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.


Rumi is from Shiga prefecture which is famous for the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. She graduated with a degree in the Theory of Intercultural Communication and a minor in Education from Ryukoku University in 2010. During her college career, she went to Malta to study English for a month and to the University of California, Irvine to study International Studies, Asian American Studies, and English for half a year. She was also chosen for several international student leadership positions for several collegiate organizations. Outside of the classroom, she served as an International Student's adviser for four years to provide support to international students in their daily lives, Japanese studies, identity search, and future planning. She gained many culture insights about many other countries through her experience studying abroad and being an RA of an international residence. She enjoyed interacting with people from different countries and learning about the diversity of cultures. Rumi is also a skilled calligrapher who has been practicing the art for more than 15 years. She has a lot of passion to share Japanese culture through this wonderful Japanese tradition as well as through popular culture. During her first year in Valparaiso, she focused on outreach and organized cultural events. She particularly enjoyed being responsible for the organization of the Japan Olympiad of Indiana speech contest.

Kowata comes to UA Fort Smith from Tokyo, where she is an assistant convention director for the Show Management Company. She was previously an intern with the International Environmental NGO, Friends of the Earth Japan. She has a master’s degree in environment, science and society from Essex University in Essex, England, and a bachelor’s degree from Rikkyo University in Tokyo. During her first year in Fort Smith, she has organized the Japanese Fashion Show at the university, worked with students studying Japanese language, worked with the international office at the university with helping international students, and taught Shodo at the Center for Lifelong learning. Yoko was 26-years-old at the time of her appointment.

Natsue graduated from Kyoto University of Foreign Studies with a degree in English in 2004. After graduation, she studied abroad in Adelaide, Australia for 6 months. Following that, she worked for a company as a sales representative then took a three-month course to be an English instructor for children. Natsue went back to work for an electric company, working with foreign customers before joining the JOI program. During her first year in Findlay, she worked in a wide range of settings. Natsue has developed a curriculum for her K-12 school programs, migrant schools and universities, and organized the program “EXPERIENCE JAPAN!” at the Findlay/ Hancock County library. Through this program, children enjoy Japanese folktales and origami. On The University of Findlay campus, Natsue has worked on various community events for children and helped Japanese exchange program students with their presentations on Japan. Her most recent major event was organizing a Rakugo and Katsuben performance and workshop this fall.

After graduating from Yokohama City University with a degree in sociology, she worked for seven years for the local city government in Japan as a staff member for sister city and volunteer programs within the Board of Education. She later went on to work for the Urban Policy Institute of Yokosuka city, the Policy Management Department of Miura, and the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program before she was accepted by the Japan Outreach Initiative.During her first year, she has organized several Family events, worked with Kalamazoo-Numazu Sister City Committee, Saugatuck Center for the Arts, "Reading Together 2010" committee of Kalamazoo Public Library, Central Michigan University Public Broadcasting, Portage Community Center, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and so on. She also made presentations at many area schools as well.

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