Discover Nikkei

Shizuka Anderson, Canadian Japanese Actor, TV Presenter, “Japan by Food” Host, and Singer: The Evolution of Her Hafu/Nikkei Identity

Shizuka Anderson admiring the iridescent lights of the teamLab Planets exhibit in Tokyo. Photographed by Kenji Kanai.

Readers were introduced to, “Japan’s One-stop Food Platform,” in Discover Nikkei in January 2023. Shizuka Anderson, host of byFood’s YouTube channel, “Japan by Food,” shared her story about her experiences as a Canadian Japanese actor and performer living in Japan.

A Journey in Progress: From Rural Canada to Tokyo

Having grown up in rural Canada and Edmonton, Alberta, Anderson made a momentous decision to move to Japan when she was 18 years old.

“I was born in a very small, rural town in Canada to a Japanese mother and Canadian father. I spent my school years in the city of Edmonton, Alberta in a relatively multicultural environment. When I was 18, I made the decision to move to Japan to attend university and pursue a career in entertainment,” she recounted.

A young Shizuka spending time with Sincere, one of their three family horses, on their quiet acreage in Lamont County, Alberta, Canada.

Anderson studied at Sophia University in its Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA) international department, with classes conducted in English. “For the first time, I had the identity-changing opportunity to meet many other half-Japanese students like myself. Until then, I had never realized there was a whole community of mixed-race people with Japanese roots like me. I’d had little opportunity to acknowledge my identity as a mixed-race person.”

“While I had never felt out of place growing up in Canada, attending Sophia University was an eye-opening experience,” she exclaimed. “I discovered the comfort of being surrounded by people who looked like me, who shared similar experiences. I had finally found a place where I truly fit in.”

What motivated her to make the big move to Japan?

“Despite being extremely shy as a child and teenager, I had always loved to sing and had a secret, ardent desire to be a singer and stand on stage. I felt that a big city like Tokyo would have more opportunities for me, so when my Japanese grandparents suggested that I come to Japan for university, I decided to go for it. I arrived in Tokyo in November 2009 and then got to work searching for modeling and singing auditions.”

Since then, Anderson has developed a career centered around performance work such as TV hosting, acting, narrating, stage emceeing, and occasionally singing.

Shizuka singing as a beauty pageant finalist at the National Competition for Miss World Japan 2020. Official photograph by the Miss World Japan organization.

What does “Nikkei” mean to you? Do you identify as “Nikkei”?

“The first time I heard the word Nikkei was after I moved to Japan. I’d always heard it used in reference to ethnically Japanese people who were born abroad, so this is how I understood the term and never knew it could apply to myself. In Japan, half-Japanese people are referred to as hafu and I was surprised that, upon arrival to Japan, I was constantly asked by everyone I met whether I was hafu. This made me begin to reconsider referring to myself simply as Canadian while living in Japan, especially since this seemed to confuse people who saw me as Asian. I started to identify as and introduce myself as hafu instead.”

How do you or how have you participated in your Nikkei community(ies)?

Fellow Sophia University schoolmates, Max Capo and Shizuka Anderson, promoting their Half X Half podcast in Shibuya, 2022. Photographed by Kai Kojimoto.

“After discovering the hafu community in Tokyo and making hafu and Nikkei friends, I realized that as half-Japanese people, we share common experiences while living in Japan and abroad in terms of how people react to us. In 2014, my hafu Sophia University schoolmate Max Capo and I made a few videos about our experiences on his YouTube channel. Our videos were surprisingly successful with an overwhelmingly positive response from mixed race people around the globe. There was a whole world of mixed-Asian people who could relate to us and found solace in discovering they weren’t alone.

“Since then, Max and I have hosted occasional YouTube meetups for people in Tokyo who had seen our videos. While everyone was welcome, many half-Japanese people joined, creating a wonderful opportunity to swap stories and make new friends in the Nikkei, hafu, and international communities in Tokyo and beyond. Max and I now have a new podcast centered around topics in the hafu/Nikkei community called ‘Half x Half.’”

YouTube Meet-Up for the fans of the videos made by Max Capo and Shizuka Anderson on the Max D. Capo YouTube channel. Center, wearing a black shirt, is Max Capo; left-center, behind Max, wearing a white shirt and black cardigan, is Shizuka Anderson, with the Nikkei, Hafu and International fans of the YouTube channel in Yoyogi Park in 2016. Photo provided courtesy of Max Capo.

You’ve hosted many informative, entertaining videos on “Japan by Food.” How did you get started?

“While I was hosting a YouTube channel called ‘Tokyo Creative Talk’ a few years ago, another channel known as ‘The Best Ever Food Review Show’ discovered me online and asked me to co-host a series of videos in Japan. happened to be one of their sponsors. byFood invited me to start a brand new YouTube channel where I would be their main host. This YouTube channel is known today as ‘Japan by Food.’ It’s hard to believe that we started from zero, just trying to figure out how to produce videos, but have now somehow achieved the milestone of surpassing 100K subscribers!”

Shizuka (right) co-hosting the Japan series of The Best Ever Food Review Show, a wildly popular YouTube channel, with the creator and host, Sonny (left). Screengrab from the Best Ever Food Review Show YouTube channel.

How do you get ideas for the
videos on “Japan by Food”?

“People might be surprised to know that I’m not typically the mastermind behind the videos! My main role is to be the host of the channel. There is a small team at byFood that plans, produces, and edits our videos. There is, however, no script, so my role involves learning relevant facts and speaking about the places we visit. If I do have a fun, spur-of-the-moment idea for a video or receive an interesting suggestion from a fan, that can sometimes turn into videos as well.”

Shizuka (left) experiencing a day in the life of a yamabushi ascetic monk, dressed in traditional yamabushi uniform. She is guided by yamabushi Hiromasa Miyata (right), on a spiritual yet grueling journey up the 2,000 steps of Mt. Haguro in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture, filmed for an episode of Japan by Food. Photographed by Eliska Sikulova.

What do you like most about your work?

“I love that I get to have such a wide array of experiences. With ‘Japan by Food’ and other shows, I am continuously traveling to somewhere new in Japan, learning how regional foods and crafts are made and speaking to all sorts of fascinating people, from farmers, chefs, craftspeople, and brewers to friendly local grandmothers passing down age-old Japanese traditions. No matter how many times I travel for my job, there is always something new to learn and experience.”

Shizuka Anderson (left), learning to make world famous onigiri (rice balls) from Yuriko Ukon (right), the owner of Onigiri Bongo, a rice ball restaurant in Otsuka, Tokyo, for an episode of Japan by Food. Photographed by Eliska Sikulova.

How does your identity as a Nikkei inform your work for “
Japan by Food”?

“I had never considered this before, but I think that perhaps being hafu/Nikkei puts me in the unique, but ideal position to share Japan with the rest of the world,” mused Anderson. “Growing up with Japanese food, traditions, and language at home in Canada, while also understanding what non-Japanese people would find unusual or surprising about Japan, allows me to showcase this wondrous country through both a Japanese and a foreign lens.”

What would you like to do next in your life in Japan or elsewhere? What kind of work?

“This is a difficult question! There are so many things I want to do. I’d definitely like to continue what I’m doing, but also work on increasing my own content creation on my personal social media platforms, further expand my voiceover and musical careers, and ideally, one day, venture beyond Japan to pursue acting and hosting in Hollywood! I’m excited to see what the future has in store.”


© 2023 Karen Kawaguchi

acting actors Alberta artists byFood (website) Canada Edmonton entertainers identity Japan by Food (YouTube) Japanese Canadians Nikkei in Japan racially mixed people Shizuka Anderson
About the Author

Karen Kawaguchi is a writer based in New York City. She was born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and a Nisei father from Seattle. He served in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service while his family was incarcerated at Minidoka. Karen and her family moved to the U.S. in the late 1950’s, living mostly in the Chicago area. In 1967, they moved to Okinawa where she went to Kubasaki High School. She subsequently attended Wesleyan University (CT) and later lived in Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Seattle. She recently retired as an editor in educational publishing, having worked for Heinemann, Pearson, and other leading publishers. She volunteers for organizations such as Literacy Partners (adult ESL) and enjoys going to Japan Society, art museums, and botanical gardens. She feels fortunate to be able to draw deeply from the three cultures in her life: Japanese, American, and Japanese-American.

Updated June 2022

Explore more stories! Learn more about Nikkei around the world by searching our vast archive. Explore the Journal
We’re looking for stories like yours! Submit your article, essay, fiction, or poetry to be included in our archive of global Nikkei stories. Learn More
New Site Design See exciting new changes to Discover Nikkei. Find out what’s new and what’s coming soon! Learn More