An expat, teacher, model, DJ and now photographer, Ayana Wyse wears many hats. Like many people who move to Japan, Wyse got her start in her new home as an English teacher, then began cultivating her love for creative ventures, which eventually blossomed into a full-fledged online community — Black Creatives Japan. What started out as an art-sharing platform transformed into a community celebrating creativity and collaboration.
When she first moved here, Wyse’s ambitions were simple: learning the Japanese language and culture. “Before coming here, I remember I would spend hours on YouTube trying to find something on black people living in Japan,” Wyse recalls. To her dismay, the content she was looking for was few and far between at the time. Hoping to add to the conversation, Wyse began creating her own own content.
“A lot of content from J-vloggers [Japan vloggers] only talked about the quirky-strange-Japan side of things, which is fine, but I always wished there were more things that covered the realities of living here. I also wanted to do things that highlighted the Kansai area, because everyone is in Tokyo,” Wyse says. This prompted the creation of the Kurly in Kansai podcast and YouTube series, which highlight the ins and outs of living in Japan as a person of color, but also spotlights insightful guest stars from different backgrounds.
There’s no age limit for finding yourself and your passion, but if you want to pursue your passion seriously, you have to release content.
With her self-made image, Wyse exudes the aura of one who has been big on the scene for years. Like her fellow creatives in Japan, though, it took some trial and error to really find her lane here.
“You’re never too old to figure out your passion,” Wyse says as she reflects back on her time here. “I’ve been in Japan since 2011 and I just figured out that I wanted to go into photography a year ago. Recently, I secured a position with photographing luxury secondhand bags for an e-commerce site. It’s grown a lot, and I still have a lot to learn about various techniques and figuring out my own style. The next step doesn’t look the same for everyone. People see my following and activities on Instagram and think the next step in their progression is what I’ve done.”
Finding your niche in the creative world is no easy feat, especially in Japan where the J-blog scene is flooded with young 20-somethings and college students. It seems like the older you get, the harder it is to take your passion seriously. “There’s no age limit for finding yourself and your passion, but if you want to pursue your passion seriously, you have to release content,” Wyse says.
Wyse acknowledges that the fear of sharing content and putting themselves out there can be a real obstacle for beginners. “It’s hard,” Wyse says. “You have to practice what you do everyday. If you shoot photography, you have to do it everyday. If you write, you have to write everyday. It doesn’t have to be work and you can study your craft in a way that doesn’t feel so strict. But if you want to see yourself get better and get over that fear of sharing, you have to do it every day.”
Black Creatives Japan has grown exponentially, with new members joining every day from all over Japan and around the world. “I like connecting with people in a small environment. Networking is important but for it to work, it has to be organic. Get to know people and exchange [Instagram] handles, not in hopes of getting your subscriber count up but actually about building connections so your content can grow organically.”
Ultimately, Black Creatives Japan is about self-growth and forming meaningful connections with likeminded creatives in a community. For Wyse, these friendships and bonds are the highlight of her mission. “I think I knew the group was really working for people when I introduced a writer and a graphic designer to each other and they ended up creating a children’s book together,” she says.
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