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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.

                                                      Moving Beyond BNA Vision                                                        Focused on a New Horizon

Thursday, October 26, 2023

12:00 p.m. CDT

BNA Nashville International Airport is transforming. Stacey NickensVice President of Corporate Communications and Marketing at Nashville International Airport, will discuss 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 will also offer 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.

Register here for the first program of the 2023-24 Mitsui Lecture Series. 

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


Previous 2022-2023 Programs


Robotics and the Future of the Automotive Industry

DENSO, Technology and Tennessee

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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 6:00 p.m. CT

Click here for the video of the online event.

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.

Proper Sake Co.: Historical Reverence & Modern Technique A Sake Tasting at Tennessee’s Only Sake Brewery

August 16, 2022

JAST members and special guests have the unique, exclusive opportunity to meet and talk with Byron Stithem, Proper Sake Co.'s founder and brewmaster, and enjoy excellent sake and delicious food at Rice Vice, Proper Sake Co.’s new bar and tasting room.

Byron has a passion for sake, working on recipes in the culinary and fermentation business for more than 10 years. He opened Proper Sake Co. in Nashville’s Pie Town neighborhood in 2017, and his business has since outgrown that space, due to the popularity of his sake. Byron spent the last year building the expanded Proper Sake Co.’s new brewery and Rice Vice, the adjacent bar reminiscent of inviting spots in 1970s and 1980s Japan.

Proper Sake is available at local liquor stores, restaurants, and bars, but the best place to sample it is in the new tranquil tasting room decorated with natural materials.

This is a registration only event open to members and special guests. Please contact with any questions.

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