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star struck

A career kicks off
Japanese-American singer Beni Arashiro’s star is on the rise
By Chris Betros

Courtesy of NFL Japan

If you are at Tokyo Dome on Aug 6 for the NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Indianapolis Colts, you’ll see 19-year-old Beni Arashiro singing the national anthems of Japan and the United States before the game and taking part in a special performance at half-time. In just 14 months, Arashiro has gone from unknown student to recording artist (with five singles), TV ad campaign girl for Kose cosmetics and Glico confectionery as well as ambassador for the NFL in Tokyo.

“When I was a little girl, I never dreamed I would be a singer or even in showbiz,” says Arashiro who speaks fluent English. “Actually, I wanted to be in the FBI, or I thought I’d become a lawyer. But I always liked music. I have played the piano since I was six.” Born in Okinawa to an American father and Japanese mother, Arashiro moved back and forth between Japan and California. She completed her high school education in Kanagawa and is currently studying political science at Sophia University. Her debut into the Japanese showbiz world came two years ago when her mother encouraged her to enter the Bishojo Club (a nationwide contest whose winners go into the modeling and celebrity worlds). “Being a hafu, I didn’t think I’d do any good, but I thought it would be fun to give it a try,” she recalls. To her surprise and delight, she was chosen.

Arashiro, who everyone calls Beni-chan, says she has no problem with the term hafu. “I remember some people used to call me a ‘double,’ but I had no idea what they were talking about. I have both cultures in me and am proud of both. I guess I am more Americanized, though. My English language skills are stronger and I prefer English interviews because I can express myself better.” That’s one of the reasons the NFL asked her to be its ambassador in Tokyo. She recently went to the States to promote the Tokyo Bowl and did some interviews on TV. Performing in front of the Tokyo Dome crowd will be her biggest stage to date. “I love American football and really want to see the game but I know that up until half-time, I’m going to be so nervous,” she says.

For the near future, Arashiro plans to concentrate on her singing career. All five of her singles so far have been in Japanese. “I haven’t done a full CD of English songs yet. I am beginning to write my own lyrics. I’m better at doing that in English than Japanese. For now, I am still trying to find my own style.” She is also serious about finishing her studies. “When I am not at work, I study. I just finished exams last week. My schedule can get really hectic. Some days at the studio, as soon as I am done recording, I take out my laptop and do assignments.”

On the rare days when she doesn’t have to work, Arashiro likes soccer, hip-hop dancing, shopping, watching movies and, last but not least, she is a big Harry Potter fan. “Of course, I got the sixth book last week, but I’m still on the 4th one. I have to catch up this summer.”

NFL Tokyo 2005, Aug 6, Tokyo Dome. See sports listings for details.

 

Q&A

Rie Kihara
It’s all in the beans

Chris Betros

Next time you’re at the Hilton hotel, drop by Rie Coffee in the basement shopping arcade for some gourmet coffee or a mango smoothie. You might even see Rie Kihara herself, if she’s not out and about selling coffee beans to various restaurants, cafés, offices, embassies and organizations.

How did you get into the coffee business?
About 12 years ago, an American friend introduced me to flavored coffee. I thought it was great and so did many of my Japanese friends.

When did you form your company, Rie Coffee?
Eight years ago, but I opened this outlet here at the Hilton four years ago. This is our only shop because I focus on selling coffee beans to restaurants, cafés, offices, the American Club, the ACCJ and so on.

What makes your coffee so good?
We use selected beans and carefully roast each one to bring out its unique flavor. Then we add our own specially developed flavors to give it a rich taste and aroma. We spend hours tasting and evaluating each sample.

What else are you selling?
We are an official importer of the gourmet chocolate Ghirardelli.

How do you market yourself?
I’m sometimes on the QVC 24-hour global shopping channel. We advertise in food magazines. I sponsor some events, such as church charity functions, seminars, etc.

Do you serve behind the counter?
Sometimes. I like to keep my hand in. I have a barista’s certificate.

Do you check out your competition?
Of course. I like to see what they are offering, but I don’t really compete with them.

How many cups of coffee do you drink each day?
At least five, starting with three huge mugs in the morning.

You can order coffee beans, coffee services, gift items and other products from Rie Kihara online at www.riecoffee.com CB

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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