2 Seisen almuni, Lisa Torio and Alisa Yamasaki, share their stories on their careers as multicultural female journalists.
How much do we know of our Seisen graduates’ current careers and the experiences that lead up to their success? Lisa Torio and Alisa Yamasaki are two prestigious graduates who have actively been voicing their opinions on global issues through their unique background as multicultural female journalists. Their inspiring articles cover issues about global awareness and gender inequality, topics widely debated about inside and outside of the Seisen classroom. Their thought-provoking life stories exemplify the wide range of possibilities that await us beyond the limits of high school education and provide a glimpse into a profession which some of us may decide to pursue in the future.
Lisa is a graduate of the class of 2011 and now works as a freelance journalist based in Tokyo. She worked in New York for a year as an editorial intern at The Nation, the oldest weekly magazine in the United States, and as a researcher at Rolling Stone. Since returning to Tokyo in the fall of 2016, she has written for progressive publications in the United States and France, including The Nation, Jacobin, In These Times, and The Funambulist. She has also worked as a fact-checker at VICE Magazine and Buzzfeed News. Her main areas of coverage include the military occupation of Okinawa and the ongoing nuclear disaster issue in Fukushima. Especially interested in political journalism, she writes about political structures that fuel wars, as well as the civilian response to these political issues, including resistance movements and other forms of activism. “With all that's happening around the world today, I think journalism gives me a way of understanding our collective situation and finding a way forward amid all the chaos,” Lisa comments.
In her article, “Nationwide protests oppose ‘anti-conspiracy’ bill, as Japan moves to remilitarize,” Lisa criticizes Prime Minister Abe’s controversial legislation for the anti-terror conspiracy law. She ties the possibility of Japan’s inclination towards war with Abe’s right-wing campaigns since 2012, including the infamous remilitarization attempts. In the narrative, Lisa interviewed protesters in the streets fighting against the anti-conspiracy bill. She questioned the Abe administration's disregard for the massive opposition against the anti-conspiracy bill, presenting the voices of Japanese citizens, old and young, who continue to fear the attack on their freedom. Lisa says that when interviewing political matters, “There are so many things that we don't know until we're on the ground, so talking to people who are directly affected is crucial.”
Alisa graduated Seisen in 2012 and now works as a freelance journalist based in Tokyo. Her career ranges from writing for The Japan Times to writing for global cultural platforms including VICE, Resident Advisor, and MTV. Inspired by her passion for electronic and underground music, she often writes about artists from these scenes. Her international background contributes to her interviews with people worldwide, allowing her to interview Japanese artists in Japanese, then writing English articles by translating the transcripts. Alisa comments, "I realized that my bilingual abilities help promote Japanese artists who deserve international attention, and translation is a really fascinating process that I enjoy as well.”
Alisa takes an interesting approach to direct focus on gender inequality in the music industry. As can be seen in her article “Pushing for a more diverse dancefloor,” she criticizes unequal gender distributions and passive attitudes of Tokyo’s techno scene, where the ratio of showcased male DJs greatly outnumber females. By outlining the dismissal of female DJs in club events and festivals, she stresses the voices of females facing injustice in modern music scenes. Alisa says that focusing on such topics from a feminist angle is never easy, for negative comments spread easily through the media. Personally, Alisa does not believe her own career in journalism has suffered from gender discrimination so far. Nevertheless, albeit seeing a pretty even gender split of writers, she asserts that she sees higher positions in the journalism field as often being occupied by men, for instance with editor positions.
Interestingly, while both Lisa and Alisa’s writing is influenced by the Seisen motto of inquiry and global awareness, the graduates took various paths to become a journalist. Lisa’s major in college was not journalism, but philosophy and political science. Her interest in writing was sparked later in life when she was working with death penalty issues as the student president of Amnesty International. Through activism, she felt deeply impacted by the stories of wrongfully convicted innocents and decided to take a shot at covering their lives in a local newspaper. This was when she decided to pursue an unexpected, yet compelling future in the journalism field.
Similarly, Alisa did not take specific courses in journalism at university. Instead, she took a wide range of courses which were mostly in the humanities area. The broad knowledge she accumulated in her wide-range of classes though, proved helpful for Alisa when she gained interest in promoting Japanese art and culture at the international level. During an internship at The Japan Times after her first year of college, she realized her bilingual abilities were apt in drawing international interest in Japan’s unique culture, which encouraged her to continue pursuing journalistic writing.
As evident in these alumni journalists and their respective experiences, it becomes clear that anyone with a strong intellect and analytical skills can have the potential to write a compelling story. Pursuing your dreams is one thing, but discovering your hidden passion along the way is an equally important experience for the future. Both Lisa and Alisa affirm that although we may not all be born writers, reading insightful article materials greatly enhances both writing and comprehension skills, which not only applies to journalism. Writing is a skill that can be applied to extensive fields and formats, and as international school students, being able to convey a message in multiple languages is a strong advantage. As with our alumni journalists, effective communication amongst a great variety of nationalities opens our mind up to outlooks that are not limited only to politics and cultural diversity.
Finally, when asked about the future of journalism, Alisa showed modest concern over the expansion of the internet and the radical shift of news consumption as readers now view video footages rather than reading more sophisticated publications. “I really don't believe in this and I lament the fact that many writers are losing their jobs,” says Alisa. On the contrary, positivity was expressed by Lisa regarding the world of journalism. She is very supportive of new media platforms and the move away from traditional media, the so-called "sophisticated publications.” She comments, “I think the future of journalism is bright, and I'm excited for all the young, upcoming journalists who will change up the game!”
Links to some of Lisa and Alisa’s past articles: