Since 2002, JOI coordinators have reached more than a million Americans in the South and Midwest of the country. Learn who these impressive cultural ambassadors are and how they have impacted—and continue to impact—their U.S. communities.

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Complete List of Participants

From planting elementary school students’ first seeds of interest in Japan to strengthening sister city/state relationships and linking high schools and colleges with partner institutions in Japan, JOI coordinators bring Japan and the U.S. closer, one person at a time. Learn a bit more about past JOI coordinators along with their activities, impressions, and impact by perusing the biographies and reports below.


Keiko graduated from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University with a degree in Sociology in 2006. While at Ritsumeikan, she spent time volunteering in Kenya, Vietnam, and Korea. Upon her return from Kenya, she created programs about Africa she took to Japanese schools to present a more balanced view of African culture. Committed to the environment and volunteerism, Keiko also participated in various volunteer efforts in her hometown like erasing graffiti and roadside garbage clean-up. After graduation, she worked for the NPO Volunteer Center in Fukuoka. During her first year in Kentucky, she has created a culture program with local experts explaining their special skills in Japanese, taught about Japanese culture in K-12 schools, run booths at Japanese festivals, energized students learning Japanese, assisted with film festival and performing arts presentations. Keiko was 26-years-old at the time of her appointment.

After graduating from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies with a degree in English, she entered their MA program in History. She studied at Mankato State University in Minnesota on a Rotary Scholarship. After receiving her MA, she worked for an educational printing company. In Japan she volunteered at Rotary Club activities, tutored exchange students, volunteered at the Tokyo National Museum, and assisted as a volunteer in a middle school English class . During her first year in Georgia, she has worked with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia programs, presented programs in K-12 schools, organized the Japanese Film Festival and Noh performance, worked with students studying Japanese language, and ran booths at culture festivals in Athens. She is currently busy making culture kits with the Georgia State Museum staff in Athens. Hijiri-san was 28-years-old at the time of her appointment.

Yukako received a BA in Culture and Creativity and an MA in Global Philanthropy from Aichi Shukutoku University. While a student, she traveled extensively throughout Asia, Europe, and the US where she participated in numerous conferences. She interned at ALC Press and the Japan Center for International Exchange. After graduation she was Friendship Coordinator at the Aichi International Association. In Mississippi, Yukako has worked primarily in education.
After Tamaki received a BS in Pharmacoloy and an MS in Biochemistry from Kumamoto University, she went to work for Sankyo, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Japan. While she worked for Sankyo, she was transferred to their office in New York for three years. Tamaki-san's administrative experience was just what was needed at the Japan-America Society of San Antonio (JASSA) where she became the first permanent staff member. While in San Antonio, she worked with local museums, art galleries, and other non-profits to expand knowledge of Japan. She even took the group studying Japanese language at JASSA to Japan for ten days!! As a result of her organizational work, JASSA is now poised to hire its first permanent staff. Tamaki-san was 37-years-old at the time of her appointment.
Sachiko graduated from Tokyo University of Education and then taught kokugo (Japanese language) in high schools in Tokyo for more than 20 years. When she retired, she followed her dream and went to the The Australian National Uiversity for an MA in philosophy and PhD in Japanese literature. Sachiko-san is an accomplished tea master and is also licensed to teach Noh chanting and flower arranging. In Memphis, she utilized those skills to offer classes in tea ceremony and organized a national tour of Noh. In addition to that, she organized cherry viewing, New Year's festivities, and rakugo (comic storytelling). She also used her teaching experience to do presentations on Japan to K-12 schools in Memphis. Sachiko-san has now joined her husband in China, but Memphis certainly hopes she will come back soon. Sachiko was 61-years-old at the time of her appointment.
After graduating from Kobe College, Kazuko worked for EXPO and the British Consulate where she transformed her English from an American accent into an enchanting British accent. As she raised two children, she committed herself to volunteerism related to JET teachers who considered her their 'Mom" away from home, women's rights, and environmentalism. In south-central Virginia for two years, her indefatigable energy was focused on exposing students and the community to taiko, beginning a shiitake industry, planting cherry trees, exposing students to Japanese culture, conducting seminars on nutrition and Japanese cuisine, and participating in local volunteer efforts. There is no doubt that the people of Halifax already miss their kimono-clad friend shopping at Walmart. Kazuko was 61-years-old at the time of her appointment.

Emiko graduated from Mie University with a degree in Western Art History. Her passion has been Kado (the Ikenobo School) and Sado (the Omote Senke school), which she studied for 21 years before coming to the States. Emiko worked at Sony, the Nagoya Convention Bureau, and JTB in Nagoya before joining JOI. In Cullowhee and Asheville, Emiko exhibited her flower arrangements at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, did K-12 programs all over the state, taught tea, and helped internationalize the Western Carolina University campus. During her JOI tenure, he truly energized the whole flower arranging world in Western North Carolina. After JOI, she has enrolled in the MAT program at Western Carolina with the goal of becoming an art teacher. Emiko was 42-years-old at the time of her appointment.

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