Motoatsu Sakurai


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.

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 Innovators Network

Betty Borden is the Director of the Innovators Network, a unique collaborative program that brings together creative Japanese and Americans who are pursuing innovative and often groundbreaking ideas to improve their communities and society. The Network provides opportunities for these leaders to build enduring relationships, learn from each other, inspire each other, and collaborate. She is also responsible for the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, a $14 million 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 Executive Branch and Congressional relations and she worked for a U.S. Senator as a legislative aide. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from San Francisco State University.

Michele Debreceni

Director of Media & Marketing

Prior to joining Japan Society, Michele spent many years as a music industry executive. Most recently, she served as the Senior Vice President of Digital Media at Kidz Bop LLC, overseeing brand website, e-commerce, and digital advertising initiatives. Before that, she helped launch the digital direct marketing division for Razor & Tie Entertainment. Michele holds a B.S. in Marketing and Communications, magna cum laude, from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.

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.

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.

Kimberly Woodward

Director of Individual Giving

Kimberly Woodward joined the Japan Society’s development team as Director of Individual Giving and Membership in June 2016. She has dedicated her career to the nonprofit sector, primarily focusing on arts and culture. Previously, she was the Development Manager for the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York. She has held positions in development, marketing and communications at cultural organizations throughout the northeast including the Hudson River Museum, Connecticut Opera, Long Wharf Theatre, the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, Maine State Music Theatre and the Walnut Street Theatre. She holds a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from the University of Maine.

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