top of page

Samurai Spirit Unveiled: AAPI Heritage Journey Blending Judo, Diplomacy, and Ganbatte in Japan

Commencing Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month, it is opportune to reflect on the notable moments from our recent sojourn to Japan. Our journey commenced in Kumamoto, Japan, from where we ventured to Yatsushiro City. The warmth, graciousness, and hospitality extended by the locals left a lasting impression on us. In Yatsushiro City, paying homage to my Aunt's Tomb held immense sentimental value, particularly as Kanokogi Sensei had not visited his sister's resting place since her passing a few years ago. Connecting with family and friends transformed what could have been a solemn trip into an uplifting experience.

Participating in Kanokogi Sensei's Junior High School reunion, attended by friends from across Japan, further enriched our time in Yatsushiro. Our stay in Kumamoto was enriched by culinary delights such as the finest Gyoza and Sake. Additionally, we had the privilege of visiting Itakusu Sensei and his team of young women judoka at Chuo High School. Our journey also led us to the cave where Miyamoto Musashi penned The Book of 5 Rings, an experience made even more poignant by the discovery of a placard bearing our family name, intertwining Musashi's legacy with our own Samurai lineage, once guardians of Kanokogi Castle, now known as Kumamoto Castle.

Exploring Kumamoto Castle was a surreal experience, imbued with the weight of history and personal significance. Our visit to the Kanokogi Samurai grave site, where Rusty Kanokogi's ashes rest, was deeply moving. Rusty's epitaph, "American Samurai," pays tribute to her tireless efforts in strengthening the bonds between American and Japanese judo and culture. Breaking barriers, Rusty became the first American woman granted a resting place reserved for the male samurai bloodline.

Our journey continued to Tokyo, where we were graciously received at the Kodokan by President Haruki Uemura and Mr. Sanshiro Yamamoto, Manager of the Grading Department. Kanokogi Sensei was accorded the highest honors, evoking memories of his illustrious past. A heartfelt surprise awaited him as he reunited with his original team from Nichidai University, an extraordinary gesture that underscored the enduring bonds of friendship.

While Kanokogi Sensei reminisced with old friends, Carrie and I were given a private tour of the Kodokan Museum and the International Judo Federal (IJF) Hall of Fame (Hof) Section. Stepping into the IJF HoF and seeing Rusty's photo prominently displayed was a poignant reminder of her groundbreaking legacy. Rusty's induction as the first American woman into the IJF HoF epitomizes her enduring impact and trailblazing spirit.

In keeping with Rusty's commitment to fostering cultural exchange and friendship, I had the privilege of meeting Ambassador Mikio Mori, Consul-General of Japan in New York, at his residence to celebrate a Japanese holiday. Our discussions underscored the importance of judo as a vehicle for fostering camaraderie and mutual support. I extend an invitation to all to join us at the Japan Day Parade on May 12, 2024, in NYC, where the NY Area Judo contingent will be prominently featured (

In the spirit of 'Ganbatte,' the Japanese ethos of doing one's best, here are three ways to embrace this mindset each day:

1. Set Clear Goals and Priorities: Define your objectives and prioritize tasks aligned with your long-term goals.

2. Maintain a Positive Mindset: Embrace challenges with optimism and surround yourself with supportive individuals who inspire and uplift you.

3. Practice Discipline and Consistency: Establish daily routines and commit to taking consistent action towards your goals, celebrating small victories along the way.

By embodying the principles of 'Ganbatte,' we can strive for excellence in all our endeavors and foster meaningful connections that transcend cultural boundaries.

Kumamoto Japan Judo people samurai Musashi

Kodak People in Tokyo Judo Team


bottom of page