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BCCJ Member Spotlight: Rachel Ferguson, Kosodate Village
Written by BCCJ
September 27, 2022
Thank you for joining us, Rachel. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and coming to Japan?
Thank you for having me. I moved to Japan from Scotland in 2005 and worked as an English teacher, TV weathercaster, writer, singer and narrator before founding Ryozan Park (RZP) with my husband in 2012. Then in April this year (2022), I co-founded a nonprofit called Kosodate Village which I am now representing at the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
It’s been a remarkable 10-years you have had with Ryozan Park, also picking up an Entrepreneur of the Year BBA on the way. How have you seen it develop over the years, both in terms of community and what you offer?
Since Ryozan Park Sharehouse opened in 2012, we have added offices, a preschool, event spaces, a cafe, a chef’s kitchen, a gallery and more. Most developments are the result of the organic growth of the community in addition to following our own threads of interest. When you bring like-minded individuals together, evolution is natural.
Our next big project is Ryozan Park Urban Green, which will open in Otsuka next year. Designed by award-winning architect, Akihisa Hirata, it will feature shared offices for sustainable business and urban agriculture growth, as well as a cafe on the first floor and also family apartments designed for collaborative living.
So 2022, Kosodate Village is introduced to the world. Can you describe your purpose in 1 sentence?
Kosodate Village is a nonprofit organisation promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in Japan through education.
Our sustaining activity is the running of Ryozan Park Preschool which we took over from Toho Kenzai (RZP’s parent company) and we also run DEI-based workshops and courses for adults and teens.
Could you take us through some of the social challenges experienced within your community, which have highlighted a need for a sharper focus on DEI education?
A glance at the newspaper shows Japan is lagging in gender equality. One of the biggest challenges is that the relevant terms for DEI do not yet exist in the Japanese language. So we start by explaining words like empowerment, diversity, equity and inclusion as simply as possible and demonstrating how they are relevant in Japan.
We are currently looking for donations of iPads to assist with this education, so that we can start using a great software kindly donated by EdTech firm Wonderlab in our afterschool programme.
From November we will hold our inaugural Girls STEM series of 4 workshops. Outer Space is the theme and we are excited to have experts in astrophysics and AI talking to middle school girls about their specialist subjects and sharing their experience as women working in STEM in Japan. We need funding for our November course! If this is something you or your organisation might like to be involved in, please do get in contact immediately.
Also, as a brand new NPO, one big challenge is getting our name out there. If anyone would like to offer advice or discounted/pro bono PR services, we would be most grateful!
Other ideas are also welcome! If you have an idea for a course or collaboration, again, please do get in touch!
On a personal note, how do you juggle your day-to-day as a mother, serial entrepreneur and community leader?
I am very fortunate to have a great support network within the family and community. Plus, I like to work to my own schedule and thrive on variety – no two days are the same. It can make for chaotic periods but the payoff is worth it.