Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter? IDYW Seminar, September 1


Ta to Jethro Brice

Colin Brent sends news re the fascinating prospect of hearing about youth work in Japan and the influence of IDYW’s Story-Telling approach upon the Japanese scrutiny of practice.

In Defence of Youth Work’s Engaging Critically Seminars

Youth work in Japan: Why does storytelling matter?

story telling 2

Friday, September 1 from 11:00 –14:00

Bollo Brook Youth Centre, 272 Osborne Road, W3 8SR, London


· Creating spaces to write and read about practice – creating the Japanese version of ‘This is Youth Work’ (Maki Hiratsuka)

· Two stories from youth work practice in Japan

· Discussion


Maki Hiratsuka is working with researchers and youth work practitioners from Japan to undertake international research in youth work that focuses on the creation of ‘the space’ for ‘writing down the practice and reading it together’. Inspired by the In Defence of Youth Work publication ‘This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice’ , they are aiming to publish the Japanese version online by the end of 2017. It is also hoped to make it into a series. As in England, ‘numerical’ evaluation has prevailed in Japan. As a counter-measure, the research group propose story-telling.

In Defence of Youth Work is a forum for critical discussion on youth work. We are committed to encouraging an open and pluralist debate at a time of limited opportunities for collective discussion. We are looking forward to welcoming researchers and youth workers from Japan to share and discuss the similarities and differences in the practice and governance of youth work in our two countries.

See also Facebook events page to indicate interest/to say you’re going.

Youth Work in Japan


From Leamington to Tokyo : Sharing the Story-Telling Experience


We are still a bit blown away by the development of this relationship with Japanese academics and youth workers, prompted by their enthusiasm about our Story-Telling model. And as you will see from Bernard’s notes the ensuing conversations have led us to reflect critically on our efforts thus far. Whisper it quietly, but interest has also been shown in Kazakhstan!

These notes have been prompted by a youth work story-telling workshop and follow-up discussion which IDYW was invited to arrange for a visiting group of Japanese youth work practitioners and researchers. Because unfortunately other IDYW colleagues were unavailable on the dates, I ended up facilitating on my own what turned out to be a searching and thought-provoking event with participants deeply committed to the kinds of youth work which IDYW is trying to defend. After engaging actively throughout in – with breaks and time for translation – a five hour workshop, the group met again in the evening for its own ‘debriefing’ session. This generated two pages of typed-up questions which were emailed to me overnight as prompts for a further two hour discussion the following morning.

Though language and cultural differences inevitably sometimes presented barriers to be overcome, these also helped to prompt exchanges which seemed to me less likely to occur in an all-UK group, forcing me to struggle for explanations and clarifications which I’ve not been asked for before. These not only seemed important in their own right for these participants. They also raised issues and questions which I believe deserve further collective consideration within IDYW. Hence these notes – which have been shared first with, and some comments added by, the workshop participants.

Background and contexts

The workshop came out of personal contacts which a number of us who are active in IDYW have had over the years with Professor Maki Hiratsuka of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Hosei University and who on a previous visit set up a meeting with me specifically to discuss the IDYW story-telling process. As for personal reasons she wasn’t able to come this time – though she did participate by Skype in most of the sessions – the group was led by the colleague who had also been involved in that earlier discussion, Professor Akio Inui of Tokyo Metropolitan University. Members of the group included four other academics, two of whom are doing part-time youth work, six full-time youth workers and youth work managers and a full-time student on an MA course at DMU who attended the workshop I facilitated there in April.

Both in informal conversations and during the working sessions, it became clear that, despite the obvious historical and cultural differences, some clear parallels existed between youth workers’ perspectives and challenges in Japan and in the UK. This came out particularly as participants explained the difficult balances they were having to strike between funders’ demands for work that was targeted on special groups of young people and the workers’ preference for and commitment to open access facilities. These included not only youth centres and drop-ins but also homework clubs which young people chose to attend for social reasons as well as to do their homework. In one informal conversation, too, the wider neo-liberal context for these struggles was also explicitly acknowledged.

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