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.



Yuriko Yamamoto posing in front of trees

Yuriko Yamamoto is from Tokoname in Aichi Prefecture, a city famous for pottery. While in university she deepened her cultural understanding, did fieldwork, and developed her leadership skills at Nihon Fukushi University. Yuriko enjoys many hobbies including playing the Ukulele, singing, reading books, and walking. During her studies, she visited many countries including Cambodia, India, and Malawi. After meeting people in different countries, she realized that each person’s way of thinking and perspective are unique. After graduating, she started to work with special needs children and became certified in childcare. She applied to be a JOI Coordinator to have the opportunity to connect with people of different cultures. She is looking forward to sharing her experiences of Japanese traditional activities, including calligraphy, kendo, the yosakoi dance and even playing the Japanese flute.


Yuki Ayukawa posing in front of trees

Yuki Ayukawa is from Fukuoka, Japan. As a student, she joined a 2-week sister city cultural exchange program between her hometown and the United States. She also did a homestay in Malaysia through a cultural exchange program. Through these international experiences communicating with local people, she became interested in the cultures and people of the world and wanted to deepen her understanding. To expand her horizons, she decided to become an exchange student through a study abroad program in Texas for two semesters. As part of the volunteer activities, she had the opportunity to help students who were interested in her home country of Japan. Through teaching Japanese language and sharing Japanese culture with the students, she gained a passion for introducing Japan to others. She wants to treasure every single meeting she has during these two years. She also hopes she can contribute to the communities and strengthen relationships to Japan in various ways as the first JOI coordinator in Wyoming.


Yoshie Hisatomi posing in front of trees

Yoshie grew up reading and enjoying many English fairy tales with her sisters through the LABO International Exchange Foundation in her youth. Her first experience in the US was when she was 13 years old. Having such an incredible experience traveling internationally showed her how meaningful it is to connect with people from around the world. Her understanding of how powerful and borderless true connections can be deeply shaped her life. Since then, English language, international exchange, and global relationships have been the driving force within her personal and professional journey. Her work in America is now focused on helping people expand their opportunities in life, as well as help them deepen their perspective by spreading the inspiration of Japanese culture, language, and spirit. With her various worldly experiences, she is committed to encouraging and supporting the new generation of the world, making her a perfect fit in the JOI Program. She is looking forward to being a part of her community and the JOI mission for the next two years.


Takeshi Hayasaka posing in front of trees

Takeshi was born and raised in Miyagi Prefecture located 200 miles north of Tokyo, the capital of Japan. He studied in New Zealand for 6 weeks when he was a university student. This was the first time he visited a foreign country, and the experience opened his eyes to global relationships. While attending university, he went to Indonesia and Columbia to teach Japanese culture as a volunteer. After graduating university, he worked for a general trading company. However, he continued to dream of becoming a bridge between Japan and other countries. So, he left his job to go to Canada in order to further develop his knowledge and experiences. After he returned to Japan, he worked for a recruitment company in the overseas division as well as supported international students who wanted to work in Japan. As a JOI Coordinator, he wants to share with his new friends in the US the charm and beauty of both modern and traditional Japanese culture while deepening understanding about American culture as well.


Shunsuke Aoki posing in front of trees

Shunsuke is originally from Hokkaido, in northern Japan. He majored in Informatics during university and graduate school. Through the International Training Program at university in the country of Bhutan, he obtained a new perspective and found the fun of cross-cultural exchange. After returning to Japan, for his graduate work he traveled across all 47 of Japan’s prefectures and made a promotional video to introduce the various charms each prefecture has to people in the world. While he was completing his master’s degree, he lived in an international dormitory assisting international students in their daily lives. During that same period, he took a Japanese Teacher Training Course and became interested in teaching Japanese language as well as introducing various cultures to people from other countries. When he found the JOI Program recruitment poster, he felt that JOI is the thing he really wanted to do. As a JOI Coordinator, he hopes he can reach out to many people and establish strong connections between Japan and North Dakota.

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