Japan Society Event: Embrace Rural

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

In late October, I attended a talk about economic development and innovation in rural communities in Japan and the US.

What got me interested in this topic was a video I watched about a rural Japanese town where pretty much the only people left were older residents; many young people had moved to big cities.

Despite everyone being 65+, the residents still try to maintain an active way of life. The video comes from two researchers focused on a study centered on “active” aging — “active” being a term created by the World Health Organization. You can read more about “active aging”, the Global Age-Friendly Cities Project, and also download the brochure on their website.

Being Old in Rural Japan

Synopsis: The story portraits two single-living seniors: the 84-year-old Shimako, a former farmer wife, with a husky deep voice, who still grows vegetables. She regularly meets her neighbors for tea chats and joins the village choir and gymnastics course. Her biggest passion however is gateball, a very popular senior team-sport in Japan, similar to croquet. And there is the 93-year-old Genichi, the oldest man in his village with driving license, who hates sport but loves composing short poems (tanka) on daily events. As he enjoys his freedom in old age, deciding for himself when to get up and when to work, he refuses to live with his son’s family. Also he still cultivates his agricultural field for self-subsistence.

I thought it was a fascinating video. It’s about 35-min long, in German with English subtitles.


Talk Overview

The talk was co-organized by New Food Economy; Design and Urban Ecologies, Parsons, The New School for Social Research; and Slow Food New York City. Presented at the Japan Society as part of their Innovators Network.

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

Our first speaker was Richard McCarthy, from Slow Food USA. He went to Japan to discuss and explore rural strategies through the Innovators Network. There was a moderated discussion following the presentations, led by Kate Cox, New Food Economy editor.


Rural Japan and Kuni

The Japanese speaker, Tsuyoshi Sekihara, is an artist who is involved in rural Japanese development. He was sharing the concept of Kuni and how it developed.

Kuni Manifesto

It’s easier to show the manifesto rather than explain it.

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

Explanations of Kuni:

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

 


Rural US and the Aspen Institute

I learned a few interesting facts from the Aspen Institute speaker, Janet Topolsky, focused on Rural Development Hubs:

  • About 49 million Americans live in rural communities
  • Over 50% of the Native American population live in rural communities
  • The top industries in rural areas are: education, health, and manufacturing, in that order

Rural Development Hubs: Strengthening America’s Rural Innovation Infrastructure

Rural Development Hubs Executive Summary

Japan Society: Embrace Rural

 


Observations

Seems like there are a lot of business opportunities in rural areas for creative entrepreneurs. Rural areas tend to get overlooked. Traditionally, businesses focus on scaling up. Rather than focus on scalability, the speakers suggested focusing on penetration. That is, what percentage of a population is using your business.

Marketplace, on NPR, recently discussed the lack of broadband access in rural Georgia.

A lot of rural America is a desert when it comes to high-speed internet access. And that’s a drag on economic growth: Communities without broadband have a hard time attracting new residents and businesses…

Another problem rural communities have is dwindling populations. Here’s a recent CBS Sunday Morning video about the population struggles of small towns in Japan, now facing extinction, as the country’s overall population decreases from a peak a few years ago. For instance, in the town featured in the video, the school’s 6th grade class now only has 6 students, down from dozens.

The video above reviews some of the more creative and technological solutions Japan has invented. Ideas range from repurposing malls to senior centers, to high-tech mausoleums, to robots — Japan likes robots — officiating weddings due to a shortage of monks. Lot of interesting concepts to think about.


Now that I think about it, this story of rural villages populated by an aging population reminds me of Tokyo Story, by Yasujiro Ozu.

Japanese Court Music and Dance: Gagaku and Bugaku

I’m taking a break from all this portfolio stuff to talk about something fun I got to do recently.

Over the past 2 years or so, I have been learning about Japan and Japanese culture. Going farther back, I’ve been interested in Asian cultures for many years, having joined Asia Society Texas many years ago.

The Japan Society, decided to dedicate some of it’s programming this year to have an imperial focus, in part due to the abdication of Japanese Emperor Akihito.

Japanese society being what it is, there are many ceremonies and rituals when a new emperor ascends the throne. They involve, among other things, music. And the fun thing I go to do recently was attend a performance of Japanese court music.


Gagaku

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provides the following description for Gagaku:

Gagaku, characterized by long, slow songs and dance-like movements, is the oldest of the Japanese traditional performing arts. It is performed at banquets and ceremonies in the Imperial Palace and in theatres throughout the country, and encompasses three distinct arts. The first, Kuniburi no Utamai, features ancient Japanese songs, partial accompaniment by harp and flute and simple choreography. The second consists of instrumental music (especially wind instruments) and a ceremonial dance developed on the Asian continent and subsequently adapted by Japanese artists. The third, Utamono, is danced to vocal music whose texts include Japanese folk songs and Chinese poems. Influenced by the politics and culture of different periods over its long evolution, Gagaku continues to be transmitted to apprentices by masters in the Music Department of the Imperial Household Agency, many of whom are the descendants of families with deep roots in the art. It is not only an important cultural tool in confirming Japanese identity and a crystallization of the history of Japanese society, but also a demonstration of how multiple cultural traditions can be fused into a unique heritage through constant recreation over time.

Here’s UNESCO video on Gagaku:

Essentially Gagaku is the entire performance and Bagaku is the dance.

Gagaku Instruments

There are 3 types of musical instruments: Wind, String, and Percussion. I’m not sure if all of these instruments are included in every Gagaku performance, but these were listed in my program.

Program insert showing different types of instruments
Program insert showing different types of instruments

Wind Instruments

These are the wind instruments.

  • Ryûteki
  • Komabue
  • Kagurabue
  • Hichiriki
  • Shô

Gagaku translates to “elegant music” and that’s probably the best way to describe the sound of the Shô. You’d probably recognize the sound if you heard it. It’s a “mouth-organ”.

When I was watching the performance, the shô players rotated their instruments over some kind of urn. I thought it was something to catch extra moisture, like spit-valves in trombones. I learned from the video below that the shô has wax inside where the mouthpiece is located and these urns have small pieces of coal in them, which the musicians rotate the shô over to heat up the wax.

String Instruments

  • Sô (Gakusô)
  • Biwa
  • Wagon (yamato-goto)
Biwa, string instrument
Biwa, string instrument

The Gakusô is a type of Koto, which is a 13-string instrument and is the national instrument of Japan. Modern kotos are derived from the gakusô used in Gagaku performances. I couldn’t find a great photo, but the wikipedia article where I found this info is interesting.

The yamatogoto, or wagon, is another type of Koto. But it usually has only 6 strings or so. It’s also considered fully native to Japan, unlike the other types of Koto which were imported from China.

The wagon is on the left side.
The biwa is on the right side.

 

Percussion Instruments

  • Shôko
  • Taiko (tsuridaiko)
  • Kakko
  • San-no-tsuzumi
  • Shakubyôshi

Shôko is a kind of small, metal gong that sounds like someone tapping a iron/stainless steel skillet with a drumstick. The taiko is a kind of large, hanging drum. It’s struck with big, padded mallets. The kakko is a double-headed drum that’s beated with skinny drumsticks. (Shakubyoshi look like 2 wooden sticks. To be honest, I don’t remember these but maybe I was watching something else.)

These are photos I took after the performance. The theater lights helped them turn out really well! 🙂

 


Bugaku

Our program didn’t include much information about the dancing portion, but UNESCO comes through again. Here’s a video that goes much more into the dance portion of Bugaku.


When I was there listening, I felt like I had been transported into a Kurasawa film. In particular, “Dreams” from 1990. And specifically, the scene in the peach orchard when all the dolls come alive.

I love this movie a lot but I have found throughout the years that this particular scene is very difficult to find online (for free).

However, the trailer for the movie is available. The only problem is that it’s set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Invierno and La Primavera. (Violin Concerto in E Major, Op. 8, No. 1, RV 269, “Spring”: I. Allegro; and Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, “Winter”: III. Allegro.) It’s not bad music, but it’s not Japanese.

Anyway, if you are looking for more information on Gagaku and Bugaku, here’s some information:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bugaku
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gagaku
  • https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/gagaku-00265

Notes from “Career Management for Introverts”

I recently attended a 90-minute talk on career management for introverts, held at the Science, Business, and Industry Library in NYC. Here are my notes.

Overview

A review of the speaker and the talk

The speaker was Win Sheffield who is a career coach. He speaks at the NYPL on job hunting and career management. He’s giving an upcoming talk on networking in October.

For this talk, an overview on the NYPL website says:

Do you feel you shouldn’t have to sell yourself? Are you uncomfortable around people who are talking about their accomplishments? Do you find yourself looking for ways to get out of conversations rather than into them? Perhaps instead you find yourself coming up with the answer while the person you are listening to goes on and on or maybe you like to take time to consider your answers. If you have had any of these experiences, you may be interested in this talk.

This talk is part of the NYPL Career Services series. You can read about the talk online: https://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2019/09/11/career-management-introverts.

I also included a link to the Facebook Live video at the end. But, if you don’t want to watch a 90 minute video, you can read my notes below.


My Notes

Ok, let’s get into my notes.

First we discussed the difference between introversion and extroversion.

  • Remember that introverts are hired for skills related to being an introvert — such as reading, working independently, and deep thinking.
  • The US is NOT an introverted country, but the UK and Japan are.

Phone Conversations

Turns out, no one likes talking on the phone.

We discussed why phone calls are annoying:
  1. The expressions and body language of the person on the other line are hidden.
  2. It requires an immediate response; you cannot mull over your answer.
Some tips to help make phone calls easier:
  • Put up a mirror by the phone, to help you remember to smile.
  • Stand up while on the phone, to project more energy.

Small Talk

Despite the stigma, small talk is good for introverts.

Although we kind of hate it, small talk is a good way to make connections.

It can help if you think of ideas in advance. Good topics can include the weather, food, transportation.

We also discussed talking about decorations or photos someone has on their desk or office. That can help put the other person at ease.


Tips on Meeting People

Show empathy

I can help to put yourself in their shoes. For instance, if you see someone is wearing new shoes…. Imagine they still need to break in their shoes. Their feet are uncomfortable!

Send questions in advance

It can also help to send questions in advance, particularly if you’re job hunting. This is a low-pressure method to ask for support. For instance, you can say:

“I’m not seeking a job from you or anyone you know, but I’m looking to move into [name job area] and I’d like to get your opinion about [the information you’re looking for].”

When having conversations with extroverts:

Extroverts can have a tendency to dominate the conversation. Sending questions in advance can be helpful, to help keep them on track.

Remember to talk to people with whom you feel comfortable:

  • People who’s job it is to talk to you and provide help (help desk, customer support)
  • Friends
  • People in a non-authority role

The most important thing when meeting someone is talking about what you’ve already done.


Telling Stories

Tell people what you’ve already done by telling your story.

There’s a formula to telling a story about one of your accomplishments. It goes like this:

  • Setup: What is the context of the story.
  • Trigger: What changed to get the story going; aka “the challenge”.
  • Plan: What was your plan.
  • Unplanned outcome: How did things go off-track
  • Chaos: How did that lead to chaos/unplanned expectations.
  • Success: How did you resolve the chaos and get things back on track.

Where to use this method:

  • Cover letters & resumes
  • Elevator pitches
  • Anytime someone asks you about yourself

It helps to practice though. (Tips below!)

But, what if the story is negative?

Someone asked if you should tell stories even if they’re negative. The answer is Yes. The reason is that without conflict/chaos, the story doesn’t show growth.


Q & A / Pro-Tips!

A technique to improve your storytelling.

Someone who identified herself as a writer asked a question. She said she worked from home alone so much that she was often surprised by the sound of her voice.

A suggestion was to make a video of yourself talking, or telling a story. Then you can see how you come across to others. But you have to do this at least 6 times, and watch it, if you want the best outcome.

A tip for extroverts

Another person asked about being an extrovert. She said that during an interview she becomes very extroverted. She wasn’t sure how to handle that.

As the speaker mentioned, introversion and extroversion is a spectrum. Not everyone is always introverted or always extroverted.

His suggestion for extroverts is to always take a breath before giving an answer. That helps them slow down.


Final Tips

Planning Ahead

  • Conduct a job campaign, not a job search. A job search is you fitting yourself to the company. A job campaign means creating your own opportunity. Network, make small talk, etc.
  • Be aware and optimistic
  • Know your stories

Take thinking breaks

Smokers go outside to recharge with cigarettes. As an introvert, you should go outside to recharge and collect your thoughts.


Facebook Live

Here’s the Facebook Live stream. I may end up watching this again to refresh my memory. You get the handout / agenda here.

BTW, I was the one who said food is a good topic for small talk. 🙂

They recommend using headphones, if you have difficulty hearing.

Win Sheffield presents Career Management for Introverts. #SIBLEvents #WinSheffield #Introverts #JobHunt #JobHunting #CareerAdvice #CareerCounseling #Free #FreeLecture #LibraryProgram #NYPL

Posted by Career Services NYPL on Wednesday, September 11, 2019


I also published this on Medium: https://medium.com/@alliwalk/notes-from-career-management-for-introverts-from-the-new-york-public-library-c6c4f59f5b3

UX Camp 2019

On Saturday June 29, 2019, I found myself again at UX Camp. UX Camp, which I also attended and wrote about 2 years ago, is an “unconference” which means that there is not set schedule of topics or speakers. Instead, the participants come up with the schedule by proposing talks they want to talk about. (Then the organizers choose the time and which room.) This year’s UX Camp was again held at General Assembly.

As this was my second time going, I tried to be a little more social and chit-chat with other participants. Unfortunately, Jared Spool and Dave Malouf weren’t in attendance. Jared Spool is a great speaker — here’s a video I watched recently. However, I decided to not only get over my fears of small talk, but also get over my fear of presenting my ideas in public. So I gave a presentation, based on one of my favorite prior blog posts of this year, “My Favorite Pro-Tips from NYPL Experts on Crafting a Resume”!

Ok, only a few people attended, but presenting was a very satisfying experience.

Most of the people who signed up to lead sessions did not have slides. I did because I based them on my blog post, so it was relatively easy to put the deck together because my thoughts were already written and organized.

 

Overview

Other than my own presentation, here are a few sessions I attended:

Interviewing

One of the participants wanted to discuss interviewing, because she found herself in a new situation and was curious about other people’s experiences. I used the opportunity to make a comment on my observations about what UX hiring managers are looking for, especially regarding portfolios, according to the articles I’ve researched online.

Mentorship

This was kind of a workshop about mentorship. We spent a bit of time discussing our experiences with mentorship. After getting through everyone, the speaker led us through an exercise where we discussed what a mentor is and is not.

First, a mentor is not:

  • a parent
  • going to punish you
  • responsible for your career
  • necessarily your boss, but could be

A mentor is:

  • Someone who has achieved what you want to achieve. Someone said, “They only need to be one step ahead of you.”
  • Has current knowledge about the job, current events, etc
  • A champion for your success

We then broke out in small groups to talk about: How to create boundaries, Framing your conversation (with your mentor); and Getting from having no mentor to having a mentor. Afterwards, we shared our discussions.
Tips on Working with a Mentor

  • Respect the time of your mentor. Pretend your mentor has 100 mentees
  • Be responsive and be clear about what you want.
  • Fully implement their advice and then follow up with them with the results
  • Boosters; some people really like to help others
  • Be willing to provide value to the mentor

A book mentioned was the 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton.

Visual Storytelling

Another talk I went to was by an architect who was a very talented illustrator and hoping to break into product design. His talk was on Visual Storytelling.

He showed us some examples of his work and we discussed the story he was trying to tell with his images. He also discussed his process a little.

Some tips I got from him about visual storytelling:
– Pick key moments to visualize
– Show only 1 (one) idea per image
– Include enough relevant information, but don’t go overboard in detail

I wanted to ask him questions about design and improving in visual design, but when I tried to ask my questions, I found that my anxieties about improving in design only aided in making my words come out jumbled. He tried to answer anyway and suggested that just knowing what’s good design and what’s not good is OK.

I like his tips — very clear and straightforward.

Cultural Relevancy and Experience Design

The very last talk I went to was about Cultural Relevancy and Experience Design. It was a very interesting topic. The speaker shared with us situations in which technology (sensors, photography) failed her in key moments due to the technology not being tested on a diverse audience. It’s true that some sensors are poorly calibrated to pick up darker skin tones. For instance, “self-driving vehicles may have a harder time detecting people with dark skin”. It’s probably not because the technology cannot do it, but because it’s not being testing for a variety of skin tones. https://www.businessinsider.com/self-driving-cars-worse-at-detecting-dark-skin-study-says-2019-3

I also got some recommendations for books:
– Design in The Era of the Algorithm
– Politics of Design
– Mismatched

Conclusion

Although I missed seeing some well-known names at the conference, I still got something out of it — namely public speaking experience.