Ayane Hida is The University of Findlay’s ambassador of both culture and courage. For two years she will be working through the Mazza Museum to integrate Japanese culture into the UF campus and the region by offering programs for all ages.

The Kyoto, Japan native’s work is being funded through the Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI), which awarded UF its second grant for her stay; the first was provided in 2009 with Natsue Yonekura’s tenure.

Hida, 26, is a graduate of the University of Ritsumeikan in Kyoto, where she studied the societal of sports. She also studied English in while enrolled in a program in Hawaii. She will incorporate Japanese cultural lessons into events such as the museum’s Funday Sunday programs, and at regional schools. Organizations and businesses may also request a program tailored to their interests by contacting her at [email protected].

Some of those who have been assisting Hida with her transition to American living have been Mazza Museum Director Ben Sapp, Hiroaki Kawamura, Ph.D., associate professor of Japanese culture, chair of UF’s Language and Culture Department, and part of the team that has helped secure the JOI grants; Christopher Sippel, UF’s assistant dean for international, intercultural and service engagement; Kerry Teeple, the museum’s administrative assistant and accounting officer; and Terry Olthouse, the museum’s education coordinator and College of Education adjunct professor.

Hida’s professional goal is to eventually teach Japanese as a foreign language to English-speakers living in Japan. Her desire to do so has been heightened by her own personal challenges that almost took her life.

“Can I tell about the scooter?” she asked recently, turning to her Sapp, who is serving as her direct supervisor. Hida said she will explain her physical limitations if asked. In 2013, she said, she was driving a scooter in Kyoto when a truck pulled in front of her. Her scooter tore in half. Her left leg was mangled, and she lost her right eye. When presented with the JOI opportunity, even though it meant leaving home for two years so soon after her recovery and traveling to a place where nothing is familiar, she grabbed it.

“I realized I can still walk by myself,” she said. “I feel like you only live once. I want to absorb and to experience a lot of things.”

Sapp said her bravery is something that everyone can learn from and be inspired by while she’s teaching them about her home country. “She has continued to persevere and not given up,” he said. “Just 18 months ago she was going through six surgeries. She is a role model for so many young people.

Hida, who loves to laugh and has a keen sense of humor, has already impressed others at the University.

“Ayane has that charisma,” said Kawamura. “It is part of her effort to overcome her accident and disability, but also her effort to do something to take advantage of her time here. Her charisma will take her far.”

It is Ayane’s responsibility to develop programs for a wide range of individuals and settings, and to make connections. Her initial efforts have proven that she isn’t one to have much down time. Since arriving at the beginning of the semester, she has already met with constituents ranging from Black Heritage Library organizers to Findlay-Hancock County Public library representatives, the latter of whom are working with her to create regular events for young readers. She is looking forward to encouraging students and other residents to consider the Japanese culture more than they typically have.

Promoting cultural understanding is essential to living as full a life as possible, explained Kawamura, who has already accomplished much in this regard with separate outreach efforts in Findlay and Hancock County.

“We have companies in this community which are American, but they are connected with the world. We have refugees, immigrants, expatriates and international students. Connecting to people from other countries enables an enriched life,” Kawamura said.

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