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Watanabe Democracy Fellowship—Fellows

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. 

The 2024 recipients are Yuta Iwakawa, Hiromitsu Koiso, Yuko Masunaga, Kurumi Otake, Fumihito Shinohara, Hirokazu Tokuyama, Koichiro Wakai, and Yukino Watanabe.

2024 Fellows

Yuta Iwakawa

Yuta Iwakawa

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 headshot drawing

Hiromitsu Koiso

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 a biannual poetry magazine called 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.

(c) Izumi Shiokawa

Yuko Masunaga

Yuko Masunaga

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 headshot

Kurumi Otake

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 bachelor’s degree in language and area studies from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. 

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Fumihito Shinohara

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 headshot

Hirokazu Tokuyama

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 then served as curator at ARTS GALLERY @KCUA. 

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Koichiro Wakai

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 City before earning his BA in comparative art from Aoyama Gakuin University.  

yukino watanabe headshot

Yukino Watanabe

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 Democracy Center explores the rights, freedoms, and fragility of democracy, helping to build bridges, and find common ground between people of diverse backgrounds and opinions.

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