Tominaga is a popular tech journalist, Apple fan and IT consultant who can be seen at the launch of every new iPhone, camping out in line at the Apple Store in Tokyo clutching a body pillow featuring the likeness of Jobs.
Pictures of her holding the pillow and a new iPhone 7 were in newspapers, magazines and all over the internet recently and the resulting celebrity has led to a number of TV and public appearances across Japan.
Cult of Mac was able to catch up to the overbooked Tominaga for a little pillow talk a couple of weeks after her now-famous iPhone 7 purchase to find out just how close she with her fluffed-up friend (actually, the pillow stays in a closet covered in plastic to keep it pristine until it’s time to stand in line at the Apple Store for the next new product).
“Three years ago, I was carrying it around taking pictures,” Tominaga, 32, said during a Skype call. “I had red hair back then and I could tell people were saying who is this strange girl with the Steve Jobs pillow?”
Body pillows, or dakimakura, are popular in Japan, usually with young girls who buy them adorned with a favorite anime character. They are also a fetish with some grownups who seek the pillow companionship of adult film stars.
Jobs fits neither category, which may explain why people were puzzled at first by Tominaga’s pillow. But Tominaga standing in line with her pillow attracted a lot of high-fives with other enthusiastic Apple fans and store employees, requests for selfies and, of course, a ton of publicity. All of this is good for her brand as an IT consultant and Ustream vlogger.
She stood outside the store for two days and was third, her best position ever in line. But when a store employee announced the iPhone 7 shipment did not include the glossy jet black finish, the two guys in front of her left. She, too, wanted the shiny model, but she found the idea of being first in line too irresistible to leave.
She walked out to more high-fives, more photos and additional glittery currency to maintain her status as one of Japan’s best-known Apple fans.
Since her purchase of the iPhone 7, she was invited to address a business seminar about how to integrate smartphone and tablets into workflow, attended the opening of a museum exhibit in Yokohama of iPhone cases, and appeared on a television show as an IT expert to explain how the private messages of a well-known actress and her married lover could have been hacked and leaked to the public.
A fan with fans
Even before the iPhone 7, Tominaga had made a name for herself on the internet with thousands of followers on her various social media accounts. She has a few different video channels on Ustream, including UstToday, which has nearly 1 million views. Close to 10,000 people follow her on Twitter, and her Vine page has more than 413,000 loops.
The pillow was a gift from a fan and it has been present at the first day of the last three iPhone launches. Fearing the pillow might get worn, she placed the cover in a plastic bag and filled it with air, giving the older Jobs likeness — round glasses, black mock neck and a friendly wave — protection from the weather.
While Tominaga doesn’t remember the exact model, the first Apple computer arrived in her home when she was a fourth-grader. Her first iPhone was a 3s she got while studying in London.
“It was not a hard choice for me,” Tominaga said of her loyalty to Apple computing products. “My dad was a graphic designer who used Macs. I learned everything on Mac and most of the companies I consult for use Apple and iOS.”
She has poignant memories of the day Jobs died, witnessing people gathering at the Apple Store to place flowers and light candles. For her, Jobs’ passing had special meaning because her grandmother passed from the same form of cancer.
Tominaga was in New York City in 2011, in part to purchase the newly released iPad2, when an earthquake and tsunami devastated much of Japan.
A photograph of her in line at the Apple Store to buy the iPad went viral because painted on her cheek were the words Pray for Japan.
The Jobs body pillow, by now, has been washed, hung outside her Tokyo home to dry and put back in the closet. It is her only body pillow and she does not use it for security or kink.
“A lot of girls see me with it and they say it’s so cute,” she said. “And he’s this old guy. I guess Japanese girls think everything is cute.”