“Japan was completely different than what I had expected when I first arrived. I thought it would be exotic in ways that it wasn’t. And it was really different in ways that I thought would be closer to home.
“Honestly, it was a little disappointing at first because when I studied abroad in Florence and Turkey during college, people and places looked so different.
Whereas Japan didn’t feel very exotic, with Japanese people everywhere in L.A. and pretty typical modern infrastructure (I was raised in Pasadena, California, by the way). Although culturally, it’s deeply different.
“Having studied religion, one of the things that surprised me was how Japan is the least spiritual society I’ve encountered. It was hard for me to get into conversations on how religion or spirituality affected people. To be fair, it also has these aspects of religion like superstition or certain customs and beliefs. But they’re more practical than philosophical.
“I guess I chose to come to Japan because of my Japanese heritage. In the beginning I thought I was just going to stay only for a year. And then nine months passed and realized that I just started feeling settled. So I decided to stay another year. The second year is when everything started to feel really meaningful. It actually felt like I was living here and having exciting experiences.”
Back into the groove
“I picked up the guitar when I was around 13. I liked singing, too, and would write songs but didn’t tell anyone about it because I was too shy. Now I perform on stage in Tokyo and even started doing commercial singing. You can hear my voice in a few commercials that have aired, like Panasonic’s and Yakult’s. You could say I’m not so shy anymore. I figured there was never going to be a time for me to do it if I didn’t just do it. So now I’m just doing it.
“During my first year in Japan I didn’t do any real music. And then once I started doing music, it defined my life here and made me want to stay to see where the music could go. I’m a singer but I would not have been able to land those kinds of gigs in L.A. or New York because of competition and I didn’t have much experience.
“I’m really grateful because I would not have had that drive or fearlessness if I were back home, where I’d be in my comfort zone.
“I guess I was expecting a different experience than I got when I came to Japan, so I turned to music to make my stay here more meaningful. That pushed me to perform twice a week and do open mics for almost a year. It feels like it’s paying off with all the exposure I’m getting.
“Now I’m on my third year in Japan and people back home tell me I have a different air about me and that I look more Asian. Let’s see whether that works to my advantage as I chase a career in music.”