Session ⁄ Event

01 Yamagata City ⁄ Opening Event

Opening Event Information

Date and
November 10th, 2023 (Friday) 4:00PM - 7:00PM
Yamagata Prefectural Local Museum "Bunshokan" Assembly Hall (3-4-51 Hatago-cho, Yamagata-shi)
See on Google Maps
This event has ended.
You can watch an archived video of this event.
Attendance is free

Requests for participating in the opening event

The opening event will be conducted entirely in English. On the day of the event, you can listen to English → Japanese simultaneous interpretation through a dedicated smartphone app, so please bring your smartphone and headphones. The live broadcast will be available on two channels, one in English and the other in Japanese.

Naoko Inoue
Host Naoko Inoue

Born December 28, 1974, in Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture, and raised in Kawanishi, Naoko Inoue is currently a proud resident of Nagai City. During her time as a student at Kunori Gakuen Girl's High School in Yonezawa, she transferred to Glendora High School in California, USA in 1991 before going on to study at California's very own Citrus College. In 1998, she returned to Japan after experiencing working at a travel agency in LA and trying her hand at the media talent industry.
Naoko has worn many hats over the years: Radio DJ, commercial narrator, lounge DJ, bilingual English and Japanese event MC, a TV reporter for YBC Yamagata Broadcasting, TUY, and SAY Sakurambo TV, magazine model (Bi Story), interpreter, and to top it all off, she is currently active as a preschool English teacher as well as performing as one of the Yamagata Maiko. In addition, she is one of the instructors of the Yamagata Prefectural Board of Education's "Learn from Professionals" program.

Event Report

Sharing values,
changing the world

panel discussion
Panoramic view of the venue

A diverse variety of guests from both near and far all gathered in Yamagata City for the Opening Event of the 2023 Yamagata Youth Summit. Through talk shows, panel discussions, and various cultural welcome attractions, participants all used English as a medium to convey their opinions, ideas, and values with not just Yamagata, but with the world.

After a successful run last year, the Yamagata Youth Summit enjoyed a second run this year in 2023, with the ongoing goal to increase Yamagata's presence overseas and make Yamagata Prefecture attractive to young people and foreigners. The event kicked off on November 10th with an opening event held at Bunshokan, a local museum and the pride of Yamagata City. The event was held entirely in English in order to appeal to an audience not just limited to Yamagata but to the entire world. As a welcome attraction, Yamagata's idol group "anew," Tendo High School Dance Club, and YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai & Minyo Ikka each performed with all their hearts, inspired by their love and passion for Yamagata. In a video, Yamagata Prefecture Governor Mieko Yoshimura welcomed the many people who had gathered for the event, and Yamagata students gave moving presentations about what they are doing to change the world and what Yamagata means to them.

CEO of Life Bridge CO., Ltd, Ryotaro Sakurai, gave a dynamic talk show introducing the secret to making his videos go viral under the title "Learn from a YouTuber: How to Move the World." During the panel discussion, five people who each are fluent in several languages and are active on the front lines of business and social change took to the stage to discuss the values of Yamagata and the values they hold dear. Their empowering words carried throughout the audience and offered advice to young people, passing on the torch to the next generation. In addition, Mr. Satoru Hiraga, Chairman of the Board of Marsh Broker Japan Co., Ltd., gave a message to young people, with the overarching message that what is most important in this day and age is simply "continuing."

After the event, participants exchanged business cards and asked questions, deepening their relationships at the venue.

The four-member idol group anew

The four-member idol group anew, debuted in December 2022 aiming to “dye the fabric of the world with Yamagata” and appeared as a welcome attraction.

Yamagata Prefecture Governor Mieko Yoshimura

Yamagata Prefecture Governor Mieko Yoshimura delivered a video address to the participants."This year, I want to share with the world the values that have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and focus on making the world a more interesting place."

Yoka Sato

Yoka Sato, a first-year student at Yonezawa Kōjōkan High School, gave a presentation in English. Her research theme is the elimination of racial discrimination, and she said, that she wants to "eliminate boundaries between hearts."

Patty Akihisa Nagasawa

Patty Akihisa Nagasawa (4th year at Keio University) is studying international relations at a university in Papua, Indonesia. "I want to develop the ties between Yamagata and Papua."

Miku Sugawara

Miku Sugawara (4th year student at Tsuda University) says that Yamagata is rich in nature, a paradise for gourmet food, and the people are warm and have a unique dialect, making it a place that appeals to travelers.

The Tendo High School dance club

The Tendo High School dance club has been practicing hard with the aim of participating in national competitions. Two teams wearing red and black costumes and yellow blazers brought the venue to life with their electric performances.

Ryotaro Sakurai

Mr. Sakurai is a YouTuber who tells the world all about Japan through his videos. He strongly urged people to be unique in order to create buzz and not to be afraid to stand out.


The performance by the YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai & Minyo Ikka is full of traditional Japanese cultural elements such as swords, fans, shakuhachi, and shamisen. “Naoe Kanetsugu” called for “bringing what we learned here at Bunshokan to the world.”

Satoru Hiraga

"Let's continue to do one thing with persistence." was risk consultant for the global company Marsh Mr. Hiraga's message to young people.

Alice French

The extremely talented Alice French facilitated the panel discussion. She previously worked as a Yamagata Prefecture International Relations Coordinator and is currently a reporter for Nikkei Asia.

Manami Sasaki

Manami Sasaki talked about the characteristics of Yamagata that she felt during her time as an announcer and the difference in values that she felt when she decided to study abroad and moved to the United States at the age of 29.

Fabio Kazuo Akiyoshi

Fabio Kazuo Akiyoshi has experience working for the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee. He talked about the changes in values before and after the coronavirus and how to communicate with people around the world.

Alina Cristina Saiki

"I hope there will be more vegan options at restaurants in Yamagata," said Alina Cristina Saiki. She also told us about how she learned Japanese.

Kyoko Otawa

Kyoko Otawa answers questions such as "What are the challenges of being a young female entrepreneur?" She has never studied abroad, and so she also told us how she learned English.

YouTube Live

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Opening Talk Show

Theme Learn form a YouTuber: How to Move the World
  • Ryotaro Sakurai
    Representative Director of Life Bridge Co., Ltd., Producer for the Cool Japan Project under the Japanese Cabinet Office, Vice Chairman of the General Incorporated Association Miyagi Sosei DMO (Destination Management Organization), Co-Representative of the Miyagi Workation Council

    Ryotaro Sakurai

    Ryotaro Sakurai is from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. After graduating from junior high school, he embarked on a solo journey to the United States, and graduated from the International Business Department at Richmond University in the United Kingdom, returning to Japan after spending ten years living abroad. Upon his return, he worked in the financial sector for six years before founding Life Bridge Co., Ltd. in his hometown of Sendai in 2006.
    Ryotaro is known for his specialized training and lectures in inbound tourism, including his innovative "Katakana Customer Service English Training," which can significantly boost travel sales simply by teaching staff how to read Katakana. He also offers "editing translation," a service that adds an extra layer of editing and localization to traditional translations, making products more appealing to foreign tourists.
    Since 2016, he has been producing "Abroad in Japan," one of Japan's largest YouTube channels targeting Western and Australian audiences, with over 2.8 million subscribers. Starting in 2020, he launched the YouTube channel "Ryotaro's Japan" (with 153,000 subscribers) and an Instagram account (with 73,000 followers), actively promoting the charms of local regions to a global audience. He also conducts training on "Effective Information Dissemination through Social Media from an Influencer's Perspective."
    Leveraging data acquired through digital marketing, Ryotaro Sakurai plans and creates high-priced, high-value tours with the theme of "making people want to visit regardless of time and distance."

Message Message for the Youth

  • Satoru Hiraga
    Marsh Broker Japan Co., Ltd. Chairman of the Board

    Satoru Hiraga

    After joining The Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank, Ltd. (now Mizuho Bank) in 1981, Satoru Hiraga worked as a financial analyst in the corporate loan department, specializing in small to medium-sized business loan projects. In 1990, Hiraga joined Japan Johnson & Higgins (currently Marsh Broker Japan Co., Ltd.). After working at the German branch and the US headquarters in 2000, he began providing various consulting services using risk financing methods to foreign and Japanese companies as the leader of the RCT (Risk Consulting Team).
    In 2002, Hiraga became the representative director of Marsh Broker Japan Co., Ltd., and has been in his current position since January 2013.
    In 2013, he was appointed Chairman of the Japan Insurance Brokers Association, and since April 2004, he has served as a member of the Council of Tokyo Musashino Hospital, Institute of Psychiatry.
    Having graduated from Keio University, Faculty of Economics, and completed his Masters of Business Administration (Marketing Management Major) from American Graduate School of International Management (USA), he has also sat as the Secretary of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives since June 2020.

Panel Discussion

Theme Sharing values, changing the world


  • Alina Cristina Saiki
    Vegan Hospitality Consultant / Tour Guide/Travel Planner

    Alina Cristina Saiki

    Having studied Japanese on her own since high school, Alina came to Japan in 2015 as a student at Kobe University Faculty of Economics. After that, she went on to graduate school for business administration (English course), and after graduating, she joined a Nikkei consulting company in Tokyo. After working there for two and a half years, she obtained permanent residency and started a business called Vegan Omotenashi, which supports the introduction of vegan menus to local restaurants. Another responsibility of her job, Alina is involved in the travel industry and often interacts with foreign tourists who may be facing dietary restrictions in Japan. Alina has been living a vegan lifestyle for over five years, and her hobbies include traveling, photography, and visiting hot springs and cafes.

  • Manami Sasaki
    Freelance Announcer / Reporter

    Manami Sasaki

    After graduating from Waseda University's Faculty of Literature, Manami Sasaki joined Yamagata Television as an announcer. She has worked as a caster for the evening news program ''Super J Channel YTS Gojidas'' as well as a reporter for ''Asaida! Raw Travel Salad,'' where she has worked to convey the charms of Yamagata Prefecture. After leaving the company, she became a freelancer, and starting in 2013, for about three years, she became a newscaster for the 24-hour news channel at TBS NEWS, where she was in charge of over-the-air television news programs. She then moved to the United States in 2016, and after studying abroad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she signed a contract with Reuters News Agency New York, etc. and worked as a New York market broadcaster on TBS's economics program and as a reporter for the Americas on Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, reporting on everything from American politics to economics. After Sasaki returned to Japan, she worked as an anchor for an economic program.

  • Kyoko Otawa
    President and Representative Director of Latona Co., Ltd.

    Kyoko Otawa

    Born in 1991 in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, after graduating from Tokyo Women's University, Kyoko Otawa joined Rakuten as a new graduate, then worked as a consultant at Accenture before founding Latona Inc. Currently, she is developing AI and IoT and aims to utilize the power of cutting-edge technology to solve problems in industries such as major manufacturing, retail sites, and logistics, where labor shortages are becoming increasingly dire. She has been selected as a member of APT Women and Google Women Founders in APAC, has been appointed as a councilor of the Generative AI Utilization and Popularization Association, and is active as an entrepreneur and an expert on cutting-edge technology. While she has many passions and interests, above all, she loves cats more than anything.

  • Fabio Kazuo Akiyoshi
    Major Food Manufacturer

    Fabio Kazuo Akiyoshi

    Born in Brazil, Fabio came to Japan with his family when he was in the second grade of elementary school. After graduating from vocational school, he explored the world as a backpacker in India and Mexico.
    Since 2019, he has been in charge of Brazil and African countries as a coordinator for hosting athletes from around the world at the International Department of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee and then joined a major food manufacturer. In his current position, he is involved in promoting internal digital utilization. Fabio has visited 32 countries and became a naturalized Japanese citizen three years ago. His wife is Chinese, however, English is spoken in their household. In addition to English and Japanese, he also speaks Spanish and Portuguese. His hobbies include taking walks, working out, and watching anime, and he is deeply interested in history and politics.


  • Alice French
    Nikkei Asia Reporter

    Alice French

    having graduated from Cambridge University, UK, in 2019, Alice French majored in Japanese Studies. She then subsequently studied abroad at Doshisha University in Kyoto. From 2019, Alice worked as a Yamagata Prefecture Coordinator for International Exchange (JET Program), and from October 2021, she went on to Nikkei Asia, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, where she currently serves as an assistant editor (big story) Her hobbies and interests include running, mountain climbing, acappella, feminism and gender issues.

English Presentation

【Change Our World Section】 Yonezawa Kōjōkan High School 1st Year Yoka Sato
Keio University 4th Year Patty Akihisa Nagasawa
【This is Yamagata Section】 Tsuda University 4th Year Miku Sugawara

Welcome Attraction

YAMAGATA Youth Summit 2023 Ambassador


Anew is a four-member girl group based in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, that made its debut in December 2022. The girls have been working on expanding their presence internationally since their debut, and their concept, "Art idol new world," centers around unique and alternative music, with a strong emphasis on the individual personalities of the members. They aim to demonstrate that even from a local setting, they can influence and inspire the world.
Through their monthly self-organized event, "Chikakara," which started in December 2022, they have been attracting over 100 attendees every month. In May 2023, they successfully completed a tour in Taiwan and have been actively engaged in various activities, receiving offers from many different locations, including Tokyo, since their debut.

Official Site

★Anew's debut digital mini-album "世界ヲ染めていく" (Sekai Wo Someteiku) has achieved the top position in the UK J-Pop chart with their first digital release!!

YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai & Minyo Ikka

YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai & Minyo Ikka
YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai ("Yamagata Love Samurai Squad")

YAMAGATA AINO Bushoutai is the official regional samurai squad of Yamagata Prefecture, established in 2010. They carry on the spirits of the great samurai warlords who once thrived in the land of Tohoku and Yamagata over 400 years ago, passing down the tales of their valor and the honored history and culture of their homeland, which the samurai cherished. Their mission is to share the pride and the captivating essence of their region with people all across the country.

Minyo Ikka ("Folk Song Family")

The Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture-based Minyo Ikka group has been performing on stage as a family since 1948, with a focus on taiko drumming and interweaving traditional Japanese elements such as folk songs and shamisen into their music.They have toured all over the country with a repertoire centered around Yonezawa folk songs such as the "Yonezawa Bon Uta", folk songs from Yamagata and other parts of the country, and "Uesugi Taiko", which was their first piece to be used at a festival in Yonezawa. Over three generations, Minyo Ikka has continued to preserve and pass down the traditions of folk songs and Japanese drums created by their family to future generations.

Tendo High School Dance Club

Tendo High School Dance Club

Hello! We are the Tendo High School Dance Club, a group of 22 members, consisting of 11 first year and 11 second year students. Within our five-day-a-week club activities, we challenge ourselves to perform many different dance genres. Recently, we have been practicing intensively for the upcoming Tendo High School Festival and the High School Dance Championship at the end of July.
Under the guidance of our coaches, Himawari and SEI, we have set our sights on some pretty big goals, including winning at the upcoming Dance Drill Competition and the USA Championship in winter, as well as aiming for a spot in the national dance competition.
We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to participate in YAMAGATA Youth Summit 2023, and we hope you will enjoy our heartfelt performance!

Contact Us

Planning and Operation: Yamagata Shimbun