Inbound Ambassador

Sustainable Community Building | Interview with Ayana Wyse

Ayana Wyse is a proud Osaka resident helping to support others, and provide more positive, accurate representations of the international community in Japan through her podcasts, events and projects.

It was a pleasure to talk with Ayana Wyse in SSL episode 183. She is a podcaster (KurlyInKansai), a proud Osaka resident, model, photographer, narrator, artist, community organizer, roller skater, lover of roller-coasters, and influencer. Ayana founded the Black Creatives Japan group, helped organize the Black Lives Matter march in Osaka among other projects. Ayana Wyse links on LinkTree.

JJ Walsh 0:01
Hi, good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining. I’m JJ Walsh. This is seeking sustainability live. And today our guest is Ayana. Wyse, thank you so much for joining.

Ayana. Wyse 0:12
Thank you for having me.

JJ Walsh 0:14
We’re gonna talk about diversity, inclusion, and community building lots of her amazing projects. So please stick around. We’ll be right back.

All right, let’s go. Good morning, everyone. This is seeking sustainability life number 182 with Ayana wise, thank you so much for joining.

Ayana. Wyse 0:56
Thank you for having me.

JJ Walsh 0:59
All the way from Osaka and I’m in Hiroshima. It’s so nice. Not Tokyo, #nottokyo

Ayana. Wyse 1:07
Yeah, I used to hate on Tokyo so much. I’m okay with Tokyo only to visit though not to live. Yeah.

JJ Walsh 1:14
Great. It’s great to talk to somebody. You know, I’m trying to do that with the series. And I know that you tried to do that as well. Try to represent from around the country because there’s so much just focused on Tokyo. It’s so nice to get diverse life experiences work experiences from other areas. How’d you find yourself in Osaka?

Ayana. Wyse 1:38
when I was searching for work 10 years ago in Japan, I had put down like three choices because they asked me like, well, where would you like to be placed in those for Eikaiwa the English language conversation school, and they just had Osaka open first. So I just chose that one because it was like, hey, you’re hired in three months time you can move to Japan or you can wait longer. So I was like, I want to get out. Let’s go to Osaka.

JJ Walsh 2:07
And you ended up staying there. You you become a real Osaka representative

Ayana. Wyse 2:16
I enjoy Osaka a lot.

JJ Walsh 2:18
That’s awesome. And originally from Brooklyn, is that right?

Ayana. Wyse 2:21
No. I lived in Brooklyn for two years after college. But I’m originally from Westchester County in New York.

JJ Walsh 2:29
Yeah. Donna has joined from Periscope. She says, OI Tokyo Here! Donna, we love Tokyo. But we know Japan is not only Tokyo. That’s all we say.

Ayana. Wyse 2:41

JJ Walsh 2:42
we’re not we’re not hating on Tokyo. We’re just trying to represent diversity and inclusion in many ways 🙂

Let’s talk about some of your amazing projects. You are so active in so many different networks. I love your article with Japan Times how they introduced all the many things that you’re doing. Can you tell us about some of your passionate most passionate projects? What are you working on?

Ayana. Wyse 3:11
well, I’m working on photography. I am a photographer. I’ve been for a good three years like seriously, I’ve always liked taking pictures. But it was my friend who lent me a camera for like three months time where I was like, finally I can practice on a legit camera. And with that time, I was able to save up and buy my own. And then I realized like, Hey, I think I can do this. I think I can become like the photographer that I always wanted to be. And I like taking pictures of people. So I was just practicing with my friends. I still take a lot of pictures of my friends. But in time, I thought I was gonna make it like my main career.

And then I realized I like it more so as a craft. And I don’t mind getting paid from time to time, but I don’t want it to be my life, or I’ll hate it. So that’s why I don’t consider myself like a full time photographer or going to try to be but I do have a project with a vintage store. It’s a friend of mine. Well, a new friend of mine, we met through another friend to do a photo shoot because I also model I do many things but I’ll get to that. And then we talked and we said like let’s collab, let’s do a photoshoot with her jewelry that doesn’t really get that much shine. So we did the photo shoot in November and I’m finishing like the editing that we’re going to and then we’re going to post it on social media for Valentine’s Day.

JJ Walsh 4:42
I’m showing your photography on Instagram right now you have beautiful photographs.

Ayana. Wyse 4:50
Thank you

JJ Walsh 4:50
It’s It’s fantastic to see diversity of experiences and diverse faces in Japan. And you know foreigners are not one type of person, they’re not even one type of look like they’re, and that that’s so refreshing and important. And I think your role has been like that in many groups that you’ve created to be like a hub for information and support, but also to help get work for creatives. Right?

Ayana. Wyse 5:21
Yeah, exactly, exactly.

JJ Walsh 5:24
Do you want to introduce Black Creatives Japan?

Ayana. Wyse 5:27
Sure. I started that group in 2015, on Facebook solely, because another support group that I was in black women in Japan, and another one called Black in Japan, they it was just in a group for kind of venting, or getting like moral support, or just getting some information, but not so much sharing your own work, because I would see people sharing like the YouTube, or like some art, and it would just get buried in topics that are mostly drama or just kind of trash sometimes.

So I decided, hey, let’s make a new group and focus on the black creatives, because there are a lot of us, it’s just that we’re not really getting seen. And I understand that like some old heads have tried stuff before, but I don’t think they’ve tried online because people who’ve lived here for maybe 10, 15 years, didn’t really have Facebook like that in the beginning.

So I’m here. Maybe it was like maybe my fifth year I was like I’m here. We’re using social media, why not use it to its advantage. So I decided, like the end of 2015 to make it tried to do some small meetups in 2016 in Kansai, only a little bit in Tokyo. Then I made an event in 2017, called Showcase and Chill, which is a talent show in Osaka. And I was able to do I think four of those before COVID happened.

And many people really appreciated the event because it brought a lot of people together the whole community, even though it says black creatives is just that the talent is black creatives. But the audience can come in and just experience it and then talk to people about like their craft and just spread that we’re not one thing. We’re not a monolith. We don’t only just like hip hop or whatever. We’re black creatives that have a range and variety of interest.

JJ Walsh 7:26
That’s awesome. Um, when I was researching, I found that there is a a New York based one? Do you have any affiliation?

Ayana. Wyse 7:36
No, we’re just

JJ Walsh 7:40
And I like your idea that you wanted to create a positive, proactive community that was kind of moving forward to get people work, or get people noticed in in Japan? I think that’s a great incentive.

So you’ve got a great quote here in the Japan Times you said at its core, BCJ is a community and platform where our fellow creatives are encouraged to ask for help, advice collaborate with one another as well as showcase their skills, businesses, creative projects, and much more both in and outside Land of the Rising Sun. That’s awesome!

Ayana. Wyse 8:23
Thanks. Yes, there’s just so many, there’s so many pages that focus too much on the negative and I understand the importance of knowing like, what’s up the history of things and, and just venting, but I just needed a separation from that.

JJ Walsh 8:41
No, I definitely understand the value of that. And I think when I talk about social equity, value of quality of life for all people, no matter where you are in Japan, we talked about that a lot. It’s really important that you not only talk about negative things, because that’s so easy to do right to just about the problems.

You maybe talk about problems sometimes and your podcast, you want to introduce Kurly + Kansai?

Ayana. Wyse 9:11
Yeah, so I have a podcast. It’s called Kurly and Kansai, curly with the K. And I started that with my best friend, Elise. She is great. And we have a lot of laughs and talk about a variety of topics on the podcast, it started off with just sharing our experience as black women in Japan and in the Kansai area of Japan, not Tokyo. Just because there’s so much content in about Japan, where people are in Tokyo. And it just seems like Well, I don’t have those experiences. And also you’re not, you’re not a black woman.

So let’s just share that information for anybody who is interested in moving to Japan. And I would say that it has helped quite a few people who have told me personally it’s like, Hey, I had a like, because of your podcast. I decided to like visit or move here? I’ve made two friends, or no, I’ve had, I have like four friends that have told me like, I used to watch you when I was in the States. And now we’re friends. I’m like, That’s crazy! But um, it’s definitely a good podcast like it’s kind of slowed down a bit. Because we’ve shared a lot of our experiences, we would have guests, but because of COVID, we don’t necessarily do in Person guests anymore. Me and Elise do remote recording. But we do mostly timely topics instead of just our experience. So it’s a little bit slowed down. But we still have it still. It’s still going on.

JJ Walsh 10:40
That’s great. I was happy to see that you guys covered the plastic issue, overuse of plastics in Japan, too right?

Ayana. Wyse 10:48
Yes, It’s so frustrating.

JJ Walsh 10:51
Yeah. And you also talked about tourism growing pains. And I heard your diversity and LGBTQ one, about your trip to Tottori as well. Yes, it’s it’s about life. It’s about work. It’s about travel. It’s about all sorts of things. I could imagine that being a great, like hub for people interested in coming like you said.

Ayana. Wyse 11:16
Yeah. And then I think also for some people who live in Japan, they’re like, Oh, yeah, I thought of this and like, nobody around me has talked about this as a foreigner. So they just like consider it as as something that they’re like validating or like a confirming like, oh, okay, there are other people in Japan like foreigners who think about this, these things.

JJ Walsh 11:35
Yeah, absolutely. I love your quote, again, from the great Japan Times article. Sometimes you just don’t want everybody looking at you. You just want people to hear you. And I think that that is great. Quote. Yeah, definitely. A lot of us women in Japan can definitely identify with for sure. But also, you know, not being judged based on your appearance. And people actually listening to what your ideas are that that is a great thing about podcasting.

Ayana. Wyse 12:11
It is it is I I definitely enjoy more without the video because we were doing video for a while. Only because I had more people listening or watching my YouTube, I decided to do both video and audio. But then after some time, the editing process the time it took, I was just like, I’m good. I’m going to just do audio like I intended it to be.

JJ Walsh 12:34
Yeah, sometimes it’s more relaxing. And because I’m doing both video and and then it goes to audio. I’m doing both. But sometimes I’ll reach out to people and say, I you want to be in my podcast because it’s a video, but I call it a podcast, because it’s like the interview format. And some people are saying, oh, what video? No, thanks. Like I don’t I don’t want to be in the video. Thank you. Thank you for joining today!

Ayana. Wyse 13:00
No problem, I don’t mind sometimes.

JJ Walsh 13:05
I appreciate that. So maybe I should do some episodes with just audio because some people are definitely more comfortable. Just talking then. Yeah. be on camera. I get it.

Let’s talk about BCJ. You also you mentioned some of the events. You were also doing a wunderground event as a DJ, tell us about your DJing Yes.

Ayana. Wyse 13:33
Um, yeah, my friends were like, We don’t like the clubs in Japan. They’re terrible. The DJ is especially at one club, they just get lazy, they don’t necessarily DJ to be good. They just like and also I think the staff or the manager doesn’t want certain kinds of DJ styles. So I think all the DJs just kind of do the same thing and play the same type of music and cut everything off. It’s not really good DJing in our eyes or our ears. So we decided to just make our own event and we’re like, but we don’t know that many DJs born DJs to join and do it or they’re expensive. So we decided to also do like a DJ practice and learn how to DJ because we had a few friends that were like, yeah, I want helping teaching you. So then that’s when we’re like, okay, let’s make this a thing. Let’s try to have wunderground like a little bit more often. And just get people who are trying out DJing to get the experience.

Unknown Speaker 14:35
It’s awesome. And then I listened to your music on mixcloud you what do you what kind of music do you miss? is it mostly Afro-beats? (her DJ name was Afro-Pump)

Ayana. Wyse 14:44
I play a variety. I don’t only play Afro beats, but I actually just changed my DJ name to DJ Yana. I think Yeah, I changed it to DJ I just like my name. I was Afro-Pump. So I was like that kind of made. It seemed like I only do Afro beats. But that was like my like, go to doing Afro beats. But I like to play hip hop and other artistic and r&b and just other kinds of music as well.

JJ Walsh 15:10
That’s awesome. It sounds great. Have you been able to transition online at all during COVID? Cuz doing in person events is impossible, right?

Ayana. Wyse 15:20
Yeah. No, we haven’t really done online things. And I think that could just be my fault. I’m not really stream savvy, streaming savvy. I don’t necessarily even like it. I don’t like joinings. that much. I have done like, maybe a couple on my own, like, just Instagram lives. But it’s just very uncomfortable. For me. It always has been. So I always encourage other people in the group, if you want to do it, you can. But I think a lot of people are trying to just like wait for me to lead and organize and like not when it comes to streaming, I’ll do other events.

JJ Walsh 15:55
Yeah, I mean, streaming is out for a lot of people very intimidating because it’s live. But then in terms of being live, there is a big attraction to that, because then people can interact with you make comments, ask questions. Oh, I love that track. Make, you know, and it encourages you as well. So I’ve seen some great DJ sets on Twitch. We are also streaming right now on to twitch. So hello, anybody watching on Twitch? And it’d be great to see you on there. Because sometimes I’ll just put it on, as I’m doing other work and have it as background. It’s great. But..

Ayana. Wyse 16:34
I’m not sure.

JJ Walsh 16:35
Yeah, I hear you. Yeah, it’s another one of your many projects. It’s hard to what is that? When I visited a farmer and he said, The secret to good farming is to use your time most efficiently. And I thought that pretty much applies to everything, isn’t it? Like how you use your time? I don’t know how you have time for all these projects.

Ayana. Wyse 17:02
I think a lot of it too is just, I might focus on one thing, one or two things in a matter of a few months or half a year. And then it gets traction later is that people are like, Oh, she’s doing all these things at the same time. But I’m like, I’m actually not doing everything at the same time. It’s just not out there on the internet for people to see or hear.

JJ Walsh 17:23

Let’s talk about your community organization of the Black Lives Matter March last year. Can you tell us about that?

Ayana. Wyse 17:30
Sure. around. Yeah, in the summer, when the heat of the protests were happening in the United States, there was a couple of people who are interested in doing a march and Osaka so I decided to help them after they did like a little poll on Instagram. And at first I didn’t really want to be that involved. I just wanted to help them get a team. But because I knew like everybody that I was giving them as a team, and every and everybody was kind of like looking to me to like help. I decided to join and it took like five days was really quick, very sudden planning that I’ve never done in my life planning a whole March that had about 2000 people join, I’ve never done and I was shocked that so many people came and I would have to thank my friend Marcella for posting on Twitter, and tagging and Naomi Osaka, which then lets her Naomi Osaka endorsing the March, which led to more people saying like is she coming is she going to the March? Which also led to so many people like, Hey, this is something I believe in, and I want to join this March and spread awareness and solidarity to what’s going on in the United States and black people in the world.

So I think because of that it’s what kind of help the the I was gonna say Ninzu that’s Japanese, the amount of people come to the March. So I really appreciate that. And I’m, I’m happy that I was able to be a part of something that, you know, dynamic.

And although I would say is just a lot of work, and I don’t necessarily want to continue being like spending a lot of my time volunteering for the BLM movement in concert. I still help but I am more passionate and like BCJ and other things.

JJ Walsh 19:19
That’s awesome. And you were talking about you had over 50 volunteers and over 2000 people showed up! And of course, when you do marches in Japan, because we’re in Hiroshima, we often have peace marches. We also had BLM as well, last year, a smaller group- you have to register in advance with the police.

There’s actually a lot of paperwork if you want to do it. Like legally, I guess you know, it wouldn’t be a big problem if you didn’t but if you’re expecting a lot of people, you do work with authorities and and then once it’s approved, it goes really smoothly. Is that your experience as well?

Ayana. Wyse 19:58
Yeah, I mean in our team 10 like the main organizers, we had a lot of people that had experienced with all of this, like, we had someone doing crowd control. And then we had our Japanese mix Japanese friend, who was able to go to the authorities and get things done quickly. So it wasn’t just for it wasn’t just foreigners planning everything. It was a group of us who also speak Japanese and understand like what to do, even though we’re also learning what to do. It was just a quick thing. And I’m, like, really surprised that, again, that it went so smoothly the day of though, it was very stressful for me, and I didn’t think it was going that smoothly.

But everybody who was just participating said, This went so smoothly, I really appreciate appreciate this event. So I was just like, okay, it’s always going to be stressful for me as an organizer no matter what event it is. Because even with wunderground, although wunderground was like we had a group at some point, and then showcase and chill, it’s always going to be stressful for me, I’m always going to be like, is this going well, until after the fact everyone’s like, I loved it. This event was great. Please do it again.

JJ Walsh 21:13
That’s awesome. And it’s very positive and very inclusive. You had a variety of people and a variety of experiences of people talking. Did you have any positive after effects? Like any good knock-on effects after?

Ayana. Wyse 21:29
Um, yeah, I think a couple of people wanted to do more like BLM events. And there were Japanese people who joined and wanted to help spread more of the awareness, we got people to help translate things for our Instagram, which we need to start up again. And I think it was overall a good positive effects after the March. I mean, I just I feel like in anything with the internet, though, it comes and goes, so people were like, Oh, this is just gonna be like a two week two week thing and and everyone’s gonna forget it. But there was some lasting effects. I feel for some people. Yeah,

JJ Walsh 22:08
I’m sure you you’ve experienced this on many different levels in different jobs or, or work and life in Japan. But in terms of getting people out to say, listen, Black Lives Matter in Japan to that was very relevant and very important. Did you feel that?

Ayana. Wyse 22:27
Yeah, I did. But there’s just a lot of ignorance on the internet. No matter.

JJ Walsh 23:19
So, one of the one of the things I’ve heard you talk about is the need for education, the need for calling out when the media or public figures do Black-Face, which still sometimes happens in Japan, and having that presence, but also using marches like Black Lives Matter, it also helps to talk about these issues in a more public setting.

Ayana. Wyse 23:48
Yeah, so I think like the marches, definitely, like, I’m just like, not a shock, but it’s just it was just like, here, y’all this, this happens. And even though many Japanese people on the internet will be like, Oh, this doesn’t happen, you’re lying. It’s still kind of puts it in their forefront. And then they’re like, oh, like, Why are these foreigners keep, like talking about this stuff? Like what’s really going on? So it’s kind of putting it is giving them some type of awareness, even if they don’t believe it? And I think for some Japanese people, they’ll be like, okay, I hear you, I want to help.

So let’s do a show, let’s do an event. Let’s try to teach other Japanese people what’s going on, because I believe in this, so it kind of just snowballs a little bit and helps people understand that things like this happen. You’re, you’re not in your own world. You can’t just only be in your own world, or your bubble. There are things happening outside. And if you if Japan wants to be more international, which I don’t really think it does, it just says it wants to be but if people are trying to truly be International, they need to know what’s going outside of Japan, like not on the surface level.

JJ Walsh 24:57
Yeah, definitely. I think Nami, Osaka really was in the news a lot in 2012. That helped promote the ideas. How are you feeling about being from America? Right now with the new administration.

Ayana. Wyse 25:14
I mean, I left America in the United States in 2011. And I don’t necessarily plan on going back, I was going like, up and down about it, like, maybe I should go back. But I still don’t necessarily want to go back. And the new administration, I’m just only hoping that they improve what, or just undo what Trump did. And in the past four years, and it seems like Biden is trying to do things, I just saw that he signed some type of executive order to help racial equity. So I’m just I can only hope.

JJ Walsh 25:53
I think that’s the key word. Right. Once the administration changed. I felt like I could actually hope now..

Ayana. Wyse 26:02
yes, not just doom and gloom anymore.

JJ Walsh 26:07
Yeah, for sure. In terms of Japan, I heard you talking about education that the education needs to change. Calling out the media is definitely getting easier. But still, there’s things that come up. Can you talk about that a little bit.

Ayana. Wyse 26:22
I’m not too well versed with like the politics in Japan, I am only recently getting into it. But I definitely would like to see better education in general. and Japan, because I’ve been here for 10 years I’ve been in not like public schools, but I see one teaching kids like what they know and what they talk about, and just what the things that they don’t know. So I feel like if if Japan again, wants to be very international, they don’t necessarily have to only learn English either.

But like, let’s change the narrative, let’s change what it looks like to be a foreigner or have like when they have foreigners on Japanese shows, like stop with the stereotypes. It’s just it’s frustrating. And even like, when I do jobs, sometimes they like for voiceover because I do that as well. And modeling, that what they asked for me to do sometimes like acting, it just sounds very exaggerated, exaggerated and stereotypical. And I just want that to stop is what they think is boring. Like what a good foreigner is. But it’s like, we are all different. We’re not the same. Stop.

JJ Walsh 27:33
Yeah, that’s it’s so important to just do it politely. Do it nicely, but keep doing soft push back. That’s really important, Right? And then, like, you mentioned about narration, sometimes, like I do narration as well. And sometimes you’re saying a Japanese word, and they’ll say, Can you see it more American?

Ayana. Wyse 28:00
oh, you want me to be beginner level? Japanese learning? Okay, okay. That’s not foreign. That’s just me learning the language in the beginning.

JJ Walsh 28:09
Yeah. Then sometimes people will say, Why? Why are you pushing for change in Japan, because you’re not from Japan, you’re not Japanese. But I always say, oh, my goodness, I’ve lived more years in Japan now than America. And it’s my home. This is my home, this is where I am. This is where I’m raising my kids. This is where I work. This is where I live, right?

Ayana. Wyse 28:37
I would do the same. If I lived in Italy or in in any other country like or Brazil, like I would do the same. If it’s been like 10 years, especially, anything has to be 10 years. It’s just like, I decided to live here and call it my home. I want to see positive changes for everybody, not just foreigners, for Japanese too, especially the Japanese women here.

And the single mothers, oh, my God, I could go on for days about how frustrating it is, and how they target certain minority groups that have nothing to do anything negative in the country, yet they hate on them so much. We don’t need that. So yes, I will fight for change, for positive change, like forever.

JJ Walsh 29:19
That’s awesome. And I think that whole bringing up your experiences just talking about your normal life, talking about your work, talking about things that you’re doing projects, you’re doing events and stuff, it actually helps Japanese people as well!

Because like you said, there are groups in Japan, which are minorities and which are always blamed for social problems or easy scapegoats. And they have very less stable work conditions. For example, working mothers, we’re seeing rises in suicide rates with women and children now after COVID so We know that Japan is not a perfect society even from within the group of Japanese people.

So I think talking about diversity of women, diversity of different skin color, different ethnicities is so relevant in Japan and so necessary. So thank you for everything you’re doing. It’s so important. And you know, it’s not like, we are soapboxing all the time, right? We’re not standing up and lecturing everybody, we’re just sharing our truth. And I think that’s so important, right?

Ayana. Wyse 30:38
Yes. And I noticed too, for any, any Japanese online that I’ve talked to, or just interacted with, in some degree, the ones that really connect with us, or just like what we talked about are those minorities. And that’s, I realized that they try to learn English, so they can get out of the society or the side of societal norms that they can’t handle anymore. A lot of my Japanese friends that I’m like, really close to are considered very different, or that nail that sticking out that couldn’t get hammered down. So I appreciate those who reach out. But I also continue doing these things. And I know I only do it in English, and my Japanese isn’t good enough to explain certain nuances. But I do appreciate those who also learn English and tried to reach out and I just continue to do these things. So I can reach I can reach them. Even if it’s not like 100%. Like understood, I know that they they need something.

JJ Walsh 31:40
Yeah, for sure. I was teaching at the university level for over 20 years. And I sometimes have ex students or current students who remember me and remember some of my lessons, and they’ll reach out and they’ll say, you know, I’m not feeling very happy in my life, but listening to your podcast, or that guests that you had really inspired me.

And that’s like you said, it gives them some insight into their own culture or into how they are free to be themselves as well. Yeah, that’s powerful. And also, you know, we have minority groups in Japan, like the Ainu, like even people in Osaka know, maybe Osaka but Okinawa. We’ve talked to some people in the series who have done documentaries on minority groups or different groups that live with stigma, even Hiroshima. You know, after Hiroshima, there’s a stigma. After Fukushima, there’s a stigma. So diversity matters on so many different levels.

Ayana. Wyse 32:47
Yes, it does.

JJ Walsh 32:49
If you could have an influence on like, school education, you said, Sometimes you’re asked to come and talk to school kids. What they mean, personally, I

Ayana. Wyse 33:00
With BLM, they asked for speakers, and I’m just now getting into speaking more, but I’m still only doing like interviews and just not in person speaking roles. But it would be nice to also have that opportunity to speak in front of some people after the after the pandemic. But we’ll see. For now, we’ll just keep practicing and trying to do better in writing and get the word out. more confidently.

JJ Walsh 33:35
Nice. Yeah, I’d like to see that I noticed one of your Disney, you went to Disneyland. And Disneyland has been in the news recently, because they’re revamping the Pirates of the Caribbean to be more inclusive because they had some stereotypical stuff. But I just wanted to show your Disneyland pic when you said you had enough of Mickey Mouse. It’s hilarious.

Ayana. Wyse 34:02
Yeah, I just didn’t find it was Disney See, but I just didn’t find the theme park that enjoyable. I am. I am a roller coaster fan. So USJ would be my choice. If it comes to theme parks that I’ve been to in Japan.

JJ Walsh 34:19
And you did some modeling as well, for USJ did you not?

Ayana. Wyse 34:23
I did a commercial. Yes. I was in a Harry Potter campaign. I was really excited for that. But the whole process or just doing the photo shoot, video shoot was insane. It was cold. It was in January. It was like two years ago. For three days, three nights. And it was all night from like 10pm to in the morning. 7am. One time it went to like nine I’m like What is going on? But it was a fun experience. And I was lucky enough to be like towards the front so you can see me. You can definitely see me in the commercial. That was fine.

JJ Walsh 34:57
Yeah. Also, you are a Roller skater, I love seeing your roller skating Instagram pictures around Osaka. Is it a good place for roller skating?

Ayana. Wyse 35:09
Not outside, there’s like no flat land. We struggle so much trying to find flat land to just skate like nicely. But it’s a hobby that I started this year. And it was like a boom going on online, especially on Tick Tock. And it was really hard to even find really good roller skates in Japan, like I don’t understand they consider roller skating only for kids. So I was lucky to get a pair from my roommate, although we have two different sizes, like completely, like she has very small feet. But I guess the way it was built, it fit me so I just like I’m gonna take it.

But for me to buy the same kind of quality rollerskates if I tried to order it online, it would take months. So even though I didn’t do that, I just like, Alright, I’m gonna just stick with these. I’ll buy a new pair later. I’m a practice with my friends. I grew up doing rollerblading, or in line, and I was okay with that. Just do it with speed, but to do tricks and things. I was like, this is a whole new, a whole new thing for me and I want to do it. It’s like I don’t work out that much at the time I start I start working out now. But I was like, this would be a nice activity for me to build up my leg strength.

JJ Walsh 36:28
That’s awesome. I love roller skating. And like you said, I did rollerblading before but you’ve got the quad. The four wheels. I’m very attracted to that as I get older. I want more stability. Right?

Ayana. Wyse 36:41
I mean, it’s still hard, though.

JJ Walsh 36:43
Yeah. No, still good workout. We had a comment from Celine, thank you for joining from Facebook. She says, Can you please talk about your professional life in Japan? How did you switch to a freelance lifestyle? And what was the difficulties you face to be independent in Japan? Also, did you speak fluent Japanese when you did that? Good question.

Ayana. Wyse 37:07
That’s a very good question. And I’m still struggling. But it’s it’s it’s gotten better. But when I was working full time, the last job I had was cut off. I didn’t quit. I didn’t get fired. It just ended. So after that, I got unemployment for six to seven months, I believe. And with that I kind of just coasted for seven months trying to find work that I identified with and it wasn’t teaching, but I could not find for those six and seven months. And then after that ended, I went back to teaching English but only part time I heard from friends that that you can technically sponsor your own working visa, you just have to have multiple jobs in Japan that pays taxes and does the paperwork properly.

So what I decided to do that I did a couple of other achei was along the way, I kind of stuck with one eventually had to quit it was just I just did a lot of like joining a job and leaving. And then one year, the next year, so that was 2020. I continued a little bit with that English job, but then also did another job, which was working on my photography because I wanted to do that. But I only lasted like four months, four or five months with that job because they kind of lied to me about the duties. So I just like I can’t do this. So then I went back to teaching English again.

But mostly part time. And along those years, I was getting few narration jobs here and there and then some modeling jobs here and there. But I would say 2020 is when I was starting to get more narration jobs. And then I had that one modeling job that now got posted in January. I did it in April, but it got posted this year with wakol, which is a famous underwear company in Japan, which I hope helps me get more work.

But it’s just like, Okay, I have this photography, job quit. I still have this English job, but hey, COVID here can’t do that job anymore. So now I am jobless for a good three months, I was able to still survive because I had savings and donations from people. But it was it was very difficult. And then I kind of created my own position with a friend who has a restaurant, Bistro, New Orleans, I recommend you going there.

The food is absolutely amazing. And the owner is he’s just wonderful person. I asked him because he was trying to revamp his restaurants like hey, I see you need help with your social media. He first hired me just to take pictures of his new menu. So I was like cool. Now I really want to stay in Japan. I don’t want to teach English anymore even part time, can you help me out by maybe? Like, would you hire me as a social media manager? And yeah, we talked about it with him and his wife and they decided that that’s okay. So that’s like my, that’s like my day job, social media managing for this restaurant. And then I also am getting more and higher paying narration jobs. Now, after one job I did with I kind of amazed them, I had to cry. It was like, I’m actually acting. It was one of the few actually voice acting gigs that I got in Japan. So I was like, cool. You like this? Alright, you’re gonna give me more work. Awesome.

So that’s like, kind of the journey I went through. And it’s, it’s been difficult because with narration, jobs and modeling jobs, you don’t get paid right away. It’s either a month or three months later, you get paid. So you have to do a lot of money management, because you don’t know what you’re gonna get everyone. But with a proper like day job, you can at least kind of budget with that if you get that monthly. So yeah.

JJ Walsh 41:02
Yeah, great. That’s great insights. And I found that to like, with doing good narration work. If you do a good job, you’ll definitely get more work in future. I did a string of stories, which were translated. And then I did some editing as well, because the translation needed some work to make it more native style English. And then so I added that as part of my narration work, and that seemed to work well. Okay. But man, some of the stories were so heartbreaking. I was sometimes trying not to cry as I’m reading. But then they said, actually, we’re really happy that you did it that way. Because you know, to show emotion in your voice, right? When it right, it’s called for. So yeah, it’s like acting it is, but it is. It’s also being true to what your your emotions are as well, sometimes. So it has work, isn’t it?

Ayana. Wyse 42:05
It has helped me with my speaking in general and pronunciation for things. And also, I forgot to answer No, I’m not may not native, I’m not really high level in Japanese. But when it comes to doing narration, it’s really good to understand Japanese because a lot of times the director does not speak English. And I’m getting more most of the voice work that’s supposed to be for English. I’ve done like maybe one or two jobs where I need to speak Japanese. But there’s always like one word or a small phrase. So it’s definitely good to be intermediate level, at least for these jobs. I want to be better than my Japanese so I can get more work. And they don’t have to worry about having someone to translate or just worried about I’m not understanding anything.

JJ Walsh 42:47
That’s great. I you mentioned about getting donations. I’ve got your coffee page here for curly and concise. Do you have another one? Or is this your if people wanted to donate to your work?

Ayana. Wyse 43:00
Oh, yeah, for Kurly in Kansai content. There’s that. And I think like there was a time where I mean, there’s still going on, but during a lot with the protests, people are sharing their, their cash app or their PayPal from mutual aid. And just like, you know, sharing your story, and my friend in the States was like I Anna, please share your story. Or like she sorry, they made a graphic for me and shared for me, because I was like, I don’t really want to do that.

Because especially Millennials are like, we’re we’re taught not to ask for help like that, or do GoFundMe like that. But they helped me a lot. And I appreciate them for that. But it’s not something that I talk about often because I guess I will, I guess a lot of us would feel ashamed by it. But it that’s how I was able to survive the three months was my savings and help from people on the internet. So I really appreciate them. I want to say thank you in public.

Yeah, no, it’s really important. And there are a lot of people that want to support you. And I think, especially during COVID, when a lot of part time work is kind of dropping away or you can’t do events that might be a stream of income. It really helps. So if you’re interested in supporting, Yana, please have a look at her social media and follow. You’ve got a great link tree, your link tree. I’ll put the linktree link below

Thank you.

JJ Walsh 44:30
It’s quite quite a lot of them. And it’s I think that’s a great service. I love link tree, I need to do it for myself. And you find it pretty easy to use their infrastructure.

Ayana. Wyse 44:42
Yeah, I do. I’m I’m I think people don’t really look at it, but saying seeing that you look at it. And there’s a couple other people in the recent weeks that told me that like, yeah, this site is nice, and I’m looking at my, my insights. It’s like, oh, people are actually clicking on it. But I don’t know Like what other links are because I didn’t pay for like Pro, but I’m just like, glad that it’s there because that’s how some people are reaching out to me. So I will just keep using it.

JJ Walsh 45:09
No, it’s a great idea, especially if you’re going from Instagram because you can only do one link on Instagram. So if you have your entry link, then you can go to multiple links from there. That’s a frustrating thing about Instagram, people always asking how do you link and you’re like, you can share the link. Sorry. Yeah,

Ayana. Wyse 45:28
it’s so frustrating. You have to have a certain amount of followers to put it in your stories, and I just, I’m not gonna have that anytime soon.

JJ Walsh 45:36
And another thing you’re doing, which is good if you’re a self funded creative, is you’re making your own merch. How do you success you’ve got to try it.

Ayana. Wyse 45:51
It’s so frustrating. I tried and I that’s something I have to go back to. But I started painting with acrylic, gouache – I always say it wrong. But um, I really wanted to go into creating more visual art because I’m very visual person. And I like doing it. I like doing abstract. But that’s just something I have to go back to and try to really focus on at some point. But I’m focusing on other things like you said, I do many things. How do I have the time? I don’t have the time therapy thing. So for now, it’s on pause.

JJ Walsh 46:25
Yeah, no, that’s fine. I i’ve been you know, people always say to me, you got to do some merch. But because my focus is sustainability. I want it to be sustainable. And the merch mills, like they just quickly make it for you easily. It’s so convenient, but it’s not not very sustainable. So I’m still searching. I will get there if you’re waiting for my merch- it will happen sometime here. Please stay tuned. Yeah.

So one of the other things you were doing rollerskating. But also you tried SUP? Now I’m a huge fan of SUP in Hiroshima. We have all the rivers. But of course, Osaka has a lot of rivers, too. Did you enjoy it?

Ayana. Wyse 47:11
Yes, what does SUP stand for again?

JJ Walsh 47:13
Stand Up and Paddle.

Ayana. Wyse 47:15
Right, stand up and paddle. So I tried that. Because it was a job. It was a video that’s going to come up soon. And I actually have a narration, I have to do the narration for that video as well. So it will come up soon. And I’ll share that when it’s live. But I was a bit scared because it’s like the I am on this thing. And I have the paddle in the middle of the water. I felt like I was going to fall. The partner, who’s also in the video, he actually felt he was fine. But it was just really funny. But it was it wasn’t that hard. It was just like you have to know like the the guy was teaching us what to do. And I was able to do it. So I wouldn’t do it again. But in warmer weather.

JJ Walsh 48:03
Yeah, yeah, we have it in Hiroshima as well. We’ve got a few rental places. It’s something that I hoped would be more of because it doesn’t use fossil fuels. There’s no loud noises. There’s no pollution. It’s a wonderful way to see the city because you just go along quietly. But in my case, it’s sit up and paddle because I do not stand anymore. I kept falling off.

Ayana. Wyse 48:26

JJ Walsh 48:29
it is completely fine. You can do that as well. And it’s a really nice way, or kneel, you can kneel and paddle. But then you’d have to change the SUP word. I guess..

Another thing you said in the Japan Times article, which I want to go back to a little bit is talking about building community, not society. Can you talk about that a little bit? I thought that was interesting.

Ayana. Wyse 48:58
Yeah, um, because society has its own set of rules, and it just evolves from whatever people have been doing for years. But there’s always going to be smaller communities within society. And people always want to feel like they belong somewhere in society. Eventually, you don’t feel like you belong, especially if you’re very different from the norms of society. So I feel like it’s important to have that community and it doesn’t matter if it’s a big one or a small one as long as you feel like it’s a positive thing for you and that you’re not it’s not toxic.

Because moving here as a foreigner, I felt very lonely for a good three years. I didn’t think I did until I broke I broke down like my third year realizing I have friends but I feel very lonely. So why is that? And I I mainly had Japanese friends at the time, but no one was really close. I couldn’t really talk about my my feelings like that or just vent about things that I did. It bothered me. Because first of all, at that time, my Japanese wasn’t the greatest and they didn’t speak English.

And then also they didn’t experience a lot of things that I experienced. So there was like, No, there was no thing to actually compare, not compare, but like, what’s the word I’m gonna say? It was just hard. So I realized that I need to find people have like minded, they don’t have to be American, they just have to have something similar. And I can talk to them and could be deeper. I don’t want shallow friends anymore. And then when I made bcj, I felt like this is the community that I really want to build. Because I’m really passionate about creative things. It doesn’t really matter what your creative thing is, it’s just that my mind is focused on creating I like this. People have math, brain science, brains, mind is like arts.

So I want Arts in this community. And I want to make it foreigner and Japanese. But like, I focus more on the black community because I was like, I’m black, I feel more connected to my blackness more than ever, now that I’m outside of the United States, like I’m more aware of who I am. And I just wanted to bring that to other people as well. Like, please, let’s work together to figure out what it’s like to navigate in Japan as a black person, and also be positive about it. Because I feel like there’s a couple of black people that I’ve talked to who are like, oh, I’ve just been here, I didn’t have anybody else. And I just felt like I lost myself a little bit like I don’t want people to just continue losing themselves in a foreign land. Let’s continue just like supporting each other. And even if there’s a person who’s like, Oh, I just I don’t want any foreign friends. Like, that’s, that’s cool. And all, but we’re here whenever you need us.

JJ Walsh 51:44
Yeah. Donna, here says she is “totally on board with community. It’s a big part of my work” Thanks, Donna.

Ayana. Wyse 51:55
Thank you.

I think that’s so it’s so important, like you said, and it’s you can’t force people to accept you, right? You, you just say We’re here. We’re doing our positive thing. If you want to join us, please do like, just keep it soft, soft, soft power kind of thing.

Yeah. Because I, for me, personally, when I was like, I don’t want any foreign friends, I thought those were the way to go. And then realize it didn’t work out the way I wanted it. So if it works out for you, sure. But if you’re still like in need of somebody who’s similar to you, and what some way different with similar, so you can always learn something new, then I just say we are here. If you don’t want to join, if you don’t want to even come to an event, that’s okay. But if you change your mind, we will welcome you no matter what. Unless you’re toxic, don’t do that.

JJ Walsh 52:46
Then you can stay away. If if you’re walking down the street, you see another foreigner or another Japanese person, do you smile and say hello, because I really tried to. And you know, some every now and again, you’ll you’ll have people be like, I’m not talking to you just because you’re another foreigner. But the Japanese people too, and my neighborhood, you know, I mean, you gotta kind of Judge but

Ayana. Wyse 53:13
I think maybe it’s a little different. Like, I don’t know how Hiroshima is because it’s a little smaller. But um, I think definitely in city settings. People just kind of ignore people more. I don’t necessarily do that I used to have a stank face. When I walk along. Sometimes I might still it just depends on my mood. But I don’t, I don’t say hello, specifically because you’re a foreigner or I don’t look at you because I actually look away. I’m very awkward when I’m walking by myself. So I don’t want anyone to think that I’m doing it like personally because you are a foreigner. I’m just like, I don’t want to talk to anyone if you’re a foreigner or Japanese when I’m by myself.

But if I’m in a good mood and myself and I see someone look at me, I’m just like, I used to not do that. But I’ve gotten better at it because I don’t want people to think that I’m a stink person anymore. But then again, I don’t care what they think I just want to just look a little bit more friendly, but not too friendly. So you talk to me so it’s just something that I fight with internally all the time.

JJ Walsh 54:12
No, I get it and i i find it even more relaxing sometimes when everybody’s wearing a mask because you can’t really like people so it’s kind of like you can be invisible more if you want to be

Ayana. Wyse 54:28
I didn’t even like wearing masks before Corona. Like I would just if I’m sick I would wear a little bit at work but then I would take it off but now that I’ve gotten used to it, I’m just like, no one knows my my expression. I could just be like, but like in my eyes but then I don’t like what I saw.

JJ Walsh 54:49
One of the quotes from you talking about community as well. You say things change slowly in Japan. The puzzle may seem near impossible to solve. But each support group and podcasts like the twists and turns of a Rubik’s Cube, get us closer to a cohesive goal.

Ayana. Wyse 55:11
Did I say that?

JJ Walsh 55:12
Beautiful? I love it. Do you still feel that way? That was less you feel

Ayana. Wyse 55:20
Yeah, I still feel that. It is. It can be frustrating. how slow Japan can be. But there are, I feel like what happens in Japan, and I’ve been here for 10 years. So what I feel sometimes is like, things change slow then fast, really shortly, and it’s slow again. So it might have been like incomplete changes, just like we’re changing this not fully, but then we’re gonna be slow in completing that change. And that’s, that’s just the way it’s been. It seems.

JJ Walsh 55:51
Yeah. In your interview with non native creative, Alicia, who was also in this series before too, you were talking about your future plans, like hoping to do talent show fashion show do events again? And is that still your plan for this year or any other projects you’re sure to do?

Ayana. Wyse 56:13
I don’t know if it’s this year, but it’s still on my mind to do it’s still on the list of things that I want to accomplish. Because like the last showcase in chill was supposed to be a little bit bigger, and have like a fashion show. But then we put it on halt before the pandemic even happened. Because of the timing. We were gonna we’re kind of feeling a little burnt out with the events that we’re doing. So we’re just like, Alright, let’s take a short break. And we’ll get back in the springtime. Because people can like be out more, and it’s not too cold, but then gonna happen. So it’s still on the list.

JJ Walsh 56:47
Yeah, good. One of the events that I found on I think it’s bcj. Instagram is the vanishing footprints, which is a very sustainability focused event. I love it. You’re doing a fashion swap, you’re doing vegan foods. fantastic idea. I tried to do something similar in Hiroshima. And it was actually the impetus for this talk show series. So have you are you going to try that again? in the future? How did that go vanishing?

Ayana. Wyse 57:18
Sorry, my that event is all to our my friend Taylor. So I do have a team of people helping with events. So all props to her, that was her idea. And also Rosie, who is not a member of bcj. But she is an ally and a supporter of it of the group. So with those two, I said to them, like, let me help you looking at trying to get more people to come. Let’s link it to bcj because it is a very creative idea. So with that we have done maybe three of them. And we couldn’t we want to continue doing them. We did one in December, recently. And I think we’re going to do another one in spring, we kind of try to do it seasonal. So people are like, Oh, I want to get rid of clothes. So let’s try to do this. I’ve gotten some really nice pieces from swapping. So I really enjoy that event. And with Rosie who is a baker of vegan sweets Baker. She started off just like doing it in her room. And she’s still doing it in her room. But she’s now has her food handling license. So she’s trying to expand that I’m really excited to see how it turns out.

JJ Walsh 58:28
You’ll have to introduce me to her I’d love to talk to her in the series. Sure. That’d be great. Um, but yeah, this the rotating your fashion that you just not wearing and reusing it that way. It’s it’s a fabulous style of sustainability. But it’s also really fun. And it saves you loads of money, because these are high quality pieces that definitely need someone to be loving and wearing again, right?

Ayana. Wyse 58:58
Yes, yes.

It’s fun to because you’re interacting with everybody. And then you like to like see who’s gonna choose your piece that you donated is like, Oh, you got that was mine. And then people like, Oh my god, this is really nice. Thank you just like it warms your heart to see that there’s another home for this piece that you just no longer connect with.

JJ Walsh 59:18
Absolutely, yeah. And if you have things leftover we found in our events, sometimes I would have a bunch of things that people didn’t take like a bunch of people brought stuff, but then didn’t take anything. And so I was left with like a car load of clothes but the good thing about that now is it’s quite easy to pass it on to recycle reuse shops. Yes, can street or off? Did you find the same thing?

Ayana. Wyse 59:43
We we send it to h&m because they have the thing where you could just drop it off. I do that with a lot of my clothes that I don’t want to swap because it’s just like not good to swap like it’s just like, Oh, this is worn out. So that’s what we do either. If it’s Hmm, it’s somewhere else. But it’s so far been easy to just drop it off there.

JJ Walsh 1:00:05
Yeah, some, I’ve had a lot of success with them Second Street, and they’ll yell also, they’ll give you a little bit of money if you register with your ID. Hmm, is is alright, but I think they’re burning it most of it is being burnt. what not, they’re not reusing the actual material. I didn’t know that and kill me. We do get a lot of energy in Japan from incineration. So, a but if you want to see the fabrics and stuff reused, I think Second Street or book off, they do. Clean it, repair it, reuse it as is, which might be maybe a little bit better. But yes,

Ayana. Wyse 1:00:45
I will tell I’ll tell my friend Taylor cuz she’s really into sustainable living and fashion as well. I can also share her Instagram because she’s really trying to reuse and like fine she loves kimoto so she’s trying to like find kimonos and like kind of refurbished them or is that the word refurbished? Trying to like yes. Yeah, like them. Yeah, and into a new piece. And then with the vintage store owner, like used those pieces and try to like, integrate it with more modern pieces. So she tells me all the time or asked me questions when I’m like, Oh, I sit there I like this harness. She’s like, is that leather? I’m like, No, but I just like the the fashion she was like, about to tell me like make sure it’s not leather. Sounds like cool. Like I know, she’s really into like sustainable living and fashion. So I’ll share her even

JJ Walsh 1:01:36
if you’re if you’re choosing things that are sustainable, but they’re vintage or they’re used, even if it is leather, and you’re extending the life of the product. That’s still better than buying it.

Ayana. Wyse 1:01:47
Yeah, right. Yeah, I think I think she was just going on about it being new leather.

JJ Walsh 1:01:51
Yeah, but please introduce me to them. They sound like an amazing guests for a future episode. Yeah, and we’ll put links below. Thank you so much for joining. Thank you everybody, for joining and for your great comments today. Please join us again. Have a great day everyone. Thanks.

Ayana. Wyse 1:02:29
Bye. Thank you.

A key step to more sustainability in Japan is representing diversity in society- everyone deserves to be accepted for the good work they do regardless of how they look. But to be accepted, people need to be seen, heard and represented accurately. We need greater understanding and acceptance of diversity in Japan to move toward greater inclusion of all people.

I love Ayana’s positive enthusiasm and really appreciate all the work that she does -acting as a support and information hub. It’s not easy to take the lead, or always put yourself and others in the spotlight, but by doing so, there is more hope for meaningful work and experiences, and accurate representation in Japan.