Bill Monroe's driving bluegrass music earned him fans around the world, including Maro Kawabata's homeland of Japan. When Kawabata first caught one of the bluegrass master's performances with his Blue Grass Boys on television in Kyoto, it was 1974 and Kawabata hadn't even hit his teen years yet. He was still just a child, yet the music spoke to him as no other genre had before. So much so that the young Kawabata went out and bought Monroe's recordings, and grew up to put out his own album of bluegrass music, Carolina Blue. The album was issued by Copper Creek in 2001. The musician and Takaharu Kawabata, his brother, put together their own band, the Riverside Brothers. The group's name derived from a translation of the musician's surname. The Kawabata siblings took their band to numerous bluegrass festivals and appeared on Japanese television and radio, as well as different stages throughout Kyoto.
In 1996, bluegrass led Kawabata to Canada, where he embarked on a tour with Tim Dishman, Kenny Stone, and Kaz Inaba. He headed to Oklahoma the following year for the International Bluegrass Festival. That same year, he became a member of the International Band along with Inaba, Missy Raines, Don Rigsby, and Randy Howard. Other musical associations include Buzz Matheson & the Family Pride. In addition to performing and recording, Kawabata also writes songs, including one on Carolina Blue that takes its title, "Samantha," from his daughter's name. The album features Inaba and Raines, as well as Butch Baldassari, Raymond McLain, Jim Hurst, Ron Stewart, Bobby Hicks, Keith Little, and Sammy Shelor. The artist attended U.S. schools before returning to his native country. He became acquainted with the woman who would become his wife, an American named Sandra, in Japan, and the couple crossed the Pacific once again to settle in the U.S. Kawabata and his family live in Ohio.