I met Mrs. Ozeki on a jet bound for Tokyo. She was a passenger in the seat next to me. She was a middle aged business woman returning home after visiting her son, who was a foreign student in the U.S.A. I was a college sophmore going to Japan as a foreign student.
She almost immediately suggested that I use her sonís room and stay at their home while studying. Mrs. Ozeki felt this was a good way for her to repay the kindness being shown to her son by the family he was living with in America. So, long before there was a movie about it, I was taught what "Pay It Forward" is by a most astounding person.
I stayed at her home for four months. Her mother would spend hours with me explaining Japanese customs. It was a wonderful time. I learned a lot there. Mrs. Ozeki even included me in some of her schedule when she thought I would benefit by learning more about culture both modern and traditional.
Ozeki Sanae was a business woman, newspaper columnist and a single mother. As I understood from my time with the family, she excelled in all three categories. The Ozeki Sanae Beauty Parlors are the legacy she left behind. I have been told her daughter runs the operation now. On my recent visit to Japan I was told she had died 10 years ago. It is sometimes strange how people come and go throughout our lives but the impressions they leave are always with us.
Mrs. Ozeki was a young bride whose husband returned from World War II only to die from illness. Widowed with two children to raise, she not only got by, she became one of the most successful women in a male dominated society. She provided for her children (and her mother later) and built a chain of beauty salons at a time when chain business was not common. She wrote a beauty tip column for a newspaper. After the children were established on their own, she retired and remarried.
I regard myself very lucky to have been assigned the seat next to her on that jet. It changed my life greatly. When I left her home she asked me not to forget to do something for someone else who needs something. She said that was the way I could repay her. Several years later she asked me if I had found someone to help. I told her that I had many times. She only smiled and said nothing. I am very glad that I have repaid her, and continue to do so. Every time I am able to help out someone in need I think of Mrs. Ozeki.
This busy business woman with a hectic schedule, taught me the importance of people helping people. Life is built moment to moment. How we use each moment, how we accept our responsibilities, how we accept the world around us are choices that can impact all around us. Rarely do we get to meet someone who has chosen so well. Thank you Ozeki Sanae.
For those who read Japanese I have found on line a listing of one of the salons. Services and prices are listed. If you have a chance stop in at:
Sanae Ozeki La Clef