Judit Kawaguchi

Words to Live by: Takasagoya Pork Shop owners Arihiro and Kimiyo Fujita

Interview by Judit Kawaguchi

Arihiro Fujita and Kimiyo Fujita, owners of the award-winning Takasagoya Pork Shop in Tokyo’s Tsukishima, know their pork. These two 76-year-olds also know what makes a relationship work. They’ve been married and working together for 51 years — without, they claim, even one argument.

Arihiro-san: You can’t argue when you’re naked and in a big tub of hot water! So we bathe together every night and since we are relaxed, it is the perfect time to discuss the mistakes of that day, plan the next and show our appreciation for each other. I say, Sorry for getting mad today. She says, OK, don’t worry, honey.

Kimiyo-san: Men need more support than women, so if the wife is smart enough to recognize this, everything goes smoothly and the whole family is happy. Men get angry because they want the work to go smoothly and expect all the workers to do a great job every minute. It doesn’t work that way. I just listen, wait till he calms down, then when we drink tea at night, I explain why the person made a mistake and apologize in their name to him. He always realizes that it was not on purpose and he also apologizes.

Arihiro-san: It is a total waste of time to try to change people. Be nice to them and leave them alone.

Kimiyo san: A greeting is enough to know the person. Anyone who looks down, forget them! People say Japanese do not make enough eye contact. Sure, it’s true! That is why they have communication problems. Looking down means you’re not listening. Honest people look you in the eye and understand you.

Arihiro san: Life is long and one has to plan for that. We both make effort to listen to each other and to stay considerate and kind, no matter what. We both work the same hours, from 6 am till 9 pm every day. Business is first and since she does the books, I do the laundry, cook the meals, and keep serving her tea. I never watch TV while she is still bending over the books. When she is done, we chat.

Kimiyo san: The TV is never on during meals. We want to talk to each other all the time.

Arihiro-san: We use every part of the animal because it is life and one must not waste even a tiny part of life.

Kimiyo san: Every morning and night we say a prayer for all the animals and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Arihiro-san: It’s fortunate that I got very sick 25 years ago. Before that, I was so proud and sure I would never get sick. But then I did, and I realized that disease can be your friend because it shows you your limits and helps you control your life.

Kimiyo-san: No matter how rich you are and how expensively you dress, it means nothing. We don’t care about looks; we want substance. A person who is poor but speaks from the heart is everything to us. That is the man we wanted to marry our fourth daughter. Finally, he appeared!

Arihiro-san: We all get what we deserve. Thirty-one years ago we lost all our money because we blindly trusted people and put loads of cash in front of them. We were responsible for the environment that turned them into thieves. So if terrible things are happening to you, you are doing something wrong and you had better reexamine your behavior.

Kimiyo san: Life is about contributing to society and helping other people. When our goal was making money, we lost it all.

Arihiro-san: For us, buying bottles of sake as gifts for 100 people is better than going out for some fancy dinner with expensive wine.

Kimiyo and Arihiro Fujita, the owners of Takasagoya Pork Shop in Tokyo. Photo by Judit Kawaguchi
Kimiyo and Arihiro Fujita, the owners of Takasagoya Pork Shop in Tokyo. Photo by Judit Kawaguchi

Arihiro san: Money is alive or dead, depending on the situation and the person. Here is a story: a thief stole a lot of money from someone. He was escaping and suddenly had to use the toilet, but had no toilet paper so had to wipe his butt with one of the bills. How about the one about the old woman who carried a big bag full of money on her back, but when she opened it, it was nothing but sand.

Kimiyo san: Greed will get you nowhere nice. Money is to provide a safe and average lifestyle for our kids and employees. We can’t take money to our graves, so the extra money we make, we consider it as not our own, but everyone’s, that we are safekeeping. We use it for others, too.

Arihiro-san: My wife checks out every one of our daughters’ boyfriends and if they don’t pass inspection, they’re history. When someone is smitten, they are blind, so it’s up to parents and friends to check out the love interest to make sure they don’t make a mistake.

Kimiyo san: The secret to a happy life together is trust and always working together for the same goals.

Arihiro san: And always thinking of the other person, not oneself!

Arihiro san: We both believe in reincarnation and we hope that in our next lives we will be together again!

Kimiyo san: We never worry about aging. Even young people die suddenly, so nobody knows when life is over. We take every day as a present and are thankful for the time we receive.

Arihiro san: The beauty of this job is that it is endless! We will never retire. It keeps us young and happy.

Kimiyo-san: Every December 31st he washes my whole body as his appreciation for the whole year. I don’t wash his body because he doesn’t let me! If I wash his body, we’re equal and he doesn’t want that. He wants to be sweet to me!

Kimiyo-san: If I were not in this business, I would be a hairstylist, making everyone look and feel good!

Arihiro-san: I would be a carpenter, because I enjoy designing and making beautiful things for others.

A version of this interview appeared in the Japan Times on September 13, 2005

This Quote

You can’t argue when you’re naked and in a big tub of hot water! — Arihiro and Kimiyo Fujita