Hello. Please call me Hiro. I am the first Japanese Seawoman sailing as a Third Officer on a chemical tanker ship. In Japan, there are only very few women having a career on board especially on tankers because some companies prohibit hiring females on this male dominated industry. I’m here to inspire all the women out there to take this path and sail the seven seas with me. This is my story.
I was a Cadet and Trainee Officer on my first ship. My second vessel got me promoted to 4th Officer then Third Mate. And I continued serving on that capacity on my third and fourth vessel too. Today, I’m on vacation. I’ll be working as a Second Mate on my next contract. My trading route is usually Asia. During port stay, some loading masters, chemists and surveyors often ask me why I choose being a seawoman. They always have that surprise look that says,
“I’m the first female mariner they see on board!”
A Childhood Dream
First and foremost, I love this job. My fondness for sailing traces back to my childhood. When I was six years old, I always love looking at the stars, sun and the sea. And whenever my family would travel to some place, we choose to go by boat or ship. My interest in ships grew during those travels.
Since then, I started reading books about the ships and the sea, and which jobs are connected to those industry. My grandpa was a Radio Officer and he told me about the seaman’s life when we visited his house. I also admire Ryoma Sakamoto and Kaisyu Katsu from Japanese history. There, I had a firm conviction that when I grow up, I would take the path closest to the sea, stars and the sun.
I was in Junior High when I discovered that it is possible to work as an Officer on ships. Luckily, I got my father’s support and he took me to a Maritime University in Japan for a tour. I felt very determined and set my aim to study better so I could enter that university, and I did!
When I was there, I was surprised to see very few women taking this course. It also came to me that it’s extremely difficult to get a job as an officer simply because I am a woman. I was frustrated.
During those days, I remembered that I was not intelligent and really not good in math (now I like math on board, hahah). So I studied very very hard. I did nothing else but study. Sometimes, I doubt myself if I should continue this career or not. But because I was so much passionate about my dreams, I continue studying until I graduated. It was difficult but what lies ahead was more challenging.
Job Hunts and My Big Break
On my job hunts, I applied to so many offices. I went to some radio manufacturers and equipment makers, more offices, trading companies and shipping companies. But my love for ships was still burning. That’s why I finally decided to become a seafarer.
Working on board is very different than the life on land. I am the only woman on board and some men underestimate me. Others are hard against me and vexing. There are those who do not like girls working on ships. It’s tough but I have to be tougher! I kept on studying, made lots of efforts and showed them my performance that I can get the job done. The saIary on board was good but my focus was more on improving my skills. As time passed on with more operations and maneuverings, I slowly earned their trust.
I know some people, especially women, give up on their dreams in this industry. But I also know that there are those who continue to persevere and rule this male dominated environment. My message to you is to continue with your dreams and not to give up. I want to give hope to all of you through my story.
My aim is to become a Captain. This is the promise I made to my father who died when I was young. It’s a long shot but I have to do it.
May the winds be on your favor.