Chin HamayaEver had an interest in Japanese Culture? Ever wanted to learn about Japanese folklore, taiko drumming, or traditional Japanese crafts? The Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI) at Katsucon has you covered! The JCI specializes in classes that explore Japan’s rich culture, crafts, and history.

Whether your interest is in travel, language, folklore, art, history, kimono, traditional dance or even hands-on craft workshops, there is something for everyone to enjoy!





Aeric Holbrook

For Aeric, it all started when they got hooked on early morning anime as an elementary school kid, which eventually led to volunteering at conventions, study abroad in Japan, and a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies. While traveling all over the world to research culture and education, Aeric found that Japanese pop culture and media had an undeniably strong presence. Once back in DC, they worked with Japan affiliated organizations, chaired for the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, and managed hoards of students participating in Japanese educational and exchange programs. It was during a Master’s degree in International Education and Intercultural Communication that Aeric produced research on how Japanese pop culture actively influenced people around the globe— learning habits, formation of identities, and social behavior. All the more reason for Aeric to take their research to the next level with a PhD! This year they’ve brought panels to Katsucon featuring the unique intersections of their favorite topics: Japan, LGBTQ voices, fandom, pop culture and media. You can find more of Aeric’s adventures at aericsays.com or Aeric’s twitter account: @aericsays_

Charles Dunbar

Charles Dunbar is a fan of many things, of which anime and Japanese culture are but one (admittedly large) sphere. After discovering the medium through Dragonball Z in high school, he spent his formative college years indulging in giant robots, Pokemon, JRPGs, and Rurouni Kenshin, never expecting his coursework in cultural anthropology to ever intersect with his burgeoning fandom identity. This was only the first of many instances when the Universe decided to troll him hardcore for his obliviousness. After spending years attending his local SF con, Charles began attending anime cons in earnest in 2007, bumping them up drastically while undertaking fieldwork for his MA in Anthropology, where he researched and wrote on fandom, convention culture, and the changing dynamic of anime fan practices. He never stopped attending, coming back year after year to both indulge his love of anime conventions, and educate his fellow fans on all manner of mythology, Japanese sacred culture, fan cultures, and whatever else grabs his interests. He is currently working concurrently on two books related to these pursuits, dabbling in game scripts, writing his own ghost stories inspired by the folklore he devours, and traveling around the country speaking at conventions, libraries, and the occasional university. You can read his ideas and ruminations at www.studyofanime.com or via his Twitter @studyofanime. 

Gabriel Djinn Sensei
Sandan Atarashii Naginata

Naginata is defined as a Japanese martial art of both power and grace characterized by the grandeur of its sweeping arm and body movements while using a bladed weapon. Naginata dates back to feudal Japan as a battlefield weapon of the Samurai. Today, the art is practiced around the world. In Japan the art is dominated by women, outside of Japan it is largely unisex. This is one aspect that makes it very unique amongst martial arts as most martial arts require a certain level of physical capability and strength.

Djinn Sensei’s beginnings were, like many of us, inspired in childhood by movies to start martial arts. Once he started, he became fascinated by the culture and history of Japanese Martial Arts. Djinn Sensei has been practicing martial arts for over 30 years. For over the last 15 years he has focused on Naginata. He has competed at the national and international level. Currently Djinn Sensei holds classes in Manassas Park, Virginia at the Community Center.

“All of my Naginata students learn the foundational aspects of the martial arts: respect, control and self-discipline.  This is done in tandem with learning the physical aspects of the art. The mental and physical growth are not separated as they are symbiotic. I can teach the physical aspects. The maturity and confidence grows over time.”

” I truly love the art of Naginata and it brings me joy to watch my students grow as both martial artists and people. This is the reason I teach- to convey the tradition and love for Naginata.”

Outside of the dojo, Djinn Sensei is a regional trainer for a well known electronics company. He is married to his wife and best friend whom he met in 2000. They have two teenage children and the whole family is involved with Naginata.

Hannah Horng

Hannah Horng first began folding simple origami models from YouTube videos as a high school student as a method of keeping her fidgety fingers busy. From there, she slowly started to dig deeper into the incredible online origami community, and began folding more complex models from diagrams and videos published by designers from all over the world. She also began posting photos of her work on her blog (paperphiliac.tumblr.com) as a way of keeping track of the things she’d made before they inevitably got lost on her desk or a box somewhere. Hannah then decided to start sharing the of wonders of origami in real life and began teaching origami at her high school origami club, and continues to do so at college events. She hopes to show the Katsucon community just how many unexpected things can come out of a sheet (or multiple sheets) of paper, and looks forward to meeting everyone!


Katriel Paige

Since their first presentation on Japanese folklore in 2004, Katriel Paige has studied the intersections of folklore, religion, and aspects of culture both within and without Japan – from researching Shinto practices to researching online communities and fandom dynamics. They have an MA in Intercultural Communication with International Business from the University of Surrey (UK), BAs in English and East Asian Studies. They work in user experience design, particularly web and application accessibility. They have also edited books of media analysis, and are presently contracted with Beul Aithris Publishing for an upcoming book on Inari.



Rev. Kuniko Kanawa

Rev. Kuniko Kanawa is an owner of Atelier Kanawa, the Japanese concept earth friendly studio. She offers various refined traditional Japanese cultural services as a certified Kimono consultant, Kimono model, Kimono photographer, founder of Washington D.C. Kimono Club, Edo Tsumami Kanzashi artisan, certified Shinto priestess, Kagura dancer, and Shinto photographer of KAMUNABI photography.

In 2007, she officially became a certified Kimono consultant of All Japan Kimono Consultant Association after graduating from Sodo Reiho Kimono College. Since obtaining this certificate is approved by the Ministry of Education/Science and Economy/Industry, she has been offering the Kimono dressing services, Kimono photo shoot, instructing Kimono classes/workshops, and producing Kimono fashion shows/dressing demonstration, academic Kimono lectures and so on. She also works as a Kimono model, treasuring six years of classical Japanese dance training under Hanayagi style by the great instruction of Mme. Wakana Hanayagi sensei.

Using her Kimono modeling skill, she also serves as Kimono photographer for ceremonial occasions such as Omiya-mairi first time visit to Shinto shrine, Shichi-go-san, Coming of age ceremony, wedding, and Anime conventions. Her refined art of posing models in kimono is remarkably valued in the region.

In the same year, she became a professional Edo Tsumami Kanzashi artisan through intensive training by a designated master Kazuyo Hozumi, the one of only few designated Edo Tsumami Kanzashi artisans in Japan. As a successor to preserve this disappearing traditional handicraft, she creates both traditional and modern designed Tsumami Kanzashi, including custom orders. Her beautiful creations can be purchased online at http://atelierkanawa.com. She occasionally participates Arts&craft shows. She has offered monthly classes/workshops at many venues such as Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. and Carrol County Arts Council, annually workshop at many Anime conventions. She currently accepts private students only.

In early 2013, she founded Washington D.C. Kimono Club. The Club welcomes her Kimonos students who loves/sincerely respect Kimono, Japanese seasonal culture, traditional Japanese custom/manners, and Kimono decorum. Members receive the opportunities to model at her Kimono fashion shows/dressing demonstrations, participate in Japanese seasonal cultural events in Kimono, and attend Washington D.C. Kimono Club’s special workshops.

In October 2015, Rev. Kuniko Kanawa humbly received a Shinto priestess certification through Ama-no-Iwakura-Jingu, the independent Shinto shrine in Horoshima prefecture. She was naturally guided to this path as she rediscovered Shinto playing a remarkably significant role as a core soul of Japanese culture/spirituality, through deeply pursuing the traditional Japanese culture in her profession. She now takes a part to pass it on to the next generation.

The enshrined Kamunabi/Kannabi (sacred forest, rocks, tree) behind her Atelier in her private property are not publicly opened to be visited, therefore currently, she mainly conducts Shinto ceremonies by travel, Shinto lectures, Misogi-harae (water purification practice) workshops, and various blessings at her Atelier mainly the ones relating to the Kimono photo shoot.

In relation to introducing the indigenous spirituality of Ko-shinto (ancient/old Shinto), she runs KAMUNABI Photography to share with the world the beauty of KAMUNABI, where Kami dwells in great sacred nature and phenomenon in all universe, which can be universal in many other countries.

The most recent exciting news about Rev. Kanawa is that she is now classically trained in Kagura Shinto theatrical dance, by Kato Toshihiko-sensei of Kagura institute in Japan. Starting with her first offering stage at U.S. National Arboretum in November 2017, she is continuing to offer Kagura in the United States.


Lodestar is the human embodiment of Jenna Maroney, a true DigiDestined, and was born under the inscrutable star sign Ophiuchus. In his free time, he enjoys shounen anime, JRPGs, Dynasty Warriors, and low budget comedy films. He also participates in various physical activities such as colorguard and winterguard, multiple genres of dance, and aerial apparatuses. It was the blend of these kaleidoscopic hobbies that inspired Lodestar to analyze how they all uniquely contribute to personal wellness. Lodestar has earned a Master’s of Education in Counselor Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and two minors in Dance and English; specializing in Fiction Writing. With such diverse training and focus within his repertoire, Lodestar has been analyzing the grand topic of intersectionality within various cultures throughout the world. Lodestar was a featured Educational Guest Speaker at Anime USA 2016, and founded his own paneling organization called Reframe; which has participated in various conventions, including Anime USA, MAGFest, and Animazement. Their panels focus on diversity and inclusivity, the world of magick and its tools, writing in its varied forms, and numerous video games.

Follow him at facebook.com/lodestarcosplay, instagram @lodestarslagoon, or via lodestarslagoon.tumblr.com.

Reframe can be found at facebook.com/reframecons or @reframecons on Twitter.

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu NAKAGAKI

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu NAKAGAKI is a Buddhist priest, ordained in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism. He was ordained at the Nishi Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan, in 1980. He graduated from Ryukoku University in Kyoto, majoring in Buddhist History in 1983, and later conducted advanced study in Jodoshinshu Buddhist doctrine at Gyoshin Buddhist Seminary in Osaka, Japan, from 1983-1985. He received an M.A. in Linguistics from California State University at Fresno in 1994, and earned a Doctorate of Ministry in Multifaith studies from the New York Theological Seminary in 2012.

Rev. Dr. TK Nakagaki is currently President of the Buddhist Council of New York, Hiroshima Peace Ambassador, Peace Correspondent of Nagasaki City, Community Clergy Liaison for the NYC Police Department, and former Vice President of the Interfaith Center of New York. He served as a resident priest for Jodoshinshu Buddhist communities in Seattle from 1985-1989, in Parlier, CA from 1989 -1994, and at the New York Buddhist Church from 1994-2010.

Since 1994, Rev. Nakagaki has organized an annual interfaith peace event to commemorate the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, and from 2002-2011 he organized the annual 9-11 WTC Memorial Floating Lanterns Ceremony. He is the author of three books in Japanese, A New York Buddhist Priest Walks in India (Gendai Shokan, 2003); Diary of a Manhattan Monk (Gendai Shokan, 2010); and Manji and Hakenkreuz (Gendaishokan, 2013). His new book “The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross” will be republished in Spring, 2018.

He is also a noted Japanese calligrapher. He also teaches flower arrangement for Buddha shrine.

Robert V Aldrich

Robert V Aldrich returns once again to host a passel of panels for the JCI here at Katsucon. When not talking about Japanese culture or teaching martial arts, RVA will be at his table promoting his newest books, RocKaiju and Proton, as well as all the fun stories at his website TeachTheSky.com.






The Comiku Girls

The Comiku Girls, Akiko Meigetsu & Li Izumi & Janel Norris, are past celebrating their 10-year anniversary attending the convention circuit along the eastern seaboard and beyond. Each has had a pencil (or brush) in their hand since they could hold one, & have been telling stories since they could talk. At conventions, they are artists, cosplayers, fairies & Japanese cultural panelists. In 2004, we debuted our popular Japanese Tea Ceremony Panel, and have continued to create unique panel options in the decade since. Akiko is an artist, working in both digital and traditional media (watercolor and Asian Brushpainting). Li has studied Japanese language & culture is for over a decade, including a semester in Akita, Japan. Janel is herself a fairy, as well as an artist, jewelry-maker, and costumer.



Akiko has a Ph.D. in Biology from Duke University. She has studied Brush Painting with Chinese master, Cong Yuan, and watercolors with artist Luna Lee Ray. She has been painting in water media for more than a decade.

Li has a B.A. in East Asian Studies and a Master’s degree in Classical Japanese Language and Literature from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She spent 4 months in Akita, Japan living and going to school, where she studied, among other things, how to wear a kimono, calligraphy, and tea ceremony.

Janel has a BA in Fine arts/ Illustration. Janel has studied under Rebecca Guay, Scott Fischer, Dan Dos Santos and Brian and Wendy Froud. She has spent the last 10 years perfecting her costuming and design skills and now specializes in bringing the clothes, creatures, and costumes of fantasy worlds to life. Her costumes have been exhibited in many fashion shows as well as the Springfield Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum.