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Lakeland University Japan News

The Lakeland Lecture Series Presents: Ally Hongo

The Lakeland Lecture Series Presents: Ally Hongo


The Lakeland Lecture Series Presents: Ally Hongo

Topic: "Travel for Change. Change for Travel: How can the travel industry serve as a driving force for social change in Japan?"
Date and Time:
May 25, 7pm
LUJ Lecture Hall – 6th floor.

“Stay safe and never settle for anything you know isn’t right for you. Things might be hard, but there’s always a way.” – Ally Hongo

By the time Ally Hongo founded Shiitake Creative, an agency devoted to helping companies and professionals “go bold and local in Japan” via marketing strategies, you could say that she had been through many of her own life changes.

Raised in Bulgaria, Ally moved to Japan when she was fifteen and entered high school without any Japanese language ability. “I had to learn fast,” Ally writes. “High school is a war zone and to survive, you need to forget about all your comfort zones and learn fast.”

So she did. After her harrowing high school experience, Ally went on to eventually earn an M.A. in Media Studies from Tokyo University.

Ally had known for some time that she wanted to be a journalist, and ten years after first arriving in Japan, she landed a job as a writer/translator for the Mainichi Shimbun. Soon after, Ally took on the role of editor-and-chief for Savvy Tokyo, a web magazine devoted to “international families and women.”

Her experience there was fulfilling, and “a major success.” But, as she puts it, “I had to move on to grow.”

This time, it was her family that grew. Ally and her husband welcomed a son and brought in two foster cats. In 2019, Ally headed back into the workforce, taking an editorial position at Tokyo Weekender (TW), the oldest English-language magazine in Japan.

Once again, Ally needed to embrace change. “I became the head of digital content right in the beginning of the Covid pandemic,” she writes, “finding myself with a new job, new responsibility and a team I had to get to know well and fast…online.”

In her year at TW, Ally brought to the magazine a priority on issues such as social and racial justice, and the Black Lives Matter movement happening in Japan, interviewing Naomi Kawahara and Terry Wright, “the duo behind the initiative to spread awareness of racism and racial injustice, Japan for Black Lives. She also interviewed astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, and Mami Kataoka, the director of the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi.

But Ally felt a certain limitation to her role, and how she engaged with Japan’s social issues. “…as long as I am tied to one medium,” she writes, “I can never go as far as I wish.”

Enter Shiitake Creative, an agency founded by Ally, her husband, and a talented close friend. With Shiitake, Ally hopes not only to help assist companies and professionals, but also to facilitate social change in a country “years behind in promotion on global standards.”

To hear more from Ally, please come to the LUJ Lecture Hall on the 6th floor at 7pm, May 25th.

Also, have a look at the poster for more specific information on the talk.