Donald James Berry

Donald James Berry

Maki Nibayashi

Technical Adviser

Time in Japan:

Sweet 16 years of coming and going

Where are you from?
I was born in Boston, MA, US.

What brought you to Japan?
The US Navy. I' been interested in Japanese history and culture for a long time and had been yearning to study authentic karate. So when given a choice of duty station, I chose Japan, arriving August 31, 1984. That same night I was taken to Shibuya and thought I'd seen Madonna at least 1000 times. I was introduced to traditional toilets... But I also soon discovered a dojo, daibutsu, kannon, Chiyonofuji and onsen to warm, inspire and motivate me.

What do you do?
Five years ago I was asked by the conductor/arranger Yasuo Minami to be diction coach for the soprano Yumiko Samejima during their recording of traditional American songs. The next project was of jazz standards, which Yumiko and I did with the famed jazz pianist Louis Van Dyke in a cathedral turned recording studio in the Dutch countryside. Together with engineer Paul Pouwer, I did all of the editing and mastering, rendering the finished product just in time to make the scheduled release date. So now, I'm involved with all phases of production, from song selection to jacket photo selection.

Who was your biggest influence?
Personally, Malcom X. He taught me freedom in truth. Professionally though, I really owe it all to Yasuo Minami. He demonstrated great faith and courage to call on me. And since then he's continued to give himself unconditionally, sharing his knowledge and energy with everyone. I am eternally grateful, honto ni arigato.

What was the weirdest thing that you ever saw or experienced in Japan?
Standing in front of Kannai Station around 6pm waiting for my friend to see the baseball game, I noticed a little commotion. A normal looking middle-aged salaryman wearing the usual garb, was standing at the top of the stairs peeing on everyone that walked by. Then he just disappeared into the throng. But truth is, there are others I've conveniently forgotten.

What's the one thing a person should see in Japan before leaving forever?
I've been very fortunate to have seen many things off the beaten path - cherry blossoms in the wild, rustic villages in the distance while cross-country skiing improvised courses, sunrises and sunsets from peaks from Kyushu to Hokkaido, over 100 hot springs, remote temples, and bamboo groves, exotic wildlife, etc... There's so much beauty to enjoy if you just get out there and appreciate it.

Any advice for a successful life in Japan?
Just like anywhere, balance. Particularly in Japan, it's important not to impose ideals. Learning this will enable you to taste more of the flavors you like, as you won't have to be biting your tongue so much.

Donald James Berry spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

Do you know somepne who has an interesting life in Japan? Email us at

360: Gustavo Marchesi
Professional tango dancer
355: Alec McAulay
352/3: Mary Frenzel
Professional singer / songwriter, bandleader & voice instructor
350: Kate Smurthwaite
Bond analyst and aspiring novelist
349: Tim Spangler
Recreational Equipment, Inc.
348: Robin Rozzell
Tribal Nation Security
347: Marco Invernizzi
Bonsai artist
346: Charles E McJilton
345: Chris Chavez
344: Donna Burke
Singer and narrator
343: Dennis Sun
Artist, freelance graphic design and illustrator
342: Martin Hope Berry
Natural food shop owner
341: Donald James Berry
Technical Adviser
340: Amy Jorrisch
Tokyo International Players
339: Anthony Al-Jamie Ph.D.
Education consultant and journalist
338: Joel Silverstein
President of Outback Steakhouse Japan
337: Neal Dauber
Termite and Pest Control Operator
336: Marcus Spurrell
CEO of No Mass Media, Internet Co.
335: Stefan Fanselow
Flight Instructor
334: Colleen Lanki
Theater Artist
333: Ben Leibson
Scuba Diver
332: Bernard Yu
Executive Director of TELL
331: Hayden "Hay-chan" Majajas
Informations Systems Manager
330: Alistair McLachlan
BootsMC Finance manager
329: Ronald Lee Davis
Missionary / Teacher
328: Ed Durbrow
327: Isabelle Maranda
Marketing Coordinator
326: Brian Marcus
Food & Beverage Director at Tokyo American Club
325: David Baran
Managing Partner, Compass Partners
324: Murali Kupusami
Furla Tea & Coffee Owner/Model
323: Angela Jones
Fire Dancer
322: Tim Tsang
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR)
321: Chris Monnier
320: David Snyder
President of Rising Crane Sports Consultants, Inc.
319: Juliet Hindell
BBC's Tokyo Correspondent
318: Sid Lloyd
Football team captain
317: Niels Frederik Walther
Chef for the Danish Ambassador
316: Jonathan Katz
Jazz musician and composer
315: Yoichi Hayase
President, True Travel, K.K.
314: Ira Bolden
Program Manager
313: Benjamin Gurnsey
Corporate Communications at Sony Computer
312: Dr Jonna D. Douglass, PhD
Clinical Psychologist and Family Therapist
311: Roy Kilner
Izakaya Manager
310: Neil Day
Senior Software Research Engineer
309: Stuart Ablett
Sakaya Operator
308: Maggie Tai Tucker
Animal Trainer
307: Carmine Cozzoline
Restaurant Owner/Chef
306: Alison Noonan
305: Kevin Meyerson
Rainbow Japan Inc. President
304: Randy McGraw
DirecTV Marketing Manager
303: Roy Ron
302: Antonio Plozay-Liberatore
Economist/TV Talent
300: Miguel Angel

Issues 250-299

Issues 150-199