Staff

Bios

Motoatsu Sakurai

President

Motoatsu Sakurai became President of Japan Society on April 7, 2009. Mr. Sakurai served as Ambassador and Consul General of Japan in New York from March 2006 through March 2009, after a successful 40-year career in the private sector, and was the first business executive to serve as Ambassador and Consul General.

After graduating from Tokyo University Faculty of Law in 1968, Mr. Sakurai entered Mitsubishi Corporation (MC). During the course of his early work at MC, he received an MBA from INSEAD, Fontainbleau, France in May 1976. In 1978, Mr. Sakurai served as a Loan Officer with the World Bank and as an Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation in Washington D.C. In the mid- to late-1980s, Mr. Sakurai served in several senior managerial capacities for Mitsubishi International Corporation (MIC) in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1995, after returning to Tokyo, he was named General Manager of Corporate Planning and in 1998, General Manager for Regional Strategy and Coordination. By 2000, he rose to Executive Vice President. In April, 2003, he was named President and CEO of MIC. Simultaneously, he was named President, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New York. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Partnership for New York City, the Corporate Leadership Committee of Carnegie Hall, and the Executive Committee of the Nippon Club. He served as member of Japan Society's Board of Directors from 2003 until his appointment as Ambassador, after which he became an Honorary Director.

Mr. Sakurai is married and lives in New York. He has two daughters who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and now live and work in the United States.

Lisa Bermudez

Vice President, Finance & Administration

Lisa Bermudez was appointed Vice President of Finance and Administration in 2008. She joined Japan Society in 2001 as an accountant, and in 2005 she was promoted to Director of Finance. Throughout a series of progressively responsible positions within finance and administration, Bermudez has demonstrated strong leadership and accountability. In her current role, Bermudez defines, directs and implements financial and administrative initiatives and strategies for the Society. She is responsible for directing and coordinating all activities of Finance, Administration, House Activities, Human Resources and Building Services. Bermudez has worked in the financial arena for over two decades, and previously held managerial positions at Oram, Yelon & Bernstein and Asia Society. She earned a BA in Business Administration and Accounting at Bernard Baruch College.

Miwako Tezuka

Director, Japan Society Gallery

Appointed in July 2012, Dr. Miwako Tezuka is the first Japanese director of Japan Society Gallery in the Society’s over 100-year-long history. She is an internationally recognized curator and expert in modern and contemporary Japanese art. Tezuka received her PhD from the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University in 2005 with the dissertation titled Jikken Kōbō (Experimental Workshop): Avant-Garde Experiments in Japanese Art of the 1950s.

In 2003, to connect scholars and art professionals who share the interest in contemporary Japanese art, Tezuka cofounded the global online network PoNJA-GenKon (Post-1945 Japanese Art Discussion Group/Gendai Bijutsu Kondankai). Prior to her appointment at Japan Society, Tezuka was Associate Curator at Asia Society in New York, where she was responsible for creating cutting-edge exhibitions of contemporary Asian and Asia American artists. In 2006, she co-curated Projected Realities: Video Art from East Asia, the first exhibition at Asia Society that thoroughly focused on video art. From 2007 Tezuka also played a key role in creating a new collection of video and photography by contemporary Asian artists. From 2007 she oversaw “In Focus,” a series of solo exhibitions, through which she realized the first solo museum exhibitions in New York of such important artists as Yuken Teruya from Okinawa, Suda Yoshihiro from Tokyo, and U-Ram Choe from Seoul. The most groundbreaking work she realized was the 2010 exhibition Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody’s Fool. Her other notable curatorial contributions included Yang Fudong: Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (2009) and Mariko Mori: Kumano (2010).

Yoko Shioya

Artistic Director

Yoko Shioya became Artistic Director in 2006, responsible for year-round programming of the Society's Performing Arts Program and overseeing the Film Program. Since joining the Society in 1997 and assuming the position of Director of Performing Arts in 2003, she has expanded collaborative projects with American cultural organizations and universities to introduce Japanese performing artists and also launched new initiatives, including an artists’ residency project and a workshop series.

Known in Japan as a writer/researcher on the public and private arts support systems in the U.S. and Japan, Shioya has been invited to speak at numerous symposia, lectures and TV programs presented by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese government, Keidanren, the Academy of Cultural Economics and the Japan Council of Performers' Organizations, among others. In 1998, her first book, New York: How the City and Its Artists Coexist, was published by Maruzen Publishing Co. She has been a regular contributor to arts columns on performing arts and exhibitions for the Asahi newspaper, and has served as a committee member and selection panelist for numerous programs, including The Bessie Awards, Rolex Mentor and Protege International Program, and the Toyota Choreography Awards. Shioya holds BAs in musicology and dance history from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

Betty Borden

Director of Policy Projects

Betty Borden is the Director of Policy Projects and manages the US-Japan Innovators Network, a unique collaborative program that brings together creative Japanese and Americans committed to creating a better work through innovative and often groundbreaking programs and ideas. She is also responsible for the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, a fund Japan Society started after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to support relief and long term recovery in Tohoku. Before coming to Japan Society, Betty worked at The Asia Foundation in Washington, DC, where she was responsible for program development and oversaw Executive Branch and Congressional relations.  She also worked for a U.S. Senator as a legislative aide. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University.

Jane Fenton

Director of Human Resources

Jane Fenton is a human resources professional with considerable experience in all areas of human resources management and development. Prior to joining Japan Society in 2008, she served the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, where she was Deputy Director of Human Resources. In this role, Fenton developed and implemented strategic HR programs, policies and procedures, and led the staffing process. Before that, Fenton worked at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield in a series of progressively challenging positions, including Senior Staffing Advisor, Employee Relations Rep, and EEO Specialist. Fenton earned a BS in Management and Communications, summa cum laude, at Adelphi University.

Janet Fu

Director of Program Operations

Janet Fu joined Japan Society in April 2006 as Director of Program Operations Fu directs the planning and management of program events at Japan Society. She previously worked in sales and marketing at the New York Palace Hotel, as well as in banquets at the Radisson Miyako Hotel Tokyo.

Fu received her BA in Biological Basis of Behavior from the University of Pennsylvania and her MMH from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration.

Michiko Grasso

Director of Individual Giving

Director of Individual Giving Michiko Simanjuntak Grasso started working at Japan Society in April 2010. Previously, she was the Deputy Director of Development at Aperture Foundation. She has also worked at various cultural institutions throughout New York City, such as the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Ice Theatre of New York, The Bronx Museum for the Arts, American Express Philanthropic Program and Asia Society. Grasso earned a Master of Arts in Arts Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and Art History from Columbia University. She is a former Japan Society member and student at the Toyota Language Center.

Asif Iqbal

Director, Media & Marketing

Asif Iqbal is Director, Media & Marketing, with responsibility for Digital Media, Communications and Publications. He joined Japan Society in March 2008 as Director of Digital Media. Iqbal previously worked at Reed Business Information as the Creative Director of New Media, where he was responsible for designing, planning and implementing the company’s New Products Division online presence. Iqbal earned a BFA in Advertising from the School of Visual Arts.

Christy Jones

Director of Special Events

Christy Jones joined Japan Society in 2001 as an Assistant in the U.S. Japan Program and Lecture Programs. She transferred to the Development Office in 2003 and joined the Special Events team in 2005, eventually assuming the position of Director in July 2011. Jones studied abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan and later spent three years living and working in Nagasaki Prefecture as a participant in The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a certificate in Asian & African Languages & Literature from Duke University.

Shannon Jowett

Director of Communications

Shannon Jowett oversees publicity and promotion at Japan Society. He works closely with the executive staff on Society-wide messaging and in tandem with Digital Media, Development and Publications departments on initiatives serving all programming. Managing an internal team and two niche publicity firms, Jowett steered the most successful PR campaign in the Society's 100+ year history, resulting in 18 articles in The New York Times in as many months and over 1400 archived press clips including major broadcast, print and online coverage.

Appointed Director of Communications in August 2006, Jowett has specialized in New York City cultural communications since 1999. He was an original associate at Spin Cycle, a downtown marketing boutique where he handled publicity, niche promotions and special events for a diverse roster of major corporations, popular artists and esteemed downtown venues. In 2003, Jowett joined The Zeisler Group, managing public relations for high-profile, international cultural clients including Japan Society.

Tomoyo Kamimura

Director of the Toyota Language Center

Tomoyo Kamimura grew up in Japan where she earned her BA from Waseda University. She received an MA in Linguistics from the University of Oregon as well as an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. While teaching English at The Tokyo University of Science, she co-edited Obunsha’s Shorter Japanese-English Dictionary and co-authored Josei no Shinri (Women’s Psychology). Other publications include translations of several books into Japanese. She has taught at numerous institutions, including Rutgers University, Kalamazoo College, The University of Oregon, and Baruch College, and also serves on the selection committee of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme in the New York region. Before coming to Japan Society, she was a full-time faculty member and Coordinator of the Japanese program at The New School for Public Engagement for nine years.
 

Ruri Kawashima

Tokyo Representative

Ruri Kawashima is the liaison between Japan Society's New York headquarters and its contacts in Japan. She develops, implements and raises funds for fellowships and exchange programs, which include policy dialogues on key issues important to the U.S.-Japan relationship, professional fellowships, and outreach programs that take place in cities throughout the U.S. and Japan.

Before joining Japan Society in 1973, Kawashima was an Editorial Assistant at the Tokyo bureau of Newsweek. She is a graduate of the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo and Western College for Women in Ohio.

Jeffrey Miller

Director, Education and Family Programs

As an educational leader in the United States and Japan for more than 20 years, Jeffrey brings to Japan Society significant skills and experience in the areas of program and curriculum development and implementation, teacher training programs and mentoring, staff and student counseling, as well as donor cultivation and development. Previously, Jeffrey was Grammar School Dean at The Ambrose School in Boise, Idaho and he also served as the school’s Upper School Dean, and Director of Development. Prior to that, he was Headmaster at Covenant Christian Academy in New Mexico. He has taught at Boise State University, as well as kindergarten through adult learners, in both English and Japanese, including immersion classes in the Ysleta School District in El Paso, Texas. Jeffrey received an M.A. in Advanced Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield in England, and a B.A. in Liberal Studies at California State University, Chico.

Jeff Nemeth

Director of Building Services

Jeffrey Nemeth joined Japan Society in September 1987. Nemeth maintains all aspects of the building's electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. He supervises the maintenance staff in the janitorial services and related needs of the programs and other public and private events. In 1992 he was part of the building team that oversaw Phase 1 construction of the Toyota Language Center, lower lobby and auditorium. In 1996, Nemeth oversaw Phase 2 construction for Japan Society: the Gallery, 5th, 4th, and 3rd floors. Nemeth holds all NYC building code licenses ( Fire Safety Director, Refrigeration Engineer, Sprinkler, Air Compressor, EAP Technician and Fire Guard).

Ann Niehoff

Director of Foundation and Government Relations

Ann Niehoff oversees foundation and government fundraising in concert with senior administrative and program staff. She joined Japan Society in November 1986. Niehoff earned a BA with Honors in Art History from Smith College; she received her MA in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she completed the required course work and examinations for a PhD.

Cynthia Sternau

Publications Manager

Cynthia Sternau is the Publications Manager for Japan Society, editing and overseeing the design and production of the Society's printed materials within the Media & Marketing Department. She joined the Society in 1997 as Senior Editor after working for many years in book publishing; her previous positions include Executive Editor, Barnes & Noble Books and Senior Editor, Todtri Productions. Sternau holds a BA in Classical Languages and Literatures, with Honors, from the University of Chicago.

Yoko Suzuki

Director of Corporate Giving

Yoko Suzuki is Japan Society's Director of Corporate Giving and Special Events. She joined the Society as a member of the Development staff in 1986. As Senior Development Officer, she began new initiatives such as the Young Executive Program while focusing mainly on corporate fundraising. Since 1992, Suzuki has been responsible for organizing the Annual Dinner, the Society's major fundraising event, as well as numerous other special events. She has produced such major events as the Society's 90th and 100th anniversary celebrations in both the United States and Japan, a yearly Japanese street festival (Matsuri), and welcoming events for dignitaries from Japan including prime ministers and foreign ministers. Suzuki has also recently assumed the additional task of Special Assistant to the President, charged with enhancing the Society's communications and relations among other organizations and nations. Suzuki was born and raised in Tokyo. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Drama from Wheaton College.
 

Shane Williams-Ness

Vice President, External Relations

Shane Williams-Ness has extensive experience in business development, strategic planning, corporate sponsorship, marketing, fundraising, donor cultivation and stewardship. She comes to us from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), where she was Chief Marketing and Development Officer. Prior to joining SPAC, Williams-Ness was Vice President of Sawchuk, Brown Associates, a public relations and marketing communications firm. Her experience also includes positions as Senior Engagement Manager at Jaakko Pöyry Management Consulting-Asia Pacific in Singapore and Tokyo, and Marketing Manager for the Pioneer Group in Boston, Massachusetts.

Williams-Ness also serves as an adjunct professor at Skidmore College and participates in the Skidmore College Business Mentoring Program. She is a Board member of Saratoga PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature), the Wiawaka Women’s Center, and was formerly on the Saratoga Arts Fest Strategic Planning Board and the Japanese Cultural Association of the Capital District of New York State.

Her appreciation of Japan and the Japanese culture began as a 16 year-old Rotary ambassador. Shane earned a Bachelors in Government & Asian Studies with a minor in Art History at Saint Lawrence University. She also studied advanced speaking ability in Japanese at Shirayuri Gakuen, in Kyushu, Japan, Cornell University and the Harvard Extension School.
 

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