Freelance Journalist / Photographer
Born in Tehran, Iran in 1966, Afshin Valinejad began his professional career in 1993 working as assistant bureau chief in Tehran for the Yomiuri Shimbun. From 1996 to 2002 he was an Associated Press correspondent covering major events, conflicts and disasters in the region, including the war in Afghanistan and the influx of Kurdish and Afghan refugees. He then went on to serve as broadcast specialist for NHK World in Tokyo. Now a freelance journalist, Afshin has made over 60 visits to the disaster zones following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Along the way he has taken thousands of photos of Japan’s 3/11 triple disaster, sharing his thoughts and photographs in dozens of presentations including university lectures, workshops, seminars in Iran and Japan, and in photo exhibitions in JICA Tokyo, NIKON Plaza Ginza and in Iran.
Amy Robinson Sterling
Amy R. Sterling is a crowdsourcing expert and Executive Director of EyeWire, a brain-mapping game played by a quarter million people worldwide. As a leading catalyst of neuroscience visualization spanning interactive web to virtual reality, Amy has advised the White House OSTP and the US Senate on crowdsourcing and open innovation. Fast Company credits her with “making neuroscience into a playground for today’s hot tech du jour.” Amy founded the TEDx Music Project (a collection of the best live music from TEDx events around the world), and was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2015.
Having been brought up in the United States and spending his school years as a returnee back in Japan, Kaz always felt something different from the people around him. After getting married in 2013, he and his wife Mariko set out on a different type of honeymoon, traveling through 48 countries for 400 days. Taking full advantage of technology to document their travels, Kaz took the typical ‘selfie’ to new heights, capturing their trip from a totally new perspective. Their honeymoon and ‘selfie’ project was covered by the BBC news with the story going viral. Soon, media outlets around the world were reporting on Kaz and Mariko’s adventure.
“Imagine this. No tigers, no pandas, no snow leopards. No rhinos, no gorillas, no kakapo. As we near the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, the planet is at a crucial juncture. Do we really want this to be the epoch of mass extinction? In mankind’s long history, do we want to be remembered as the generation that let so many of the planet’s beautiful creatures disappear forever from existence? Ken-ichiro Kamei is at the forefront of the struggle to save the world’s endangered species, not in the field, but in the laboratory. Ken is a micro-engineer. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, before moving to UCLA, to conduct research on stem-cells, cancer, imaging and micro-engineering. He moved back to Japan in 2010, where he joined one of Kyoto University’s leading research institutes, iCeMS, the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences. His groundbreaking ‘body on a chip’ technology will allow scientists to develop treatments and drugs tailor-made to help save the planet’s most fragile, rare and endangered creatures.
Kris was born in Kyoto, Japan to an American Father and Japanese Mother. His fascination with music was apparent from an early age and at 19 years old he moved to Boston MA, to study music formally. Coupled with his education, Kris performed across Boston and New York, hitting legendary venues such as the Bitter End and the Living room in Manhattan as well as Carnegie Hall. He also became a staple in the Boston Public Gardens as passionate street performer. After independently releasing two EPs (Anything But Alone and Tails of Bufflebear) Kris took his knowledge and experience back to his motherland and successfully delivered his single Your Own Two Feet. Kris now resides in Tokyo having released his first full-length album Be Love. In a time where technology can bridge the gap between countries, culture, and art, Kris is hoping to provide a borderless musical experience for open minds, open hearts, and most importantly, open ears.
Elementary School Teacher
The driving force in Kyle Schwartz’ career has been to ensure that all children receive a quality education. Kyle is currently a third grade teacher at Doull Elementary School in Denver, Colorado where approximately 90% of the students live below or very near the poverty line and about half are learning English at school. She has previously worked with educational organizations such as City Year, the Denver Teacher Residency, American Achieves and TeachStrong. Designated a “Distinguished Teacher” by Denver Public Schools, Kyle has transformed a simple yet powerful classroom writing lesson into a national dialogue about the troubling realities American students face on a daily basis. Her book “I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for our Kids” offers teachers guidance towards providing the educational opportunities, loving support and guidance that all students need and deserve.
TV Host / Entrepreneur / Humanitarian
Carolina Manrique, known professionally as Nia Lyte, is a Colombian American entrepreneur, television host, producer, author and philanthropist. She talks about the importance of developing a global mindset, letting go of cultural stereotypes, in order to have a peaceful world by interacting with different cultures, accepting each other’s differences and developing compassion and passion for humanity. She asserts that the unbroken threads of the invisible souls are what bind us all together as one. Nia Lyte is best known for hosting the TV show, “Best of Art Basel Miami” on Comcast Florida & Ovation TV and as President of Shinca Entertainment, a company that develops comic books, animation, videogames, TV Shows & movies in Hollywood. She also co-founded, with her husband Shin Koyamada, the Koyamada International Foundation (KIF), a non-profit organization that empowers women and students in Japan, the United States and Colombia to achieve their dreams. She authored the book, “The Power of Your Inner Beauty.”
Reiko Takenaka, an art space creator, captures the transitory moments of flowers, drawing out their brilliance to create a world of beauty. In pursuing the path of flower arrangement, she has continued to open up new worlds through her collaborations with artists in various fields. Having studied under Kasumi Teshigahara of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, she seeks to surpass the boundaries of Ikebana, freely expressing herself with plants while engaging in a wide variety of installations from flower arrangements for everyday life with just a single flower, those for commercial facilities, and the Noh stage, to party venues. In her visits to a variety of countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania and South America she has held demonstrations and workshops using the plants of the country she is in, also contributing to cultural exchange through Ikebana. Highly acclaimed as an artist at the forefront of modern times, she has received many awards including the Maxim Award from Pierre Cardin. On this stage this time, the sounds of musician Taro Inoue and an ikebana improvisation session by Takenaka will merge to create a rich space that goes beyond one time-space continuum.
Having grown up going to the Yamashina Daigo Children’s Square, Takuya Murai would later serve as a member of its staff, director, and secretary-general. Now president, he has been involved in childcare activities in Yamashina, Kyoto for 36 years. Originally providing support in the day-to-day activities of children, the Children’s Square has grown to also provide activities to promote the improvement of self-affirmation and expressive power of children, develop initiatives to cultivate the ability to cooperate in a group, and offer enriching cultural experiences and outdoor activities to encourage children to interact with a variety of people. Through these endeavors both children and adults grow together. In addition, Murai has been working to quickly tackle potential poverty issues of children living in Japan, touring the country to share his insights about what kind of programs are needed in local communities. Cooperating with schools, shopping districts, and governmental bodies, he has managed a number of collaborative projects to create an environment where children can grow up peacefully no matter where they are in their communities.
Taro Yamamoto became inspired by the close proximity of Kyoto’s temples and shrines to fast food establishment while at student of Nihon-Ga (classical Japanese painting) at Kyoto University of Art and Design in 1999. He went on to develop his own style of painting, coined Nippon-Ga, in which the different cultures in Japan, both traditional and modern, coexist, creating works of art that fused together the customs of classical and modern painting. His Nippon-Ga style follows three principals: a frank portrayal of contemporary Japan, the incorporation of a Japanese traditional style of humor, called Kaigyaku; and utilization of traditional Japanese painting techniques. With works of art putting a modern spin on classical painting and his style also described as contemporary Rimpa, he is an artist gaining much attention. Last year, in commemoration of 400 years since the founding of the Rimpa School of Japanese Painting, he created a folding screen featuring Mario and Luigi from Super Mario Brothers as a modern conceptualization of Fujin-Raijin, the Japanese gods of wind and thunder. He is currently an Associate Professor at Akita University of Art and has won numerous awards including the 2015 Kyoto City Art Prize Newcomer Award 2015, and the Kyoto Prefecture Culture Prize Award.
Inspired by her daughter’s film appearances, movie enthusiast and homemaker Yumiko Masuda, dreamt of making her own films someday. However, she was a complete amateur in terms of film production. Yet with determination to achieve her grand dream she boldly embarked into the unknown world of movie production. She realized her dream to be a movie producer in 2003 at 40 years of age, when she co-produced a film with Iran entitled “The Wind Carpet” covering themes revolving around intercultural communication during a festival in her hometown of Hida, Takayama. From then she expanded the boundaries of her work to outside of Japan, eventually making films in South Korea and Qatar. Of particular interest, she produced documentaries exploring historical facts not covered in textbooks and the passing on of traditional arts and crafts, bringing together personal and financial resources so that she could release them in theaters. Taking advantage of the strengths and understanding the weaknesses peculiar to women that work freelance, she has produced films that go beyond the framework of the country or organization. With big dreams, high aspirations, and enjoyment for her work, through film she hopes to become a modern storyteller whose influences endure through the century.