Japan-America Society of Washington DC Staff



Marc Hitzig
Executive Director

Marc has worked for the Japan-America Society of Washington DC for more than 14 years. He currently sits on the National Cherry Blossom Festival Board of Directors, the Arlington Sister City Association Board of Directors, and the Washington Japanese Heritage Center Board of Directors. Prior to working at JASWDC, he spent three years as an Assistant Language Teacher on the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program in Nagaoka City, Niigata. While on the JET Program, he enjoyed learning Japanese pottery and the culture of Japan. Marc received a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from the University of Cincinnati.


Melissa Tolentino
Director of Community Outreach & Strategic Communications

Melissa was born in the United States and spent several years moving back and forth between the U.S. and Japan as a military dependent. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Japanese, she went to graduate school at Waseda University in Tokyo and received a master’s in International Culture & Communications. Melissa is also a published writer of both fiction and poetry.


Yuko Hishitani Smith
Programming & Language School Director

Yuko was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan and went to Ritsumeikan University where she majored in literature focusing on international cultures. While a student at Ritsumeikan, she joined the Dual Undergraduate Degree Program (DUDP) and studied at American University for 2 years, where she received another degree in international relations. After graduation, she worked at NNR Global Logistics in Japan for 3 years before moving back to the U.S. in 2016.

Nancy Marsden
Director of Japan Bowl & Japanese Public Relations

Nancy was born and raised in Canada, and began taking Japanese in grade 5. She continued studying Japanese after moving to the United States in high school, and was a participant in the National Japan Bowl. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a double major in East Asian Studies and Music, and studied abroad at Keio University her junior year. She earned her MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, then taught English in Tochigi before working as a translator for Honda Motor Co., Ltd. for 3 years. While in Japan she studied Japanese cooking and kimono dressing and won the foreigner division of the All-Japan Kimono Yosoi Contest and was made an honorary ambassador (yukai shimin) of Utsunomiya City in 2017.

David Cobb
Membership Coordinator

Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, David’s interest in Japanese culture began at age 12 through influence from documentaries, anime, and stories shared by his father from his service in the United States Armed Forces. In 2013, he graduated from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences focusing in International Relations and a minor in Japanese. After graduation, he spent a year with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program (2014-2015) teaching English in Miki City, located in the Hyogo Prefecture. His hobbies include studying Japanese culture and language, voice acting, and studying martial arts, where he holds two medals in Sanda kickboxing from the Arnold Classic Kickboxing Competition.

Tyler Burton
Japan Bowl Assistant (Intern)

Tyler was born and raised in Maryland. She is an undergraduate student in her fourth year, double majoring in Japanese and Asian Studies at the George Washington University. She studied in Japan for one year at Waseda University in Tokyo. In her free time, she enjoys dance, listening to classical music, and sewing.

Rieko Murayama
Programming Assistant (Volunteer)

Rieko was born and raised in Saitama, Japan. After working at Japan Highway Public Corporation for over a decade, she moved to Canberra, Australia for 2 years. During her stay in Australia, she studied English at an institute with multicultural classmates from various countries, and learned the joy of acting as a bridge between Japan and other countries through volunteer activities.

Yoshihiro Fukuda
Programming Assistant (Intern)

 Yoshihiro was born and raised in Kanagawa, Japan and is a current sophomore at Waseda University, where he majors in English literature. He began studying abroad as an exchange student at the George Washington University in August 2018, studying political science and international affairs.