Leadership

Ryan Shaffer
President

Ryan Shaffer joined the Japan America Society of Washington DC as President in February of 2019.  He previously served as Director of Programs and Development at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, where he oversaw integration of programmatic efforts to advance shared interests in U.S. relations with Japan and other NE Asian Partners. 

Mr. Shaffer was the founding director of the U.S.-Japan Space Forum and the U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group and has produced a variety of publications on the topics.  Prior to joining the Mansfield Foundation, Mr. Shaffer served as a research analyst for the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. 

Mr. Shaffer, who was raised in Portland, Maine, has an MSc in Asian politics from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and a BS in environmental policy from Bates College.  Mr. Shaffer, a proud resident of the District of Columbia, sits on the Board of Directors of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  Mr. Shaffer also serves on the Board of Directors of the Western Pacific Fellowship Project.

Saori Kobayashi
Executive Director

Saori Kobayashi joined Japan-America Society of Washington DC in May 2022. In her current position she helps coordinate, manage, and implement Society programs including the Japanese Language School and corporate member events.

Prior to joining the Society, Ms. Kobayashi worked as Associate Director of Programs in the Tokyo office of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation. She has also served as a senior communications/public information assistant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representation in Japan. From 2012-2014, she worked at the International Peace Cooperation Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Foreign Policy Bureau, where she was responsible for program management, coordinating with program implementers, and conducting research on peacekeeping policies.

Ms. Kobayashi studied at the University of California, Los Angeles and has an MA in Conflict, Security, and Development from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England and a BA in Foreign Studies from Sophia University.

Administration & Communication

Mari Fromel
Administrative & Program Manager

Mari Fromel joined the Japan-America Society of Washington DC as Administrative & Program Assistant in August of 2020 and was promoted to Manager in 2022. Born and raised in Chiba, Japan, Ms. Fromel earned her B.A.in British & American Communications from Toyo Gakuen University.

Ms. Fromel brings with her extensive experience, having worked in HR, Accounting and Administration in Japan and Hawaii for over a decade.

In her spare time, she enjoys travelling and surfing.

Luciana Martorell
Communications Manager

Luciana Mujica-Martorell joined the Japan-America Society of Washington DC as the Communications Manager in September of 2023. Prior to working at the Society, she was the Design and Publicity Coordinator at the Japan Information & Culture Center, Embassy of Japan in Washington DC, and she has worked extensively in the DMV area as a freelance designer and art director. A selection of her work can be viewed on her portfolio website.

Originally from Arequipa, Peru, Luciana graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) with a B.F.A. in Design, B.A. in Global Studies (concentration: International Affairs), and a B.A. in Asian Studies. Currently, she is pursuing her M.P.S. in Business of Art and Design from MICA. A proud polyglot, she enjoys studying languages and multilingual typography.

Programs

Colette H. Fozard
Sakura Matsuri Operations Manager

Colette H. Fozard has been working with the Sakura Matsuri in an Operations Manager role since 2012, volunteering since 2006. She came to her career as an independent event planner from over 20 years of volunteering for genre and literary conventions.

Emily Johnson
Program Manager

Emily Johnson joined the Japan-America Society of Washington DC in August 2022 and was promoted to Program Manager in September 2023. As General Program Manager, she oversees and manages coordination of the US-Japan Capital Gala and the Japan in a Suitcase program, as well as a number of Individual & Corporate Member events, and general Society programs and events throughout the year, including Japan in the Year, US-Japan Alliance in the Indo Pacific, JASWDC Haiku Group, Tanabata, Ouchigohan, and others.

Emily’s background with Japan started locally, in Maryland, where she first began studying the Japanese language at Towson University. In 2009, she spent a semester living with a Japanese host family and studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka. After graduating, she worked for 3 years as an English teacher in Nagoya, Japan, then worked in the Japan travel and events industry for a year in Boulder, Colorado before pursuing a Master’s in Japanese Studies with a focus on translation and linguistics at SOAS University of London in 2016.

From 2016 to 2018 she worked in translation and media localization as Japanese subtitle editor and translator for a number of localization companies in Los Angeles, California, including Square Enix where she worked in translation and operations for their mobile games department. Since 2018 she has worked as a freelance translator and subtitle editor, as well as working on her personal projects of translating and publishing a number of Japanese folklore and short stories.

Her passions when it comes to Japan are Japanese literature, dialect and folklore. She also loves to read classical and modern philosophy, and she even lived and studied for a short period in Japan at a Zen Buddhist temple. When she has spare time, she loves reading novels, playing video games and traveling.

Sam Harris
Program Manager

Sam Harris joined the Japan-America Society of Washington DC in January 2023. He serves as Program Manager, with primary responsibility as Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival director.  Working in tight collaboration with the Festival Operations Manager, Sam oversees the many varied aspects of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sam’s burgeoning interest in Japan originates from his late grandmother, who was born and raised in Yamagata prefecture in the Tohoku region. Subtle exposure to Japanese language and culture throughout his youth eventually led to a BS in Organismal Biology and a BA in Asian Studies from Towson University. In 2014, he spent a semester studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka. Post-undergrad, Sam was accepted to into the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, where he taught English to high school students in Tanba City in Hyogo prefecture. From 2018 to 2020, Sam worked towards earning a MA in Asian Studies from George Washington University, where he focused on Japanese history and cultural affairs.

During his free time, Sam enjoys socializing with friends, playing video games, and studying Japanese language. In particular, when afforded the opportunity, Sam loves visiting local Japanese shrines, and learning their history.

Sami Marks
Program Manager

Sami Marks joined the Japan-America Society of Washington DC as the Festival Assistant for the 2024 Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival with the goal of sharing the vibrant world of Japanese culture with others. After enjoying the dynamic atmosphere of the festival, Sami seamlessly transitioned into a new role as Program Manager, directing her passion towards the Japan Bowl.

Prior to her journey with the Japan-America Society, Sami served as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with JET Program in Ishikawa, Japan for five years. There, she fostered meaningful connections with students and educators while relishing the rich tapestry of Japanese life and traditions.

With dedication to promoting cross-cultural understanding, Sami eagerly anticipates delving deeper into the realm of Japanese language and culture through her work with the Japan Bowl. Her experiences abroad continue to inspire her commitment to fostering connections between Japan and the United States.

During her free time, Sami can be found in the pages of a good book, outside in nature on  a walk, or at a yoga studio. Her number one goal now is to join a taiko group in the vibrant DC area.


Interns, Volunteers, & Seasonal Staff

Anetera Bryant
Japan Bowl Intern

Anetera Bryant is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a Japanese Minor at Howard University, expected to graduate in 2026. She recently served as an Event Coordinator for the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Youth Outreach Day in the Spring of 2023, where her organizational skills and leadership were instrumental in coordinating events and ensuring a smooth experience for all participants. In the same semester, she participated in Howard University's Alternative Spring Break, dedicating her time to assisting children, families, and communities in need, addressing issues such as food insecurity and homelessness. Anetera’s commitment to community service and her dedication to making a positive impact on the world around her continue to shine in her most recent experiences.


Sakura-chan
JASWDC Mascot

A special rabbit from birth, Sakura was always able to detect the seasonal changes on Earth, even from her home on the Moon. The DC cherry blossoms reminded her of the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who had come from the United States and landed on the moon when she was just a young rabbit. Since then, she had always wanted to visit the United States. In 2018,  Sakura-chan, who is fluent in Japanese, English, and alien rabbit language, was hired by JASWDC as the new mascot for the Sakura Matsuri - Japanese Street Festival. Her goal? To "celebrate the sakura (cherry blossoms) in beautiful Washington, DC". Now, Sakura-chan is working hard to bring Japanese culture to Washington, DC. 

Favorite food: Hanami dango and katsu curry

Favorite move: Your Name 君の名は

Blood type: O