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VJLS-JH is a non-profit society with registered charity status, and is governed by a Board of Directors. It is made up of a group of dedicated and willing individuals who share a deep commitment to its mission and vision and who reflect the balance of expertise and perspectives needed to achieve these goals.  Elected by the Society (society members) every year, each board member volunteers his/her time and effort to empower staff to set forth and realize its short and long-term objectives. The Board also builds and maintains relationships with other Japanese Canadian and multicultural organizations and with the local neighbourhood in order to enhance mutual support and collaborative programming.

Board of Directors 2021-2022

Tomonari Machida, Board Chair

Tomo was enrolled into his first Japanese language class at the Vancouver Japanese Language School in 1980.  Since that time, he has been involved with the VJLS-JH as a student, a student council member, a graduate (alumni), a volunteer, and a board director.  With a background in management and education, Tomo strives to continue the legacy and the role of the VJLS-JH for the Japanese Canadian community and its greater local community.

He is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the Chair for the Board of Directors.

Mike Uyeno, Vice-Chair

Mike is a third generation Japanese-Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver British Columbia.  As a former student of the Vancouver Japanese Language School, the organization has been a big part of his life – both past and present.  Mike enjoys giving back to the community and he has been a volunteer since 2003.  Most importantly, he is most thankful to have met his wife at the school and now has his son attending the school.

Miyuki Ito, Treasurer

Miyuki Ito is a professional accountant and works at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. She is the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chair. She has been sharing her accounting and tax compliance knowledge with the Board and supporting VJLS-JH for several years.

Her son went to Kodomo-no-Kuni and VJLS-JH for 15 years in total and graduated from the high school in 2014. She learned how to make manju when she volunteered at the kitchen. She has been volunteering at fundraising events such as bazaars and the Powel Street Festival with her son for many years.

She decided to get involved with VJLS-JH by joining the Board of Directors when her son was in high school. She would like to continue to make a positive impact on the future direction of VJLS-JH.

Steve Frost, Director

Steve Frost is an artist, author and community organizer. He is a social change consultant as well as Executive Director of Tasai, a network of creatives rooted in a dialogue between Japan & Canada.

VJLS-JH was my gateway to Powell Street and Japanese Canadian history, which has brought me closer to my own humanity, for which I am eternally grateful. I am also an adult student in the School Division.

Because of all VJLS-JH has done for me, and for the my city, I want to do my part in making sure this community thrives for another 100 years.

Tomi Asakawa, Director

Tomi Asakawa has served as a Director of the VJLS-JH Board for over ten years. In that time, she has been a member of the Facilities Committee and the Community Impact Committee (formerly Special Community Programming). As a member of the kitchen renovation project, she provided her input and insights so that volunteers and other community groups could use and maintain the new kitchen with ease. Tomi’s journey with the VJLS-JH started when her daughter started to attend Kodomo no Kuni at the age of three, almost 20 years ago. Since then, she has volunteered her time to support many fundraising activities for the organization such as the Saturday lunch program, Food Bazaars, Powell Street Festivals, Mochitsuki events, Spring Market Fairs (Haru no Ichi), and Kimono photo sessions. Tomi enjoys working in cooperation with all of the volunteer parents, students/alumni, VJLS-JH staff and teaching staff, and community members in support of the VJLS-JH.

Bhavya Aggarwal

Bhavya Aggarwal has extensive experience in the tech sector and is the founder and CEO of zipBoard.  Through her 12 years of experience in the tech industry she has worked with and led teams building software products. Bhavya began her career in Software development with Solidworks in the US after completing her Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. She switched to running her own business providing software, QA and documentation services in India. Through her career, she has worn many hats including Business development, product management, marketing, tech consulting. She is also a technology consultant for the Immigrant Employment Council of BC. 

She is grateful to have had the opportunity to send her son to the VJLS daycare and having had the chance to be a contributing member of the Community Relations Committee at VJLS. 

Igor Pavlov
Igor Pavlov grew up in Moscow, Russia and received both MS and PhD in Applied Mathematics from Moscow State University. He and his wife moved from Moscow to Vancouver in 2006. Their decision was based on the google search results for the “Best place on Earth”, promptly returning Vancouver. Just a couple of months later, their daughter was born. It’s her passion for Japanese calligraphy (shodo), language studies and culture that brought his family to VJLS. Throughout his professional career he has been working in research and development field as a software engineer, applied mathematician and researcher for over 25 years. He also has several years of teaching experience, both at the undergraduate and high school levels, and passionate about education in general, especially about helping young people find their future career and a meaningful goal in life.

Russ Gray, Secretary

Over the past 20 years living in Vancouver my main interests have been in woodworking and retail. I was the owner of a Japanese Antique shop called Kikori (wood cutter). Before this I lived in Toronto where I had a business making Shoji screens and Japanese furniture. Throughout my life I have been a martial arts enthusiast, practicing Judo in my youth, Karate in high school and Kendo as an adult all together about 55 years. In the early 1980s I traveled to Japan on an artisan visa. I was lucky enough to have a sponsor and to learn Japanese woodworking.

My daughter has been a student at VJLS for 13 years; started with Children’s World (Kodomono Kuni), then Elementary School, Jr. High School, and now in High School (currently, High School Grade 1).

My involvement with the Japanese community in Vancouver has come in the form of contract work for many restaurants, The National Nikkei Heritage Center, UBC, Nitobe gardens, Tozenji Buddhist Temple and many other entities. At VLJS-JH, I have built some cabinetry which you may use every day in the Children’s World and in the playroom. I hope that I may continue to contribute at VJLS-JH with my Interest in Japanese history and a long-standing member of VJLS-JH and help with facilities and upkeep of the VLJS as a board member.

Yoshi Sugiyama 

yoshi sugiyama

Yoshi grew up in Tokyo and immigrated to Canada in 1998. With his two sons, they have been part of VJLS-JH since 2007. This community has been integral to developing their immigrant and Japanese Canadian identities.

His professions straddle over two fields as a structural engineering technician and organic farmer. From his diverse experience, he appreciates opportunities to apply his skills, perspectives, curiosity, and creativity to contribute to strengthening community relationships.

Working together as a community, he believes that the continuity of VJLS-JH history thrives through people. We are woven into the complexity and potential of Canadian cultural diversity. He feels privileged to participate in creating a tapestry for the future.

Paula Nishikawara

Paula is an artist, mother of two grown children and a business person. Her Japanese father’s family once owned a convenience store just a couple blocks from the Japanese Hall which they lost when they moved to Ontario during the internment.

Growing up, the family focused on being “Canadian”, which meant they didn’t learn to speak other languages or explore other cultures and when the kids looked in the mirror they just saw a child.

It was a naive and innocent time whose days have passed since exploring her heritage and roots.

Having first made Japanese Gyotaku prints 40 years ago and since then shown works internationally; Paula is now leading fish printing workshops with the VJLS community as part of the arts and culture programming. She is also an adult language student and has attended other events at VJLS.

Paula sees so much care, life and attention alive at the Hall and would like to be a part of its growth and continued success.

Emily Akin

Emily Akin is a Chartered Professional Accountant and works at PCRE Group, a privately held real estate developer in British Columbia, Alberta and Washington State. At PCRE Group, she provides Canadian and international accounting and tax analysis, planning, compliance, and advisory services.

Born and raised in Vancouver as a third-generation Japanese-Jamaican Canadian, Emily is passionate about increasing access to education and working to engage the next generation in Japanese culture and history. She looks forward to volunteering her financial expertise to VJLS-JH to help ensure its continued success for many years to come.