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No. 12 Sakura Radio, an internet radio station that reaches across the US

Connecting the community

Sakura Radio, which is broadcast online from New York, started in October 2017 and has gradually spread into Japanese communities across the U.S. over the years. What makes the radio unique is that it is run by Interesse, a human resources company that is in a different industry from the media.

"We want to convey the true America to Japan, which has become isolated when it comes to information from overseas," says representative Fujiwara.

Interesse President Masato Fujiwara explained the background to the launch of the radio station as follows:

"While traveling around the US for my recruitment business, I learned that outside of New York, California and Hawaii, there were virtually no Japanese language media outlets. I wanted to create the media that people in those areas wanted, something that would connect communities across the US. In this day and age, newspapers aren't the answer. So I thought about television or radio, but the huge costs of running a television broadcast made television difficult. So I ultimately decided to broadcast a radio program over the Internet from New York.

Also, since we are a human resources company, our goal (in opening the radio station) was to provide jobs to people in the media industry by having them work at Sakura RADIO. Usually, you can find referrals for specialized jobs like IT or accounting, but there aren't many referrals for media jobs. We wanted to create jobs for those people."

Furthermore, Fujiwara had a different plan than the traditional major media.

"Simply translating information from the United States into Japanese does not provide any return for local residents. As someone who has lived in the United States since 1994, I want to widely spread the reality of Japanese society, including its history. (Due to music copyrights and other reasons, outside of the United States, programs without the music can be listened to on smartphone apps such as podcasts.) In addition to important information for people actually living in the United States, I think that pro-Japanese Americans will also be attracted to content that conveys the real Japan, other than anime. Furthermore, while newspapers take time from the time an article is gathered until it is written and delivered to your hands, radio can broadcast emergency information such as hurricanes and tornadoes immediately. The immediate effectiveness of radio should be extremely useful in the lives of people living in America."

Listeners around the world

The program is made up of information sent from all over the United States, including New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, the Central Mountains, Washington State, Oregon, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. The one that personally interested me was "NY Fifth Avenue Talk," hosted by Keiko Aoki, a businessperson living in New York. Although I have read translated articles on the Internet about the recent large-scale restructuring that has been a hot topic in the United States, I have rarely had the opportunity to listen to the actual audio of Aoki's talk, and at the same time, it felt very familiar to hear the opinions of fellow Japanese people living in the United States.

Sakura Radio is made up of a wide variety of content, including the flagship program "HELLO AMERICA," which has a different presenter broadcast from their region each week, the program "Kawaraban USA Interview," which interviews people in charge of Japanese organizations across the United States, and programs that read children's books and picture books. Regarding the book reading programs, Fujiwara says, "Teacher shortages are a serious problem at Japanese supplementary schools and Japanese language schools outside of major metropolitan areas. In some cases, there is not even anyone who can recite Japanese books aloud. That's why we want children, especially those who use heritage Japanese, to become familiar with Japanese by having books read to them on the radio."

"I want to continue to gather and distribute information that is needed by Japanese people living in the US," says Fujiwara, who further shares his vision: "Through Sakura Radio podcasts and other media, I want people from other parts of Japan, as well as people from all over the world who are interested in Japanese or Japan, to be able to get up close and personal with information from the US. I want them to know what it's like overseas, for example, what Houston is like. Japan has become isolated when it comes to overseas information. I think we need to prevent that with our radio broadcasts. In fact, 40% of our podcast listeners are Japanese residents, and recently we've expanded to Thailand, Brazil, and China. That means we're being listened to in a variety of regions. If the range of listeners expands, we need to increase the content we broadcast. At the same time that Japanese people listen to information from the US, we also exchange programs to convey local information from Japan, such as Obihiro in Hokkaido, Niigata, Akita, and Kagoshima, to the US."

After listening to Fujiwara's story, I got the strong impression that it is precisely because he came from a non-media industry to radio that he is able to create content that is not bound by stereotypes and that takes a more free perspective and puts the listener first.

"Sakura Radio" homepage:

© 2023 Keiko Fukuda

communication internet radio Japanese language Japanese language radio languages Masato Fujiwara mobile apps New York (state) radio Sakura Radio (internet 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: 

Updated July 2020

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