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.

 

 

Nao Fukumoto posing in front of trees


Noriko Hayashi was from Aichi, Japan. Her grandmother runs a traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi) shop in Nagoya, and she has been familiar with Japanese seasonal festivals for a long time. While in university, she belonged to the Department of International Culture, she studied abroad in Fiji, and lived on a ship with youth people with different backgrounds from 10 countries in the Cabinet Office International Exchange Project "Ship for World Youth", then she learned the joy of living in a multicultural society. After graduating, she worked at a shipping company to develop strategy, promotion, and branding skills. She also works with Japanese students and foreign youth at international events in Japan, visited Uzbekistan, India, Indonesia, and other places in Asia, where she has had international exchanges with local people. She would like to give the people of Arizona the opportunity for cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S. and encourage them to choose Japanese culture for their well-being.

 

Nao Fukumoto posing in front of trees


Nao Fukumoto was born and raised in Hyogo Prefecture. She majored in education at university. During a 4-month short-term study abroad program in the U.S. while in school, she visited local elementary schools and various educational institutions to give classes on Japanese culture. This experience sparked her interest in international exchange. After graduation, she entered graduate school in Niigata Prefecture, where she studied English education and international understanding education, and had opportunities to experience various aspects of Japanese culture, such as tea ceremony, koto, and Japanese painting. She also had the opportunity to share Japanese culture with foreign students and children, and found it wonderful, fun, and rewarding. The JOI program is a new opportunity and challenge for her to share wonderful Japanese culture. She looks forward to meeting lots of people, contributing to the Dillon community and hoping to build strong relationships that will last for years to come.

 

Miku Kubota posing in front of trees


Miku was born and raised in Fukuoka Prefecture located in south of Japan, called the Kyushu area. She became interested in foreign countries since learning English from native teacher at high school and talking with foreign tourist in her hometown. She has experienced studying abroad in both the US and Australia while in university. These experiences motivated her to become a Japanese language teacher and to work for making connections between Japan and abroad. After she got the certificate of teaching Japanese, she started teaching Japanese in a language school in Fukuoka. At the same time, she took them on a cultural tour and realized how important teaching language and culture both to make good relationships with each other. As a JOI Coordinator, Miku would like to provide opportunities to touch Japanese culture, share cultures with each other, and build strong connections between Japan and the US through her outreach.

 

Mikio Moriyasu posing in front of trees


Mikio Moriyasu was born and raised in Okayama, which is famous for peaches and grapes as its specialties. His first encounter with the U.S. was an educational program for kids, Sesame Street, which was broadcast in his childhood. This program aroused his curiosity and interest in English and other cultures. In university, he majored in elementary education, with a minor in English. After graduation, he went on to a graduate school in the US, where he obtained a TESOL certificate. Upon his return to Japan, he started working as an English teacher at a public high school in Okayama. In 2017, he was dispatched to an English-Teacher Seminar on a grant offered by the U.S. Embassy. During his stay in Manila, Philippines, he built a community of practice, discussing with educators from other East Asian nations. His experience of having worked at a high school with Global Course in Osaka also helped him realize how essential it is to respect other cultures from diverse perspectives and introduce our own culture as well. As a JOI coordinator, he is eager to share Japanese culture with people in the local community in Texas and build a sustainable relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

 

Mana Nakano posing in front of trees


Mana is originally from Fukui which is in the countryside, and also lived in big cities like Kyoto and Tokyo. Since she loves reading comics and literature, her favorite place is always the library and she became a librarian. Her first experience in joining the international community was quite late. When she was 34 years old, she decided to study abroad in Sydney. She visited the library of Japan Foundation Sydney and interacted with local people as a volunteer to introduce Japanese culture. It sparked her interest in touching cultural exchange experiences and she reconsidered how Japan is fascinating. After returning to Japan, she started teaching the Japanese language as a volunteer to foreign people who lived in Japan. Through this activity, she deeply understood the importance of having another perspective from outside of Japan which is a comfort zone for her in terms of being able to international. Fortunately, Mana got a wonderful chance to interact with people in Omaha, Nebraska. She hopes she can blend into the community and culture while keeping a Japanese perspective.

 
 
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