Let痴 Meet Again

October 12 was a fine, clear day. At 6 o’clock in the morning of that day, Ms. Tsuuko Iwama, the managing director of Ongen Publishing and wife of our late chairman, Mr. Shoji Iwama, passed away quietly and departed for the other world after about two months in hospital. She was 86 years of age. Ms. Iwama was active right up until the day before her hospitalization, spending a long time instructing her two daughters who were taking over her duties.

After she went into hospital, Ms. Iwama and I spoke on the telephone twice a day, morning and evening. Our last phone call was at 15:30 on September 29. Since she was undergoing palliative care, I knew the extent of the treatment and realized that the day when we would have to bid farewell to her was approaching. I couldn’t stop crying.

I joined the editorial department of Denshi Shimbunsha, the predecessor of Ongen Publishing, in April 1968 at the age of 23. That was the beginning of 47 years of working together with Ms. Iwama. At that time there were two women handling the general affairs and accounting work. They sat facing each other. One was perky and smoked a lot. The other, an attractive lady, just got on with her work quietly, without a word. For several months I assumed that the lively one was the president’s wife. Imagine my surprise when I heard from a senior employee that it was actually the quiet one who was married to the boss.

When I joined the company, there were about 10 employees. A couple of years later, however, almost all of the managers and workers quit, leaving only four of us: President Iwama and his wife, me, and Sasaki-san, who had joined a year after me. The leaders of the group that quit the company invited me time and again to join them, but I refused and stayed. I really loved the editorial work and did not want to go back to square one again. Changing jobs was just not in my nature, and I also felt a profound gratitude to the president and his wife for hiring someone like me.

Almost everybody left. At that time, Ms. Iwama looked so worried and sad, although she continued quietly doing her job. The president would come to the office in the mornings, but he did not appear in the afternoons. In the early evening there would be a phone call from the president, and Ms. Iwama would excuse herself and leave. I was then in charge of editing a journal that was the predecessor of this magazine, and there was still a mountain of work to be done. I used to take unfinished work home with me and carry on until the early hours. We didn’t outsource anything, so I did all the planning, reporting, writing, and layout myself. The daytime was taken up with marketing and gathering information. Ms. Iwama always gave me kind words of encouragement and expressed her appreciation.

The president was rather poorly. Sometimes he would not come into the office for nearly a month. I heard from his wife that he thought the company was going to collapse. I hadn’t realized the situation was so desperate. I just carried on happily doing the work I enjoyed so much, devoting myself to marketing in the daytime and burning the midnight oil at home doing the editorial work.

One day, I declared to the downhearted Ms. Iwama, “There’s absolutely no need to worry. I’ll do my best.” From that day, I reported on our business results. At that time we could stay afloat if we made 4 million yen a month. I easily cleared that amount and nearly doubled our sales. What delighted me most was being able to see Ms. Iwama’s smiling face. Perhaps sensing the better prospects for the company, the president got better as well, and we began a partnership that was to bring us where we are today.

When I was 25, I vowed to help the troubled Ms. Iwama throughout her life. I am proud to say that I did just that, right up until the day she passed away.