「地球を一つの学校にする」という目標を掲げたWorld Road のCEOを務める市川太一さん。同社が企画した書籍は、201ヵ国の人々の夢と課題を紹介し、学校の授業やビジネスセミナーの教材として活用されている。幼少期から日本の外の広い世界に目を向けていたという市川さんに話を聞いた。
Taichi Ichikawa describes himself as a “hometown boy,” but being a hometown boy from Fukushima has never stopped the 29-year-old from thinking big.
“I have my mother to thank for that,” says Ichikawa. “She ran an English school from our home. She taught local kids and prepared them for Eiken exams. English was always in close proximity and helped shape my life and outlook.” Ichikawa’s parents also encouraged him to think outside of the box and put a world map on their living room wall. “From an early age, I knew the world was a much bigger place than Japan.”
Ichikawa is a co-founder and CEO of World Road, a company with ambitions to “build the world into a single school.” Last year, World Road published the book We Have a Dream, a collection of young voices from 201 countries and territories stating their life dreams and the actions they’re taking to ensure a sustainable and more socially equal environment. Ichikawa’s company provides seminars and workshops using the book.
The book stems from Ichikawa’s experiences at One Young World, which he attended while at Aoyama Gakuin University. OYW is an international summit that functions as a forum for young leaders.
“OYW opened my eyes to the outside world and allowed me to get a grip on the problems and issues in the global society, like poverty and social inequality. It was an opportunity to learn what other people in the world are thinking and feeling.”
Ichikawa says OYW also gave him the realization that “it’s not how you speak English, but what you’re saying that matters.”
“There were representatives from over 190 countries and it was like walking into a micro version of the globe. I remember one young woman who had escaped from North Korea recounting her story in tears. It didn’t matter that her English wasn’t fluent. Her words had the power to move thousands of people.”
The experience impacted Ichikawa deeply and to this day, remains an inspiration.
Ichikawa says that though he went through some rough patches with the English language, he knows they will always be together.
“English and I … we’re like childhood friends. It helped me make a lot of friends abroad. It gave me my first job. It provided me with a ticket to the outside world. But it also gave me an inferiority complex. There were times when I couldn’t stand being around English and we‘d temporarily break up. But in the end, I know English is there for me.”
Ichikawa’s company provides seminars and workshops not just to young people but anyone wishing to learn about sustainable development and growth. His clients are also in the business sector.
“The Japanese business world is much more woke than it was a decade ago, though currently it’s mostly discussions and talks and not enough taking of real action.”
Still, says Ichikawa, it’s a big step in the right direction. “I think the globe will merge into one borderless society in the not-so-far future. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look at the issues going on in the global village, then to go out there and see for oneself. Even though the Japanese passport is one of the most favored in the world, only 20% of our nation’s people carry one. I feel that that’s a lot of lost opportunities.”
Ichikawa makes dream-chasing and success look almost easy, but his journey has been anything but.
“I was pretty confident about my English skills up until university. But once I got it in, I discovered they were sorely lacking.”
In his freshman year, Ichikawa went to Ghana, where he encountered students from the European Union who were fluent in two or more languages besides English. After that, he took a year to study and do an internship in Seattle.
“When you go abroad, you realize that Japan is an incredibly ordered society where most people follow the same life patterns along the same age brackets. Overseas, everything is much more of a jumbled blend. I tend to think life’s more interesting that way.” (Kaori Shoji)
Words to live by
市川太一 （いちかわ たいち）
1992年、福島県生まれ。青山学院大学国際政治経済学部卒業。大学在学中にシアトルに１年間留学し、帰国後の2014年、「ワン・ヤング・ワールド（青年版ダボス会議、OYW）」に日本代表として参加。新卒で（株）アミューズに入社。退職後、主に教育コンテンツ開発を行なうWorld Road を共同設立し、CEOを務める。2021年『We Have A Dream 201カ国202人の夢×SDGs』（いろは出版）を出版。