The perceived gap between politics and normal life is just where Kumi Imamura has inserted herself. If you want a primer on just how voiceless Japanese youth have been, look no further than the history of Katariba, which Imamura founded eight years ago. Determined to create a space in which young people could articulate their hopes for the future, the then college senior approached high schools nationwide and asked whether they would be interested in hosting events that would bring in local leaders to motivate students. In her first two years of canvassing, only two schools agreed to what in many other democracies would be considered a basic civic exercise. But as of today, prompted by students clamoring for such activities, Katariba has held 463 forums in 283 high schools across the country.
By most standards, what Imamura is doing would be construed as political. But, like many in her generation, she's wary of the word politics and prefers to describe Katariba as an educational organization. When she arrived at the élite Keio University campus near Tokyo from her hometown in Gifu prefecture a sort of stolid, solid Japanese version of Kansas Imamura was heartened by how many of her peers weren't obsessed with the cult of money that drove previous generations. "Kids nowadays are interested in society," she says. "But they see no connection between that and politics."
with reporting by Yuki Oda / Tokyo
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