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Mina Kanai Nishisaka

Co-Executive Director

Mina was born in Tokyo, Japan, and spent her youth growing up on the East Coast of the United States of America. She came back to Japan in Junior High School, and has since been a bilingual learner of diverse cultures.

Mina earned her MA in Communication Management from the University of Southern California, and her BA in Environmental Information from Keio University. After graduation, she worked in the field of finance and has previously worked for The Monex Group under CEO Oki Matsumoto, where she was in charge of corporate communications.

Alongside WaNavi, together with Motoko, Mina has been teaching the Japanese Culture Course to international students at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy of Hitotsubashi University (Hitotsubashi ICS) since 2012.

Mina is a Children and Youth Instructor of Connection Practice, a Certified Bosaishi (Disaster Prevention Specialist), and a fellow of the Nitobe Leadership Program at the International House of Japan (2019).

My Story

Growing up as a little Japanese girl in the United States in the 80s, I was constantly asked about Japan, a culture I did not know much about having left Japan when I was 5 years old. The 80s was an interesting time for Japan-U.S. relations, and there was constant tension of trade and financial power, and this bled across to social situations even in school life, where children made harsh comments about my presence as a Japanese. A particular incident that has become a formative experience throughout my life was when a classmate hollered “you Japs are invading our country.” Ever since I went to the United States at 5 years old, I made every effort to blend in and get along with my American classmates, gaining my English skills quickly. I tried to hide anything that resembled being Japanese, making sure I asked my mother to make sandwiches instead of rice balls every day for lunch. I thought my strategy was working and that my classmates saw me as one of their own. I was perplexed and could not think of anything to say in response. I just cried, my tears erupting like hot magma. Not having the understanding of my own background and culture, I had no way to defend or say anything back to him.

Since then, my passion has been about understanding my own culture as well as different cultures around the world, to enjoy and celebrate the unique expressions of human beings on this planet as a culture. My passion led me to study and experience Japanese culture deeply in multiple layers and to ultimately share it with people all over the world.

Since experiencing a tremendous loss of a beloved family member in 2020, my passion has expanded to understanding human beings on a more fundamental level, one that transcends cultural differences to meet people as human beings with universal needs. Although our expressions for those needs may be different in each person, country, or culture, if we can go deep enough to truly understand each other, we can see each other in a very different light, one that is free of judgement.

From that place, I've experienced we can create harmony, embracing our differences and uniqueness in ways of our expression. I believe that sharing my path that started from a desire to understand Japanese culture to eventually transcending cultures and understanding human beings on a more fundamental level can act as a portal for creating a more harmonious and beautiful world.

I look forward to meeting you and to connect with you in harmony.


 Let's connect.

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