Hello, my name is Risa Kamio, a Member of the Setagaya City Council. I was born in Setagaya, Tokyo. After graduating from the University, I left Japan and went to the United States to work as a Japanese teacher at an elementary school in the State of Maryland. I taught Japanese and Japanese culture to children from kindergarten to 6th grade. As I taught them about Japan, I also gained a new perspective — looking at my own country from overseas and learning about Japan’s strengths and weaknesses.
In 2008, I was hired by the Japan-America Society of Washington DC as the Director of Educational Programs. In 1912, Japan gifted 3000 cherry trees to the US as a symbol of friendship, and every year our Society held the Cherry Blossom Street Festival to promote Japanese culture, with over 40,000 attendees. I was also in charge of a national Japanese language and culture competition for American high school students. Those students’ passion and love for Japan made me realize that Japan has so much more to do to promote its culture to the world.
I got married to a Japanese diplomat who was working in Washington DC, and he later was posted in Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was able to experience other cultures and make new friends in those countries, as I learned their history, society and culture, and customs. Throughout this time I was very fortunate to have a boss who understood my passion for promoting Japanese culture, so I was able to keep working for the Japan-America Society in Washington DC while going back and forth between Europe and the US, even after my son was born.
My family came back to Japan in 2016. My son was three years old, and it was time for us to find a nursery school or day care center for him. I was in shock to learn how hard it was in Japan to find a place where my son can receive an education while his parents are working. Most day care centers do not meet working parents’ needs, and the lack of those centers is still one of the top problems Japan faces.
I wondered how we can change the situation. And I realized that one of the reasons why our system does not meet mother’s needs is that there are few advocates for them. Not many mothers or women become politicians. I also realized that in many ways Japan is still a “Galapagos society” (a culture and society that is isolated from the world) and lags behind the trends in other nations to support mothers, and especially working mothers. Some of our old rules and customs need to change. To do that, I thought that someone like myself, a proud native of Setagaya who also has the experience of living and working overseas, might have much to contribute.
So I decided to run for the City Council of Setagaya, where I grew up. It was a hard challenge, but in 2019 I was elected to serve as one of 50 council members in Setagaya. The city of Setagaya currently has over 920,000 residents, which is the largest number of any ward in Tokyo. There are so many things to do, and so many tasks to make everyone’s life safe and happy. As your representative, your voice is important to me as we work to change our society and the world.
Let’s work together to connect Setagaya to the world! Let’s work together to make Setagaya the best place to live in Japan for everyone.