You may know Eden Kai as Yusuke from Terrace House: Aloha State if, like me, you’ve ended up in a reality TV hole when binging on Netflix. Seasons have come and gone, and Eden is continuing to pursue his music career, among other endeavors. Offcultured recently spoke with him through Zoom to catch up, talk about how he’s kept busy since the pandemic, as well as its impact on musicians and the AAPI community.
Offcultured (Tiffany): How have you been doing?
Eden Kai: I’ve been doing good. I’ve been really busy. It’s actually been pretty hectic trying to create the ukulele online course . . . But hectic in a positive way. I’m super excited and also trying to be active on YouTube. It’s just the whole editing process . . . I’m certainly learning a lot for sure.
Last year, everything came to a sudden stop for everyone, especially musicians, as a lot of festivals and concerts were canceled. Unable to do live shows, many took an alternative route by hosting the occasional livestreamed concert with at least a small fee. While many of Eden’s shows were canceled, he found a unique way to respond to the sudden free time by doing 100 days of daily livestreams across social media; in which he’d play music and interact with fans.
OC: What inspired you to conduct the Everyday Livestream?
EK: Back in 2020, I was really bummed out and shocked when I knew all my gigs had been canceled. The first thing that came to mind is I had to do something just because I’m a person that doesn’t want to do nothing during this whole lockdown and pandemic. Everyday Livestream wouldn’t have happened if there weren’t people supporting me to keep going. I’m super grateful and blessed . . . I’m sure a lot of stuff that happened during the 100 days livestream were unreal, but I’m glad I went through and it was definitely a great experience because I got to learn something new every day. Not just that, but it definitely helped build my communication skills because I hardly talk to anyone aside from my family if the whole streaming didn’t happen so I’m super glad. In a good way, it was totally new for me and it was a great chance to start something new.
OC: The last year has been challenging everywhere, especially in the States; where there’s also been an increase in hate crimes directed towards the AAPI community. I imagine it’s kind of wild to see from Hawaii. What has been the Hawaiian reaction to this, considering the large Asian community there, having to witness the rest of the States like this?
EK: It’s pretty sad. I have been seeing a lot of peoples’ posts on the feed and I’ve been educating myself. In Hawaii, if I’m talking about [racial] attacks, it’s fairly safe because we probably have the highest amount of Asians . . . I’m not from the U.S., I’m from Tokyo; but I’ve heard a lot of stories from my dad, who is born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and he experienced a lot. Up to middle school or so, he told me he was the only Asian throughout the entire school . . . It’s been very tough for me to describe, but I’m all about positivity; and I’m sure people are going through a lot. Not just attacks but the financial issues, jobs, lots of other stuff, and so I just want to spread positivity . . . Definitely stay healthy, stay safe as always.
OC: You’re such a positive person, especially considering that it’s not always been easy for you as you’ve often had to face criticism as a public figure on TV and a musician. As we mentioned, a lot of people are struggling right now. Some just to stay motivated to keep working, keep going. Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with that right now?
EK: Definitely never give up. I don’t want to be irresponsible with this, but you’re never going to know how close you are. I’m not talking about just music in general . . . I see their point, but a lot of my friends are dropping out of college during their last year or so.
OC: It’s safe to say a large number of your fanbase came to know you through Terrace House, especially international fans like myself. What do you think the appeal for the show is for international viewers?
EK: I didn’t know the show itself was going to be this big. I thought it was just going to be marketed in Japan but after receiving multiple comments from people who live outside Japan, foreigners . . . It’s really mind-blowing. I think what caught the interest was the cultural differences. It’s pretty different from the typical reality show or what I imagine, people screaming and fighting all the time, more aggressive, more intense . . . It’s really cool. I’m confident to say it definitely changed my life, and I wouldn’t be here right here right now if it didn’t happen.
OC: Do you have a favorite Terrace House memory?
EK: Talking with everyone else. I know that sounds so brief, but since I was the youngest — I think a couple of days after I turned 18 — I was a senior in high school and I was not sure if I wanted to attend music college. Since everyone was older, a lot more mature than me, I received plenty of advice and all of the stories I heard was very fresh. I thought I knew everything, but at the end of the day, I didn’t know anything about it so it was very cool just learning something new.
OC: You made a lot of new friends, too, because you guys keep in touch—or that’s at least what it seems like! Because I saw you post another picture another day…
EK: Recently, Anna was back, so we had a little reunion, but just for people in Honolulu. Aloha State is the one and only series that is technically outside of Japan so it’s really cool, really unique; but everyone lives in different places, so that’s why it’s kind of hard to meet up, especially nowadays, but I’m very glad because I hadn’t seen them for a while.
OC: You’re originally from Japan, but you’ve now lived in Hawaii for a while. Was it challenging to adapt from one culture to the next?
EK: Definitely. First couple of years, everything was brand new. Not just the language, but the whole environment. Like the school lunch system, couples holding hands inside campus. That was pretty new to me, too. Not sure about high school, but at least in public middle schools in Japan, they hide it.
OC: Not only are you multicultural, but you’re very multifaceted. You play ukulele, guitar, you sing, you’re a songwriter. What have you been up to lately?
EK: Recently, I’ve started working with a company based in Korea called Class 101. They never had a ukulele class that was Japanese, so they reached out to me to create a ukulele online course . . . Just been creating content, or if there’s a huge event going on in Hawaii, I try to go out of my comfort zone and just meet everyone and try to talk. I really love meeting new people as well.
OC: I know you mentioned that you were interested in doing more acting. Are you still pursuing that?
EK: I did appear or played multiple roles on a short TV drama—Japanese TV dramas filmed in Hawaii and Japan, but since COVID, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. If there are any opportunities, I would more than love to be part of it . . . I do still really feel passionate about acting or entertaining people.
OC: Is there a specific role you’d be interested in doing?
EK: I would love to do some kind of comedy because a lot of people only know part of me from the show, most of it was really serious; acting so sad, getting rejected all the time. So, I now really want to show my fun parts because that’s just minimum of what they showed on the actual episode. There’s a lot more stuff going on, so I’d like to show my fun side.
OC: I believe you released three singles last year, and the one at the end of the year, “Beautiful Girl,” was about your sister, right? I saw the music video and thought it was so awesome and commendable that you made it happen in quarantine.
EK: Thank you, but it wouldn’t happen if my fans or friends didn’t reach out to me, send me their clips and stuff. You’re right, I did shoot everything in lockdown at home. With me alone, I don’t know if it’s good enough for music video, so I’m truly grateful for all the help I received creating this music video.
OC: What can you tell us about your latest single, “Friendzone”?
EK: This song was made a while back, but from my personal feeling and emotions, I just needed to get it right; so [“Friendzone”] took an entire year to be prepared. It’ll be my last song as Yusuke for the theme. After this, the story for Yusuke will be complete. So I’ll be happy if you could take a listen while imagining the scenarios of Yusuke’s life after. Some people might really like it, and some might not. But I want to be an artist without being specifically categorized where people have no idea what’s coming next.
Check out “Friendzone,” the sequel to Eden’s original song “Monogatari”.
Written by Eden, the track was produced by Kazumi Shimokawa.
For more on Eden Kai, visit his website and YouTube channel.
Interested in ukulele lessons with Eden? Sign up here!
Header: Eden Kai (Instagram)