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Leaving the corporate 5 year ago-1

Updated: Apr 19

Five years ago, around this time, I returned from Nairobi, Kenya, after visiting a project for Refugees Empowerment International (previously known as Refugees International Japan). You can read about my experience in the blog entries I wrote after the trip.

After contemplating for about a week, I decided to leave my corporate job. I informed our Managing Director of my decision, and although the process took another three months, it marked the beginning of a new chapter for me – no longer being a "salaryman."

The past five years haven't been easy, but I don't regret my decision at all. In fact, that choice has shaped who I am today.

So, how did I, an extremely risk-averse person, take the leap from the comfort zone to extreme uncertainty, just two years before the global pandemic?

When you encounter people who have faced hardships, it's natural to reflect on your own circumstances. That's what happened to me. In Nairobi, I met many resilient individuals as well as those who were struggling. One girl we met, a kind and brave person from the Democratic Republic of Congo, had fled to Nairobi. After discussing her efforts to support herself in the city, I found myself suggesting she teach French as a way to make extra money. However, the moment we got back into our project partner's car, I was consumed with embarrassment. Who was I to tell her what to do? Did I understand her situation or whether my suggestion was even feasible? My arrogance was shameful.

This realization forced me to confront my own fears. I was clinging to my corporate title and salary because I was afraid of the unknown. Despite having numerous qualifications and resources, I hesitated to leave the corporate world while advising someone who had endured so much on how to be resilient.

Back in Tokyo, I knew it was time to end this self-deception and dishonesty. And so, leaving my corporate job turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made (another being my choice to stay in Japan).

I am still supporting REI through my role in the management team.

It is an organization of extremely professional, talented, and dedicated people.


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