American composer, arranger and violinist Chad Cannon's first encounter with Japan came via a Nintendo video game called Ninja Gaiden, which he and his fellow childhood gamers in Salt Lake City, Utah, mispronounced as "Ninja Gayden." Later, an older sister, also a musician, would return from a tour of Japan bearing a gift shop special: a Hokkaido-shaped clock that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Now 33, Cannon is an accomplished artist immersed in Japanese culture. He has toured with the renowned violinist Midori Goto, and performed solo concerts in schools and evacuation centers throughout the devastated Tohoku region after the March 11, 2011 disasters. In 2016, he composed the original score for the award-winning Hiroshima documentary, "Paper Lanterns," whose recording features shakuhachi flute player Kojiro Umezaki and vocalist/lyricist Mai Fujisawa.

Fujisawa's father, veteran composer and conductor Joe Hisaishi, best known as the man behind the music of anime maestro Hayao Miyazaki's films, is why Cannon was back in Tokyo last week for two long days of studio work. Since 2017, the duo have become musical collaborators, and Hisaishi asked Cannon to create the arrangements for his latest score: the soundtrack for "Ni no Kuni," an anime feature film based on a Studio Ghibli-inspired video game series, developed by Level-5. The film will be released in Japan on Aug. 23.