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JANM Announces the Inaugural Class of the Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) announces the inaugural class of the Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship. With generous support from Toshizo “Tom” Watanabe, this fellowship builds the knowledge and expertise of future Japanese leaders working across multiple sectors, promotes global democracy, and strengthens ties between Japan and the US. The 2024 recipients are Yuta Iwakawa, Hiromitsu Koiso, Yuko Masunaga, Kurumi Otake, Fumihito Shinohara, Hirokazu Tokuyama, Koichiro Wakai, and Yukino Watanabe.

“We are deeply grateful to Tom Watanabe for his generous gift that has made the Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship program possible. We congratulate our inaugural class of Fellows and look forward to welcoming them to the JANM community. The endowment makes it possible for current and future Fellows to create a bilateral partnership that contributes to global democracy, stability, and prosperity. By learning about Japanese American history and democracy in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and at the former Manzanar concentration camp, the Fellows can help safeguard global democratic principles, strengthen US-Japan relations and our ability to collectively address transnational issues,” said Ann Burroughs, JANM President and CEO.

The Fellows will travel to multiple US cities over two weeks and engage in ongoing virtual and in-person gatherings. In Los Angeles, they will experience a series of site visits, seminars, and workshops on Japanese American history and democracy, and meet with organizations from diverse communities working to solve various social issues. They will also visit the Manzanar National Historic Site, the original site of a Japanese American concentration camp during World War II. The Fellows will also visit Washington, D.C. to meet with leaders in government, private sector, and grassroots organizations to better understand the policy making process and the unique history of democracy in the US.

Read more about the recipients below and visit to learn more about the fellowship program.

Yuta Iwakawa is a business planning and finance lead for Sumitomo Corp.’s Ethiopia Telecommunications Project. He is building his career on the strategic use of technology to drive social and economic progress. He uses his global perspective and expertise in project management and team leadership to guide transformative telecoms initiatives, accelerate economic development, and make a difference in people’s lives and in the world. He has previous experience working in India, and studied Information Technology at Aoyama Gakuin University.

Hiromitsu Koiso is a Japanese literary translator and poet and has translated Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Open City by Teju Cole, The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry, and poems by Ocean Vuong into Japanese. He also runs the biannual poetry magazine 20:30 [nijuu sanjuu] with fellow poets. His poems have been published in journals such as Poetry and Gendaishitecho. He earned his MAs in literary translation and creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Yuko Masunaga is the managing director of the Investor Relations and Sustainability Department at ORIX Corporation, where she leads the company’s sustainability initiative. Dedicated to corporate sustainability, she liaises with staff and board leadership and communicates with external parties like investors, media, and ESG raters about ORIX’s sustainability path. Raised in New York, Yuko is a native English and Japanese speaker—as well as a fluent French speaker and an intermediate Korean speaker. She earned her BA in government from Smith College and JD from Cornell Law School.

Kurumi Otake is a program officer at The Japan Foundation, where she oversees the Japanese Studies Fellowship Program and other grant programs in North America and the Middle East. Passionate about languages and culture, she builds connections and creates mutual understanding between people in Japan and other regions. She studied Levantine Arabic in Lebanon for eight months and earned her BA in language and area studies from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Fumihito Shinohara is the assistant director of the First North America Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. He oversees the ministry's people-to-people exchanges with the US and Canada and focuses on collaboration with academic and research institutions, intellectual exchanges, and community outreach. He earned his master of public policy at the University of Michigan and master of economics at Hitotsubashi University. He previously worked at the Consulate-General of Japan in New York and the Embassy of Japan in Tonga.

Hirokazu Tokuyama is an associate curator at the Mori Art Museum. His recently curated exhibitions at the museum include Theaster Gates: Afro-Mingei, Listen to the Sound of the Earth Turning: Our Wellbeing since the Pandemic, Roppongi Crossing 2019: Connexions, MAM Project 025: Apichatpong Weerasethakul + Hisakado Tsuyoshi, and more. He earned his BA in contemporary art and art history at Hunter College CUNY and his MA in studio art and painting at Kyoto City University of Arts, where he served as curator at ARTS GALLERY @KCUA.

Koichiro Wakai is a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at UNIQLO, where he is currently in charge of respect for human rights in product design and marketing. He has established guidelines, trained executive officers and management, and led employee resource groups promoting LGBTQ+ and cross-cultural communications. Originally from Nara, he took a gap year to study English and fashion in New York before earning his BA in comparative art from Aoyama Gakuin University. 

Yukino Watanabe is a corporate sales banker at MUFG Bank, Ltd. With strengths in communications, corporate sales marketing, finance structuring, and internal and external relationship management, she oversees US subsidiaries of Japanese-listed trading and leasing companies in the bank’s New York office. In 2022 Yukino moved to New York, and it is her first time living abroad since living in Italy as a child. She earned her bachelor’s degree in law from Keio University.

The Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship promotes global democracy and strengthens the ties between Japan and the US by promoting democratic values, and bilateral cultural understanding and collaboration. With the generous support of Toshizo Watanabe, the Toshizo Watanabe Democracy Fellowship focuses on building the knowledge base and expertise of future Japanese leaders across multiple sectors including government, the arts, media, education, nonprofits/NGOs, and the corporate world.

By fostering greater understanding, cooperation, and shared values, the Fellowship builds a stronger and more resilient partnership that benefits not only Japan and the US but also contributes to global stability and prosperity.


About the Daniel K. Inouye National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (Democracy Center)

The Democracy Center is a place where visitors can examine the Asian American experience, past and present, and talk about race, identity, social justice, and the shaping of democracy. It convenes and educates people of all ages about democracy to transform attitudes, celebrate culture, and promote civic engagement; educates and informs the public and public officials about important issues; creates strength within and among communities to advocate for positive change; and explores the values that shape American democracy. The Democracy Center looks for solutions that engage communities in self-advocacy, explore the evolving idea of what it means to be an American, and result in actions that bring everyone together.

About the Japanese American National Museum (JANM)

Established in 1985, JANM promotes understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience. Located in the historic Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles, JANM is a center for civil rights, ensuring that the hard-fought lessons of the World War II incarceration are not forgotten. A Smithsonian Affiliate and one of America’s Cultural Treasures, JANM is a hybrid institution that straddles traditional museum categories. JANM is a center for the arts as well as history. It provides a voice for Japanese Americans and a forum that enables all people to explore their own heritage and culture. Since opening to the public in 1992, JANM has presented over 100 exhibitions onsite while traveling 40 exhibits to venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the Ellis Island Museum in the United States, and to several leading cultural museums in Japan and South America. JANM is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday–Sunday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and on Thursday from 12 p.m.–8 p.m. JANM is free every third Thursday of the month. On all other Thursdays, JANM is free from 5 p.m.–8 p.m. For more information, visit or follow us on social media @jamuseum.