By Masaki Nomura MC/MPA 2024
A 14-Year Dream from Humble Roots
My journey to Harvard began in one of the most rural regions of Japan, where I was raised by a single parent. This humble beginning ignited a resolve to transform my life through education: I decided to enter the University of Tokyo (UT) as a first-generation college student. Vigorous study, often spanning 16 hours daily, resulted in a severe fatigue fracture in my back that I still suffer from today. However, I persevered and ultimately earned admission in 2009.
At UT, I quickly realized the disparity between my background and the backgrounds of my peers, many of whom were far more privileged in financial and social resources. It was this realization that sparked a 14-year dream of attending Harvard, not just for its academic prestige but also for my personal validation.
A Decade in Policymaking, Business Administration, and Philosophy Research
Post-UT, I started my career as a Japanese government official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and later became an executive (and currently serve as CCO) at an AI startup, Aillis, Inc., that has raised over $40 million dollars and won the Grand Prix at the Startup World Cup 2023.
Concurrently, I commenced doctoral research in East-Asian/Japanese philosophy at Kyoto University, widely recognized as the birthplace of the Kyoto School of Philosophy. Through my academic endeavors, I earned an MPhil, published a paper on Zen philosophy in a peer-reviewed journal, and co-authored a case study for Harvard Business School addressing the management philosophy of The Pokémon Company. Meanwhile, I became a World Economic Forum (WEF) global shaper.
Once again, this vigorous work and study—often spanning 20 hours daily—took a toll on me physically, resulting in a sudden hearing loss alongside the fatigue fracture in my back. Despite the challenges I faced, this decade expanded my horizons and fostered my aspiration to contribute to global society. Fourteen years after I first started dreaming of attending Harvard, I gained admission to HKS.
Aspirations for the Future
I aspire to leverage my expertise in policymaking, business administration, and philosophy research to establish initiatives resonating with the ethos of organizations like the WEF and to integrate the wisdom of East-Asian/Japanese philosophies into global agenda-setting and rulemaking. I believe there are ways to reframe fundamental concepts in our society through the lens of East-Asian/Japanese holistic philosophies. For example, we might look to the 30,000+ Japanese enterprises that have lasted for more than 100 years—naturally and traditionally pursuing mutual long-term prosperity—to find insights about sustainability.
My HKS Experience
I cannot overstate how influential and supportive the HKS and Harvard communities have been in helping me achieve my aspirations. Since arriving at HKS, I have spearheaded the Yamauchi Japan Initiative with support from Nintendo’s founding family office, where I serve as an executive advisor, to cultivate a community of Harvard affiliates interested in exploring the intersection of Japanese philosophy and global society. I am also working with the chairman of NTT—a top global telecom firm—and my philosophy supervisor at Kyoto University to build long-term strategies for the Kyoto Institute of Philosophy. Our vision is to establish a global initiative that applies East-Asian/Japanese philosophical perspectives to global challenges in collaboration with Harvard scholars.
For Future Members of the HKS Community
If you are a first-generation college student, or come from what some may deem a “humble” background, you should not feel inferior about your roots at HKS. Here, you will find a dynamic mix of peers from a plurality of backgrounds and ideologies, all dedicated to solving the complex issues of our world. You will surely enrich our community. We eagerly await the perspectives you will bring to our community and your aspirations to create a better world!