Meet the Woman Behind the Shade: Mieko
Mieko is the grandmother of longtime Thrive Causemetics employee Karly Kurata. Throughout her life, she showed strength, tenacity, and remarkable courage. Mieko was born in Japan in the early 1930s. Her mother passed away during childbirth, and her father remarried years later, making her the eldest child of the family. Her father was a Japanese government official, and Mieko recalled, after Japan’s failed takeover of China, Chinese nationals throwing rocks at the train she was on as it went by.
As a child, Mieko escaped to Mongolia during the beginning of World War II. She traveled with her siblings and cousins, and as the eldest of the group, she took on the responsibility to care for them all. Traveling by open train cars, her only possession was a little cash. They sat in circles on the train, with the men sitting around the women to protect them from bandits. Mieko had to dress like a boy to ensure her safety.
Mieko met her future husband when he worked as a diplomat for the United Nations. After the war, they got married and traveled the world together, handling projects such as malaria prevention. While spending time in foreign countries, Mieko learned the native languages by watching TV or listening to the radio. She had five children with her husband, and Mieko often cared for them alone when he left on work trips for long periods of time. In search of peace and prosperity, they migrated to America to build a new life.
Mieko never stopped being the matriarch of her family. As her husband worked overnight shifts, she worked during the day. She took care of everything from top to bottom, supporting her children and grandchildren however needed. Whether it was a health emergency or simply a meal, she was always there. She also did this for the family next door, taking care of them like her own when their father passed away. Her home became a daycare center for her nine grandchildren, where she helped them get ready for the day and fed them meals before and after school.
In her 80s, Mieko suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She took it all in stride and moved on, never looking back. The care that she gave her children was given back to her, and reluctantly she accepted the help she needed. A few years later, she passed away from cancer.
When Karly describes her La La (the nickname Mieko’s grandchildren gave her), she says, “I grew up supported by a strong, outspoken, confident Japanese woman who taught me it was best to just be myself. Mieko’s strength inspires me every day to be the best person I can be.”