Marc Hitzig is the Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC (JASWDC). He has worked for JASWDC for more than 12 years. He currently sits on the National Cherry Blossom Festival 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.
Risa Okayama Kamio is the Director of Educational Programs. Before JASWDC, she was a Japanese teacher at Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Maryland and an educational coordinator/tour coordinator/interpreter at Japan Travelers Service, Inc. (also known as America Information Service, Inc.). She attended the ladder program of the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo and went on to study American literature at the University of the Sacred Heart.
Melissa Tolentino is the Assistant Director of Educational & Public Outreach. She 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 is the Membership and Program Coordinator. She 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 is the Japan Bowl Program Manager and also manages public relations with the Japanese community. She 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.
Gabrielle Oliver is an intern with the Japan-in-a-Suitcase program. She is a senior at Howard University, and is studying English and Linguistics. Gabrielle has also studied abroad for a summer semester at Keiwa College in Niigata, Japan with a focus in Japanese language and culture, in July of 2016. During her time in Niigata, she was also able to work as a teacher’s assistant at both Keiwa Gakuen High School and at their middle school. In the spring of 2018, Gabrielle will study abroad at Kansai Gaidai University.
Tamami Yoshida is the Japan Bowl Coordinator intern. She is a senior at the George Washington University, and is majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Asian Studies. She was born in Yokohama, Japan and attended the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. She has worked as an English-Japanese translator and enjoys traveling the world to eat local specialties.
Lindsay Diamond is an intern with the Japan-in-a-Suitcase program. She is a senior at Pepperdine University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Film Studies with an emphasis in Media production. During the summer of 2015, she studied abroad at Temple University’s Japan Campus in Tokyo. Her interests include learning languages (particularly Japanese andGerman), writing, and filmmaking.
Rieko Murayama is the Program Coordinator intern. She 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. She delights in contributing to society through this internship experience with JASWDC.