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Increasing the visibility of female researchers at our university.

#5: Saki's Experience

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Q. Which Japanese prefecture are you from? Which department are you in?

A. I am originally from Tokyo. I am a Ph.D. student in the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies.

Q. Could you tell us about your journey from enrolling as a university student to your current post?

A. After earning my bachelor's degree from Sophia University, I joined the Asahi Shimbun and worked as a reporter for 13 years. During that time, I gained a master's degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. Working for an Internet media company broadened my capacity as a reporter. While working as an editor for an international NGO, I started my Ph.D. at the University of Tokyo. I am also a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


Q. Why did you choose UTokyo? What was the most attractive point to you? What do you think are the shortcomings - if any - of being a researcher at UTokyo? 

A. I found an advisor whose work is close to my research topic. I also considered that the campus is close to my home, and that the tuition fee is lower than that of a private university. The Gakkan Commons working space, which is clean and relatively new, is a wonderful environment to devote oneself to research.

In my field of study, all I need is my brain, the Internet, and my computer. It is now possible to conduct research from almost anywhere in the world. I feel that the most important thing is what insights I can obtain from my advisors and colleagues, rather than which university I belong to.


Q. Do you have any role models? If so, how do they inspire you?

A. I do not have any specific role models. In Japanese society, my path - leaving a stable job at the Asahi Shimbun, gaining a master's degree at Berkeley, starting a doctorate in my late 30s while working, and joining a research project in Israel along the way - is not considered normal, especially as a woman. Although in Japanese society there is a strong inclination to follow precedents, and to favor high homogeneity and strong conformity, I have built my career through consistent effort,  believing in myself and of course having fun along the way.

Q. Where is your favourite spot on campus?

A. The Gakkan Commons.

Q. Give us three keywords to describe your life as a researcher at UTokyo.

A. Freedom, commitment, respect.

Q. In one sentence, what is your research topic? Would you mind sharing one exciting moment or one fascinating thing about your research?

A. How feminist activism has been reported in Japanese mass media.
Learning from the body of existing research, collecting data, selecting and refining a research method, and developing an original theory: everything is exciting and inspiring.


Q. Have you faced (or are you facing) any difficulties as a researcher? How did (or do) you overcome them?

A. It is difficult to find enough time to read a large volume of literature and to write my dissertation. Even so, I feel that my research life is like heaven compared to the life of an office worker who may be worn out by obnoxious bosses! Overall, whether it's a company or academia, I think that the most important thing is the character of the people you choose to work with. This is what I value the most.

Q. Have you faced any difficulties in balancing your private life and research?

A. My partner is really understanding, and I have not faced any.

Q. Imagine you have a little sister who is about to start a journey as a researcher at UTokyo. What message or advice would you give to her? 

A. I have found it exciting to participate in international projects and conferences beyond the University of Tokyo. English has undeniably become the lingua franca, so I recommend that you publish your paper in English, unless it is absolutely necessary for strategic reasons. Good luck!



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