Eiko was born in Kyoto and raised in Sapporo, Japan. Raised in a traditional Japanese family, she dreamed of one day living in America. Eiko showed signs of being a gifted artist at a young age. She attended Sapporo Otani College and majored in fine art where she learned the craft of oil painting. Her love of music led her to create an all girl band where she sang in various live houses in Japan.
Eiko’s modeling career began when she was in high school. She became a prominent model in Sapporo and Tokyo. Soon after, Eiko made her way to Los Angeles and immediately booked numerous commercial/print campaigns in the American market. Eiko then segued into acting where she’s been able to work for some of the top film/TV productions such as “Eagle Eye,” Virtuosity,” “Burn Notice,” “The West Wing,” “The Young & the Restless,” and “Mystery Men” just to name a few.
Eiko’s also a black belt in a traditional Japanese Karate called Shotokan. She’s won several regional tournaments and competed at the US National Championship.
Eiko most recently completed a role in the film “Ten Year” that premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. She starred alongside an amazing ensemble cast that includes Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Justin Long, Anthony Mackey, Kata Mara & Oscar Issac.
When you think about the last 10 movies you saw, how many times did you see an Asian woman portray a prominent role? Probably none.
Asiance: Eiko, thank you for granting us an interview. It is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell us a little about how you first began modeling in Tokyo?
Eiko: Originally, I started modeling in Sapporo but I always wanted to move to a big city like Tokyo. I had a regular job back then; it gave me so much stress physically and mentally. I worked more than 18 hours a day…not enough time to eat or sleep. In the end, I quit. I thought modeling was the best job for me so I knocked on the door of a modeling agency in Tokyo. Luckily, the first agency took me in. It was a small fashion model agency but good enough for me. After a while, I started thinking about moving to America.
Asiance: When you first moved here you visited New York for a few months then went on to LA. How did you like it here in the states?
Eiko: I liked New York because it’s pretty similar to Tokyo. Unlike LA, there are a lot people in the streets, it’s fast paced and exciting. But living in LA grew on me the longer I lived here. LA’s warm year around and it has a laid back atmosphere. I don’t need excitement all the time in my life. I continued modeling in LA with Ford Models and I started getting a lot of work in commercials.
Asiance: How did you get into acting?
Eiko: Originally, I was not planning to be an actress. It was a progression; I started modeling which lead me to commercials which then lead me to film/TV. After, I worked several small roles in film/TV, I then found my current manager who helped me land more acting jobs.
Asiance: Was it difficult finding American film/TV jobs since you’re a foreigner?
Eiko: Yes, it’s very difficult to find jobs for foreigners…especially for ethnic women with foreign accents. When you think about the last 10 movies you saw, how many times did you see an Asian woman portray a prominent role? Probably none. Even I don’t remember. There is not that much opportunity in this country for woman like me. That said – this country is still the best place in the world for film/TV and has the most work.
Asiance: Tell us about your recent experience on the set of “Burn Notice”.
Eiko: I had never been to Miami before. It was a wonderful experience. The weather was perfect, the hotel was nice, the food was tasty, and the staff and all the cast members were nice and fun to be around. Regarding the acting – I had a few scenes where my character had to act angry and cry at the same location. One day, the shoot was pushed and my scenes were at the end. They had to hurry to shoot my scene because the sun was going down. They kept the camera running and I had to do an angry scene and a crying scene repeatedly without interruption. It was difficult. They ended up not using the angry one because there was not enough time in the show!
Asiance: You are also appearing in the soon to be released film, “Ten Year”. What is it about and what role did you play?
Eiko: The story is about a 10 years high school reunion where a group of high school friends get back together to share stories, relive memories, and resolve past issues. It’s a story that most people will be able to relate to and connect with. It has an amazing ensemble cast that includes Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Rosario Dawson, and Anthony Mackie just to name a few. I played Suki, a Japanese girlfriend of one of the main characters portrayed by Scott Porter. For my character, it was a first time visit to America. Suki didn’t talk much but she was very excited to visit her boyfriend’s home town in the America and meet the people he grew up with.
Asiance: How was your experience shooting “Ten Year”?
Eiko: The whole cast was staying at the same hotel in Albuquerque, NM for over a month. It was a fun and unique experience. It’s such a small town so there weren’t too many places to go. We ended up in the same bar/ restaurant in the hotel every day. Sometimes we hung around one of the cast member’s rooms and played Xbox or watched TV. I felt like we were all close friends. Regarding the shoot – It was a blast; there was a lot improvisation and spontaneous moments which kept it fun every day.
Asiance: Do you still do modeling work?
Eiko: Yes I do. Not fashion anymore but a lot of commercials and commercial print work.
Asiance: I also understand you are a big action movie fan and have been honing your martial arts skills. What have you been learning and how is it going?
Eiko: I’m a black belt in Shotokan Karate and constantly practice 3-5 times a week. I won Regional championships several times and 3rd place at the US national championship last year. I’m also a co-owner of Valley Martial Arts Center – a martial arts studio in North Hollywood. I love karate. Karate changed my life and is now a big part of my life.
Asiance: At times you have worked hard to get where you are today. Working at low paying jobs and asking to stay at friends houses. What do you attribute your success to?
Eiko: As do most people, I had so many things happen in my life. When I tell my story, everyone says I should make a movie out of it. I moved to many places, tried many jobs, and have met many interesting people. It’s all been a great learning experience and has made me the person I am today. I feel like I have a long way to go when I compare myself to established actors. I try to think that success comes from within. Do the job you’re happy doing and you feel content. In my present state, I feel I’ve succeeded. I’m not fully content but I’m pretty happy with my accomplishments.
Asiance: Do you have any advice for someone who may want to try modeling or acting themselves?
Eiko: I believe it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world, so prepare for it mentally. Regardless, if you succeed or fail, I think a person who has the courage to try hard in a difficult industry is so much better off in the long run as human being as opposed to a person who is afraid to try at all. Get used to rejection and discouragement. Don’t stress out, enjoy every moment, and know you’re lucky to be there. When there are obstacles in your path, just keep going. It’s really all about perseverance and staying positive. That’s what I’ve been doing.