Were there any early projects in Japan that helped your development?
It was pretty incredible when I first moved there. If you don’t speak the language you feel completely lost in many ways, but you meet these creative communities that have also moved over to Japan. There was also a really strong sense of collaboration, and a culture of sharing ideas rather than guarding them. I’d meet people making music, so I would do the visuals. From there I grew a VJ career, playing big venues, and ended up being voted top VJs in the world. I think that experience really drove this initial passion to make and share what I do, both with collaborators and audiences.
Being a VJ during that time really helped me find my own voice and style. When you’re drawing live, for example, in a club with computers or on a wall with pen, you don’t have time to think, plan, or let insecurities creep in. You don’t have time to hesitate or try to be anyone else.
When did you decide to move to New York and what took you there?
I moved from Tokyo to New York in early 2009. I had been in Japan for five years, knowing I didn’t want to be there forever. I had met a bunch of cool, interesting Americans, who I went to visit. I think anyone who goes to New York on a holiday loves it – there was just a real energy and a buzz there. People talk to you on the street, and that never happened in Japan.
The decision to move to New York was instant. I found an immigration lawyer and applied for an O-1 visa, which is the artist visa. It’s valid for three years initially, and then you can renew it on a year-to-year basis, or apply again and get it for another three years. To get the O-1 visa, I needed to show all my past work, some good references, an itinerary of my plan in the US and guarantees of shows and projects. This was all to prove that I would be an asset to the US industry. It can be difficult, but it was easy for me because at this point I already had a career our there.