The Art of Parenting
It’s hard to pin down Yuumi Tsuruya. She might be deep in paperwork in the Tokyo gallery where she works. Or maybe driving through remote mountain villages to launch a new art festival. Or possibly ferrying her children to after school orchestra or cheering them on at sports matches.
Wherever she is, one thing is for sure: despite her hectic work-and-family juggling act, Yuumi possesses an enviable trait so often seen in multi-tasking mothers in Japan: she is serenely calm and self-composed at all times.
Yuumi’s professional life revolves around the well-respected Art Front Gallery (a neighbour of Caramel Japan in the Daikanyama district), where she has worked for more than two decades.
In addition to its regular Tokyo shows, the gallery is famed for pioneering innovative rural art projects aimed at regenerating remote communities. One example? Setouchi Triennale, a festival in the Seto Inland Sea (home to Naoshima, the fishing island renowned for its cornucopia of world-class installations and museums).
And at the same time, Yuumi is also navigating the world of parenting with two children edging towards their teens – music-loving daughter Nana, 13, and her nine-year-old son Niki. Here, she describes her passion for working in the art world – and offers some Japanese parenting tips.
What goes on at Art Front Gallery?
We organise more than 10 exhibitions a year in Daikanyama and also develop progressive projects and art festivals outside Tokyo. These aim to revitalise parts of Japan hit by depopulation using contemporary art – and already many places are changing.
What do you love most about your work?
I am very pleased when people who are not normally interested in art are touched by what they see. Especially children – I love to see their eyes shining and their minds opening when they connect with something. Art is like a window leading to different values and into an unknown world.
How do you balance work with family time?
The understanding of my family and support of my husband are very important. And when I’m not working, I love to have dinner with my family, watch movies, travel, chat with the children. We might go and have a treat at Hillside Pantry (hillsidepantry.jp/), a deli and bakery in Daikanyama, or look at books in nearby T-Site (http://real.tsite.jp/daikanyama/english/).
And your top tips for other working mothers?
– Always listen to the stories of your children and ask them about their day
– I could not survive without an electric bicycle or a washing machine with a dryer
– It’s important to enjoy the beautiful moments of being present with your children. When they are small, it’s hard work, but these are precious moments – try to enjoy being a mother, despite the challenges.
Finally, Nana shares what she enjoys as a teenager living in Tokyo:
I like drawing pictures, listening to music, sleeping. Shibuya and Nakameguro are my favourite areas. And I also like people watching in Daikanyama.