Tomoko Yasuda

Tomoko Yasuda


Tomoko Yasuda

Class of 2016

Nationality: Japanese


Years and grades you attended at YIS.
I attended from 2015 to 2016 for grades 11 and 12.


Please describe a memorable moment from your time at YIS.

A lot of my favorite memories in YIS come from the sports matches and practices. I used to play a sport each season, rotating between football, cross country, and field hockey. I always took it for granted that we had a supportive coach and opportunities to do so many different sports, but I now realize it's not something you can do anywhere, and, so, really treasure the experiences I had at YIS. A particularly special memory is the AISA tournament we had in Korea, which I think we won but I'm not quite sure!

Which teachers played an important role in your time at YIS?

I still remember going home from my first day at YIS, and telling my mum about how the principle, Mr. Snowball, seemed to know the name of every student who walked down the hall. During my time at YIS, I was constantly amazed by how he could make everyone feel like he genuinely cared. He inspired me to aim to listen more closely to others, and still does.

Where you are based now, and what are your occupation and lifestyle like?

After I graduated, I went to the University of Birmingham to study Biomedical Sciences. I soon realized lab work wasn't my thing, and reapplied to study medicine in Japan. I'm currently still a medical student, and living a nice and busy life studying, running several volunteer projects, working part-time at a nursery school, and participating in sports!

Do you feel your experiences and relationships at YIS prepared you for life after YIS?

During my years at YIS, I was involved with many service projects including the Kotobukicho Chiku Center and Sanagitachi. This eventually led me to researching (for my extended essay) the issue of social exclusion and forms of disparities that existed in Kotobuki-cho, which was then ranked as the third poorest area, or ドヤ街 , doya-gai, in all of Japan, and is, coincidentally, just a short walk away from the YIS campus.

Before coming to YIS, I'd lived most of my life moving between different countries in Southeast Asia and Africa and had always given Japan the 'developed, rich and glamorous' label. Getting to know the poorer side of Japan, so different from the image of it I'd always had, made me realize that social disparities existed not just in developing countries, but everywhere. I came to the realization that no matter what the race, ethnicity or background, 'being healthy' and free of sickness was the best state for one to be in. These experiences were what helped shape my firm belief in the universal right to healthcare, directed my decision to study medicine, and prepared me to make the tough decision of leaving the UK to come to Japan to study in Japanese , a language I had very little confidence in using.

You are very involved in volunteer work in Nepal. What do you do, and why is it so important to you?

I first went to Nepal during my summer vacation as a first year medical student, after getting invited to teach English at a local school there. I arrived to find that they had no science teacher and ended up teaching Science instead. I went with only the knowledge that Nepal was ranked the poorest country in Asia and the passion to volunteer; I came back emotionally richer, and questioning what true happiness was. I fell in love with Nepal, and the wealth of the people's hearts.

I returned to Nepal for about two months the following year, and was introduced to Indira - the founder of an NGO called Prisoner's Assistance (PA) Nepal, and one of the most passionate advocates for human rights and equality. I stayed at one of their children's homes where they house over a 100 children whose parents are in jail, often for crimes they did not commit but unable to escape due to their low social status. Here, I worked with the children and made use of my background in medicine to conduct a few hand-washing classes, and introduce a growth chart system to record the children's development. 

After spending lots of time with Indira, I developed a connection with her and her NGO that made me wish to support them over a longer term. 

Unable to forget how the children ate with their hands, as is their custom, but also unable to forget that they had no toilet paper, as is normal in Nepal, and no soap due to the lack of funds in the NGO, I decided that providing antibacterial soap would be a great way to encourage improved sanitation and decrease disease transmission at the children's home. I have been fundraising for this initiative ever since. This is important to me because it is for the health of all those bright children who came to mean so much to me while I lived with them. A small amount means so much, yet as a student I cannot do this alone. I would be most appreciative if others could support this initiative through my Go Get Funding page

Given your achievements and experiences, what advice would you give to YIS students in Gr. 11 or 12?

I think the most important thing I've learned so far in life is that you should set an ambitious, long-term goal for yourself and set out to achieve it with all your determination starting today, now, not starting "maybe tomorrow"! 

And what's most important, is that you will need the support and help of lots of other people to achieve your goal. Share your passion, make it shine, and gradually you will realize you've got a brilliant team surrounding you.