I was born and raised in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. Although I grew up in an urban environment with limited access to the natural world, I always loved nature. When I was 17, I watched a BBC TV show about the National Parks system in the United States and was inspired by the idea of protecting land for future generations. I began dreaming about studying environmental conservation someday in the U.S.
In the meantime, I focused my studies in Japan on environmental science and was able to travel extensively to conduct field research. As a PhD candidate at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, I obtained my Master’s degree studying the effect of climate change on alpine plants. It was during this period that I started to question my role in academia, feeling that my skills might be put to better use educating younger generations about climate change and environmental conservation.
In 1999, I left both school and Japan to start a second Master’s in environmental education and natural sciences at the Teton Science School in Wyoming.
Since then, I have dedicated myself to educating young people, especially urban youth and those with limited access to nature, about the natural world. I currently work at the NatureBridge, which is the nonprofit environmental education partner of the National Park Service. I teach in the outdoor classroom, helping youth make connections with the natural world and take responsible actions to sustain it.
Simultaneously, I became a certified Wilderness First Responder and joined the staff of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a backpacking and rock climbing instructor. During month-long adventures in wilderness settings, I teach leadership skills with the hope that my students will choose to simplify their lives and teach others how to tread lightly on our planet.
Along this journey, I have become aware of the lack of support for women, especially women of color, to pursue careers in environmental education, science, and outdoor adventure. In 2008, I received the Matt Baxter Award from NatureBridge. This scholarship enabled me to travel to different countries and document the stories of diverse and remarkable outdoor women.