October 2016 was a busy time for project iridescent. From Tokyo Design week to attending workshops, the project week was full of work.

We were also supposed to meet Prof. Takamatsu from gender studies department at International Christian University in Japan. ICU is one of the top liberal Arts college in Japan. However, due to slight miscommunication, we couldn’t meet up with her in Tokyo but we still got an interview with her over Skype.

Sharing incredible knowledge and deep insight to her career and thinking in gender studies, Takamatsu sensei gave us some incredible feedback. Let’s take a glimpse at our interview with her.

Thank you for giving us  your time sensei. As you know we’ve been working on combating gender inequality especially in workplaces in Japan.We also recently won 50,000 yen for the best vision project in a presentation recently. However, we wanted to know your views and also gain some knowledge on the field of your expertise.

I would love to give you some insights and feedback on your project but can you tell me more about your project and what do you aim to achieve?

 Our goal is to create a workshop and even a network of workshops to combat gender inequality in Japan. But we achieve this through the use of different medias. We have three sections – visual media (zines), audio media (radio shows and podcasts), creative writing (blogs on our website). Workshops are a result of our combined knowledge gained from these media to create awareness and showcase this knowledge to a bigger audience. 

So we wanted to ask you about your education and how it has helped you in teaching gender studies and maybe what you talk about in your classes?

So when I was a high school student I wasn’t even aware of the word ‘gender’. First time I learnt about gender studies was at university and my major was philosophy. I approached gender through a philosophical perspective. It soon became an interesting topic to me and the developing countries interested me even more in this subject. In grad school, I opted for gender and development. I studied in Thailand and really, 24 hours I wanted to study about gender studies because it was so interesting for me. All of my classmates came from south east Asia and they were already specialists in gender. So i got a lot of knowledge and insight from them through discussion and that really constructed my idea of ‘gender’ and how it changes perspective through gender studies. After I came back to Japan, I continued to study gender studies at University of Tokyo but the perspective of gender studies and discussions were not as strong in Japan. So I studied mainly by myself and colleagues.

So now when I teach, I usually talk about gender and its relation to development or politics in my lecture. In fact before I started working in academic field, I worked in Myanmar in developmental field. So what I teach in my classes is not just from my reading but also from the experiences I had in various countries. So my entire educational background is reflected in my teaching style.

At first we were going to focus our project in Pakistan but due to some complications, we had to withdraw this plan even though we had already done a huge amount of research and establish many contacts in Pakistan. So we turned our focus to Japan and the impact of gender in Japanese workplaces. Our target audience is the younger generation as they don’t really think about gender as an issue and do very little to bring any change. So we wanted to mainly inspire the youth and make them aware of the situation and make them think that there’s something they can do for this situation as well.

Yes that’s also a concern of mine. The general younger population of Japan is not aware of this whole gender situation and personally I would want to know why? I think it’ll be great if you get to know the views of some Japanese high school students, if you can. Maybe interview them. do you have such an opportunity?

In our school 30% of the students are  Japanese but noting the fact that this is an International school, it would be more beneficial to go outside our immediate community and interview students in pure Japanese high schools. We have a few neighboring high schools like Karuizawa high school where we can conduct interviews.

Yeah I think that’ll be a great thing to do. From experience and perspective, I would like to say that gender inequality in Japan is such a tough thing to break so far especially in labor markets because its so old that it has been set in people’s minds. In other developed countries its common for mothers to work but in Japan its so difficult for pregnant women to work especially in labor markets. About 60% women quit their jobs after they have first child. 60% that’s so high. So the younger generation look at their mothers and think this is how its supposed to be and the  trend never leaves the society.

That is very true. It’s so common that it has become a part of the Japanese culture, a social norm. We attended a presentation from a different organisation called ‘Because I am a Girl’ which targets the children. We thinks it’s more effective since children can have an impact and when they speak up the adults will have to focus on the issue. Plus younger generation will become tomorrow’s citizens. What would be your opinion on this?

I think that’s a great point and I think your target audience is appropriate. I would like to make a suggestion – try to establish contact with politicians.

We have thought about it too and it may seem a bit out of reach. It is so because we are all young students and all foreigners so it might be a problem for politicians to take us seriously.  But we live in Japan and some of us have been living in Japan for a long time.

I understand. I think establishing a dialogue is important maybe through a workshop where university students can also join. So if I can help for this please let me know.

That’ll be great! In fact we are holding our first official workshop in a week’s time at ISAK to get the views of our fellow students and know workshops will be effective.

Another concern is that students in various parts of Japan have different perspective. Students in Nagano will have different opinion that those in Tokyo.

That is true. From our experience we believe that students in Tokyo are more open about this issue. However, we still feel its a bit of a taboo and they don’t want to talk about it. And that is also a goal for us. To make the younger generation comfortable with this issue and make them confident to talk about it. The need to know that they can speak up about it and take action for it.

I think your opinion is accurate. Do you maybe want to talk to university students?

Yes, we think university students are a great option since they need to be prepared about the problem of gender inequality in workplaces since they will be job hunting soon.

I think that’s a smart approach but you also need to focus on high school students since university students are already pretty much aware about it.And if you need any help in contacting university students, I can provide assistance.

Thank you so much sensei. We will keep all your feedback and suggestions in mind and would love to meet you next time we are in Tokyo.

It was a pleasure to have this interview and all the best for your project. See you in March hopefully.

That was  the end of our interview with Takamatsu sensei and we are very happy to announce that we will be holding a workshop at ICU in March. A big thank you to Takamatsu sensei for making this possible.