A warm welcome in Kansai!

Flowers, cloth and the ‘flying turtle’ talking object.

Flowers, cloth and the ‘flying turtle’ talking object.

What a warm welcome I have had in Kyoto and Osaka, from facilitators based in this Kansai area of Japan. 

When I knew I was going to come to Japan, to visit my daughter who is studying in Tokyo for a year, I wanted to make the most of the trip by meeting facilitation and sustainability professionals and learning more about their work in a very different cultural context.

The IAF (International Association of Facilitators) has a very active chapter in Japan.  As a member of the IAF’s leadership team in England and Wales, I know that facilitators are generous, curious and welcoming people. So I used the IAF Facebook group to find out who could help me.

A huge thank you to Masako Arakane, Hiroyoshi Mizue, Hatsumi Yoshinaga and Sotaro Takenouchi who co-hosted two wonderful dinners for facilitators and those interested in facilitation in Kyoto and Osaka. Both dinners were in places where the vegetarians could have versions of typical and classic Japanese food, and I am very grateful for the thoughtfulness our hosts showed in organising this for us.

Themes still sifting and shifting

I hope to write more on some of the themes that struck me from our conversations: the importance of peace and natural disasters in people’s framing of sustainability and resilience; the concept of Shrinking Japan from the Edo period, repurposed for the current age; the relationship between facilitation and content-rich consultancy; building community; what motivates people to attend meetings; the contrasting cultural meanings of silence.


For now, here are some pictures of the two events:

Moving the furniture

One thing that seems to be universal, is the facilitator’s need to move the furniture! I often talk about ‘owning the space’ when I’m training facilitators, and this absolutely includes rearranging tables (or getting rid of them altogether), altering the layout and creating the right atmosphere with objects or sound.

In the room above Matsucho restaurant in Kyoto, the tatami mats on the floor meant we removed our shoes. A circle of cushions (some thankfully quite robust and with some height for those of us with older, western knees) surrounded a vase of flowers and a beautiful cloth. At the other end of the room, the tables were in a square for the meal we shared after the circle conversation.

At the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Osaka, we just had to shift some tables together so we sat as one party.  But still, furniture was moved!

Gentle hosting

Out came the marker pens and paper, so we could do a round of introductions in English and Japanese. In Kyoto, we also had a cheerful squeezy bath-toy in the shape of a turtle, which we used as a ‘talking object’. After both meals, the checkout and the group photo.  Gentle bits of process confidently used by the co-hosts, to get the most from these gatherings.

Thank you to the hosts and everyone who came along to meet with us.

Arigatou gozaimasu! ありがとうございます!