The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Diversity has been part of my life for a very long time. It’s what led me to Japan and what has shaped me into the person I am. But that wasn’t always the case. Growing up in rural Alabama during the 1970s and 1980s did not offer me diverse experiences. When I got to university, however, I quickly became involved in the International Student Association at the University of Alabama. I also lived in the Rotary International House with 11 other students, each from a different country.

Interacting with different ideas, customs, and beliefs made me realize how rich human culture is. Being in that house was like taking a trip around the world every day. Some of my most cherished memories are of the moments we all shared, when diversity came together but differences dissolved.

That was the early 1990s. At the time, I felt like part of a small group that was bringing about a world in which everyone would live in harmony and differences would be embraced. And, for a while, I thought we were getting there. Almost 30 years later, I’m not so sure.

Progress has been made, but, over the past few years, it seems that we’ve been sliding back down the hill. Diversity has never been a hotter topic, but it feels as if we are talking past each other. Social media provides the best tool we’ve ever had for sharing ideas and building discussion, but, all too often, we end up with groups of homogenous thought stirring in an echo chamber, occasionally emerging to shout at one another. There isn’t much real engagement going on.

If we are to realize our potential, we must learn to harness the power of diversity. That means accepting differences and respecting each individual. For this to happen, strong leadership is essential and thoughtful communication is important.

One of the things I love about working with the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) to bring you this magazine is that I am still an active participant in the kind of advocacy that enriched my life as a student. In university, I didn’t think of what I was doing as advocacy, but I was essentially working to bring about greater acceptance and inclusion in a culture that was not ready to embrace such diversity.

One of the battles we are fighting in Japan is that of marriage equality. You don’t have to go back far to find a time when same-sex couples could not marry even in the United States. But, with perse­verance, advocates changed public perception and government followed. The same conditions that brought about that transformation are beginning to be seen in Japan. Change on the local level is already happening, and discussions are starting on a national level. The leadership that the ACCJ is providing is making a difference, and we highlight this in two stories this month: Renewed Vows and the Business of Equality.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.