An Introduction to Allyship in Japan

Published: 9 Nov 2021

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The Japan Dive In Festival 2021 kicked off with the keynote session “No One is Perfect – Introduction to Allyship” co-hosted by Lloyd’s Japan, HDI and Aon. Conducted at Sophia University and broadcasted live, the aim of the session was to develop a deeper understanding of what allyship is, the importance of it and what we can all do to become stronger allies.

The keynote speaker of the session, Mr. Hirotada Ototake, a well-known writer, who has tetra-amelia syndrome, a congenital limb difference affecting his arms and legs, expressed his thoughts on the recent Tokyo Paralympics and his vision on how Japan’s education system will be integral in realising an inclusive society. Referencing many changes observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, he highlighted that the transition to remote work, online classes, meal deliveries, and live streaming events for virtual audiences, etc., happened so quickly, and seemingly quite easily, but these types of offerings are options that many minority groups have been hoping for, and campaigning for, over a very long time. Mr. Ototake expressed hope that our society will continue to offer these and many more options so that people from all walks of life, including minorities, have the chance to live enjoyable and prosperous lives. He also noted that, as allies, it is important for all of us to remain conscious of the various difficulties that minority groups are facing.

After Mr. Ototake concluded his keynote speech, Ms. Mariru Suzuki from HDI, Mr. Attila Nyikes from Aon and Ms. Yukiko Kureya from AIG presented questions on allyship.

Looking back on her experience at the Tokyo Rainbow Parade, Ms. Mariru Suzuki of HDI asked, “Are there any specific behaviors or attitudes we should be aware of as an ally? Mr. Ototake replied, “There are many different people with many different approaches toward becoming the society they want to achieve. Despite all of those differences I think it would be best if all people become aware of the need for allyship and develop empathy toward marginalised groups, more and more people will then start aiming for a harmonised goal.”

Next, Mr. Attila Nyikes of Aon spoke about his experience of living in Japan as a foreigner, saying, “There are times when people pay too much attention to your differences and offer you much more attention and help than necessary.” He asked Mr. Ototake about how to respond when there is a mismatch in allyship such as when support is being received unnecessarily or in excess. Mr. Ototake explained he has had similar experiences, and said we should remain open-minded because, “While I may not need it, others may need that support, and it is difficult to judge from the ally’s perspective. There is no right answer, so it’s difficult, but I politely decline when I can handle something myself or when I don’t need the support”.