An ambassador for change, this world traveler is keeping Japan on its toes!
OYWJ Director Rui Nagamori talks to OYW Ambassador and social entrepreneur Ms. Ibun Hirahara about One Young World and its effect on her current career.
Hi, Ibun! Thank you for making time for us. Why don’t we start with your first encounter with One Young World?
Interestingly enough, it was my general discomfort with Japan’s lack of gender equality that led me to One Young World. At the time, I worked at an organizational development startup and I had the opportunity to conduct a workshop for female executives in Japan.
I asked the participants, “What is the best compliment you have ever received?” And, 80% of the participants answered “You work harder than men” or “you have male hormones!” Even the female executives gave answers comparing themselves to men.
That’s when I became interested in gender issues, and when I searched online for “Gender Equality Summit” an article about One Young World caught my eye.
Coincidentally, on that very same day, my college friend and current One Yound World ambassador, Mr.Naoki Asami, posted on his social media that applications for the One Young World Japan delegation had started. I immediately applied.
I think it’s wonderful that you never miss an opportunity. How was your first summit experience? Which summit was it?
My first summit was in 2018 at the Hague in the Netherlands.
As you know, the Hague is a beacon of peace and home to the Peace Palace. More than 2,000 of my peers from more than 190 countries and regions around the world, all with different countries, religions, and values, were in serious discussion about “What can we do “now” to make the world a better place?” I was impressed by the earnest dialogue and next steps everyone was participating in without overreaching or overcommitting themselves, which often happens.
Clearly this resonated with you. I can see it in your eyes when you talk about it.
Totally! At the time, I was dreaming of “breaking boundaries” but, it wasn’t until I experienced One Young World that I gained the courage to start my own business. My fellow One Young World Ambassador, Robin Lewis, also felt similarly.
You mentioned “breaking boundaries.” Did you have a global perspective even before joining One Young World?
I did. I was educated overseas boarding schools from the age of 8 years old with stints in China, Canada, Mexico, and Spain. Even now, I move around constantly with business trips and general travel taking up much of my time.
This is where your current perspective on education comes from obviously. How do you think travel and education have influenced your personality?
Education and travel have helped me discover my own dream of “breaking boundaries.” The biggest impact was that I was able to learn about people’s values and the reasons why people do the things they do. My resulting value system allows me to see things from multiple perspectives now.
If you look at people with an “axis” rather than a “frame” boundaries will melt away and the world becomes more relatable, more like “one world.”
How do you see your own path and axis?
For me, all the paths I have taken so far have been opportunities and have led me to where I am now. Of course, the changes are intense sometimes but, through my studies abroad and my various travels, I believe I have developed a true power for survival and adaptability.
How have these various changes affected your career?
I have been a marketer at a soccer club, launched an entertainment business at an IT company, prepared for the opening of a school for the gifted, worked in sales and digital marketing at a pharmaceutical company, changed jobs from a global company to an organization development startup, and started my own business twice. It’s been quite an experience so far.
To some, it may seem that I have dabbled in many different things and have no specific expertise but, in fact, because of all of these experiences I have been able to walk my own path without losing sight of my “axis” of “breaking boundaries.”
If I get hung up on the “how” of the dream that I want to realize even if it takes me a lifetime, I will limit myself. So, I try not get hung up on the “how” and prefer to partner with various companies, create various mechanisms, and break any boundaries that get in my way.
You mentioned starting new businesses. Tell us how you are balancing your private life with your professional one.
In November 2022, I established HI LLC, my second startup company.
I got married 5 years ago, but in our home I don’t do any housework. I like to focus on my work.
My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t like to go out and prefers to stay at home and do the housework. So, he is responsible for everything in the house. We have a mutual understanding that we should do what we are good at and what we can continue to do without feeling stress, not what society deems what we should do as wives or husbands.
What are you working on now?
I launched a media platform for student interns to “break life’s boundaries” by bridging youth and experienced adults. Specifically, our main focus is on projects in which students and companies work together to solve social activities, and we would like to create a system in which more authority can be transferred to the next generation. You can see some of this work on our website.
Any other goals you’d like to share or, advice for other professional women?
Be the person who can put all of her energy into what she can do because she IS a woman, never limiting herself by thinking, “I can’t do it because I am a woman.”
I have just been appointed as an advisor to One Young World Japan, and I would like to continue to initiate projects that connect Japan and the world!
And to the next generation who will follow in my footsteps, I would like to say:
”Be true to yourself.”
”Keep your axis alive.”
”Don’t be silent.”
I am really looking forward to seeing more people join me in “breaking boundaries!”