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Interview: Yasuaki Sakyo

  • Story Highlights
  • Yasuaki Sakyo, 28, is the president of Shibuya University, Tokyo, Japan
  • A former accountant, he gave up his job to work in the community
  • Sakyo believes education should be lifelong, community-based and fun
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(CNN) -- Yasuaki Sakyo, president of Shibuya University, believes that education should be lifelong. At Shibuya, courses are free and open to all; classes take place in shops, cafes and outside; and anyone can be a teacher. CNN spoke to him about Shibuya, its methods and the future of learning.

Yasuaki Sakyo, Dean of Shibuya University

CNN: What is the Shibuya University?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Shibuya University was started in 2006 and is a new system of education that is closely tied to its local environment. At Shibuya University we don't have any school buildings; the campus is the Shibuya area. The classrooms are places like cafes, restaurants, record shops etc. There are no entrance exams. It's a system whereby anyone who wants to learn can come.

CNN: What is it about Shibuya University that makes it distinctive?

Yasuaki Sakyo: It leverages all the local resources: people, buildings, and anything that is going on that is educational. Shibuya is simply packed with resources like this.

CNN: Why did you think that creating Shibuya University was important?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Shibuya University is a system where anybody who wants to learn can do so and do it easily. "Education" and "learning" sound very stiff and serious. But they can also be fun and interesting. Through knowledge and learning you can change yourself, and as a result enrich your life.

On the other hand, Shibuya, where people usually come to enjoy themselves, is full of wonderful things. My idea was to bring together the most interesting elements of "education" and the attractive parts of "Shibuya." I thought that it would be a fun thing to do.

CNN: How did Shibuya University get started?

Yasuaki Sakyo: In November 2005, a group of people came up with this idea of Shibuya University. We discussed and planned what sort of organization Shibuya University should be. Should it be a regular business? Or should it be a non-profit organization? Who should start it? So for one year we discussed what we should do; then we started classes in September 2006.

CNN: How did you get involved?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Before I started at Shibuya University, I worked at a trading company for three years. Then I quit. After I quit, I asked myself, what am I going to do now? And I thought that I'd like to do something important which could improve the community.

CNN: Who introduced you to it?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Originally someone called Hasabe Ken who was, and still is, on the local council and worked for a non-profit organization. It was he who came up with the idea of Shibuya University for the local council. Mind you, it wasn't called Shibuya University then. But he had the idea. And then, just at the time that I quit my company, I met Ken Hasabe. We discussed the future and what we could do together and what kind of visions we had and then we came up with the idea for Shibuya University.

CNN: How did you raise the money for it?

Yasuaki Sakyo: In Shibuya there is a small subsidiary company, a local council company that supports service companies in Shibuya. We also got donations and sponsorship from many businesses. So far, these are the main ways we raised money.

CNN: How can people study at Shibuya?

Yasuaki Sakyo: All students apply for the school and classes by going to our Web site. Anyone can apply.

CNN: What sort of subjects do you teach?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Shibuya University classes teach about evolving subject matters and things that people want to know about. We teach a wide range of subjects. Demand is high for classes on the environment and traditional Japanese culture, and we have a lot of classes on these topics.

CNN: What type of people are students?

Yasuaki Sakyo: At Shibuya University, about 80 percent of students are in their 20s and 30s. There are slightly more women than men.

CNN: Do the students pay anything?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Currently, students don't pay for the classes, but if they make something they have to pay for the materials and for anything that they eat.

CNN: How important is the university to the local community and what impact is it having?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Simply speaking, Shibuya University makes the people who live and work in Shibuya happy.

CNN: What do you think is the future for education?

Yasuaki Sakyo: Whatever people learn, you can be happier and enriched. This won't change with the passage of time. But, I think some things must change as time goes by.

We always discuss with our community and our family what must change and what should change, so we should study together. It would be great if things could be like that.

CNN: What are your hopes for Shibuya University for the future?

Yasuaki Sakyo: I hope that having something like Shibuya University can improve communication among people and will enliven the local community. I hope that we get a wider range of ages amongst students, from children to older people.

In my book, I said that it would be great if Shibuya University was copied around the world. If Shibuya University could connect with a similar system overseas, then we could all learn from each other. It's a great learning experience to know about other ways of thinking: to know about others is to have respect and acceptance for each other. It would be great if Shibuya University could have a positive effect like this. If we can do this, people's daily life and society overall will get better and better.


Would you study at an establishment like Shibuya University? What do you think of Yasuaki Sakyo's vision for community-based learning? Share your views and read others' thoughts in the Just Imagine forum. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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