Lessons from Japan: A story about IATSS Forum Leadership Training

Being selected as one of the participants from Indonesia in the leadership training held by IATSS Forum Japan was one of my proudest moments. This program has been conducted since 1985 and was initiated by Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor. I joined the 56th IATSS Forum Training Program back in 2016 and here’s my story.

There were a total of 19 young professionals from Japan and respected ASEAN countries who had the chance to learn in Japan for 55 days (September – November 2016). We spent most of our training days in Suzuka city – Mie Prefecture, although we also had a chance to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Iga and Toba to learn different topics and themes.

The forum provided opportunities for participants to understand each other’s countries through seminars, field studies, group study, and cultural exchange, as well as to make efforts to solve current issues in Asia and Japan, under the motto “Thinking and Learning Together.”

The selection for IATSS Forum was held in Jakarta in December 2015. There were 20 candidates from different provinces in Indonesia who passed the first screening and were invited to an interview. Before the interview, there was a role play and group work where all the candidates were closely observed by 9 assessors. They were the representative of Embassy of Japan, IATSS Forum Japan, Indonesia IATSS Forum Alumni, Astra Honda Motor, academic professor, and psychologist. The role play was designed to match the training in Japan.

The main theme of the training was Sustainable Community Design, in which all the participants learned the basic of sustainable communities. There was also introduction to different sustainable community design projects. Not only that, but we also learned about general themes, such as modernization, politics, urban planning, education, environment, and One Village One Product (OVOP). I loved the discussion and study about OVOP.

OVOP is a concept where the community help themselves to produce one competitive product in their own village as a business to gain sales revenue to improve the standard of living and prosperity in their community, while also preserving the environment. The community needs to be independent and creative in finding products with high added value.

What I remember the most about the lecture was the quote from former Oita Prefecture Governor, Morihiko Hiramatsu who said: “local government helps those who help themselves.” I think this is an important quote because he emphasized how important it was for the community to help themselves and change their living situation, instead of wishing for the government to help them have a better life.

The important issue of OVOP Implementation in Indonesia is the lack of understanding of OVOP philosophy. The characteristic of programs in Indonesia is the top-down policy (where the government initiates the project), in contrary to OVOP concept, which is bottom-up.

Working for the government, I notice that many of our programs were not successful in reaching the goals and helping the people in a community. Many times, we made a policy that was aimed to improve the life of people, but ended up failing in the process. From the program, I realize that creating a successful program for a community requires active participation and involvement of the community in the particular area.

Many Indonesians expect the government to make a ‘miraculous policy’ to help them overcome difficulties in life (poverty, employment, traffic, drugs, pollution). It will not work that way though. The government may have an initiative, however, the success and the failure of it would depend on the support of the community. The community plays an important part to run and oversee the process. They need to feel like they belong to the program. When the community has a sense of pride of what they are doing, they will work really hard to reach the goals. Now, the challenge is to make the people/ community aware of the role.

I learned so much from the IATSS Forum staffs and some Japanese people I met during my training, I admire their hard work, dedication and commitment to help nurture human resources for ASEAN region’s sustainable development. I learn about the value of time, the importance of planning, the prioritization of group harmony and the idea of respecting the nature and the people. The lesson I learned and the friendship I made with other Japanese and ASEAN participants in Japan will forever be engraved in my heart. I am also grateful for all the support I got from BAPPEBTI as well.

For more information about the program, please visit https://www.iatssforum.jp/en/



A little more about me

I randomly found an article while browsing Facebook. The title was “I’m 33 and Have Never Been Kissed”. It was a provocative title and I read it right away.

What if a lot of it comes down to luck? If there’s no real reason behind my lack of relationships, maybe it’s just a coincidence, an accident of chance. And that means they found their partners due to chance as well, and their lives might have been like mine if a few things had gone differently. And so they rationalize and explain my story; if it’s due to something I’m not doing, then they are safe in their relationships. They didn’t make my mistakes.-Joi Weaver

Somehow I feel like I can relate to some of the writer’s stories. There are times I am wondering what’s wrong with me, why no one finds me attractive or try to get close to me. I just wanna know for once how it feels like being chased.

My past relationships were stories of me ‘chasing’ people. Yup, I have always been the one starting the relationship, the one confessing that I like them. I remember all kinds of rejection I had to suffer during my high school, university and early years of working. I was resilient back then. I didn’t care how many people rejected my feelings, I kept moving forward and fell for different people. I even chased people from the other side of the world because I thought what we had was real. I know for sure my feeling was real.

But now it’s all different, I am too afraid to take a risk, to chase someone I like, to fall in love again. Now I feel like I have to calculate every move I’ll make. I suppress myself from falling for certain people (no matter how attractive I found ’em to be) because I know I won’t get the family’s approval, I am not sure where will it goes. I wish I could be more carefree and just do whatever my heart tells me to do. I miss falling in love and being in love.

Most time I just blame myself, I think I am not letting it easy for people to know me either. There’s always many excuses to self-sabotage every potential relationships. But then guys don’t even make it easier for me to trust them. I just can’t trust them because most of them don’t even have the decency to get to know me as a person before expecting me to hookup with them (WTF?!).

How could one expect a kiss on a first date?! Some of them even tried to have sex with me just because we were talking on the phone several time. I am conservative that way! Not that I don’t want any physical intimacy, I am longing for it. Problem is, I won’t feel truly satisfied if it’s all fake. That’s one of many reasons why I don’t do a one-night stand. I don’t think it’s real. I do have sexual need, but my will is stronger than my lust. Deep down I am a wonderful person, I just have too many layers to peel and I haven’t found someone who’s willing to do it.

I still find myself a bit uncomfortable when people share their sex life. I always regard sex as a personal and sacred thing. When people talk about it as if it’s just a daily conversation stuff, I don’t think it’s sacred and personal anymore.

In the back of my innocent mind, I even believe that many people are still keeping their virginity, I just woke up to the world realising that the world works differently now. Some people are proud of sleeping around, some people are still virgins (just like the writer of the article above). I have accepted that reality. I respect the different point of views. What I do mind is when my colleagues joke around about it, telling me to laid back a little because I work too hard and eventually forget to make love. Next time they comment about it, I won’t just shy away from it. I’ll express my feeling.

When did the world change into thinking that hooking up is normal? I must have fallen asleep for a while. I do watch many US TV series (which are mostly blamed for promoting ‘Western’ values). I know that God doesn’t create me only to procreate but also to mark my life in the world, to be valuable. I want the same opportunities just like my male counterparts. I don’t want people to look down on me just because I am a woman. However, I still uphold some ‘conservative’ values though.

Oh well, I digress, I know I cannot totally relate to Joi, but some of her words spoke true to my heart.

To the best of my knowledge, no one who has seen me in person has ever been attracted to me.


I often feel like the only woman on the face of the planet who no one is attracted to. And I am ashamed — in part because this is something no one ever talks about.


I’ve sat through countless conversations with groups of women, praying that the conversation wouldn’t turn to sex, cringing inwardly when it inevitably did, and trying to laugh with the others until the topic changed and I could relax again, my secret safe. For now.


It’s not my preferred choice, but I’m not going to fling myself at someone out of desperation. This sense of acceptance comes and goes. There are days when I’m tempted to run outside and proposition the first man I can find. But most days, I just accept that this is my reality right now, and change will not happen quickly or easily. Regardless, the frustration lingers: I would have liked it to be a real choice, not a matter of mere acceptance.


I thought that, perhaps, things would get better in college. Surely, the smart guys would at least be attracted to my intellect. Instead, while I made friends with lots of great guys who I’m still close with, I was never once asked on a date. No one ever tried to cop a feel at an event or in the movie theater.


50 shades of T

I can’t believe i just finished reading 50 Shades of Grey. When I started reading it, I told myself that it would be only for a couple of chapters, but I guess I was intrigued to read the whole chapters. The crazy thing about reading the book was having to feel emotionally exposed and vulnerable. I thought about Teo A LOT and it was really painful. No, there were no BDSM whatsoever involved in our relationship, but T puzzled me as Christian did to Ana. Maybe it was just my crazy mind, I could get really attached to some characters when I read or watch something. But I can’t help thinking that T possessed some of Christian’s qualities. Here are some of the quotes that reminded me so much of T.

How does he switched so quickly from one mood to the next? He’s so mercurial… it’s hard to keep up.

I knew there was something weird about him. He has commitment issues.

I have fallen for someone who’s so emotionally shut down, I will only get hurt -deep down i know this- someone who by his own admission is completely fucked up.

He’s the most complicated person I know, and I cannot understand his ever-changing moods.

I know he’s moody, difficult, funny, cold, warm… jeez the man is a walking mass of contradiction.

He’s not capable of love -of giving or receiving love.

You should steer clear of me.

I could relate to Ana. I think she has a mission to safe Christian from himself, from the darkness, but it was so difficult that she got trapped inside the darkness instead. Some people probably won’t understand why Ana keeps on coming back to him. I ask myself the same question every time I get so vulnerable and think of running back to T. Ugh, stupid heart! I want to feel numb. I expose myself too much tonight, I think all this disclosure will heal me though. One day! In the meantime, I’ll be my own superhero.

ps. I kept listening to this song while reading the book. So much love for Ellie Goulding<3

Song of a broken heart!

“I think–I think when it’s all over, It just comes back in flashes, you know? It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories. It just all comes back. But she never does. I think part of me knew the second I saw her that this would happen. It’s not really anything she said or anything she did, It was the feeling that came along with it. And the crazy thing is I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel that way again. But I don’t know if I should. I knew her world moved too fast and burned too bright. But I just thought, how can the devil be pulling you toward someone who looks so much like an angel when she smiles at you? Maybe she knew that when she saw me. I guess I just lost my balance. I think that the worst part of it all wasn’t losing her. It was losing me.”

“And the saddest fear comes creeping in that you never loved me or him, or anyone, or anything…”

“I don’t know if you know who you are until you lose who you are…”

Perfect theme song by Taylor Swift (with minor adjustment :p)

Mitch Albom and Happiness in a Tablet

Happiness in a tablet. This is our world. Prozac. Paxil. Xanax. Billions are spent to advertise such drugs. And billions more are spent purchasing them. You don’t even need a specific trauma; just “general depression” or “anxiety”, as if sadness were as treatable as the common cold.

I know depression was real, and in many cases required medical attention. I also knew we overused the word. Much of what we called “depression” was really dissatisfaction, a result of setting a bar impossibly high or expecting treasures that we weren’t willing to work for. I knew people whose unbearable source of misery was their weight, their baldness, their lack of advancement in a workplace or their inability to find the perfect mate, even if they themselves did not behave like one. To these people, unhappiness was a condition, an intolerable state of affairs. If pills could help, pills were taken.