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.


Yoriko grew up in Nara prefecture, a historical city and recognized as the birthplace of Japanese culture. She graduated from Kansai Gaidai University with a degree in International Communication and a minor in Japanese Language Education. For 4 years in college, she devoted herself to studying Chinese and its culture and spent a total of 13 months at Beijing Language and Culture University in Beijing and at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou. She also volunteered to teach Japanese to foreign residents in her hometown. After graduating from university, to enrich her intercultural communication skill, she worked at a Japanese company in Singapore to start her business career. While she lived in Singapore, she realized the importance of sharing different cultures. In the first year at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Yoriko taught Japanese language and culture at an after school program for young kids at a primary school. Also during class, students had the opportunity to learn different types of Japanese arts & crafts such as origami and paper doll making. At the end of the school semester, those crafts made by her after school program students were exhibited in the art museum during the Art Show conducted by the school.

Erika is from Osaka prefecture, Japan's third largest city and known as the country's kitchen. She graduated with a degree in English language from Kansai Gaidai University in 2009. During her college career, she studied abroad at the University of Colorado at Boulder for 10 months as an exchange student. Outside of the classroom, she served as a resident assistant at an international students' dormitory helping them with their daily lives and their Japanese studies. Since graduating from university, Erika spent time working as a global training and operations client coordinator in the English education industry, then took a six-month course to become an English instructor for children. Through a grant provided by the Japan Outreach Initiative, Erika will spend two years as the CEAS Japan Outreach Coordinator promoting Japanese language and culture and conducting Japan-related activities at schools and community organizations.

Haruko is from Yokosuka, a coastal city about 2 hours from Tokyo, in Kanagawa prefecture. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Education, focusing on Comparative Education from Tokyo Gakugei University in 2012. She spent one year as a high school exchange program in Australia. She also studied for 10 months at The University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania as a university student. In addition to these exchange adventures, Haruko had an opportunity to live in an international dormitory during her university years. Through all those experiences, Haruko came to appreciate the relationships focused on individuals, rather than just country of origin and cultural heritage. She serves as a Japan Outreach Initiative coordinator for the development of deeper understanding of Japan in American schools and communities. She has been demonstrating various Japanese cultural traditions from tea ceremony to pop-culture, in places such as schools, nursing homes, community centers, and community colleges. She welcomes the opportunity to respond to requests from throughout Virginia.

Taka says he is a baby boomer of the post-World War II era, which is defined in Japan as those born between 1947-49. He clearly remembers enjoying the American TV drama “Lassie” during the late 1950s, just before Japan entered into the circle of industrialized nations.Taka long had a strong dream and passion to visit the U.S. He actually came to New York in 1977 as a young banker to battle in the financial market. He stayed there for 3 years, however his contacts then were all limited to the professional persons in the financial industry, and not the general population. That is why, after he retired from business, he decided to come to the U.S. again as a JOI member at the age of 62, to exchange cultures with younger people. Taka has had a long career in the banking industry after graduating from both Sophia University and Waseda University in Tokyo. His major fields in banking were widely spread, covering the funds market, corporate banking, and strategy planning in overseas markets while based in both a Japanese mega bank and a leading local bank. Besides New York, he also has a perspective of Europe from living in Milan for 5 years. Taka has been active visiting schools from pre-K to 12, colleges, universities, and communities like churches and libraries, to introduce Japan and its culture through such demonstrations as tea ceremony and calligraphy. Though the size of the Japanese community in Houston is small (less than 3000 people), there are active groups of traditional Japanese dance, taiko drums, and so on. These groups are also Taka’s partners in various cases like the Japan Festival, which drew an audience of over 25,000 people over two days in spring 2012.

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