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The Mitsui Lecture Series

The Mitsui Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation to deepen the understanding of contemporary Japan and Tennessee and create a sense of community and exchange. This year, high profile speakers will join three forums highlighting Japan’s footprint around the world and its contributions to Tennessee’s prosperity over the last forty years.

The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation was established in 1987 as the philanthropic arm of Mitsui & Co. (U.S.A.), Inc. for active, social contribution programs in communities where the company does business.

2024 Programs

  Cherry Blossoms in Literature with Yurina Yoshikawa

Thursday, March 28th

Watch Webinar

Celebrating the beautiful cherry blossom season with Yurina Yoshikawa at a special, in-person evening session of The Mitsui Lecture Series.

Cherry blossoms hold profound cultural significance and symbolism in Japan. Yurina discussed Japanese and American literature with cherry blossoms as a motif with mingling and refreshments after the lecture.

This was the first event of 2024 Japan Week, Japanese cultural events and activities leading up to the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival.

Yurina Yoshikawa is a writer, an instructor and Director of Education at The Porch Writers' Collective in Nashville. Yurina also hosts JAST’s online book club - Reading Between the Lines

TNGO: Shifting Gears in Tennessee
Mobility, Economic Development & Strategy

Tuesday, March 5th

Watch Webinar

Victoria Hirschberg hosted an online session about The Transportation Network Growth Opportunity.

The TNGO initiative is an economic development tool designed to make our state the premier destination for mobility R&D investment in the Southeast and the next generation of high-quality jobs.

Victoria Hirschberg has more than a decade of experience in economic development. Assistant Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development at the University of Tennessee System, Victoria is working alongside the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as TNGO Interim Director to oversee the rollout.

2022-2023 Programs

Moving Beyond BNA Vision
Focused on a New Horizon

October 26, 2023

Watch Webinar

BNA Nashville International Airport is transforming. Stacey NickensVice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Nashville International Airport, discussed BNA Vision, the growth and expansion plan that includes the onsite Hilton Hotel, the beautiful, new grand lobby with 24 TSA security screening lanes and multimedia digital and visual art and a new state-of-the-art international arrivals facility. 

With the opening of the new international arrivals facility, expanding international air service is a priorityStacey also offered updates on the work to bring new international service to Nashville International Airport and BNA's New Horizonthe next step in the improvement and expansion of the airport, including two concourses, a new air freight building, terminal roadway improvements and additional upgrades to further enhance the traveler experience. 

As Vice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing, Stacey Nickens serves as the spokesperson for BNAand is responsible for the organization’s internal and external communication strategies, including community relations, advertising, events, customer experience, and BNA’s arts at the airport program which includes both visual art and music.

While having a lasting impact on BNA is top of mind for Stacey, she is also heavily involved in the Nashville community. As someone who deeply values relationships, Stacey is heavily involved in the local community, and she serves on numerous boards. Stacey earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is married to her husband, Bryant, and they have one son, BJ.

The Mitsui Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of The Mitsui U.S.A. Foundation. 

Robotics and the Future of the Automotive Industry
DENSO, Technology and Tennessee

October 26, 2023

Watch Webinar

The automotive industry, Tennessee’s largest manufacturing sector, has long adopted technology, with robots being prevalent for almost 60 years. As one of the world's largest automotive parts manufacturers, DENSO has been a pioneer and industry leader in robot design and manufacturing automation since the 1960s and has played a major role in helping Tennessee become an automotive production leader for more than 30 years.

Brian Nolen, director of Manufacturing Learning, will lead a discussion of DENSO’s history in Tennessee, the company’s use of robotics in manufacturing, and what the future holds for automotive manufacturing.

At DENSO, Nolen leads development of systems that best prepare DENSO’s manufacturing resources for current and future challenges of a rapidly evolving advanced manufacturing marketplace. He is based at DENSO’s manufacturing facility in Athens, Tennessee.

Nolen joined DENSO in March 1999 as a quality assurance specialist. After advancing through various quality engineering roles, he was appointed to general manager of Quality Engineering in 2009. Nolen later made the transition to manufacturing director of North American Gasoline Products, then served as vice president of Manufacturing for Powertrain Products until 2023.

Nolen holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee. He later earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Japanese Arts and Culture in the Classroom:
How Tennessee Students Are Discovering Japan

January 24, 2023

Watch Webinar

Margaret Price, Moderator
Marketing and Podcast Launch Management

Margaret Price is an international marketer with a passion for brand work and the B2B space. With over 10 years of experience working in Japan, she is particularly invested in the the relationship between Japan and Tennessee, her hometown. She currently works in marketing and podcast launch management with NPR. 

Kyoko A. Hammond, Lecturer of Japanese
Department of English and Modern Foreign Languages
University of Tennessee at Martin

Kyoko A. Hammond, Lecturer of Japanese at the University of Tennessee at Martin; M.A. (Japanese Pedagogy and Culture) California State University, Long Beach., B.A. (English Literature) Hosei University, Japan. Mrs. Hammond came to UTM in 2005 and teaches all levels of Japanese, including a Japanese culture course taught in English. Before she came to UTM, she taught Japanese at the middle school and high school levels in Fitzgerald, Georgia, for two years, then taught at the University of California, Irvine, for five years. She is a native of Japan who enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching Japanese television dramas, and, of course, visiting her family and friends in Japan.

Katie Jones
Art Educator Kindergarten through 5th Grade
Memphis Area Teacher

Katie Jones is a Memphis born and raised art educator with over a decade of experience in the classroom that began with working for summer camps at the age of 14. Her love of Japan, manga, and anime began early on with an early introduction from her older siblings in the 1980s which exploded into a full-on study and obsession with a random gift of Gilles Poitras’ The Anime Companion from her friend Mary during a small Christmas party in 1999. Katie would later go on to develop a full career in the arts and study Japanese art and artists, enabling her to write her thesis on Anime in the Classroom at the Memphis College of Art, where she received her BFA in Painting and a Masters of Art in Teaching in Art Education. Katie currently teaches kindergarten through 5th grade art and enjoys regular speaking engagements at conferences and conventions on the topics of art education, anime, and manga. Twenty-two years later, Katie and Gilles Poitras are online friends, and Katie credits Gilles Poitras and her friend Mary for her offbeat career path.

Dr. David Meredith,
Japanese/ELL Instructor, World Language Lead Teacher
Antioch High School

Dr. David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. He achieved his Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English. He is also currently the World Language Lead Teacher and Japanese Language Teacher at Antioch High School for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Maika Yamaoka
Japan Outreach initiative Coordinator

The University of Memphis & Memphis Botanic Garden Maika Yamaoka is a Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Coordinator at the University of Memphis and Memphis Botanic Garden. JOI is a program that promotes awareness and understanding of Japan and brings Japanese coordinators to regions of the U.S. where Japanese culture has been less accessible. Since the summer of 2021, Maika has been providing various kinds of programs for Memphis and other Tennessee communities. She has reached out to more than 3,700 people in one year from elementary schools to universities, libraries, and large festivals. Maika believes that cross-cultural understanding broadens people's horizons.

When Maika was in Tokyo, she was involved in the management of international exchange programs for youth. Now she is proud to contribute to providing opportunities for people in the U.S. to experience new worlds and cultures. A native of Tokyo, Japan, Maika has visited 27 countries. Traveling to learn about new cultures is her passion. She also likes to cook and walk with dogs.

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