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Kizuna Announces Nitahara as Its Executive Director

Kizuna’s Board of Directors has selected Stephanie Nitahara as its new executive director.

She will be responsible for leading the organization’s administration, programs, and strategic planning and will begin on Oct. 8.

Stephanie Nitahara

“We are excited for Stephanie to step into the role as our new executive director,” said Janet Hiroshima, Kizuna board chair. “Stephanie’s experience and leadership in the Japanese American community locally in Little Tokyo and nationally will be invaluable to the growth of Kizuna. Her passion and commitment to further developing the next generation will be pivotal for us in this next chapter.”

Nitahara previously held leadership positions at the Japanese American Citizens League, the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, including Pacific Southwest regional director, interim executive director, and most recently associate director.

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, she attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and later discovered her love for Japanese American and Asian Pacific Islander youth organizing, leadership, and program development. She currently serves on organizing committees for community programs including Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering (2014, 2016, 2018) and is the membership chair for the Little Tokyo Community Council.

“I feel that I have truly found my community home in Little Tokyo and excited for this opportunity to continue to build and grow Kizuna with the ever-evolving next generation Nikkei community,” said Nitahara. “Grounded in my grandparents’ World War II incarceration experience, I am incredibly passionate about creating a just society through education and advocacy. I look forward to building on the strong foundation and community partnerships to build a future and support the next generation.

In addition to welcoming Nitahara, the board would like to express its appreciation to Michelle Yamashiro, who has served as Kizuna’s interim executive director since April 2018.

“We’re extremely grateful for Michelle’s exceptional leadership and dedication to the organization over the past six months,” said Hiroshima. “From managing our core summer programs to successfully executing our key annual events, Michelle, along with the Kizuna staff, did a fantastic job of sustaining the incredible momentum, excitement and growth of the organization during her tenure.”

Kizuna was founded in 2011 to address a need for next-generation involvement in the Japanese American community with the mission to build a future for the community through the education, empowerment and engagement of the next generation. Kizuna has a large network of programs that teach the importance of culture, traditions, philanthropy and community engagement for the Japanese American community.

Today, Kizuna’s programs serve multi-generations from kindergarten age to adults, building the leadership pipeline in Southern California and beyond, including Seattle, San Jose and Salt Lake City. For more information, visit

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