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Before he became one of Japan’s best-loved jazz musicians, saxophone player Sadao Watanabe was one of the first Japanese musicians to study in the United States. As a young man he studied at Berklee College of Music, in Boston.

“Back then, the journey was long. It wasn’t easy to just hop over to the U.S.,” he says. But now there are jazz studies departments throughout the world, and young Japanese students aspiring to study jazz at Berklee are not uncommon. At the time, however, only pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi had gone ahead of Watanabe to Berklee, which was the only university in the world where a musician could study jazz. Along with Akiyoshi, and pianist Masahiko Satoh, who immediately followed him at Berklee, Watanabe helped to lay the groundwork for Japanese jazz in the postwar era.

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