What is missing in our current Japanese culture? There is a hint about this missing piece in Latin-Spanish culture.


Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: itokuhashi@myeyestokyo.com


Naho Iguchi
Communication Process Designer/TEDxTokyo Director


This was an unexpected encounter.

We were going to recommend a former My Eyes Tokyo interviewee as a speaker for TEDxTokyo. It’s one of the franchisees of TED (Technology, Entertainment Design), a global set of conferences and Naho Iguchi is a director of TEDxTokyo. So we connected with her.

TEDxTokyo is one of the role models amongst nearly 2000 TEDx events around the world. TEDxTokyo is given a license by TED and independently organizes a TED-like event in Tokyo.

TED was founded about 30 years ago in the U.S and it has offered people opportunities to talk about their excellent ideas. And TEDxTokyo was founded in 2009 as the first TEDx event outside the U.S. (*Winchester Nii Tete, a Ghanian percussionist, is the only one who performed at TEDxTokyo among My Eyes Tokyo interviewees).

Not only speakers but also audience is chosen by the organizer. So you can say that TED and TEDxTokyo are very intense experiences where you share wisdom of humankind with the selected like-minded people. (TEDxTokyo 2012 took place on June 30th, 2012)

*You can watch TEDxTokyo 2012 clips from here!

Naho has been involved in TEDxTokyo since it was founded. Also she created the young people’s community called “TEDxTokyo yz” as a spin-off, which consists of people ranging from teenagers to those at their thirties.

Naho’s main business is “Communication Process Designer”. Later she’ll explain about this unique job (because she created the title) so let her talk about the unimaginable past of a very intelligent and active woman.

*Interview in Omote-sando



I wanna do it, so I do it

TEDxTokyo team members are really friendly, creative and kind. They are all volunteers so there’s no conventional contract between the team and its members. They receive no payment. But, everybody is highly engaged in TEDxTokyo because they purely want to work for it.

Performance of TEDxTokyo team is said to be really excellent. In fact, it is a good example for about 2000 TEDxs in the world. TEDxTokyo is one of the first two TEDxs after TED granted licenses to third parties to organize TEDx, the first TEDx outside the U.S.

The TEDxTokyo team displays outstanding teamwork. Nobody works for TEDxTokyo full-time but the members have their daily jobs, other activities, family and such.  TEDxTokyo is not mandatory but all about people’s passion and willingness.  When someone happens to leave their role for a while due to their daily job, the other members immediately and warmly support the person and take care of the tasks.

Then I founded “TEDxTokyo yz” as a spin-off of TEDxTokyo. The word “yz” comes from Generation X, Y, and Z. X=baby-boomer, Y=my generation, Z=middle 10s – early 20s. So I infused “TEDxTokyo yz” with the meaning of “the platform for Generation Y & Z. And it’s fixed up if the word ends with XYZ (The name includes those three letters).

TEDxTokyo and TEDxTokyo yz together hold regular meetings currently. I’m going there tonight. I’m acting as a bridge between the two TEDx teams. I also design their team structure and functions.

Rome Kanda, a host of the American TV show (@TEDxTokyo May 15, 2010)


Leading a team of professionals

I’m a director of TEDxTokyo, but actually I’m a “chief cook and bottle-washer”. Curation Team is in charge of screening speakers or guests, Partner Team is in charge of negotiations with sponsors. I don’t do these things. What I do is to watch the entire organization in order for the team to smoothly communicate and exert the best performance to deliver a high-quality conference. My role is to design system and structure of the team, facilitate meetings, and make sure to host a great working environment.

I don’t watch them from a watchtower, I always go back and forth between teams. So I can say “Ask ○○○ if you want someone to do it” or I can make up for deficiencies in the organization. I’m less of a director than a facilitator.

Many of our team members are in their 40s and 50s. I’m kind of the youngest person. There are many Americans and the male-female ratio is about 6 to 4.

I’m involved in both TEDxTokyo and TEDxTokyo yz and their cultures are totally different. TEDxTokyo yz is a team in which members can find their favorite things. They can try something new or something they are not good at. Nobody stops you.

On the other hand, you need competence for TEDxTokyo. If you don’t have it, you won’t be able to keep up with other members. TEDxTokyo is a really professional team.

Juggler Daggle Komei(@TEDxTokyo yz October 1, 2011)


No company was hiring

I started working on TEDxTokyo in January 2009. There were only a few members including the co-founders Todd Porter and Patrick Newell in the team. TEDxTokyo was scheduled on May 2009. Less than five month left. “Ok, let’s do it!” That was it. I jumped in and set about building the founding team without a question.

I had studied Organizational Psychology at graduate school in the U.S.  Therefore, I was looking for a job that I could utilize my technical knowledge and internship experiences in this field, such as Strategic Human Resource Management or Change Management in a consulting firm or foreign subsidiaries.

But, there was no such position existed as the organizational development consultant, and there were few consulting firms that excel in system change in Japan.

To make matters worse, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers occurred in 2008. All companies in the area which I was interested in shut the doors. But originally I had two choices such as entering a company and working as a freelancer, so I looked for a way to go while helping my friend’s company and joining business networking events. I was only thinking that I would do what I wanted to do.

In order to start working as a freelancer, network is everything. So I attended social events two or three times a week and I met Todd Porter, one of the founders of TEDxTokyo. It made me decide to stop job hunting and begin my career as a freelancer.


TEDxTokyo Change (April 6, 2012)


Creating a business which nobody knew

I simply follow a voice from my soul. I was interested in relation of humans and culture at college, and majored in Human Sciences, in which you can learn psychology, pedagogy, sociology, ethics and cultural anthropology. It set me on the path to study in the U.S and I’m still curious about humans and culture. That’s why I’m working on organizing groups or teams. I believed that the experience of developing the TEDxTokyo community would lead to build my career.

My main business is “Communication Process Designer”, which I created uniquely. My clients are corporations, NPOs and sometimes even government. “We want to generate as many ideas as possible” “We want to enhance interpersonal relations” “We want you to create a place where we can tell what we really think to each other” “We want to come to a conclusion in time” “We want to organize a team which makes innovations happen” – I “design” a “process” of “communication according to various needs of my colleagues and clients.

Accepting you as yourself, creating an environment in which to embody your ideas and building relationships with those who you can trust – that’s my goal. How do we live like humans? How do we find our own endowed traits, not stipulated by society or culture? I created this job assignment by myself in order to find the answers for those questions. I help people to find their unique values and careers which are better suited for them, and I help people who feel the same way foster communities where they understand and support each other through my business. Also I produce the events, design organizations, carry out projects as a project leader – I’m involved in a wide range of activities related to communication.

Naho records debates or conversations in real-time
and makes a visual representation by using “graphic recording“.

(@green drinks Tokyo, July 2011)


Leaving here for somewhere else

I‘m planning to leave for Europe later this year. I don’t know how long I’ll stay overseas… half a year, a year, three years or 10 years… I’m not even sure myself.

I created a business called “Communication Process Designer” in 2009. People who understand what I do have increased and the number of clients also has increased. I’ve built my network and career from scratch here in Japan, so I want to try the same things in other cultural areas. Some of you may think why I chose Europe, but I decided to go there instinctually. I’ll go to Berlin first and stay in Barcelona eventually. Barcelona is the city where I wanted to live in from way back. But I’ll come back here because I want to fully express things I’ll have absorbed in Europe.

Now we are facing a change of social systems. This is a chicken-and-egg issue – Social change gains cultural change, or cultural change gains social change – I think the change of social systems is promoted simultaneously with the change of culture. But on the other hand, culture or common sense which is seen as mainstream comes after the change of social systems. In that sense, I guess the new culture – a sense of time and space, family values, working life, etc. – will arise in Japan in 10 to 15 years.

What is missing in our current Japanese culture? We might used to have it, but we lost it. Or perhaps we never had it before. In any cases, my hunch tells me that there is a hint about this missing piece in Latin-Spanish culture.  How they show love to their family. How they appreciate their life moments to moments. I believe that we can learn a lot from their culture. And more importantly, I feel that I innately have the essence of the Latin culture within my soul although I’m thoroughly Japanese.

It means that the seed of Japanese future culture is already in myself. But it won’t germinate from the Japanese soil. So I want it to sprout in Europe and raise it there and have it bloom in Japan.


Raison d’être of myself

But don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t matter whether it is “Latin” or “German” or whatsoever. It’s not that I will “import” and “install” foreign culture into Japan.  I simply sense that what I’m given since a birth is somehow similar to Latin culture. I purely wanna embrace what’s flowing within me. Rock on!

To ask people those questions and light up the world where we are now and our lives. That’s what my mission is all about.


Naho’s links

TEDxTokyo 2012 on YouTube: Click!
Her blog (Some articles are written in English): http://communicationprocessdesign.com/

TEDxTokyo: http://tedxtokyo.com/en/
TEDxTokyo yz: http://tedxtokyoyz.com/en/

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