Member Spotlight: Koki Ozora
In our latest Meet the Member series, we introduce the pioneering Koki Ozora of Anata-no-Ibasho in Japan, who recently influenced the Japanese Parliament to introduce legislation promoting social connection.
Can you share a little about yourself and your role?
I am the founder of Anata no Ibasho, a free and anonymous Japanese-language web text-chat helpline open to anyone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I regularly contribute to committees and meetings organised by the Loneliness and Isolation Unit, Japanese Cabinet Office.
Anata-no-Ibasho means 'A place for you' in Japanese. We wanted to create a digital space where people can be themselves, feel comfortable and be safe to talk about their problems. Many people do not have that in the real space.
Many helplines in Japan struggle to offer services beyond 9pm or 10pm, and we are the only helpline open round the clock. This is made possible by our digital operation connecting chat requests with Japanese-speaking volunteers in different time zones worldwide.
What motivated you to get involved in addressing loneliness?
When I was younger, I went through a challenging period mentally due to family problems and wanted to end my life. I could only get over these troubles with the help of a teacher who provided guidance and support.
From my experience, I know how important it is to receive support at the right time and from the right person. Anyone going through a difficult time in their life should have access to this kind of help.
Can you share a success story from Anata-no-Ibasho's efforts in addressing loneliness in Japan?
Our lobbying efforts led to the creation of the Minister for Loneliness and Isolation in Feb 2021. We were cited during the parliamentary debates on the bill.
The highlight was the House of Representatives on 26 April 2023 where we advocated an emphasis on this Act as an expert witness.
What do you think are the key priorities that will shape our efforts to address loneliness and social isolation globally?
Loneliness and social isolation are widespread globally, and stigma is a significant additional problem. Concerted political action is vital to ensure this is dealt with systemically at the government and societal level. For example, a universal awareness week could be set up to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation.
Loneliness is not someone else's problem. It can be felt by anyone at any time. General ignorance and vague negative perceptions stop many people from reaching out, and exactly that leads to chronic loneliness with serious mental and physical health implications. These need to be recognised among diverse actors around the world.
What does being a member of GILC mean to you?
We believe that an evidence-based approach is key to tackling loneliness nationally and globally. GILC and other stakeholders could establish standardised measurement and methodology, which will contribute to building a reliable and consistent evidence base worldwide.
In Japan, political action tackling loneliness and social isolation is progressing, but public interest has previously been low. So, being part of the GILC community makes us feel that we are not alone in tackling loneliness and social isolation.
Stay tuned for more inspiring Member Spotlights as we celebrate the work being done across the world to tackle loneliness and promote social connection.