During a business trip to Tokyo, Cynthia Futa Miyashita huddled with a few potential clients in a karaoke bar.

As is the custom in such bars, each member of the group got up to sing.Ms. Miyashita's group - the men somewhat inebriated - duly began its performance.

When her turn came, Ms. Miyashita got up and piped out a tune. She didn't think twice, she said.

What she didn't know was that she was the first American executive who had been willing to stand up and sing in front of potential clients.

At least that's what the men - who later became her clients - told her.

"Most American men feel their self-image would be tarnished if they did something embarrassing like that in public," Ms. Miyashita said.

In a line of work where many have floundered, her clients say, Ms. Miyashita doesn't shy away from whatever it takes to make a winning difference.

That line of work: helping companies, particularly publishing companies, sell their products in Pacific Rim markets. She is one of the growing number of executives leading the United States into the Pacific market.

"Cynthia," said one client, "has a remarkable amount of knowledge about the Pacific Rim countries and what works there. She really seems to have a hold on what marketing strategies work."

From her cozy office perched on the lip of the San Francisco Bay, Ms. Miyashita reflects on the long, hard climb from the day she struck out on her own.

During the 1980s, she said, she thought she was working her way through the ranks of the publicly funded American Water Works Association in Denver.

As a member of the marketing staff, she was given increasing responsibilities for the association's international marketing activities. More clout did not mean more money, however.

After repeatedly being denied a raise, she began to suspect something other than job performance was involved.

Her suspicions were not diminished by the discovery of a department social club that used a derogatory name, supposedly for members who spent many hours traveling to industry conventions. She said she felt the club exemplified what she considered to be a racist work environment.

Ms. Miyashita protested; she was fired.

She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won. But she was still out of work.

"So there I was without a job and I started thinking about this company," she said.

Out on Her Own

In 1986, she took $10,000 she had saved and launched Hemisphere Marketing Inc. Soon afterward, she picked up and moved to San Francisco.

Today, Hemisphere Marketing pulls in seven-digit numbers in commissions, with a client list that includes the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly, Federal Express, McGraw-Hill, the New York Institute of Finance, the South China Morning Post and the University of Michigan.

Getting those clients was not easy. Companies simply were not interested in expanding overseas, much less in Asia, Ms. Miyashita discovered to her dismay.

"They were interested in Europe, if at all," she said. "That is no longer the case but it was at first."

Ms. Miyashita pulled out two weapons to drill through that wall: economic data and cultural knowledge.

She loves to point out, for instance, that current U.S. exports to Japan alone exceed those to Germany, France, Italy and Ireland combined. Moreover, she announces, it's estimated that by 1995 U.S. trade volume with Asia will double that with the Atlantic countries.

Growing Asian Market

And while the world's so-called industrial economies grew at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent in the 1980s, the economies of South Korea, Singapore and Thailand grew at rates of 9.7 percent, 6.4 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, she said.

The figures "underscore the economic facts of Asia's growth. We just try to bridge the gap between U.S. businesses and Asia," she said.

Then there's the business of helping clients overcome stereotypes about allegedly insulated marketplaces.

"We have to undo a lot of that thinking," she said. "Asians are much less nationalistic than Europeans. They are much more open to ideas and are very capitalistic. Perhaps with the exception of Japan, (Asians) have a very Pan-Pacific view of the world," Ms. Miyashita said.

A native of Cheyenne, Wyo., the 35-year-old sansei, or third generation Japanese-American, is no stranger to stereotypes herself.

She grew up between an older brother, now a chemist, and a younger sister, a pharmacist, in a neighborhood populated by so many African-Americans that she didn't realize she was Japanese until her third-grade teacher told classmates that a television commercial showing a kimono-clad Japan Airlines' stewardess reminded her of Ms. Miyashita.

"I'll never forget that day. It was horrible," she said, laughing. "To this day, there isn't a Japanese restaurant in Cheyenne."

After escaping Corlett Elementary and graduating from Cheyenne Central High, Ms. Miyashita got a marketing degree from the University of Wyoming. She

went to work for a scientific publishing firm, managing its marketing programs in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Today, with four full-time employees of her own and five consultant contractors, Ms. Miyashita has taken a number of renowned publishing companies onto the Pacific Rim.

"A lot of what we do is pioneer work," she said.

Direct Mail in Asia

Hemisphere Marketing creates and implements marketing campaigns to help ease companies into new markets. To do so, the firm uses a variety of tools and techniques, including in-country mailing lists for direct mail and distribution.


NAME: Cynthia Futa Miyashita.

POSITION: Founder, managing director, Hemisphere Marketing Inc., San Francisco.

IN THE NEWS: Ms. Miyashita is combining her knowledge of marketing and the publications business to help introduce clients to Pacific Rim markets.

Age: 35.

Born: Jan. 8, 1958.

Family: Divorced, one brother and one sister.

EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree in marketing, University of Wyoming.

EXPERIENCE: Upon graduation, worked five years for scientific publishing firm managing marketing programs for Europe, Asia and Latin America; marketing specialist for American Water Works Association in Denver.

Professional Affiliations: President, Asian Business League; member, Japan Society, World Affairs Council, Commonwealth Club.