Ayaka was born into a family of traditional Japanese potters and grew up in Iga, the town of Ninjas. Her musical journey started with her father singing Beatles to her while playing guitar. She was deeply influenced by hip-hop and R&B music as a teenager and her first performance as a singer was at a live house in Kyoto with a soul and funk band. Multi-cultured, having spent every summer in the United Kingdom and Spain, she was educated at Kyoto International School and Osaka International School before relocating to London. She trained at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before starting her career as an opera singer performing across Europe and Japan. From her deep interest in the balance of body and mind, she also works as a certified personal trainer while singing opera. She is now in the process of launching an Opera Project and fitness classes tailored for performers and singers in Japan.
Baye is an author, columnist and activist from Brooklyn NY and came to Japan in 2004. He is the author of two critically-acclaimed books on life in Japan: “Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist” and “Loco in Yokohama”. His monthly column, “Black Eye”, featured in The Japan Times, raises awareness of issues related to “blackness” in Japan. In 2015, Baye spearheaded a successful campaign against the airing of a blackface minstrel show on Japanese TV. His activism in Japan has garnered global attention, featured on the BBC, in The New York Times, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc. He also conducts workshops and seminars at companies and universities across the country on human rights and race issues, in his continuing effort to help Japan achieve its desired and inevitable goal of greater inclusiveness and diversity.
Through an interplay of voice, story and soundscape, Elizaveta fuses opera with musical genres such as pop, soul and electronica, creating transcendental live performances. She’s a multilingual vocalist, composer and producer of Russian origin, with an opera degree from the University of Southern California. Her official 2012 Universal Records (US) debut earned her unanimous critical acclaim, and her songs have since been featured in movies, popular TV series and video games. Elizaveta has toured with Sinead O’Connor, Morcheeba, James, the Russian arena rock band B2, and performed on the TED stage multiple times. She is now living in Japan and her first Japanese-language duet album will be released in November 2018.
Gabriel Duque is an expert in economic diplomacy and has a special interest in institution building and governance. His public office service with the Colombian Government includes working as Ambassador of Colombia to Japan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Colombia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Adjunct Ambassador of Colombia to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Vice-Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, International Negotiator of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, and Director of Enterprise Development of the National Planning Department (DNP) He received a PhD in Economics from New York University, an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics and a bachelor´s degree in Industrial Engineering from Universidad de los Andes. As an academic, he has collaborated with universities in Colombia, the US and Europe as professor, guest speaker, and researcher in the fields of industrial organization, productivity and competitiveness.
Hiroko Morohashi, born in Iwaki City in Fukushima, spent fifteen years after graduating from university working in her father's fashion and sports retail company. However, on March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake struck Japan, devastating almost 70 of the company's stores. Through her involvement in reconstruction assistance activities, Morohashi came to see that sports can give people courage and energy and established the United Sports Foundation (USF) in September that same year. In the seven years since its establishment, believing that involvement in sports can help create a healthy society and also contribute to the nurturing of children, Morohashi has worked to promote sports culture with her foundation to some 600,000 children throughout Japan. Through different sporting activities, she aims to show children, regardless of their age and gender, the power of sports that can bring smiles to people and help share the joy and excitement with others.
Since his first trip to Israel in 1999 Hiromi Yano has immersed himself in the history, culture and politics of Israel and Palestine, focusing on the conflict that divides the two. As a representative of the Oomoto Foundation, a Shinto sect based in Ayabe City, Kyoto and active in inter-religious dialogue and peace activities, Hiromi has visited 35 countries, including numerous trips to Israel. In 1999 he carried a letter of peace from the mayor of Ayabe to the mayor of Jerusalem, which resulted in an official declaration of friendship between the two cities. Since then, Hiromi has organized Japanese communities to participate in the Middle East Project, which brings Israeli and Palestinian teenagers together in Japan to learn about Japanese culture, live with host families and share personal stories from the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Through his work, Hiromi has developed a deeper understanding of both sides of the conflict and is active in sharing his wide view with others.
After failing at baseball because of his fear of making bad pitches, Kenichi Wada was in search of a new passion. It was one day after trying various sports and somewhat feeling disappointed in his ability that he came across the world of “Lifesaving” and the “Beach Flags” competition. He practiced the start phase of such races 100,000 times in park sandboxes. He went to Australia in order to challenge the world champion. His desire of improving his running performance and challenging Usain Bolt brought him to Jamaica to undergo training. As a result, he won the Beach Flags Japan National Title seven times and a silver medal at the Lifesaving World Championships Interclub. His experience has taught him to value more than the result, but to appreciate the importance of the journey. In today’s modern society where the suicide rate is high and children do not have dreams, he wants to share this message “Anyone can be a lifesaver for somebody.”
Miki Ito joined Astroscale Japan Inc. as President in April, 2015. While working as a full-time engineer for the key technology demonstration mission of ELSA-d, she advocates the mission and gives lectures on STEM educational program. Prior to Astroscale, Ms. Ito worked as a researcher at JASTEC to coach international students from oversea in satellite manufacturing. She also worked as a researcher at NESTRA where she participated in the HODOYOSHI-3 and HODOYOSHI-4 microsatellites projects, which were developed by University of Tokyo under the FIRST (Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R&D on Science and Technology) program funded by the Japanese Government. In that capacity, Miki was involved in thermal and structure design as well as test operations. In 2018, Ms. Ito was chosen as 'Forbes Emergent 25' and Nikkei's 'Nikkei Woman of The Year 2018.' She holds a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Nihon University.
Priyanka Yoshikawa is the first mixed heritage woman to be crowned Miss World Japan. A role model for youth, Priyanka didn’t let bullying in Japan due to her ethnicity stop her from pursuing her dreams and passion for modeling. Born in Tokyo, raised in California and in India until the age of 9, Priyanka is rooted in the cultural heritage of both India and Japan, is a Visit Kyoto ambassador, and aims to build a deeper bond between the two countries through tourism. As part of her humanitarian work, she is an ambassador for Smile Asia to promote treatment of facial deformities in children, and for the Balipara Foundation working for sustainable community development in the Eastern Himalayas. In 2017, Priyanka initiated her own enterprise ReR Co., Ltd. where she has pioneered content marketing and involves key influencers from across 117 countries across the globe. She hopes to be a successful entrepreneur and a key influencer of change in Japan and the world.
American ceramic artist & long-time Japan resident Richard Milgrim first came to Kyoto in 1977 & in 1979 began intensively studying “The Way of Tea” (Chanoyu) at the Urasenke Headquarters while entering the first of 4 apprenticeships. He established his own independent studio/kiln, Richado-Gama, outside Kyoto in 1985, and in 2000 established a 2nd studio, Konko-Gama, in Concord, Ma, USA. By strengthening the bridges of mutual respect and cultivating cultural understanding between Japan and the United States through tea ceramics, Richard teaches why the enjoyment of the “Way of Tea” and the objects used to serve it, have such relevance in today’s world. Chanoyu and particularly the tea bowl (chawan), serve as a vehicle of peace by connecting the participants in a uniquely meditative moment of sharing, irrespective of nationality, background or age, to create an atmosphere of harmony, respect, purity, tranquility and gratitude in our daily lives.
Takanori Nakagome followed through on his words and realized his dream of "Traveling around the World and Teaching Dance to 10,000 Children." In order to expand the world and potential of children, he is currently connecting children all over the world through "Dance × the Internet."
Toshiya Kakiuchi is an entrepreneur who personifies the value of barriers. He has an incurable disease and has been on a wheelchair since childhood. Promoting "the value of barriers" led Kakiuchi to start his company "MIRAIRO" in 2010 while studying at university. In Japan, "universal design" is necessary for one third of the population, and he is spreading it to the world. His business has created a project to eliminate environmental, psychological and information-sharing barriers that hinder the lives of persons with disabilities, the elderly and their families. He is also spreading the idea about "universal manners" - how to treat disabled people and the elderly - and developing an app "Bmaps" to transmit barrier-free information. In 2018, he received the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Award at the Japan Venture Awards, and was also featured on TV Tokyo's "Dawn of Gaia." He is also the author of the book "Barrier Values" published by Shinchosha.
Usman Riaz is an artist, composer and animator residing in Karachi, Pakistan. At the age of 20 Usman was selected to be a TED Fellow and attended the TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh to showcase his work on music and art in Pakistan. Using TED as a platform, Usman pursued his love for hand-drawn animation and his dream of bringing traditional animation to Pakistan. Usman grew up watching famous animated works from Japan and his love for animation was sparked by the films of Studio Ghibli. Japanese animation motivated him to start his own hand- drawn animation studio: Mano. Mano Animation Studios is currently working on their first hand-drawn animated film ‘The Glassworker’ with a team of creatives from Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, the U.S, the U.K and Japan. Hand-drawn animation has never been attempted in Pakistan, but the team Usman has formed is moving forward with the passion and love the craft deserves.
Yuko Shirakawa works in troubled areas around the world as a nurse with Medicins Sans Frontieres. After finally breaking through the English language barrier after many years of diligent study, in 2010 she became a member of Medicins Sans Frontieres, a dream held since early childhood. In the seven years since then, she has been dispatched 17 times to areas of conflict such as Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and Gaza. In those many places, she has seen that the blood that is spilt is that of innocent citizens, who are not involved in the war. She not only carries out medical duties, but also records and documents what she has witnessed. There was a time when, disappointed that her nursing duties were not directly contributing to the end of war, she considered working as a journalist, but has ultimately chosen to stay with those wounded in areas of conflict.