Ryoko Moriyama, daughter of Nisei jazz legend, performs in SF


Ryoko Moriyama. photo by Daisuke Tagawa/Nichi Bei Weekly

Ryoko Moriyama. photo by Daisuke Tagawa/Nichi Bei Weekly

Acclaimed Japanese singer Ryoko Moriyama, daughter of a San Francisco-born Nisei jazz musician, performed at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California’s annual New Year’s party on Jan. 8. Her first visit to the city in several years, Moriyama, whose hits include “Kinjirareta Koi,” “Nada Sōsō,” “Anata ga Sukide,” and “Satokibi Batake,” sang for a sold-out crowd at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.

At a press conference on Jan. 7, Moriyama reflected on the growth she’s achieved as a singer over her four-decade career. “I feel like I’m experimenting when I’m on stage, and it’s exciting to feel myself changing, and to hope that I’m getting better and better,” she said. “Whenever I end a concert, I like to celebrate with my audience the time we’ve just spent together, and make them feel something that will make the next day even better. I try to have a positive ending to each event.”

Moriyama’s father, Hisashi Moriyama, struggled to make ends meet as a musician in the United States and left San Francisco for Tokyo in 1934, finding great success as a pioneer of Japanese jazz and performing with legends like Louis Armstrong. Ryoko Moriyama has achieved immense success as well, selling millions of albums and performing at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games held in Nagano, Japan in 1998.

Moriyama described the special significance of visiting San Francisco. “I came here with my family, and we all went to the intersection around Sutter and Buchanan, where my father was raised, and walked all around, despite the cold,” Moriyama said. “As I expected, I felt some sense that it was my father’s hometown, though I’m sure it’s changed a lot. I also heard a lot of stories from my father about San Francisco, so it’s a place that makes me happy.”

Moriyama also reflected on her Japanese American roots, and her unique feelings for the Japanese American community. “When I think of the era that the Nikkei people experienced, they overcame terrible hardships, and because of that, they are so strong and have such a positive energy, and I think they have had truly profound lives,” Moriyama said. “If my father was here, I would have been a Sansei, and my children Yonsei. When I think of that, it’s a strange feeling, and I feel very sentimental.”

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