Reviewers have called his flute playing and singing "sweet and lush and full of feeling and nuance," and "wonderfully sunny sounding," but his favorite was when Sing Out! magazine called him "one of a generation of global beat players."
Hanz Araki, 36, plays a variety of Irish flutes and currently fronts his own band, playing traditional and new arrangements of Irish tunes, but he wants his music to transcend categorization.
"I want to make this music accessible to more people," he said.
With his youthful appearance and a name that seems to ricochet between German and Japanese heritage, not even coming close to Irish, Araki is used to having to explain how he came to play music more closely associated with older people named Sean or Patrick. Or try to explain.
"It's inexplicable, really," he said, before going on to explain that he had always loved the sound of flute and banjo, and the fact that Irish musicians everywhere speak the same language. A "trad" (traditional) musician can walk into any pub in the world and join the session in progress.
Araki is also a sixth generation Japanese shakuhachi flute player, following in the footsteps of his father, Kodo Araki.
After finishing high school Araki moved from Seattle to Tokyo, where he spent several years playing recitals and concerts, and teaching shakuhachi at Keio University.
Araki, whose full first name is the Japanese Hanzaburo, does have Irish heritage on his mother's side, which came out during breaks from shakuhachi practice. His mother's tapes of The Chieftains were an influence, as was the not-so-traditional Irish band, The Pogues.
Araki's virtuoso talent on the shakuhachi translated over to equal skill on the Irish wooden flute and tin whistle, which are his main instruments, along with a rich tenor voice, and he became a regular on the Irish pub scene upon his return to Seattle.
For several years Araki was a member of the high-energy Irish music band The Paperboys, out of Vancouver. The group toured internationally and won a Canadian Juno Award in 1997 for Best Folk Roots album.
He has also toured the United States and the United Kingdom with the Casey Neill Trio and is a current member of Casey Neill and the Norway Rats as well as the Portland-based Pogues cover-band, K.M.R.I.A.