TEDxKyoto LIVE BLOG – As It Happened…



8:05 a.m.

Things are gearing up, the volunteers have all arrived and there is an air of excitement. The rain will not stop this event, although it will dampen the courtyard. Each team leader is assembling their members, and it seems like everyone is trying to find something or someone…

8:35 a.m.

Angus – Operations team leader – gives a short but sweet speech to start the day. Everyone is motivated and energetic. After some organization and announcements are out of the way everyone gets ready to spring into action. Mitsugi-san (communications) reminds members to take care about uploading photos from within the hall to social media, that is the responsibility of our talented photography team.


Now that the orientation meeting has finished, volunteer break into groups and go about their tasks. Javier, the Photography team leader, has assembled a great team to document the event.


Volunteers are getting their T-Shirts, finding their stations… Participants are lining up, even with the rain coming down. Looks like we will have a great day today!


Behind the scenes – The members of the interactive team have a lot of activities to keep participants occupied and engaged during the break times.


When the doors opened excited participant picked up name tags and gift bags from our partners then proceeded to the hall to find a seat where they can enjoy the first session of talks.


The first performers got everyone energized – We are lucky to have the energetic drumming group Shien start the day. They move audiences around the world with their performances of traditional Japanese Taiko drumming; there is nothing that quite matches the primal resonance and power of seeing a world-class Wadaiko group live. They have collaborated with ballet, dance, and classical music projects as well as bringing the therapeutic and educational benefits of drumming to children with autism and Down’s Syndrome. What a way to start TEDxKyoto 2015! They may even train Jay (who has a background in Jazz drumming)!


Next is Stefen Chow. His pictures are even more amazing when seen on the huge screen and the big display. What a great message and interesting perspective. Who thinks about the design of playgrounds, and what they say about an area or a culture. As he says, “every playground is different…”


Jason Hsu is a TEDx Ambassador to Asia and a true visionary. A real free thinker. As he said, when the systems get close to a breaking point, that is an opportunity to change them. He notes that he is not an economist or political philosopher, but has useful and practical ideas about where we have gone astray in this modern age. Then, he offers solutions, because what good is a problem or challenge without a solution? Jason’s involvement with TEDx events has changed his life and the lives of countless others. Showcasing new ideas and spreading stories, these events (like ours at TEDxKyoto) have a lasting and far-reaching impact.
see more about him at or here:

~ 11:20
Rev. Kawakami got a laugh from the audience when he noted that the key to happiness in the 21st century is staying connected — With our smartphones! Of course. Then he goes into more depth about mindfulness and the benefits of learning to stay in the moment. Meditation is a useful practice only if one does it and so he guides us through a short experience. Something we can take with us on our day, today. Rather than running a marathon, we can start by walking around the block, then a short jog.

Asuka Kamiya is a remarkable young woman. At the age of 12 she invented and then patented a self-separating recycle bin as part of a summer science project. Her inspiration was to help her grandfather. She saw a need and filled it – showing that anyone can make a difference with a fresh perspective and determination, and sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.
Surprisingly, she left many in the audience in tears with her touching and heart-felt presentation. Again, when someone is sincere, it can be incredibly profound.


Shuichi Inoue, the Sushi Maestro, one of our speakers from TEDxKyoto 2014, passed away this year suddenly. As a tribute to him, we replayed his talk from last year. It’s worth watching again, so please go to the link above on the homepage to access it.

Chiyo Fox, from our catering team, gave a touching eulogy, and seeing Mr. Inoue’s TEDxKyoto talk a year later gave it extra weight. I think we all learn from him, we have a responsibility to follow our dreams, because life can be so short.

1:30 p.m.

Session Two has started. Lunch was exciting and entertaining, even with the rain. People flocked to the Café Libre to get something to eat, but they also visited the partner booths, wrote messages to the future on the Interactive team’s installation, and networked with other people at the event. Our organizers put a lot of thought and effort into making a great ‘playground’ for a full day of activities, and it is going very well.


Jay describes one of the amazing things about Kyoto – that it has been the center of so much technology and innovation, recently and throughout history. He introduced our next speaker, Koichi Yoshikawa. Mr. Yoshikawa has worked with the Murata Co. to produce ‘cheerleading robots’ and ‘cycling robots’ — however work with robotics goes much deeper than something cute or entertaining. They push the boundaries of the possible, and propel technology into the future with an infinite variety of applications. “What?” is a useful question, but we also have to ask “Why?” The three S’s of their robotics project are stability, synchronization, and sensing and communication.


Ikumi Yoshimatsu is speaking now. She was the winner of the 2012 Miss International pageant, and she has made it her personal mission to speak out against exploitation of women, particularly in the entertainment industry. Women who have been the victims of stalking have been told repeatedly by society that they should be quiet. Her courage in the face of intimidation is a truly inspirational story. Listen to her speak in English on the livestream, and look for the video coming soon to the TEDxKyoto homepage.


Shuzo John Shiota provides an entertaining and enlightening explanation of the similarities between the Animation industry and the Steel industry. His studio, Polygon Pictures, creates world-class CG animation and has won many awards. His work has put Japanese animation on the map and developed it as an art form. As you would expect, his talk is going to be not only informative and exciting, but incredibly visual. The secret to good production, whatever the product, is teamwork, motivation, and focus.


Katsuya Soda talks about the plight of refugees. This multi-faceted renaissance man has dedicated himself to supporting refugees and their families in Japan through his work with the UN Refugee Agency, Doshisha University, and the Kyoto Sanjo Radio Cafe.


Kyoto based Amita, led by Hiroyuko Sato, aims to create self-sustainable communities. He believes we should re-establish our ties to the local economies. He took the devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami as a starting point, and his mission is to eliminate waste. Wood pellet stoves made from locally sourced ‘waste’ – food waste can be converted to fuel through biomass. His trial programs have resulted in a permanent biomass facility in the area of Minami-sanriku, just finished. Next stop, Palau. He is the CEO of AMITA Institute for Sustainable Economies Co., Ltd.


Worth watching again: our architect friend Takaharu Tezuka – in his talk entitled “building the future” – discusses the design of his amazing kindergarten. By following the natural inclinations of children and the natural circular flow of activity, the structure encourages children to learn with ‘small doses of danger’.


Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa starts with a familiar message: “Kyoto is such a wonderful city, let’s go there!” It was recently voted one of the best cities in the world. A center of culture and innovation, it is the “cultural capital of Japan”. It’s also a center of innovation, whether the innovation comes from the saké industry, video games, or traditional arts. Many of these things have a presence in the past, and in the future. Trends in town have been progressive and favorable, from recycling initiatives to fewer people using cars, for example. Mayor Kadokawa has a vision for the future that includes Kyoto leading the way for other cities.


Despite the rain, the participants are loosening up and socializing a lot today. In fact, the lack of outdoor spaces have led many to enjoy themselves at the interactive displays, relax in the beanbag lounge, take silly photos in the photo booth, and toy with technology from our partners.


Jay and our Operations Leader Angus introduce Taro Inoue. Taro Inoue is an exceptional instrumentalist (mandolin). He has taken his instrument in completely new directions, borrowing from the rich cultural traditions of everything from bluegrass to traditional Japanese music. You may not think there is a connection, but trust us – everything is connected!

Look at these clips:

… and something more traditionally bluegrass, playing with his father, Saburo, one of the kings of the genre in Japan:

He introduced his second song by saying “This is not an anti-war song, but it is called ‘Senso Kowaii’” It is a testament to the power of his music that an instrumental song on a single instrument, played by a single set of hands, can fill the hall and convey a tremendous emotion.


Kasumi Ogawa, of the Onomichi Denim Project, tells about the 100 year history of making the durable fabric in the ‘Bingo Region’ of western Japan, and the stories that it can tell us of the people and their unique characteristics. Clothing can tell a lot about people, and in this case it is a symbol of the region.


The next speaker is Hyeonseo Lee. Her story is one that few people in the first world can relate too. Can you imagine leaving your home country, never to return? Could you imagine waking up one day to learn that everything that you had been taught was a lie? When Hyeonseo Lee defected from North Korea she lost her family, home, and country. The bubble of misinformation that she had been living in completely burst, and she has become a powerful voice for human rights, reminding us that innocent victims of oppressive regimes need our understanding and aid. Good people have to be brave in bad situations. They, like us all, want to be free to live their lives. Trying to identify with her story left me thinking a lot about identity and ‘belonging’.


The day wrapped up with a young but powerful speaker, Ari Beser. Ari’s grandfather was the only US serviceman to fly on each of the planes that dropped atomic bombs on Japan, in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. Ari has spent the last five years exploring the connections between his life and the lives of numerous relatives and survivors. He does not try to defend or condemn the events at the end of WWII, but wants to see them from all perspectives. He is trying to bridge the gap of space and time, and spread a message of peace. Listen to his story when the video link is posted on this homepage, and gain a deeper understanding of the journey that we are all on, understanding where we have come from and our place in the world.

At the end of the speaking sessions, We watched the ‘behind the scenes’ short documentary film that was produced by our team of videographers. They did a wonderful job on a tight deadline. Afterwards Jay and the other hardworking team members took to the stage to celebrate a well-executed event. Many people worked hard to make it happen, and there is good reason to be proud.

6:00 – 8:00 pm.

The after party was a fantastic opportunity for participants to mingle with the speakers, and the energy of the day filled Café Libre, where the catering team had an amazing line-up of food and drinks for all to enjoy. Our sustainability team leader, Kana Kitabayashi, made sure that the event did not produce much waste, as participants were encouraged to conserve resources. All waste from the event was separated and recycled. Unlike most events of this size, disposable cups were not used, and many of our partners also joined us in finding ways to keep the day as eco-friendly as possible.

The day ended on an incredibly high note, and even after a long day of activity, most of the enthusiastic participants still wanted to stay until the last minute. We all went home feeling incredibly charged up. This is what TEDx is all about: getting excited about new ideas, sharing good news and inspired stories.