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“Don’t let anything get in the way of taking that first step.”

The first thing that strikes you when speaking with Monique Kimura is her fearless energy, the kind of just-do-it determination that has seen her smash through barriers, one after another, like an FZ truck through a series of shōji screens.

Monique lives to drive—whether doing 1,200km stretches in her Super Great delivering rocket parts to JAXA or kicking the clutch of her Nissan Silvia around the drift circuit on the weekend. But to do so, she has needed a lot of courage and commitment to prove herself capable as a woman in a male-dominated industry, and it’s a battle she continues to fight.

REVVING UP  Monique’s calling started at a very young age. Raised in Mie Prefecture—around 170km east of Osaka and home of the world-famous Suzuka International Racing Course—she is the only daughter of a mechanic. She spent her childhood around cars, oil and a culture of breaking limits. At the age of eight, her father would take her out in the vehicles he was working on and let her sit up front on test spins around her grandfather’s farm. It was on this farm where he taught Monique how to drive, working up her appetite for anything with an engine. 

But it was as a teenager when she found her true passion. She met a group of older friends who introduced her to drifting. They would take her out in their sport coupés each weekend, burning up the road and igniting her imagination.

However, it soon got to the point where she no longer wanted to be in the passenger seat. “I want to sit there,” she recalls thinking—her heart already set on being behind the wheel. So as soon as she turned eighteen, she got her license and bought her first set of wheels.

 It was through drifting and spending time with like-minded lovers of grease and asphalt that introduced her to truck driving. To have the chance to drive such large vehicles was too enticing a challenge for Monique not to accept. “I met a few people doing it for a living, so I paid for some lessons and just went out there and got a truck license.”

Her enthusiasm and initiative demonstrated to those around her that she was ready, but it wasn’t enough for some people, and she came across an unexpected hard wall.

THE FIRST HURDLE  A friend had introduced Monique to the company he worked for, and his boss was keen to hire her; they just wanted her to go in and show the relevant paperwork. “But when I went in, they took one look at me and said, ‘Really? You want to work here? Sorry, I don’t think we have a job for you,’” Monique remembers. “They tried to put it down to lack of experience, but I knew it wasn’t that. They were hiring male drivers in exactly the same boat as me.”

Though she continued to face a series of similar experiences, her persistence and determination paid off and she eventually found a company that could see past her appearance and recognize her conviction. “In one sense, I felt lucky to have been given a job, but at the same time, I found it hard to believe it was so much more difficult for me as a woman,” she recounts.

THE FREEDOM OF CONTROL  Just like a lot of people, Monique hates driving through the congested roads of big cities — it’s the sense of freedom of being in complete control of a 28-ton machine climbing steep mountain roads that motivates her.

“What I love about truck driving is that every day is a new adventure,” Monique shares. “On your course to deliver, you are going to different places, meeting new people and facing fresh challenges every trip you make.”

What I love about truck driving is that every day is a new adventure.

It’s a stressful job, though, and you need a lot of dedication. It’s not just long stints on the highway either; there’s a lot of preparation involved, as it’s the driver’s sole responsibility to plan the route carefully to make sure they deliver the goods on time, every time – no exceptions. A single mistake can have big consequences, so you need to stay razor-sharp and quick-witted. However, it’s stepping up to these challenges where Monique thrives, approaching it like exercises to further flex her skills.

But even with over half a decade’s experience, she still comes up against those who underestimate her capability. Although she has a forklift license, there will be men that insist on loading the freight onto her truck, while her male counterparts will always be responsible for doing it themselves. “To be honest, it doesn’t faze me anymore,” Monique says laughingly. “If you want to do my job for me, and I still get paid — yeah, sure, whatever, be my guest!” Her sassiness is infectious.

HUNGRY FOR MORE  It’s not just in her day job that Monique is determined to show her mettle. In her first and foremost passion, she regularly spars against some of Japan’s top drifting professionals in national competitions around the country. Her dream would be to drift for a living, “If you want to go professional, you need to give sponsors a reason to approach you,” she informs us. “But every time I go drifting, I learn something different. I can feel I am improving my skills and technique. I get to the track, and I say, I want to do that and that—and then when you actually do it, it’s the greatest feeling.”

As if her regular driving license, truck license and forklift license weren’t enough, Monique has now set her sights on a trailer license. “I want to push myself further and drive the biggest vehicles on the road,” she says with a huge grin. Although she’s happy on the highways for the time being, she wants to start her own company and have people driving for her at some point in the future. “As I say to my friends,” she concludes. “Don’t let anything get in the way of taking that first step.”

And in Monique’s case – nothing has yet.