For Japanese jazz musicians these days, going to the United States to further mastery of the genre is a much-pursued rite of passage. This route has enabled a number of acts to gain international recognition and success.

The first person to venture out on this path, though, was pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi. She was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame in 1999 and is a recipient of the NEA Jazz Master Award in 2007 (in both cases, the first — and so far only — Japanese artist to receive the honors). She has also racked up 14 Grammy Award nominations and is in many ways the first lady of Japanese jazz.

The 83-year-old was born in Manchuria to Japanese emigrants, who later relocated to Beppu, Oita Prefecture, after the war.