Life’s a journey for publishing exec

Article from The Daily Yomiuri, English edition, published by Japan’s largest Japanese-language newspaper

By Yoko Mizui
Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

To realize a dream, it is necessary to make continual efforts without giving up along the way. This is what Eiko Brumfield, managing director of the publishing company Windows Inc. did — and still does.

As a child, she dreamed of visiting foreign countries and wanted to learn English for that purpose. However, English lessons in middle school were disappointing "because the Japanese teacher of English favored a few students and always called only on them," she said.

Because she hated the English lessons so much, she didn’t even open her textbook during class. Instead, she attended an English-language school in Sendagaya, Tokyo, on Sunday mornings. "That was the only place I studied English. I really enjoyed attending the school because teachers there told mc about the interesting experiences they’d had overseas. It wasn’t just about teaching English grammar," she said. At home, she watched many foreign movies dubbed in Japanese on television, stirring up her longing to visit foreign countries.

When Brumfield entered high school, she joined an English club and devoted herself to acting in and directing English plays, including some Shakespeare plays. "I immersed myself in English in high school. I also attended an English conversation class for adults on Sundays," she said.

Her strong aspiration to visit foreign countries led her to work rather than enter university after high school, in order to earn money for travel overseas. She was the only student in her class who chose not to immediately go to college.

Brumfield’s unyielding challenge started from this point. Although she got a job at a leading securities company, she quit 10 months later. Why? "I couldn’t find enough time to study," she said.

She entered a Japanese junior college and also worked part-time as a betting clerk at a horse racing track in Tokyo to save money to go to the United States. After graduating from the junior college, she finally headed overseas. She entered a community college in Minnesota and studied there for a year.

"At first I couldn’t understand what people around me were saying. Since I also couldn’t follow what was being said during classes, I recorded lectures and listened carefully to the tapes," she said.

She wanted to continue studying in Minnesota but circumstances wouldn’t allow her to do so. On her way back to Japan, she traveled around Europe for four months. While in Spain, she had a rare chance to speak with then Crown Princess Michiko.

"When I went to the Aihambra Palace in Granada, it was under tight security. I wondered what bad happened and learned that the Japanese crown prince and crown princess were visiting. When I lined up with the other tourists, Crown Princess Michiko spoke to me, asking where I was from," Brumfield said, adding with a touch of lingering embarassment, "I was shabbily dressed at the time."

Upon her return to Japan, she got a job at a trading company and worked for nearly a decade. "In those days, women’s jobs at companies were to assist the male employees. It was a well-paying job and I felt comfortable there, but I wanted to do something more challenging," she said. The company, for instance, didn’t give female staff name cards even after 10 years of service.

"The job was the same, regardless of whether you had worked for two years or 10 ," she said.

Brumfield quit the company and took a job at the Tokyo Journal, one of Japan's longest-enduring English-language magazines. It required English-language skills and gave her the opportunity to improve her English, though her salary was much lower than what she’d been eaming before.

While at the magazine, she married an American who was working as a technical writer in Tokyo. Soon, the couple decided it was time for a change.

"We decided to start our own company," said her husband, Hunter Brumfield. Together, they launched Windows Inc. in 1989. "From that point on, Eiko basically took over all of the administration activities, working with our accountant. She found our office location, leased furniture and equipment, and worked with the vendors."

He discovered that his wife was not only hard working, but also had a hidden talent as a businesswoman. She has found numerous new clients for their company and encouraged staff to work hard, taking the initiative in order to get things done on time.

"I have a master’s degree in business administration but she’s better at it than I am. Eiko has incredible capability," her husband said with a smile of admiration.

Brumfield said, "Everything was a new experience for me and it was fun. I had to do this and that and I found that if I try, I can do anything."

The trading company she once worked for is now one of their clients. The company calls on her regularly to ask for help preparing English documents, publicity materials and bilingual Web sites. Other clients include Sumitomo Metal Industries, Alpine Electronics, Sanyo Electric Co., Dentsu, Hakuhodo and Sumitomo 3M.

At the moment, Brumfield is producing Japanese translations of the Lonely Planet travel guides for Media Factory, Inc. She says the project is fun but requires hard work under deadline pressure. [To date, Windows has published nine titles for Lonely Planet, all of which can be seen in bookstores across Japan.]

"I especially liked doing Thailand," she said upon reflecting on her favorite places. "I’ve visited the country more than 10 times and each time I go, I like it more. I feel at home there."

Although editing the thick travel guidebooks is a painstaking process, in a sense it is her ideal job, because it allows her to combine her knowledge of English and Japanese with her lifelong love of travel.


Editor's note: This column in The Daily Yomiuri features interviews with businesspeople who must use English in their jobs, as well as with language experts, in the hope of offering insights into learning the language.


Company Background

Windows Inc. is a corporate and technical publishing company located in central Tokyo within the city's financial district. Established in January 1989, Windows has an in-house staff of publishing professionals with long experience in writing, editing, translation, design, computer illustrating, typesetting, and web publishing in English, Japanese, and European languages.

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