Thanksgiving turns deadly for bluegrass student in Raleigh

Hiroshi Arakawa jamming at the 2016 World of Bluegrass convention in Raleigh, NC - photo by Robert Willett, Raleigh News & ObserverWithout fail, the worst part of our job here at Bluegrass Today entails sharing tragic news that befalls our bluegrass community. Such is this story from Thanksgiving Day.

Hiroshi Arakawa, a Japanese student here in the states to study both English and bluegrass music, was involved in a serious auto accident on Thursday evening. He and his girlfriend, Juana Maria Cardona-Alvarez, also here on a student visa from Japan, were traveling to visit a friend in Raleigh, NC when their vehicle was struck by another car while making a turn. Cardona-Alvarez was killed in the crash and Arakawa is hospitalized with critical injuries.

Hiroshi, known as Hiro to friends, was currently studying bluegrass and business at ETSU in Johnson City, TN. 24 years old, he came from his home in Hiroshima to Raleigh with Juana to study English, and had just recently begun classes at ETSU. He is a talented guitarist who, purely by chance, was profiled by David Menconi in the Raleigh News & Observer during the IBMA’s World Of Bluegrass Convention back in September.

He also demonstrated his flatpicking technique for the paper’s Ethan Hyman.


Details of Hiro’s injuries have not been released, but he is currently in a medically-induced coma, and listed in critical but stable condition. The medical staff woke him once over the weekend, and he was able to communicate with them successfully, and then returned to the coma so that he could continue healing.

Dan Boner, Director of the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program at ETSU, shared a few words about Hiro.

“Hiroshi is an incredible guitar player and a sincerely thoughtful human being. It is painful to imagine how difficult it will be for him to recover having lost his best friend, Juana. This is a tragedy for such a young man to endure, and I hope that he may find healing through his music and the bluegrass community that loves and supports him.”

A GoFundMe page has been established to help Arakawa with his medical expenses, and another to assist Juana’s family in Japan with burial and travel costs. In the past few days, people have been extremely generous in donating to these funds, but more is still needed. If your situation allows you to contribute, the families will be most grateful.

It has been quite a shock to Hiro’s bluegrass friends, and the wider population in central North Carolina, to discover that their two guests had been so powerfully affected by this accident.

The Bluegras Today family wishes to share our deepest condolences to Juana’s family, and our best wishes to Hiro as he seeks to recover from his injuries.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.