The discussion then moved on to the differences in culture between the U.S. and Japan, and also about cultural exchange. As mentioned earlier, Sakura promotes Japanese culture through karate at the Japanese-American community in Los Angeles.
She explained that it was something natural for her to start this. "When I was living in Japan, I always taught karate to children during break times at my practice sessions, so when I went back to the U.S., I kept on doing the same thing. I naturally carried on doing it because when you teach kids, you get a powerful sense of energy from them."
Sakura raised the warmth of the people as the main reason for making Los Angeles her base, talking a lot about why she likes the place so much. "The people are just so friendly and kind. Everyone's so open, and they're so supportive of me. I also like the environment where I can go hiking or enjoy the sea as a break from practicing. It's really the best environment for someone who does sports."
Mr. Kubota also seemed to have a positive impression on interacting with different cultures, as he told us about an experience where he felt the different style of communication to Japan very interesting. "I've been to U.K. for the world championships, and to Canada for the North American tournament. After the match we would exchange T-shirts and hugs, which is different to Japan. The competitors and the people watching are eager to talk, and it felt very friendly."
Then, the discussion moved on to whether either of them have ever experienced troubles or hardships upon interacting with people from other countries. Sakura talked about the small differences she noticed while in Japan as a college student. "The senior-junior relationship, which is unique to Japan, and the group discipline were the things that stood out. If I went to get a drink of water for myself, I'd find everyone was waiting together when I got back. They'd say 'You're really a free spirit, aren't you?' But it didn't worry me too much."
Mr. Kubota then asked her how she overcame those difficulties of culture when facing them. "I had already come up against the language barrier when I went to the world championship at the age of 14. But actually, I found it interesting. Even if you can't understand what the other person is saying, you can communicate by body language. We both had karate in common, so I found out that it was possible to get across more than you would think."
Sakura went on to talk about the power of sports. "Even though sports is about competing against each other, if we have a same goal or a dream, like wanting to compete at the Olympic Games, it is natural that a bond is built between us. We were all so happy to be here at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and it made us feel united beyond the barriers of language. Sports is really something that goes beyond borders."