Updated: Jul 25
THE WAY Returnees Edition introduces women who continue to shine and empower themselves even after returning to Japan by making use of their experiences abroad.
In our first edition of this series, we meet Maki Miura who studied abroad and worked in Los Angeles, USA and currently works in Japan.
During college she had been active as a presenter and reporter in the media world and also started working as a writer for popular women’s fashion magazines like ‘CLASSY’. After that, she moved to Los Angeles and had extensive experience as a presenter in Hollywood. After working in Singapore for about three years, she returned to Japan in 2014. She currently resides in Tokyo and runs a public relations (PR) company, MAKILA.
We hear how Maki’s experience of studying abroad in LA has helped her in Tokyo, her activities abroad and what she’s doing in Japan.
Deciding to go to the US within three months
Maki’s plan to study abroad in LA was thought of three months prior to going there. One day when she was working as a writer, she thought that “If I could improve my English, I’d be able to refer to special features from overseas magazines,” and went on a whim. Maki chose LA because it’s warm and has Hollywood and she believed that if she went to Hollywood, she could work there.
Maki’s parents had lived abroad when they were younger for work so they didn’t stop her. They were open-minded and foreigners often came to visit her house so the foreignness felt somewhat familiar.
After coming to Los Angeles, Maki got introduced to work and started a business that was the same as her presenting business in Japan. She had valuable experiences like flying over Hollywood and doing interviews.
Life in LA
The weather in LA is the best no matter what. The clear, blue sky soars over you every day and your troubles fade away as you look up while lying down on the beach.
At first, Maki was amazed by being able to have fun every day. Her school was in the middle of Beverly Hills and she felt like she was doing nothing but shopping. However, she felt that this had to stop so she decided to not speak Japanese at all and started dating a foreigner.
Maki lived with American girls who on weekends, did things like play beach volleyball in Santa Monica and went shopping and driving to Orange County and Malibu together. She often went to house and club parties and just remembers having fun every single day.
Maki felt comfortable and got along well with the people from LA. There were good and bad times but she felt that her relationship with them was just right.
Thanks to this comfort, she didn’t have to worry about small things. Even if something did happen, she thinks her mood was lightened because of the good weather.
In the latter half of Maki’s time in the States, she was lucky to have friends and started to speak English. However, a friend told her that if she studied English, it’d definitely improve and so she started studying again.
Maki read an English newspaper at a cafe before class and made her own vocabulary book after class. She made every effort to avoid wasting her time abroad.
While studying in LA, she never read any Japanese articles or listened to Japanese music. Even if a Japanese person spoke to her in Japanese, she’d reply in English making her seem like the bad guy.
Maki found the most enjoyable aspect of studying English to be writing all the lyrics to her favourite songs in a notebook and practicing her pronunciation by listening to the music while reading the lyrics.
She initially thought about going to an American university so she got a TOEFL score of about 82 and now uses it for her daily life and work.
*TOEFL is an English test held by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a not-for-profit organisation in the United States. It is used by English-speaking higher education institutions to determine the English proficiency of applicants. Scores range from 0-120, 120 being the highest score.
Learnings from abroad: Your biggest fan is you
After going to LA, Maki felt more confidence in herself. She can now say that to not only herself but also the people around her.
“It’s okay to tell myself that I like myself.”
When she shared a room with Americans, her chubby friends wore bikinis without caring about what other people thought of them or how big their butt looked in jeans. Her friends who loved themselves in their own skin regardless of their body shape inspired Maki to foster some self-love.
In Japan, it’s difficult to recognise or praise yourself. But when you come to America, people who don’t have self-confidence are left behind. It’s okay to give yourself praise in a loud voice.
Achievements from abroad: Talking about dreams
While studying abroad, Maki blogged every day. She wanted to keep a record of all the cute spots in LA and her study abroad experiences and started thinking it might be something future study abroad students could benefit from. The number of readers increased and eventually the blog became a book.
Even in LA, Maki talked about her activities in Japan so the chance came to her to get a job through other people. What she realised in the States was that if you express yourself, your dreams can come true.
Write your dreams down. Firstly, you’ll come to like yourself for who you are. Also if you express your dreams, you follow through with them. If you don’t clearly state what you want to say, you’ll become invisible.
For the things you want to do, you have to become selfish and gain the strength to create your destiny with your own hands. Maki learned to be persistent no matter what.
My current strengths are straightforward expressions of affection and the ease that comes with acting on something as soon as I think of it.
Having too much fun in LA and coming home
Maki decided to come home because she was having too much fun in LA. It really was just for this reason. She could have stayed in LA forever but she was having so much fun to the point where they were the best days of her life but her brain was melting. She wanted to work herself to death during her twenties and after that, she returned to Japan and took the next step.
If Maki hadn’t been abroad, she probably would have continued her glamorous life in Tokyo, married a decent person by her mid-20s and led a so-called Japanese marriage. She has a feeling she would’ve continued searching for what she wanted to do forever and have a longing to want to be somebody.
Maki is now a presenter and web novelist who works in various forms of media and also runs a PR company. Working as a presenter and writer was something I was working on even before studying abroad but when I started my PR company, a friend told me that those roles were PR-esque.
The PR company specialises in social media. The foundation of its establishment is the blog she wrote in LA which was thriving and had a strong social media following.
Learning a language overseas
When Maki returned to Japan and started a PR company from scratch, it was quite difficult. However, though there were rival companies, there were many overseas-related projects and she had the advantage of being able to speak English so she was able to get jobs and make connections. Currently, her work is stable and she is blessed with clients. She really enjoys her work every day.
Maki feels lucky that thanks to the blog she wrote in LA, she was able to naturally make connections and gain skills that have been necessary for her current social media-related work.
The difference between working styles in Japan and America is that you will be shunned if you clearly express what you want to say. Maki tries to interact with clients while being selective with her words as much as possible.
In the future, Maki would like to go back to the States, establish a company there and be based in three places: Japan, LA and Europe.
Japan is her favourite country but it’s great that there are many choices in life. Maki wants to spread the word that going abroad is something desirable as a result of the work she has been involved in while she faces her daily work and increases media exposure.
“I love words. I want to do a job that moves people’s hearts.”
Presenting and writing are professions that are expressed through words. Maki’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness and favourability towards Japan and showcase Japan in her words.
Is there anything you’d like to say to anyone who is thinking about going abroad in the future?
“Going abroad was so great that I couldn’t stop saying, “I’m glad I went abroad!”
If you feel lost, I want you to use a bit of courage to open a new door because past that door, a bright future and an enjoyable life are waiting for you!”
Maki who has left Japan has become stronger overseas and came back with a greater gratitude for her life in Tokyo.
We look forward to seeing Maki's success in the future.
Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx
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