Here’s a scoop!
Weekly women’s magazines display large headlines regarding marriage and break-ups between entertainers. In reality, these flashy covers are created through diligent stakeouts. For 4 and a half years, Masako Takada spent her early mornings and late evenings doing stakeouts for the weekly women’s magazine Josei Jishin (published by Kobunsha Co., Ltd.). Surprisingly, Masako also owns and runs a bar in Shinjuku 2-chome, Tokyo.
We spoke with this multitalented alumna who graduated from the Chuo University Faculty of Letters in 2006.
Held captive during a stakeout
At Josei Jishin, entertainment reporters work under 1-year contracts with the Editing Department. There are about 20 reporters just for the entertainment and incident genre. From 70-year old veterans to new reporters who just started yesterday, everyone has the same contractual form. The only way to make a name for oneself is to get a scoop.
Salary is paid weekly, a system unique to weekly magazines. Salary is a combination of basic salary, scoop compensation, stakeout compensation and article space compensation. Getting a scoop will result in a large salary, while some weeks only the basic salary is earned.
Reporters wait patiently near the homes of entertainment stars for the entertainer to come home or go out. Stakeouts consist of a reporter and cameraman waiting together in a car. In consideration for neighbors, the engine of the car is always turned off during a stakeout. Complaints would make it impossible to work.
Inside the car, winter is cold and summer is like a sauna. “I’ve been told by a senior reporter to go and buy ice,” says Masako. “We used ice instead of air conditioning.”
Reporters move only their eyes while waiting patiently for their target. Food consists of rice balls, chocolate and other simple items bought at convenience stores. Reporters resist the urge to use the bathroom. “I always worried that the entertainer would appear while I was gone,” says Masako.
One night, Masako was staking out a famous entertainer. Masako was discovered by the entertainer’s companion, held captive in a room and cursed out in foul language. “I had been doused with water during another reporting assignment, but being held captive was a totally different experience,” she says. “I had no idea what to do.” Actually, Masako was worried about her contract with the Editing Department. If trouble occurs on a reporting assignment, the magazine will often decide that a reporter is useless and terminate the contract.
“As we were being yelled at, the situation gradually changed,” explains Masako. “We were told that it wasn’t our fault and that our employers were to blame. We were ordered to bring our managers to apologize.”
When her managers came to the entertainer’s residence, the entertainer appeared and expressed surprise upon seeing so many unfamiliar faces. Masako realized that the entertainer didn’t know about the recent incident. Her companion hadn’t told her.
“They’re reporters from Josei Jishin,” said the companion, without hinting at how he had tormented Masako and her partners.
Masako made a quick decision. “I felt that it was a chance to conduct an interview. I asked inquisitive questions and got information which could only be acquired from the entertainer herself.”
Masako restored her relationship with the entertainer and was able to conduct an interview. The contents of that interview were published as an article. “I had thought that it would be my final assignment,” says Masako. “However, things ended on a good note and I was praised for how I handled the situation.”
Masako has disguised herself as a parent and infiltrated the entrance ceremony for an elementary school affiliated with a famous university. She wore a suit and conducted herself as a parent, while searching for a particular entertainer. If possible, she wanted to speak to the entertainer.
“Today, schools are very strict in how they handle private information,” explains Masako. “They now require ID cards when entering in order to keep out reporters from weekly magazines.”
Only daring and bold people can become reporters.
“Reporters are people too,” says Masako. “Sometimes, we are forced to ask things that we don’t want to ask. If I was the target of reporting, I would hate the stakeouts and sneaking around. However, I try not to think about such things. I just consider it to be my job.”
Masako’s path to working in the mass media was filled with twists and turns.
3rd-period class on Wednesdays which she will never forget
It took Masako 5 years to graduate from the Chuo University Faculty of Letters. During her 4th year, she obtained an employment offers from a travel agency. Always active, Masako took a national examination and obtained certification as a travel affairs specialist before entering the agency. As part of a program for prospective employees, she worked part-time at the agency for 3 months and learned about conditions within the agency.
Masako was looking forward to starting her career from April when told that she must stay in school another year. “I was totally shocked,” she says. Although she had finished the required seminars and her graduation thesis had been approved, she had failed to acquire 2 credits in German language which should have been taken during her 2nd year. The travel agency rescinded the employment offer. Masako apologized profusely to her parents and asked for another year at university.
Masako was the only 5th-year student in the German class. “I wanted the professor to remember me, so I always sat in the front row of the classroom,” she says. “I raised my hand even if I didn’t know the answer to questions. I will never forget the hour which I spent in 3rd period every Wednesday.”
Masako was taking only one class and had a large amount of free time which she devoted to part-time work. In the daytime, she worked at a Chinese restaurant near Harajuku Station. In the evening, she worked at a pub in Ikebukuro. Late at night, she worked at another pub until morning. During that time, she had a quarrel with her parents and left home.
“I started living alone at an apartment in Ikebukuro,” recalls Masako. “Ever since my 2nd year, I had worked part-time in Harajuku and made friends with students from other universities. For me, working was fun—almost like a club activity. After work, we would walk to Shibuya and party until the morning. Once, when payday for my part-time jobs was 3 or 4 days away, my electricity and gas were stopped due to late payments. My mobile phone service was also turned off. I didn’t have money for the train so I couldn’t go to work. Moving around made me hungry, so I spent all day sleeping…I was really disgusted with myself.”
Masako lost the desire to search for employment after graduation. She spent time thinking about her ambition in life. After some consideration, she recalled her involvement in the school newspapers during the 5 years consisting of 3 years at Sugiyama Jogakuen in Aichi Prefecture and her first 2 years at Chuo University.
During high school, Masako had helped publish the school newspaper 4 times per year. She served as editor-in-chief during her 2nd and 3rd years. At Chuo University, she entered the Chuo University Press (Student Clubs Culture League) and helped publish the Chuo University Newspaper once every 2 months. Established in 1928, the Chuo University Newspaper has a long history and tradition. She served as editor-in-chief in her 2nd year. “I remembered that I had wanted to work in mass media when I entered university,” says Masako.
Masako sorted out her feelings and consulted with an older student from the basketball club which she had belonged to for 4 years at Chuo University. The older student was working as an editor at a sports magazine. The older student invited Masako to go out drinking with people working in the mass media.
At the party, Masako was given an offer: “We’re looking for a reporter at Josei Jishin. We need a young woman with lots of stamina. The work is staking out entertainers.”
“I had never been interested in idols and had little interest in the entertainment world,” says Masako. “However, I decided that the work would be a foothold for getting started in the mass media industry.” In January of next year, Masako wrote a resume and put on a suit for the first time in a long time. When she visited the Editing Department of Josei Jishin, she was asked when she could start. Although it appeared that she would be hired immediately, Masako decided to wait until after graduation to start working. She spent time talking with her estranged family and repaired her relationship.
Masako started running a bar in a desperate attempt to make her name known among entertainers. According to Masako, there are all kinds of reporters and the field is filled with fierce competition among many individuals. Masako created interest in entertainers by telling them that she ran a bar. During her 2nd year of working as a reporter, she began helping at a bar in Shinjuku Golden Gai. Afterwards, she started her own bar in Shinjuku 2-chome.
Shinjuku 2-chome is known as a gay neighborhood. “I’m not gay, but I found the neighborhood interesting,” explains Masako. “Here, the minority is the majority. Everyone really seems to enjoy themselves.”
The Editing Department has a total of more than 100 staff members, including cameramen. The department is divided into groups which cover topics such as the Imperial Family, Johnny’s, Korean entertainment and gravure. There are few female reporters. “Entertainment is the most popular group,” says Masako. “However, most reporters quit soon after starting work. The youngest member of the Editing Department is a 29-year-old man. I am the second youngest. For any job, it’s important to persevere. Continuing to work provides you with valuable insight and experience.”
Such a statement can only be made by someone who has reached the stage where Masako is now. Her statement is a message to coming generations.
Masako decided to continue the unfamiliar work of an entertainment reporter for at least 3 years—including severe stakeouts. She felt that if she was unable to persevere for 3 years, she would fail no matter where she went or what she did.
After working in the entertainment group for 4 and a half years, Masako spent 2 years in the reportage documentary group. She now belongs to the gravure group and is in charge of pages which mainly contain photographs. She recently visited Hilltop, a cafeteria on the Tama Campus of Chuo University, to report on the theme of “What is the score for delicious university lunches?”[Chuo University finished 3rd. 1st place was Aoyama Gakuin University.]
There is a theme which Masako wishes to write about as a reporter—her life as a minority caused by hearing impairment in her right ear. Masako had an operation on her ear before entering Chuo University and is now free of worry. However, a certain feeling was engraved in her heart.
“Although I reported on minorities, it wasn’t a good-selling genre,” explains Masako. “It’s sad, but I will make it my life work.”
Masako will ardently convey her desire when renewing her contract with the Editing Department. She has the personal experience of undergoing medical treatment. Also, despite being part of her job, she has many rare experiences. Masako knows the taste of a rice ball eaten in complete darkness during a stakeout. Based on such experiences, the day will surely come when Masako provides the world with wonderful reporting that touches the heart.
Offered by: Hakumon Chuo 2013 Summer Issue, No. 232
Ms. Masako Takada
Graduated from Sugiyama Jogakuen in Aichi Prefecture. Entered the Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University and graduated in 2006.
Belonged to the Chuo University Press (Student Clubs Culture League) while at university. Published the Chuo University Newspaper once every 2 months.
Served as editor-in-chief during her 2nd year. After graduating from university, became a successful reporter at the weekly women’s magazine Josei Jishin which is published by Kobunsha Co., Ltd. Spent all of her time doing stakeouts and reporting for the entertainment group which is said to be the toughest assignment in the Editing Department.
During her 1st year as a reporter, repeatedly moved her residence to Roppongi and Ikejiri-Ohashi, areas where entertainers are often seen.
In order to acquire more information, managed a bar in Shinjuku 2-chome, Tokyo. Currently wears the two hats as a reporter and a bar owner.