• 2020.01.21
  • Taking stock of 2019 and looking ahead to 2020
Two thousand nineteen. It was such a busy year that I hardly had a moment to spare. It wasn’t that I was flat-out with work, necessarily, but the projects I was doing were really diverse and I had some failures taking on new challenges—to the point that it brought me to tears a few times.

On the media side, I frequently worked in television, but also got jobs involving photo collections and brand-name fashion catalogs. I interacted with personalities a lot, which often tried my patience and made me exhausted racking my brain trying to figure out how to move things forward smoothly.

Television projects involve all kinds of content, so while they are exciting, they can also end on a moment’s notice. And because I can’t see the programs I’ve worked on in Japan in real time, I end up feeling disconnected to them. Plus, because the work part of them is so incredibly intense and demanding, I always somehow end up left with the feeling that they’ve left holes in my heart—even though the sense of accomplishment they bring far outstrips other kinds of work projects.

I don’t get a lot of photo collection jobs, but the final product ends up as an actual book. They’re also artistic in the sense that everything from the way the models pose to the clothes and background is carefully crafted, so I really enjoy them.

When the shooting begins, the model and the cameraperson enter into their own world. Every once in a while a staff member will get in there too, but they create this intense space together that makes it feel as if they’ve entered another dimension entirely.

As the coordinator, there’s not much for me to do once they enter that world, so I end up just standing there and watching like an observer. There’s a mysterious atmosphere about it that feels like it’s infused with magic. I recently got to participate in a photo shoot on the island of Madeira, which was an incredibly valuable experience for me.

When I’m not working on media-related jobs like these, I’m doing restoration work. I’m in charge of the landscape murals on a building that is being renovated in central Lisbon. Essentially, they give me a deadline and I have to figure out how to get it done in that amount of time by heading over there in my free time or on my days off. And as soon as I’m finished they’ve got another one for me… Portugal is such a laid-back country that a person like me (a Japanese person) who makes their deadlines is a precious commodity—and the places that have tight deadlines come to me. In the end, the jobs will drag on and on if the overall restoration work and construction don’t finish, but the part I work on is always a race to the deadline, so it’s really stressful.

I also have some ongoing graphics work that I do, and I help my husband with his musical work as well.
This wasn’t work, but I also had friends come and visit twice. Portugal is not a place that people visit very often, so it was amazing to have it happen more than once! We also had a traveling Japanese student stay with us for a while.
I even went back to Japan twice, since my father developed health problems last year.

I was increasingly on edge as a result, which made things rough at home. I was constantly finding fault with my husband and getting into arguments or butting heads with my teenage daughter, which was rather immature of me.

I’ve done nothing but complain so far, but stepping back and looking at it makes me realize that I’ve probably been taking on too much. I need to focus on what I can realistically accomplish and start saying no to more projects. I want to spend more time with my family, too.
My goal for 2020 is to take life a little slower.


  • Megumi Ota
  • JobConservator, interpreter, and coordinator / Insitu (restoration), Kaminari-sama / Novajika, and others

I’m a conservator and preservationist living in Portugal. I specialize primarily in paintings (murals) and gold leaf design, and am involved with UNESCO World Heritage structures as well as the interior of the Palace of Belém. I derive great satisfaction from having close ties to my community in the rural village near the Silver Coast where I live. My hobby is gardening.

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