1. Amber Richardson
Starting a non-profit business in one's home country can a daunting task, so imagine the hurdles this intrepid leader must have jumped to create the African American Youth Travel Program (AAYTP). A former JET Programme teacher and current stage and television performer here in Japan, AAYTP founder Amber Richardson found a way to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged teens to travel to Japan in order to learn about the culture, inspiring them to reshape their world and life goals. Along with a team of dedicated volunteers, Richardson hosts fundraisers and special events to provide the lucky recipients with everything needed to explore Japan, including passports, transportation and accommodation.
For more information on her organization, follow the link below.
2. Jay Noyes
Believe it or not, in the heart of Tokyo is a little piece of medieval Europe called Castle Tintagel. The founder, Jay Noyes, originally came to Japan to teach English, but eventually transitioned into teaching the finer points of swordplay. Through Castle Tintagel—less an actual castle than a repurposed warehouse with padded floors and walls reinforced to take 100 kilograms of impact—Noyes' students can get training in a range of weapon techniques as well as classic cultural skills like Renaissance dance. The fruits of his work can be seen in Japan Armored Battle League matches as well as video games such as Final Fantasy XII and Dark Souls II, where he worked as a consultant.
3. Gabby Wallace
As she jokes in her TEDx talk, Gabby Wallace wanted to create world peace, but got her start teaching English in Japan. As she began uploading videos on YouTube, more and more students were requesting videos or online language instruction. After a very busy period of full-time teaching and maintaining her online presence, she was able to leave her university teaching gig to start what could best be described as location-independent work. Now she travels the globe not only teaching English, but also training and motivating others to live a life fulfilled.
Be sure to read her full, inspirational story at her website below.
4. Grace Buchele Mineta
As her website Texan in Tokyo implies, Grace Buchele Mineta indeed hails from the state of Texas. She began her life in Japan following her then-boyfriend (now husband) Ryosuke as an English teacher, and now she posts roughly five times a week about her adventures living in Japan, as well as detailing the joys and challenges of being in an intercultural relationship.
Be sure to check out her wildly popular comic books, My Japanese Husband Thinks I'm Crazy: The Comic Book and the sequel My Japanese Husband (still) Thinks I'm Crazy. Her most recent work, My Life in Japan: The Comic Book, raised over US$73,000 through crowdfunding!
5. Chuck Johnson
Action film star, stuntman, Taekwondo champion, bodyguard, YouTube personality—and at one point, English teacher—Chuck Johnson has made a name for himself in the action film genre in Asia. But the versatile performer continues to evolve, taking on new challenges, such as his Japan theater debut in 2015 performing in Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending. Johnson recently added producer to his long list of credits, so be on the lookout for films coming out of his production company, Quiet Flame Productions.