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Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest – Voice Actor Mayumi Saco Reads Aloud a Winning Story

Mayumi Saco

Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest, which calls for short stories in Japanese and English on the theme of Little Tokyo, marks its 10th anniversary this year. At its award ceremony, the winning story in Japanese is read aloud each year by a Japanese actor based in the United States. This year, however, an actor in Japan, Mayumi Saco, takes the role.

Saco is one of the top-tier voice actors in Japan, known as the voice of Hollywood actresses, such as Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone. We asked Saco why she decided to accept the request from Little Tokyo Historical Society, which organized the contest, as well as her thoughts on Little Tokyo.

“I decided to accept the offer because actor Eijiro Ozaki, who is based in Los Angeles, brought it to me,” she said. “We connected on Twitter because I was one of the voice actors in the TV drama series, Magnum, P.I., which Ozaki was in. I did the voice of Juliet Higgins, who is the protagonist Magnum’s partner, a character played by Perdita Weeks, in its Japanese dubbed version.”

She continued, “[When Ozaki gave me the offer,] I was a bit hesitant at first because it seemed too big of a role for me, but I felt highly honored and decided to do it.” Saco, who is based in Japan, will pre-record her reading of the winning story, which will be announced at the award ceremony (in person and virtual) on May 20. 

What is Her Image of Little Tokyo?

Has Saco ever been to Little Tokyo? And what comes to her mind when hearing “Little Tokyo”?

Saco said, “The first thing that came to mind was that actor Sessue Hayakawa was an active member of a Nikkei theatrical group in Little Tokyo. I’ve never been to Los Angeles, actually. It’s one of the places I would like to visit, and this offer made me deeply interested in Little Tokyo as well.

“If I get a chance to go to Los Angeles, I would like to visit Little Tokyo, too,” she continued. “I also want to go to the places mentioned in the stories [from Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest].”

As Saco will be imagining Little Tokyo while reading the story, we asked her what she usually does to make her roles sound realistic when she dubs foreign works.

“If the work has any characters that are real people or modeled after real people, I research their background and history. I research the actors who play those characters, too, as much as I can,” she said. “But, what I can learn from my research is just a fraction, or things I get from news images and information on the internet. It’s extremely hard to understand everything from that fraction.”

“Still, I believe that it’s very important to ‘try to learn’ cultural differences, history, and problems that are happening now, when I dub and build relationships with the people involved in the work. I would like people to know that when we make the Japanese dubbed version of a work, everybody—not just the voice actors, but the director, translator, and all staff members in the studio—work with respect for the original.”

The Japanese in the U.S. Are Adventurers and Pioneers

Does Saco know about Nikkei in America? We also asked for her thoughts on “Shin-Issei” who were born in Japan and are now working in the entertainment industry in the United States.

“Not just in the entertainment industry, but when I see Nikkei in the news in various fields such as sports, business, science, and medical care, I feel very proud and happy as someone of the same Japanese descent,” she said. “This offer helped me become more interested in what Nikkei in the U.S. are doing. I’m excited and looking forward to all the future success in their careers.”

She continued, “Also, I have to say that [Shin-Issei] moving from Japan to the U.S. and working in the U.S., which is the top of the entertainment industry, is praiseworthy in itself. These people motivate me to try new things myself too.”

We then asked Saco where she would like to visit and what she would like to do if she got a chance to visit Los Angeles. 

“There are a lot of places I want to visit–Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Griffith Observatory, etc. I like kimono and sometimes I go out in kimono with my voice actor friends who also like kimono, so it might be fun to walk around Los Angeles and Little Tokyo in kimono and take pictures there,” she said.

Last, we asked her to give a message to Nikkei and Japanese people living in the United States:

“I’m Mayumi Saco, a voice actor in Japan. Japanese people like you who have left Japan and are now living in America are adventurers and pioneers,” she said. “It must take a lot of hard work and effort to live and accomplish something in a country where the language, culture, and lifestyle are all different. I have so much respect for your act of courage. Also, I heard that Japanese anime and video games have been popular in Little Tokyo for the past few years.”

Saco continued, “I feel very happy thinking that you might have heard my voice in some works. Since I haven’t had many chances to learn about the history of Nikkei, I hope that there will be more opportunities for Nikkei around the world and Japanese people to interact and get to know each other. And I hope that they respect both Nikkei and Japanese cultures, deepen their understanding of them, and pass them onto the next generation.”

“Once again, I would like to thank everyone at Little Tokyo Historical Society for their daily efforts, said Saco. “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to think about and imagine the life of the Nikkei and Japanese people in America.”

Mayumi Saco

・ Website:
・ Instagram (@_sacomayumi_
・ Twitter (@_sacomayumi_

* * * * *

Watch the Mayumi Saco's reading (pre-recorded) of the winning essay in Japanese category at the 10th Annual Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest Awards Ceremony on Saturday May 20, 2023 from 2 p.m. (PDT).

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest and the first time the ceremony will be in person since 2019!

In this celebration emceed by by Tamlyn Tomita, all winning stories in the three contest categories—Adult, Youth, and Japanese language—will be showcased with dramatic readings by Greg Watanabe and Mika Dyo in addition to Mayumi Seco. Greg Watanabe will read the winning story in LIVE!  

Admission is free, but RSVP is required.
Please check JANM website for more infornation >>


© 2023 Keiko Fukuda

acting actors artists California entertainers Imagine Little Tokyo Short Story Contest (series) Japanese actors Little Tokyo Little Tokyo Historical Society Los Angeles Mayumi Saco United States voice actors
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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