Duncan Ryuken Williams was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Japanese mother and British father. After growing up in Japan and England until age 17, he moved to the U.S. to attend college (Reed College) and graduate school (Harvard University). Williams is the Director of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture and the founder of the Hapa Japan Database Project. Previously, he held the Ito Distinguished Chair of Japanese Buddhism at University of California, Berkeley and served as the Director of Berkeley’s Center for Japanese Studies. He also served as the Executive Vice President of Japan House/LA, a public diplomacy initiative of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Williams is the author of The Other Side of Zen: A Social History of Soto Zen Buddhism in Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press) and editor of 7 books including Issei Buddhism in the Americas (U-Illinois Press), American Buddhism (Routledge/Curzon Press), Hapa Japan: History, Identity, and Representations of Mixed Race/Mixed Roots Japanese Peoples (Ito Center/Kaya Press), and Buddhism and Ecology (Harvard University Press). He has also translated four books from Japanese into English including Putting Buddhism to Work: A New Theory of Economics and Business Management (Kodansha). He is currently completing a monograph titled American Sutra: Buddhism and the World War II Japanese American Experience and writing a manifesto for Japan in the 21st-century titled Hybrid Japan (in Japanese).
Shannon Takushi was born and raised in Manila, Philippines where she grew up speaking English and Japanese. Her background growing up in a multi-cultural environment has molded Shannon’s interests in cultural diplomacy, cross-cultural relations, and communications. She has a BA in International Relations and Economics from the University of Richmond and a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from the University of Southern California. Currently Shannon enjoys promoting the US-Japan relationship at her job as Chief of Staff of the USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Cultures. Together with Duncan Williams, Shannon played a major role in bringing mixed-race Japanese people together at the Hapa Japan Festival in Los Angeles.