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About My Father: Lessons Learned from His Life

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the passing of my father, and soon it will mark almost a year since his departure. Over the past year, I’ve been able to find solace and reflect on his life. As we approach his first memorial service, where I will visit his resting place in a cemetery in Tokyo, I’d like to share my thoughts about my father in this blog.

My father lost his own father to illness when he was just 5 years old. Shortly after World War II, my mother, a schoolteacher, found herself raising four young children on her own. This meant my father moved from one relative’s home to another, receiving care and support along the way. Growing up without a clear role model for what it meant to be a husband and a father within a family, I now realize the challenges he must have faced in fulfilling those roles. Looking back, I can see the tremendous effort he put into being a loving husband and a caring father.

Here are three invaluable lessons I learned from my father:

Lesson 1: Wholeheartedly Pursue Your Passions, Even in the Face of Risk

My father shared a close bond with his twin brother, who had a significant influence on his career choices. If his twin brother ventured into selling gravestones, my father followed suit. When his brother became a taxi driver, my father did the same. This adaptability led them to run a family-owned dry-cleaning business, which they managed alongside the challenges of daily life. I remember watching my father tirelessly iron clothes, even in sweltering heat, using an iron that could reach temperatures of 80-200°C. His dedication was evident in the stark difference in muscle development between his arms.

By the time I turned 13, large-scale dry-cleaning businesses with modern machinery emerged, causing my father’s shop to struggle and eventually close down. While some belittled his profession at the time, I admired his willingness to take risks and pursue his passion instead of settling for a stable, conventional job. This powerful example left a lasting impact on my perception of work and life.

Lesson 2: Uphold Your Values, Even in the Face of Criticism

During my sixth-grade year, I had a fight against my classmate because he was bullied and beaten by other classmate. This traumatic event led one of my friends to skip school out of fear. Although I was not directly involved, my father, who was part of my school’s baseball club, humbly apologized to my friend’s parents, kneeling down and expressing remorse. He imparted a lesson to me that day: always stand up against injustice, even if it means putting yourself at risk to protect others. This moment taught me the importance of unwavering principles and the courage to defend them.

Lesson 3: Embrace Vulnerability and Kindness as a Package Deal

My father, while kind-hearted, had his struggles, turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. He faced bouts of mild alcohol addiction and even encountered legal trouble due to drunk driving. While I often struggled to reconcile his behavior, I recognized the gentleness that lay beneath the surface. Despite facing personal setbacks and criticism from my mother, he always offered words of encouragement and support, boosting my self-esteem. Looking back, I see how his vulnerability allowed him to express kindness and empathy, teaching me that compassion can arise from one’s own weaknesses.

As I approach the first anniversary of my father’s passing, I find comfort in the thought of visiting his gravesite and engaging in a heartfelt conversation with him because I could not do so when he passed away due to the challenges our family and my company had faced back then. I eagerly anticipate this moment of connection and reflection.

Masaki “Mark” Iino
Founder & CEO