The Resident of Vancouver: Tamami Nakashimada
By Rick Akitaya
As the youngest of three siblings, Tamami was born during the spring of 1956 in the Umimachi Kasuyagun Fukuoka prefecture. As a young girl, she was very fond of running and excelled in athletics. She belonged to a track and field club in junior high school, softball club in high school, and tennis club when she was in a college. Soon after graduating from college, Tamami started work at a company related to shipping.
One day as she was walking down the street, an aikido poster grabbed her interest. She decided to go visit a dojo for observation and became fascinated with the martial art, specifically the beauty of the movements.
She enrolled in the club right after. Life is funny in that way, how one’s lifelong passion can be encountered by mere coincidence.
Tamami travelled to Canada with a friend (from mountain hiking) when she was 26. Since this trip consisted of a month and half, she quit her job before the trip. They rode on the Canada Continental Cross that runs along the world’s longest borderline between Canada and the US. The train departed from Vancouver (west) to end up at Prince Edward (east).
When Tamami returned to Vancouver, she visited a local Aikido gym. She learned the most of twenty students were Caucasian, as well as the instructor who was a 2nd degree black belt. Incidentally, Tamami was also a 2nd degree black belt at the time (she is now a 5th degree black belt).
Tamami helped in the gym as an assistant instructor for a month until she went back to Japan. One day, she was asked by the instructor,“I’m planning to go the USA for an upgrading test. Would you please take care of the students as an instructor while I’m away?” Though tempted, Tamami reluctantly declined this offer because of her visa term shortage and lack of money.
However, after she came buck to Japan, she received a phone call from the Aikido club in Vancouver.“Our instructor has gone to the US and we have no one to teach us! Please came back as our new instructor!”
Tamami thought this over and returned to Vancouver.
Motive for immigration
Despite Tamami’s hopes, motivation, and drive, student numbers diminished drastically. This was primarily due to her lack of English skills. Student numbers are directly reflected in the instructor’s salary. Since the salary she received from Aikido wasn’t sufficient enough to cover her daily life, she had to work in her spare time as a waitress at a restaurant and a janitor at a carpet shop.
About six months passed by. While Tamami was preparing the gym before class was starting, a newcomer appeared at the entrance.
She shyly describes the moment: ”That was very strange . . . although it was not possible for the sun to be beaming at that entrance, it felt like there was a bright light shining behind this newcomer. I instinctively thought, ‘I am probably going to marry this man.’ And my instinct was right.”
Fortunately, the student numbers have increased every year since. On the 31st of December, 1990, Tamami married Gene Nakashimada, a 3rd generation Japanese Canadian. The couple now have a 16-year-old son named Shota.
The happiest moment
“I’ve traveled to China several times. I think I was 25 or 26 year old when I visited Shanghai, and still have vivid memories of this particular scene. It was when I visited a local elementary school as a member of a group who donated relief supplies from Japan. We were surrounded by many local students on the school ground and were requested by them to sing a Japanese song. Seeing that I was the youngest, our group leader asked me if I had any suggestions. I replied that perhaps we can sing the theme song of Astro Boy (known in Japan as Tetsuwan Atomu). Astro Boy was an extremely popular cartoon in Japan at the time. I started singing, leading the group. Presumably the children didn’t know this song at all, after all it was during the reign of Chairman Mao. However, they started to hum the melody and caught up with us at the latter half of the song. In the end, everybody was singing together. I was so touched, it was a beautiful and emotional moment.
The saddest moment
“When I had returned to the Vancouver dojo as an instructor. The student number has diminished significantly and it was honestly hard to live day by day. I found more part-time jobs for extra income and barely survived. I didn’t have any close friends or family nearby at the time… it was horrible, I felt alone and helpless.”
The most unforgettable person or incident
“Her name is Keiko Chikushi, my mountain hiking friend and my partner in my transcontinental railroad trip of Canada. She is a positive thinker and a person with dignity. I’ve learned a lot from her.”
The most embarrassing incident
“China has an extremely beautiful, scenic city called Keirin in the Kosei province. The incident occurred when I visited this place about 10 years ago. It was a few hours prior to the hotel check out. Thinking there was enough time, I decided to visit the foot of the nearby mountain. I started running, only to find out mid-way that I lost the memo where I jotted down the hotel address. I couldn’t figure out how to get back! In the end, I barely made it to the chartered tour bus that was waiting for me in front of the hotel.
Favorite book and music
“LIFE LESSONS FROM A SAMURAI by Ekiken Kaibara, who was a Confucians scholar of Edo era Japan. I have 2 favorite songs. GAKUSEI JIDAI by Peggy Hayama and MY WAY by Frank Sinatra”.
Dream or hope
“I wish and pray that people close to me will have good health and live in happiness”
Favorite word or creed
“God does not call us to do great things but to do small things with great love” by Mother Teresa.
Tamami is a person who always has a warm smile on her face. Though you will not get the impression that she is a martial arts instructor simply by looking at her, you will sense her unshakable spiritual strength. BE
KIND TO OTHERS AND BE STRICT WITH ONE’S SELF.
She is a guest that truly exemplifies this motto.