My Sister Know Why Podcast
“Hi, and welcome! I’m Ang,”
“and I’m Claud, and this is the My Sisters Knows Why podcast.”
Cue upbeat music . . .
I’m listening to the My Sisters Knows Why podcast, where Ang and Claud are talking about mochi and its relationship to Japanese Canadian traditions and culture, before moving on to obon, and then the Japanese Canadian picnic at the Toronto Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. It’s a sweet discussion and one familiar to anyone who grew up in a multigenerational Japanese Canadian home.
The podcast, you’ve figured out by now, is created by two sisters, Claudia Tanabe and Angela Tanabe, who live in southern Ontario. The podcast launched in July of 2020, a several months that the country went into lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
With light, breezy banter and the ease that comes from growing up together, Ang and Claud cover a wide range of topics. The episode I’m listening to is not typical, as the two sisters trade memories of growing up with Japanese Canadian customs, rather than delving into a specific question.
Typically one sister asks the other a provocative question, ranging from “Does Birth Order Affect Personality and Intelligence” in their first ever episode, through “How Does Nostalgia Work?,” to “Why Do We Get Déjà vu?,” and a whole range of other questions that many of us maybe never think to ask.
I spoke to the sisters by email.
Bulletin Interview – Angela & Claudia Tanabe
You’re from Mississauga, Ontario, which is strange as I’m giving a presentation this weekend called from Mio to Mississauga, Mio being the small fishing village that sent most of its young men to populate Steveston in the late 1800s. And Mississauga being a city I’ve never been to but sounds about as far away from a Japanese fishing village as you can get. And has a cool name.
Let’s start off with some basic questions. What’s your family’s story – how did you end up in Mississauga?
Ang So our grandparents on our Dad’s side are Japanese Canadians who originally resided in British Columbia. Once World War II was underway they were both sent to internment camps as kids, and in being forced to leave their homes, their families were relocated to Ontario in Toronto and the surrounding areas. Our grandparents met in downtown Toronto, they got married and started a family in Scarborough. Our Dad went to McMaster University where he met our Mom, and they decided to settle down in Mississauga to have a family.
I have to admit, I got really confused listening to your podcast in terms of who is who – who is asking who what, who’s the oldest, etc. Maybe you can help me out with a general breakdown of who’s who. And who’s the sister who knows?
Ang We get this a lot! We have had people say that we sound very similar! I’m older than Claud by two years, but I’m the middle child in the family and Claud is the youngest. I’ve been told that I have a soothing voice by a couple of people, so that’s one way you can try to differentiate us.
Claud I don’t really see the similarities when we talk to each other during the recording of the episodes but once I start editing it I understand what people mean. It also doesn’t help that we have moments when we say the same thing at the same time. In terms of something that can help tell us apart is I think I have a more distinct laugh and maybe a deeper voice then Ang.
We started off the podcast with me asking Ang the questions, but now we alternate every week with who asks the question. So for example one week I asked Ang “Why do we have lactose intolerance?” and then Ang asked me “What does the Medium is the Message mean?” the next week.
Ang We’ve learned that we both know lots of things! But just in different areas of interests and topics!
Claud I’m more knowledgeable in areas of technology and arts because I went to college for Broadcast Television/Videography and Marketing Management.
Ang And I went to school for Kinesiology (the study of human movement) so I focus more on topics related to science and the human body.
What was the impetus behind starting this podcast?
Claud I believe it was month three of being stuck in the house because of COVID-19 when the idea of starting a podcast came to mind. It was out of both boredom and curiosity that got us really wanting to do this. I always had questions for Ang that seemed like everyone should know but it’s not something that you were ever really taught. And my motto with the podcast is if I have a question then at least one other person might have it as well. It took us about a month to get set up and feel prepared to record our first episode, and the rest was history.
Ang Yeah I’ve always joked we should start a podcast because we are hilarious people, but when Claud brought up that she was serious about starting a podcast I was all in.
It sounds like you’re having fun but I’m sure there a lot of hard work behind the scenes that we as listeners are not aware of. What’s the hardest thing about putting together not only one episode, but one a week, week after week?
Claud I definitely think the hardest part is finding time to record an episode. As I am still in school, we need to work around that schedule and also take into account Ang’s schedule. Obviously we are not in a proper recording studio…yet, so we need to ensure that everyone else in the house is on the quieter side. With that said, once we start recording it is such a blast!
Ang I would agree with Claud! I also spend a lot of time thinking of podcast topics and how I can make a 25 minute episode out of it, and if it’s even interesting enough that people would want to listen to it.
You guys sound close, at least on air. Is it easy working together? Have you learned things about yourselves and each other doing this podcast together?
Ang We were close before starting the podcast but doing it every week has definitely made us closer. I find it really easy to talk to Claud during the episodes, she is always making some great insights and goes to places I sometimes don’t even think of. The information that Claud does and does not know continues to surprise me. Sometimes I find myself going “you didn’t know that?!” and have to remind myself that those moments are why we started the podcast!
Claud Sometimes life can get really busy and we forget to really appreciate the people that are around us, so yes we were close before but I think through all this we’ve gotten even closer. It still amazes me that Ang knows so much about certain topics.
I imagine you’ve grown into the job – what kind of growth have you seen doing this podcast?
Claud If you were to listen to our first episode and then listen to our most recent episode I think there is a huge difference. As editor of the episodes, I’ve noticed the audio quality has gotten a lot better. But I’ve also noticed that the flow has gotten a lot cleaner to the point where I am barely editing the podcasts.
Ang I definitely think I’ve gotten better at structuring my episodes so it’s easier to explain the information, but also allow for an easy conversation between myself and Claud. We always welcome feedback and have gotten a couple of direct messages from friends and family supporting the podcast but also giving their two cents into how it should be done.
Are there any no-go zones, questions you won’t tackle?
Ang I would say there are a couple of topics we will steer clear of. Probably anything really political or any topic that is really controversial, such as Pro Life vs. Pro Choice. Our goal of this podcast is to inform people topics that they may not know about, or are hesitant about asking another person, and we want to avoid pushing our opinions on our listeners.
Claud I agree with Ang, our goal isn’t to change people’s minds on certain views, it’s to further educate people so they can make their own decisions.
I was jumping around listening to various episodes, but one question and answer struck me. You were talking about nostalgia, for instance, how listening to music that makes you nostalgic triggers different chemicals in the brain. More interesting to me was the bit about the relationship between nostalgia and resilience. I’ve been interested lately in questions around resilience as it pertains to the Japanese Canadian community. I wonder if you could put on your answering cap and talk some more about that?
Ang I think when looking back at the history of Japanese Canadians and the hardships they have faced, especially during World War II, you can see an incredible demonstration of resilience among the community. After being forced from their homes to relocate to the interior of Canada, they were still able to create a lasting community and keep traditions alive throughout generations. I think this definitely has to do with actively remembering the past and continuing to do things that makes one nostalgic of happy memories. For our grandparents, they continue to watch Japanese shows and play Japanese music, as well as participate in events held by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre located in Toronto. Continuing to do traditional events that may make them nostalgic of their childhood has strengthened their connection to the community and their heritage.
At last count you’re on episode 35. How many questions do you have inside you! Do you plan to go on indefinitely or do you have an end date in mind?
Claud we currently have a list of topics on a google document we share and we are constantly adding topics to the list. Even during the recording of episodes there have been moments where we think of a topic that we should discuss further. As of right now we don’t have an end date in mind, as long as people are still enjoying their time listening then we will keep doing our job!
You’re both young, what are your plans for the future, once things return to some sort of normalcy?
Ang Right now I’m applying to post-graduate studies in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy, so hopefully I will be returning to school in the near future, and hopefully it will be on campus and in person. I have really enjoyed doing the podcast with Claud, so even if we have to record virtually due to distance, I still have plans to continue recording with her!
Claud I don’t have a set plan of what I want to do right now but I know I want to continue expanding my education. I definitely want to stay on the creative path in life because that’s where I flourish the most. But I’m only 20 so I have plenty of time to figure it out!
Any advice for aspiring podcasters out there?
Claud Just go for it! Don’t be intimidated by podcasters who have large setups, expensive equipment, and high end editing software. Grab your phone and just start talking. If you are really passionate about something it will come naturally and you’ll grow from there. And if you fail… just try again!
Ang If you are going to start a podcast, make sure you have some sort of structure in mind! You don’t have to plan out the next five shows, but make an outline of what you want to talk about, and organize your thoughts. This will make it clear and concise to your listeners and help you create a theme and story with your episodes.
Do you two have a favourite episode? Can you can talk about what makes it special for you?
Claud Personally my favourite episode so far has been episode 31 Why Do We Have Lactose Intolerance? The reason for this is because there was a genuine interest that I had with almost everything Ang was saying and I kept wanting to learn more about it. I also think this is a topic that almost everyone can relate to, whether someone has it themselves or knows someone who has it, but I don’t think it is common knowledge to the average joe about what is going on with the body when someone has lactose intolerance. And that’s the basis of this podcast, informing people on topics that aren’t always common knowledge.
Ang My favourite episode we have recorded so far is episode 21 Why Do We Say That?. For this episode, I spent about two months compiling a list of sayings that my friends and family have said, but I had no clue as to what they actually mean or why we would even start saying them. After recording, I actually noticed certain phrases used in songs or in books that I would have just glazed over, but I was able to actually know what they mean!
Just in time for this story, you’ve released episode 35 – “What Are Some Japanese Canadian Traditions.” Have you delved much into the Japanese Canadian identity you have inherited from your dad? Can you talk about creating this episode?
Ang We try to learn as much as possible about our Japanese heritage from both our dad and grandma. Growing up, I didn’t know that some of the traditions we celebrated were Japanese to begin with, I thought every family celebrated the new year with a huge feast. But as I became more aware of the special things we do because we are Japanese, it was really exciting. I remember always trying to pick topics that had to do with Japan for school projects and trying to research more about the struggle of Japanese Canadians. As a family we visited the internment camp where our grandparents were placed and that experience really drove me to embrace my heritage and learn more about it. Recently I have been trying to ask my grandma more about her life growing up as a Japanese Canadian, and her family that still resides in Japan.
Researching this episode brought back a lot of happy memories of being with family and being a part of a community. I had to ask my dad some questions about the names of certain food dishes and events at “The Picnic”, and it’s a good thing he is an amazing photographer that documented almost all of the traditions I explained in the episode, as I pulled memories from those pictures as well. Doing research for the episode also showed that although the traditions are mostly the same as those celebrated in Japan, Japanese Canadians have put their own spin on things, and created some new traditions as well.
Do you guys have any final thoughts or comments?
Claud I want to thank all of our listeners who come back every week to listen to Ang and I do what we enjoy doing. I also want to thank our parents and older sister, Gillian, who have supported us the whole way through. It’s been fun and I am excited to keep doing what we’re doing!