We met Hiromi Matsubara in one of her favourite places, Byron Bay, Australia. After surfing the pass together and eating tasty felafel wraps the awesomeness of this girl was obvious. She was bright, bubbly and high on life, a real pleasure to be around. We chatted about all the exciting things she has achieved and was aspiring to do. As the executive director of Surfrider Japan, radio DJ, ocean & surf activist, macrobiotic caterer, yoga instructor and all round gypsy, this girl has got the world at her feet. We would love you to meet her so check out our interview with Hiromi Matsubara below. Cheers!
ROAR: Can you tell us about your upbringing and where you grow up?
I spent 5 years of my early childhood in London (1986-1991) and was very fortunate to have been exposed to different cultures, ethics and religions, which is the reason why I constantly question my identity, who I am and my purpose in life.
Growing up I was very energetic and athletic. I was involved in so many sports such as netball, swimming, tennis, ballet, lacrosse and badminton. I think this helped me to develop my competitive attitude and taught me to be brave and overcome challenges and obstacles, such as my family living in London.
We traveled all over Europe and I was always fascinated by the beautiful and untouched nature, the greens and the blues. My father was very stubborn, grumpy, close minded and I hated him when I was young. My mother was very humorous, generous, open minded and super active. She was a BIG influence on me, always letting me make my own decisions and allowing me to be accountable for the consequences.
We moved back to Japan and during my college years I spent a year on a 'study abroad program' in Miami US, where I continued to learn to study hard, work hard and play hard, to always enjoy life. I believe my upbringing has definitely had a positive impact on my personality, that its ok to be different and independent. I don’t want to fit into the Japanese lifestyle and culture, which has caused some struggles, but now I have confidence and an appreciation for my the life.
ROAR: What projects have you been involved in the last 10 years that you are passionate about?
Hiromi: After graduating college, I joined a highly competitive leadership training program designed to develop leaders at General Electric. I worked for GE Capital where I held various positions in sales, marketing, public relations and community programs. After 5 years in the competitive, goal driven business world, I came across the concept and philosophy of permaculture and was so intrigued by such sustainable living practices. So in 2006, I left in pursuit of a new adventure and spent a month wwoofing in “off the grid” “self sufficient” communities in Australia. It was a mind blowing experience and totally changed my outlook. Since then it has been my dream to be able to live self sufficiently, simple, slow and small .
Upon returning from Australia, I co-created greenz.jp a web media based in Tokyo dedicated to designing a sustainable society with optimism and creativity with its unique editorial perspective. While engaging myself in the sustainability sphere I started volunteering for Surfrider Foundation Japan and assisted in campaign building and media outreach. I got hooked to their mission and had the opportunity to attend their annual international conferences in California and Brazil. I feel blessed that I was able to meet a group of truly passionate, talented and inspiring people - the global Surfrider family, it got me motivated and engaged.
After four years of entrepreneurship and establishing the foundation of greenz.jp, I decided to pursue a more down to earth lifestyle (and surf!). Once again I went on a 3 month trip back to Australia to regain myself, re-define myself, find my own path and passion in life. While in Byron Bay I took a permaculture design certification course and yoga teacher training course to learn the principles of living mentally, physically, spiritually, socially and environmentally well.
During my trip on March 11th, North Eastern Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, followed by a nuclear catastrophe. I was scared, frightened and didn’t want to go home. But something called me back and I came back home in April 2011. But made the decision to move out of busy Tokyo to a beach town in Chiba to live a more simple life and officially started working as the Executive Director for Surfrider Foundation Japan.
The roles and responsibilities of being the head of Surfrider Japan was a lot harder and more challenging than I had imagined, especially in the midst of all the confusion, depression, conspiracy, sadness and anger caused by the March 11th earthquake tragedy. It was an unprecedented time in history, being the experiments of a nuclear disaster and as an environmental NGO we wanted to engage citizens and surfers to drive our mission, 'protection and enjoyment of our oceans, waves and beaches'. The momentum was just not there. It was bad timing to do anything and even our water quality testing program monitoring radiation, took a long time to take off. It has never been easy to fight for our cause, which is an absolute major concern and priority for us passionate surfers but to the general public, our voices are often unheard and even ignored as surfing is perceived as leisure. But as all passionate surfers know, we have to act to protect our playing fields otherwise it will never be protected. And most importantly, as surfers we know intrinsically that surfing is more than just sport or leisure. We learn so much from our oceans and surfing, it teaches us success, failure, patience, freedom and powerlessness, if all surfers can take this wisdom and lessons learned back to the land, I think the world would be a better place.
While working as the executive director for Surfrider Foundation Japan, my weekend job was a national radio DJ on J-WAVE. I had the privilege to talk about and promote inspiring ideas and stories about sustainability, which are often untold and unheard in the media landscape. Through my role as a DJ, I realised my passion for being an advocate, a messenger, a connector. To deliver other people’s stories and ideas in an engaging, fun way. I am passionate about connecting like minded people with each other and our cause. With our collective effort, we can create a more sustainable society.
Besides working for Surfrider and being a DJ I teach yoga. I have also started food catering, specialising in macrobiotic and vegan recipes. I also open my home to travellers, they come through couch surfing, AirBNB, friend’s of friend or sometimes just random guests. I like to share my tips of living healthy through cooking, surfing, and yoga in an effort to educate people to be environmentally and socially responsible.
ROAR: What do you love about your lifestyle?
Being able to surf when the waves are good and having the freedom to live in the moment, appreciating the simple things life has to offer and occasionally traveling, which is a vital part of life. I love gaining new perspectives and discovering my new self as well as my limitations. I love living in a unique hidden cottage in lush tranquil forest and the community surrounding it. I love having visitors and travellers from around the world to share my culture, my life and my passion with and to also learn from them.
On a professional level, I get to meet like minded people who are often very active and involved in protecting our oceans. Whether they are a musician, pro-surfer or artist, at the end of a day, we are all the same. We just love surfing and want to share the stoke and the responsible actions that we must take in order to preserve our oceans and continue surfing.
ROAR: Where can we follow and be a part of your exciting journey?
Check out my blog - http://www.hiromeme.com
ROAR: Who has inspired you along the way?
Personally... Yukari Desjardin, a Japanese macrobiotic chef and also permaculturist based in Australia. I stayed with her when I first went to Australia in 2006. She was the turning point in my life. She was such a beautiful women, wife and mom of three boys. She had a big open heart that accepted everything. But sadly she passed away in 2009.
Also Deco Nakajima, a Japanese macrobiotic chef and my neighbor. When I first read her essay and recipe book, I was still working in the corporate world. I was so shocked that people like her existed and could live off the land, raising five kids and be sooo happy. Never did I think I would be living so close to her. We became good friends and in 2012-13 we organised her Macrobiotic cooking tour in Australia.
Professionally... Jim Moriarty, the CEO of Surfrider Foundation US and Stéphane Latxague, the CEO of Surfider Foundation Europe. They have been my motivation and inspiration, providing encouragement to continue doing what I'm doing. They are very intelligent and dedicated to our mission. They are hard working but love to surf and have fun. They are my gurus!
ROAR: What does the future hold for Hiromi?
Since my first trip to Australia in 2006, I feel a very strong connection to Australia, a lot of people who visit my house say it feels like Byron Bay! Every time I go back to Byron it feels like home and home is where the heart is. I hope to make this connection stronger and more meaningful by connecting like minded people, projects, ideas on a personal as well as professional level so that we can all enjoy, travel and search for an endless summer. Specifically, one project in the pipeline is to start a guest house business in Japan and Australian surfing communities. I stopped thinking and worrying about the future so much because we can only live in the moment, we should not be tied to the never ending spiral of materialism and over paced capitalism. We should stop and enjoy every minute of the now. I have learned from our March 11th tragedy that there may be no tomorrow. I believe, as long as you are open, flexible, giving, sharing and grounded (not by means of physicality), things will come to you when the time is right - as we say, what comes around goes around.
So I don’t know where or what will happen tomorrow or next month or needless to say a year from now but one thing I know for sure is that as long as I stay positive and healthy, live in the moment, be alert, follow my heart, score a good wave and share my dreams, happiness and these priceless moments with others, I think my future (and hopefully my small universe) is looking pretty bright.
Thank you so much Hiromi for taking the time to share you beautiful story with us.
If you have any question or want to follower her story, stay connected with Hiromi through the links below. You never know, next time your in Japan you could end up on her couch! xx
...and on twitter @hiromimatsubara