Pop Culture and Japan

A Conversation With Akemi Solloway Tanaka

When it comes to broadening our understanding of the world, there’s nothing better than talking and listening to people from different cultures. It makes us see life from an alternative perspective and opens our minds to another way of thinking. And when you meet someone who opens your mind to another culture, it’s worth sharing their story with others too.

That’s what I’d like to do for Japanese lecturer and author Akemi Solloway Tanaka. A consultant, women’s rights activist and all-around genuine person, Akemi is dedicated to opening up a dialogue about Japanese culture.

A candid conversation

I met Akemi during the Doki Doki Festival in Manchester and had the pleasure of listening to her talk about her new book, The Power of Chowa. She took the time to get to know everyone who attended the talk, asking them what their interest in Japan was, and incorporating the feedback into the presentation. In addition to promoting her book, she shared her own knowledge of Japan and recommendations about etiquette, travel and history.

But what really struck me about Akemi was her openness to talk about subjects she was passionate about like women’s rights. A few hours later, I was interviewing her in the hotel she was staying at because the stories she told had resonated with me. Akemi reiterated an emotional story about her relationship with Japanese journalist Shiori Ito and how she wanted to help improve rights for Japanese women.

While her book deals with the Japanese concept of harmony and finding balance in her life, Akemi told me that her true aim is to get readers to see the importance of equality for people all over the world. It was an extremely candid moment from a woman who always seemed so poised and collected.

Talking Aid for Japan

In addition to her writing, Akemi is the founder of Aid for Japan, an organisation that helps orphans of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Aid for Japan’s mission is to give the orphans the means to get their lives back and track. The organisation has gone from strength to strength, creating stability for those affected by the tsunami and encouraging the children to go back to school.

Akemi shared the story of Maria, an orphan who she became very close with. Having known Maria since she was ten, Akemi did her best to give Maria the confidence to move forward in life. All these years later, it’s been worth it to see Maria progress.

Chatting to Akemi about her experiences was eye-opening. She constantly strives to improve the world around her. Whether it’s through sharing her culture with new people or fighting for worthy causes, Akemi is truly remarkable.

If you’d like to buy The Power of Chowa, it’s available on Amazon. Alternatively, if you’d like to know more about Aid for Japan and how you can donate, click here.

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