Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs)

In the city of Sapporo, six Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) from the U.S., Germany, China, Russia, South Korea, and UK support its internationalization. They are active in promoting related activities by serving as assistants for local international events, translators and proofreaders for official documents, and interpreters for foreign visitors. They are also involved in planning and preparing international exchange events. Their roles also include assisting in integrated study time targeting elementary, middle, and high school students to promote international understanding through school visits and invitation lectures at the Sapporo International Communication Plaza.

  • Shawn Afshar[U.S.A]

  • Oliver Gierl[Germany]

  • Coming soon[China]

  • Alena Feshina[Russia]

  • Yang Soomin[Korea]

  • Maisie Wythe[UK]

  • Lara Horin[UK]

  • 【About JET Program】
    In 1987, municipal governments nationwide started the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations).
    They serve in three capacities: as CIR's (Coordinators for International Relations) who assist in international exchange activities in local areas; as ALT's (Assistant Language Teachers), who instruct foreign languages at junior and senior high schools; and as SEA's (Sports Exchange Advisors), who promote international exchanges through sports. They play a significant role in promoting internationalization at the local level.

Shawn Afshar[U.S.A]

Howdy! I’m Shawn.

As of December 2022 I am the American CIR at the Sapporo City International Relations Department. I came from Oklahoma, but I am originally from Texas. Specifically, my hometown is Carrollton, which is right by Dallas. There are many Asians living in Carrollton, and there are many Asian stores like Daiso and Kinokuniya. It’s a nice town; if you’re ever in Texas please stop by!

Japanese culture and technology is very popular in America, and I too have been interested in Japanese videogames and anime since I was young. In high school and university I was able to make many friends with people who also like Japan, and in 2014 I started studying Japanese at the University of North Texas with some of those friends. I developed a strong interest in the language very quickly, and so my studies went quite well.

Following my graduation from UNT in 2017, I moved to Tokyo where I worked as an English teacher (ALT) at a private school in Bunkyo Ward for two years. Living in Tokyo was very fun; every day was an adventure! But in spite of that, I moved back to Texas in 2019. In January 2020 I moved to Oklahoma, and in the August of that year I went back to university and resumed my Japanese studies. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2022 and received my 2nd bachelor’s degree. I’m now working happily at the International Relations Department here at the Sapporo City Hall. I look forward to building warm relationships with all of you!

Oliver Gierl[Germany]

(This is a common greeting in southern Germany.)

My name is Oliver Gierl and I am from Munich, Germany. In August 2019 I started working as the new German Coordinator for International Relations in Sapporo. I graduated from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) with a major in Japanese Studies and a minor in Chinese Studies. Outside of my regular curriculum I also held the chair of the president of the Japanese Studies Student Council and engaged in organizing German-Japanese exchange events.

Since middle school I have been interested in Japan, and by the age of 17 I visited Japan for the first time for a study abroad. I wasn’t fluent in Japanese back then, however while attending classes at a Japanese high school not only did I learn the language, but I also experienced the everyday life in Japan as a student. My year abroad ended all too quickly, but it became of my most precious memories.

During my studies at the University of Munich I also had the opportunity to improve my cross cultural understanding and communications skills while doing a study abroad at a Japanese university and an internship at the German Goethe-Institut in Tokyo. I did not only learn more about Japan, but also about the culture and values of people from various countries through international exchange. In Munich as well, I was committed to creating spaces for international exchange and to promoting cross cultural understanding for many years.

Now, being in Sapporo I wish to act as a bridge between Japan and Germany by improving the relationships of both countries even further as a Coordinator for International Relations.

I am looking forward to meeting all of you and to tell you more about Germany!

Coming soon[China]

Alena Feshina[Russia]

Здравствуйте! Zdravstvuite! Hello, dear citizens of Sapporo! My name is Alena. I came from Sapporo’s sister-city, Novosibirsk.
My experience with Japan started in high-school. When I first heard the Japanese language, I loved the way the words sounded like a beautiful song. After that, I decided to learn Japanese in earnest. In 2014, I came to Sapporo for the first time as a tourist, and in 2017 I returned to Hokkaido, and spent 3 months here as a participant of an internship program.

During my life as a student, I communicated with many Japanese people, and I found out that even in a country as distant from my hometown as Japan, there are many with an interest in the Russian “soul”, and wanted to make friends with Russian people, so I decided to work hard in order to maintain this aspiration and widen the borders of cooperation between our countries. After graduation, I worked in the Novosibirsk Municipal Culture Center “Siberia – Hokkaido”, and my duties included translating, arranging cross-cultural events, teaching Japanese language, and coordinating projects for children.

Citizens of both Novosibirsk and Sapporo are tied firmly by bonds of friendship, so I want to deepen these important sister-city relations. Keeping the emotions of students who learned Japanese in mind, I will do my best to help you learn more about Russian culture, and its people.

Yang Soomin[Korea]

Annyeonghaseyo! (Hello!)Hello everyone.

My name is Yang Soomin, and I’m from Korea. I was born and raised in Daejeon city, which is the sister city of Sapporo. I started working as a Coordinator for International Relations in Sapporo from October 2021. I graduated from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in February 2021, and I double-majored in Japanese regional studies and French literature.

When I was 7 years old, I had the experience to be in a Japanese elementary school due to my dad’s job. At that time I couldn’t speak Japanese at all, but I was able to gradually adapt to Japanese society from having cultural exchanges with my classmates, and I gradually fell in love with Japan. Life in Japan made me open my eyes to the world for the first time. I will always be thankful for that experience, because Japan taught me how powerful cultural exchange can be in terms of public diplomacy. For this reason, I always wanted a job in international relations, and I thought it would be perfect if I could do that in Japan. It feels like a dream to be able to introduce myself as a Coordinator for International Relations in Sapporo City. I’m really looking forward to all the new opportunities for exploration and growth that I’ll have in Sapporo.

Sapporo and Daejeon are tied firmly by bonds of friendship. Learning from their relationship, I will do my best to become a bridge between Japan and Korea in Sapporo City, and to show you all the charming aspects of Korea.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Maisie Wythe[UK]

A pleasure to meet you!

My name is May. I have been working as a Coordinator for International Relations for Cultural Promotion Department at Sapporo City Hall since April 2022. I’m from London, born and raised. I have a First Class Double Honours BA in Translation & Interpreting from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, East England. As such, I spent my year abroad at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico, and attended summer school at the International Christian University, Tokyo.

I am obsessed with all things international and treasure sharing my culture with everyone, far and wide. I also speak French proficiently and Russian, Korean, and Mandarin to some extent. I’ve been to 37 countries and counting, and am hoping that this Coronavirus shambles will soon come to an end as I have a burning desire to explore more of Asia.

Like many, I fell in love with Japan via anime and manga as a teen. I gradually learnt more and more and went on to self-study Japanese and become a chef in a Japanese restaurant. I learnt Japanese in Osaka so tend to speak in strong dialect and will never forget my Hanshin Tigers pride! This is my first time in Hokkaido and I am unbelievably excited to try fresh food, meander through beautiful mountains, and discover Ainu culture. I’d also like to meet a bear, though perhaps not up close…

In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, artwork, singing, and gaming. I adore meeting people from all walks of life and hearing more about our big world. Hugely looking forward to working with you all and chatting over a cuppa*! (*cup of tea)

Lara Horin[UK]

Hello Sapporo! Lovely to meet you!

My name is Lara. I have been working as a Coordinator for International Relations for Tourism & MICE Promotion Department at Sapporo City Hall since April 2022. I was born in Australia, but I have lived from a young age in London in the UK. I guess I see myself as half-British half-Australian, so if you have any questions about either culture, please do not hesitate to ask.

At secondary school, I first encountered Japanese culture through the lens of Hirokazu Koreeda. His delicate and nuanced portrayals of everyday life in Japan, led me to fall in love with the culture at the heart of his films. Subsequently, I went on to complete a Japanese studies degree at the University of Cambridge, where I had the opportunity to study abroad for a year at Rikkyo University..

During my time in Tokyo, I did an internship at WELgee, an NGO that works alongside asylum seekers to help them gain work opportunities, and create a space of mutual understanding with the surrounding communities. As the head of events, I had the chance to act as a bridge between a variety of different cultures, and I immensely enjoyed the challenge of helping people overcome cultural barriers and form international friendships. This experience inspired me to pursue a career in international relations, and I am honored to be back in Japan as Co-ordinator of International Relations in Sapporo City.

I am so excited to deepen my understanding of Japan, while sharing the quirks of British (and maybe some Australian) culture with the wonderful citizens of Sapporo.)