Kara Besher has suffered from wanderlust for most of her life. Leaving her native New York to bicycle across America as a teen, she then backpacked through Europe for a year before landing in Japan, where she has made her home since 1985. After graduating magna cum laude with a degree in Art History at Tokyo’s Sophia University, along with certification in Fine Art Appraisals at New York University, she founded her own art gallery supporting emerging young Japanese artists. She has curated numerous exhibitions, organized symposiums, and lectured frequently at colleges including the prestigious Keio University. Kara is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers on Japan’s art scene, and is the author of “Contemporary Art Walks” in a Tokyo guidebook published by Stone Bridge Press. Media appearances include interviews in 'Newsweek', 'New York Magazine' and prime-time TV shows. She speaks and reads Japanese fluently, and spends her free time pursuing first-hand experience of Japan’s culture and subculture. With a particular interest in indigenous Buddhist practices, she has endured rigorous Yamabushi training with ascetic mountain-dwelling monks, and traveled 30 countries including remote areas such as Lombok and Mt. Kailash in Tibet. More of an urban explorer these days, Kara’s current passion is unraveling hidden aspects to Tokyo, always with a unique insight into visual anthropology.
Jiro Takahashi graduated from university in Japan with a MBAE and has since lived in New York and London, as well as Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. He started his career in the finance and IT industries working for a Japanese bank and an English and American financial IT company. This afforded him multiple opportunities to make many friends from around the world, whilst understanding various cultures much better. As a result, he decided to retire in 2009 and become a licensed English guide in Japan, with his main goal wishing to create a cross-cultural bridge between Japan and other countries. His expertise is the Edo-Tokyo Museum which specializes mainly in 17th Century Japan to a more modern history. He enjoys exploring this interesting and diverse history of Japan with visitors but also going further afield to Hakone, Kamakura and Mt. Fuji. Jiro can provide a unique insight into Japan given his upbringing and his knowledge about peculiar Japanese topics, ranging from pensions to modern, social and cultural issues.
Edgar Peláez is Phd candidate in International Studies at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies of Waseda University. He specializes in the Cool Japan Strategy, Japanese popular culture and creative industries. His contact with anime, manga and videogames during his teenage years triggered an interest in learning about Japanese culture. In 2012 he obtained the Monbukagakusho Scholarship to come to Japan and was officially appointed as CoFesta Ambassador by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan and the Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta) Executive Committee. In 2016 he was appointed as "Cool Japan Ambassador" by Japan's Prime Minister Cabinet Office. His experience with the media and his academic research has given him the opportunity to collaborate with different government agencies and private companies involved in the “Cool Japan Strategy” on developing projects to export Japanese contents such as Anime, Manga, Music, Videogames and Film. This has made him familiar not only with all the unique places related to Otaku Culture in Japan, but with many different aspects of the Japanese media production as well as its cultural significance and background. Other of his research interests include Japanese Modern History; IR of the Asia-Pacific Region and Mexico-Japan relations.