Storytelling from the Heart
By Sarah Hodges
Sachiko Uchida, a Tokyo native now living on Oahu, Hawaii and collaborating with Still & Moving Center, enjoyed an exciting career as a radio DJ host, interviewing celebrities and prominent people in Japan for the popular Japanese radio station J-Wave. She learned a great deal in the many years that she spent radio DJing from age 18 to 40, and felt as if she was living her dream job, telling stories that could inspire other people as well as herself. So, in 2011 when her radio show came to its end, Sachiko found herself in the depths of the unknown. “I went from interviewing celebrities every day to doing nothing,” Sachiko reflects on her challenging transition. “After my job ended I felt lost. I didn’t know what my identity was without the radio station.”
Sachiko found new opportunities working as an MC, writer, and coordinator. She found a niche in Japanese media work in Hawaii. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, her work stalled because of the global travel restrictions. As she continued through the unknown, Sachiko’s lessons from her parents, as well as from the many inspirational people she had interviewed, supported her in staying (mostly) upbeat. Although it was not realistic to feel only positive emotions during the challenge of losing the job she had loved so much, and the further isolation brought on by the pandemic, Sachiko knew that in difficult times lie great opportunities. Despite the discomforts of the moment and not knowing how things would progress, Sachiko remained confident that if she persisted she would find the opportunity to embrace and grow from the challenges.
Sachiko also had a dream brewing. As soon as she heard the announcement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Sachiko felt called to attend the only Olympics that would be held in her home city during her lifetime. “I wanted to go see the games in Tokyo, the city where I was born and raised. I’m proud of my city and wanted to be a part of this special event,” shared Sachiko. When the time came to buy tickets, she went online to make the purchase only to find that they were sold out, almost immediately. She was not going to let a ticket sell-out stop her dream! Through her connections in Japan and the USA, she searched for other opportunities. Eventually, she secured a phone interview with NBC for a position they were not clearly defining. As a highly experienced radio host and a very capable English-to-Japanese translator, Sachiko delighted the producers at NBC, who offered her the job almost immediately.
Then the world got the news that the Olympics had to be postponed for a year because of the pandemic. When the event was finally scheduled to run in 2021, no public audience was invited to attend. Sachiko awaited news from the TV station, knowing that her chances to work Olympics in person were slim. As she awaited word from NBC, she was finding new ways of dealing with her radio job loss and the isolation. She began journaling every day and researching what inspired her and how she could best share her skills and talents with the world. She got counseling, started exercising and taking more attentive care of her mental health overall.
With good timing, Sachiko connected with Still & Moving Center and began helping to promote the center. Being connected to the studio significantly influenced Sachiko’s health and movement journey, as well as her ability to live more mindfully. She now attends a variety of classes from Qi Gong, to Kaiwa Conversation, to Yoga. “From Still & Moving I learned to really enjoy the processes and not rush things,” says Sachiko, “I’ve learned to be in the moment. I’m really grateful for Still & Moving Center and learning the art of moving meditation.”
Eventually, Sachiko received another call from NBC. She still had the job for the 2020 Olympics being held in 2021! With enough time to do the mandatory 2-week quarantine in Japan, she packed her bags (and her little dog), and set off for Tokyo. She was filled with joy and anticipation for this new experience. Finally – only a few days before flying out of Hawaii – Sachiko learned which show she would work with: THE NBC Today show! She still had little knowledge of what the experience would be like. “I didn’t know whether I could see the games, or meet the athletes,” remembers Sachiko.
She was delighted to find that everybody on the NBC team was very positive, friendly, and professional. “I was very impressed,” says Sachiko. “One night I helped Savannah Guthrie translate the nightly news with the new update from Olympics. After that night the producers were very pleased and told me I had to be on set the whole time.”
Sachiko fulfilled her dream of attending the Olympics in her hometown, and the experience exceeded her wildest expectations. She got a full access pass to see the games, up close and personal, and got lots of behind-the-scenes experiences as well. “I was right there on set as all the big athletes were being interviewed. I got to see gold medal winners upfront, in person,” Sachiko says with gratitude. “I didn’t think the job would be this cool, and it was amazing. I’ve done a lot of hosting, interviewing stars, etcetera, but this experience of working in Tokyo with such top producers and anchors of NBC was a dream on top of a dream come true!”
Sachiko’s experience of working with NBC in the Olympics opened a new beginning. It lifted her from her state of isolation during the previous year and reenergized her with the joy of working as a team and belonging to a community with a common vision. The experience reminded her of what she enjoyed most: telling meaningful stories through media work.
Her new podcast Riding the Wave builds on Sachiko’s Olympic inspiration. Having just gone through a period of overcoming pain and challenges herself, Sachiko wants to share conversations with other people who have overcome hardship and to learn about their process and tools. With this podcast, she hopes she can minimize the stigma of mental health in Japan and let people know that they are not alone. She continues to learn, especially from the stories of her guests – which include Director Renée Tillotson and Operations Manager Neelathi Vadivel of Still & Moving Center!
After a couple years of soul-searching and a great break-through in working at the Olympic Games, Sachiko clearly recognizes her purpose: to tell people’s stories, especially stories that focus on mental health and can potentially help others get through hard times. “Whatever I do I hope I can inspire people to feel better,” says Sachiko.
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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)