Steve Aoki wants you to travel to Japan -- and he's launched a podcast to help you get there

Steve Aoki is taking on a new kind of entertainment. 

The celebrated DJ may be most known for his electric performances at the biggest music festivals around the world or for his various hits like "Can't Go Home Without You" and "Just Hold On," but the 41-year-old artist is now venturing into the podcast world

Separate from his family name (his father was Rocky Aoki, former wrestler and founder of Benihana), Aoki has made quite the name for himself with his award-winning collaborations, philanthropic-driven projects and entrepreneurial spirit. And now, he's aiming to spread his love of his Japanese roots and culture with the launch of a 5-episode podcast airing on Spotify

We caught up with the musician to learn more about his love for Japan, his mission behind the podcast and the ultimate travel playlist. 

AOL: In addition to being one of the most famous DJs in the world, you're a philanthropist and entrepreneur -- what made you want to get into podcasts?

Aoki: I’m a big podcast fan and I always wanted to get into podcasts because they’re another avenue for me to connect with my fans on a personal level. The best thing about the talking podcast series I did with All Nippon Airways is that it allowed me to share with my fans all the reasons why I love Japan so much. They are a great partner. We’ve been working together for a few years now, and they really helped me put this all together. Japan is my favorite place in the world, and ANA gave me the platform to share all the reasons why the country is so special to me, from the food to the art to the music and fashion. Our talking podcast is something I’m very proud of. It’s called ‘Aoki ’N Air,’ and you can listen to all five episodes here.   

Steve Aoki out and about
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Steve Aoki out and about
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Steve Aoki hosts ASICS 'Jump Room' In NYC To Celebrate I Move Me Brand Launch on October 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for ASICS)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Steve Aoki Hosts ASICS Boot Camp on October 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for ASICS)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Steve Aoki attends Spotify's inaugural Secret Genius Awards at Vibiana Cathedral on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Musician Steve Aoki (L) and Boxer Alicia Napoleon host ASICS Boot Camp on October 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for ASICS)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 24: Steve Aoki attends Michael Jackson Scream Album Halloween Takeover at TCL Chinese 6 Theatres on October 24, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/Getty Images for SONY Music)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: The Fat Jew and Steve Aoki attend the VH1 Save The Music 20th Anniversary #TurnItUpTo20 Gala at SIR Stage37 on October 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: DJ Khaled and DJ Steve Aoki attend VH1 Save The Music 20th Anniversary Gala at SIR Stage37 on October 16, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for VH1 Save The Music )
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that includes celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human-interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Thursday, October 5 included Jeff Bridges ('Only The Brave'), Isla Fisher ('Marge in Charge) and musical guest Steve Aoki featuring Gucci Mane. (Randy Holmes via Getty Images) STEVE AOKI FEATURING GUCCI MANE, JIMMY KIMMEL
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: Steve Aoki arrives for the premiere of new music from Steve Aoki For STRONG By Zumba at Exchange LA on October 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 19: Musician Steve Aoki speaks during : Creating KOLONY with Steve Aoki at Apple Store Williamsburg on July 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: DJ Steve Aoki performs on the runway at the Kolony Album Release Event & Dim Mak SS18 Collection at Build Studio on July 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: DJ Steve Aoki attends Kolony Album Release Event & Dim Mak SS18 Collection - VIP Reception at Build Studio on July 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Steve Aoki visits at SiriusXM Studios on June 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 06: Steve Aoki attends the Glamour Women of The Year awards 2017 at Berkeley Square Gardens on June 6, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Musician Steve Aoki does a photo shoot in Soho on June 26, 2017 in New York, New York. (Photo by Josiah Kamau/BuzzFoto via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07: Steve Aoki attends the 2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on May 7, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 05: Steve Aoki performs during JMBLYA at Fair Park on May 5, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 19: Steve Aoki arrives to Linkin Park's Music For Relief - Charity Poker Tournament at Taglyan Cultural Complex on April 19, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harmony Gerber/WireImage)
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA - APRIL 11: Steve Aoki attends the 2017 PTTOW! Summit: Love & Courage at Terranea Resort on April 11, 2017 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for PTTOW!)

What impact did the Japanese culture and your family's history play on your childhood? How did your family try to integrate these cultural roots in your siblings' and your upbringing? 

Japanese culture has had a huge impact on my upbringing. My heritage informs everything I do to this day, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve only wanted to learn more and more about where it is I come from. See my parents were very different, but they both instilled very important lessons in me and my siblings. My mother, really embodying traditional Japanese culture, taught us patience, respect, understanding and loyalty. These are things you see and feel when you’re in Japan. There’s just something about the hospitality of the country and the way people treat each other. The biggest thing I learned from my father was his competitive spirit. He ingrained in me a drive that propels me forward in everything I do.  

When you're young, it can definitely be hard to embrace and see value in your family's history. How has that evolved from childhood until now?

I’ve been going to Japan since I was a kid, and I think sometimes as kids we can get a little caught up in figuring out who we are as individuals.

But one of the things I’ve learned throughout the years is that my culture and Japanese heritage are a huge part of who I am. It has shaped everything I have done since I was a kid.

And as I’ve gotten older and spent more time in Japan, my curiosity to learn more about both Japan as a whole, as well as my specific family history has only gotten stronger. My heritage is everything to me. My family’s roots in Japan go back to 1940 when my grandfather started opening restaurants there. The first Benihana is still there in Nihombashi, Japan. It started with the concept of connecting people over food, and that’s a mindset my family and I carry with us today. You can see it in the atmosphere of Blue Tree Cafe, which I opened with my brother Kevin. There are locations in Tokyo, Miami and Hawaii, and I get into all this in more detail in episode three of the podcast, but it’s incredibly important to me that the lessons and values learned from my family history are kept in mind today.  

All Nippon Airways

What draws you to the country? What are some of the biggest cultural differences you've seen?

I’ve visited Japan more times than I can count. I started going when I was younger, and now I go at least once or twice a year. There’s a lot that draws me to the country. It feels like home, but the biggest thing is you get this different kind of experience particularly with the hospitality. It’s different than any other country I’ve been to. The hospitality and the way people treat each other with just this respect is a beautiful thing. And when you leave, you yourself start treating people with more patience and respect and understanding that you learned from being around Japanese people. That’s the biggest cultural difference for me, and it’s one of the main reasons why I love partnering with ANA because together we can bring people to this amazing country and show them all the things that are so incredible about it. Even from the moment you step on an ANA plane, you experience that same kind of hospitality, so I love flying with them because you get that Japanese experience I love so much, even before you land in the country.  

Japan should be next on your travel bucket list
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Japan should be next on your travel bucket list
A view of Mt.Yotei from Mishima's Shibazakura Garden
kabukicho district
Harajuku to Shibuya Street in Harajuku , Japan.Takeshita Street is the famous fashion shopping street next to Harajuku Station
Taken on August 3, 2018 at Yamanakako-mura Yamanashi pref. Japan
Fuji Mountain and Pink Sakura Branches at Kawaguchiko Lake in Spring, Japan
This image shows the mountains of Wakayama in Japan
Pine Tree Reflection in Blue Water at Shirogane Blue Pond in Summer, Japan
Mt Fuji in autumn view from lake Kawaguchiko
Cherry blossom and skytree, Tokyo, Japan
Shinkyo bridge at NIkko in Japan
Skyscrapers in Tokyo's Shinjuku district frame Mt. Fuji at dusk December 11, 2002. At 3,776 metres (12,388 feet), Japan's highest peak is only about 100 km (62 miles) southwest of the capital. Picture taken December 11. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama KM/JD
Asian woman wearing japanese traditional kimono at Fuji mountain, Kawaguchiko lake in Japan.
Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan Tokyo, Japan - January 22 2019:Sensoji Temple at night in Asakusa Tokyo city Japan, Sensoji is the most famous and oldest temple in Tokyo, Japan.
Shinjuku Golden gai, Japan Tokyo

Can you suggest some under-the-radar spots in Japan to add to my travel bucket list?

Some of my favorite spots are the Senso-ji temple, Golden Gai, the Ginza district, the Harajuku fashion district and Shibuya. No matter how many times I go to them, I always find something new. Golden Gai is a bar scene like you’ve never seen in your life. Akihabara is awesome too. It’s a seven-story mall full of arcade games. It’s different from everything else. And that’s what makes these places so incredible. The Senso-jj temple is one of my favorites because you get to really feel Japanese culture while you are there. You can smell the incense burning and really connect. I’m huge into fashion too, so the Harajuku fashion district is one of my favorite places because you can discover all different kinds of fashion there. You walk through these alleyways and encounter some really bizarre, really cool stuff with just this Japanese flair. Food wise, my favorite ramen spots are Afuri ramen and Ippudo. It’s all about the broth when it comes to ramen, and their broth is out of this world. I highly recommend yakitori, chicken skewers, as well. My go-to spot for yakitori is Toriyoshi. I talk about all this and more in the food episode of ‘Aoki ’N Air,’ but Toriyoshi is bomb.  

The flight to Japan is NOT short: What are some songs that are essential for your travel playlist?  

The flight isn’t short at all, but from playing more than 250 shows a year all over the world, I’ve gotten pretty used to it. I actually curated a few Spotify playlists with All Nippon Airways separate from the talking podcast, which include songs inspired by Japanese culture and music to really get you excited for your time in Asia. As for new music I’m digging, I don’t like to limit myself to one specific genre. I like to collaborate with artists across every single genre of music. It really helps me break out of my box and stay creative when it comes to making new music. And so the music I listen to while I’m traveling spans everything. I like to stay inspired and use the time to discover and work on new music.

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