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Postcards from Japan: Turning anime passion into a living with Shao Dow

Award-winning rapper and manga author, Shao Dow 

Like many of us, Shao Dow’s fervent love for anime and manga was what hooked him to Japan and ever since the days of Pokémon, he has not looked back! From making anime-inspired music to creating his own manga series, Shao has done more than just dip his toes into Japanese pop culture and he is nowhere near finished! Join us for this interview as Shao takes us on a wild tour through his inspirations, creative process and all he has in store for the future.

Hey Shao! Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Hey! I’m Shao Dow, an award-winning rapper, manga author and occasional ninja. I lived in China for a bit when I was younger and trained in Shaolin Kung Fu. Now, I make anime and gaming-inspired music and rap, in both English and Japanese.

How did you come to be a Japan fan and what about it continues to appeal to you?

Anime, anime, anime! Dragon ball Z was my gateway drug. I started watching it without even knowing what anime was. I then fell into other shows such as Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing and when I discovered Pokemon, it was all over for me!

At first, I watched it all in English dub, not even realising that ‘subbed’ was an option. But being the sort of person that likes to experience things in their original form, I eventually started watching in Japanese with English subtitles. 

From there, I discovered so much about Japan and Japanese culture. And the more I discovered, the more I wanted to discover.

I enjoy the food, the architecture, the games and, of course, the anime. I LOVE the language and found learning Japanese fascinating. To be honest, I think I’m mainly learning just so I can watch anime without subtitles!

Incidentally, I eventually worked with the voice actor for Goku (Sean Schemmel) a few years ago and it really was a dream come true for me.

Multi-talented rapper Shao Dow in action

How would you describe your music and what does the process of making a song look like for you?

I just make music about things I’m passionate about but I still try to present it in a way that’s accessible for a wider audience.

Basically, my music is DOPE and I would strongly recommend checking it out!

If I’m making an anime-inspired song, I make sure to watch the anime and read the manga. I research it inside and out and become an expert on the show as much as possible. Only then will I start writing with the intention of capturing the essence of the show and transforming it into musical form.

My music videos are also an extension of my artistry. I make anime-inspired videos as well as fully-original, animated videos so definitely check those out too!

What is the one thing you would import into the UK from Japan, if you could? (can be an item, a custom, a phenomenon etc)

Swords. Really beautiful, traditionally-made, high-quality swords. I wish they’d let me carry a sword on my hip here in the UK, but they are haters in this country.

Which anime would you recommend to someone who’s looking to get into it but is overwhelmed by choice?

Probably Death Note; it’s a classic with a great story and it’s not too long. It also showcases how intricate and intriguing anime storylines can be - it’s not just cartoons for children!

What was it like competing on Ninja Warrior UK?

It was awesome and a lot more difficult than it looks, but one of those things that I’m SO glad I did. It definitely solidified my status as a ninja rapper!

Japanese 'kushikatsu' or deep-fried skewered meat

Where in Japan are you most wanting to go?

Everywhere! I performed in Tokyo a few years ago but I’d really like to explore more of Japan. I want to try Kobe beef, I want to see the deer in Nara, see Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido. I’d love to experience a traditional Japanese hotel and bathe in a hot spring. 

Basically, I want to experience as much of the country as possible whilst trying to speak as much Japanese as I can!

Where can people see you perform?

The best place to find out where and when I’m performing is on my website. If you sign up to my mailing list too, I can keep you fully updated!

Right now, I’m out in America performing at some anime conventions and other events, but I’ll be back in the UK soon.

Shao striking a pose on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo

What are the next career goals for you?

Too many things but to put it simply, more music, more live performances, more travelling and more manga.

I have a manga series called ‘The Way of Shao’. It’s set in a world where musicians have special powers and abilities that grow as their fan-base increases. Volume 1 is already out and I’m currently working on volume 2. If you’d like to find out more, visit here.

I’ve also recently launched a new 2nd YouTube Channel called ‘Shao Go!’ It focuses on my interests outside of music, including gaming, training, travel and cooking. You can check it out here.

And I've also just been nominated for an independent music award. Basically, plenty more cool stuff to come from me.

Thank you for your time!
Thanks for talking to me.


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