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Densho New Executive Director



After an exhaustive national and international search, Densho is excited to announce Naomi Ostwald Kawamura as its next Executive Director. Ostwald Kawamura will join the Densho staff on September 1 and will formally succeed outgoing Executive Director Tom Ikeda on November 2.

Densho Board Chair Ron Tanemura writes, “We are thrilled that Naomi Ostwald Kawamura will be Densho’s next Executive Director. We had a very competitive candidate pool, but as an educator with specialized knowledge of Japanese American history, and with her strong background in nonprofit leadership and administration, Naomi has the rare combination of skills and experiences we were looking for. She has big shoes to fill, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she can do it – and that she’ll lead Densho, and our community, in exciting new directions.”

Until July, Ostwald Kawamura served as Executive Director of Nikkei Place Foundation, a Japanese Canadian community-based organization in British Columbia. Ostwald Kawamura previously worked as the Director of Education at the San Diego History Center and currently serves as the Board President of the Washington, D.C.-based Museum Education Roundtable (MER).

She holds a master’s degree in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is currently completing a PhD in Curriculum & Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia.

“Making history relevant to people in the present is what animates the work that I do both in community and in my scholarship,” said Ostwald Kawamura. “The Executive Director role at Densho bridges my personal commitments, scholarly interests, and my professional experience into one unique opportunity. I feel inspired and honored to be working alongside the Densho staff and board – and cannot wait to immerse myself in the broader Densho community.”

Ostwald Kawamura was selected unanimously by Densho’s board and staff search committee. According to Koya Partners, the firm that led the search for Densho’s next leader, this level of consensus very rarely happens in an executive search.

“There was a lot of excitement by the board and staff as we learned more and more about Naomi,” said Densho Founding Executive Director Tom Ikeda. “Naomi brings executive leadership, high emotional intelligence, operational experience, integrity, and vision to all of her endeavors. I can’t wait to see how the organization evolves and innovates under her leadership.”

Naomi lives with her husband Kai Ostwald, a tenured professor at the University of British Columbia, and their daughter in Vancouver. In her role as Densho Executive Director, she is committed to building connection and community in Seattle. As a graduate of the University of Washington, she has maintained a strong network of friends and family in Seattle and is looking forward to strengthening those relationships and building new ones.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Ostwald Kawamura. “I feel honored to have been selected to lead Densho, an organization that I have long admired and that has played such a critical role in preserving Japanese American historical memory.”

More on Ostward Kawamura is at densho.org/ed.