things unseen

With this year’s TEDx event, we explore the theme “Things Unseen”.

Every day we go about without giving regard to the little things that build our ethos.  We can be so consumed with “the big picture” and constant upheaval that we live with things unseen.  There are many things that influence what we do and why we do it.  They can be in the form of tangible or intangible forces that influence our lives, our culture, our beliefs and our environment.  

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Often times, these things go unnoticed or are taken for granted, yet they can be some of the most impactful things in our day-to-day lives. For instance, what lies beneath someone’s facial expression or demeanor? What drives a community or culture to be the way they are?  What is the catalyst behind ground-breaking research that is hiding in the back of a laboratory?  What makes seemingly ordinary people extraordinary?  Why do some extraordinary people feel they are not? Or, what drives the development of certain technology that may or may not be toward the betterment of society? They are simply, “Things Unseen”.

Our Speakers:


Ken Mogi, born in 1962, is a neuroscientist, writer, and broadcaster based in Tokyo. He has a B.A. in Physics and Law, and a Ph.D in Physics, from the University of Tokyo, and has done postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge, U.K. He was the first Japanese to give a talk at the TED main stage, in 2012 (Long Beach). Ken Mogi’s research interests include emotion, memory, artificial intelligence, and consciousness.

Talk Synopsis:

The advent of AI would change the way we live and work. Whether it is going to be for the better or worse would depend on how well we think and act in the coming years. Now is the time to start thinking. Increasingly, there is a tendency that people behave and make choices according to some perceived evaluation function, just like artificial intelligence systems. Looking at human history and his own observations , Professor Mogi invites you to explore the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence, and its endless possibilities.


Originally from N. Ireland, Sam first came to Japan as a teenager before going on to study Japanese at Cambridge University. After graduation, he worked in South America and Europe before returning to Japan in 2007. Since then, he has focused his career in the civil society sector and has experience in peace education, environmental protection, cultural exchange, educational empowerment and mental health. Since late 2018, Sam has been the Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan, in which he joined with experience working in various roles across the civil society sector in Japan, and a passion for empowering citizens to make informed choices about their future.

Talk Synopsis:

"In a world that is changing at an increasingly accelerated rate, how can we best navigate a path forward? What is of real value, and how can we protect it? Change is often good, but it can come at a cost. The greatest change we collectively face today is climate change, which poses a threat to our very existence. Instead of feeling powerless in the face of it, how can we rise to the challenge? How can we engage proactively with our current reality, and change it into something better for ourselves and future generations? By rediscovering what really matters, we have the opportunity to create something better. "


Raised in both Japan and the United States, Hiroyuki (Hiro) Tomibe is the local Administrator for the community “Nikkei in Japan,” which aims to create a place of belonging for Nikkei individuals (日系人) living in Japan, as well as other people who find themselves living “in between” multiple cultures. From the outside Hiro can be seen as bicultural, but deeper down he has been trying to untangle the complexities of how the two cultures of his upbringing merged to create an entirely different identity within himself.

Talk Synopsis:

Living “in Between” Cultures

We all want to find who we are, and cultural identity has a huge influence on our sense of self. What happens when we’re influenced by multiple cultures with conflicting values? How should one find comfort in their mixed identity when it doesn't fit in with any country? Hiro Tomibe, leader of Nikkei in Japan, shares his upbringing as a returnee and third-culture kid.

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Bonnie Jin is a 20-year old student pursuing a BA/MA in International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. As the current Executive Director of European Horizons, the world’s only student-led policy incubator, she strives to amplify the voices of all students in civil society, and to use research to improve public policy. Her current research as part of the Honors Program for the Humanities explores the intersection between literature and political philosophy, specifically the moral responsibility of individuals in the face of societal injustice. She is a 2015 recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s CBYX Scholarship, and the first place winner of the UCLA Center for International Relations’ 2018 International Coexistence Contest. You can find her at

Talk Synopsis:

Young people today live in a time more globally interconnected than any generation before us. At the same time, modern technology has also made it easier than ever to live within the comfort of our personal echo chambers, without ever having to confront that which makes us uncomfortable. However, this creates a dangerous disconnect between us and other members of society, allowing us to live lives without a care for others. What can we do to be more aware of the struggles of people around us? For those of us who live comfortably today, why should we bother changing the status quo? And how — and to what extent — can we actually affect political change? Only through awareness, compassion, and action, can we create a society which works for everyone — not just those who are “seen”.

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Erika Knorr is currently a 3rd year student at Waseda University’s SILS department. Around 2 and a half years ago, she had the opportunity to become a teacher’s assistant at a small international school in Tokyo, where she began working with children who have special educational needs. Although she had never imagined to be in this field, she plans to continue her studies after graduation so that she can work better with those who have special needs.

Talk Synopsis:

Tokyo’s vast and reliable public transportation system gives us the unique opportunity to share a space with people from all walks of life, including those with special needs. Special needs and the experience of having one go largely unseen to those who don’t have one or don’t know an immediate family member with one. The lessons that I’ve learned by working with those who have special needs have taught me great introspection and empathy— qualities that can be practiced by all commuters. I want to share my story about how I came to know these skills and how we can all practice them in our overcrowded and often hectic city.


Yuki Hasegawa is the current Deputy Managing Editor of The Yomiuri Shimbun, a leading Japanese national daily newspaper. Joining The Yomiuri Shimbun in 1989, Ms.Hasegawa has been actively involved in the International News Department, with experience in covering key events such as the Asian Financial Crisis, the independence movement in East Timor and Indonesian political turmoil, along with reporting on the UN, post-war Iraq, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and conflicts in Gaza. She is deeply interested in the changing environment of the media industry and the impact information technology has on media, and has been heavily involved in digital, artificial intelligence and other IT-related developments at The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Talk Synopsis:

Seeing can be deceiving; seeing and listening are both crucial for journalist to report, but what we can see be deceiving and sometimes blind ourselves from seeing the “unseen” : Seeking the “unseen” is the essence of journalism.


Born in 1994, Risako Ninomiya spent her middle and high school days in Hawaii and graduated from Waseda University, School of International Liberal Studies in 2018. She has engaged in Lean In Tokyo since she was a junior at the university, and in her senior year founded a campus circle Lean In Waseda. After graduation, she serves as a representative of Lean In Tokyo. Her field of interest is education and gender (mainly feminism), and she is also engaged in the promotion of STEAM for girls in middle and high school at SKYLABO, and the development of educational curriculum at Selan Inc.

Talk Synopsis:

We all have an experience of feeling invisible pain in our heart. However, this pain arouses sympathy and strengthen the bond between people. What kind of action can we take to make the bond stronger and take a step forward?