Storytelling in the Japanese American Community

This episode is supported by JapanCulture•NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City.

In collaboration with the New York region of the nonprofit educational organization U.S.-Japan Council, Susan and Toshiki organized an event on how storytelling strengthens people-to-people connections in the Japanese American and US-Japan community. They invited three distinguished guest speakers.

Akemi Kakihara, or simply AK, is a Universal Music Japan recording artist, singer, songwriter, and producer. Lyrical music is a form of storytelling, and currently working on her 16th studio album, AK shares her own story growing up in Hiroshima Prefecture, following her dreams of making music, and moving to New York. Michael Ishii is a musician, practitioner of East Asian medicine, and lifelong political activist. Pioneering projects such as the New York Japanese American Oral History Project and Tsuru for Solidarity, he shares how stories of incarceration heals intergenerational trauma and creates political change. Catherine Kobayashi is a news anchor, reporter, and producer for NHK World. Based on her years of journalism expertise, she shares what makes a story newsworthy and how to gain a larger audience.

Audio of their full presentations are below:


This episode was edited by Toshiki Nakashige and transcribed by Susan McCormac. Special thanks to USJC Director of External Relations Wendy Abe.


Preroll Advertisement

Toshiki Nakashige: This episode of The Big Root is supported by JapanCulture-NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City. Discover your next favorite Japanese anything at


TN: Welcome to The Big Root.

Susan McCormac: A podcast about everywhere Japaneseness. I’m Susan McCormac.

TN: My name is Toshiki Nakashige.

TN: On Thursday, October 17, Susan and I hosted an event in collaboration with the New York region of U.S.-Japan Council on Storytelling in the Japanese American Community.

SM: U.S.-Japan Council is an educational nonprofit organization founded by the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye, in 2008 that strengthens US-Japan relations through people-to-people connections.

TN: The event was held in a penthouse event space called the Solarium on the 38th floor of my apartment building along the East River in Upper East Side Manhattan, and there were about 20 members and friends of USJC in attendance.

SM: Through The Big Root, we hope to share stories about everywhere Japaneseness, and there are many other facets of sharing personal and political narratives in the Japanese American community.

TN: We decided to organize an event highlighting storytelling and invite three distinguished individuals in New York to speak about how they utilize storytelling in their work and passions: musician and producer AK Akemi Kakihara, activist and performance artist Michael Ishii, and news anchor and reporter Catherine Kobayashi. We recorded their presentations for the podcast. They all spoke for 20 to 30 minutes, but in the interest of time, we’ll play about 10 minutes from each of their presentations. If you’re curious to hear more, and we recommend it, you can find longer versions of their presentations in the episode description and on the website First up, we had Akemi Kakihara.

SM: Inspired by our interview with jazz musician Miggy Miyajima, we were curious about how songwriters tell stories through lyrics in music, so we went directly to the source. Akemi Kakihara, or AK as she is known, is a Universal Music Japan recording artist, singer, songwriter, and producer. She was 19 years old when she made her Polystar Records debut. Her musical accolades are numerous, but briefly, she has written and produced more than 200 songs on 15 studio albums. Many of the songs she’s written for other Japanese artists hit the top of the charts and became million sellers. But being at the top of the charts isn’t the only thing that drives her; AK is committed to supporting the community as well. Every year since 2012, AK has spearheaded TOGETHER FOR 3.11, an annual charity event that commemorates those affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that devastated Tohoku, or the northeast region of Japan, on March 11, 2011. 

AK is from Fukuyama City and recalls growing up in the countryside of Hiroshima Prefecture. The daughter of hardworking parents who ran a tofu factory, AK started playing the organ at age four. She was directly influenced by the variety of music her father played, namely the genre-busting Brazilian pianist and composer Eumir Deodato. Deodato’s album Prelude inspired AK to write her first song, “Bossa Nova.” She was eight years old.

She dreamed of becoming a singer/songwriter, but that took a little finagling involving a viola. You can hear the beginning of her presentation on The Big Root website, but on this episode, we’ll pick up AK’s story there.

AK Akemi Kakihara: But one day when I went to my room, I found a viola there. Like, “Oh my god! And thank you, Dad! And I’m going to make it happen!” And actually, I practiced so hard and eventually ended up passed all the exams, and I went to the music university in Tokyo. And right after that, I told my dad and my mom, “I’m really sorry. I lied to you guys. I’m not going to be a viola player in the orchestra in the classic. I want to be a singer/songwriter.”

And my father said, “I knew it.” And he told me that, “Because I gave up my dreams, I want you to pursue your dreams.” 

I was so touched, and then I said, “Thank you so much.” 

So I really tried hard, and then when I was at the, a college student, I was making bands and writing the songs. And the first opportunity came when I was like 19 years old. I actually got myself debuted, signed with a major label, which is Polystar label. And everything went well; my first album was a good success. But, the second album—by the way, this is the oops! Oops! [scrolls through her slideshow]—This is my first album, called Moi. I was 19. And then everything was great, but second album recording started, and my A&R asked me, “Are you listening to the hit songs on the chart?”

And I said, “No.”

And, “Please listen to those songs because I want you to write those type of songs.”

“What? I thought you liked my songs?”

“And yes, we do, but I want you to write those because those are the hit songs.”

I was so in shock, and I was so upset, and I was devastated. And then I tried hard. The more I tried hard, the more I hated the music. And I during the recording session I told them, “I can’t go on like this. I’m going to quit.” And then I quit. 

So I lost my job. My dream’s gone; everything’s gone. I was so upset. But at the same time, I loved music. So if I have to carry like this way, I’m going to lose myself, so I had to keep my music as a hobby. So I did that. And then on top of that, I got another traumatic event happened to me. And I was so devastated, and I lost myself. I lost all my confidence; I felt so weak. That was rock bottom. And I ended up hospitalized. I was so ill. And after that I thought I have to do something about it myself. So I decided to go to, do some trip. I needed to escape from Japan, and then I went to New York for the first time in my life. That was 1988. It was one of the record stores that I went to. 

And then back then I didn’t speak any English, by the way. My friend told me at least remember saying, “nice to meet you.” I’m like, “What’s ‘Nice to meet you? What does that mean?’” I didn’t know that! 

And even though I didn’t know any friends or didn’t speak any English, I actually made friends. And then realized I was feeling so weak, I was rock bottom, and then I made a friend. That means someone liked me who as I am. I didn’t have to disguise, I didn’t have to pretend to be strong. So I realized that being strong doesn’t mean try to be, you know, look like strong. Being strong is that you have to accept, admit who you are. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re really feeling low or being stressed, or sad, just admit yourself. So that gave me strength. And then all of a sudden, I started getting more offers. I couldn’t believe it because when I was pretending to be strong, no one gave me offers. But as soon as I started, “Hey, I’m sorry. This is all I can do,” I got offers. And the second chance came in, and my previous A&R from Polystar Record Company came back to me says, “I really want to work with you again. I am so sorry to force you, we forced you, but this time, you can do whatever you want to do, so please sign with us.”

So I came back, and released my, another first debut album, Face to Face. That was 1991. And then I released many albums after that. And every time I had interviews, I always told them that Eumir Deodato is my, my inspiration. I started writing songs when I was eight because of him. So everybody knew that I’m a big fan of him. So one day, somebody said to me, “Eumir Deodato is coming to Japan. Would you like to meet him?” 

Like, what?! I can meet him?! My dream hero and inspiration?! And I said, “Please, yes!” And I then met him. And I told him that, “I am a huge fan of you.” And he doesn’t believe me.

He says, “You’re too young, no way.”

And I said, “Well, actually, when I was eight years old, I listened to your album, and you gave me inspiration, and I started writing songs.”

And he still doesn’t believe me, so I started to sing all of his solo melodies in front of him. And he was like, “What?! You remember my solos? Oh my god, you really like my songs!”

And yes. And he actually came to my house and played piano for me. And he told me, “Thank you for letting me play piano for you. It’s been a long time for me to feel this way. You made me feel like playing the piano for somebody.”

That was my dream come true, and I was so, so happy, so I called up my dad. “Dad! Guess what? Eumir Deodato is here at home. He’s playing the piano for me! I can’t believe it!”

And he was overjoyed, and actually, he cried because we were both big fan of him. So I was so happy. And then after that, I began having another dream that I want to release my songs from overseas because I kept releasing the songs in Japan, but all domestic only. No one can listen to my song. So I ask my A&R, “Can I release my songs overseas?” And she says, “Yes, one day, one day.” And that one day never happened. 

So I’m like, okay. And then the ninth album, she told me, “AK, I’m really sorry because I wanted to work with you so I kept this as a secret, but our company is not capable for releasing your songs overseas.”

And now I was in shock, but I kind of knew it because that ninth album goes by. And then I actually told her I have an offer from EMI Universal.

And she told me, “Grab it. Go for it because you deserve it. With my support, you can do it.” 

So I switched the company with her support, and then I met the first A&R who’s the extraordinary guy, Mr. Nagai, who gave me an amazing opportunity, which is, it’s really insane because I wanted to be a producer. That’s what he said to me. I was writing the melody and lyrics, but I never, ever touched the sound of the completion of the album. And I was making demos. And then he says, “I love your demos. So I wanted to complete like that. So I’ll give you a budget, I’ll give you deadline, I’ll give you freedom, but I’m not going to help you. So just finish it and bring it back.”

So I’m like, okay, I’ve got to do it. By the way at that time, my bedtime stories are manuals, all those equipment manuals because I had to figure that out how to make, you know, music using the whole sound. So I did that. And then I chose London for the first recording overseas, and I called out, immediately called Eumir Deodato. 

“Deodato! I became a self-producer! And I’m recording my first album as a self-producing album. Would you want to join me?”

And he says, “I’ll be right there!”

And then he cane to the studio—this is my first self-producing album called Yes—and then he came to the studio in London. We recorded together. I was so happy; I just couldn’t believe that. That was really a dream come true. 

SM: That was AK. I admire her for refusing to change her style of music to conform to the hit songs of the day. And because she believed in herself, things came full circle for her.

She is currently working on her 16th studio album, so we’re grateful that she found the time to participate in our event and share her story with us. 

After the break, you’ll hear presentations by our other guests, Michael Ishii and Catherine Kobayashi.

Midroll Advertisement

TN: This episode of The Big Root is supported by JapanCulture-NYC, the English-language website about all things Japanese in New York City. Discover your next favorite Japanese anything at

The Big Root celebrates the joy of Japaneseness, but sometimes the Japanese American community gathers in times of crisis.

In early October, the Kanto region of Japan experienced flooded rivers, landslides, and tragedy. Typhoon Hagibis, or Typhoon No. 19, is the worst typhoon to hit Japan since 1958, claiming more than 80 lives and causing havoc to transportation infrastructure and housing throughout the country. In response, the Japanese American community in New York is coming together to help.

In this spirit, Kyo-Shin-An Arts, a New York-based music program that blends traditional Japanese instruments and Western classical music, donated all of the ticket sales of its recent concert at Tenri Cultural Institute to relief efforts. 

The nonprofit cultural organization Japan Society established the 2019 Typhoon Hagibis Relief Fund, and you can make a tax-deductible donation that will provide support to relief organizations in affected areas.

Furthermore, the Japanese American Association of New York and the New York Japanese American Lions Club are hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, November 9. Admission and raffle sales go to JAA’s Typhoon Relief Fund, and there will be performances by local artists and food by BentOn.

For more information on how to help those affected by this natural disaster, you’ll find many opportunities on JCNYC,

SM: In October, Toshiki and I hosted an event on storytelling in the Japanese American Community. Before the break, you heard singer and music producer AK speak about her experience becoming a songwriter and how she garnered international success after moving to New York in 2001. Our second guest at the event was Michael Ishii.

TN: One of the goals of The Big Root is to give a space for Japanese and Japanese American people to discuss topics that might be considered taboo in other settings like politics, and we thought that this event would be a perfect opportunity to delve into political issues. Michael Ishii shared about how his storytelling is intertwined with his political activism.

Michael is a descendant of families who were incarcerated during World War II, and as you’ll hear in his presentation, the intergenerational trauma that this incarceration experience left behind for his family and many others motivates his passion to amplify historical narratives of Japanese Americans and to build empathy for other groups who have since been unjustly incarcerated in the United States. Michael Ishii pioneered the New York Japanese American Oral History Project, recently earning grants from the Asian Women’s Giving Circle and the National Parks Service, and is one of the leaders for a program called Tsuru for Solidarity that opposes the detention of migrants and the policies of family separation. He is also known in the community for his work running the New York Day of Remembrance year after year.

Beyond his political activism, he is a trained musician and expert of East Asian medicine. As he did for me, I hope that he can inspire you to think about what you can do in your own political activism. It can be as simple as changing the vocabulary you use to describe Japanese American incarceration. It was my first time hearing Michael speak, and he lived up to his reputation as an excellent public speaker. Here is Michael Ishii.

Michael Ishii: Storytelling is a liberation project. In an oppressive society, it is a strategy of resistance. When we pass on our stories to one another, we deny erasure of our history and the lives of our real people and family. Storytelling disallows the suppression or redefining of the narrative. We, who lived or inherit our experiences, can then control and reclaim our story. Instead of “internment,” we say “incarceration.” Instead of “evacuation,” we say “forced removal.” And instead of “disloyals,” we say “resisters.”

So this was the importance of the Congressional hearings in 1981, where our community testified and told its story of imprisonment at the hands of our own government in concentration camps. Our survivors—grandparents, parents, family members, and even perhaps some of you here—came forward, broke silence, and in many cases, told their story for the first time. It was a defining moment of our liberation history. This is why the New York Japanese American Oral History Project is so important. With its mission to preserve the stories of the resilient Japanese American community that survived incarceration during World War II and then came to New York City, the crossroads of the world, to start over during a time of great fear and uncertainty after experiencing terrible trauma. 

Storytelling for me is was also related to the creation of Tsuru for Solidarity, a project of Japanese American groups and organizations that came together in March 2019—just really six months ago—drawing upon the moral authority of our community, conducting direct-action protests at detention sites across the US with a message to close the camps, stop separation of families, and stop repeating history. 

We are determined to be allies that our people needed during World War II, when America turned its back on us as we disappeared from our homes, our schools, our workplaces, our farms, and our neighborhoods. When nobody marched, nobody protested, nobody showed up at the concentration camps to demand our release. So Tsuru, as I call it, combines direct actions with healing circles where survivors of detention—our survivors and others—share stories of incarceration with one another. Instead of “shout and part” as a strategy of protest, we found that in holding these circles after every protest, where people tell their stories together, that spontaneous healing occurs. Deep bonds form, strengthening the work towards healing our peoples and the restoration of a humane society. 

Let me show you a couple of pictures. So this is Tsuru for Solidarity. The tsuru was chosen at our first protest at the family detention site in Texas. And someone said, “What about the crane?” 

That’s so important to our history because of the young girl Sadako after the bombing of Hiroshima. And her wish to fold a thousand cranes for wellness and nonviolence and peace. And she apparently did fold them, but she died, nonetheless. And children from all over the world and all over Japan folded cranes for her, sharing their love for her and their spirit of humanity. And that still exists today. Children still send cranes to Hiroshima in her memory. And so we said this is a uniquely Japanese American cultural—Japanese heritage cultural symbol. It’s uniquely Japanese. And we want to bring it to the struggle to free children who are being imprisoned today in detention sites. So someone said, “We should bring cranes,” and I said, “We should bring ten thousand cranes.”

Because in East Asian culture, the ten thousand means “more than you can count.” So in my mind, I said, “Hmmm, okay, well let’s ask for ten thousand cranes.”

And so we put the call out across the country to the Japanese American community, and in two weeks’ time we received thirty thousand cranes. Folded by families, by children in schools, in Julie Azuma’s house in New York City. Julie, who is here tonight. Cranes came from Japan, they came from Europe, they came from everywhere across the country. And people wrote messages on them as well. Messages to children who were incarcerated in prisons in Texas. And so these cranes were imbued with the love and care of the Japanese community, who understood incarceration. And so these cranes have become sacred symbols of healing and liberation. And so we took them to the fence in Texas, and we hung them on the fence because we wanted the world to know that we understood what it’s like to be incarcerated, and that this is wrong, and we will not tolerate it. And we wanted the families and the children inside to know that someone cares, that we are here at the fences. And we brought our taiko drums, and we thundered our taiko drums. Because we understood our creation story when the goddess Amaterasu, disappointed so much with humanity that she went inside the mountain and the world went into darkness. And then she heard the clamoring of humanity. It was the taiko drum. And she came back out into the world, and the world was re-lit. Light came back to the world. 

So we brought our taiko drums from across the country. And we played them, thundering them, outside the fences of the Dilley detention site so that the children and the families inside would hear the drums, hear our clamoring, and know that we have not forgotten you, that we came back for you, and we are here for you, and we will fight for your freedom. 

That’s how Tsuru for Solidarity was, was created. As part of—at that time, the Crystal City pilgrimage—that’s how it was formed, as part of that pilgrimage. To a concentration camp of Japanese Americans from World War II, just 40 miles away from the Dilley detention site in Texas, on the same highway. 

Japanese Americans of multi-generations showed up to that protest. Survivors and their children and even grandchildren of survivors showed up because what we understood was that the trauma of the concentration camps is multi-generational. Even today—I’m a yonsei; my mother was incarcerated—but there were people who were there whose grandparents were incarcerated. And when we came together and we told the stories of our families and we decided we were there to stand with families who are currently behind barbed wire, what we understood was that we are, even today, still healing the trauma. And that for the children who are incarcerated in concentration camps in the United States today, they will have that trauma for the rest of their lives. And their children will have that trauma, and their children will have that trauma. The Native people say it’s seven generations for renewal, and in this case, it may take that long for that trauma to be healed. 

TN: Michael Ishii then shared anecdotes of his own experiences visiting the migrant detention center at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Needless to say, Michael left the audience at our event in tears.

SM: I met Michael several years ago when I attended a New York Day of Remembrance event. He’s indeed a fantastic storyteller who conveys powerful messages. 

TN: You can hear his entire presentation, including those emotional anecdotes, as well as presentations of our other two speakers on The Big Root podcast website. Our final guest was Catherine Kobayashi.

SM: For a journalistic view of storytelling, we turned to Catherine Kobayashi, an anchor and reporter for NHK World. Broadcast journalism strives for unbiased objectivity, and Catherine wanted to share her perspective on what makes an effective pitch for a news story. Her years of experience make her qualified to offer advice.

Reporting, writing, and researching have been hallmarks of Catherine’s career, which included serving as the main anchor for Newsline, NHK World’s flagship program, and more recently, she produced the NHK coverage of the United Nations General Assembly in September. She grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and lived in Japan, and you can immediately sense how her international experience informs her journalistic expertise.

Michael Ishii told us how he has shared the stories of Japanese American incarceration to those currently detained at our borders. News media is a different kind of storytelling than music or oral history, and we were fortunate to have an expert like Catherine teach us how to share our stories with a larger audience.

Catherine Kobayashi: Sharing your story with a larger audience. So of course, you can use TV, radio, podcasts like The Big Root, social media. You can do it yourself; you can share your story yourself very easily. Newspapers. So you can do it yourself, or tell your story to the media. But will the story get picked up? That’s the tricky part, isn’t it?

So the basic checklist, what journalists often look for: Is it newsworthy? There’s a difference between an important story and a newsworthy story, and I’ll talk about that a little later. Is there a strong central character or characters? Is the story unique? What’s the angle? And basic structure, of course, it’s a journalist’s responsibility to figure out the story, the hook, background, unfolding, and wrap. We’re going to talk about these things.

So many stories are important, but are they newsworthy? There’s a big difference between an important story and a newsworthy story. What gets airtime? Oftentimes news programs are about 30 minutes, let’s say, right? So producers have the difficult task of figuring out do we pick up this story, and how many minutes do we give it? For example, there are 38 million people worldwide with HIV. Now that’s a very important story. But to a reporter, that story will be no more important tomorrow than it is today unless something related to HIV happens today, something new, a development needs to happen. If physicians discover a new vaccine, or a drug company pledges to provide free drugs to a million HIV patients, the important issue will suddenly become newsworthy.

Proximity—Events are more newsworthy the closer they are to the community. Right? If something happened in your neighborhood, you see it on the local news, right? There was a car accident or something happened at a big public space in your community.

Impact—Events are more newsworthy when they affect a greater number of people.

Prominence—Events are more newsworthy when they involve public figures. So let’s say a guest speaker comes to your local elementary school. It might make the local news, but guess what, if Oprah comes, what happens? Big public figures often make the news.

Relevance—Events are more newsworthy when they involve an issue that is top of mind, something people are thinking about. Of course, on the news when it’s Thanksgiving, you see Thanksgiving-related stories; 9/11 anniversary, you see 9/11 stories, related stories.

Human interest—If a situation draws any sort of emotional reaction, if you’re moved, touched by the story, that’s newsworthy.

Unusual—Very important. A pumpkin is not news—I just chose pumpkin because it’s fall, seasonal. Pumpkin is not news unless it is as big as a car. Okay, many people are obsessed with records as well, that indicate the biggest, the longest, the shortest. That kind of thing also makes the news.

Conflict—Sadly, events are newsworthy when there’s conflict. So a car driving down the road isn’t newsworthy unless what? Sad to say, unless the car is in an accident.

You know, a lot of people say, “Yeah, there’s always so much sadness in the news.” But guess what? Storytelling from way back, the engaging ones, involve conflict. Even children’s stories involve conflict. Think of a Disney story that you read as a child, or watched. Is there conflict in that story? Somebody has a dream, a goal, but can’t get to the goal because of an obstruction. Sadly, yes, the news is filled with conflict. Conflict makes stories engaging.

Back to the checklist. So is it newsworthy? We covered that. Is there a strong central character? Consider the difference between—and these are just some examples I found on the internet—the investigating officer and Detective Jones, a third-generation police officer who recalls his father having a similar case that he never solved. So an investigating officer, interesting. But what’s more interesting is someone who has experienced the situation, for example. Or has family members that experienced the situation. So Michael’s stories? Filled with strong characters. AK, herself a very strong character. Okay, so we get the drift.

Next, is the story unique? We talked a little bit about that. Journalists and producers check to see that the story, or a similar one, has not been covered. They’re looking for unique stories because if other people have told that story already, why would people watch it again with us?

Fun quote: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news. But when a man bites a dog, that is news.” Have you heard this phrase before? Yeah? It’s by a famous journalist, Charles Anderson Dana, he was also a political figure. I just wanted to share that fun quote with you. You have to remember that there’s just so many stories, right? And they have to pick just certain stories, you know, and fit it all in into this 30-minute show. So, they have to go through these checklists.

If the story has been told before, it’s okay; we just have to find another angle. Maybe it’s told, the story is told through another character, or that’s the reporter’s job, to try to find another angle. Or maybe there’s new information; it’s a follow-up story. So, for example, in Michael’s case, maybe there’s another protest, new development.

So back to the checklist. What’s the angle? The angle is the main idea of a news story, and there are many ways to approach a story. Timeliness, proximity—we talked about these points—number one. Number two, something that’s significant, interesting, and new. Three, a single fact that makes the story unique. We talked a little bit about that. Let me give you another example. Bob Walters is a blacksmith in Brooklyn. He’s retiring and closing a 120-year-old family-owned business. Okay, pretty interesting. But guess what? There are a lot of shops and businesses in New York that are a century old. What, what makes this interesting? Well, we can dig deeper. It’s the reporter’s job to dig deeper, find out something that makes the story unique. So what if Bob Walters is the one of the country’s only working maritime blacksmiths? Let’s say that was the case. Now, that’s something you would put in the story because—okay, let me read the example. “Bob Walters is one of America’s last remaining maritime blacksmiths, but he’s retiring and closing his family-owned business. His grandfather opened it 120 years ago.”

Now, what’s great about this is now you can take the angle of okay, what’s going to happen to the shipbuilding business? Or what’s happening to the shipbuilding business? Or, you know, what’s changed? Or, you know, there are so many ways to go about it, which will make this story then unique. Again, it’s the journalist’s job to figure out the angle, find out what’s unique about it, and deliver a compelling story.

SM: Catherine went on to give more examples of newsworthy stories, and her presentation empowered the audience to consider how to amplify their own stories.

TN: I was impressed by Catherine’s level of professionalism, and her expertise in media production is aspirational for novice podcasters like us. 

SM: It was great to hear from three different kinds of storytellers in one night.

TN: I’m actually amazed by the caliber of speakers we were able to recruit for this event.

SM: After the programming, we hosted a short networking session, where attendees had the opportunity to meet and talk with the speakers. We had too much food and sake from Hiroshima Prefecture in honor of AK and Michael Ishii’s father’s family. To celebrate our first live event, you brought Hakkaisan 3 year snow age sake to the nijikai at your apartment!

TN: Thanks to AK, Michael Ishii, and Catherine Kobayashi for their insightful presentations. Based on the feedback surveys we handed out, the event was a hit.

SM: Thanks to Julie Azuma, Sophie Spiegel, Yuki Kaneshige, and Thomas Jones for helping us organize the event.

TN: Special thanks to USJC Director of External Relations Wendy Abe.

SM: In the interest of time, we’ll be quick with our credits. Subscribe to the mailing list at

TN: Support the podcast at

SM: Find us on your favorite podcast app and on social media!

TN: And more information about the speakers on today’s episode as well as full audio of their presentations at

SM: Toshiki and I met through USJC, and it’s coming full circle that we hosted an event through USJC and the podcast.

TN: USJC fosters people-to-people connections, and I know you love that phrase. Actually about this time last year, I reached out to you about hosting this podcast with me before I really even knew you, and over the past year, I’m glad to learn that you like sake as much as I do.

SM: Happy to organize more live events as long as you bring the sake.


TN: The Big Root is an independently produced podcast.

SM: The theme song was performed by Kento Iwasaki, and this episode was edited by Toshiki Nakashige and transcribed by me.

TN: For more information about the podcast, please visit

SM: I’m Susan McCormac.

TN: My name is Toshiki Nakashige. Thanks for listening.

Toshiki Nakashige