Hi Misato! Thank you for taking the time to do this special interview today for International Women’s Day. First of all, please tell us what enticed you to join One Young World.
It was back in 2013 when I attended the OYW Summit held in South Africa. I was interested in international relations from a young age. While I was active in Model United Nations as a student, I also got involved with the International Development Youth Forum (IDYF) when it was launched in 2012.
I was aware of the lack of opportunities to discuss international development and issues with people from overseas here in Japan. So, in the spring of 2013, I organized an international student forum to make this possible. Around that time, I found out about One Young World and found the platform to bring current and next-generation leaders together very appealing and intriguing. So, I joined as a delegate that year.
What attracted you to international relations?
I have always been fascinated with foreign cultures. My experience studying abroad by myself for summer school when I was in the 6th grade had a huge impact on my life. I also studied abroad for a year in the U.S during my high school days. After high school, I wanted good environment to learn more about international relations. So, I entered Sophia University.
Glad to hear that your school days had a positive impact on you. What was the most educational experience for you?
In college, I also participated in Model United Nations for 4 years. The experience was extremely valuable and helped me to really model myself as a responsible human being.
In MUN, you can have the opportunity to discuss international issues from the perspective of different countries. And, you are forced to think about things that you would not normally think about. It’s then that you realize that there is a significant gap between how they think and how you think. This was a great learning experience for me.
It was especially true for the East Asian countries, which are geographically very close to one another but, psychologically very distant. I want to make sure that next-gen leaders will not be in the position of being “geographically close but psychologically far away” from these friendly neighbors.
So, THIS is why you’re so focused on East Asia then?
Absolutely. I think the feelings I had there have led me to where I am today…working on reconciliation in East Asia. My experiences at One Young World, Model United Nations, and the Japan-China-Korea Youth Forum have truly shaped me.
The vast difference in mindset between China, Japan, and Korea is particularly puzzling given our proximity. Even more shocking is Japan’s lack of understanding of its own history! I think this might be one reason why we still have not overcome the negative effect of WWII despite the time that has passed. If our generation leaves the status quo as it is, this will surely remain as a negative legacy for generations to come. So, this is my mission; to eliminate friction between the national sentiments among East Asian countries.
When were you convinced that this was your mission?
The CJK Youth Forum, of course. My studies abroad in the U.S. and my graduate studies in China and Korea have also given me great insights. I had many friends from Korea and China at that time, and the time I spent with them was truly enriching and taught me a lot.
However, even though we get along well with each other, I noticed that there are some moments that the friction between countries brings us back to those “national sentiments.”
Although many East Asians look similar, we have different backgrounds and ways of thinking. I learned how important it is to enter the other person’s society and see their values as my own. When I think of their faces, I am again strongly motivated to improve the status quo.
How did you choose your career after graduation?
I knew that I needed IT skills to make a difference in the world. So, I started working for an IT company. Around that time, Trump was elected President of the USA and, I remember what I felt watching that news. I felt sick, unable to stand still as the world began to move in the wrong direction. This led me to a new job with a non-profit organization that supports citizen diplomacy in Asia.
I was given a variety of responsibilities as a full-time employee of the International Department, and based on the knowledge I gained there, I am now working at the Graduate School of Management, Globis. At the same time, I also act as a board member of Wake Up Japan, an NPO focused on the field of social change and citizenship. Currently, we offer monthly online small-group dialogues on peace, history, society, culture, and economics of the CJK.
I know that you face various difficulties every day. How do you refresh and recharge?
Time with my dog is a cherished moment! I also am a total foodie. Recently, I am addicted to chinese hot and spicy soups, which was greatly influenced by my time studying abroad in Beijing. I also like to read but, I prefer to read stories and novels, not political science or business books. I feel that reading a story or fantasy written by someone else nourishes my mind.
Some people have difficulty taking the path they really want to take. Any message for those struggling with this?
I think it is still about believing in yourself. The ability to say “I like me” is very important. I was raised by a single-mother, and, in hindsight, this was an experience in mutual understanding. I also think that the support of the people around me was a big factor. It allowed me to build self-confidence! I strongly recommend people share their thoughts and feelings with the people around them so that they can create a large group of supporters.
I always try to be keenly aware of my role. It is my mission to eliminate friction between the national sentiments of China, Japan and Korea, and to make East Asia truly peaceful! I believe that this is what makes me strong. I would also like to reiterate to all women that Japanese women are very talented and capable even by global standards. However, I feel that the more talented they are and the more they want to make the most of their abilities, the more likely they are to leave Japan. “Brain Drain” is a real problem and I would like to create a society in which these women can return to Japan after gaining experience abroad and put it to good use here. I will continue to do my best to make this happen