Japan reignited - RSA thinking big in Japan

In 2011, after two decades of gestation, the RSA Japan Fellows' Network was officially born. Our mission: to draw out Japan's untapped genius and share it more actively with the world.

Our first challenge was how to fulfill such a bold vision with a core team of only seven. Our solution was to hold an event with the aim of sharing our vision and recruiting fresh blood. The event, 'RSA JFN: Reignite Japan', was held on 5 April 2012 at the British Council in Tokyo where 38 guests joined us.

In designing the event, we wanted to convey not only the distinctive character of RSA JFN, but also to highlight our close ties with RSA in London. Our secret weapon was Roger Prentis FRSA ('our man in London'), who came to Tokyo in March bearing an RSA banner, a suitcase of RSA brochures and a video message from Matthew Taylor. In his message, Matthew expressed his support for RSA JFN and his hopes for a Anglo-Japanese dialogue on RSA key themes such as education, citizen engagement and the arts.

Matthew Taylor's welcome to the Japan Reignited meeting

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

We were also lucky enough to be supported by Prue Leith FRSA and RSA former Chairman. In her video message, Prue described the RSA as a 'think and do tank' - a phrase which seemed to resonate with our guests (who are the more entrepreneurial of a generally non-entrepreneurial society).

Prue Leith's message to the Japan Reignited meeting

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

As part of our preparations for the event we contacted the RSA Archives requesting information about the origins of the Society. The documents and artwork we received inspired us to create a mini historical re-enactment for our guests, bringing alive the legendary 1754 meeting of William Shipley and ten other enlightened souls, in Rawthmell's Coffee Shop, Covent Garden (London).

But the highlight of the evening was when we asked guests to share their ideas for revitalising Japan. We collected 45 ideas on post-it notes, which we have since grouped into seven themes. Here is a summary of some of the ideas:

We asked our guests, "What are YOUR 'ideas and actions' for a 21st century enlightenment?" and had some interesting and exciting ideas - here are a few:

To round off the evening, we de-camped to a nearby British pub, where we could mingle more informally and enjoy both lofty and not-so-lofty conversation with new friends.

Video of the evening's highlights

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


So far, the outcomes are very promising. The event has resulted in a lot of interest in RSA JFN and we already expect at least two people to apply for Fellowship. It also prompted us to design our next project: a series of discussion groups based on the ideas collected at the event. We hope to draw on expertise from the global Fellowship network, to create a rich global dialogue. We also hope to run a parallel event at RSA HQ in John Adam Street later in the year aimed at people with an interest in Japan. This will draw attention to our activities in Japan and promote the Fellowship.

For more information about what we are doing in RSA JFN, please contact us.