SAN FRANCISCO — The board of the Japantown Task Force (JTF) announced on Jan. 18 that Dr. Emily Murase has been named as its executive director.

She succeeds Steve Nakajo, who departed in December 2021 after serving for three years at its helm.

Emily Murase

Murase comes to the task force with deep ties to the San Francisco Japanese American community, having grown up as a Japanese Community Youth Council “kid” and worked in various capacities as a counselor and camp director. She also volunteered at the Kimochi Meals program, instructed at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, and staffed fundraising efforts at Nihonmachi Little Friends as a parent volunteer.

Pursuing her interest in U.S.-Japan relations while using her bilingual/bicultural skills, Murase chaired the Advisory Council of the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program at Rosa Parks Elementary School and served as Northern California regional chair of the US-Japan Council (2019).

In partnership with the Consulate General of Japan, she has convened a Japan Study Group since 2013, and most recently has served on the Steering Group of Japantenna, a JTF project to highlight Japanese prefectural food, goods, and tourist destinations, since 2021.

“The Japantown Task Force Board of Directors looks forward to working with Dr. Emily Murase, our new executive director, in fulfilling our mission statement of preserving, promoting economic development and sustaining our cultural heritage in San Francisco’s Japantown, one of only three remaining in the U.S.,” said Sandy Mori, president of the JTF Board of Directors.

Murase brings not only her commitment to community but also her lengthy experience in public administration. Prior to her current position, she served for over 15 years as the director of the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, where she quadrupled its budget to nearly $10 million and worked effectively with community advocates and government officials.

Murase is widely known for her tenure as the first Japanese American to be elected to the San Francisco Board of Education, where she served for eight years, including as president in 2015.

In the 1990s, she served in the federal government as telecommunications specialist for the Federal Communications Commission and as director for international economic affairs for the National Security Council/National Economic Council under President Bill Clinton. Prior to that, she was in the corporate world as a network systems account executive for AT&T Japan.

Murase holds a Ph.D. in communications from Stanford, an M.A. in Pacific international affairs from UC San Diego, and an A.B. in modern Japanese history from Bryn Mawr College.

Murase currently serves on the boards of the Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Chapter, and the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association.

She is married to Neal Taniguchi and they have two adult daughters, Junko Taniguchi and Izumi Murase.

JTF is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the economic development, planning, and preservation of San Francisco Japantown. Its mission is also to strengthen Japantown’ ethnic diversity and create an atmosphere of safety, beauty, vitality, and prosperity.

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