Dream to Measure, Miju
Photography by Reverie
Translation: Susie Ayano
Interview: Isis Nicole
“I started to become interested in Korea 10 years ago,” says Mizuki Haruta who was born and raised in Zushi, Kanagawa, Japan. Having taught herself Korean not long after falling in love with K-pop in high school, the 27-year-old, best known as Miju, lives full-time in Seoul since appearing as a member of a charming Japanese reality show, Terrace House Opening New Doors, that internationally premieres as a Netflix Original Series.
Full transparency, I am enamored with how this story came together. Following Miju’s perfectly timed headway into fashion, as producer of her lingerie line, Be Muse Intimates, our worlds came closer together behind clicking and scrolling on Instagram.
By surprise, I learned that we are mutual friends with Tokyo-based editor Susie Ayano — who I have only met through Tumblr as pen-pals starting back in 2014 — and through that history, luckily came together to coordinate for this story across a 13-hour time difference, joined by Seoul-based photographer, Reverie, and director Negutive.
Let it also be known that I take complete delight in learning that Miju and I are both June Cancers and rateEverything You Wanted by Jay Park.
Notwithstanding the pitiless dance auditions of her past, running out of savings, and trying to create a YouTube channel certainly made for an unstoppable business woman, altogether. Ahead, Miju shares her thoughts on hard times, finding opportunities, and how living in Korea has changed her life.
Isis Nicole: What were your interests growing up?
Miju: I always loved music from the time I could remember. Under the influence of a music loving dad, I grew up listening to various genres such as rock, pop, R&B, reggae, and classical. I also loved singing. I wanted to be a singer from childhood until about 19-years-old. [These days] I especially consider Korean hip-hop and Korean R&B [to be] my favorite. So what I was interested in as much as music was Korean. I still remember that I studied four to five hours a day when I started to learn the language, and it was just fun. I was obsessed with it.
Isis Nicole: What are you up to now?
Miju: I’m currently a producer of my underwear brand, Be Muse Intimates. Apart from the brand, I also work as an editor, coordinator, artist interviewer, model, interpreter, and translator.
IN: Where did you get your sense of style?
Miju: [Growing up], my parents had influenced me. They worked in the fashion industry. Now, I chose clothes that I feel simply match me. [Who knows], maybe my parents’ taste and advices are still remaining in my roots. As for how I cultivate my business sense, and style of thinking, I always read the news to collect information on various fields. I think my grandmother inspired this in me. From childhood she taught me the importance of reading news, gathering knowledge, and forming my own opinion. So even now, as I still find it important to read the news and gather information, I’ve grown to naturally have my perspective not too influenced by public opinion.
IN: What was it like when you made the decision to move to Korea? How old were you at the time?
M: A Korean acquaintance invited me to start a YouTube channel, so I decided to move here. [Originally] after language studying in Korea when I was 20-years-old, I tried to find an opportunity to live in Korea, so when this happened I thought, ‘Now it’s time!’
IN: How has living in Korea changed your life?
M: I feel it’s the same as living in Japan. I just became independent and got more free time. But if I had to choose one thing, I changed my way of thinking since the feminism movement in Korea is a lot more active thanit is in Japan. This gave me the chance to think about how the idea never entered my head, and about the discrimination that is still common in Japan. I became to think of things as humanity regardless of gender after I experienced feminism in Korea, so I think it was big change for me. I started to state my opinion and wish to getpeople who are not interested in feminism yet involved.
IN: In your wildest dreams did you imagine that you'd be where you are today?
M: I didn’t imagine it at all! But I’ve kind of always known from way back, that I would not choose office work.
IN: I started listening to K-pop a little late. I was in the 9th grade in 2004 when I was introduced to this album by Koyote and have been a fan ever since. The sound and scene has become much more popular in America than it used to be. I'm a huge fan of acts like DEAN, Heize, and Sunmi. I say all of this to ask how has or when did K-pop inspire you?
M: I was 17-years-old when I was inspired by K-pop. It was shocking that foreign people sang in Japanese with addictive tracks that were rare to find in Japan. I was aiming to become a singer at the time, so I genuinely wanted that type of career. I was like, ‘I want to sing a song like this and I want to be like them!' Not only did their music influence me a lot, but also their fashion and makeup.
IN: I recently moved to New York City and this is my first time living and trying to create work in a city that has a fashion and entertainment industry. What’s it like working in fashion in Asia? Does the city provide you with enough resources to pursue entertainment / fashion as a career?
M: Between Japan and Korea, society and trends are almost totally different. But I genuinely enjoy watching them both. I feel that the fashion industry in Seoul is really busy, always full of people, and bounce. For me, it’s a big advantage that I’m working in the underwear industry right now where no Japanese influencers have started yet.
IN: Can you discuss what it takes to be a businesswoman / influencer today?
M: I think you need all of your talent to steadily continue things. You also need to know yourself, have strong-will, and to be honest, as well as flexible.
IN: When you returned to Japan, you were on a season of my favorite reality shows Terrace House: Opening New Doors. What was it like living there? How did you decide to give the show a chance? Can you see yourself going back?
M: I wanted to be on it a few years ago, and then in a word (if I can try to describe it) it was like, 'Finally it’s my turn!’ One of my goals was to live in that house, and the best treasure was the fact that I passed audition. Up until the audition of Terrace House, I was judged only by song and dance, so I was really glad when I made it through. Looking back on the days I lived there, I became able to know myself as someone who’s ignorant of the world and that I can have a hard times grasping situations. I think that experience made me grow up.
IN: Has Terrace House: Opening New Doors made an impact on your life and business?
M: A big change is that now my supporters are in various countries! I never imagined a day that foreign people in English language regions would call out to me, even in Korea. I become so happy every time people shout me out on the street, and of course, when I receive messages on social media, too. There is not very much change on the business side. Because of that, I am considering various works. Since I’ve met people who think very carefully about my branding, I now begin to choose my work carefully. It is big change too that I want to be able to do more in my job faster than before.
IN: I feel that especially living in NYC and learning to adapt to its fast pace. On the show, a lot of your work was done from the computer. Has this made a difference in how you interact with people face-to-face when you meet? And how do you manage your time?
M: I think because I have less time to work with people face-to-face, I have less time to worry about relationships, and I feel stress-free. Misunderstandings can and will easily occur when we work from computer, so I try to solve doubt, even if it’s small, like staying in touch frequently to exchange opinions. As for managing my time, I avoid making too many strict rules and try to focus on keeping to the schedule. I freaked out before when I piled on too much work and struggled to meet the deadline. So now I value making a schedule that gives me extra time. It helps so that I can deal with anything positively. I like to give myself time to refresh once a day. Also, I try not to blame myself when I can’t work at all. Sometimes I’m not in the mood, but try to think, ‘It happens!’ Taking a so‐what attitude then move on to the next day.
IN: How has your family and friends responded to your accomplishments?
M: I think my family and friends used to worry a bit that I’m abroad. But they have been watching my complicated life from four years ago when I started to live in Korea and now maybe they understand that I enjoy doing what I want. I do feel that they are relieved and support me.
IN: Can you describe your most humble moment?
M: The time I was back dancer in a company, when I aimed to be singer, was most humbling. So I entered there to be a singer but they didn’t allow me to. All I could do was dance and it was very tough. One unforgettable memory is that a person from that company said to me, “There are plenty more where you came from.” Then years after that, when I gave YouTube a try at the beginning of moving to Korea, the channel didn’t work at all. I earned nothing and my savings had run out after three months. [laughs]
IN: How do you get through it?
M: I moved to friend’s house as a dependent and kept motivated off my hunger. I started to write some articles as part-time job and saved money. It took almost a half a year to escape from it. Even now, I am surprised at my shamelessly bold personality that came out of an extreme situation. [laughs]
IN: What’s the kindest thing someone has done for you?
M: When I dropped my phone in Korea, someone returned it to a nearby police box!
IN: How about the kindest thing you've done for someone?
M: I helped an old lady onto the stairs and carried her large baggage to the bottom.
IN: What do you daydream about now?
M: Right now, the main reason people get to know my underwear brand is through me. But in the future, I want to grow my brand big enough to make people know me in reverse. I also want to be known as a Japanese who succeed in Korea publicly, too.
IN: What’s the coolest thing you've learned about yourself?
M: I'll do what I say!
IN: Is there anything that has changed or made an impact on your worldview?
M: Overall, I think it’s K-pop. All the reasons that I independently learned a language for the first time, why I met so many people studying abroad, and now live and work in Korea, was because of K-pop.
IN: What is your dream collaboration?
M: I love Korean hip-hop so my goal is to appear on music video of a Korean hip-hop artist and collaborate with him, or her.
IN: What do you want to be remembered for?
M: For being confident, active, and an independent woman. I would also like to be remembered as someone who’s always positive and inspires people to think, “I’ll do my best, too! I wanna be like Miju!”
IN: What motivates you now?
M: Affectionate messages from my followers and a passion to approach my ideal self. I think my goal is to give back to people, for kindness, and for happiness.
IN: What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘invincible’?
M: People who enjoy their lives. No one is a match for people who enjoy everything, and I think they are invincible.
IN: And our final question. What do you have coming up in 2019?
M: I’m going to try to new things that I have never done before, work wise in Korea. For my brand, I will hold first pop-up store, and in my private life, I want to travel somewhere I have never been.
~ Fun Facts ~
No matter what I eat, all the menu of Shimizubashi Bar in Zushi are delicious!
I often reread “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson.
Top 5 favorite albums?
F.A.M.E / CHRIS BROWN
Everything You Wanted / JAY PARK
True To My Self / ERIC BENET
New Orleans / PJ Morton
Her / DPR LIVE
Chloe / NOMADE
Favorite landmark / favorite place in the world:
I love my hometown Zushi beach! I never fail to come back to the season of Zushi Beach Film Festival that’s held once a year. I love the place and it’s very important for me.
Favorite words of advice:
“It happens.” If something awful happened or something doesn’t work, this phrase makes me think, “Life is long. Of course it happens.” So it’s my favorite.
Originally published in IN #8, FW 2019/20