A Japanese project manager who, after immigrating to America, ended up making a fascinating career switch.
By Kathryn Walsh and Philip Garrity
Takeshi Asai, Japan
Takeshi Asai was a project manager at IBM Asia/Pacific HQ in Tokyo when he emigrated from Japan at age 28. Although he studied music at Berklee College of Music and played professionally in Boston for seven years, he wasn’t ready for music to be his full-time career until 2005, when he decided to become a professional jazz pianist and composer. “If I had lived in Japan, which is known as the land of conformity, it would not be possible to make such a switch. Therefore, living in America was critical to nourish the idea and develop the skills. Thank you, America and Westchester!”
My Story: “I might not be a typical Japanese immigrant because, in my case, the change of country is not the only story. The change of profession—from an IT professional to a musician—was an equally hard or harder thing to achieve. That is the main story of my life. But the two are very much related to each other. When I came here, my life was secure. But when I decided to leave the company to become a pianist, I had nothing…I sent my resumé—as a music, not IT, professional—to music schools in Westchester, and, luckily, on the next day, I was hired as a teacher of jazz piano. I moved to New Rochelle. It was close enough to Manhattan, where I can play music, but, at the same time, it allowed me to enjoy a suburban life.”
My advice to new immigrants: “Learn the language, establish your profession, and make friends. Do them in that order.”