I arrived in March of 1997. Makoto Ozone picked me up at Logan Airport in Boston. It was a relief to see someone I knew after making the international flight from Japan all by myself. I had studied with Makoto prior to leaving Japan as well as his father Minoru Ozone. Makoto was already a well known musician and was living between NYC and Japan but he happened to be in Boston the day I was arriving. My initial impression was that Boston was such a pretty city with lots of very colorful houses, much different colors than Japan – they looked like cute doll houses to me. Makoto took me out for sushi on Newbury Street then dropped me off at the Hilton where I spent my first night in Boston, I went to sleep that night with great excitement and anticipation of what would happen in this new place.
The next day I checked out of the hotel and Makoto picked me up again and drove me to where I was going live – with a host family in Brookline in a big house with a lot of other exchange students also living there. I remember when he dropped me off I felt so lonely and sad and I was very nervous. He told me I’d be fine.
I met my host mother, who was very nice and was a big music fan. She was excited to have a Berklee piano student living at the house. We sat down and spoke English together and she asked me what percent I understood of what she was saying. I told her 50 percent but it was probably more like 30 percent!
I actually had to attend one semester at an English school before beginning Berklee. Since I was on a top scholarship, Berklee called me in Japan to see how my English was. I just remember answering “yes” and “no.” I thought I did pretty well but they thought it was best to study a little English before starting at Berklee. To be completely honest though, I really couldn’t speak English at all.