Jay Farris received a Master's degree in Urban Planning from the University of Tokyo where he focused his research on the conservation of historic spaces and landscapes with a particular focus on food production and the agricultural families and communities in and around the city. Having been a resident of both rural and urban Japan, Jay has a particular appreciation for the visible transformation of the country's settled environments as ideas, resources, and the culture itself has changed over the past couple of centuries. While he has lived in a variety of cities and towns in the US, Syria, Russia, the UK, and Japan for study or work, he finally settled on Tokyo as home. He enjoys sharing information about its hidden history, constant development and endless layers.
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.
Born in Russia and raised in Uzbekistan, Elena is a highly adaptable professional with extensive experience in cross-cultural communications. She received a Master’s degree in 1987 from the Tashkent State University, graduating with a specialization in Asian Studies and languages. For over 20 years she has been teaching the History of China and Japan at Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies. Besides her main teaching responsibilities at Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, Elena also taught Russian and provided cultural education to foreigners residing in Tashkent. She often took her students on excursions around the little-known and obscure corners of Tashkent’s old town. In 2004-2005 and 2010-2011, while she was at Waseda University in Tokyo as a visiting scholar researching the late Edo and early Meiji Japan, she fell in love with Japan, and now loves sharing her passion for Japanese history and culture with others. In her free time, Elena enjoys sampling Japanese cuisine and discovering new corners of Tokyo, as well as blogging about her life in Tokyo for her network of family and friends.