Pho, School, & Country Living: B-Girl Ami’s Other Side
Turns out Ami-san is just like any other college-going, pho-eating, farm-loving breaker.
After watching her battles and the Red Bull features on her, I’d built up this image of her as fierce. A competitor. A warrior.
And she is--when she dances.
But when you’re just hanging out, she’s low key, down to earth, easy to talk to. She smiles and laughs a lot. She picks up on jokes easily.
So, it was cool getting to pick her brain, hear about her life before and after BC One, and find out more about her on a human level.
The Break Life:
Q: Do you feel like your life changed dramatically after you won BC One?
A: I definitely have more opportunities to travel. But I’ve still got college and everything.
Of course, my life has changed. But it’s not like my general lifestyle has just completely shifted. And there are things about my life that I don’t want to change so much. So, it’s not like I won BC One and now bam! I have to commit my life to breaking. There’s a balance to my life that I like.
Q: You worked before, right?
A: Yes. At a korean bbq restaurant.
Q: Do you still?
A: So actually, when I knew I was going to compete in BC One, I wanted to focus on preparing for the competition so I quit. I knew I wouldn’t have time to work and train.
Q: How’s your life balance now?
A: It’s actually easier now than it was back then. Although with all the travel, it’s hard to find the time to train.
But before, I had to work. And I had school. And I wanted to train. So there was really no down time. And my first two years of college were pretty tough, I had a heavy course load that kept me busy.
I was leaving my house at 7am, getting back at 1am the next day. And that was basically every day during the week. Leave the house. School. Practice. Go home. Leave the house. School. Work. Practice. Go home. So that was a pretty crazy period.
(Ami majors in English Language and Western Culture)
Hobbies, Goals, Travel:
Q: Do you have any hobbies other than breaking?
A: Aside from breaking, I like sewing. Other than sewing, I like to make things--stay at home and craft.
It’s those times I don’t want to think about breaking, and need some other thing I can just focus on and let my mind wander. I like that feeling of focusing on something else.
Q: Do you have life goals as a person?
A: I’d like to have a garden when I’m older.
Seriously, when I’m a granny, I want to live in the countryside and have a garden. That’s my life goal.
Q: You like the country lifestyle? A: For sure. Even when I travel, even when I’m in the States, rather than thinking like “Man, I wanna go to New York City,” I’d rather go to the park.
Q: You prefer nature?
A: Yeah. In Europe, I like passing through more rural areas on the train. I mean with dance, it’s more convenient to live in the city, right? But I’m from Saitama (photo), and there’s rivers, there’s trees.
Q: If you could travel, where would you want to go?
A: I want to go backpacking. With my college load so crazy, I just haven’t had time. So after the course load clears up and things get a little bit easier, I’m going to make it happen. I really want to backpack my way through Southeast Asia.
About B-girls in Japan:
Q: What was it like coming up in the Japanese scene?
A: When I started breaking, there were b-girls in the scene, but not a lot of them. Over in Kansai (West Japan) there was KAKB, but in Kantou (East Japan), it was probably just me. Which actually allowed me a lot of shine.
But in terms of the scene right now, it’s dope that there are a lot of kids and a lot of b-girls. And when you go to jams in Japan, it’s a mix of b-boys and b-girls battling at the same level. I think it’s a good thing that there’s b-girls that can battle at that high level.
Q: Why do you think there are so many b-girls in Japan? I mean, compared to places abroad.
A: Well, I’m not totally sure how most b-girls are practicing abroad, but when I’ve traveled I’ve seen--and this can be a good thing--people who are like “let’s go easy” at practice. And I don’t mean that this is always a bad thing, but sometimes it can seem a little lax.
There’s tons of jams in the States, right? So in the U.S., you can go to big jams pretty easily. But if you’re a Japanese b-girl and you want to go to a big jam, you’ve got to travel for it. And if the jam is in the States, that’s a time investment, and it takes money. And for some, you’ve got to win a qualifier in Japan if you’re going to travel. So people aim for that and practice like crazy.
I actually think the fact that the US is so far from Japan (geographically) is motivating for people in Japan.
So, if we’re talking about bad aspects of this, Japanese dancers sometimes get too caught up in wanting to win. They get stoic. Sometimes they forget that it’s fun to dance.
But if we’re talking about positive aspects of it, people know that they have to win to travel and get to the next level, so it’s very motivating.
Q: How’s your family feel about your dancing?
A: Totally supportive. They’re always cheering me on. But it’s not like they’re putting pressure on me to win.
Even when I won BC One, they weren’t happy for me because I won, they were happy for me because I was happy that I won. So even if I lose and had a good time, they’re happy about it. So yeah, the family is super supportive.
The first time I went abroad for a jam was Australia. My Mom paid for that trip.
And she paid for dance lessons. When I was still in elementary school--I mean, I didn’t realize it at the time, but dance lessons can be pretty expensive, right? And my mom still paid for them and supported me.
Q: Has your mom seen you battle?
A: Yeah, she comes to events and stuff. But like for BC One, she knows I’m nervous so she doesn’t go. Because she’s nervous too and doesn’t want to make it worse (laughs). So even if I’m in a big jam and there’s a livestream, she gets too nervous and won’t watch it. She’ll wait until it’s over and then she’ll watch.
Thoughts on Culture/Jams Abroad:
Q: Do you notice anything different about jams when you travel?
A: Maybe jams abroad are a little more open. Like in Japan, say you have someone that’s really dope--in Japan, unless you know the person, you’re not going to go up to them and be like “Hey you’re dope.”
But in the States, people will go up to you after a battle and be like “Hey, good job.” And I actually think that’s pretty cool. If you win or lose, if you did well there’s people that will be like “Good job.”
Q: Folks in Japan don’t really do that?
A: I mean, your crew, maybe. But people you don’t know? Well, if you end up in an actual conversation with them, maybe. But I don’t know--I don’t really get the feeling I’ve ever seen someone in Japan just be like “Hey, good job” to someone they didn’t really know.
Like maybe it’s just a people-culture thing, though. I mean, in the States, you can just be walking around and someone might be like “Hey I like your shirt!” even if you don’t know them. But if you were walking around in Japan and said “Hey I like your shirt!” people would just be like “Huh?”
Q: Anything you miss when you travel?
A: Miso soup. And oden (photo).
I mean, even in Japan, like during the summer. So, oden is out during the winter, right? But you can’t really find it during the summer. So I’ll stock up on it, put it in the fridge.
And I mean, when I travel, it’s not like I’m like “Man, I gotta eat Japanese food.” But yeah, salad. When you’re eating a bunch of heavy stuff, I want something healthy.
Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: Until recently, Korean bbq. But it’s not like I eat a ton of it anymore. Hm. Probably cheese (laughs). But that’s not actually like food-food. I like cashews.
But if we’re talking about food-food, I’m into pho. There’s none in Japan, and I think that’s why I love it so much. When I come Stateside, I’m like “I gotta eat pho!”
Requisite End-of-Interview Advice Question:
Q: Do you have any advice for b-girls?
A: For b-girls? Nah!
I mean, the specific advice I want to give is going to vary from person to person.
But if I had to, I’d say it’s advice for b-boys, b-girls, and kids in general. Do what you want. I had a period when there were things I felt like I had to do. But when you think about what you “have” to do, and that’s in conflict with what you “want” to do, it’ll get frustrating.
So if there’s moves you want to get, go all in on them. If you think “Dang, I gotta do these big moves to win,” that’s the wrong way to do it. If you think “Dang, that move is cool, I wanna do that,” then go for it.
For me, b-boy, b-girl, kid breaker, doesn’t matter. Do what you want.