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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2023/10/9/tjs-radio/

#13 Interview with the New Owner - Los Angeles Japanese Radio TJS

To Internet radio

In the morning when I was taking my children to school, I used to listen to the Los Angeles Japanese radio station's program "LA Morning" in the car. Later, when my youngest child graduated from high school, I no longer had the opportunity to listen to Japanese radio, but without my knowledge, TJS had switched to Internet broadcasting. By switching to Internet broadcasting, the sound quality was better than FM, there was no need for expensive radio wave fees, and it was possible to listen from anywhere in the world. The person who put this into action was Isamu van den Berg (nicknamed Sam), who took over from the previous owner in September 2021 and became the new owner.

  元は子役だったTJSオーナーのサムさん。写真はNHK朝ドラ『風見鶏』の出演者たちと。サムさんは中央。

Sam was born in Neyagawa, Osaka and grew up in Nishinomiya, Hyogo. His father is Dutch and his mother is Japanese. He attended Canadian Academy, which had a campus in the mountains of Mt. Rokko at the time, from kindergarten to high school. When he was in junior high school, he appeared in the NHK morning drama "Kazamidori" and played the protagonist's son Alberto.

After graduating from high school, he got a job at a regular Japanese company, but then moved to Los Angeles in 1982 to attend a technical university run by aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman, where he majored in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, and civil engineering. After working as an engineer and IT director at a Japanese company in Los Angeles, he became independent as a management consultant in 2015. Then, about five years ago, he was introduced to TJS Radio through an acquaintance from his days at Canadian Academy, his alma mater, and began working on its management restructuring.

I want to preserve the history of TJS

"When I became involved with TJS, I came up with all kinds of ideas. At that time there were only programs in Japanese, so I thought it would be good to have English programs for second and third generation TV viewers, and I even served as the MC in English. We also switched to Internet broadcasting because it was difficult to hear the sound due to radio interference and other factors, and as a result we lost sponsors, so I took the plunge and suggested that we go online. I also developed the app for listening to the programs. My IT background was useful."

A turning point for Sam came when the previous owner decided to return to Japan permanently for personal reasons.

"He asked me for advice. I thought that either I should take over the company, or the history of the Japanese radio station that had been running for nearly 20 years would disappear. If I didn't take over, the previous owner was prepared to give up the company. I thought about it for three days and finally said, 'I'll do it (run the radio station)'."

With Sam's ownership, TJS entered a new phase. The program lineup was reviewed, and by utilizing Sam's connections in the Kansai area, the number of programs was increased dramatically by partnering with Radio Osaka OBC, Radio Balloon in Osaka, FM MOOV in Kobe, and Ashiya Radio in Ashiya. "Ashiya Radio is run by Chris Chiari, the son of (guitarist) Claude Chiari, and the program hosted by his sister Christelle is currently being broadcast on TJS."

He also actively listens to viewers' requests: "I received a call from a senior citizens' home in Irvine who said that they were listening to the program on their computer, but the songs being played were too new and they couldn't keep up. I learned that because they are elderly, they like folk songs and the like, so I play a collection of nostalgic songs from 2:00 to 3:00 pm, coinciding with homeroom time when everyone at the facility gathers. It seems that everyone enjoys listening to old Japanese songs while they eat their snacks."

Speaking of music, Sam himself used to be a DJ when he was in high school. Now, after decades, he says that his DJ spirit has been revived after moving from Kobe to Los Angeles. "Because the equipment at TJS is not the latest, the DJ skills I acquired decades ago are useful here," says Sam.

Comedian "Tamuken"'s program starts

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about the fact that comedian Kenji Tamura (hereafter referred to as Tamuken), who moved to the US at the age of 50, started a flagship program on TJS. When I asked him about the background to this, I found out that the story began two years ago.

"I met Tamuken two years ago at a festival called Rising Japan in Los Angeles. He was invited to be the MC. When I told him about TJS, he was surprised to learn that there was a Japanese radio station. It also seems that through his work at the festival, he began to see the possibility of moving to the United States. In fact, in May 2023, Tamuken moved to Los Angeles on his 50th birthday, and his own program will start on TJS on October 10th (the interview was conducted at the end of September)."

We asked him about his future aspirations for running a Japanese radio station.

"Anyway, I want to work hard to create good programs that many people want to listen to, and I want to increase the number of programs. Also, it is important for people to know about TJS, so I will be proactive in showing up at events that gather Japanese people and working hard to promote it. My other goal is to develop staff. Right now, I am the only one who handles everything internally, and I am the only employee. The MCs in charge of the programs are all freelance. It is really hard to do everything alone, including the website, program production, and sales, so I would like to have an alter ego (laughs)."

The last question was about Sam's identity, as he is half Dutch and half Japanese, attended an international school in Japan, and has been in the United States for over 40 years.

"People often call me a foreigner because of my appearance, but I'm Japanese inside. What about the future? I like visiting Japan and I have a lot of friends there, but I think I'll always live here. Japan is too small for me. LA is spacious, and the weather is nice and it's comfortable."

He told us that he is determined to continue managing a radio station in America in order to continue spreading Japanese culture to as many people as possible.

*TJS official website: http://www.tjsla.com

© 2023 Keiko Fukuda

California communication Dutch internet radio Isamu Van Den Berg Japanese language Japanese language radio languages Los Angeles racially mixed people radio sociology telecommunication United States
About this series

This series asks editors in the field about the history, characteristics, readership, challenges, and future vision for Japanese language media outlets, including paid and free papers, newspapers, and magazines published across the United States.

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About the Author

Keiko Fukuda was born in Oita, Japan. After graduating from International Christian University, she worked for a publishing company. Fukuda moved to the United States in 1992 where she became the chief editor of a Japanese community magazine. In 2003, Fukuda started working as a freelance writer. She currently writes articles for both Japanese and U.S. magazines with a focus on interviews. Fukuda is the co-author of Nihon ni umarete (“Born in Japan”) published by Hankyu Communications. Website: https://angeleno.net 

Updated July 2020

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