by telephone and e-mail, so I rarely have to go out. I cook with Mio, and she likes it.

Emi: French men typically put high priority on their family.

Jerome: Ditto.

Emi: When the hotel opens its doors, I will of course thank everyone who supported me, especially Jerome.

Does Mio like Anpanman and other "anime" characters?

Jerome: We don't show her TV and DVDs. It's really not necessary for children. We like life in the simple way. None of us has a mobile phone, for example, because we think it's not necessary for us. As for children, I think they should play with what's real. We have a TV but Mio is not interested in it. She'll have plenty of opportunities to spend time in front of a screen later in her life.

Reader participation is invited for this series, which appears every other Saturday. If you wish to be featured, please e-mail hodobu@japantimes.co.jp


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