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  • Writer's pictureSweet Orange

#196 自分を信じて全力投球! Believe in yourself and pitch with all your might!

Yoriko Hongo 本郷依子

Title: Believe in yourself and pitch with all your might!


Today, we have a very intriguing talk with Ms. Yoriko Hongo, a musician who came to America 43 years ago. She is now a Japanese teacher at a local public high school, where she is also in charge of the entire Japanese language program.

She was born in the city of Kyoto, ancient capital of Japan and raised in the Gion-Festival district. She loved the Gion traditional beat and music. She studied hard at her local public junior high school to enter one of the best high schools in the area. Instead of preparing to get into the best university, she was immersing herself in various after school curricula. By the time she was graduating from high school, she was certified to teach YAMAHA Electone music class, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and English conversation.

She decided to move to the United States to study English and American music when she saw the musical movie "Grease." She started her American life in the San Francisco Bay Area on September 20th, 1979. That's two days after she turned 19 years old! She started living without using much Japanese language. Two years of rigorous study, she entered a junior college in Santa Cruz, a sacred place for surfers and a gathering place for hippie musicians. This time, she immersed herself in surfer lifestyle, Classic rock, and original American music. In 1988, the San Francisco earthquake destroyed Santa Cruz town and her favorite 50's style trailer did not survive either.

She moved to the Island of Kauai because she heard there's no earthquakes in Hawaii. As she was preparing her move, a powerful hurricane Iniki hit Kauai and devastated the whole island. She spent three months living in a tent on the beach and formed several bands, participating in live music events to help heal people's hearts with music. One of the surf-guitar legends invited her to form a band. Their music performance became popular on the island and successful. She moved back to California with the band to produce albums and perform on the mainland in 2001.

She began a life as a musician on weekends and a high school teacher's assistant during the week to offer music education for youth. She took on obtaining California State teaching credentials to teach the language and culture. "I immersed myself in obtaining my teaching license, partly to reassure my parents. It took me almost ten years to accomplish this goal." During these years, I created new programs for the community to share my expertise, such as Hula, Rock'n roll keyboard, and Japanese culture and language.

She moved to Los Angeles after gaining two years of experience as a substitute teacher at a public middle/high school. She was ready for the opportunities in the big city! In 2019, the pandemic brought her deeper into the world of digital marketing and into the English-speaking world. However, in order to make the most out of her Japanese characteristics, she started to support small businesses owned by Japanese speaking CEOs. She created her business consulting company, Hongo Samurai Solutions L.L.C.and she got acquainted with Dr. Hirokawa that accelerated her approach to the Japanese American community. "Through the site, I was able to build a network of contacts with more Japanese American communities, which has provided a foundation for assisting companies from Japan to expand their business.

Finally, I asked her about her current activities and future goals.

"I preside over a Japanese language program at a public high school in the East Los Angeles community, the opportunity to spend my time with Latin American youth everyday. As a digital marketer, I work on a project to create new business opportunities out of nothing, actively helping Japanese small businesses to expand into the United States."

She would like not only to share knowledge but also to help people find their identity. She wants to use her experience to help businesses expand into the US with products that show the company's "color" and specialize in its field of expertise.

It was an extensive interview in which Ms. Hongo's energetic and adventurous way of life reminded me that she comes from Kyoto, a place of ancient history and innovation.


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