Rion Kurihara

Rion Kurihara

Rion Kurihara is an award-winning debater, social entrepreneur, and social justice campaigner. She studies at Shibuya Senior High School, Tokyo.

As the president of her school’s Debate Club, she has dedicated herself to teaching and growing the sport, spending over 10 hours each week coaching younger students, many of whom have gone on to win national and international titles. She also helped grow the fledgling debating community in Japan, organizing multiple tournaments and workshops and helped other high schoolers start their own school debate clubs. Through these events, her debate club partnered with large organizations such as the High School Parliamentary Debate Union, Knovva Academy and the Japan Overseas Education services.

Rion works on issues close to her heart, and as a student and young girl, gave back to her community by joining the school council to reform its strict and archaic rules around uniforms. After four years, she achieved a reformed uniform policy that permitted girls to wear tights and made uniforms genderless. She has also lobbied for children’s rights, writing policy recommendations, and was invited to speak at multiple party conferences and engage in direct discussions with the Cabinet Secretary of Japan. As a result, the Japanese government is on track to establish a new legislative branch focused on protecting children and their rights. She has also helped establish a school branch of the girl's anti-rape and anti-sexism advocacy group called Voice Up Japan.

Perhaps Rion’s greatest achievement and most hard-fought success was founding and organizing a new event called the Shibuya Olympiad in Liberal Arts (SOLA). It is now one of the largest, international and online competitions to ever be entirely ran by and for high school students. The event was a hugely successful with over 1000 participants from over 100 different schools and 17 countries, over 17 supporting organizations and with over 30 guests. Through SOLA’s success, Rion was able to dispel the notion she perceived in Japanese society where students or youth are powerless and not capable of great things. SOLA was covered in the media and was recognized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. Because of its success, SOLA is now a yearly school event.

Rion also represented her school and country in an international research project called the TiltShift Challenge, leading her team in a year-long research project on the many moral dilemmas surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Her paper is scheduled to be published as a book and then presented to UN Secretary General António Guterres. She also organized a music charity event with the help of non-profit BlasBeat, with the insights and experiences from this motivating her to co-found a Business Innovation club at her school.

Rion is currently working on two major projects: a new social media platform RESO that allows everyday people to directly communicate their everyday needs and desires to entrepreneurs, and a YouTube series that aims to discuss taboo and controversial topics, hoping to question taboos in Japanese society and make politics less polarized.

She aspires to continue to grow as a social entrepreneur and become a mentor for other Japanese entrepreneurs and startups, with a particular focus on empowering youth and girls in Japan to go into business.