From Miss Japan to Freelance Producer: An Interview with ID15 ICU graduate Honami Iizuka of the research institute UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY (powered by HAKUHODO) Part 1

ID15 ICU graduate Honami Iizuka is the producer of the UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY (UoC), winner of the 2016 Miss Japan Greenery for Life award, and currently a member of the Miss Japan Management Committee.

In Part 1 of our interview with Honami Iizuka, she discussed her background and her experiences in UoC. Part 2 will focus on her activities concerning Miss Japan.

Q1. Please tell us about what you do.

I am the producer of the UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY (UoC), a research institute specialising in creativity.

I also won the 2016 Miss Japan Greenery for Life award and worked one year from January 2016 as a representative. Right now I’m a member of the Miss Japan Management Committee.

Q2. What exactly is the UNIVERSITY of CREATIVITY?

UoC is a learning platform and research institute of creativity, where we explore, experiment, cultivate, and implement human creativity.

There are many fields of research, including creativity x AI, sustainability, new economy, gastronomy, and the creative industry. We opened our campus in Akasaka in September last year, aiming to produce moments of ‘surprise’ rather than ‘understanding’ through the power of creativity, and to become a “port of creativity.”

In the age of AI, IoT, and digitalisation, we believe the greatest capital of humankind is creativity. We operate everyday under the core philosophy “We are ALL born Creative.”

UoC values cross-disciplinary research: everyone involved is a Giver in some way, regardless of their expertise, profession, or age. This is why UoC has a high affinity with ICU and liberal arts!

As part of the production team, I do production and management work, creating an environment where directors in each field can do as they like. I manage the campus, plan and produce events, create our website, and do PR work.

Inside the UoC campus

Q3. What prompted you to join this project?

In the summer of 2019, when I went freelance, I was called on by the Supervisor of UoC, Kentaro Ichiki. I was introduced to him by a former ICU professor of international relations, Masafumi Nagao, who had told me about him. Mr. Ichiki used to create commercials as the Creative Director of HAKUHODO, but decided to use advertisement, communication, and creativity for the public good to solve social issues, rather than for marketing products. He has an indescribable funky aura that draws people in, and I was infatuated with his nature from the first time I met him.

From there I started helping him out with his HAKUHODO projects through translation work and as an event staff, and got invited to UoC during its planning stage before its launch. I’ve always had great respect for him, and since UoC embodies what goes on in Mr. Ichiki’s head, I really wanted to work with him and bring his vision to life, so I decided to join this project.

Q4. So your connections from ICU were a great asset to you. What brought you to ICU?

I lived in Taiwan (0-2 years old) and Shanghai (8-18 years old) due to my father’s work, and received English education in American schools. I was torn between going to America or Japan for university, but since I might never return to Japan if I didn’t go then, I decided to go to a Japanese university. I’d also lived such a long time away from Japan that I didn’t know much about the country and my roots, which was not good if I wanted to represent Japan overseas. I considered a few other universities, but when I went to the ICU open campus and met other students and saw the beautiful campus, I instinctively knew this was where I wanted to go. So I entered as a September student and led a happy, fulfilling student life. I really love ICU!

I had an interest in international relations from volunteering in a school for AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa when I was in high school, so I majored in international relations and minored in politics. For my senior thesis I made a comparative analysis of MDGs and SDGs under Professor Mori’s supervision, writing 136 pages! The SDGs kicked off in 2015 – the year I graduated – so it was a timely topic and I remember really enjoying the research. In my junior year I studied abroad in Middlebury College in America, having great fun despite the sheer amount of school work (8 hours everyday in the library) and the extreme coldness (-36℃, snow in April), and came back tougher than before.

Q5. What extracurricular activities did you do at ICU?

I was able to do a variety of activities, including student clubs, and lead a very fulfilling student life. My main activity was in IBS (ICU Brothers and Sisters) doing peer-advising and spreading the spirit of liberal arts. I also performed with my friends in Smooth Steppers, L’ecrin, Modern Dance, and the Clumsy Chorus. I was in Ginkgo Dorm, which was a lot of fun. I was also able to have valuable experiences outside of my studies, including doing campus tour guide, going to Otsuchi Town in Iwate prefecture as part of the service-learning program, and interning at Carnegie Council in New York in a JICUF program.

Q6. Sounds like you had a great college life! What did you do after graduation?

I graduated in June 2015, and was going to start working in April 2016, so I had about a year of free time. Rather than not doing anything and becoming a good-for-nothing floater, I wanted to live with purpose, so I applied for the Miss Japan Contest, and won an award called Greenery for Life. I’ll give details in Part 2, but basically Greenery for Life is one of the Miss Japan Contest awards, and the winner is responsible for promoting Japan’s forestry and woodlands under the Forestry Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. During my one-year term I went to the mountains to cut trees with chainsaws, obtained a license for forestry vehicles, tried out forestry for myself, and did PR work in many places. I went abroad to do a wide variety of activities as well: I presented at COP13 (Conference of the Convention of Biological Diversity) in Mexico, and did a two-week field study in Indonesia as a correspondent of JICA’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries).

After my term ended, I worked on developing and managing the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Villages at a real estate firm. I worked with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the JOC everyday. I graduated from office worker life in two and a half years and became freelance, doing translation/interpretation jobs, bilingual MCs, and artist management jobs aside from my main work at UoC.

Part 2 will focus on Miss Iizuka’s experiences as Miss Japan!

Q7. UoC is a unique research institute. How did you feel when you first joined?

I joined right during the planning stage, so it felt a bit like starting a company. It was exciting to think about what we were building, but also nerve-racking starting from zero with no precedent. I felt a lot of responsibility as a founding member. It was quite hectic up until our launch in September, as if we were preparing for a school festival. It was truly a joy being able to experience that kind of excitement as an adult in an environment bursting with endless possibilities.

When I joined the team in January 2020, the place was still a bare concrete space. Now we have a campus managed according to the philosophy we came up with, where a diverse group of people get together –it makes me very happy. UoC will continue to evolve, so stay tuned!

Q8. When do you feel a sense of achievement?

UoC is a place for new discoveries and surprises rather than for understanding something, so I feel accomplished when I witness these moments of surprises. Let me give you an example.

UoC hosts many interactive sessions, and we invite prominent guests such as anatomist Takeshi Yoro, Keio University professor Hiroaki Mirata, and multitalented media artist Yoichi Ochiai. UoC sessions are designed to unleash everyone’s true creativity to their full extent, so titles and positions don’t matter much. Rather, we put emphasis on people expressing their individual opinions in an interdisciplinary way, and considering things outside everyone’s area of expertise together. I feel a sense of achievement when I hear guests say, “I just said something I’ve never said before!” or, “I’ve got a new idea!” because I feel like I was able to help them produce these new ideas and values.

I make it my life’s work to embody liberal arts, and UoC’s activities do just that, so I feel accomplished in that way too.

Q9. What is the purpose of platforms like UoC and ICONfront?

There are two purposes to platforms. One is stimulation and raising awareness. UoC currently has 140 students: everyone has different professions and areas of expertise, and come from different age groups. While it is worthwhile mastering one thing with people of similar interests and values, the insights and “aha” moments we get when interacting with people with different backgrounds allow us to grow a lot as people. This is what platforms provide; they are meaningful because they broaden our horizons.

The second one is spreading information. By spreading awareness, we gain new insights, meet new people, touch people’s hearts, and create huge social changes. Communication is key. In this way, I believe ICONfront has great potential, so I look forward to your future activities!

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for Part 2!

Miss Honami Iizuka:





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