We had the good fortune of connecting with Sayaka Yamaguchi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sayaka, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I took a risk when I left physics to pursue an artistic career in the games industry, as I realized I was sacrificing my passion for a path society chose for me. I was unhappy, uninspired, and tired of trying to be someone I wasn’t. All I knew for sure then was that I never wanted to see myself daydreaming about what could’ve been. Risk taking comes with uncertainty, is uncomfortable, and will kick in a fight or flight response. But as long as you keep looking forward and challenging yourself, it will make you stronger and present a fulfilling life with excitement and change.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I often hear that my art sense is a fusion of the east and the west. I love the free spirit and uniqueness of Japanese concept designs, as well as the shape design and focus in communication of western designs. This definitely comes from my background, where although I was born and raised in Japan my school culture was western, and I consumed Japanese and western media together. My favorite animated movies were western like Prince of Egypt, Anastasia, and Hunchback of Notre Dame, while my favorite games were eastern like Drakengard and the Final Fantasy series. I chose to study overseas in San Francisco because I felt there was something about stylized western concept designs that really resonated with me, and I wanted to learn more about the thinking behind such design choices that are very different from Japan.
It was funny because no one around me at the time seemed to share my obsession in art from the entertainment industry, and it felt wrong to pursue because it was not normal. This definitely changed when I went to study art, because everyone around me spoke my language of appreciating art and design, and I felt like I finally fit in somewhere.
Attending art school was definitely a challenge, as I was introduced to a new concept where grades do not necessarily reflect the quality of your work and portfolio and it was entirely up to the student to venture out and hone their skills. I learned to stay focused on my goal with the occasional fun, and have supportive, hard working friends that shared the same values as myself. The connections I made in school are still with me today, and continue to be my pillars of growth.
I am currently freelancing as my work in Japan at a game studio starts in April. Being an international student in the United States and requiring a visa for any work was very hard, and I went through a rigorous interview process remotely with both American and Japanese companies before finding my current company. I am very thankful for my company to accept my art as is, and would definitely say that it is important to do your research and find a place where you are respected and see yourself growing in.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Definitely a trip to the Malibu area and Santa Monica, to experience the beaches! A trip to the Getty Center and Getty Villa for the artsy people, although I enjoy hanging out and relaxing in the gardens as well. We had the best bone marrow tacos at the King & Queen Cantina in Santa Monica, but if they’re craving good sushi SUGARFISH is always a good choice.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would definitely say my parents, teachers and friends deserve recognition for supporting me along the way. When I decided to switch out of physics, I was afraid of what the people I cared about would think about my non-traditional career choice. But they knew from the start that art was what I loved, and encouraged my new endeavor. That allowed me to see my late switch not as a set back, but as a new adventure. I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors who’ve watched me closely through my journey, and amazing friends who have been both my safety net when things were hard, and role model to look up to as we all encouraged each other to grow and excel. Without any of them, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I’m so thankful to have them in my life.