TEDxKyoto Volunteer Interview : Airi Yanagawa, Operations Team Volunteer


This week I was excited to have the chance to chat with Airi Yanagawa, a volunteer from TEDxKyoto 2014. What I thought would be a quick rundown of her experience of the conference turned into a beautiful conversation about her views on life and her goals from here on out. Speaking with her, she seemed to be bursting at the seams with happiness and love for life. I have the pleasure of introducing to you Airi, a wonderful person and volunteer with TEDxKyoto.

Hi there Airi! Thank you so much for taking your time to chat! Let’s first have you introduce yourself. What did you do for TEDxKyoto? Can you tell me about your jobs during the conference?

No problem at all! I was one of the head volunteers of the day, kind of in charge of telling people where to go or what time they had their break. It was my first experience with that kind of responsibility so I was happy to have had the chance of working with so many innovative people!

I felt the same way about working with you (laughs). You seemed so busy! What other preparations were there for TEDxKyoto? Were you in charge of a lot of other things prior to the event day?

It was also my job to send out messages to the team! I sent them both out in English and in Japanese, but surprisingly the hardest part was researching the Keigo [the formal speaking and writing style in Japanese]. It was such good practice for me!

I suppose English would be a little bit easier because we don’t have a predetermined way to send out emails. When communicating with TEDx teammates in English, the language can be relaxed, but the Japanese still has to be accurate.

It was really difficult. That was one of the things that I really gained from volunteering with TEDxKyoto.

Did you have a favorite speaker from the day as well?

Honestly, I was so much into the volunteering side I didn’t have a chance to listen long to any of the talks. Though I did get to speak to a few of the speakers one on one during the breaks. They all seemed so relaxed! I was surprised at how kind they were. Many seemed to have fun talking to the volunteers.

The speakers were really nice. Their talks were super fun as well! I personally enjoyed watching Beyond Sushi!

I really wanted to watch that one! Everyone was talking about how inspirational his talk was. I will have to check it out online later.
Speaking of inspirational people, who are the ones that inspire you personally in your life? Who do you look up to?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I really look up to my parents. There are so many things that I do that aren’t typical in Japanese society, but they support me every step of the way. They had to put up with a lot! I don’t know if I would be able to do it myself (laughs).

What are some things that you did that didn’t exactly line up with the status quo in Japan?

For one, I love traveling! I grew up in the countryside where you would never see any tourists. When I was young, my family was joking about my someday marrying someone that was from a foreign country, and at that moment I thought, “Kakke [So cool]!”
After getting older I went to Tokyo while my family stayed in my hometown. The bustling city environment made me even more interested in different lives and foreign ideas. That’s what drew me into TED. The name of the conference is “TED- Ideas Worth Spreading.” I thought it would be a wonderful chance to meet different people.

There were so many different personalities there. Ideas worth spreading. I would love to hear what your ideas would be! What would you talk about if you would get in front of all of those people?

That’s an interesting question! What would I talk about? I think I would just give a talk about how you should never forget your smile and always have fun in life!

You are such a positive person! I am looking forward to meeting you in Kyoto again someday soon!

Thank you so much! Let’s have lunch here soon! (laughs)

Airi Yanagawa currently lives and works in Kyoto at a Hostel. Her hobbies include studying language, Thai Massage, and traveling. Everyday she tries to live life to the fullest in her own unique way.