I realized the "meaning of being born in this world" just before graduation from high school
I am currently the representative of Kizuki Group (Kizuki Co., Ltd., and NPO Kizuki). The mission of the group is to "create a society where you can start over and over again." The main business of Kizuki Group is preparing youth, with problems such as school refusal, depression and developmental disorders as well as high school dropouts, who wish to "start over once again through entrance examination" for university entrance examination. The feature of the prep school is that about a half of the lecturers also have experience of school refusal or are dropouts. Our aim is to convey to those who have lost confidence that it is possible to start over.
I started this business because of my experience of thinking "I want to start over my life once again." I had constantly faced "difficulties in life" from my childhood, such as getting bullied because of a developmental disorder or turning to delinquency as a result of the breakdown of the family. However, just before my high school graduation I realized that "Nothing will change if I keep blaming this on the environment I was born in. I am the one who will continue to suffer unless I make efforts to change the situation." Since then, "graduating from a university and becoming a decent person" became my theme.
The first task I assigned to myself was to "keep track of the news every day." For me, "a decent person" meant "someone who checks news programs and newspapers without fail."
The September 11 coordinated terrorist attacks occurred in the fall of my third year at high school. I was watching the news program as usual, and an anchor was reporting the U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan. Then the news showed the painful look of a man who lost his family to a mistaken bomb attack, which was followed by American school children saying, "We were attacked by terrorists and you can't help it if people in Afghanistan die."That was the moment when I felt I have found what I should do. I felt very strongly, "I want to become a person who can change the world."
However, I did not know how I can become "a person who can change the world." So I repeatedly visited book stores and gathered information by browsing various materials and found that there were two ways to do so. They are to become a scholar or a UN staff member.Next, I was inquiring what to do to become a scholar or UN staff member and found that many scholars had graduated from the University of Tokyo. And I learned that many International Christian University (ICU) graduates had become UN staff members. This is the background of why I chose to study at ICU.
My days at ICU in search of my own mission
I finally joined ICU after spending two years preparing for the entrance examination. I was in a hurry to "find my own theme as soon as possible and make up for the lost two years." Just then, I learned that Mr. Fumiya Kamikawaji (class of 2005), then a fourth year student at ICU, was holding a Japan Israel Palestine Student Conference by inviting Israeli and Palestinian students and I participated in it right away. The program involved Israeli and Palestinian students lodging together for about a month and engaging in discussions. By the time the conference ended and the time came for the students to go back to their respective countries, they were crying and hugging each other at the airport. What I felt from this scene was that though this may not change the world soon, I too can create an opportunity to change the world.
Along with this activity, another experience that had a significant impact on me was my visit to Bangladesh, which was then known as the world's poorest nation. I visited Bangladesh because I felt that I may be able to find an answer to the question, "What I should be doing in this world," by learning about people's lives in the supposedly poorest country in the world. What I was reminded of once again by witnessing how people lived there was, "People's happiness is not brought about by money or goods."
On one side there were people living happily without a TV set or a fridge, on the other you see women engaged in prostitution, who though financially well-off, lamented about their hardships and not knowing why they were even living, with many ending up slashing their wrists. I saw a teenage me in those women and the deep solitude being felt by them with no one acknowledging their existence, and for the first time I clearly realized, "I want to do a job that protects people's dignity." Afterwards, I realized that was the "mission" Prof. Katsuhiko Mori (current Dean of College of Liberal Arts of ICU), who guided me on senior thesis research as my advisor at ICU, told me about.
After studying international relations at college, Prof. Mori built his career by engaging in his interests with a great focus but in unconventional ways such as studying politics at The Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, researching diplomatic issues at the graduate school of International University of Japan and gaining experience in the field of ODA as a JICA staff member. I admired his way of life.When I was getting worried over job hunting, I consulted Prof. Mori, saying, "Whichever company I think of working for, I feel that there is something else that I can do." Prof. Mori gave me an important suggestion, saying "There are labor (to earn a living), work (based on what you like) and mission (what one ought to do in the society). People seek different things in a job but what you are looking for is a mission".
I kept asking "What is my mission" in my days at ICU in my encounters with these respected seniors and professors and I firmly believe that those days helped in developing the crucial core inside me for leading my future life.
I want to extend "a society where you can start over and over again" throughout the world!
After graduating from the university, I joined a trading firm but suffered from depression within half a year, left the company and withdrew from the society. I chose a trading firm so that I can do something related to developing countries, but I was not able to convince myself that my assignment at the company was my mission.
After undergoing medical treatment for a period of time, my condition got better and I thought of what I want to do, writing it down in a notebook. When I was contemplating my wish to do some work that protects people's dignity, based on my experience in Bangladesh, and what I can do with my competence at that time, an idea came to my mind that if there is a prep school where those who have experienced school refusal and dropout can study once again, it may help people like me to regain their dignity.
Soon I started putting together a plan and applied to a business plan contest for nurturing social entrepreneurs. My plan was accepted and received funding for starting the business. With this fund, I started Kizuki prep school in 2011 and have been continuing with that to this day. The mission of Kizuki prep school is to "create a society where you can start over and over again."
It has been about seven years since then. As of March 2018, Kizuki has five schools in Japan (Yoyogi, Ikebukuro and Akihabara in Tokyo, Musashi-Kosugi in Kanagawa, and Osaka) and also operates Skype-based classes for those who have difficulties going out of home.We also started dispatching and training lecturers for colleges to prevent students from dropping out and a learning support project for children from poor families. In the summer of 2018, we plan to open a prep school for young people with developmental disorders.
Moving forward, we would like to look outside Japan too, while enhancing the projects in Japan. One of such initiatives is the Gaza Entrepreneur Challenge, an entrepreneur support contest held in Gaza, Palestine. This event is conducted by Mr. Kamikawaji, my ICU senior who invited me to the Japan Israel Palestine Student Conference when I was at the university, and is meant to encourage the people of Gaza to gain the confidence to earn a living through their own efforts. I have been visiting Gaza to support this event every year for the past several years.Phenomena such as depression and developmental disorder have become serious social issues not only in Japan but also in other developed countries and I think they will become social problems in developing nations in the future. A mission to "create a society where you can start over and over again" is required not only in Japanese society but also around the world. We would like to work as much as we can to create a society where it is easier to live by leveraging the knowhow and human resources we have developed so far.
Yusuke Yasuda Kizuki Group (Kizuki Co., Ltd., and NPO Kizuki)
Graduated from the then Division of International Studies, College of Liberal Arts, in 2008
Born in Yokohama in 1983, he is the representative of Kizuki prep school, which provides individual training to students who wish to study once again after going through school refusal, dropping out, withdrawing from society, or experiencing depression and developmental disorder, and helps them to take college entrance examinations once again.
After graduating from ICU, Yasuda joined a trading firm but left the job due to depression. After withdrawing from the society for a period of time, he opened Kizuki prep school in 2011. As of 2018, it has five schools in Japan (Yoyogi, Ikebukuro and Akihabara in Tokyo, Musashi-Kosugi in Kanagawa and Osaka). It also offers classes on Skype for students who have difficulties going out of home. It also dispatches and trains lecturers for colleges to prevent students from dropping out and a learning support project for children from poor families, as activities to solve social problems faced by youth. Yasuda recently authored a book titled Kurayami demo hashiru (Go forward even in darkness) (April 2018. Kodansha Ltd.).